On Friday, Palestinians and internationals blocked the Gush Etzion junction in the southern West Bank, the central entry point leading to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, halting traffic for 15 minutes. The action sought to highlight the restriction of movement experienced by Palestinians on a daily basis throughout the occupied Palestinian Territories. One activist was arrested.
By Alon Aviram
“I came to protest against settlement expansion and the occupation”, said Muhammad from Al-Masara village. He added, “this sort of demonstration can on a social level, encourage people of all backgrounds to protest against the occupation.”
Gush Etzion has a population of approximately 70,000 residents. Similarly to all settlements in the West Bank, it is considered illegal under International law. The Israeli government disputes this. This particular settlement bloc is connected by 60 km of roads reserved solely for Israeli vehicles.
Moreover, there has been an increase in settler violence in recent months throughout the entire West Bank. Some of these incidents have occurred in the Gush Etzion area, including the firebombing of a Palestinian family. A nonviolent protest last month against the local Rami Levy supermarket, part of a chain which refuses to stock Palestinian produce, ended in demonstrators being beaten and arrested by the Israeli Army. According to some of those who attended yesterday, these factors inspired the demonstration.
It quickly became apparent that security forces had received prior intelligence informing them of the planned demonstration. Military and border police vehicles were waiting at the protest site, and troops were quick to respond, forcing protesters on to the sidewalk and swiftly containing the crowd. According to Noa Shaindlinger, an activist from Tel Aviv, “similar actions have been increasing in frequency lately,” despite superior military might and a strict response to acts of civil disobedience. “This sort of action sends a message to the world. It sends a message to the Israeli community that we will refuse the occupation and so should they, we hope to encourage activists to come here and join us,” said Muhammad.
Footage from the demonstration: