This Friday commemorated the 67th anniversary of the Palestinian Naqba and thus more than one thousand protesters gathered in Ni’lin despite the Israeli checkpoints set up at the village entrances. The checkpoints however stopped several busses that were bringing protesters from other villages, cities and refugee camps in the West Bank and prevented people from attending the demonstration which had been chosen as the main demonstration in the West Bank for this years Naqba day.
Apart from the hundreds of Palestinian protesters the demonstration was also joined by Israeli and international activists.
The demonstration started with 67 seconds of silent mourning, one second for every year since the 1948 Naqba where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes by zionist military and hundreds of Palestinian villages were demolished to make way for Israeli expansion. After the silence the Friday prayer was held in the olive fields as has been the custom of the people in Ni’lin in the seven years that they have been protesting the theft of their land. The prayer in the fields is meant to show that the people remain connected to the land that has been taken from them and deemed closed military zones by the Israeli occupation.
Earlier in the morning Israeli soldiers had put up signs in several places around the fields of Ni’lin declaring the area a closed military zone. It was evident that the Israeli army was preparing for a bigger event than any usual Friday.
Several survivors of the Naqba, old men now living in Ni’lin, joined the protest despite their old age to express their stance for the right of Naqba refugees to return to their lands. Other farmers dressed in traditional Palestinian garbs as a reminder of life before the Naqba. For these farmers whose lands have been annexed by the Israeli Apartheid Wall the Naqba is still an ongoing process. This fact is made more hurtful due to the silence of the outside world and the lack of pressure on Israel by the international community to cease its occupation of Palestine.
-The Nakba didn’t just happen in 1948, it is still happening until now! Everyday we live with the Nakba and the oppression of the Israeli occupation here in Ni’lin and in all of Palestine. The killing continues along with the arrests, torture and evacuation of our people in Negev and Susya near Hebron.” said Ibrahim Amireh, the coordinator of Ni’lin popular committee.
During the demonstration protesters reminded the world of the continuous popular struggle in Ni’lin despite the isolation and brutal repression brought down by the Israeli military against the village. In the last few months several young protesters have been shot when protesting against the theft of Ni’lin land. The village that used to be the home of 12.000 people have now shrunk due to the theft of land and military repression to a village of merely 5.500 since the theft of land took off in 1982.
Before the demonstration managed to reach the Apartheid Wall to the south of the village the Israeli soldiers started to fire tear gas canisters by the hundreds. Several military jeeps had been set up to block the path of the demonstration and to push the protesters back. Dozens of protesters suffered from tear gas inhalation just in these first volleys of gas.
The tear gas was followed up by snipers firing rubber coated steel bullets towards the demonstration. 18 protesters, including an Al-Jazeera cameraman, was injured by the projectiles. The soldiers continued to fire heavily upon the demonstration and the red hot tear gas canisters caused several dunums of land and dozens of olive trees to catch fire in the south west of the village of Ni’lin.
This protest was unlike previous protests in Ni’lin as it was covered by several media organizations for the first time in two years. Despite the heavy repression from the Israeli army there was no use of live ammunition this time, maybe due to the presence of journalists and large groups of international and Israeli activists.
During the demonstration only the Palestinian flag was raised as a call for unity and end to the division of the Palestinian society.
– We hope that our unity here in Ni’lin can be the start of the unity of all political parties and Palestinians. This unity will be the first foundation for our road to freedom, liberation and justice, said Ibrahim Amireh, the coordinator of Ni’lin popular committee after the protest.