A new U.S. diplomatic cable out of the American embassy in Tel Aviv from February 2010 reveals that Israelis at that time were becoming increasingly frustrated with non-violent demonstrations by Palestinians in the West Bank. The cable — released recently by WikiLeaks — notes that one Israeli military official “warned that the IDF will start to be more assertive in how it deals with these demonstrations, even demonstrations that appear peaceful.” Later, the cable includes a striking quote from an Israeli defense official:
Less violent demonstrations are likely to stymie the IDF. As MOD Pol-Mil chief Amos Gilad told USG interlocutors recently, “we don’t do Gandhi very well.” The IDF impatience with these demonstrations may also be connected to the recent arrests of foreign NGO workers with expired or solely tourist visas who have been attending, and often organizing, the protests.
Indeed, this is exactly what has been taking place, for example, in the small Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. In 2008, religious Israelis from the nearby settlement of Halamish claimed a fresh water spring belonging to a Palestinian family and every Friday since, Nabi Saleh residents and sometimes other activists gather to march peacefully toward the spring. Except, they never make it. Most times without provocation, IDF forces greet the demonstrators with tear gas, rubber bullets and “skunk water.” Activist Jenny Levin witnessed one such protest and described what she saw last June over at Mondoweiss:
I can confirm that there was absolutely no provocation on the part of the demonstrators. We’d hardly taken our first steps through this sleepy village when tear gas canisters started falling all around us, the air became filled with the acrid smoke, and our eyes, mouths and skin took the impact of the tear gas. […]
Aside from the tear gas and rubber bullets, there’s also – by way of a grande finale – the notorious ‘skunk’, which is driven through the village spraying homes and people with a putrid, sticky chemical concoction, the ingredients of which are a mystery.
Watch the video Levin included in her post:
“The confrontations in Nabi Saleh over the past year are considered the most violent in the West Bank,” wrote Idan Landau at the blog +972 in April, “In spite of the fact that the Palestinian side is adhering to the nonviolent popular protest, with women and children participating, Israel’s army has broken several records in brutality at Nabi Saleh.” (HT: Didi Remez)