Seven years have passed since the popular struggle has started against the Israeli Apartheid wall in my village Ni’lin. We had several unsuccessful attempts to establish a media center due to numerous night raids in the village, invasions of our popular committee office and the targeting of our youth and photographers. Today we are honored to announce the establishment of Ni’lin Media Center thanks to our Italian partner Terrmadri.
We have started working on our plan, which I am managing, since last month, in order to train 40 youth from the village, guys and girls between 13 and 35 years old. They are learning skills for filming, editing, reporting and posting online. Training many youth and having several reporters in Ni’lin will make it impossible for Israeli soldiers to target every holder of camera.
From the beginning of our non-violent struggle in 2008 until nowadays, Israeli soldiers sat a checkpoint at the entrance of the village which was blocking the village for 2 years. Later they have started to block it whenever there is a protest or whenever they have a plan to invade the village, to prevent media, journalists, internationals and Israeli peace activists from joining us. Recently they also block it depending on their mood as a collective punishment to make students and workers, who go to Ramallah late for their classes and work. The closure of this checkpoint also impacts the commercial life in the village: as Ni’lin is very close from Israel and Palestinians cities of 1948, many of their Palestinians inhabitants are coming to shop in Ni’lin as prices are lower than in Israel. However, when the checkpoint is closed they cannot enter so the economic life is decreasing. This strategy gave the Israeli Soldiers complete freedom to use violence against us and shoot us as they wish. I believe this is one of the reasons why we had 5 people killed in less than a year as well as hundreds of injured.
However, since then, we have decided not to give up and to start filming the Israeli invasions and attacks on our village. Then we send our materials to various media agencies and newspapers to publish the Israeli violations against us in attempt to expose the truth and real face of the Israeli occupation to the world.
On July 7th, 2008, Salam Kanan, a 16 year-old girl and resident of Ni’lin, filmed a very shocking video exposing an Israeli soldier firing a rubber coated steel bullet, from an extremely close range, at a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. It happened during the curfew imposed on our village Ni’lin. This video has exposed the Israeli occupation worldwide and has raised huge awareness on the situation.
Since that date, every youth from the village holding a camera has become a target for the Israeli army. On September 4th 2009, Israeli forces shot 2 cameramen with live ammunition in Ni’lin. One of them is my uncle Hamoudeh Amireh who was shot in the foot with live ammunition twice and was arrested and brutally beaten twice while filming our peaceful protests in Ni’lin. In July 2009, Hassan Nafi was also shot with the same kind of ammunition while he was filming. The bullet hit him in the groin where it is still lodged to this day. All these attacks show how scared the Israeli army is of cameras watching and recording what they do to the people of Ni’lin and the rest of the West Bank. Later on June 20th 2012, Hassan was arrested in his house during an Israeli night invasion and was sent to Ofer military jail. He was sentenced to 6 months as a price for filming and exposing Israeli crimes in the village.
In December 2012, the Electronic Intifada revealed that Israeli soldiers have complained about the presence of cameras in protests held in the West Bank. One of them admitted that “it’s intolerable” because they don’t have the same freedom to shoot when there is a camera. Furthermore, in January 21st 2014, Israeli soldiers opened live fire directly at one of the youth of the village. They shot at him because he was filming Israeli soldiers arresting another youth from the village after they shot him with live ammunition in his stomach.
Targeting youth with cameras in the village is an ongoing strategy: threatening, arresting and shooting. I was attacked several times while filming in some of our protests. During their last attempt to shoot me while filming, on January 30th 2015, the bullet destroyed the camera.
Nevertheless, we are very determined to continue exposing Israeli crimes against us. We want to show their real face to the world and spread awareness about what is going on here on a daily basis. In Ni’lin, the absence of media coverage from journalists coming from outside Ni’lin gives free opportunities to the Israeli army to shoot us. Camera is the only weapon we have to protect us and our community in spite of all the danger and challenges we face and the price we may pay for carrying it.
Thanks to our Italian partner organization Terrmadri’s support, we will keep running our training program until December 2015, each week training five youth in which we will arm dozens of youth with this tool to continue exposing the Israeli occupation. We want the world to wake up and help us put an end to this occupation until peace, freedom and justice prevails.