By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service
JERUSALEM (CNS) – Northern Ireland's 1976 Noble Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, was injured in the leg by a rubber bullet while taking part in a nonviolent demonstration against the Israeli separation wall.
Maguire, a Catholic, required medical treatment for her injury and also for tear-gas inhalation. She remained in the hospital for a few hours, then returned to the demonstration. She left the country the following day, April 21, as planned.
Maguire had been attending the Second Bil'in International Conference on Nonviolence in the West Bank village of Bil'in, where Palestinians and international and Israeli peace activists have held such protests against the wall since February 2005. The conference was sponsored by the International Solidarity Movement.
Movement activist Jonas Martinez, an American Catholic who said he did not want to give more details about where he was from, said conference participants joined the weekly demonstration against the wall and were met by Israeli soldiers armed with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
Demonstrators, including Maguire, covered their faces with bandannas and onion slices to dilute the tear gas, he said, and after each lob of tear gas they would regroup and continue forward toward the wall. He said demonstrators shouted in various languages: "Don't shoot, we are nonviolent."
In addition to Maguire, eight demonstrators were hit by rubber bullets, he said, and numerous demonstrators were beaten by soldiers. Three demonstrators were arrested but later released, he said. Some of the more than two dozen injuries came from tear gas, he said.
One demonstrator, Tito Kayak of Puerto Rico, managed to climb a nearby military tower and hang a Palestinian flag on the top; he was arrested. He was to remain under house arrest until the end of the Israeli Independence Day holiday, which begins the evening of April 24, said Martinez.
Israel says the separation wall is necessary to prevent suicide attacks against Israeli civilians and notes that the number of attacks has decreased significantly since the wall was built.
At a press conference before being injured, Maguire told about 500 participants in the nonviolence conference that the wall was an "insult to the human family" and must come down.
"Nonviolence will solve the problems here in Israel and Palestine," Maguire said in a statement issued by the International Solidarity Movement. "Often, the world sees only violence. But Palestinians are a good people, working toward nonviolence. This wall must fall."