Brief report back on a NonViolent Action in Beit Sahour and Videos of the action
When our photographer friend was being wrestled to the ground and heavy boots stepping on his neck and his expensive camera being trashed, time seems to stand still. It was actually a few seconds when several members attempted to help him (by pleading with the brutal settler police and border guards and in some case trying to shield him from brutal blows with their bodies) and six individual were "arrested" (I use this term in quotes because they were actually just kidnapped illegally and held hostage). The events leading up to this event began with intents by racist colonial settlers (many of them with foreign passports) to take over this piece of Beit Sahour land that was for a while used by the Jordanian and later Israeli army. Christian and Muslim Palestinians in Beit Sahour (the Shepherds' Field) and the surrounding towns and villages continue to actively use their land in Ush Ghrab in creative and positive ways despite attempts by settlers to take over. We regularly join hands with International human rights activists to show the power of nonviolent resistance and affirmation of our rights. Part of the land was already developed for a recreational area including children playgrounds. Other areas are slated for a community garden, a nature walk, and a hospital.
Palestinians and our international friends use the site for many activities from meetings to nature walks to parties to barbeques and picnics. On this day, we had plans for a hike with bird-watching (Palestine Wildlife Society), music festivities, and athletics. We arrived at 11 AM and our first attempt was to take three barrels (one for regular trash, one for glass/plastic, and one for compost) to put at the place where the settlers are to gather. Dozens of heavily armed soldiers blocked our way. We asked to see the military order of closure and they showed us an order that said that the area is a closed military zone (ironic since colonial settlers were allowed to get in with no problems !). Some soldiers took over a private home near the site and imprisoned its owners in one room while they made it into a military post with roof and window guns pointed at us.
We asked the soldiers to at least please deliver the trash barrels/bins to the site because every time settlers come they leave trash everywhere. We did much education of the soldiers and police (or at least those of them who listened). The soldiers followed us in the hike around the mountain and it was when we came close to the road which settlers used to get up the hill that they became insistent on us leaving, as we were walking back, an international friend was suddenly attacked from behind and as others were also attacked and kidnapped. We were told that if we go back to the park area and stay there they might be released. So essentially, the friends were hostages to impact our decisions (this is considered a war crime and fits the definition of terrorism to try and coerce an action from someone by threats to harm a friend or relative). We did go ahead with our other activities (including over 70 children who had a rap and other music festival) while negotiations for the release of our friends ensued and expanded to include the Mayor and officers of the Occupation army. Finally after several hours, five of our comrades were released and one was still being held and maybe deported. The five released included two Palestinians (one from Beit Jala and one from Bethlehem) and nationals from Italy, England, and the US. After the army withdrew, we did not that the soldiers (but not the colonial settlers) did use our trash containers but had decided to also add a few rocks! The colonial settlers plan to return with their hateful messages (and trash) on 9 November. We will stay here with peaceful and creative activities always and we always invite anyone to join us whether in dialog or action for peace.
Part 1 http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=bHpdc78xUvg
Part 2 http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=IjXsutlrHys
Daycare later http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liy37Q2LdX4
Links to news stories on the action
Extremist settler website here: http://womeningreen.org/shd.htm