5 September 2010 | ISM Media
At around midday on Friday, thirty demonstrators including around ten international and Israeli activists, met to protest against land-theft by the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat and against the illegal military occupation.
The marchers carried a banner saying there should be “No Peace Show” until the occupation ends and international law is upheld in Palestine – referring to the negotiations that began in Washington the previous day (September 2nd). Still within the village boundaries, they were met by five Israeli army jeeps. An officer showed the group an order declaring the area a closed military zone and gave them one minute to disperse. A soldier immediately threw a salvo of three sound bombs into the crowd.
The soldiers continued throwing sound bombs while border police pushed the demonstrators several metres backwards, as they shouted out clearly in response that they were peaceful and the army had no reason to use force. After some minutes, the group began to march forwards again, but were met with a further series sound bombs. In total, around 30 sound bombs were used in the demo. Since some activists were undeterred, the soldiers also threw tear gas.
The demonstrators sat in the road and chanted. After some minutes, the jeeps drove off – one soldier giving the Palestinians the middle finger. The protest leader, Mahmoud, declared that the demonstration had been a victory, the dissidents remaining peaceful, and the aggressive soldiers once more being exposed as the thugs they are. The group shouted “Free Palestine!” and walked back into the village.
The agricultural village of Al Ma’sara has been holding weekly nonviolent demonstrations since November 2006, when construction of Israel’s Apartheid Wall began in the area. They are a means to voice opposition to the expansion and construction of the nearby illegal settlement bloc of Gush Etzion – including Efrat – and the annexation of thousands of dunams of stolen Palestinian land.
Ni’lin’s Friday protest, which began as always, with a prayer under the olive trees, was quickly shut down by the Israeli military this week. Around 30 Palestinians and eight internationals gathered and began marching through the village’s land towards the Apartheid Wall, when the military began throwing teargas at the demonstrators. The demonstrators carried pictures showing images of the crimes committed by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian prisoners. In protest against the wall and settlements which prevent them farming their land – some of which was set on fire by Israeli soldiers 3 weeks ago – the demonstrators from the village set fire to some rubber tyres in front of the Apartheid Wall.
The soldiers came through the gate in wall in pursuit of demonstrators, who retreated towards the village. Two internationals, a man and a woman, were detained, beaten by soldiers and threatened with arrest but were released after half an hour. There were no injuries, although one Australian activist was tackled by soldiers as she attempted to take pictures near the wall. The popular committee also reported that 6 demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation and needed medical attention. The demo was finished at 2pm.
The people of Ni’lin village continued their struggle this Friday – despite the advanced stage of Ramadan – and have been doing through weekly protests since May 2008. In attempting to crush and deter peaceful protests against the wallm Israeli soldiers have killed 20 Palestinians since Februrary 2004 including 5 from Ni’lin village, where an American solidarity activist was also critically injured. The illegal settlement of Mod’in Illit is one of the biggest in the area and is in the process of expanding and constantly attempting to annex Palestinian land to this end.
Palestinians in Bil’in marched against the wall and settlements on September 3rd, the fourth Friday of Ramadan, along with dozens of peace activists, Israelis and internationals. The demo was smaller than usual the participants were as spirited as always, raising flags, and holding pictures of prisoners of the popular resistance, as well as placards bearing slogans condemning the occupation, settlements, Apartheid Wall, and the siege on the Gaza Strip. The demonstrators also called for Palestinian national unity, for the release of all political prisoners and for an end to ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.
The army set up barbed wire in between the village and the wall, and soldiers positioned themselves several metres behind it. The demonstrators gathered behind the barbed wire, here there was also a sign declaring the area a ‘closed military zone’ and soon removed it in order to continue marching to the wall. This provided an excuse for the army to start shooting gas, and most demonstrators were forced to retreat. Although the soldiers themselves were treated to a little taste of their own medicine, inhaling some gas “blow back” due to the shifting winds, they fired towards protesters relentlessly as well as using rubber-coated steel bullets and sound bombs, until all the protesters began to head back to the village, with soldiers in chase. Dozens suffered tear gas inhalation but no further injuries were inflicted this week (since last week a young Palestinian was hit in the knee with a rubber-coated steel bullet.)
Israel started building the separation wall through the village in 2005, completeng it in 2007 and cutting off 230 hectares of land belonging to the village. Demonstrations have been held every week since February 2005 to protest against the wall and the confiscation of land. In April 2009 Bil’in resident Bassem Abu Rahma was killed, when a high velocity tear gas canister was fired directly at his chest by an Israeli soldier. Last week Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the head of the popular committee was imprisoned by Israel in December 2009 and just last week convicted of “incitement” and organizing “illegal demonstrations” as part of Israel’s ongoing criminalization of peaceful protest.
An Nabi Saleh
The people of Nabi Saleh village were joined by around 12 international activists for the weekly protest on Friday, including 3 ISM volunteers. Those not from the village trying to reach it for the demonstration sighted a flying checkpoint The soldiers claimed the area was a closed military zone (and had paperwork displaying the correct dates) so after being refused entry, international protestors disembarked out of sight of the roadblock and followed the road around to reach the village and join the demonstration.
When crossing the main hill to meet the Palestinian protest organizers, a soldier pointed a gun (without attachments) at the group of internationals. Shortly afterwards soldiers got out their closed military zone papers and tried to get the group’s attention, but the children on the demonstration noticed and surrounded the soldiers in question and started chanting (if a CMZ order has not been displayed, you cannot be charged with violating it).
During the demonstration soldiers detained a Palestinian youth (22 years old). The children mobbed in front of the jeep that he had been put in, chanting and shouting and jumping on the jeep to stop it leaving. After moving the detainee to a second jeep, the children repeated their performance. Finally the soldiers threatened the children and advanced towards them enough to make them move out of the way, and drove away with the young Palestinian inside. No one had seen him commit any crime.
Later on in the village a number of women heading warned the internationals to flee with shouts of “Jeesh! Jeesh fii al-bayt” (“Soldiers! Soldiers in the house!”) One international had also been detained at this point and signs indicated that the soldiers were aiming to remove all of the internationals from the protest. At last count, there were 7 internationals arrested (about 4 of which were Israelis) and one Palestinian – he was released later on that day and it is believed that the 7 internationals and Israelis were too.
Today and every Friday since January 2010, around 100 un-armed demonstrators leave the village center in an attempt to reach a spring which borders land confiscated by Israeli settlers. The District Coordination Office has confirmed the spring is on Palestinian land, but nearly a kilometer before reaching the spring, the demonstration is routinely met with dozens of soldiers armed with M16 assault rifles, tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and percussion grenades.
The demonstrations protest Israel’s apartheid, which has manifested itself in An Nabi Saleh through land confiscation. The illegal Halamish (Neve Zuf) settlement, located opposite An Nabi Saleh, has illegally seized nearly of half of the village’s valuable agricultural land.
Five ISM activists headed to Iraq Burin for the Saturday demo yesterday but on arrival, they met a friend in the village, who informed them that the protest had been cancelled that week.
The army had phoned up the popular committee the previous day and told them that the settlers from the nearby settlements were angry following the killing of four settlers in Hebron, and that if the demo went ahead, Palestinians would probably be killed and that “the army wouldn’t protect them.”
The last time that a similar threat was made (the army phoned up and saying “if the protest goes ahead tomorrow, Palestinians will be killed”), border police shot and killed two local youths that had no connection with stone-throwing: one in the head, and one in the heart, from a distance of around 30 metres away. Even though some shebab apparently still wanted to attend the demo, the protest was ultimately cancelled.
ISM activists stayed a while in the village nevertheless, and left just before Iftar.