“A large part of those wounded by live bullets are those we indeed wanted to not only injure but kill.”
— Israeli General Giora Eiland
My name is Nasri. I am presently sitting in a hospital in Jordan awaiting surgery to extract the last fragments from my left eye socket. Outside my hospital window, large hills loom before me. Not too far from my room, a man on a steam shovel digs up the rich dark earth to make way for apartment buildings. I stare at the man, the deep rich earth, the gray of the winter sky and wonder where I will go from here.
As I sit pondering my precarious future, nurses pop in at intermittent intervals to take my blood pressure or make sure I am not too apprehensive about going up to surgery. I try not to talk too much because I lost the teeth on the left side of my mouth when Israeli soldiers shot me in my upper lip. The bullet that hit me exploded into seven fragments inside my head.
I come from the Palestinian village of Ramallah and was to graduate this year as a history major. But Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Harem Al-Sharif backed by a thousand troops and anti-riot police on September 28, changed everything. Sharon’s premeditated action was an intrusion into the Muslim sanctuary. His intent was to create a crisis so that the Palestinians could be crushed and the stagnant peace talks would be abruptly halted.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak was only too willing to send out his heavily armed soldiers to shoot at unarmed Palestinians who only had stones and the gargantuan courage to fight back. Though the Israelis have somewhat successfully portrayed us as terrorists and ungrateful for the “concessions” they offered us, what is really happening is the genocide of my people. And the concessions were in fact, only a pretense and a means of taking more of our land.
A lot of the Palestinian injured are children under 18 years of age. Israelis either shoot at the head or the chest. What is even more alarming than this deadly intent to slaughter us as we throw our small stones in the name of freedom and the right to a decent life, is that the bullets that do not immediately kill us, bore a hole inside our bodies and then shatter into fragments. I am but one example of such brutality. The bullet that hit my lip, as I mentioned, exploded into seven pieces.
The day I was hit by Israelis snipers, some of my friends and I were throwing stones at a heavily guarded Israeli checkpoint. My best friend who was standing close to me got shot in the head. I rushed out to help him and was cut down myself. My friend died. I wish I had too.
I have undergone several operations. Though I am young, the edges of my hair have turned gray. The pain has been excruciating. But what has happened to me has been worse. My best friend is dead. My face most likely will never be the same again. Half my teeth are gone and whenever I speak, I cover my mouth to hide the gaping hole. There is a chance too that I could lose my left eye as well. But even more, I have not been able to come to terms with what has happened to me and what is still happening to everyone in Palestine.
The toll on the Palestinians since the latest uprising is unimaginable. What we are suffering is collective punishment. We are a people under siege. We are a people who are like sitting ducks. If we throw stones or not, our houses are demolished by bulldozers, our farms are destroyed, our trees are uprooted, and our homes are shelled late at night when we think we are safe from the storm of the battle. So far, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed, more than 11,000 injured and there are at least 1,500 who will be permanently disabled for the rest of their lives. The Palestine Authority is staving off a financial crisis because of the Israeli blockade on our cities and the blockade on the incoming money due the PA itself.
Though the leaders of the Arab nations have pledged in the safe sanctuary of their plush palaces $1 billion, only a small amount has trickled in and this trickle has done nothing for Palestinian civilians. Palestinian youth such as myself face all alone Israeli sharpshooters willing to kill us or disable us for life. Children caught throwing rocks are taken to prison and tortured. Mothers of small children are kidnapped in the middle of the night for no reason and incarcerated, leaving their children behind without anyone to care for them.
We fall in the streets, our blood watering Palestinian soil while the world does nothing to change the tragedy of the holocaust being waged against us.
Being a patient in Jordan has been a refuge from the storm, from the utter chaos, and the death that lives all around my people and me. I look out my window again. Shadows have begun to overcome the day. The man on the tractor has disappeared, most likely retiring to an eager family that awaits him in the safety of his home. I await the orderlies who will carry me away to surgery.
It has been said that every endless night has a dawning day and every darkest sky has a shining ray. But those Palestinians living within the Occupied Territories still have not seen the dawning of the day or the shining ray of light for 52 years. I know that the Israeli authorities would like nothing better than to annihilate us, but regardless of how we are persecuted, tortured, shot at, killed and collectively punished, we grow stronger, we multiply and one day, we will eat at the same table as our oppressors. Our dream of freedom may be deferred, but only for so long.
“Nasri,” a young male nurse says to me, “are you ready to go up to surgery?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I reply. I try to look cheerful but don’t think I have been very successful.
“OK. I’ve got an injection that will help you relax. Soon you won’t feel a thing.”