|(Bethlehem) Najib Farag|
|Saturday, 03 March 2007|
Hundreds of Palestinians staged a nonviolent demonstration in Umm Salamuna Village as Israeli forces continue the confiscation of land for Wall construction throughout the Bethlehem District.
Foreign and Israeli supporters joined in Friday’s action that was sponsored by grass roots and official groups that refuse to let bulldozers raze their agriculture, trees, and houses without a fight.
Not only Umm Salamuna is being affected by the latest section of the Wall. Ten southern Bethlehem villages are losing land in this portion, and thousands of people will be segregated from one another.
Demonstrators performed Friday prayers on the lands threatened with confiscation and dredging. Sheikh Yousef Brijeh led the prayers. He called upon citizens to show resolve in resisting the “Israeli military machine and its aggressions, as it kills people, uproots trees, destroys buildings and razes the earth without any showing any mercy for the loss of land and property, or the displacement of the owners.” He called for greater cohesion between all people in the struggle.
After the prayers, hundreds of supporters joined in a massive march that included political officials, members of the Legislative Council, and representatives of NGOs. They walked through the village streets toward the bypass road linking the settlement of Efrat on western Bethlehem lands and Takua in the south. Demonstrators flew the Palestinian flag and held banners condemning the practices of Israeli forces. They called for an end to oppression while chanting and singing for the removal of the Wall and freedom for Palestine and its people.
Within moments a large contingent of Israeli forces, including soldiers, police and border guards, began assaulting the nonviolent demonstrators with rifle butts and truncheons. Several sustained injuries but the demonstration went on. Numerous speakers addressed the crowds and called for resolve.
Mohammad Brijeh of the Popular Committee against the Wall in the Southern Villages welcomed demonstrators and asked that no one be deterred. He gave special thanks to the foreigners who have “traveled from far away to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people” as the “movement against oppression grows.”
Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative and Legislative Council member, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, stressed the importance of the presence of foreign volunteers in the struggle against the Wall. He said that the international component of the campaign embarrasses the Israeli government, which will eventually lead to forcing the Israelis to abide by international law and resolutions. The issue of the takeover of Jerusalem and the destruction at Al Aqsa Mosque also necessitates attention in the major campaign, he pointed out.
The President of the Popular Committees in the governorate of Hebron, Azmi Shioji, told crowds, “The Israeli enemy, through its racist and arbitrary actions, proves beyond a doubt that it does not want peace but rather wants to kick the Palestinian efforts at peace and justice.” He demanded that all Arab peoples join in “the movement against this barbaric aggression.”
Director of the Bethlehem-based NGO Holy Land Trust, Sami Awad, confirmed that it is imperative not only to continue the nonviolent resistance against the Wall, but that “it must be doubled to remedy injustice without falling to the fear of violent Israeli repercussions that take place daily in front of the eyes of the world.”
Khalid Al Azzeh is the head of the Committee to Defend against Land Confiscation. His speech focused on the Israeli practices in Bethlehem that include land confiscation, building of settlements and the Wall, which isolates the district from Jerusalem and from itself. He told the crowds that no matter what the Israelis do, no one should forget that the struggle is for self-determination and that Jerusalem is the capital.
President of the Umm Salamuna Village Council, Mahmoud Rashid, addressed his speech to the issue of the Wall route. He pointed out that 1,500 dunams between Umm Salamuna and Wadi Rahal villages will be isolated with passage allowed only through massive iron gates controlled by Israel forces.
Also on Friday in western Ramallah’s Bil’in Village the weekly nonviolent resistance continued in protest of the Wall, settlements, and land confiscation.