The People of Artas Prevented From Going to Their Land; Activist Arrested

25 May 2007

A Greek activist was arrested protesting the destruction of a Palestinian apricot orchard. The arrest followed a confrontation as soldiers blocked the road and prevented the 200 demonstrators from reaching the area where bulldozers destroyed apricot trees last Sunday.

At lunchtime yesterday, Palestinians from the village of Artas, near Bethlehem, gathered with international and Israeli activists. They were intending to protest against the destruction of their land to make way for a pipe that will pump sewage from the nearby Efrata settlement. Last Sunday, five Israelis were arrested trying to prevent the bulldozers from uprooting apricot trees owned by the Abu Swai family.

As demonstrators marched towards the Abu Swai’s land, soldiers formed lines on the road, protected by riot shields. It was apparent that they were intent on stopping the demonstration from reaching its destination. Demonstrators formed lines and linked arms, continuing to march towards the soldiers. As the demonstration reached the soldiers, they tried to push through, arms linked, hands down by their waists. After a few co-ordinated surges, demonstrators started to gain ground, pushing the soldiers back and breaking their formation. The soldiers responded with violence, hitting protestors with their rifles and shields, pushing them to the ground, and in a typically cowardly act, kicking them when they were down.

They hit one protestor known as George, from Greece, with the butt of a rifle, before dragging him off and arresting him.