Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinian youths, aged ten and seventeen, this week in a village known for its nonviolent resistance. We speak with Hindi Mesleh, a resident of Ni’lin and an organizer with the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall. [includes rush transcript]
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We begin with Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinian youths, aged ten and seventeen, this week in a village known for its nonviolent resistance. Seventeen-year-old Yousif Amira has been pronounced clinically dead after Israeli troops shot him on Wednesday. Amira was among several youths who were fired upon after attending the funeral of a ten-year-old Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers a day earlier. The boy, Ahmad Moussa, died instantly after being shot in the forehead.
The shootings took place in the village of Ni’lin, where residents have staged daily nonviolent actions against Israel’s wall through the West Bank. The village was recently the site of another controversial shooting. On July 7th, an Israeli soldier was captured on film shooting a rubber bullet at a handcuffed Palestinian man.
Hindi Mesleh is a resident of Ni’lin and an organizer with the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall. He was there when seventeen-year-old Yousif Amira was shot and visited him yesterday in the hospital. Hindi Mesleh joins us now on the line from Ni’lin.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
HINDI MESLEH: Hi.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Hi. Thank you for joining us. You witnessed the shooting of Yousif Amira. Can you describe what happened?
HINDI MESLEH: Actually, yes. I was in the place when Yousif got shot. Actually, it was a protest or a demonstration; after Ahmad was — Ahmad’s funeral, the village went as a protest to condemn Ahmad’s killing. Yousif was shot by two rubber-coated steel bullets in his head. One has destroyed totally his head. Yousif now is brain-dead, and we’re expecting him, any second, to die.
ANJALI KAMAT: Can you talk about what happened to the nine-year-old boy the previous day? It was after his funeral that Ahmed Yousif Amira was shot.
HINDI MESLEH: Yeah. Ahmad is the nine-year-old that was killed. His funeral even was attacked by tear gas and rubber bullets. And after his funeral, Yusif was dead the same day, was killed — sorry, was shot, and now he’s in the hospital and brain-dead.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And villagers are taking daily
protests now against the building of the wall in the village. Can you describe what the demonstrations are like and the response of the soldiers?
HINDI MESLEH: Actually, I’m right now stuck in a house, because the Israeli army has invaded the village, because we had the Friday pray at the land. Israeli — Israel army — more than 100 soldiers now are invading the village, shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at houses. The demonstrations, as usual, they are not violent and peaceful from the Palestinian side, but they’re always met by a heavy use of violence from the Israeli army, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and sometimes, as Ahmad’s case, live ammunition.
ANJALI KAMAT: Can you describe where Ni’lin is in the West Bank and how the apartheid wall affects Ni’lin and the residents of Ni’lin?
HINDI MESLEH: Ni’lin is a village that is located in the west of Ramallah in the West Bank, twenty-five kilometers in the west of Ramallah. The wall is going to confiscate more than 3,000 of the — from — of the land from the village. Historically, Ni’lin land, before 1948, used to own 58,000 dunams. During the war of ’48 and ’67, 1948 and 1967, the village lost 40,000 dunams. The settlements and bypass roads have confiscated more than 8,000 dunams. So now there are 10,000 dunams left for the village. The wall is confiscating more than 3,000 dunams. In addition to the tunnel that will — this tunnel, the villagers will exit and leave and go in the village from this tunnel, that will be controlled by the Israeli army. So, 6,700 left for the village, out from 58,000 dunams when they used to own it in 1948.
ANJALI KAMAT: And, Hindi, when did protests against the wall start? When did residents in Ni’lin start protesting the wall? Is this a recent thing? Has it been going on for a few years now? In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall was illegal. The fourth anniversary was just earlier this month.
HINDI MESLEH: The wall started in Ni’lin in 2004, and there we had a court case. The court case recently end in April, decided that the Israeli army has the right to build the wall. Then the Israeli army starts building again the wall in May 2008 ’til now. Unfortunately, as the Israel — the International Court decided that the wall is illegal and should be dismantled, but Israel keeps building on, keeps going on in building the wall, building the settlements, tunnel, bypass roads, confiscating and stealing more land from Palestinians.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And what is the mood right now on the ground? I mean, two youths have been killed in the past few days, one a seventeen-year-old, one ten years old. Describe the scene for us right now on the ground.
HINDI MESLEH: The village has decided — is like determined to keep resisting, because there is no other way. This is the only choice that’s left for Palestinians, to resist and struggle in a peaceful and nonviolent way. Unfortunately, the Israeli army — like the reply and reaction of the Israeli army is way violent. And as you heard, one is ten — nine years old, has been killed, seventeen years old has been shot — now he’s in the hospital. He will pass away in any second. Hundreds of the villagers have been shot by rubber-coated steel bullets. Three of them have been shot by live ammunition, and they still went in in the hospital, getting treatment for more than three weeks. Houses have been invaded and shot by tear gas and break and destroyed.
ANJALI KAMAT: We’re talking to Hindi Mesleh, organizer with the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall. Hindi, I wanted to ask you, what has been the response of the Israeli army?
HINDI MESLEH: Sorry, I didn’t hear you.
ANJALI KAMAT: Hindi, what has been the response of the Israeli army to the killing of the nine-year-old youth and the almost fatal shooting of the seventeen-year-old? He’s now in a coma and pronounced clinically dead.
HINDI MESLEH: I don’t know the reply of the army. There is no reply. I don’t know what the excuse they will come up. There is no excuse. Whatever the child was doing, throwing stones or whatever, there is no excuse, and there is no right to kill a nine-years-old child or seventeen-years-old child when they are in a protest. The question is, like — the question is, why these children? They are in the protest because they’re aware of what’s happening and what’s going on in their village. They’re protesting against stealing their lands, killing their brothers, shooting at their houses, invading their village.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And finally, Hindi Mesleh, we’re broadcasting on almost 700 stations around the United States and some around the world, as well. What do you think is most important for people to know right now? What would you like people to understand about what’s going on right now?
HINDI MESLEH: I will say it in a very simple way, as Jimmy Carter said: what’s going on now in Ni’lin is ethnic cleansing. Palestine is — the Israeli army now is using the worst violence that has happened in the past. And it’s so shameful that we are in the twenty-first century and Palestine is still occupied. It’s the time that the whole — the international community and the world should say to Israel “Stop.” It’s the time that Israel should stop its occupation.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Hindi Mesleh, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Hindi Mesleh is an organizer with the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Apartheid Wall, joining us from a demonstration on the ground there. Thank you for being with us, and stay safe.