By Tamar Fleishman
The IDF calls it ‘the escalation of means’. That is: the use of all the Alfa (riot control measures) in the arsenal.
They also call it ‘non-lethal weapons’.
The first are the stun grenades; one of these non-lethal grenades landed less than half a meter away from me. It wasn’t a “direct shot”.
Afterwards, it was time for the rubber bullets, which are also a “non-lethal weapon” that had killed not once and not twice before, and that on that day had injured tens of those participating in the demonstration.
Then the gas grenades came.
And as finale, for pudding, they brought in the worst of them all, ‘Skunk’.
But those many injured don’t trouble themselves with these euphemisms. They are trying to recover.
However, euphemisms are applied not only to weapons and armory, they originate from leaders and ooze down towards the military people at their command, from there they reach the media and the habitual use embeds them in the day to day vocabulary, till finally events such as the one that took place on that day, are known as: “riots” or “disruption of order”.
That is the definition given to the protest of the Palestinians against their loss and erasure, while the military and its armed men merely “react” or “restores the order”.
But the hero of the day was not the various types of weapons, nor was it the minister for public security (Aharonovich) who held a press conference at the site and said: “It’s like cat and mouse game… “And then he put to his eyes the binoculars that were handed to him by grovelers and said: “Why don’t they go home already….”, and once he had disappeared along with his security guards, I heard a PR man report on the phone: “The minister is very pleased…”.
The heroes of the day weren’t the teenagers who courageously stacked tires in front of the pillbox, which had become the symbol of the occupation, and lit a fire at the center of them. The black smoke rose up and scattered, it even covered the face of Yasser Arafat, who constantly looks down from the wall on to that which is taking place.
It even wasn’t Dr. Mustafa Baraguti who had arrived early and spoke in favor of the non-violent protest; He predicted that the army would as always use force and expressed concern regarding the casualties that might occur.
And Baraguti didn’t know how right he was. And he didn’t know that he himself would also be one of the casualties, not long afterwards.
The hero that day was an anonymous woman, whose head and most of her face was covered with a kaffiyah, who came from among the protesters standing in the distance that the rubber bullets set for them, holding in her right hand the flag of Palestine which was waving above, and walked toward the soldiers.
She took a step and then another one, decisively and alert, while all those watching her froze and hushed. It was a silence that screamed with anxiety. And the woman proceeded and walked closer, one step and another and another, until she crossed the several tens of meters that divided between the two camps, and on arriving in front of the most feared vehicle, the one that spits sewage water from its intestine, she lifted her hand and stuck the flag in the metal web at the front of the vehicle.
Then she turned and began to march back. And again: one step and another, a decisive and wise body. And the silence was still upon it all, and the people were still frozen. Just alertness and anxiety. And once the woman was far enough so that they could turn the sewage machine on and aim at her, a splash of reeking water came out of the top hose and flooded and surrounded her body. But she didn’t pick up the pace or run away, instead she kept walking. It was as though her brain was paralyzed and her senses were dull. And it was only when she reached her friends that one could detect a sway of instability in her walk, two young men hurried towards her, they held her arms in theirs and supported her for the rest of the way.
And I too had a personal reason to be content: when the explosions of the grenades were heard all around, I moved in closer to take pictures of the shooters, a young stranger took my hand and pulled me back towards the cement block behind which he and his friends took cover and said: “Come here so you won’t get hurt. You are important to us”- “Why am I important?” I asked. “Because you come here and stand with us”, he replied.
I was excited and happy that someone understood.
(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)
– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.