By Ariel Gold
We were at the weekly nonviolent demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in trying to get away from the army jeep when two female soldiers jumped from it and grabbed us. They held us by the jeeps twisting our arms behind our backs as we watched another international and a Palestinian get arrested as well. The other international, who was from Italy, was being badly beaten and pepper sprayed in his eyes. Me and the other woman were each being held by the women soldiers. The soldiers were in full head to toe protective gear and holding each of us in front of front of them in line of rocks being thrown by young Palestinian teenagers who could not see that their rocks were hurling forward toward unarmed unprotected civilians. I tried to bend my head forward to protect my face and neck from the oncoming rocks, but the soldier pulled my head up keeping me in line of the rocks. I asked her if she was intentionally trying to get me hit with a rock. She laughed and continued ensuring that my face was exposed and unprotected. I looked over at my friend next to me and saw that she too was having the same experience of the female soldier ensuring that her face was directly in the line of the rocks.
Later at the police station inside the illegal settlement of Mod’in Illit, I sat in handcuffs with one of the female soldiers who had arrested us at the demonstration. I was trying to talk with her to make a connection to her humanity. She was young, maybe 29 or 20 years old. I asked her about what music she likes, if she has any pets, what she likes to do when she isn’t on duty, and what her favorite foods are. “I’m vegetarian,” she said. “really,” I told her that I was vegan. “I have been vegetarian for two years,” she said. “I am trying to be vegan, but it is very hard in the military.” I told her that I was surprised; I had heard that the Israeli military offers vegan food, even faux leather army boots. She looked excited and proud and pointed to her boots and told me that they were indeed vegan. She told me she was inspired by Gary Yourofsky and saw I made a face. She asked why I didn’t like him. I explained that for me veganism is not simply about the liberation of animals but part of a principled stance against all forms of oppression. I told her that I consider it contradictory to be opposed to the oppression of animals while condemning or working to end sexism, racism, islamophophia, antisemitism, occupation, and more. I told her that for me vegan principles compel me to recognize and work for the equality of all beings and all people, including Palestinians. Though she didn’t take off her faux leather Israeli army boots and recognize immorality and brutal violence of the occupation, she did acknowledge that I had a point.