by Palestine Solidarity Project
On September 21, 2006, in the village of Al-Jab’a, Palestinian and international activists partially removed an earth mound roadblock that separates the Palestinian village of Al-Jab’a from the Palestinian village of Surif.
In 2002, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) created the illegal roadblock to prevent the villagers of Surif and the villagers of Al’Jab’a from commuting back and forth by car. The roadblock consists of dirt, large stones, at least five massive boulders, and more than nine 2-5 ton concrete slabs and blocks. Presently, Palestinians seeking to reach their village from the neighboring village are forced to approach the barrier by car, unload their goods and crops over the roadblock, and repack them into a car located on the other side of the barrier. While this restriction is extremely difficult to navigate, there are multiple other problems. The barrier is built at the junction of a Palestinian road and a settler-only road leading towards the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, and in the opposite direction towards Bethlehem, Hebron or Jerusalem. This road leads towards many colonial settlements, and it is partially for this reason that Palestinians are prevented from crossing it via car.
Not only does the earth mound roadblock prevent Palestinians from traveling within the occupied West Bank, and farmers from transporting their crops from field to market, it also prevents local students from attending secondary school. Daily, students from the village of Jab’a must travel to Surif to study. They must make this long journey by foot because the roadblock prevents buses and service taxis from crossing the settler road to the adjacent village. In Jab’a, the school serves students until around age 11. When the students reach twelve years of age, they must go to the older children’s’ school in Surif. With the road block in place, this simple journey is grueling and slow.
Because of these crimes committed by the Occupation, the villagers of Jab’a and Surif, joined with international activists to demonstrate in front of the road block, on the shoulder of the settler-only road. The demonstrators marched from the village of Al-Jab’a holding signs reading, “I Dream of Freedom for My Children,” “Settlers Create Apartheid,” and “You Steal Freedom.” Upon reaching the roadblock, demonstrators held the signs for the view of passing settler cars, and, others began to remove the roadblock with shovels and their hands. The demonstrators used the shovels to carry away the dirt and used their hands to move the rocks. Using a metal pipe as a lever, the demonstrators were able to remove one concrete slab prior to the arrival of IOF soldiers and border police.
After approximately 45 minutes, IOF border police and soldiers arrived. Within minutes of the arrival of the first armored police jeep, it was joined by two armored military jeeps. In total, two border police and more than eight soldiers took positions to monitor the action. After a few minutes they approached the demonstrators with a statement written in Hebrew and two maps marked in pen, also in Hebrew. They explained that the road, the roadblock and the adjacent villages were “closed military zones,” and that internationals were not allowed to be present. After some questioning, this answer changed, and the activists were told that both Palestinians and internationals were not permitted to be present near the roadblock or the road. The soldiers informed the peaceful crowd that if they did not leave immediately, they would be arrested. After listening to the IOF’s threats, the demonstrators returned to work removing the roadblock. During this exchange with the IOF, several cars carrying colonist settlers stopped to shout insults or to inquire about the situation. Throughout the action, many settlers slowed to read the signs, and to occasionally shout profanities at the non-violent demonstrators.
After partially removing the roadblock, the Palestinian village committee decided to disperse and return to the village and the Palestinians and internationals marched back up to Al-Jab’a. This is the first direct action to be undertaken jointly by the Surif and Al-Jab’a local committees and PSP. In the future, the demonstrators hope to return to the roadblock and further open the road, allowing for the free passage of Palestinians from village to village.
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