Yesterday (21 March) I got well and truly tear gas attacked. We, i.e. the Freedom Bus mob, as per our arranged plan, joined a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh (near Ramallah) as they marched towards their village spring, illegally seized by the Israelis, as they do every Friday.
We were, as guests of the villagers, asked to walk at the back of the march, and avoid anything that looks dangerous. So there I was, peacefully walking along, when suddenly an Israeli army vehicle hove in to view, and the next thing I knew, tear gas was flying everywhere. Everyone scattered, but I seems to have copped an intensive dose, and I was rendered totally incapacitated.
I couldn’t see as my eyes were full of tears, my lungs heart like hell, and I didn’t know left from right, back from front, and to where the others had escaped. I really was in very painful limbo, quite lost and just staggering around.
Fortunately some of our mob saw my plight and a couple of guys came to my rescue, and one had a gas mask, which helped me a lot. After he left a woman gave me alcohol infused tissues to breath in, which were a huge help, and gradually as time passed I returned to normal.
I think I caught the brunt of the tear gas attack, but compared with a couple of villagers, I was lucky, as they got hit by rubber bullets.
On previous occasions demonstrators, all peaceful demonstrators, have not only been shot, but killed. Sadly, they have their martyrs. It makes me weep – and this time not from the tear gas either.
When people asked me why I was undertaking this project one of my answers was so that I could experience at first hand what the Palestinians are going through. I guess I got my wish.
Being in this village is a new experience, as we are staying in Palestinian homes, and the one I am billeted in is very much a middle class home, quite different from the tarpaulin shacks the Jordan Valley folk had to live in. It is clear though, from their role in the demonstration and the very detailed backgrounding they gave us that they are staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause. There is a photograph in one of the several lounge rooms of a little girl with President Abbas, so I’d say they are Fatah people