Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Qalandiya’s days of rage

Palestinian young people are taking to the streets to protest against the brutality of the Israeli occupation, writes Tamar Fleishman in Qalandiya on the occupied West Bank

Al-Ahram Weekly

The final two days of Israel’s so-called “Pillar of Cloud” operation against Gaza were declared as days of rage on the West Bank. In front of the checkpoints, the prisons and the army bases — the symbols of the Israeli occupation — fierce demonstrations took place. In response, the Israeli army attacked the protesters with tear gas and stun grenades and fired lethal rounds at them, prohibited by order of the Israeli military prosecutor.

However, the young people of the town of Qalandiya don’t need an official declaration of a day of rage. Their rage has been flowing for quite some time now, and they have been protesting for many weeks in front of the checkpoints.

They do it despite the objections of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the anger of business owners worried about the possible loss of their livelihoods. These young people have seen poverty and despair shape their adolescence and follow them through their short lives like a shadow, and this has become the engine of their determination.

These young people, who have never known content and prosperity and have had their childhoods crushed, see through the eyes of those who have been shot and who are depicted in pictures hanging on the cracked walls of their homes. They have ceased to fear Israeli gunfire or the disapproval of the Palestinian Authority, since, yet to take the burden of a family on their shoulders, they are the young generators of change and the leaders of struggles and revolutions.

For these youngsters, the Israeli attack on Gaza threw oil on the fire. During each of their recent days of rage they came hurtling down the hill at the end of Israel’s annexation wall, their chests bare and their faces unveiled in front of the Israeli soldiers, holding stones and Molotov cocktails in their clenched fists.

They were pushed back by shooting and disappeared behind clouds of tear gas. However, others skipped over the rooftops of surrounding houses, jumping from roof to roof as they joined their friends on the street. Then Israeli soldiers shot at them as well, and the smoke and bullets caused white trails to appear in the grey sky above them.

One elderly woman coming out of the alleys of the nearby refugee camp talked of the young people who had been arrested. “All of these children are mine,” she said, asking me why I, a Jew, had not protested to the Israeli soldiers. A young man standing nearby replied that I had indeed attempted to intervene. “She did,” he said. “She yelled at them, and they shoved her back, yelling at her to shut up.”

“Then she should bring her friends from Israel. They should all come here and see what they are doing to us,” the old woman said, turning to walk away. However, then she turned as if remembering something she wanted to say. “Tell your friends to come,” she said. I said I would, and this article is a way of keeping my promise.

At the beginning of the fighting in Gaza, soldiers took over the rooftop of a corner building, confiscating it from its owner and turning it into a post from which they could fire at the young protesters. The soldiers occupied the building from morning till night, soiling what wasn’t theirs and relieving themselves on the building’s roof.

The main street of Qalandiya that leads to Ramallah looked as if it was under curfew. All the businesses had been shut in compliance with the soldiers’ orders, these having threatened anyone who stayed open with an attack using gas. No one was allowed to pass without permission. “A sterile zone,” the soldiers called it.

On this road that was empty of people, with the sound of gunfire filling the background and the air mixed with dust and gas, was a young boy, Haled, who was trying to earn a few shekels by selling chewing gum. Haled had a quota he had to meet and he could not go home without fulfilling it.

“When are you going home, habibi,” I asked. “At eight or nine o’clock,” he said.

Haled’s personal tragedy, forced to stand selling chewing gum in the middle of a war zone for a few shekels, embodies the collective one through which we see our own heartbreaking reflection.

The writer is a political activist.

 

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