Unrest in the West Bank

In the summer of 2014, the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas drew the eyes of the world. While the international lens was focused on the fighting in Gaza, the West Bank also saw unrest as Palestinians came out in massive numbers to show solidarity with the residents of Gaza. Palestinians in the West Bank are not subject to the magnitude of violence seen in Gaza, but still harbor deep grievances at the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and continued territorial occupation. This summer, these grievances were compounded by the Israeli offensive into Gaza and the mounting civilian death toll. Mounting pressure and frustration in the West Bank erupted as Palestinians took to the streets in protest. These photos document three different demonstrations across the West Bank during the course of the offensive. The first was in Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank. It took place on Sunday, July 20, as Palestinians expressed their outrage at the growing numbers of civilian casualties. July 20 was the deadliest day in Gaza with 122 Palestinian deaths and 16 Israeli deaths. It also marks Laylat al-Qadr, the most important day in Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.

The second demonstration was a march from Ramallah to the Qalandia checkpoint, which separates the West Bank from Jerusalem. The crowd swelled as thousands of Palestinians gathered. In the ensuing chaos, two Palestinians were killed, about 200 wounded, and several Israeli officers in Jerusalem were struck by stone-throwers. The third protest takes place every Friday in Bilin, a village made famous by the documentary Five Broken Cameras. Each week for the past ten years villagers, activists from across Palestine, and international activists have gathered to protest the Israeli separation barrier encroaching into Palestinian territory. These protests have been successful in the past; Israel altered the location of the barrier in 2011 in light of the international attention drawn to the issue. An underlying feature of each demonstration was how violence was interwoven with moments of stillness. Friends stood under a store awning and shared a cigarette. Women sat together on tires, tutting and shaking their heads as if discussing their children’s transgressions. As bullets struck the billboard overhead, a hunched over man wove through the crowd, offering onion quarters to offset the effects of the tear gas. Such patterns of behavior have become routine in the context of resistance. After loading a man into an ambulance, one demonstrator leaned his head against his friend’s back, slowly closing his eyes in a brief lull before wrapping his keffiyeh once more and re-entering the crowd.

Semhal Tsegaye is a political science major in Timothy Dwight College. You can contact her at semhal.tsegaye@yale.edu.

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