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.
Posted By Eliza Bates
Posted Jul 2nd, 2007