Yesterday, July 30th, there was a funeral for Ahmed Mousa, the eleven year old who was killed by Israeli Border Police the night before. In the morning, there was a procession from Ramallah to Nl'in, which was put under curfew by the Israeli military which means that no one is allowed to leave their homes. At 6:30pm, I attended a protest in response to this killing in Tel Aviv.
The Tel Aviv protest was made up of over a hundred Israelis. As far as I could tell, it was mostly made up of Ashkenazi Israelis in their 20s and 30s- anarchists, queers and students who were refusing to serve. We met at a train station and marched to the highrise apartment building of Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister and current Minister of Defense, deputy prime minister and leader of Israel's Labor Party. There were strong drummers that could be heard along the whole street and chants, which were translated to me as "end the occupation" "The wall is built on children's lives" "The wall must fall" and others. A police officer weaved throughout the crowd filming the faces of everyone there.
The protest then marched down Namir, a major street in Tel Aviv. As we marched, one of the Queer it Up members I had met in Nl'in was holding a poster with a photo of Ahmed up to the windows of cars stopped at lights. At a major intersection a large group of Israelis sat down in the street and stopped the traffic. The police charged the group and began shoving and beating on them, physically removing them from the street, and arresting a few people. At the curb the police continued to shove and hit the protesters.
Before this non-violent civil disobedience, I recognized the protest as similar to some protests I have been to in New York. I was familiarly cynical- the lack of coalition reflected in the small range in demographics represented (this doesn't necessarily mean the coalitions don't exist, it could have been for a large range of reasons that this protest was attended by a limited group); the small relative size of the protest; how removed and different the context of Tel Aviv looked to the West Bank where the killing occurred; and the lightness of the energy compared to the situation it aimed to protest. After the Israelis sat down in the street interrupting the otherwise apathetic environment in Tel Aviv and the police began beating on them, the energy of course shifted to be appropriately serious given what is happening in Nl'in and Ahmed's murder. I stood watching, clapping and repeating the chants the best I could, impressed by the Israelis' fearlessness.
As the protest marched on, the policeman with the video camera lead other police officers to specific people, apparently to point them out for arrest. I approached the Queer it Up member I had met and saw that she was crying. I asked her how she was, and she answered, "very depressed." Then I saw one of the high school senior refusniks I met in Nl'in. She was approaching Israelis who were waiting at a nearby bus stop asking them how they could just sit there when a ten year old boy was killed. They shrugged at her. She asked me, "will you be in Nl'in tomorrow?" I said "no." She said it would be very violent. I asked her if she would go and she answered, "of course."
Just two hours earlier I had arrived in the Tel Aviv bus station greeted by high level security searching my bags, and the many soldiers who shoved through the lines with an intense sense of entitlement. It reminded me of football players in US suburbs and the abuses that accrues. Then I thought about the fact that this 18 year old Israeli would for sure be shot at the next day and would be imprisoned in September for refusing to serve. It made the fearlessness in the face of the shoving police officers make a lot more sense. As much as I cannot begin to understand life in the West Bank where life is controlled and attacked on a daily basis; I cannot understand the lives of these Israelis who believe in justice- so close to the West Bank and amongst soldiers who are the face of this occupation being held up as heroes every moment of every day. And yet, there are so many similarities to my life in New York too, and I consider why I didn't sit down in the street to stop traffic when Sean Bell was murdered.
At around the time of yesterday's Tel Aviv protest, a 17 year old Palestinian boy was shot in the head by Israeli forces in Nil'in. For more information read the press release, here.