Today, I joined up with Abbas once more and headed to the village of Billin to cover the latest round of weekly clashes with the Israeli Defence Force soldiers.

Different to last week, the routine at Billin is to approach the wall along a dirt track until you reach the barbed wire-topped fence that marks the controversial line between the West Bank and Israel. Once there, the locals try to cross through the gate, waving flags, to which the IDF soldiers react with the ever-popular cocktail of tear gas and flash bang charges. I’d actually managed to forget what the gas tasted like until the first cloud hit us before I’d had chance to get my mask on. Yum.

It seems that I must have some kind of Israeli homing beacon attached to me somewhere as, again, a soldier decided to take a shot at me. Now, I’m glad to say that this will be my last gas-filled protest of the assignment as this was decidedly close. After a few minutes of the first charge being fired, I heard a shot so ducked and immediately heard something whistle very loudly over my head. At this point, everyone around went “woahhh!” in a 3d cinema-audience stylee. Apparently, if I still had a head of hair, the tear gas canister would have given me a nice centre parting, passing 20cm over my head. Okaayyyy..

Aside from that little wake-up call, this weeks protest was less dramatic as the troops didn’t come through onto Palestinian land so after everyone had received a few good lungfuls of chemicals, the group started to fade back into the village. With a few remaining youths continuing their slingshot fire, we headed back to the car and off in search of drinks to wash away that marvellous taste I’ll miss so much. I wonder if it’s available as a roll-on?

13 Responses to “It’ll all end in tear(gas)”

  1. wowsers – dramatic stuff matey!

    Posted by petra
  2. I want to know what Gavin Rossdale is doing in your last pic. I’m sure he has better things to do.

    Good ducking and weaving skills demonstrated by you by the sounds of it. Nicely done.

    Posted by Dave Curtis
  3. thank god you have no hair ;)

    Posted by Kirsten
  4. hehe Thanks for the concern, all! :)

    Dave: That’s hilarious! Now you’ve said that, I can’t see anyone else!

    Kirsten: Don’t start, Mrs.. ;)

    Posted by tabascokid
  5. Haha…he does look uncannily like Mr Rossdale. Maybe he’s seen the light and has left Bush behind.

    Posted by Andy
  6. Leon, I’ve heard Netanyahu is favourite to win. Please tell me it’s not true! He’s a maniac…wants to start a war with Iran.

    Posted by Andy
  7. I’m afraid there’s not much doubt. He’s way ahead in the polls and it’s just a matter of who he’ll be siding with. Ehud Barack has been pretty much written off and the public don’t seem to be taking to Livni. This just leaves Netanyahu to take the top position. The more worrying trend is the far-right candidate of Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party. I shot a speech by him the other day and the people in the crowds were chanting “Death to the Arabs”. Nice. Netanyahu has yet to say anything bad about him, leading people to believe that he may invite him into the Government coalition. Not good.

    Posted by tabascokid
  8. More protest theatre, I find the whole thing fascinating. Other than slinging rocks at the IDF is there actually any protesting going on? I take it there are there no scruffy looking people holding signs and wearing caftans. I’m not sure what this weekly programme is supposed to achieve, does it just seem to be a way to release the valve on the pressure cooker a little?

    Posted by Miles
  9. I do think that, yes, it is a release of pressure but it’s such a futile thing that the protests and chants and waving of flags that always happen at the start soon make way to the stone throwing.

    If you talk to the Israeli settlers, their arguments would I’m sure make equal sense but talking to the older people of the village, they point out that all of the land as far as you can see used to be their farm lands until they were taken by the Israeli army and are now homes for settlers. Now they can’t even walk on the land, never mind work it. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that these guys get pissed off.

    Yesterday was the first time that I did see definite theatre in the protest though but I made sure that I didn’t file these pictures or share them here as they were clearly attempts to pose in distress for the media and observers who were watching. Unfortunately, many did leap on this and start shooting and filming but I guess it’s each to their own on how they want to record the facts.

    Posted by tabascokid
  10. There’s no fixing it, they need to just wipe the slate clean and start again.

    That’s my advice, but can I get anyone to listen? Nooo…

    Posted by Miles
  11. Great minds clearly think alike! While driving back from Bilin, I put this to a thoroughly decent photographer by the name of Khaled Jarrar. I suggested that, like the Northern Ireland “problem”, the only way that it would ever work out is if both sides are prepared to accept their losses and their gains, open the borders and just move forward. All land that’s been taken is gone for good. All land that’s still Palestinian remains Palestinian unless they decide to sell it of their own accord.

    While agreeing that the idea of peace was good, he couldn’t see that people could move on as there is too much of an imbalance at the moment. If the situation was more of an even stalemate, I think it would be a possibility but as it is, they’re in this for the long game.

    Posted by tabascokid
  12. Hey Leon,

    Some great work from Israel and Palestine, big fan of your work. Also good to see you taking an active interest in the issues – not just turning up, getting the snaps and leaving! Heading to The West Bank and Gaza myself early next year, looking forward to it.

    We bump into each other at press events in London sometimes, usually demos, will be sure to say hi and discuss where to find the best Humus in the holy-land!!

    All the best,

    Jack

    Posted by Jack
  13. Cool! Drop me a linen through the contact page and I’ll give you what limited info I have. :)

    Posted by tabascokid

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