Palestinian activists build new protest camp near Jerusalem to protest displacement of West Bank Bedouin, settlement expansion; the Israeli army dismantles the camp.
Over 100 Israeli activists, among them four Knesset candidates in the upcoming elections, joined Palestinian farmers in from the West Bank village of Kfar Yassuf to plant olive saplings to mark the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat. The activists planted the trees near the Israeli settlement of Tapuach, an area where olive trees have been uprooted time and again, allegedly by settlers. Israeli soldiers prevented the farmers and activists from reaching the area in which they had planned to carry out the action.
The action was planned by the “Olive Harvest Coalition” and Rabbis for Human Rights. Also taking part were Hadash members MK Dov Khenin, head of the Arab Joint List Iman Odeh and Aida Touma-Suliman, as well as Meretz candidate and former MK Mosi Raz.
“We came to Kfar Yassuf because it suffers from a relatively large number of incidents of uprooting trees, and we wanted to bring a message of peace in response to the messages of hate, said Rabbi Kobi Weiss of Rabbis for Human Rights.
“Olive trees are the main source of income of the village, and they are a symbol of peace,” MK Khenin wrote on his Facebook page, adding that the tree planting was the first such action by Hadash list for the next Knessset. “With these seeds we planted more seeds of joint struggle, seeds of peace and a normal life, for a future of independence and justice for the two peoples in this land.”
Under the pretext of lack of coordination, Israeli soldiers refused to allow the activists and Palestinian farmers from entering the area designated for planting, according to a statement from Rabbis for Human Rights. The land is privately owned by the Palestinian villagers.
New protest camp against displacement of West Bank Bedouin
Palestinian activists have been struggling for a small peace of land outside of Jerusalem. Activists belonging to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee showed up on the piece of land near Abu Dis on Tuesday and erected an encampment called the “Jerusalem Gate.”
The action follows a similar project two years ago, at “Bab a-Shams,” in which Palestinian activists reclaimed a plot of land near Mishor Adumim. Around 100 activists took part and dozens remained until the Israeli army cleared the camp Wednesday morning. The activists re-pitched the camp on Thursday but the army once again dismantled it.
“We decided to build this new encampment on land that the occupation is trying to seize in order to evict Bedouin communities from their homes, emptying the Jordan Valley,” PSCC activist Mundir Amira said. “We were there with the land owners in order to support them, residents of Abu Dis, as well as the Bedouin communities.”
The “Jerusalem Gate” camp was strategically placed in an area the army plans to forcibly relocate various West Bank Bedouin tribes. The action is meant to oppose that plan, as well as Israeli settlement plans that aim to encircle Jerusalem, thereby effectively cutting the West Bank in half.
“The soldiers came and forcefully removed us, hitting us and using stun grenades — and seizing the equipment that we brought, including heaters and water,” Amira said. “We will continue to come back here, to pray on Friday and to create a permanent presence for the struggle.”
The Bedouin relocation plan has been the subject of numerous other actions in the past year, including a protest in Ramallah against the participation of a Palestinian architectural firm on contract with the Israeli army
The IDF Spokesperson had not responded to a request for comment on either incident at the time of publication.
This article was first published on +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.