[Ex-Sociology and Anthropology Dept., Tel Aviv U] Daniel Breslau. Associate Professor, Science & Technology in Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Email: email@example.com
Weekly Summary. Week 2163 of Occupation, 16 November - 22 November, 2008
An occupied house in an occupied land
The 4-story building sits midway between the settlement of Kiryat Arba and the Machpela Cave, in the old city of Hebron. Militant settlers from Hebron moved into the unfinished structure in March 2007, claiming they had purchased it legally from its owner, Faez Rajabi. There is evidence that Rajabi had negotiated with representatives of the settlers, through an intermediary, but the settlers could supply no proof that a deal had been concluded. Some of the documents they presented in court were forgeries.
While the dispute over this "House of Contention" unfolds, Israel's High Court of Justice ruled on Sunday 16 November that the occupants of the house must leave until legal ownership is determined. Eviction proceedings were to begin within three days if the occupants did not leave voluntarily.
The Hebron settlers and their supporters have decided to make the case a test of the government's will. The settlers have declared their intention to resist their removal from the building, and to use force if necessary. Thus far, there is no sign, beyond statements by political figures that the law must be enforced, of any movement to remove the settlers.
Judging from the history of the Hebron settlement, we might expect the episode to end with the army now guarding an expanded Jewish presence in the old city, further limiting the freedom of movement of the Palestinian inhabitants and allowing the settlers an expanded base from which to harass and attack Palestinians with impunity. Beginning with the "Beit Hadassah" in 1979, the Hebron settlement has been established and has grown through lawless and unauthorized takeovers of Palestinian homes and buildings.
Some settlers responded to the court's decision by spray-painting "Mohamed is a pig" on the wall of a Hebron mosque.
One needs to scour the alternative news sites and blogs to know about the crowds of Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals that meet in multiple sites across the West Bank every Friday to confront the occupation forces using only their bodies and words. And every week the marchers are met with violence in the form of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, batons, and sometimes live fire.
Now it looks like this movement may be growing. Five major demonstrations were held on Friday, 21 November:
In Al Ma'asara, near Bethlehem, about 70 protesters set out toward their lands that have been made inaccessible by construction of the apartheid wall. Two of the marchers, 10-year-old Iyad Hasan and 52-year-old Suad Joma'a, were injured when troops used force to prevent the procession from reaching the village lands.
Residents of villages near Nablus have put a new center of nonviolent protest on the map, with the second weekly protest of the illegal resettlement of Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005. The land of the settlement is still closed to local Palestinians, while six settler families have been allowed to return. In Friday's demonstration, ten marchers were injured when soldiers attacked them with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas.
Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire is no stranger to the Israeli army's violent suppression of nonviolent protest. She once again suffered the effects of tear gas, this time in Friday's protest against the apartheid wall in the village of Ni'lin. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian legislator, was also injured, when soldiers used tear gas to prevent the crowd from reaching the wall's construction site on village lands.
The longest-running weekly protests have been taking place in the village of Bil'in, which has seen some of its land confiscated for construction of a new settlement. For nearly four years, the residents of Bil'in have been joined by internationals and Israeli activists for the weekly protest, demanding the dismantling of the apartheid wall. This week was no different. Protesters reported many injuries from tear-gas inhalation and rubber-coated bullets.
Further north along the green line, residents of the town of Jayyous have been protesting the theft of their land since 2005. On Friday, about 500 protestors made it to a gate in the wall, which they destroyed, crossing into their own agricultural lands. As in Bil'in, Israel has restored some of the town's lands by changing the route of the wall. But the villagers continue to reject the confiscation of nearly 6,000 dunams of land, most of it for expansion of the illegal settlement of Zufim.