Thursday, October 22, 2020

Land Day protests show Palestinians’ determination to continue their non-violent struggle

By Zann H. - March 31, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Cremisan Valley] [Apartheid Wall]

Like every year on March 30, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel took part in protests and marches to commemorate Land Day.
“Land Day is a symbolic day for Palestinians to act against the occupation, to remember our land and the martyrs who were killed because of the land,” Munther Ameera, head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, told Palestine Monitor at a protest in his hometown of Beit Jala, in the southern West Bank.
In 1976, the Israeli government confiscated approximately 21,000 dunums of Palestinian land across Israel, sparking widespread protests that lead to the death of six young Palestinians. Land Day is held each year in memory of this incident. Dozens of protesters were reported injured yesterday as the Israeli army suppressed protests across the West Bank.
Located about one kilometre to the west of the city of Bethlehem and eight kilometres southwest of Jerusalem, Beit Jala takes pride in its Cremisan Valley with its fertile hill slopes covered with olive and apricot trees as well as vineyards. This area is strategic both geographically and economically.
“The Israelis are building the wall and it has confiscated at least 30% of the land of Beit Jala in order to annex this land to Jerusalem,” Ameera said. “So we came here to raise our voice against the wall in this specific area.”
As a group of about 30 men and women marched with Palestinian flags and chanted patriotic slogans, they reached the village of Al Walaja by midday. The march was accompanied by a group of about 50 teenage schoolboys who were later diverted to a different destination in case of confrontation with the Israelis at the wall of Cremisan Valley.
Standing on a hilltop overlooking the Cremisan Valley and the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo not far away on the opposite side, some members of the group started setting fire to a car tyre and some twigs next to a section of the wall which is in the beginning stage of construction.
The Gilo settlement was built on land confiscated illegally from Beit Jala, and houses more than 30,000 Israeli settlers. Friction between the Palestinians owners of the land and the Israelis is not unheard of as large tracts of agricultural and recreational lands are lost to the illegal seizure. Many families are highly dependent on these lands as a source of income. Activists from Beit Jala, a Christian town, usually organise protests on Sundays after mass.
Ameera adds that, “even though the Israeli High Court of Justice made a decision not to annex this area to Jerusalem, they are still building the wall and we don’t know what their next plan is. I fear that they are trying to put all the Palestinians into a big prison.”
Soon the black smoke from the burning car tyre grew thicker. As it billowed higher into the air, it drew the attention of the Israeli army which appeared swiftly in their jeeps. Tear gas was fired to disperse the crowd, while some youth threw rocks at the Israeli soldiers in an act of defiance.
Sheikh Abdul Majid Amarneh, the Mufti of the Bethlehem district, who has been demonstrating on Land Day since 1976, explained that “the Israelis damage houses, cut olive trees which can be a few thousand years old and these actions push the Palestinians to demonstrate against them. The wall is planting hate instead of planting peace in the hearts of the people. When they plant hate, this will create more wars and conflicts.”
The wall is not only symbolic of land and heritage loss but is also a major stumbling block to the future development for Beit Jala. Despite tearing and choking on the tear gas, Ameera raised the Palestinian flag higher.
“From the East side, they are confiscating more land and from the West side, they have already built a wall with two tunnels,” he continued, “so Bethlehem will be separated from other governorates and we will be in a very big prison. This is the idea that we are struggling against.”
As the Israeli army persisted in firing tear gas to disperse the crowd, Sheikh Abdul Majid Amarneh was one of the last few who remained near the wall. “The wall is a knife in the heart of the Palestinians, a wall of apartheid, against human rights,” he said.





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