Volume 73, Number 4 | May 26 - June 1, 2004

New Israeli security barrier becomes focus of protests

Villager photos by Q. Sakamaki

An Israeli woman was arrested on April 15 at Biddou, near Jerusalem, at a demonstration against the new security wall.

East Village war photographer Q. Sakamaki was in the West Bank and Gaza from March 22-April 17, during which time he photographed protests against the new Israeli security wall and the reaction in Gaza directly after the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Sakamaki said, in his view, the wall is causing violent protests in areas like Biddou, a suburb northwest of Jerusalem, that were relatively peaceful before. If the wall is completed, Biddou will lose two-thirds of its farmland, according to Sakamaki.

Sakamaki said the protests, which last four to five hours, follow a similar pattern. The Palestinians — joined by foreign and Israeli protesters — get too close to the Israeli soldiers, who shoot tear gas. The Palestinians then throw rocks. The Israelis also shoot rubber bullets and throw stun grenades. Sakamaki got tear-gassed. “Of course,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe. My eyes so hot. I can’t see for nearly a minute…. The Palestinians bring onions and the foreigners bring alcohol to sniff to clear their nose and eyes.” Yassin was the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, an organization that opposes Israel’s existence and is the leading source of suicide bombings. The Israelis say the barrier is needed to stop the bombers.

Sakamaki, whose real first name is Kyujiro, said it was strangely quiet in Gaza after the sheik was killed. “Maybe they’re planning — or they have lost lots of power,” he offered. A few weeks later, the Israelis assassinated Abdel Aziz Rantisi, Yassin’s successor as Hamas leader.

Villager photos by Q. Sakamaki

A Palestinian boy wore a Hamas bandana in Gaza City at a demonstration on March 24 mourning the death of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Hamas’s spiritual leader. Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, another terrorist organization, also participated in the demonstration.

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