JERUALEM, May 13, 2006 (WAFA)
200 Israeli peace activists approached the a-Ram checkpoint, along with Palestinians demonstrators, protested Saturday against the Apartheid wall being built the West Bank village of ar-Ram, north of Jerusalem. Gush shalom Israeli Peace Group said the demonstration was even stormier than usual -- contrary to the intentions of the demonstrators themselves.
The march was organised under the title: "No to Walls and Checkpoints, Yes to Negotiation and No to Unilateral Convergence." "It was carefully prepared as a non-violent protest," said the Group. "The pupils of the elementary schools in their school uniforms led the demonstration, with the smallest in front. But to no avail: the army and police had decided in advance to suppress the demonstration by force."
When the 200 Israeli peace activists approached the ar-Ram checkpoint, it was already clear that they would not be allowed to pass, it added.
Apart from the Gush Shalom activists, the action is also joined by Ta'ayush, Bat Shalom, the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, the Committee Against House Demolitions, Machsom Watch, Anarchists Against the Wall and the Alternative Information Center.
Therefore they went around the checkpoint and broke through the Apartheid Wall. Most of the demonstrators succeeded in passing quickly through the breach, but some of them remained on the Israeli side of the Wall and demonstrated there.
On the main road of ar-Ram, which is already divided by the Wall, the Israelis joined the Palestinian demonstration which was already on its way.
Right behind the massed schoolchildren, the leaders of all Palestinian parties -- From Fatah to Hamas -- had formed a line. Uri Avnery was invited to join and walked between the Hamas legislator, Muhammad Abu-Tir, and the legislator, Mustafa Barghouti, read a press by Guh shalom, next to them was the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs of the new Palestinian government, Abu Arafah.
Further on along the road, in the middle of ar-Ram, the Israeli police and army had concentrated a large force. "Rows of policemen blocked the road, with mounted policemen in front and a large number of army Hummer vehicles behind," it added.
Seeing this, the organisers diverted the schoolchildren into a side street, and the thousand demonstrators, men and women, young and old, marched on towards the improvised tribune that had been prepared in advance, still with the line of party and organization leaders in front.
When they were still about 50 meters from the police line, they were suddenly bombarded, without any provocation, with a salvo of tear gas canisters. The road was covered with clouds of gas. The demonstrators found shelter in adjoining buildings, and thus Abu-Tir and Avnery found themselves together in the guest room of one of the houses.
Some minutes later, when the gas had dispersed, the demonstration went on, but it was attacked again and again by the soldiers, Hummers and police riders. Ten activists were arrested. (Much later, the three Israeli detainees were released, but seven Palestinians remained in custody.)
The Group further said the attack lasted for two hours, until senior police officers arrived on the scene and contact was broken off.
The day before, policemen in Bil'in had shot two international activists and a foreign photographer in the head with rubber coated steel bullets. All three were hospitalised.
It is also important to note that in this demonstration a complete national unity of all Palestinian factions was achieved.
Gush shalom added that it was decided with the Mayor of ar-Ram, Sirhan Sleimi, that this event would be the start of a campaign to protest against the monstrous wall that chokes ar-Ram, cuts it off from Jerusalem and separates the pupils from their schools (three have already closed) and the workers from their places of employment.