After building an Israeli settlement next to the road connecting Kufr Qaddum’s to the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli military closed the road to Palestinian traffic. For the past five years, villagers have protested every Friday to demand it be reopened.
Five years ago this week, in July 2011, residents of the West Bank village of Kufr Qaddum began staging weekly popular protests demanding that the Israeli army open a road passing through the village to Nablus. The army closed the road to Palestinian traffic in 2003, citing security concerns to a nearby Israeli settlement partly built on the village’s land.
The army has used various tactics over the years in its attempt to suppress the popular struggle. It has utilized attack dogs, installed roadblocks and other forms of collective punishment, carried out waves of arrests and night raids into the village, shot tear gas and putrid ‘skunk water’ at village homes, hung posters threatening to arrest local children, used crowd-control weapons, and even live ammunition.
At the protest this week, marking five years of popular struggle, the Israeli military wounded three Palestinian demonstrators with live fire. Hundreds of people reportedly took part in the demonstration.
Villagers of held their protests to re-open the village’s main road to Nablus every Friday since July 2011, accompanied by a small number of international activists, and an even smaller number of Israelis.
From day one, the army has responded to the protests with violence. There is no legal avenue for protest available to Palestinians in the West Bank, who live under an Israeli military regime. In response to the army’s presence and violent suppression of the demonstrations, village youths often burn tires, lay large rocks to impede military jeeps, and throw stones toward the soldiers.
Kufr Qaddum lies on the main road between the northern West Bank cities of Qalqilya and Nablus. Although the village itself is situated in Area B, the Oslo Accords designation that means civil planning is supposed to fall under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, most of the village’s lands are located in Area C, under complete Israeli military planning and security control.
Of the village’s 24,000 dunams (6,000 acres), the Israeli military seized 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) for use by nearby Israeli settlements. The army requires the Palestinian residents to obtain special military permits in order to accessing another 11,000 dunams (27,000 acres) of their land.
Most of the seized land is now located inside the Israeli settlement of Kedumim, which was established in 1975, partly on Kufr Qaddum’s agricultural land. In 2003, Kedumim further expanded onto Kufr Qaddum land in order to build a new neighborhood.
It was after that new neighborhood of Kedumim was built that the army shut down the road connecting Kufr Qaddum to Nablus, which now runs in between the Israeli settlement and its new neighborhood built in 2003.
As a result, Kufr Qaddum residents are forced to take a more circuitous route in order to drive to Nablus, one of the West Bank’s major cities, adding significant time to the journey.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. As recently as this week, the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations called on Israel to halt all settlement activity, noting that Israeli settlements in the West Bank “erod[e] the viability of the two-state solution.”
The report, by the Quartet, also noted that West Bank settlements are designated for “exclusive Israeli use,” an indirect way of acknowledging that they are designated for Jews only.