Friday, August 1, 2008


Fear is a natural response, a protective measure awakening us to dangerous situations. In the course of our daily lives there are few situations which trigger our fear response. The nearest I would normally come is when I paddle out in a heavy surf - all surfers experience that adrenaline rush when the surf gets big.

At my first demonstration at Ni'lin, when the soldiers turned nasty and began throwing sound grenades and firing tear gas cannisters, followed by rubber-coated steel bullets, it was all rather fun. As we dodged down behind rock outcrops to avoid the metal cannisters and bullets whizzing past there was, sure, a rush of adrenaline, but no great sense of danger, that our lives were under threat. There was a feeling that, as foreign nationals, armed only with cameras and camcorders, we were almost exempt from the violence. Call it the westerner's sense of privilege. After my next demo at the same village, when I was badly gassed and hit in the back by a rubber-coated bullet, I learned to be more circumspect. I learned to keep my distance from the stone-throwing shebab, the village boys who were the Israeli snipers' prime targets. I learned to fear.

For the past three years the people of Bil'in have staged a weekly protest demonstration against the theft of their lands. Since May villagers from nearby Ni'lin have demonstrated almost daily against similar land thefts. The Israeli military has responded with increasing levels of violence and brutality resulting, this week, in the deaths of a young boy and a teenager in Ni'lin. But still the people come out, in their droves, defying the might of the great army machine.

What the Israeli government and the occupying troops do not seem to realise is that these tactics do not work. Instead of cowing the Palestinians into submission such brutal methods only serve to embolden them, to strengthen their resolve. And when they see heavily-armed troops running from stone-throwing boys to the shelter of their armoured personnel carriers, they know that cowards such as these can never, ultimately, prevail.

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