Protests continue against Israeli wall

The Israeli government’s construction of an apartheid-like wall along the West Bank continues to meet with stiff resistance in many Palestinian towns and villages and from Jewish Israeli peace activists.

Hundreds of Palestinians from the northern West Bank village of al-Zawiya, joined by residents from neighboring villages such as Deir Ballut and Rafat, demonstrated against the wall almost every day from June 6-13. They did so in the face of daily, unremitting acts of violent repression by the Israeli occupation army.

On June 10, Israeli troops fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets at the demonstrators – including Palestinian women, children, and solidarity activists from Israel and the International Solidarity Movement. Dozens of the demonstrators were injured, including five who were wounded by rubber bullets, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The Palestine Media Center reported over 65 anti-wall demonstrators were injured by Israeli troops at the same site the next day. Undeterred, the Palestinians and their allies held still more rallies there in the following days, often coming face to face with Israeli bulldozers and heavily-armed troops.

The Israeli government claims it needs to build the “separation barrier” – which consists of a planned 435-mile-long barrier involving concrete walls as high as 30 feet, trenches, fencing, razor wire, electronic sensors, patrol roads, and observation posts – for “security purposes,” to keep out terrorists. However, Palestinians say this claim is a mere pretext for seizing additional Palestinian land.

For example, about 75 percent of al-Zawiya’s land, or 4,500 acres, has been confiscated by the Israelis in the course of building the Israeli “fence.” Some of the best Palestinian farmland has been confiscated elsewhere in the West Bank, and Palestinian and United Nations sources say that if the wall is completed, up to 58 percent of West Bank territory will end up in Israeli hands.

Al-Zawiya resident Khader Abdel Raouf, 65, told the Associated Press that he had his 32 acres of olive groves seized. He said his family of 15 lives off the olive oil produced by the trees.

“I have been planting and harvesting these olives since I was a small boy,” he said in tears. “This land belongs to me and I belong to it.”

In a different setting, in the West Bank town of a-Ram on the edge of East Jerusalem, Israeli bulldozers are cutting a swath through an urban neighborhood. About 60 percent of the residents hold Israeli identity cards, yet face being placed on the other side of the 15-foot-high wall being built there. Hundreds of Palestinians sat down on a dirt road after Friday prayers June 11 to protest the wall, which will separate neighbors and families and cut off Palestinian access to jobs, schools, and services.

Ammar Jaradat, 26, a taxi driver, told Reuters that he watched bulldozers tear down buildings and homes “with horror.”

“They [the Israeli government] will suffocate us economically and kill our dream for statehood,” he said.

The Palestine Media Center says Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, in the a-Ram area during anti-wall demonstrations during the week ending June 12. Dozens more were wounded.

Gush-Shalom, a Jewish Israeli peace group, participated in an emotional June 12 meeting between two rivers of demonstrators, one Israeli and one Palestinian, in the center of a-Ram. The river united into one big demonstration against the wall, and their march was led by a drum corps of a-Ram Boy Scouts.

The demonstration was organized by Gush Shalom and Ta’ayush on the initiative of Sirkhan Salaimeh, the mayor of a-Ram, who called on the Israeli public to support the 60,000 inhabitants in their fight against the wall in the center of this major commercial center.

Standing on a concrete segment of the wall, Gush Shalom activist Uri Avnery said, “There is no life for Israel without life for Palestine. There is no existence for Israel without existence for Palestine. There is no security for Israel without security for Palestine!” He was joined by Arab Knesset members Muhammad Barakeh and Ahmed Tibi.

Leena Delasheh of Ta’ayush said, “We, Israelis and Palestinians, are united in our struggle until the wall will fall, here and everywhere!” The demonstrators carried posters saying “Peace, Not Separation!” and “First of All – the Wall must Fall!”

The author can be reached at malmberg@pww.org.