קלנדיה, יום שישי, מהצהרים
ועד הערב, 16.02.2007, תמר גולדשמיד ואיה קניוק
Qalandiya, Friday 16.2.07 from noon until evening, Tamar Goldschmidt and Aya Kaniuk
This time we knew it was starting - Al Jazeera TV was showing jeeps and soldiers already positioned on the hill, waiting. We called Ahmad, whose son was wounded in the leg by a live bullet a few weeks ago. This time he happened to be in Dahariya, and knew nothing of the goings-on. Then we spoke with Abu Omar whose son, Qassam was eight years old when he was hit by a dumdum bullet, particles of which were still lodged in his head. Abu Omar told us he was just coming out of the mosque, that it was just starting. A kind of demonstration, and that he was far away, that his sons Qassam and the 'Redhead' were at home. Then we spoke again and he said he had heard a sixteen-year old boy was hit by a rubber bullet, and today they were shooting teargas and rubber. Yet once more we spoke and he said he also heard live fire, and sounded worried. He said there were ambulances at the entrance to the refugee camp. So we called the As'ad family who live right next to the checkpoint, and their kitchen literally borders on the soldiers' habitual 'firing range'. Qais, their eldest son, answered and said they were alright, and that it was hell outside, and he had to hang up because the phone was at an unsafe spot in their home. So we decided to go there, and took off. At first we encountered this strange silence and saw no signs of smoke. As we got closer, we heard a single shot pierce the heart, the skin, the imagination.
We crossed the checkpoint, over into that which - as evil settles into routine begins to be named 'the Palestinian side', as they though the Jerusalem side and the Palestinian side were really two sides of some official border.
Dozens of boys on the hill, and lots of soldiers, and clouds of teargas, and occasional shots, sometimes in the air, at times from soldiers kneeling and pointing directly at the children, with or without aiming through the gun sights. At every time the children drop, then continue with their demonstration/stone throwing, but mainly with this energy explicitly saying 'go away'.
Which is the right thing to say to someone who is not in his own place.
Everything began with a provocation by soldiers. They spread over the hill and on the road, moving back and forth. And the boys and children went down to demonstrate because the soldiers were there, and because of the Al Aqsa Mosque, and because they are under Occupation, because they are boys and that is what they do together.
For all of these reasons.
This is a sold game, a chronicle known well in advance. It doesn't really matter whether the stones fly first or the shooting precedes them. It's either the one or the other, on different occasions.
On the previous Friday, we were there as it just began: First soldiers were shooting at the children, then came the stones, then shooting again. This time we were not on the spot at the beginning, we only know that the jeeps had been waiting and thus provoking and seducing the children to get down there for hours. What else have they to do - as they close in on their lives, carrying out this policy of checkpoints and restriction and dispossession and daily harassment other than to pervade this impoverished, neglected refugee camp and roam in between its hovels, plumed with their guns and helmets, in their armored carriers?
It went on for hours. Until night fell. There were boys wounded, this time only with rubber not live ammunition. We saw two of them being evacuated. We heard of others. We saw the soldier being carried away one of those who Israeli newscasts had announced was wounded by live fire, which was a lie of course, as usual, as the army spokesperson the Occupation PR firm publicizes that which needs to be proclaimed as reality, possibly connected to reality, not necessarily or fully so. For there had been no shots taken at the soldiers. We were there, we saw. We also saw the soldier being loaded into the army ambulance that stayed on the spot for another half an hour. No one rushed off anywhere with any urgency to give care to a fictive serious injury. He was hit, I think, by a stone perhaps, certainly not seriously, certainly not shot.
The children were determined. At times they would chase the military vehicles away from the hill with their hail of stones, and they cheered, and then again gas or this or that kind of fire would be aimed at them and they would sit and rest on the rocks, and two of them pissed against the wall, and again they were targeted and again they'd drop to the ground and throw again, and cease, and they hung up a flag on the wall. This is the nine-meter high concrete wall and there is hardly a boy in the world who cannot climb over it, for its purpose, like that of the rest of the oppression spectrum more than security is to oppress, to crush, rob, expel and extinguish any form of resistance, any hope. And thus, too, the arrogant, provocative drives of soldiers around the camp and inside it, and the occasional hunt-like shooting to murder, or to plainly have fun hunting him who has no face and is not human, and is there as a receptacle for such urges, at times not necessarily for murder but just to receive the message 'I am here for good, make yourselves into dirt and ash, you filth."
This is how it looks.
More and more teargas smoke, and shooting. Occasionally soldiers race up the street or up the hill, again shooting at the boys or into houses, other boys throwing objects out of windows planks or garbage bags or white oil paint or firecrackers and cheering. More stones.
The soldiers left behind, bored or frustrated at not taking part in the battle, take out their juvenile power-drive on the Palestinians, stuck after crossing the checkpoint who cannot proceed to Ramallah or anywhere else. They push them off to go behind one or another line or just to hell, with the usual exclamations heard anywhere anytime 'Get back!" "Piss off", "Not now", "Go on", "Stay there", another push, another shove. Soldiers with hyper-extended backs, guns hanging loose or waving in the air, or pointing. Once they threw teargas at everyone, at us all, and everyone scattered, and came back for where would they go? They're waiting for this to be over, to go home, and again we hear "Get back", and again there's shoving, for what do the soldiers care whether stones are thrown at them or they're just being stared at after all these are all Palestinians, which is more or less the whole story.
In the night ten children were arrested. They will probably be charged with something if they've already been arrested, or they'll be required to collaborate, and if they don't, their lives are done with but then again their lives are done with anyway.
We went back there on Saturday to visit
friends. On the road fresh white paint was still visible, the stones had
been removed. The road bustled, and that was nice. Shops were open,
vendors at work, life hummed on, and at every street corner we met the
children and youths who had thrown stones a day earlier. You can't miss
them. Some of them know us. Some are the younger brothers of the stone
throwers of a few years back, shot at the time, some alive, some, alas,
no longer. Again and again we looked at the faces of the dozens of these
children, whose budding manhood seeks symbols, and this is the symbol
ready for the taking a symbol of the juvenile struggle against the
occupier, children who do not understand that death lurks near, that
they are children; And we try to memorize every facile feature and every
tone of voice, for perhaps this is the last time we are seeing or
hearing this or that one alive, and this is no metaphor.