1 Arrested During Demonstration Against Settlement Expansion in Beit Ommar
Construction of a road has begun on Palestinian land right outside the settlement Karmei Tsur, between Beit Omar and Halhoul, about two weeks ago. The construction has happened between the edge of the settlement and a “security fence” that the military built three years ago. This agricultural land still belongs to the Palestinian families of Abu Maria, Soleiby, Awwad, Abu Ayyesh, and Sabarna. However, entry to their land since the building of the fence has required a permit from Israel, which most Palestinian families refuse to apply for, maintaining that the land is rightfully theirs.
Friday, August 21, a group of Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals held a demonstration outside the fence. Palestine Solidarity Project organized the demonstration, in which about 35 people participated. Participants stepped over barbed wire which was lining the fence, and inserted papers with the slogans “we will never leave our land,” “stop illegal building on Palestinian land,” and “expansion of settlements makes peace impossible” into the fence. Some of the owners of the land stolen from them joined the group, displaying their papers of ownership from the Ottoman Empire and shouting, “where is the peace?”
The group walked along the fence surveying the land that was restricted to the Palestinians and now being built on by the settlement. Elderly farmers spoke about the land that was taken and the documents handed down from their grandparents from the Ottoman Empire, proving ownership, until several Israeli military jeeps arrived and soldiers shouted at the group to leave. The group, standing on Palestinian land, insisted on their right to be there and in fact to enter the fence if they wished to their privately-owned land. There was discussion between the soldiers and the activists, until Settlement security arrived and, after shouting at the activists to “go back to Germany“ and “f**k your mother“ to an activist who identified himself as a Jew, opened the gate in the fence, insisting that the army disperse the activists. The military did just that, chasing the group into the Palestinian fruit groves. On their way back to the village, one international activist from the United States was arrested and accused of destroying security property for taking a piece of wire off of the fence. He was released later the same day.
The aim of the demonstration was to show resistance to illegal building on stolen Palestinian land in addition to bringing attention to the quiet expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in the midst of strong international pressure to stop exactly that.