Beit Ommar Marches Against Karmi Tsur Settlement; Journalist Injured

6 January 2008

Saturday, January 5, the Popular Committee of Beit Ommar along with Palestine Solidarity Project held its first in a series of demonstrations against the Karmi Tsur settlement. Karmi Tsur is an Israeli settlement built on top of Beit Ommar’s agricultural land. In the summer of 2006 the settlers built a second fence around the settlement that stole hundreds of dunums of Palestinian agricultural land. The residents of Beit Ommar, who are 95% farmers, have been slowly encircled by encroaching settlements and their by-pass roads. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly announced that he would abide by his promise to end settlement expansion in the West Bank (which, he contends, does not include settlements such as Har Homa which lies on land Israel illegally annexed to what they call “greater Jerusalem” in 1967). However, there has been next to nothing said about the future of the isolated settlements well within the West Bank, such as Karmi Tsur. Not satisfied to wait indefinitely for the Israeli or Palestinian governments to address the issue, the Popular Committee of Beit Ommar decided to push the issue into the public eye.
Over 60 Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals marched through the Palestinian agricultural land towards the fence surrounding Karmi Tsur. It is the first time in nearly a year that residents of Beit Ommar have marched en masse towards the settlement, as the settlement’s private security guards are notoriously violent and have shot at Palestinians while tending their own lands numerous times. Still, with a vibrant energy in the air, participants marched to music towards the settlement.

Israeli soldiers met the demonstrators about 100 meters from the fence and a tense stand-off ensued. Representatives from the Popular Committee spoke about the illegality of the Israeli settlement matrix and Azmi Shiokhy from the Regional Popular Committees of the West Bank, spoke out against the continued Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land. Young people began chanting Intifada anthems, and the people decided after half an hour to return to the village.

As was expected, the Israeli military almost immediately made a show of force, invading the village after the demonstrators had dispersed, and shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets indiscriminately. One Reuters journalist was shot in the arm while videotaping the invasion and several young people were treated for gas inhalation. Even with the retaliation on the village, the Popular Committee and PSP re-affirmed our commitment to continuing these demonstrations.