Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Kufr Qaddoum persists in struggle against occupation

Juicebox Gallery

By John Space - April 27, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [popular resistance] [protests] [Israeli army] [popular struggle]

Photos by John Space.

Since the start of the weekly demonstrations in Kufr Qaddoum on July 1, 2011, the village has seen more than 120 arrests. More than 100,000 shekels have been paid in fines for those arrested. Over 2,000 people have suffered from severe tear-gas inhalation. One teenager was critically injured by a tear-gas canister that hit him in the head, breaking his skull and causing permanent speech impairment. But despite all this and other hardships suffered at the hands of settlers and the Israeli occupation forces, the village remains steadfast in its determination to resist the occupation.

Mourad Shtaiwi, the coordinator of the peaceful marches that take place in Kufr Qaddoum every Friday, said the demonstrations are aimed at re-opening the main road to Kufr Qaddoum that connects the village to the city of Nablus, which was closed by occupation forces in 2003. But, he said, the demonstrations will not stop until the occupation is over.

"In Bil'in they succeeded to move the wall and to release some of their lands. But the occupation itself still continues," he said. "So if we succeed to open the road, will the occupation itself leave? No. So the struggle will continue until the occupation itself leaves."

The road outside Kufr Qaddoum was closed so that it could be used exclusively by the settlers of nearby illegal settlement of Kedumim. Shtaiwi said among the problems caused by the closure is an extreme increase in travel time to nearby villages such as Jit, the closest village to Kufr Qaddoum. 

"Before they closed the road, the distance between Kufr Qaddoum and Jit is nearly one and a half kilometers. But now we must pass 15 kilometers in order to reach the same point. So we suffer a lot," he said. 

The road closure also affects the speed by which the sick can be taken to the hospital, as they often must be carried over a rocky road meant for use by animals instead of humans.

"We have three cases that died on the way because of the rocky road," Shtaiwi said. "Why? Because they didn't allow us to transfer these cases to the hospital on the main road."

Demonstrators in Kufr Qaddoum are frequently the victims of extreme aggression by the Israeli army, including an incident in March 2012 in which a police dog was released on the crowd. Israeli soldiers stood by for a full 15 minutes while the dog brutally attacked Shtaiwi's nephew Ahmad. 

"At that moment, I tried to help my nephew and shouted at the soldiers and officers there… Three soldiers came at me, jumped at me and sprayed me with the pepper spray. After that, I fell unconscious on the floor and they arrested me beside my nephew," Shtaiwi recalled. "The funny thing from that incident was that the soldiers brought an ambulance in order to give first aid for the dog while Ahmad was bleeding." 

In addition to the closure of the main road, Israeli soldiers often set up a flying checkpoint at the only other entrance to Kufr Qaddoum, sometimes preventing anyone from entering or exiting the village from eight am until eight pm

On April 27, 2012, 19-year-old Wasim Burhum was hit in the head with a tear-gas canister during the weekly demonstration. Shtaiwi said that to this day, Burhum suffers from a speech impediment caused by the head injury as a result from the tear-gas canister.

"We know that the police when they want to use the tear-gas bomb, they shoot it from their guns like a bow, not directly," Shtaiwi said. "You will see today if they use the tear-gas bomb, how do they shoot? Directly, in order to make a lot of suffering for the people who share the peaceful march."

In addition to the closure of the main road, Israeli soldiers often set up a flying checkpoint at the only other entrance to Kufr Qaddoum, sometimes preventing anyone from entering or exiting the village from eight am until eight pm. Shtaiwi said people from Kufr Qaddoum are also routinely stopped at other checkpoints around the West Bank and detained for no reason other than their village of origin.

Kufr Qaddoum's popular committee has been criticized by some activists for its refusal to allow local women to participate in the demonstrations (although international and Israeli women are welcome to join the peaceful marches.)

"The women don't participate directly in the demonstrations, but we feel that the role of the women here in the demonstrations is to watch the movements of the soldiers by standing on the roofs of the house. It's very important to look for us," Shtaiwi said. "But they don't walk with us in the demonstration because we know the woman is sometimes weak. If she smell tear gas, maybe a lot of problems will happen."

Although many will find this attitude toward women repellant, it is indisputable that the villagers of Kufr Qaddoum struggle daily to survive under occupation and have every right to continue their peaceful marches. 

Aside from the violence of Israeli soldiers, the people of Kufr Qaddoum often face attacks by settlers.

"The biggest problems we face is in the olive harvest in October. After the farmer finishes his harvest, and they put it in sacks in order to transfer it, sometimes the settlers come and steal it. Sometimes they damage the trees," Shtaiwi said. "Three incidents happened in this harvest, stealing and damaging a lot of trees. But they didn't attack Kufr Qaddoum because they know that the people in Kufr Qaddoum will not wait passively for the settlers to attack."

Shtaiwi said international activists sometimes question how a demonstration can be nonviolent if the youth throw stones at soldiers.

"Maybe a question came to your minds: why do you throw stones and you call it a peaceful march? The answer is, they do not throw stones in Tel Aviv, for example. We throw stones on our lands. Because the Israeli army came and made a lot of suffering for the Palestinian people. So we throw stones," he said. "We told the Israeli army that we came with our naked chests and we have our voices in order to send our messages."

Shtaiwi said the people of Kufr Qaddoum show incredible courage in continuing to stand up to heavily-armed occupation forces despite the violence suffered during demonstrations.

"We know that they can kill us, of course! And we don't have the ability to face them. We don't have guns," he said. "With a stone can I can damage a tank? Or kill any soldiers? No. But we have the ability to continue and we have the right to continue because we are the owners of this land."

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