Defying Military Orders, Demonstrators March in South Betlehem
Friday, international and Israeli activists joined Palestinians from the South Betlehem district for their weekly demonstration against the confiscation of their land for the construction of the Annexation Barrier. Last week, Israeli Occupation Forces violently pushed the demonstrators from the road leading from the villages of Um Salamuna and Al Ma’asara past Efrat settlement to Road 60, the major north-south thoroughfare in the Occupied West Bank. This week, as the activists gathered near the entrance to Al-Ma’asara, 12 IOF jeeps with dozens of soldiers approached the marchers and informed them that there was a new commander in charge and he was not going to allow anyone to walk on the street. They then formed a line facing the demonstrators, who told the commander that they did not intend to block traffic on the street (which is open to Palestinian and Israeli cars) but wanted to be able to publicly demonstrate their rejection of the Apartheid Barrier and settlement expansion.
With signs written in Hebrew and English, for the benefit of settlers driving by, saying “non-violent protest” and “no to Apartheid”, the Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals defied the orders of the soldiers and began marching down the street towards route 60. Soldiers and border police quickly lined the length of the march, pushing participants off the side of the road, but were unable to stop the demonstrators, though the consistently harassed and abused marchers, violently pushing them arbitrarily and shouting insults at Israeli peace activists.
When the demonstration approached the site of the construction of the Annexation Barrier the group moved onto the bulldozed land and listened to impassioned speeches by the leader of the regional Popular Committee who proclaimed, “we will never give up and this Wall will fall.” After other speeches by the leader of the Um Salamuna city council, participants marched back to Um Salamuna, chanting, “We are One (we are united)” and ” no, no Wall”.