Thursday 08 April 2010
Palestinian youth peacefully protest Israeli policies on Land Day. (Photo: Max Ajl / t r u t h o u t)
The smoke was from tires and garbage bags that had been set aflame or grass on which someone had tossed a match. The smoke gave the scene the look of a war zone. It looked like what it was. On the far side of the border were several
Other Palestinian youths were closer to the border, maybe 100 meters, well inside the Israeli-decreed "buffer zone." All were bravely waving Palestinian flags. Bravely, because Israeli soldiers shoot to kill inside the buffer zone. They were there to commemorate Land Day. Land Day in
Land Day was the first time since 1948 that Palestinians in
The Gazan buffer zone is particularly injurious for the besieged population there. Farmers are forcefully prevented from farming within 300 meters of the border, and have to worry about fumigation of their crops or sniper bullets within two kilometers, according to the
This is the best land in
With 30 percent of
Naturally, these restrictions have created mounting fury. They are restrictions that can only be maintained by force, and force is how they are maintained. According to the PCHR's tabulations, from January 20 2009 to the end of the year, 37 people were murdered in the buffer zone. There were 166 recorded attacks.
The demonstration I was at was "calm": no one was shot and bullets were restricted to warning shots, 10 or 20 meters away, as Palestinian youths huddled behind a large, intact piece of concrete, maybe the remains of a destroyed well. On their own land, they hid there for safety, probably within 80 meters of the border. For them, the Israeli sniper bullets may not have been warning shots. A PressTV reporter said that he felt the whiz of a bullet fly by his head, 500 meters from the border. When you shoot a bullet and there's nothing behind it, it goes until it hits something. Still, the Nahal Oz demonstration was without casualties. Others were not.
Further south, in Khoza'a, a village east of Khan Younis, Israeli snipers used live ammunition, the reports muffled by silencers, to shoot three Palestinian youths: Hani Riad al-Najjar, 17; Walaa' Farid al-Najjar, 19; Jom'a Ramadan al-Najjar, 22. Walaa' was shot in the thigh. According to ISM volunteer Eva Bartlett, he said, "I saw the soldier who shot me. He didn't give any warning, just shot me right away." Israeli snipers often target the upper thigh, hoping to sever the femoral artery. Such wounds bleed the victim out quickly, and, often, snipers prevent EMT crews from reaching the victims of their marksmanship. When that happens the victims die.
Jom'a was shot in the head. Hani was wounded in both legs, the left one by gunshot, the right one by shrapnel. That shrapnel is still embedded in his body. As he testified to
An IDF spokesperson told Ma'an news agency that their internal investigations showed that "soldiers operated in accordance with accepted dispersal procedures." This can only mean that the IDF reserves the right to pump bullets into the legs of young Palestinian men for protesting peacefully on their own land.
Max Ajl is a writer who resides in
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs