Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a well-known professor and human rights activist based in Bethlehem, took part in Nakba day protests last weekend as Palestinians across Palestine and the global diaspora marched to demand their right of return, 63 years after the start of Israel’s project of ethnic cleansing and forced exile. Dr. Qumsiyeh participated in a march in al-Walaja, a village west of Bethlehem which has been facing aggressive land confiscation since 1948. Today, al-Walaja is being further threatened by the expanding Har Gilo settlement colony, and the military has recently begun annexing more of the village’s land with the construction of the illegal wall — which will no doubt turn al-Walaja into yet another one of Palestine’s ghetto prisons.
While Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were faced with violent repression by the military in at least ten locations. Dr. Qumsiyeh was one of hundreds injured and/or arrested that day, and according to his latest blog post, he was detained, strip-searched, interrogated, and transfered to the infamous Ofer military prison.
He describes how the day started; and how it ultimately ended:
Some 800 people from Al-Walaja, other Palestinians, and internationals walked down the hills to the valley that delineates the 1948 green line. Army jeeps gathered on the road between us and the old land of Al-Walaja. Shireen and Basil approached the officers in an attempt to talk and explain that it is a peaceful march and that we just wanted to visit our lands. The answer was an empathic “get back” and an immediate attack by soldiers on the peaceful demonstrators. I noticed Ahmed down on the ground, pepper sprayed in his eyes and mouth and obviously in severe pain. I tried to help him while trying to film at the same time, within 3-5 minutes I was led away with 4 others including Ahmed. As they roughly and sadistically hit and pushed us into their military vehicle, Ahmed’s conditions was worsening and he was refused medical care. The 4 youth were handcuffed in the back and I was handcuffed in front (perhaps due to my age). As we drove off, we started to hear the sounds of tear gas canisters and stun grenades.
… We arrived at the military camp near Rachel’s tomb area. Half an hour after we arrived there (2+ hours after our detention), the doors to the container opened and 8 internationals stream in including one girl. They are not handcuffed and they relay that the soldiers after taking us near the green line chased villagers into the village and began arresting everyone they encountered including internationals. Everyone was just trying to run away they said. We remained at this camp for another 2 hours. I managed to get free from the plastic handcuff which really angered the soldiers when they discovered it, and I was tightly shackled with “Hatts-Made in England” metal handcuffs.
We are then all loaded to drive to the military compound called Atarot. I have been there in my last arrest, the soldiers and the interrogation rooms are elevated and a holding container is about 2 meters “depression” with metal roof. There we are to wait without using our phones (but we do in a clandestine way). Soon 5 more people form Al-Walaja were brought in including 2 children (twins ages 12). The children and 2 of the adults were taken from their houses (one in his slippers). For the rest of my life I will not forget the terrorized look and tears of the children (we tried to encourage and joke with them). Soon 15-20 more people are brought in (arrested at Shufat refugee camp). I noted at least 4 masked undercover plain-cloth thugs accompanying them (these are the notorious “Musta’ribeen”, Israeli undercover agents who infiltrate demonstrations, sometimes throwing rocks to incite others and give excuse for the uniformed officers to shoot.) We are told that hundreds of Palestinians were injured and and hundreds arrested from around the Jerusalem area (Shufat, Qalandia, Eisawiyya).Dr. Qumsiyeh goes on to describe in critical detail the entire process, including his interrogation and jailing — a process which is all-too-ordinary and commonplace for Palestinians, struggling for their basic human rights for 63 years and counting. He ends his blog post with these words:
We are all more certain than ever that this apartheid system is destined to fail like the one in South Africa failed. Perhaps 15 May 2011 will be looked at as the beginning of the end. The Arab Spring is chipping the Apartheid system. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Let us follow it up.