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Palestinian non-violent activism at Bab al Shams and the right to territory

Ramona Wadi

1616palestine-12-01-13-bab-al-shams..jpg

January 16, 2013

In a move designed to challenge Israeli expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a group of about 250 Palestinians claimed to have established the village of Bab al Shams in an area of land called E1 and the site of forthcoming illegal Israeli settlements. The village's name, borrowed from the title of a book by Elias Khoury, prompted a letter of support from the author to activists involved in maintaining this innovative expression of political struggle. "I see in your eyes a homeland born again from the rubble of the Nakba that started 64 years ago ..."

As the statement issued by the 'Popular Struggle Coordination Committee' states, the action reverses the dynamics of illegal occupation by promoting popular resistance and shunning the discriminative process of permits from the occupying power. "We sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it." Popular resistance in the OPTs was usually restricted to protests within the confines of one's village. In the process of asserting their right to the territory, Palestinians have portrayed an example of collective struggle against colonial occupation and the violation of freedom of movement.

The manipulation of Israel's colonial tactics angered Netanyahu, who declared the area a 'closed military zone'. Faced with eviction orders, activists managed to obtain a temporary injunction from the Israeli court, which was ignored by Netanyahu. Declaring the activists a threat to security, military forces were dispatched to Bab al Shams, enforcing the eviction order whilst overriding the court's order, and once again demonstrating the Israeli government's intolerance for non-violent resistance. Six Palestinians who refused to abide by the eviction order were targeted with violence.

The land, defined as E1 by Israel, was singled out as a potential area for the development of further illegal Jewish settlements following the UN vote in favour of Palestine as a UN non-member state. The construction of settlements would consolidate Israel's apartheid and colonial practices, separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Netanyahu's temporary silence over the territory has once again ignited into outbursts of land possession and security concern. "We will not allow anyone to touch the corridor between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim," conveniently disregarding all references of international law with regard to land occupation. With elections looming and a right-wing candidate whose vociferousness in eliminating any reference to a Palestinian state surpasses Netanyahu's belligerent discourse, an illusion of threats to security from Palestinian activists in Bab al Shams was enough to re-kindle the discourse on illegal settlement construction.

International law prohibits the transfer of the occupier's population to areas inhabited by the civilian population under occupation. Also the concept of alteration of demographic features by the occupying power has been condemned by the UN Security Council. However, condemnations against Israel's eviction of Palestinians from their land have not been forthcoming. The apparent indignation on behalf of international leaders at Netanyahu's retaliation in the form of further settlement construction seems to have dwindled.

It seems as though the leaders of the international community, with their fondness for resolutions and reprimands, have remained mired in tactful silence over the forced eviction of Palestinians from Bab al Shams. On the contrary, the brief establishment of the village propelled the politics of internationalism to the limelight, as activists around the world resorted to social media, highlighting processes which are falling through the cracks of international legislation.

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:: Article nr. 94397 sent on 17-jan-2013 21:11 ECT

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