Ni’lin really is a surreal place. When I first arrived in the small West Bank village that I would spend the next week in, I didn’t expect to see an orthodox Jewish settler getting his car fixed… I stared at him in complete disbelief, and he smiled and waved back. Stealing people’s land is one thing, but apparently it’s worth leaving them a little bit so that they can give you cheap rates for puncture repairs.
I walked further into the village, past the blood-stained butchers with cow-carcasses hanging in the front porches. A guy called out to me from a shop:
“Hey you! When did you arrive from Gaza?” I’d never seen the man in my life.
I met up with Saeed, a friend of a friend whose father used to organise the demonstrations against the Wall here, but was recently arrested and sentenced to over a year in prison, and I told him about the settler I had spotted. “You might see them coming in at the edges of the village,” he replied, “but they wouldn’t dare to come down to the centre!”
That evening, in his grandfather’s house, Saeed showed me videos that my eyes struggled to believe. Images of Aqil Srour, Ni’lin’s fifth martyr in just one year of their struggle against the Wall, bleeding from his heart. He had been murdered in cold blood by an Israeli soldier as he attempted to come to the aid of an injured youth, shot just seconds before by the very same soldier. Ironically, Aqil was present in every previous video. When the Israeli army tried to enforce a curfew upon the entire village in the summer of 2008, everyone was out in the streets, building make-shift road blocks and throwing stones at invading soldiers. It is this kind of militancy which we must take our inspiration from.
From the pictures, it looked like Ni’lin was a war-zone, or as Saeed remarked… “You don’t see this in Bil’in, do you?!”
On Friday we marched to the Wall, here comprising towering concrete blocks. The settlements surrounding Ni’lin are so close that they appear as if you could touch them… you can literally see the residents driving around in their 4x4s, and the sprinklers watering their gardens.
It was as I was observing this scene that the first shower of tear gas came raining down from the other side of the Wall. All the other demonstrators ran into the fields and trees to the right, but the restrictions of my wheelchair meant that I had to stay on the main path. A couple of minutes later, I saw the huge gate at the Wall sliding open, and a few seconds later I saw Israeli soldiers running through…
I quickly turned, and began progressing back up the hill. Unfortunately, I had made my move too late. I heard two soldiers behind me shouting for me to stop, and felt that running from armed, racist kids might be a mistake. When they caught up with me, they started ordering me, in Hebrew, to go down to the Wall where their base was. Two more soldiers came and after telling me to shut up started saying the same thing. Luckily, they eventually got distracted by the other demonstrators in the fields. So much shooting to do, and so little time. I used the opportunity to make a move.
I saw the news about the floods in Kashmir, and behind the headlines I see that comparisons are increasingly being drawn between stone-throwing Palestinian and Kashmiri youth. I predict that my conscience will compel me to travel to the region next. Unless, of course, we are successful in initiating our own uprising, and we make the streets of London our own battlefield in the global struggle for equality.