On Friday midday international and Israeli peace activists joined residents of Wadi Al Niss village in the southern West Bank for a non-violent demonstration against the illegal wall Israel is planning to construct on the village’s land. The destruction of farmland is already underway.After villagers had gathered together on the land to conduct Friday prayers, various members of the community gave speeches about the situation. One speech was given in English, encouraging international participants to tell people in their home countries what they have seen being done to the Palestinian people. The group of around 200 people then proceeded along the planned route of the illegal wall towards the site where bulldozers and trucks are being used to level the already destroyed farmland.
The front line of the procession linked arms and marched together towards the construction site; people carried Palestinian flags and placards bearing anti-occupation slogans, and chanted these slogans in unison. A large number of Israeli army troops carrying guns, batons and riot shields were already at the site to meet the non-violent demonstration. As the procession got closer to the construction site troops gathered and prevented the protest from moving forwards by pushing up against the crowd. The front line of the demonstration, mostly residents of Wadi Al Niss, sat on the ground in front of the soldiers in defiance before eventually being dispersed.
Most of the demonstrators continued to chant anti-occupation slogans while heading towards the village, while others remained at the construction site to attempt peaceful negotiations with the Israeli troops.
An hour or so after the demonstration started, it dispersed and ended without any incidents of injury or violent confrontation.
The illegal Wall will cause the isolation of several villages south of Bethlehem, especially the villages of Wadi Al Niss, Um Salamoneh, Wad Rahhal and Al Ma’sara. Ten villages surrounding Bethlehem stand to lose 70,000 grape vines and 1000 olive trees through the construction of the wall, with countless more annexed on the far side. This land is vital to these Plaestinian communities that have depended greatly on it as a provider of food and income for centuries.
The construction of the wall is illegal under international law, as is the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Israeli bulldozers started destroying land belonging to the nearby village of Um Salamoneh last Tuesday. At this point, Palestinian farmers and villagers from Um Salamoneh and the surrounding villages protested this action at the site, and were joined by Israeli and International supporters. The Israeli army attacked and injured several villagers, and abducted one local youth, who was released shortly after.