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Bil'in activists remember Kayla Mueller, her time in Palestine

Palestinians residents and activists in Bil’in who hosted the American human rights activist recently killed by Da’esh (ISIS) remember her and her commitment to their struggle. ‘We will continue, like Kayla, to work against injustice wherever it is,’ Bil’in activists say. Mueller also volunteered with African refugees in Tel Aviv.

By Samah Salaime Egbariya, with Haggai Matar

Kidnapped by Da’esh (ISIS), American human rights activist Kayla Mueller was killed recently, allegedly in a Jordanian air strike on one of the terror organization’s bases in Syria. Before heading to Syria, Mueller was also active in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, largely under the auspices of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Her friends here in Palestine and Israel are pained, but remember her as a woman who symbolized the uncompromising struggle for justice and peace.

Mueller volunteered for the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv, and for part of 2010 lived in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Bil’in’s residents have been nonviolently protesting and struggling against construction of the separation barrier through their lands for nearly a decade. She also volunteered in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where she was active in opposing the eviction and demolition of Palestinian families from their homes.

Kayla Mueller sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo courtesy of ISM)

Kayla Mueller sitting in a protest tent in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo courtesy of ISM)

As somebody committed to human rights, Arizona-born Mueller regularly crossed borders to fight for justice. In 2014 she went to work with Syrian refugees, which is when she was kidnapped by Da’esh.

In Bil’in on Wednesday, residents reminisced about the young woman who joined them in their struggle. While protesting against the separation barrier Mueller was a guest in the home of Bassem Abu Rahmah’s family; Bassem was killed a year earlier while nonviolently protesting when an Israeli soldier fired a metal tear gas canister directly at his chest.

Kayla Mueller, sitting under a poster of Ashraf Abu Rahma from Bil’in. (Photo courtesy of ISM)

Kayla Mueller, sitting under a poster of Ashraf Abu Rahma from Bil’in. (Photo: ISM)

“Kayla struggled with us, stood with us in the difficult moments,” women in the village said on Wednesday. “Today, when we heard that she was killed in Syria, our hearts are in pain and we cry for her memory.”

“Kayla came to Palestine to stand in solidarity with us. She marched with us and faced the military that occupies our land side by side with us,” said Abdullah Abu Rahman, head of the Popular Committee in the Bil’in. “For this, Kayla will always live in our hearts. We send all our support to her family and will continue, like Kayla, to work against injustice wherever it is.”

On Friday February 20 the village will mark 10 years of nonviolent popular struggle against the wall and the occupation, and organizers said they will honor Kayla’s memory.

Mueller herself kept a diary and blogged, documenting her experiences in Israel/Palestine. In October 2010 she wrote:

I could tell a few stories about running desperately from what you pray are rubber-coated steel bullets launched from the gun tip of a reckless and frightened 18-year old… I could tell a few stories about sleeping in front of half demolished buildings waiting for the one night when the bulldozers come to finish them off; fearing sleep because you don’t know what could wake you.

The smell and taste of tear gas has lodged itself in the pores of my throat and the skin around my nose, mouth and eyes. It still burns when I close them. It still hangs in the air like invisible fire burning the oxygen I breathe. When I cry tears for this land, my eyes still sting. This land that is beautiful as the poetry of the mystics. This land with the people who’s hearts are more expansive than any wall that any man could ever build. Yes, the wall will fall.

Kayla Mueller didn’t hesitate to take part in a nonviolent struggle for justice and peace — anywhere. She crossed borders between states in the Middle East with hope and unshakeable faith in the nature of mankind, and constantly fought for it. She believed in justice and popular struggles for freedom and independence, with no prejudice of race, nationality or creed.

In a letter to her family from captivity in Syria a year ago, Kayla wrote: “I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down [and] I will not give in no matter how long it takes.”

To me, and to all those who knew her with whom I spoke, Kayla’s life and murder prove that people all over are responsible for each other, are partners — for better or for worse — and that mutual responsibility and a commitment to each other is the only way to change our global village.

God bless her memory — الله يرحمها — זיכרונה לברכה.

Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
IDF: Palestinian nonviolent protest is an ideological crime

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    COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn4

      She was an unrealistic useful idiot in Bil’in and she was the same in Syria. Of course Israel is a much safer place to be a useful idiot than Syria. Adventure activism gone wrong here.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        We know the Israelis think that non-violent protest is unrealistic. And we know that the Israelis think that violent protest is unrealistic. That can only mean that the Israelis have absolutely no intention of ever withdrawing from the occupied West Bank. Which means Israel is planning and executing an apartheid state. Which can only mean that the West has no other option left to it than a coordinated campaign of economic and legal sanctions and ICC prosecution. Your choice.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          Or the Palestinians can negotiate in good faith and receive a state that will be no threat to Israel. It is really their choice not ours and no pressure from the outside will change that reality. In the meantime we are not moving an inch back, and possibly a couple of thousand dunams forward here and there. Enjoy watching from the sidelines.

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            You are the classic conservative: Unaware that conservatism is a load of bullsh*t and that your world is changing literally every minute (in small incremental moves). Sure, Israel’s rejectionist stance will not come to an end in the near future. But know what? That’s exactly how South Africa thought in the 1960’s. We all know how that ended in 1994.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn4

            Jeez. I am a classic conservative. Oh god. No! How dare you?!?! Let me go embrace a glorious revolution or two and murder a few million people in the process. Perhaps I should go try out some crazy idea that is likely to end me up dead. Anything for progress. Yeah, that’s me now. Anything not to be a conservative.

            Reply to Comment
      • Jesus, you are a scumbag. What the fuck is your name, you backstabbing coward. You talk that way about this woman, what’s your name, whore?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          Oh, did you miss me sunshine? Enjoying your little echo chamber? Perhaps you would like one of your Arab friends to blow my brains out you little traitor as is their right according to you. Choke on your love for me darling.

          Reply to Comment
          • You call me a traitor? You say the Palestinians have the right to kill Israeli soldiers, which would be a far worse crime than blowing your brains out. WHAT’S YOUR NAME, WHORE?

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn4

            Yes dear. You are a traitor. You believe that an Arab has the right to walk up to me and blow my brains out for simply being a Jew. You support terrorism against civilians. If that doesn’t make you a traitor and a terrible human being nothing else does. And your obsession with my name is cute but really I have no particularly good reason to reveal that to you. Do I, sunshine?

            Reply to Comment
          • Keep running, coward – if I’m a traitor, so are you for saying Palestinians have the right to kill Israeli soldiers. Didn’t want to get into that, did you? And I’m a terrible human being? After what you’ve written about Kayla Mueller, you call me a terrible human being? It’s no wonder you keep your name hidden – you’re not a man, you’re just a little viper.

            Reply to Comment
          • ray

            Let him stew in his sadistic glee, Larry. Don’t give him opportunities to pontificate or defend himself.

            Reply to Comment
          • First of all, I don’t “support” the targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinians, unless it can be said that you “support” the targeting of Israeli soldiers. And if you think that my view makes me a traitor but your view doesn’t do the same for you, that distinction is in your mind only, and if you don’t believe me, ask around.
            But that’s about an old slander of yours; the new one, and the far worse one, is the venom you aimed at Kayla Mueller – which is really amazing, considering the sort of person she was and that she was just killed by ISIS. And the only thing that explains it is your deranged hatred of Palestinians and those who stick up for them. Because you wouldn’t have torn into Kayla Mueller like that if she’d only volunteered in Syria and India – you might have said she’d been incautious, but you would not have let loose with such contempt. What aroused it was that she sided with the Palestinians under occupation and against Israel – which enrages you to the point that you vent on a brave, idealistic young woman who was kidnapped and killed by the worst monsters on earth. What that shows is the depth of your hatred of Palestinians and of anybody who takes up their cause and badmouths Israel. It’s so big that it spills out even on Kayla Mueller in death. Why don’t you crawl back in your hole.

            Reply to Comment
      • You know, you could even show some respect for a person that has just died.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          No respect in life, none in death, and definitely not in stupid pointless death out of willful ignorance collected over an ignorant wasted life.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            I get your drift, K4. When international human rights activists have been murdered of maimed in the Middle East, this has not been a tragic accident in a country that upholds the rule of law, this has been the magnificent vendetta pursued by the IDF and the border police deliberately to reduce the number of idiots in the world (e.g. Rachel Corrie, Brian Avery, Tom Hurndall, James Miller, Tristan Anderson, Furkan Dogan, Emily Henochowicz, Sandra Quintano, Munib Masri etc, etc, not to mention numerous journalists). What you don’t make clear is whether you consider it idiotic to champion human rights, or just idiotic do no it in rogue states like Syria and the Israeli Occupied Territories.

            Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Your glee at her death is sickening, though not at all surprising.

        Useful idiots are those in America that blindly support Israel. That will end one day. The only question is when.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          Where is the glee? She was an idiot in her life. She died because she was an idiot. That isn’t glee. It is reality. Going into the Syria as a Westerner right now qualifies one for a Darwin award.

          Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Following your twisted and most evil thinking I would say that you would consider the following heros to be “unrealistic useful idiots.”

        The people in Europe who hid Jews from the Nazis. Had the Jews been discovered in their homes, the Nazis would have killed them. But to you and to the Nazis as well, the people who hid the Jews would have been “unrealistic useful idiots” and deserving of being killed.

        The white people who went to the racist and frightening South to help black people register to vote would also be in your twisted and very sick mind “unrealistic useful idiots.” Those white people, along with the black people with whom they were demonstrating and whose right to vote they were trying to get were often beaten and several were killed. You and the white racists who beat and killed the volunteers would also think that they were “unrealistic useful idiots” and deserving of being beaten and killed.

        I could go on but I hope you get the message. You are one damn sick man with an incredibly twisted outlook on life. I hope there aren’t too many more horrible people in the world like you but, sadly, I guess that there are.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn4

          I think the correct analogy you are looking for would be for a Jew to go into Nazi Germany in around 1944 because she wanted to help the poor German refugees from the Baltic States. You could argue that that Jew was driven by positive motives, and yet, that Jew would wind up dead out of pure stupidity.

          What this stupid girl did was pure and utter stupidity and ignorance and she died because of it.

          Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          Helping your fellow Americans overcome racial discrimination and earn the right to vote is not the same as traveling overseas and taking sides in a land dispute.

          Reply to Comment
    2. This piece of shit who’s been slandering Kayla Mueller here is not alone. “No tears for the newly-departed Kayla Mueller, the ISIS hostage whose parents confirmed today that she is dead,” conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel wrote on Tuesday, under the headline, “Kayla Mueller: Dead ISIS Hostage Was Jew-Hating, Anti-Israel Bitch.” http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/conservatives-kayla-mueller-israel

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Saw this on MJ Rosenberg. One can only hope that this kind of public shaming for bigots such as her will silence them (but I’m not optimistic about that).

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Larry, I’m not sure that K4 is in the same league as Schlussel – he’s just a callous, heartless, bigotted, useless idiot.

        Reply to Comment
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