Eliza Bates

Eliza Bates (Democracy and Workers' Rights Center - DWRC): Eliza graduated with honors and a BA in globalization and social movements from UC Berkeley. Eliza is committed to the right to free association and she worked on student-labor solidarity and anti-sweatshop campaigns while at university. Following graduation, Eliza worked in the labor movement in the United States for over five years as a researcher, organizer and lead union contract negotiator. Her interest in social justice and globalization inspired her to conduct an independent field research project in Mexico on the impacts of NAFTA on rural workers. She participated in several labor delegations to Latin America. At the time of her fellowship, Eliza was studying for a Master’s degree in international affairs with a concentration in human rights concentration at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.



Normal Tears

02 Jul

I got tear gassed in Bil’in on Friday.

I didn’t intend to. I meant to just observe the weekly protest against the construction of the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel (see Amali Tower’s 6/10 post for another perspective on the protests). I wanted to watch unscathed from the top of the hill.

But the wind was on the side of the soldiers.

I saw fifteen to twenty canisters of tear gas shot. It was a generous dose, almost one for every two protesters, plus four for each Palestinian child.

Little boys. Seven, eight, ten years old threw stones impotently at heavily armed and shielded Israeli soldiers.

I watched in horror as the soldiers targeted the children.

They shot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at little boys.

I meant to move away but I was frozen in awe. I do not know what words I could possibly use to describe the feelings that arose when I saw soldiers pick up their guns and aim directly at children.

I didn’t turn away until a friend grabbed my arm and said: “now we run.”

The air was thick with gas and there were protestors vomiting on the ground.

It’s hard to imagine what tear gas feels like if you haven’t experienced it.

The name ‘tear’ gas is a misnomer. It sounds so innocuous, as if it just makes you feel a little bit sad.

It should be called something more like burn your mucus membranes and make you feel like your lungs are being ripped out gas. Or, a million fire ants biting your eyes at once while you have an asthma attack gas.

Surely, there could be a more accurate name than tear gas.

My eyes and face burned excruciatingly and I felt like a rubber band was tied around my lungs.

A Red Crescent ambulance zoomed down the road to evacuate protestors gone limp or in convulsions from too much gas.

We took cover under a tree from the rubber bullets and gas canisters.

An Israeli protestor repeated over and over: “I’m so sorry for the actions of my government. I’m so sorry.” His eyes were red and weepy with gas.

An old Israeli woman passed around slices of onion to ease the tear gas symptoms. A media photographer dressed like darth veder with a helmet, mask and vest handed me some toilet paper to mop up my tears.

My eyes burned again when I washed my face hours later. I felt dizzy and head achy all weekend.

I haven’t slept well since. I’m not sure if it’s the effect of the tear gas or the image of the soldiers shooting at little boys that’s keeping me awake at night.

Waves of fury and despair keep rising up within me.

I want to take those young IDF soldiers, bend them over my knee and spank them until they are blue in the face. You do not treat other human beings like that. It is not OK to shoot tear gas or rubber bullets at children.

I’ve been going around telling everyone what I saw. “I can’t believe that they were shooting at the little kids,” I repeat waiting for an outraged response.

Again and again I hear: “Yes, they do that.”

They do that. It’s normal. It’s expected. No one is even shocked any more.

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Posted By Eliza Bates

Posted Jul 2nd, 2007

32 Comments

  • mom

    July 2, 2007

     

    eliza, i could barely read this entry. who are we as humans we we can do these things to one another. surely, no one can feel that this is the way to resolve differences. hopefully your voice can make a difference so that israeli boys do not have to suffer from living with the cruelty of their own deeds and the palestinian boys with the effect of those deeds.

  • anon

    July 3, 2007

     

    and still the Palestinians send their children in to do the fighting for them. they egg them on, encourage them, reward them. then the Israelis look bad in the press when kids are hurt. Israelis are not hunting these kids down. the Palestinians arent stupid. this is a great media ploy. that’s why they (the Palestinians) have always shielded themselves with civilians, because they knew the only way Israel could strike back would make a smear on their reputation from the short-sighted.
    but I agree, those poor kids. I guess if you think they’re going to heaven for fighting Israel and being hurt you can continue to send them in. but why not blame the Palestinians for putting their children on the front lines of their hatred against Israel and Jews? why don’t the Palestinians put their energy into getting along with each other and building a stable government and pull all the rock throwers from the border? wouldn’t that make a bigger difference?
    the Vice Guide to Travel, published by an American entertainment magazine, has an excellent segment on the Palestinians systematic use of video games, among other things, to train children from ages 3-on to fight for them. it is truly scary what they are brainwashing these kids to believe. in the video game they go to heaven as soon as they die. they sing songs at day camp about “perfuming the soil with their blood as they kill the Israeli dogs.” and people want to know why there is no peace in “Palestine.” open your eyes people.
    and I’m sorry, I don’t care who you are. you throw a rock at me, and I will throw something back. noone has the right to do that.

  • eliza

    July 3, 2007

     

    That’s lovely. I have people advocating violence toward children on my blog. Palestinians are not all the caricatures you have seen on TV. I challenge you to come to Palestine and meet the people and then go home and continue to say such abhorent things. You have no idea what children in Palestine are rewarded for or what kind of behavior is encouraged. You’re just buying into the propoganda that you’ve been sold. Human beings all deserve to live in peace. Children are children regardless of whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or whatever. No human life has more value than another. I am so sick of this racist Zionist groupthink. Fear and hatred will not solve this conflict, nor will propogating such sentiments in the comment section of an Advocacy Project Peace Fellow’s blog.

  • mom

    July 3, 2007

     

    anon, i will probably not respond to anymore of your comments after this, since i imagine that there is no way for us to find common ground and i don’t want this site to become a place of vehement argument, there is enough of that in the world. but once again, i try to imagine who and how i would be if i was surrounded by walls, had no hope and was constantly under siege. (haven’t our own people been criticized for not fighting more when we were put into the pogroms- and really isn’t palestine just a huge pogrom). until the walls go away and the palestinians are treated as equal human beings, there is no way to have a conversation. equals negotiate. i do not believe that violence is ever a road to peace. i do not condone it ever, although i can understand the frustration that would lead to it. my request is that if you disagree so strongly with the conversation here to not trouble yourself with reading the blog. i feel like you are yelling at me and i just can’t hear you when you do that. you are sure you are right so there is no room for any other ideas to impact you. when that happens you are in a rhetorical monologue and only civil dialogs can solve problems. what would be the possibility of your not knowing who the palestinians are and what their motives are, what would be the possibility of having empathy and curiosity about who they are, what would be the possibility of imagining them being just like you? could you give up for just a moment knowing and just wonder? if we as humans are ever going to move beyond barbarism that is what will be needed. this challenge is for all of us. we can either continue down this path to our own demise or we can stop and choose a new path. shalom and assalamu alaikum!

  • anon

    July 3, 2007

     

    Mom,
    you’re against violence. The kids are throwing rocks, correct? They are being taught and encouraged to throw rocks to solve their problems. But you want to lecture Israeli soldiers on non-violence? That doesn’t make sense.
    Noone deserves to suffer. But noone will have peace unless they want it. The Palestinians elected a pro-violence government. Why are you making excuses for that? How is that helping the situation? The world had the correct response: you must do better; we will not negotiate with these people; try again. Even Palestinians, blocked at the border, are running from Hamas. The argument is fatuous: it’s okay for the Palestinians to hate Israel/ Jews/ act violent, because they are being policed; they are being policed because of a history of violence and a refusal of peace at any and all costs all throughout history, even preceeding the modern State of Israel; do your history lessons and find out. It’s not the way you want it: simple story of opressor/ opressed, it’s the way it is, with a people returning to their homeland, where they had remained a minority, as they were driven out of everywhere else, and the resulting resurgence of Arab-to-Jewish hatred at their presence. The Israelis are using rubber bullets, if the roles were reversed, do you think the Palestinians would be so kind? Don’t kid yourself.
    And yes, at a certain level, we are all right: Eliza, Mom, Anoymous, it is the everyday citizen who suffers, the common person who wants a simple but decent life for themselves and their family and is a pawn in the hands of the “masters of war.” To all citizens, of any nationality, who want peace, my heart goes out to you, you do not deserve to suffer so.
    But the real problem will not be adressed by pandering to the extremists and the revisionists, even if it is the “pc” thing to do. Since when is it okay to throw rocks at people? Did you bring your children up to solve their problems that way? Why are you excusing it? Address the root of the problem, the attitude amongst extremist Israelis and Palestinians, that “the other” is somehow less than human and doesn’t deserve an equal life, and you will begin to solve the problem. And that is a big problem amongst Palestinians; with no justification or excuse for it. You do their people, and the world, a disservice by pretending that it is otherwise. And I’m sorry that the AP blog reflects the real world, with people of differing opinions; if that is too much for you to take, your activism will never get anywhere.

  • madeline

    July 3, 2007

     

    Eliza,

    Just wanted you to know that I am proud of you. Even though it is hard, you really are making such a difference. I am learning a lot from reading everyone’s blogs, as are the dozens of people who are reading. You are voicing what has happened and educating us all.

    That anon feels the need to respond and provoke is only proof of that.

  • janette

    July 4, 2007

     

    hello Eliza – this is a ‘voice’ from the past coming to you from Australia. I want to commend you on your life’s journey and the social allegiance you are contributing to the universe.If only more of us were as zealous in the pursuit of peace.Well done and stay safe.

  • Dylan

    July 5, 2007

     

    Eliza, your voice is being heard out here. The truth you are telling just makes the defense of hate seem even more insane. Indeed, stay safe.

  • JK

    July 20, 2007

     

    Eliza,

    Thanks for this post. I too have gone to witness a Friday demonstration in Bil’in – it is difficult to see. To be shot at (sound bombs/tear gas – thankfully no rubber bullets that day) is a difficult experience. I spent many days decompressing after that experience. It is even more difficult when you begin to understand this is the norm for Palestinians. Then to compound it all, you watch the children throwing rocks at the soilders and you say, “why do they have to go and do that?” Suppressed people will retaliate as they can. I don’t want to fault them for trying to push back, but I don’t lay all the blame on the IDF (only about 90% of it…). The layers of complexity coupled with the generations of resentment that has built-up between the two cultures causes people to act irrationally in cases like these. I don’t competely agree with Anon’s posts, but I don’t completely disagree with them either. The complexity of the situation has few rivals, but hopefully some of our work can ease tensions and help foster some sense of peace… Keep up the important work out there.

    JK

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