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Beit Ommar Villagers Denied Access to Their Farmland, West Bank, Palestine, 12/25/10: video & photos
On December 25th, 2010, the weekly Beit Ommar demonstration against the Karmei Tsur settlement was once again met by Israeli Defense Force soldiers just outside of the village. This time villagers had marched down an unpaved road through Beit Ommar farmlands, in the direction of the settlement, until the military stopped their progress. As is usual, a declaration of a "closed military zone" was made and a 3-minute dispersal order was issued, but because there were no Israeli activists such as Anarchists Against the Wall or international solidarity activists present, tear gas was not dispersed and a discussion between villagers and soldiers ensued. Villagers demanded the right to tend to their orchards and fields. All but one man and a small boy were denied access to their lands, and they only with no tools for about 10-15 minutes. One Arabic-speaking soldier attempted to shake hands with villagers but was snubbed because the villagers refuse to shake hands with armed soldiers. That soldier later offered villagers a phone number they could call the next day to arrange for permission to tend to their lands, but the villagers were skeptical of such an offer and generally resent having to request permission to access their own lands when Karmei Tsur settlers have free reign to move about on land that Beit Ommar villagers once freely farmed before the settlement was built. While the soldiers on the unpaved road were attempting to appear peaceable, other soldiers in a military vehicle rolled into the edge of town just behind the demonstration, a move intended to provoke a confrontation with village youth. Near the end of the discussion between villagers and soldiers, one Israeli soldier approached me personally, seeking to identify me and requesting to see my passport. Another man in plain clothes from the army (or the secret police) stepped in to photograph me at close range. I identified myself as a journalist but it didn't matter. As per Israeli military policy intended to disrupt documentation of the occupation and to keep separate Palestinians and non-Palestinians -- via "closed military zones" declared at will anytime and anywhere, walled-off settlements, apartheid Israeli-only roads, countless checkpoints, and so forth -- I was threatened with arrest if I did not immediately return to the village.
Weekly Beit Ommar settlement protest, 12/25/2010: photos
Beit Ommar Protest Against Karmei Tsur Settlement, West Bank, Palestine, 12/18/10: video
At the January 1st, 2011, protest, demonstrators were attacked with tear gas and stun grenades, as is standard practice for the IDF when Israeli and/or international solidarity activists participate:
The IDF refuses to allow villagers to pave this road.
These villagers will not shake hands with armed soldiers. They told me later that they will shake hands if Israelis come unarmed to meet with them as equals in their homes.
I was told by someone not at this demonstration that the guy in plain clothes might be with the Israeli secret police.
The two soldiers directly behind him were the ones that stepped forward to actually arrest me before I backed off and headed toward the village.
Beit Ommar is now surrounded by six different Israeli settlements.
The Face of the Israeli Occupation in Beit Ommar, West Bank, Palestine, 12/25/10: video