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IMEMC: Bethlehem tree planting in memorial of Virginia students

Bethlehem: activists plant trees in memorial to students killed in Virginia
by Najib Farag, April 21, 2007

Palestinian residents and international peace activists, including Americans, and Israelis, held on Friday a protest against the Israeli Annexation Wall surrounding and suffocating Um Salmouna village, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and planted 32 trees to commemorate the students killed in Virginia – USA when a student opened fire at his fellow students in the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The protesters planted olive trees to commemorate the casualties in that deadly shooting. The trees were planted in an area where the Israeli army bulldozed the lands and uprooted trees to construct the Annexation Wall.

The Wall construction around Um Salmouna village started two months ago; it will annex and isolate more than 1500 Dunams or orchards that belong to the residents.

Also, the protesters carried Palestinian flags and posters slamming the Israeli violations and attacks against the Palestinian people and their land.

Khalid Al Azza, head of the Land Defense Committee in Bethlehem, stated that the idea of planting the trees is to express the Palestinians rejection to all massacres and crimes against innocent civilians regardless of their color, race and ethnicity.

He also slammed the American policies, the occupation of Iraq and the US policies of Afghanistan and other countries. He further said that the United States is not really interested in stopping the bloodshed in Palestine and continues to support the Israeli occupation.

Sami Awad, head of the Holy Land Trust Foundation, stressed on the importance of non-violent struggle against the Israeli policies, occupation, settlements and the Wall,

He stated that the Palestinians are stronger than the occupation since they defend their right and struggle for freedom and liberation, which is a right guaranteed by the international norms and regulations.

Moreover, Mahmoud Rasheed, head of the Um Salmouna village council, said that this Wall is a disaster to this village and the surrounding villages since it isolates 1500 Dunams in addition to blocking the main roads leading to these villages.

He added that this Wall will affect Bethlehem area as a whole since these villages provide the area with vegetables and fruits, but now thousands of residents are facing bad economic conditions after they became unable to access their lands regularly and unable to sell their agricultural products.

Mahmoud Zawahra, head of the Wall resistance committee in southern Bethlehem villages, appealed the international organizations, and the United Nations, to interfere in order to remove the Wall since it isolates the residents from each other and from their orchards, schools, medical facilities and disconnects them from the rest of the country.

Serena, an American peace activist, said that this activity gives her mixed feelings of relief and sadness since it connects different citizens together in solidarity, and commemorates the massacre in Virginia to prove that human blood is precious and should not be spilled.

She also said that the Palestinians are suffering under the occupation, bleeding from its guns and walls, and that there suffering should be ended.