Villages popular comities against the separation fence cooperation with Israeli anarchists against the wall expanded from Bil'in to the south of Bethlehem. For about 4 years since the camp for join Israeli-Palestinian struggle against the separation fence at Masha, there were many joint actions between the Israeli AATW and village comities. Since the joint direct action against the fence at Zabuba three and a half year ago, many joint demonstrations and direct actions occurred at villages along the route of separation fences. The longest and most famous one is the struggle in Bil'in, the newest (for the last few months is in the region south of Bethlehem in which few villages are involved together (Um Salmuna, Artas, Beit Umar, and others).
In Bil'in, this Friday, the belligerence of the Israeli forces intensify. The new policy of not allowing the nonviolent demonstration to approach the route of the fence intensified. They returned to the policy they had the first half year or so of demonstrations where the Friday demonstrations were blocked from coming near the route.
(The first time we overcome it was in the big demonstration at the day the state forces tried to force curfew on the village, brought lot of forces to occupy the village, and tried to enforce the claim of the regional commander that there will not be any more demonstrations in Bil'in. After a about eleven hours of attrition struggle in the roads leading to the village and its streets, the state forces yielded, retreated from the village and the near by route of the separation fence... and we marched to the route... and we walked along it with out interference of the few state forces present.)
To day, when the demonstration of Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis of the AATW initiative just came near the foot of the hill the route is on its top, the barrage of tear gas canister was started.
Only very few of us who were in the front succeeded to come nearer to the soldiers who blocked the road and two of them (one Israeli and one of the village comity) were detained and released only hours later. The rest of us dispersed among the olive trees on the two sides of the road, trying to evade the tear gas grenades and approach the fence where it was possible - even for a short period.
The state forces tried to make the demonstration shorter so they showered us with plenty of gas grenades and added some shooting of metal bullets covered with rubber. One of them hit the ambulance while I was for a short time behind it...
Frustrated as they could not disperse us completely and confronted with stone throwing kids, teams of the state forces advanced to the fringe of the built area of the village and showered us with huge amount of tear gas. In non of the 110 demonstrations in Bil'in I participated the quantity of the tear gas was so high.
A house near the road - few of us were guests in, got a special treatment and after the attackers went away it was like a fortress an army tried to conquer with grenades...
For some twisted logic and demagogic purposes, the army spoke person issued a fabricated announcement that "the demonstration in Bil'in was very calm due to the absence of the Israeli activists who usually incite the Palestinians..." The fact is we were the usual number of Israeli activists, lately, as we divide between Bil'in and other Friday demonstrations against the fence.
A comrade responded in a post to our mailing list to that announcement:
"Funny, cause after most of the Israelis left...
Two shabab got lightly injured, the last houses of the village were surrounded by tear gas for close to an hour, including children suffering from gas, and a bit of contamination of farming plots that were otherwise organic.
One of the houses was especially hard hit by gas, with visible burn marks from the canisters on the door (that also lost it's handle), and a visit from the soldiers that reportedly included denying the residents (and an Israeli activist that got a gas canister thrown at her feet during negotiations) to get them to stop shooting so one of the injured could be transported outside for treatment.
From next door it seemed like a bad rock concert. And just like that, after the show, the band of soldiers magically retreated backstage into the valley then out the back door.
'Cause it's Friday, and there's nothing else to do.' ". R.
South of Bethlehem - the new focus of the joint struggle against the separation fence and occupation.
First, the text of the invitation to participate distributed in the radical activists mailing lists:
"This coming Friday, May 25th the residents of the south of Bethlehem area will hold a large demonstration against the wall which separates them from Bethlehem and steals their lands.
This week the struggle reached the village of Artas, near Al Hader. It happened when the construction crews reached the fertile lands of the village. The reason for the planned route of the wall is the planned construction of two new neighborhoods in the settlement stretching from it's current border to the route of the wall.
Early Sunday morning the bulldozers destroyed an entire orchard of apricot trees in spite of attempts by villagers and other activists who slept on the land. IDF soldiers continued their work as farmers wept at the site of their ancestral land being torn up.
Naturally, the next day, the villagers responded by holding a demonstration on the land where the trees stood. Just as naturally, in the context of the Israeli occupation, the private security guards employed at the site by the Ministry of defense shot live ammunition at demonstrators and journalists. Likewise, it was just as natural for the soldiers who arrived later to befriend the shooters and arrest 3 Palestinians including the owner of the land on trumped up charges of assault.
The popular committee against the wall and the settlement of the south Bethlehem area invites you to join the protest march against the wall of racist separation and of theft. The demonstration will begin at Um Salamuna, with a soccer game on the path of the wall, and will conclude at the village of Artas.
Please register in advance for the demonstration
From Jerusalem: S. 054-XXXXXXX
From Tel Aviv: I. 052-XXXXXXX"
Following is a report of an activist of the ISM:
"Greek human rights worker arrested at demonstration against land destruction in Artas, Bethlehem
Today, May 25th, the residents of the south of Bethlehem area held a large demonstration against Israel's Apartheid Wall which separates them from Bethlehem and steals their lands. The demonstration started in the village of Umm Salamuna, where Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals held a soccer game on the path of the Wall.
From there, at least 150 Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists made their way to the village of Artas to protest Israel's land destruction. This was a non-violent demonstration, aimed at reaching the land of the Abu Swai family, which soldiers claimed today was a “closed military zone. After Friday prayers on the land, the non-violent demonstrators attempted to cross the barricade of Israeli soldiers. The army responded with force. George, an activist from Greece, was arrested and is currently being held in an Israeli jail in Hebron.
Martinez described the incident: “The demonstrators were completely non-violent. Not a single stone was thrown. But the soldiers started to beat and kick people. I saw at least two people being choked by soldiers. Then they went after George. He wasn't doing anything but they arrested him anyways.
An Israeli activist heard one of the detaining officers say that George was being arrested for “assault.
After half an hour, the demonstrators sat on the ground affront the soldiers, refusing to leave the area. The demonstrators all then began shouting, “We want George! We want George!
The army, however, placed George in a police jeep and escorted him to the police station in Hebron.
According to Gaby Lasky, George's lawyer, George will be taken to court tomorrow afternoon or evening in Jerusalem. The judge will hear the charges brought against George, including assaulting soldiers and disrupting soldiers' work. Video footage disproving the charges has been obtained and will soon be in the hands of George's lawyer and also the Greek consulate, to be used in George's favor at the trial tomorrow.
Earlier this week, the struggle reached the village of Artas, near Al Hader. It happened when Israeli construction crews reached the fertile lands of the village. The reason for the planned route of the wall is for the construction of two new neighborhoods in the illegal settlement of Efrata, stretching from it's current border to the route of the wall.
Early Sunday morning, an Israeli bulldozer destroyed an entire orchard of apricot trees in spite of attempts by villagers and other activists who slept on the land to stop it. Occupation soldiers continued their work and ate sandwiches as farmers wept at the site of their ancestral land being ripped apart. Three Palestinians were arrested the following day for continuing to protest the land destruction. They have all recently been released.
(Video and photos of land destruction here: http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2007/05/21/in-the-belly-of-the-wailing-democracy-called-israel/)
Video of today's action available upon request.
For more information, contact: ISM Media Office, 0599-943-157, 0542-103-657"