Checkpoints Set Up to Prevent Demonstrations in Betlehem

30 August 2007

The villages of Artas and Al-Walaja, both just outside of Betlehem, have been engaging in almost weekly demonstrations against the construction of the Annexation Fence on their land. Both villages have been steadfast in their resistance, and international and Israeli activists have been standing in solidarity with them. This past week the Israeli Occupation Forces demonstrated just how concerned they are by these weekly non-violent protests. On August 24 internationals and Israelis attempted to go to the weekly demonstration in Al-Walaja. However, just before the entrance to Al-Walaja, which has only one main road, the IOF set up a checkpoint and would not let any internationals or Israelis they suspected of being part of the demonstration in. When an international from PSP asked why they were not being allowed in, the army simply replied that the entire village had been declared a closed military zone (which, if true, would have meant that the residents in the village would have then been in their own homes illegally). Through an excellent network of taxi drivers and locals, all international and Israeli activists eventually found their way in to the village, where a successful demonstration took place.

Four days later on August 28, another demonstration was called, this time in the village of Artas, on the other side of Betlehem from Al-Walaja. As international activists tried to enter Betlehem, however, they were stopped by soldiers. The soldiers informed PSP activists that the entire city of Betlehem was closed to foreigners because there was a ‘demonstration against the fence’. When the activists complained, questioning the truthfulness to their claim that the entire city was closed to internationals, considering Betlehem has many foreign tourists during the summer, the soldier said that those were his orders. He also said he didn’t even want to be there stopping people and would much rather be ‘sitting at the base’.

Again, with some help from local residents of nearby villages the activists were able to go around, again thwarting the army’s attempts to shut down these peaceful demonstrations by trying to keep out solidarity activists. It is simply one more example of the Israeli government’s desire to isolate the Palestinian people from each other and the rest of the world, whether it is by borders, fences, walls, or checkpoints. PSP will continue to defy this policy.