July 13th, 2007. Approximately 40 Palestinians, Israelis, and international non-violent marchers met for another Friday attempt to access stolen Palestinian land in the village of Artas. As in previous marches, unarmed solidarity activists were met by approximately 15 armed Israeli soldiers who refused passage to the Israeli-annexed Palestinian land. Throughout the demonstration, during which the halted marchers sat to listen to Artas Popular Committee member Awad relate the history of Artas’ annexation, at least one Israeli soldier maintained targeted aim with live ammunition on the clearly un-armed crowd below.
Artas, like Um Salamuna, suffers from the devastating effects of the Israeli Apartheid Wall, annexing land and water sources, and the extended illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat. While Efrat divides Palestinian lands leading up to Artas, the villagers of Artas will lose their agricultural lands to Efrat’s sewage: the settlement has plans to empty settlement waste directly onto the olive and fruit orchards below, and further onto the vegetable gardens which provide sustenance to the 4,000 villagers.
Awad described how the valley normally would flood with water at certain times of the year. “One year from now we won’t see this valley; it will be ruined by sewage,” he predicted.
He spoke of the sentiments of Artas villagers and Palestinians throughout Palestinian areas: “We believe in peace, also. We want real peace. Although the Occupation is internationally illegal, we agreed to have Israelis as neighbors, but Zionism insists on having this land, our land, without the people, us.”
He went on to voice what is internationally felt: “The very same people who suffered so greatly under Nazi persecution are now doing the same terrible things to us Palestinians.”
While the marchers were not able to cross onto the stolen lands, their time was well-spent in showing presence against the illegal land-grab and provided an opportunity for numerous speakers to voice their thoughts. Among the speakers was a long-time American activist, who spoke of the parallels between the treatment of Native Americans by US colonialists and that of Palestinians by Israeli colonialists, directing many of his comments at the armed Israeli soldiers within earshot: “In the US, the army went through Native American communities, destroying and killing. When the Native Americans resisted, they were called ‘savages.’ They were made to seem less-than-human.
Now, over 100 years later, the average American knows this is not true. Israel is doing the same thing to Palestinians. We don’t have 100 years. There is no difference between Palestinians and Israelis; we are all human beings. The problem is the Israeli and US governments. And you end up being the tools. The real solution is: End the Occupation Now.”
The non-violent march and meeting ended with further words from the organizers and a peaceful march back to Artas village.