International Solidarity Movement, 1 July 2010
Member of Al-Ma'asara Popular Committee confronts soldiers (ISM)
The people of Al-Ma’asara’s again demonstrated peacefully last Friday, protesting against land seizures and settler harassment. Twenty villagers were joined by a handful of Israelis and internationals, marching from the village out towards the confiscated fields.
For the second week running, the group was allowed to reach the fields; Israeli army jeeps appeared as always, but this week the soldiers escorted the protest group to the fields, rather than attempting to stop them. Protestors were pushed and shouted at if they tried to move away from the main group, but otherwise there was no incident.
Perhaps the Israeli Army has finally recognised that the Al-Ma’asara protest is 100% peaceful, and the soldiers have no reason to break it up. Or this may turn out to be a temporary respite from roadblocks and harsher treatment. In any case the people of Al-Ma’asara are still not able to cultivate their land in peace, as the farmer’s have no protection from settler violence.
An Nabi Saleh
Residents of An Nabi Saleh gathered on Friday to honour the men of their village who remain as political prisoners inside Israeli jails. As one man enters his 33rd year in captivity, the village congregated for speeches, songs, and presentations to the families of those imprisoned.
After this event, villagers, joined by Israeli and international supporters, marched towards village land which has been illegally taken from them by the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish. Soldiers blocked their route, allowing them to stand and chant for only a short period before starting to shoot tear gas. Many of the tear gas canisters shot were fired at body height, seemingly deliberately aimed at demonstrators. Several participants were injured, by canisters or by rubber-coated steel bullets, which were also fired in large numbers.
Military jeeps then came into the village, and soldiers occupied the main square. After approximately an hour, they retreated again, pursued by a large group of young children, one of whom had successfully planted a Palestinian flag on the back of a jeep. Soldiers halted the jeeps, and got out to throw sound grenades and fire tear gas at the children. Fortunately, none were hurt.
The demonstration went on until after sunset, when soldiers finally moved out of the village.
At the weekly demonstration against the illegal Israeli occupation in Iraq Burin, stone throwing protesters and international observers were teargassed by the Israeli army while trying to access their own land.
Leaving the village after the protest, two villagers and six internationals were stopped by an army jeep, had their passports confiscated and were then detained, with the soldiers claiming that it was “illegal” to be in the village. The internationals and Palestinians were taken to separate Israeli checkpoints, before being brought together again at Huwarra checkpoint 40 minutes later, where the Palestinians had been kneeling in the hot sun with their hands behind their heads.
All prisoners were then taken to a police station, where one of the Palestinians was severely beaten, first in the jeep, then in a closed room in the police station. All prisoners were later released without charge, 4 1/2 hours after their detention. The beaten Palestinian was taken to hospital in Nablus, where the doctor noted heavy bruising on his chest, back and stomach.
Dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation in Bil’ins weekly demonstration this Friday.
This week’s protest focused particularly on the boycott of Israeli blood diamonds. Every year, consumers the world over unwittingly spend billions of dollars on diamonds extracted by violent militias in West Africa and later processed and sold on from Tel Aviv. Protestors also carried a message of solidarity with the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, who are currently subject to a particularly violent wave of evictions, demolitions and harassment.
About 100 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals marched together this week to the gate of the Annexation Wall, facing large amounts of tear gas before the soldiers charged through the gate and chased the protesters towards the village. The solders continued firing teargas on the fleeing crowd, leaving dozens of protestors affected by gas inhalation. Hot teargas cannitsters set fire to fields on either side of the road, with Palestinian youths struggling to put out the flames while avoiding the Isralie assault. The demonstration ended after about 45 minutes.
Around 20 international activists and journalists joined a group of 80-90 local villagers for the weekly protest against the Annexation Wall, continuing a tradition that has been going for over 4 years now. Starting from the olive fields, the protesters marched down the hill towards the wall, chanting slogans and waving flags. Having arrived at the wall, which annexes farmland and property from the locals and gives it to illegal settlers, there was an interlude of around 5 minutes, after which time the Israeli Army, from the other side of the wall, launched volleys of tear gas canisters at the peaceful protesters, continuing another integral part of the demonstration since its inception- unprovoked violence against peaceful demonstrators.
Following the volleys, most of the activists positioned themselves out of the direction of the wind, in order to minimize the poisonous effects of the gas. Some of the canisters were conventional rubber canisters, and others were higher velocity metal canisters, and thus the protesters had to be careful to avoid the projectiles, which have in the past caused serious and even fatal injuries to several activists. Some of the Palestinians then started throwing rocks over the wall at their aggressors, as well as using slingshots to hurl the empty gas canisters back at the soldiers.
After around 45 minutes events petered out. The protesters moved to the edge of the wall, and some of the journalists conducted interviews, while some Palestinians continued using slingshots to hurl the empty rubber gas canisters back over the wall. Suddenly, the Army burst through the gate in the wall in their jeeps, and started pursuing the peace protestors, who fled on foot over the hills, out of the reach of the jeeps. After a roughly 10 minute chase, the activists had managed to distance themselves safely from the army, who had given up the pursuit; they returned to the village in peace.
Demonstrators gathered in Hebron on Saturday to demand an end to the illegal theft of water from the region for use in Israel and in Israeli settlements.
Protesters carried a large banner which read ‘Stop Stealing Our Water’, a reference to the theft of Palestinian water supplies by Israel. According to the Middle East Monitor, ‘The rate of water consumption of Israel citizens is 344 million cubic metres per year, while the consumption of Palestinians stands at 93 million cubic metres per year’. Israel’s disproportionately high usage and wastage of water is in large part fed by water stolen from the occupied West Bank. The Middle East Monitor goes on to write of ‘3 reserves within the West Bank area producing about 679 million cubic metres of water. According to international law, this water belongs to the Palestinians but they only get 118 million cubic metres. In other words, Palestinians get just 15% of their own water while the rest is consumed by Israelis’ . Much of this stolen water comes from the Hebron region.
Local residents were joined for the protest by a large group of Israeli and international activists. After chanting and making speeches in front of one of Hebron’s many military watch-towers, the protest then moved up a nearby street, which was blocked by Israeli soldiers who violently pushed demonstrators back down the road. Protesters refused to give up, and went instead into the Old City’s covered market. Above this market is one of the illegal settlements that exist within Hebron itself, and settlers from here threw glass bottles, eggs and water down onto the protesters below.
The settlements in Hebron are, like all settlements within the West Bank and East Jerusalem, illegal under international law. Palestinian residents of the Old City and the district of Tel Rumeida suffer severe restriction of movement, frequent harassment and occasional violence at the hands of both soldiers and settlers.
Midday Sunday, a group of Palestinians and internationals gathered in the village of Beit Jala outside Bethlehem to protest against the construction of the wall cutting off the village from its land. The protesters divided into two groups, one facing a roadblock set up by the soldiers and while another smaller group went down trough the olive groves to reach the construction site.
Israeli soldiers responded violently towards the larger group, using sound bombs and tear gas. When the smaller group reached the road leading to the construction site, soldiers quickly formed a line to stop them. After some time border police arrived and arrested three of the protesters: one Palestinian, one Israeli and one international. As a result of the ferocious violence from the soldiers, the demonstration dissipated.
Activists working with local farmer to dredge the well (ISM)
Early Saturday morning, 10 volunteers from Tayoush and ISM travelled to Bir el-Eid in the South Hebron Hills, where we met with the local farmers, and were joined also by renouned activist Ezra Nawi. Activists gathered here to help the locals dredge out their well. The people Bir el-Eid only just have enough water to drink, but nothing for crops or animals. Water must be expensively brought in tanks from outside, negotiating whatever the current military conditions may be.
The more permanent and sustainable water supply here comes from two wells that capture a good part of the yearly rain, which soaks down through the chalk rocks. The people of Bir el-Eid were evicted from their land for a number of years, and when they recently returned, they found their wells in disrepair. Without anyone here to maintain the wells they filled with silt, and the problem may have been compounded by settler vandalism.
Restoring the well to usefulness is a crucial part of re-establishing a sustainable community here. Activists spent about five hours working with the farmers; one Palestinian and three Israelis went down into the cistern at the bottom of the well, and five of us at the top hauled up the bucket-loads of muck with a pulley. This was filthy, heavy work, but seeing Palestinians and Israelis working together against the Apartheid provided powerful inspiration.