Hebron: Whose bullet is this?

 Sunday morning, day 43 of the curfew in the old city of Hebron, I passed by the Israeli checkpoint near Baab iZawwiyya. I stooped to pick up one of the many spent bullets that litter the street. "Hey you! Stop!" an Israeli soldier shouted. "Give that back!" I turned around and reached into my pocket and handed him a bullet. Then I realised that I had given him one I had collected Saturday morning walking back from the Hart iSheikh neighbourhood after meeting a family whose house had been attacked by multiple missile and gunshot fire. I reached into another pocket and handed him the right bullet. "Here, this is the one from this street. Can I have that one back? I got it yesterday in the Hart iSheikh neighbourhood." "No, you must give them all back to us," he answered. I did not argue with him. After all he was right. No matter where I found these shells, they were fired by the IDF. The Hart iSheikh neighbourhood where I spent the night during heavy shelling was the target of IDF snipers and tank launched missiles from Tel Rumeida. Even though the missiles landed in peoples' living rooms and shattered their coffee tables and tattered their babies' clothes, they were the property of the IDF. I know none of the shells on the street came from these families. I also knew from my teammate Andrew that the IDF deals harshly with Palestinians who pick up bullets from the street. Andrew witnessed soldiers beating a young man whom they found with their shells in his pocket. Andrew later visited the family and was told the young man was still detained. Yet these days on every coffee table, bowls that used to hold cookies, flowers or apples, now hold some of the fruit of the latest horror that comes from an occupying army. "Have a cup of coffee and see what our children found in their bedrooms." So I gave the bullets back to the IDF soldier. Yet he is only partly right. I could have said, "Excuse me sir, but I think those are mine. You see I come from the United States. It is my country that has paid for your army. It is my country that vetoed UN resolutions and thus enabled your country to carry on this brutal occupation. It was my congressman who joined over 400 other congressmen in supporting your country's assault on the people in these neighbourhoods." I could have said, "These bullets are mine. They were paid for with my taxes. I want to return them to their rightful owner." But I did not need to argue with him. There are hundreds more on the street. I will see to it that some of them are returned to their rightful owners in Washington, DC, wrapped in a photo of one of the children who received it as a gift from America.

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