Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled
Sunday afternoon when I got word that my friend Joel Gulledge had been attacked by Israeli settlers in At-Tuwani. Joel was escorting some Palestinian children home from summer day camp when they were threatened by a masked settler with a slingshot. Jan Benvie, a friend and CPTer from Scotland, rushed the children away while Joel filmed what was happening. The settler caught up with Joel, grabbed his video camer and began beating him around his head with it while he punched him with his other hand. Joel didn’t fight back, but yelled for help.
This sort of thing has happened before to CPTers in Hebron and At-Tuwani. These have long been the regions where CPTers are most regularly the target of physical violence. Colleagues of mine have had their arms broken and lungs punctured and been stoned by Israeli settlers from the Havot Ma’on settlement.
So the attack itself is nothing new, but this attack hit closer to home for me. Just two weeks ago I said goodbye to Joel near his home on the north side of Chicago. Joel and I hung out together this summer at PAPA festival where he did a workshop on the situation in Israel/Palestine. And now I have the image of him being beaten in the face with his own video camera in my head.
The threat of violence in CPT work has always been theoretical for me. The last time in my life I was actually physically assaulted was in junior high by a bully. How would I deal with getting punched in the face? I’d probably get a shot of adrenaline. Then I’d cry. Or at least I hope so.
This is the second time this week that I’ve had a friend get beat up. For the last two weeks I’ve been helping to facilitate training for 15 new CPTers here in Chicago. On Tuesday during an action at representative Rahm Emmanuel’s office, eigh trainees and one CPTer were arrested during a die-in calling attention to Emmanuel’s continued support of war funding. Andy, one of the trainees, chose to stay limp when police arrested him. In response, they swore at him, dropped him on his face in the concrete and kneed him hard in the back in front of the 8 other arrestees. It was extremely traumatic for everyone involved.
After the men in the group were released, I picked them up at a CVS parking lot near the police station. We stood in the parking lot for a few minutes while they had a piece of pizza and talked about their experience. Any compares his experience to a domestic violence situation. "I felt like a failure because the ones with the power told me that if I would just comply they wouldn’t have to hurt me," he said.
The situation for the Palestinian children is similar. As they are attacked time and time again they are told that the violence against them is their fault. If they would just leave Palestine they wouldn’t have to face the daily verbal abuse and taunts on their way to school or day camp. It is the message of the abuser to the abused.
Andy told us how ashamed he felt when he cried in the police wagon. I commented that when we’re physically attacked it connects us at a deep level with previous experiences of violence. In dealing with the intensity of both the current moment and the depth of our memories of violence, tears are a gift.
Joel will be coming home in a few weeks. But the Palestinian children will remain. Each time they are threatened by the settlers, each previous experience must come to the surface. As they grow older, will they still be able to cry? Will they maintain the nonviolent commitment of their parents?
I pray for Joel and for the Palestinian children as they sleep in their beds tonight. May their bodies rest and may their dreams be filled with healing tears and laughter.