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First-Hand Reports

Shot Twice Today, But I’m OK
– and One of the Lucky Ones

By Neal
International Solidarity Movement
Kharbatha Bani Harith, West Bank
March 21, 2004

Today has been quite a crazy adventure, but has also cemented emotions of how absolutely insane the soldiers here are, and how absolutely necessary it is for people to call for an end to this wall, and more importantly, an end to this occupation. It is amazing how quickly one day, actually really only five hours, can really push one forward. Today for the first time I really felt endangered, pretty scared during various moments, and even decided I would rather be shot in the back of the head than in the face, but I will get there a little later.

This morning we awoke early to head to a village called Kharbatha Bani Harith, which for those of you looking on maps and globes would be somewhat near the “Green Line”, and in order, below Tulkarem, then below Budrus, then below, Deir Qaddis, then it should be somewhere there. I have not been to this place before and only left my series of villages to be surrounded, as it was quiet here and there help was requested.

We arrived after a 45 min. drive through some of the bumpiest roads I have ever been on, it reminded me of the outer beach in Orleans, except here the dirt roads have deep ravines made from rainwater and years of no roadwork. I was glad I did not have a huge breakfast or I probably would have been a little sick by the end of the day. Our driver pulled over near the worksite, which was about 500 feet down a tractor path through olive groves. There were many women and children walking past us, and away from the demonstration, which is usually a bad sign, and the sound of gas canisters being fired which was confirmed by its pungent odor as we walked closer, and the red rosy cheeks from people crying from too much breathing of the gas.

As we made our way through the groves, a group of 100 villagers were sitting on some newly bulldozed farmland, with a bulldozer facing them about 50 feet away. As we did not see the other Internationals who were supposed to be there, we decided that we would go and sit with the community, at this point it was 8:15am. I was in charge of the legal and media work and as usual stood to the back. The demonstration occurred on flat land at the base of a hill, which was to our right. Up on the hill there were young boys futilely throwing rocks nowhere near the soldiers as the soldiers were shooting gas and rubber bullets at them. The demonstration where we were had everyone sitting down on their land, and a larger component of the community standing to the back, away from the range of the gas.

Over the next hour or so, the soldiers decided three times to charge the crowd, wielding their batons. Every time, as they approached those who were sitting, all the Palestinians and Internationals who were in the background, came rushing up to provide physical reinforcements. The soldiers would beat a few people, there would be some pushing, and then just an awkward stand off between the two sides. After about 5-10 minutes of staring at each other, the soldiers would run back as fast as they could to their jeeps, and then upon reaching their jeeps, would turn around and begin firing as many rubber bullets as they could into the crowd that was standing. After this happened the first time, we wised up and when we saw the soldiers run for their jeeps, we too turned around and ran with the hopes of finding cover before they turned around and shot. And as we ran, a group of 150 people remained on their land sitting or lying down.

It was during the first of these 3 routines that I found myself getting shot at. I tried to lie on the ground and crawl away from the scene when a rubber bullet went flying into the back of my upper leg. Luckily I was wearing baggy pants, and I don’t even think I have a bruise. I gave the bullet to the man I was lying near as a souvenir, and then we shared a little laugh. Then I went and hid behind a pile of rocks while more rubber bullets whizzed past our heads as we ducked behind the rocks — definitely not a good day for doing any peaking over rocks to check on soldiers!

While hiding behind the rocks, about 8 Israeli activists, all around my age showed up with a bullhorn. We talked briefly about the situation and then they proceeded to move forward while the rest of the crowd lay face down on the ground hoping not to get shot. The commander of the army would lift his baton in the air, then lower it and all the soldiers would fire at once. Then, there would be injuries and medics would go running. Sometimes the soldiers would shoot gas first, and when people would try to move away from it, they would be targeted — this whole experience was quite unnerving.

No sooner had the Israeli activists shown up, then one of them was all of a sudden being rushed back behind me towards the ambulances on a stretcher with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head. I was still standing with several of his friends when they realized that one of their friends was injured and went sprinting after him. I later found out he was shot between the eyes, and is now in critical condition at the hospital. He was supposed to see an eye specialist who will determine whether he will lose either of his eyes, or his eyesight. I will spare you the rest of the details as they are somewhat hard to handle and I think you get the picture.

[Mar. 24, 2004, Beit Sahour, BETHLEHEM—Three days after being shot by the Israeli military between the eyes with a rubber-coated metal bullet, 20 year- old Israeli peace activist Etai Lewinsky should leave Tel Hafhomer hospital in the next days. He will have one more operation to reconstruct his nose today. He is currently able to see to some degree. However, it is still too soon to predict the extent of his injuries and how his eyesight will be affected on the long term.]

Today, over 37 people were injured. 30 of them suffered injuries above the waist inflicted by rubber bullets, including 5 who were shot in the head, including an older Palestinian woman. However no matter how many Palestinians have been injured, it will only be the injury to the Israeli activist that will be the biggest news. I do not mean that it is not important as the soldiers very seriously injured someone they are supposedly protecting with their uniform and their so-called “security” wall. But to me the injuries of the Palestinians are just as important. But this is the way it is, shooting non-violent protestors with bullets mostly and a little tear gas and I accept that one is bigger news than the other.

At 10:35 about 50 soldiers and border police began pointing out internationals through binoculars and began final preparations for their big, violent push forward into the peaceful crowd. Why? I am not sure as no one was stopping the work from happening. And then all of a sudden it started, first with the sound grenades, most launched directly at the group of young women who were sitting together and chanting. They began to run; I saw many trip on the rocks, as more grenades were fired and then tear gas. The soldiers were moving very quickly towards me and I wanted to go and help the women out of the rocks but I figured I would only be arrested in the process. I turned to run in the olive groves as the rubber bullets began to come flying, and quickly realized I had landed in the middle of the stone throwers, who at this point began throwing stones at the violent soldiers. Then the soldiers just started firing at random into the olive groves. I tried to run to a safer area by many of the women but the bullets kept coming, and I couldn’t see the soldiers shooting, only the bullets coming basically from nowhere, and through some olive branches and then, whiizzzz, it was flying by your head.

I finally reached what I thought to be a safe spot and then through the branches came a bullet right at me, I saw it and instinctively tried to move my hips out of its direction and so it hit me in the butt and then whacked off my cell phone which was in my back pocket. An older man started calling for a doctor, which actually made me think I had been injured badly but I checked and there was no blood, and so I said I was fine, which I was. I was actually quite impressed that in the split second I saw the thing coming, I also managed to move my body and diminish the bullet’s effects on my body, and boy am I glad it wasn’t shot any higher.

The army continued to chase us through the olive groves with bullets being fired everywhere, all the plastic-coated steel variety. I worried about my friends but all but one eventually made it out. One was taken away by police forces but she just got released after signing some papers, and is back at the apt. now.

I wish I could put some positive funny spin on this day but I can’t. It was just awful. I reflect most on the number of bullet injuries above the waist, as this is where you aim if you want to seriously injure someone, and the notion of shooting to seriously injure nonviolent people gathered to protect their farmland from being destroyed seems unfathomable. It is almost like the soldiers want to raise the stakes and get the Palestinians more violent. I don’t know. I am feeling grateful that I wasn’t seriously injured today, and am happy that through my expressions of solidarity, I faced the same risks as Palestinians. I didn’t come here to face risks, but in the sense that they could see we were all taking these risks for them, and me as an American getting shot at by American weapons paid for by US tax dollars must work against some of the propaganda that exists in our two lands about each other, and each other’s feelings towards one another. I hadn’t been that unsure about my safety in a very long time, I really had to do some personal questioning today and serious checking in with myself. I am fine now, and I recognize the people here face much worse, and much more regularly, but it is all relative to one’s experience, and this day is like no other I have ever had. I love you all and am definitely feeling fine and very happy to be back in Biddu, I will talk to you soon, and continue to hope things will change here and tomorrow will be a safer day for all of us.

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Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer.

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Videos & Multimedia

Amnesty International Video:
Dina Goor, Yesh Din

3/20/2004 demonstration in Karbatha, Palestine – activists shot

Watch International Court of Justice’s Hearings on Barrier

UK Guardian Interactive Graphic on Wall

View footage from 2/6/2004 demonstration at Georgetown University, USA

View footage from 12/26/2003 demonstration in Mas’ha, West Bank—Israeli activist, Gil Ne’amati, is shot

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Ramallah, West Bank

View footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

MORE footage from 11/9/2003 demonstration in Zbuba, West Bank

News Without Borders 8/24/2003 Presentation on Israel’s Wall

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Additional Resources

Booklet – The Wall Must Fall

Documentary – The Israeli Wall in Palestinian Lands

Poster

International Court of Justice Ruling

Electronic Intifada on the Wall

Palestine Monitor on the Wall

Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Charter of the United Nations

Amnesty Report – Fear for Safety

Play – My Name is Rachel Corrie

Flyer – Rachel Corrie Cards

Poster – Rachel Corrie, 1979-2003

Poster – Tom Hurndall, 21-year-old killed

Booklet – Rachel’s Letters | en español

Congressional Resolution Expressing sympathy for the loss of Rachel Corrie – Not Yet Passed

Merchandise Commemorating Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall

Organizations

Stop the Wall

Americans for Middle East Understanding

End the Occupation Coalition

Al Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

International Solidarity Movement

Secular Peace Groups

American Muslims for Palestine

A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

More Religious Peace Groups

RachelCorrie.org

TomHurndall.co.uk

International Solidarity Movement

International Humanitarian Groups Condemn the Barrier

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

World Council of Churches

B’Tselem

International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative

Oxford Public Interest Lawyers

The National Lawyers Guild

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