On Friday afternoon August 17th over 150 Palestinian landowners and their families were accompanied by Israeli and international human rights activists to protest against the Apartheid wall in Umm Salamona and W’laga on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
The demonstration has become a weekly event as residents become more and more determined to draw attention to and prevent the annexation of their land for absorbtion into the Illegal Israeli Settlement of Efrat. The Apartheid wall is currently under construction in the area. Many hectares of olive groves, pine trees and other vegetation have already been destroyed by the Israeli Occupying Forces with significant amounts further set to be up-rooted. Consequently it will financially and culturally impoverish the local Palestinian communities in the area, taking away their means of economic survival and forcing them to change their way of life that they have undertaken for generations.
At the beginning of the demonstration locals hung up banners at the entrance to the site which bulldozers use daily. They clearly outlined the community’s opposition with slogans stating ‘Our land is the key issue,’ ‘We are nothing without land,’ while on the march they chanted ‘No to occupation,’ ‘No to house demolitions,’ ‘No to tree destruction.’
The local community-led non-violent action commenced with an address by a local community leader in Arabic and English about the history of the local area followed by prayers conducted on the roadside, observed at close quarters by over 25 Israeli soldiers.
There was a peaceful march towards the area, which is being leveled in order to make way for the building of the wall. Local Palestinians gave further speeches about the devastation that is taking place despite local opposition. Human Rights Activists initiated a non-violent direct action by building a stone barrier to stop the path of the bulldozers on the valley that faces the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat.
The protestors proceeded uphill towards the Apartheid Wall but were blocked by Israeli soldiers and jeeps. After a non-violent attempt to get to the wall the soldiers stopped the march by aggressively pushing the activists and unsuccessfully attempting to arrest a number of Palestinians and Internationals. Demonstrators were violently grabbed and pushed to the ground, while one Irish activist was kicked in the head. Mainstream and independent media present were also deliberately pushed and obstructed from recording the soldier’s violent behavior.
The demonstrators maintained their nonviolence throughout the march and peacefully dispersed at about 2pm, confident that they manifested their dissent towards the annexation of Palestinian land by the Israeli State. A Spanish activist who attended the demonstration was arrested at a checkpoint as he left the area soon after the demonstration ended. Video evidence shows that he participated in a legal and nonviolent manner on the periphery of the protest.