Friday Demonstrations Round-up
This Friday, February 12, 2010 once again saw demonstrations against the Annexation Barrier in Ni’lin, Al-Ma’asara, and Bil’in, and against settlement expansion and dispossession in Nabi Saleh and Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem.
In Al-Ma’asara, approximately 30 Palestinians were accompanied by 10 international and Israeli solidarity activists as they marched down the main past Al-Ma’asara village, connecting villages east of Betlehem with the main throughway, Route 60. They were quickly stopped by Israeli soldiers at the edge of Al-Ma’asara, where they declared the area a closed military zone. The demonstrators insisted they were trying to reach the site of the Annexation Barrier, which was partially constructed on Palestinian land in 2007-2008 but has not been completed or worked on for over a year.
In a rare escalation of violence, soldiers used sound grenades and tear gas to disperse the group, a rarity in these demonstrations in the southern Betlehem District. In Nabi Saleh, dozens of residents were also accompanied with a large contingency of International and Israeli activists to an area of land settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement are attempting to annex by preventing the residents from accessing it and destroying crops in the area. Though many demonstrators sat down in the road when confronted by the Israeli military, they were still attacked with copious amounts of tear gas. A small group of the participants then managed to reach the land threatened by the settlers and began building support walls for agricultural terraces, reclaiming their land by working it.
In Ni’lin, demonstrators, with the usual foreign contingent, marched after the noon call to prayer to the site of the Annexation Barrier, which has been completed in several areas surrounding the village and cutting off access to large amounts of agricultural land. 2 people, Palestinian resident of Ni’lin Arafat Amira and Israeli anarchist Yonatan Pollak were arrested during the demonstration.
In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Palestinian Jerusalem that has been the site of several evictions to allow for Jewish settlers to takeover homes belonging to Palestinians for over half a century, a lively group of Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Jerusalemites gathered at the entrance to the neighborhood, near the homes of Ghawi and Hanoun families, both of whom were kicked out of their homes in August, 2009 and have been living in protest tents on the street since then. Israeli police prevented the group from entering the street, which is still largely Palestinian with 3 homes occupied by Jewish Israeli settlers, but did not resort to the mass-arrests and violence they had used in previous weeks against the peaceful demonstrations.
All of these demonstrations were overshadowed in media coverage and attention by a group of people in Bil’in who painted themselves blue, dressing up as characters from Hollywood’s $300 million film Avatar for their weekly march to the Annexation Barrier built on their agricultural land. This comes as the Israeli military begins to finally comply with an Israeli court order to re-route the fence in the Bil’in area, which will return access to some of the village’s land to the residents, which has been cut off since the completion of the fence in this area over 2 years ago.