Saturday, February 13, 2010

An-Nabi Saleh Villagers Continue to Protest Israel's Daylight Theft of Their Land

Collective Wall-Building Effort Baffles IOF in An-Nabi Salih

Source: International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

12 February 2010

Israeli army and border police used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber- and plastic-coated bullets, live ammunition and “stinky water” to disperse close to 150 Palestinians who tried to reach their village well in An-Nabi Salih. The villagers were accompanied by over 20 Israeli and international solidarity activists.

Following mid-day prayers, protesters marched towards the well and their agricultural lands but were immediately confronted with tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets. A group of 50 settlers from the neighboring settlement of Halamish watched as the Israeli Occupation Forces attacked the Palestinians. In total, 14 protesters were injured, including one hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

The march began in its usual fashion. Villagers, Israelis and internationals descended the hillside to attempt to plant olive trees in the settler-occupied land. As the contingent came within 50 meters of the road that splits An Nabi-Salih, IOF soldiers launched 15-20 tear gas grenades in rapid succession. The group went up the hill to regroup and there was an hour-long lull in the demonstration.

During this respite, a smaller group of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals began tending to the fields near the road dividing the settlement and the village. In unison, they moved large boulders and rocks to build a series of three retaining walls that will further the growth of the crops in An-Nabi Salih. Differences that seemingly divide some were forgotten in that respite from the tear gas. Words such as “ownership” and “territory” were not a part of the repertoire.

The group’s project moved them closer to the road and the 6 soldiers guarding it. As the laborers approached, the soldiers appeared flabbergasted as they didn’t know how to handle such a situation. Those soldiers knew only force and how to implement it to repress, but this show of solidarity was something quite different then anything there training had taught them. Confused looks were all they could muster.

The irony of building walls collectively wasn’t lost to the group, when barriers physical and social that keep two cultures far from one another pervade their daily lives. These walls were different. They didn’t divide, they were not impassable. These walls unified. They paved the way for An-Nabi Salih future crops. Crops that would come to fruition, in some degree, being nurtured through the solidarity between two cultures. It may be awhile, but perhaps they’ll be able to sit at a table, lacking the presence of soldiers, tear gas and conflict, and enjoy the fruits of the labor.

Wall construction ended when shots were heard from the southern edge of the village. ISM activists battled clouds of tear gas with hands visibly extended in order to reach an An-Nabi Salih home, containing women and children, which had been surrounded by IOF forces. Soldiers thankfully descended the hill after several tense moments.

Barricades were set up on the main road leading to An-Nabi Salih, using rocks and burning tires. At around 2pm, a group of soldiers entered the village from the southwest side and fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas at protesters, endangering villagers trapped inside their homes. “Stinky water” was used twice on protesters.

At around 5pm, a group of approximately 8 soldiers occupied the roof of a villager’s house, firing plastic-coated bullets and tear gas at protesters below. The villager reported that when soldiers entered his home, they pointed their guns at him and told him not to move or they would kill him. Four adults and six children were trapped in the house until the soldiers left, but not before damaging the family’s internet receiver, located on the roof.

Thirty minutes later, the soldiers entered the same home again, cutting the back-yard fence in order to pass through. An ISM activist present at the house was told not to film the soldiers’ actions. When the activist continued taking pictures from the entrance of the home, one soldier threw a stun grenade that exploded less than 3 meters from the activist and a young child.

The protest ended around 6pm, when soldiers began to use live ammunition.

The weekly Friday demonstrations in An-Nabi Salih commenced in December 2009, in protest to the uprooting of hundreds of olive trees by settlers from Halamish settlement. Construction of Halamish settlement began on farmland belonging to An-Nabi Salih and neighbouring villages in 1977. Conflict between the settlement and villagers reawakened in the past month due to the settler’s attempt to re-annex An Nabi Salih land despite the December 2009 Israeli court case that ruled the property rights of the land to the An Nabi Salih residents. Despite the Israeli District Co-ordination Office’s promise to allow the village unrestricted passage to the land, farmers have been barred and violently assaulted when they attempted to access the land in question. An Nabi Salih’s resistance mirrors the ongoing resistance in Bi’lin, Ni’lin and the burgeoning popular struggle in Sheikh Jarrah, Iraq Burin, Burin and Al-Ma’asara.

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