Non-violent action to resist the illegal confiscation of land in Jordan Valley
On Nov 17, IWPS joined a convoy of around 15 cars carrying about 75 people including Palestinians, local media and Israelis activists, from the village of Ein Al-Baida in the north of the Jordan Valley to the hill of Tel al Hema, a few kilometres away. As soon as the group reached the top of the hill, the Palestinian activists erected a big tent and tagged it “Arafat Village”.
This action was organised in protest of the demolition at the end of September of more than 20 structures that left five families homeless, the continued harassment by the army preventing the families from putting up tents for shelter or demolishing them soon after, and the recent illegal Israeli settlement outpost with a livestock pen that was built on the hill top about one month ago. Locals and other activists have alerted the Occupation army and authority to the existence of this outpost, but it remains in place and is expanding.
By erecting a Palestinian structure in the same area, activists wanted to highlight the apartheid system in place in Palestine where illegal (by Israeli law) settlement outpost structures on Palestinian land are not demolished, but Palestinian homes are.
While the crowd was putting up the tent, the settlers arrived, started filming and taking pictures and then called the Israeli army. Three soldiers soon arrived to protect the settlers at the outpost.
Over the following hours four more jeeps arrived with around 22 more soldiers as well as police, and surrounded the crowd. The protestors sat inside and outside the tent, often singing songs of freedom, and the men prayed at midday while the soldiers and settlers observed.
Tension rose slowly and the Israeli commander told the Palestinian organisers that it was an illegal demonstration and that the area was now a closed military zone. He said that people would have to leave within the next 30 minutes. However, the protestors had no intention of leaving and instead lunch was distributed to the activists.
This was when, suddenly, stun grenades were fired around the seated protesters and the soldiers started to come closer and push the protestors to make them leave. When this was unsuccessful, the teargas was launched into the tent and into the crowd, and people started moving away. Some protestors tried to avoid being pushed down and went back up but the teargas and the soldiers continued aggressively to make everybody move away from the site.
Three people were injured by the Israeli army and rushed by ambulance to Tubas hospital and 0ne Israeli activist from the group Ta’ayush was arrested. The Head of the Commission Resisting the Wall and Illegal Settlements, Walid Asef said: “This has happened many times in the past. It was expected. But we will return and be bigger next time and build more tents. We will not stop and continue until the settlement is down and we regain our land.”
At the end of the day the tent of the Arafat Village will most possibly be destroyed whereas the illegal settlement outpost will remain. This shows, once again, that Israel has no intention to abide by international law regarding illegal confiscation of Palestinian land. But Palestinian will continue to resist and use non-violent actions to one day regain what was stolen from them.