Saturday 31 May 2014

Catastrophe 15-05-2014 (Part 2)

For Israeli citizens, serving in the military is a compulsory part of their citizenship. When young men and women reach the age of 18, the military draught is their next step. Every time I've arrived at a checkpoint or security gate and been confronted by an Israeli soldier, the first thing I've noticed is how very young they are. Some are polite, some defensive and others angry and looking for excuses. Some will be very assertive and disrespectful until you present your freedom in the form of your international passport, then they will soften. Then a new dimension is present in their reality because the foreigners are the eyes and ears for the international community. Some soldiers don't care, some soldiers care too much.

If an Israeli citizen refuses to serve in the military they face a prison sentence. They face going to the same place as the people they end up arresting as field soldiers in Palestine. So do they end up feeling like it's them or me? Do they make the same decisions any of us would make in that situation? If my freedom is threatened, am I happy to take the freedom of others? The fact of the matter seems to be that the Palestinians are being denied their freedom. The Israelis have to serve in the army and in the process hand over their freedom, somewhat willingly, for the term of their service. Nobody's free and everyone's looking for someone to blame.

It took around 15 minutes from the demonstration climax to the point the soldiers arrived. This was inevitably going to be a clash. The boys with their faces covered had been hammering away at the wall and it had actually surprised us that the soldiers hadn't come sooner. However, on this day, all the soldiers in different areas of Palestine would've been busy standing against Palestinians fighting for their cause. Before we dispersed, one of the boys we were with was still behind. I insisted, perhaps redundantly, that we go back to get him. I now know he would've been just fine without us as most of these boys are. When we began running from the soldiers, it was up a hill which curved around past the local University. I found myself stuck behind 3 boys, no older than 13, also running. My friend was around 5 metres ahead of me, he had turned around to tell me to run faster, clearly I had trouble keeping up with the tall crowd. One look over my shoulder showed the army jeep 3 metres behind me. Shit. I didn't see a person, not a man, nor a woman. Just a machine. This 7 ft tall jeep, whose windshield I wouldn't have even been able to reach, was looming behind me. And suddenly my legs felt even heavier, but I couldn't stop moving. I wanted to move faster but couldn't bring myself to pass the young boys ahead of me... better me than them. A thought I'm not used to having. We weaved between some cars parked parallel to each other; another look over my shoulder and the jeep was stuck. Suddenly my legs were my freedom. This big, army green, disgusting box-work of a vehicle was, in that moment, its own worst enemy.

We kept moving, constantly looking over our shoulders in case the jeep had slipped through. Sometimes we'd run just to pump the adrenaline again, plus there was too many side streets, there's no way of knowing who or what is coming up or down. Luckily we were running in the right direction, I made it home and my friends came with me. There was no question that we would all stay put until the streets were clear of soldiers. We decided to wait until we got word from our other friend, who was stuck in a shop after she had been caught in the tear gas, about whether we could leave. We went up to the roof of our building to investigate what we thought was gunfire, but turned out to be kids letting off fireworks in a barrel. But there was no mistaking the sound of teargas canisters being fired in the distance. Once we were told that the clash point was clear of soldiers we hit the streets again.

We were relatively pleased with the day's outcome... no serious injuries and it sounded like the boys gave the soldiers a run for their money. Increasingly, the more I see Israeli soldiers interact with young Palestinian men, the more I see similarities between youth who, perhaps in another situation would be friendly, but at this time both must fulfil their duties to their nations. This is the nature of battle. I've seen men have an unemotional understanding and respect for each other, but also have respect for the knowledge that both would kill the other without hesitation if the opportunity presents itself. This is the nature of war.

Then everything changed for me. We got word that 2 young men had been shot and killed in Ramallah, the nation's mock capital. There was a demonstration and as usual stones were thrown by the Palestinian boys at soldiers who are buried under their armour. A stone would do little damage to them, yet they defend themselves with weapons. Tear gas. Rubber bullets. Live rounds of ammunition. In this case a sniper was set at a distance and targeted 2 young boys who, at the time of their shooting, were doing nothing but walking. There is footage of this caught on CCTV. There is no disputing what happened. They weren't killed because they posed an immediate threat. They were killed because they could be and, like many other killings in the past, nobody will be held accountable. One of the boys was 17 and the other 15.

I dedicate this piece to Nadeem Nuwara and Muhammad Abu Thaher. I dedicate this piece to the 5.3 million refugees now living in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the remaining areas of Palestine. May we all find our freedom.

1 comment:

  1. ameen, Palestine will be free one day inshaa'allah, your blogs are really interesting btw.