Today Beth and I took part in our first demonstration. We have also written our first press report, detailing what we saw. These reports are an important part of ISM work to help us raise the profile of what’s happening here. The reports are uploaded onto the ISM website, which I urge you all to take a look at. Anyway, this is what we wrote:
7 October 2011: International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On the tenth day of the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, a crowd of around a hundred people took to the streets for a planned demonstration in the village of Beit Omar, Hebron.
This was one of a number of recent demonstrations across the West Bank supporting the 9 demands of Palestinian prisoners, which include the right to family visits, end to the use of isolation as a punishment, and an end to the profiteering of Israeli prisons from financial penalties charged against prisoners.
The Beit Omar protest began after noon prayers with a peaceful march through the village, but later there were clashes between demonstrators and the Israeli military. Tear gas cannisters, sound bombs and – for the first in this region – the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) were used against protesters in clashes that continued until 2.30pm.
A Palestinian man, Abdellah Slibi was detained. Slibi, 22, is reported to suffer from learning difficulties and was observed by an international peace activist being blindfolded during the arrest. He was later released. A British peace activist was struck on the leg by a tear gas cannister, but was not seriously hurt.
The rights of prisoners is a concern for all Palestinians. The apartheid legal system allows for Palestinian people to be held under Administrative Detention for up to six months without trial, based on confidential materials that are kept from the detainee and their lawyer. This ever-present threat is part of daily life in the Occupied Territories.
So yes – an interesting day. (I can safely say I’ve never had a day like it.) Beth took some really great photos, which I’ll upload onto another post as soon as I can. And I’ll talk a bit more about how the whole experience made us feel. For now, just to say we’re safe and well. And drinking tea, and playing cards. More anon.