Activists Demonstrate, Work Land Despite Israeli Military Harrasment
On Saturday, April 23, eight Israeli activists and 24 international volunteers joined residents of Beit Ommar for an action near Karmei Tsur organized by the Beit Ommar National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. The international contingent included volunteers from the Palestine Solidarity Project and International Solidarity Movement, as well as the Belgian group Checkpoint Singers. The demonstrators gathered in the lands near Karmei Tsur, and marched towards the settlement carrying flags and signs and chanting against the occupation.
As the protest neared the settlement, soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces lined the path. The protest continued beside the military for several hundred feet, before the soldiers stepped out and blocked the road. The IDF refused to let the demonstration pass.
The Checkpoint Singers began to sing as protesters argued with the soldiers, asking to continue their peaceful demonstration on their land. The lieutenant in command showed papers labeling the area a closed military zone and told the assembled protesters that anyone still in the area in three minutes would be arrested. The demonstrators refused to go.
Three minutes passed, and the soldiers prepared to move in. Then, Ahmed Abu Hashem gestured to his land, a field next to the road. “We are here to work my land,” he said.
“Then where is your tractor? Come back with a tractor, and you can work on your land,” the lieutenant replied.
Abu Hashem explained that a tractor was not needed, as stones needed to be cleared from the field by hand first. The lieutenant said that such an action needed to be coordinated through them first.
“Coordination my ass,” shouted a Beit Ommar resident.
Abu Hashem turned away from the soldiers, looping around the military line and walking onto his land. The rest of the protesters followed, and the soldiers formed a perimeter to attempt to contain the movement. As the choir sang anti-opression songs, Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals began to pull stones from the earth and add them to the rock walls bordering the field. Whenever a they approached the soldiers, the military would retreat, and soon a handful of the faster workers had pushed the IDF three-quarters of the way across the field.
While the demonstrators cleared the field, soldiers called out to them and asked them to stop. Despite the closed military zone and threats of arrest, work went on and on one was detained. The action dispersed on its own terms, and only after a substantial number of stones had been removed.