Activists Open 10 Year-Old Roadblock, Again

4 November 2007

The roadblock between Surif and Al-Jab’a has been there for at least 10 years, well before the second intifada broke out in late 2000. It prevents the nearly 1000 residents of Al-Jab’a from accessing essential resources in Surif such as secondary schools, shops, and medical care. The roadblock also forces the over 30,000 Palestinians in Beit Ommar and Surif areas to use the entrance to Beit Ommar, which is controlled by the Israeli Occupation Forces with an enormous watchtower and gate, to access the cities of Hebron or Betlehem, where the only regional hospitals, universities, and major marketplaces are located. Saturday, Israeli and international solidarity activists from the Palestine Solidarity Project joined Palestinians from Beit Ommar, Surif, Al-Jab’a, and Hebron as they moved the massive interlocking cement blocks and boulders, opening a space for Palestinian vehicles to pass through. PSP has organized actions at this roadblock a number of times in the past year, in defiance of the IOF’s attempts to control Palestinian freedom of movement.

When the activists approached the roadblock, the negative impact on the local farmers’ livelihoods was immediately apparent. Farmers from Al-Jab’a were passing their recently-harvested olives over the roadblock from a truck to family members on the other side, where the sacks were piled up as the driver then began the 45 minute drive through the Gush Etzion settlements, around to Beit Ommar, and back through Surif to the other side of the roadblock to pick them up and transport them on to the markets in Hebron and beyond. After helping the farmers move the olives, activists got to work on the roadblock.

The roadblock had been recently fortified when the Israeli Occupation Forces added a low wall of interlocking cement blocks in front of the already massive rubble-and-boulder roadblock. First, using ropes and plenty of pushing and pulling, the cement wall was pulled apart and 4 of the blocks were pulled out into the road used by settlers to go from Gush Etzion to Beit Shemesh across the Green Line. After this first barrier was opened, the Palestinians, Israelis and internationals began to clear away the rubble and boulders that made up the secondary roadblock. At that point, the first Israeli military jeep showed up. Three soldiers approached the activists and asked what they were doing. One Israeli activist replied, “you stay over there on your side and we won’t bother you, and we’ll continue over here on our side and you won’t bother us.” Apparently content with this arrangement, the soldiers backed off and stood watching as the activists continued to move the roadblock.

After another 15 minutes, the activists had succeeded in opening a space wide enough for a tractor to travel through. As two more Israeli Occupation Forces vehicles arrived, the activists returned to their cars, satisfied with the work they had done.

This type of roadblock removal is relatively symbolic. The activists were well aware that the roadblock would only remain open for a few hours. The complete control over Palestinian movement is essential to the ‘Matrix of Control’ the Israeli Occupation Forces hold over the Palestinian people. The purpose of these actions is clear: Palestinians refuse to be locked in. They will take any action to demonstrate that this apartheid system of control and oppression is immoral and unacceptable, and will be met with resistance.