On the anniversary of the French Revolution, the theme of the protest in Al Ma’sara on Friday was the destruction of the prison in which Israel holds Palestinians captive, redolent of the French storming of the Bastille in 1789. Around 50 demonstrators, both Palestinians and internationals, marched towards the main entrance of the village to call for an end to the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall and the illegal settlement of Efrat, which surrounds the village and severs the inhabitants from their land. The Israeli army, without any provocation, responded viciously to the non-violent protest.
During the demonstration the local popular committee leaders spoke powerfully about their right to the land of their ancestors and their ongoing non-violent struggle for freedom. They called for an end to the arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinian political prisoners
Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstration the soldiers responded by throwing sounds bombs and tear gas. A local popular committee leader Marwan was detained and threatened with a beating by soldiers, but later released without charge.
Palestinian and international voices urged the army not to shoot or use violent means, holding up their hands to symbolize non violent resistance. Despite this soldiers began to hurl sound bombes – one of which injured an international journalist – followed by rubber tear gas canisters. The group of protestors, which included women and the elderly, was subjected to several volleys tear gas and sound bombs, and dispersed as a result.
Construction and expansion of the illegal Gush Etzion settlement has already confiscated a large portion of village lands and construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall in the area cleaves roughly 3,500 dunams of land.
Throughout the history of the popular resistance, local leaders here have been arrested, imprisoned and threatened by soldiers; they face harsh fines or imprisonment for attending demonstrations. Night raids are often carried out in attempts to deter the inhabitants of Al Ma’sara from exercising their right to protest against the occupation, which they have been doing since 2005. However, it seems that the tactics of the soldiers in the hope of scaring demonstrators will have the contrary effect; strengthening future protests.
Bil’in (Friday 16 July)
On July the 16th around 200 people participated in the weekly demonstration against the wall in Bil’in – many of them where internationals. Huge amounts of tear gas was fired – unnecessarily – at the demonstrators and two people were injured.
The demonstration started in the center of Bil’in after noon prayers. One hundred Palestinians and almost as many internationals gathered and paid tribute to Fayyes Tanin, a leader of the Palestinian grassroots movement who passed away 6 weeks ago in an accident and was commemorated in numerous posters. The protestors marched as usual through the village and up to the wall, waving flags and chanting in Arabic and English as they went. The demonstration stopped some meters from the gate, where Israeli soldiers were waiting. Without warning and without a single stone being thrown, the soldiers started firing teargas, less than a minute after the demonstrators had reached the wall.
Demonstrators had hoped to quickly lock the gate from the Palestinian side – preventing soldiers from making incursions towards the village and trying to arrest people – but the large Israeli force pushed through and chased people back, all the time firing tear gas and stun grenades at the nonviolent protestors. One boy of 12 years old passed out from teargas inhalation and had to be taken back to the village. Another young boy was hit by a teargas canister in his stomach, and suffered painful but luckily not serious injuries.
About ten soldiers went on the offensive, advancing towards the village firing tear gas from among the olive trees so it was closer to the protestors who had retreated and regrouped. A big group of demonstrators who had gathered on another hill near the village were subjected to repeated teargas attacks which actually prevented them from returning to the village for some time.
Bil’in residents have – since March 2005 – organized regular direct actions and demonstrations against the theft of their lands for the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall and illegal Israeli settlements such as Modi’in Illit. Although both the International Court of Justice (in 2004) and the Israeli Supreme Court (in 2007) have declared the route of the wall illegal – the latter stating that at least 25% of Bil’in’s 1964 dunums of confiscated land should be returned to the village – these rulings have to date been ignored and settlement construction continues.
Ni’lin (Friday 16 July)
A Danish student, 24, was arrested and detained for several hours by Israeli authorities yesterday for being in the vicinity the weekly peaceful protest in Ni’lin.
She was surrounded by ten soldiers armed with M-16 rifles while she was resting away from the main protest, suffering from tear gas inhalation.
She was transported away from Ni’lin, where she and other internationals were accompanying villagers on their weekly peaceful protest against Israel’s Apartheid Wall – declared illegal in 2004 by the International Court of Justice – which cuts through their land.
The nonviolent protest was met with severity by Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas repeatedly at protesters and also arrested one Israeli photographer.
She was interrogated at Shaar Benyamin police station in Jerusalem, detained for four hours, and told to sign a form stating that she had illegally been present in a ‘closed military zone’. However, when she refused to sign she was released without charge.
The village of Ni’lin is designated as ‘Area A’ under the Oslo Accords of 1993 signifying that it should be under full Palestinian control. But since May 2008 the Israeli army have killed 5 residents and critically injured American solidarity activist Tristan Anderson in the process of harshly repressing demonstrations against the occupation.
The route of the wall annexes Palestinian land to neighboring illegal Israeli settlements and Ni’lin is now 56% of it’s original size (8911 dunams). As well the ICJ’s ruling, Israel’s own Supreme Court has found two proposed routes of the wall in Ni’lin to be illegal – but these legal decisions supporting the villagers’ claims have been ignored.
An Nabi Saleh (Friday 16 July)
After noon prayers the villagers in An Nabi Saleh accompanied by international and Israeli activists joined together to protest against the lack of water resources accessible to Palestinians. The demonstration was carried off peacefully with chants and heated discussions with the soldiers who were present to stop the demonstration from reaching the nearby settlement.
About one hundred Palestinian villagers and internationals gathered in An Nabi Saleh to protest against the settlement annexing their land. The demonstration walked down towards the settlement chanting, but soldiers intervened and disrupted the demonstrators from walking ahead. The demonstration was peaceful until a shabab accidentally hit a journalist with a stone. A soldier then retaliated by shooting teargas at the shabab. This accident didn’t hinder the protest from continuing, as a large number of children and women started to chant and make noise in front of the soldiers. The children signaled peace signs and sang for the soldiers, making clear that they were not welcome. The children went on and on from soldier to soldier, who struggled to keep their cool.
After about two hours of passionate protesting the soldiers left the village and the demonstration ended. The theme of the demonstration was the lack of water given to the Palestinians compared to the excessive amount of water set aside for use only by the settlers, such as those living in the illegal settlement of Halamish (Neve Zuf). The people from the village, who have been demonstrating weekly since January 2010, this week expressed their anger by putting used tear gas canisters and sound bombs in plastic bags filled with water.
Wadi Rahhal (Friday 16 July)
Between 40 and 50 Palestinians together with 10-15 internationals protested against the illegal settlements near Wadi Rahhal. The demonstration started around one in the afternoon but was blocked by 6 Israeli soldiers and 6 border police. The demo was told to move to the side of the road because it was blocking traffic (even thou it was the military doing this). The local residents of Wadi Rahhal held speeches in Arabic and English, and told the soldiers to leave the area and called for an end to the occupation. The demo lasted for 45 minutes, and there were no serious incidents. Two settlers came by to watch and were chatting to the soldiers, demonstrating the ideological and strategic connection between the army and the settlers’ wishes.
Hebron (Saturday 17 July)
Around one hundred peaceful demonstrators gathered in Hebron on Saturday to protest against the illegal settlements in the city and to demand Shuhada Street be open to Palestinians again. The protesters consisted of approximately 40 internationals and 60 Palestinians and Israeli activists.
Falling on the day before Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the protest against Israeli Apartheid was especially pointed, with demonstrators and children carrying many banners and placards, some drawing a parallel between Israeli and South Africa’s Apartheid regime. The demonstration paraded down to Shuhada Street, where speeches were made by several Palestinians activists and one international. The Israeli army arrested one Israeli activists as he was mistaken for someone else the army claim they have reason to arrest. He was released after a couple of hours.
After the speeches and chanting the demonstration went into the souq. Surprisingly the demonstration went up a side street while which the Israeli occupation forces had not expected – and it allowed the protesters to avoid a confrontation with the soldiers who were waiting for them some one hundred meters away. The Israeli occupation forces have used increasingly violence against demonstrations in recent weeks and continue in attempts to make targeted arrests of activists, hoping to deter further protests. But the enthusiastic protestors made their point and continued through the streets. The demo ended in cheering.
Iraq Burin (Saturday 17 July)
The weekly Iraq Burin protest against the annexation of Palestinian owned land by illegal Israeli settlements was harshly put down by the Israeli army, who fired round upon round of metal and rubber tear gas canisters down the hill at protesters, to prevent them walking on their own land.
Soldiers positioned themselves on the brow of the hill, in between land that has been stolen for illegal Israeli settlements such as Bracha, and what the villagers can still call their own. As demonstrators approached the soldiers, around 30-40 in total, some villagers- who were accompanied by about 10 internationals, including journalists from American television service PBS – started throwing stones. This was concomitant with the initiation of tear gas volleys from the Israeli soldiers. The soldiers did not discriminate between the international observers and the locals in their aggression.
The internationals and villagers were forced to run down the steep, rocky hill face to escape the tear gas, which included potentially lethal metal canisters which were fired at ground level. The aggression continued for 45 minutes to an hour, until the soldiers disbanded, and left the villagers in peace.
Regular Saturday demonstrations in Iraq Burin began in response to the fatal shootings of Mohammad and Ussayed Qaddous, aged 16 and 19, on March 20th, 2010. The boys were shot while protesting the violent invasion of their village, a frequent Saturday occurrence.
Beit Ommar (Saturday 17 July)
Around thirty Palestinians and fifteen internationals met in Beit Ommar to march towards the settlement of Karmei Tsur which has already confiscated six hundred dunams of Palestinian land. Soldiers forcefully pushed back peaceful demonstrators including children, declaring the area a closed military zone. Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstration soldiers used sound bombs and tear gas; injuring two journalists and arresting one. Soldiers also made two attempts to arrest an international activist but were prevented by other activists.
Leaders of the popular and national committees called for the right to freely access and cultivate their land which has been under military and settler control since 2006. Demonstrators and children from the village of Beit Ommar proclaimed their non-violent protest and placed Palestinian flags on the razor fence which separates them from their farms. A group of five Israeli soldiers denied that it was Palestinian land, symbolically removing the flags and then proceeding to violently push back the protesters causing a Palestinian journalist to faint.
The soldiers, who seemed unsure about how to manage the situation, resorted as usual to unnecessary use of extreme force and deployed sound bombes and tear gas despite the presence of young children. Two Palestinian photographers from Reuters and Associated Press were injured as a result of the soldiers’ severe actions. The first was pushed from a wall, injuring his leg and was later carried away to a Red Crescent ambulance which took him for treatment at Beit Ommar medical centre. The second photographer received an injury to the head caused by a flying sound bomb also ripping his gas mask in half with the force of the explosion. The seriousness of his injuries shocked those present, including the soldiers, who had evidently misjudged their actions. He was later carried on a stretcher to the ambulance and we are still awaiting news of his treatment.
Soldiers also made repeated attempts to arrest an activist from the International Solidarity Movement. She said: “He asked me to leave the area and I said that this was a peaceful demonstration. He said he would arrest me if I didn’t leave, so I repeated that it was a peaceful demonstration, which resulted in him grabbing my arm and trying to drag me away”. The arrest was prevented by other activists on two separate occasions. Soldiers did however manage to arrest one Palestinian reporter, whose whereabouts is still unknown
Demonstrations have been taking place every Saturday at ten in the morning since 2006 and will continue until the locals receive the right to cultivate their land. Farmers refuse to participate in the arbitrary application process which only grants them very infrequent access to land which needs to be constantly cared for. In addition, farmers face attacks from extremist settlers whilst tending to their crops and so are calling for an end to the illegal settlements which have already confiscated a significant 600 dunams of their land. The villagers will continue to protest against the growing settlements which surround their village and threaten to consume grab even more land.