The new monthly march is held along a major settler highway, ensuring that Israeli settlers see Jews and Palestinians working together to nonviolently end the occupation.
Text by Yael Marom
Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
Hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli activists marched from the Palestinian village of Hussan to the main settler checkpoint in the southern West Bank Friday afternoon, protesting against Israel’s settlements and demanding an end to the 47-year military occupation.
The protest, which took place in an area of the West Bank under full Israeli control and where settlements are situated directly adjacent to Palestinian villages, was accompanied by Israeli army and Border Police forces the whole way. The march followed the southern West Bank’s main north-south highway, which meant it was in plain view of both Israeli settler and Palestinian traffic.
At the start of the demonstration, Israeli police arrested one of the Palestinian organizers, a member of Combatants for Peace, for reasons that were not apparent.
The 200-plus marchers, among them members of Knesset from the Joint List Dov Khenin and Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf, as well as Meretz secretary general Mossi Raz, held signs demanding an end to the occupation, and promoting peace and dialogue. Some of the signs declared that peace is not just a dream, and, “it won’t end until we talk.”
Some of the activists also carried signs in solidarity with a left-wing Israeli activist who was arrested last week as a result of a right-wing hidden-camera ‘sting operation.’ A court gag order forbids the publication of the man’s name.
Israeli settlers are not used to seeing Jews and Palestinians demonstrating together in what is normally an Israeli-army dominated space. That the protest took place in plain view of passersby, mostly setters, was intended to challenge their absolute control over the area.
No small number of Israeli passersby reacted angrily, cursing and even physically threatening the demonstrators.
“This occupation is an ongoing injustice for both nations,” MK Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf (Hadash) said. “This protest demonstrates that there is another way, a path of peace and hope and not despair. You can’t find another occupation like this in the 21st century. We need to end the occupation and create a Palestinian state along ’67 borders — two states for two peoples.”
Combatants for Peace co-director Sulaiman Khatib called on both Palestinian and Israeli activists to join the monthly protests marching on the “Tunnels Checkpoint” near the Bethlehem-area town of Beit Jala.
“We all know that there is no military solution,” Khatib said. “We need a third way, which is not just Israel and not just Palestine — a path of dialogue and joint nonviolent struggle.”
Yigal Elhanan, whose sister Smadar was murdered in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, said at the protest: “We in the Bereaved Families Forum don’t want more families to lose their loved ones. Let’s stop this before that happens.”