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A Peaceful Prayer Confronted by Military Force

A peaceful demonstration occurred at Al Kadher on Friday, April 11 just west of Bethlehem. At about Noon, 80 Palestinians assembled in prayer in the road that approaches a checkpoint and an entrance to an exclusive Israeli highway. They were protesting the confiscation of a large part of the village of Al Kadher and the illegal Israeli apartheid-barrier wall. The Palestinians spent an hour in prayer led by an Imam. No traffic was impeded by the demonstrators. MPT’s Palestine Team was in attendance, along with others, and observed a group of peaceful demonstrators in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. (See pictures: -Demonstrators in prayer while a woman on a donkey passes by and men at prayer.)

The Israeli Army responded by deploying seven snipers on a cliff overlooking the demonstration and positioned a barricade of four military vehicles with several armed soldiers about 300 meters away. Although the demonstrators did not impede traffic, the Israeli Army did not hesitate to exercise force themselves by stopping traffic into the village. (See pictures - Snipers on the cliff and military vehicles.)

According to IMEMC, the International Middle East Media Center April 11, 2008:

The Israeli army prevented a number of Israeli peace activists from joining the Palestinian residents of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem, in their weekly nonviolent protest against the construction of the annexation wall on their land on Friday at noon.
Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that troops stopped the Israeli activists and took the keys of their cars at one of the entrances of the village. Later on, troops informed the activists that they will get their keys back unless they are going back to Jerusalem.
Coordinator of the Local Committee for Popular Resistance in Bethlehem, Samer Jaber, said “This is an attempt by Israel to prevent solidarity with the Palestinians in their just struggle to end the Israeli occupation.”
“Israel has prevented hundreds, if not thousands, of Internationals from coming to Palestine the moment the army finds out that those internationals are coming to join nonviolent activities with the Palestinians,” Jaber added.

After an hour the demonstrators dispersed quietly, having made their point through peaceful expression--while the Israeli Army made their point through the threat of violence and by interfering with other people joining the protest. The calm of the demonstrators in the face of the external Israeli military threat in occupied Palestine has to be admired. It reminds one of Selma, Alabama over 40 years ago when the police saw violence as a way of continuing the suppression of blacks in the American South.

On Saturday, April 12, the MPT in Palestine traveled to Al Walaja, a village near Bethlehem, to meet with a Palestinian family. Al-Walaja is a village being surrounded by the Israeli barrier wall and roads built exclusively for Israeli use. According to a map supplied by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), the proposed route of the wall will completely encircle the village (it is already very cut off). Palestinians are not allowed to travel on these Israeli-only roads through the West Bank. It is an illegal and crippling strategy by the Israeli government to further intrude into Palestinian territory, restrict the movement of Palestinians and provide favored treatment of Israeli settlers. Its purpose is to ultimately drive out the Palestinians.

When asked how the Palestinians might live encircled by the Wall, our host commented only that he hoped they wouldn’t have to find out, but they would face that issue if and when it occurred.
All the villagers have received evacuation notices and can receive demolition notices as little as 30 minutes before the Israeli military appears to demolish their homes. They receive no compensation for their homes and land. We saw the remains of two houses demolished by the Israeli army where the residents were forced to move into a UN refugee camp. These villagers are either refugees or their descendents when the Israelis drove them from their homes across the valley in 1948. They resettled and built new homes which are again being threatened. On the horizon across the valley is the large Israeli settlement, Gilo, expanding towards this Palestinian area. See picture – Israeli Gilo Settlement Overlooking

The Israelis appear to be driving out the small Palestinian family farms and homes in favor of constructing overreaching concrete apartment edifices that destroy the environment. It seems like Illegal confiscation of Palestinian land is an Israeli right under a legal system where just compensation may be repeatedly ignored by the Israeli government--when it comes to Palestinians. The Israeli army has the freedom to declare a security area and force the Palestinians off, only to later reclassify the area and let Israelis resettle the land. In addition, under international law, an occupying army is not allowed to colonize a conquered land with its own citizens, but Israel continues its expansionist policies of stealing Palestinian land.

The MPT in Palestine is seeing first hand the inequities in a land ruled by Israeli military might and rules where there is a favored status for Israelis coveting the Palestinian land. Our host in Al Walaja told us that this village had demonstrated the previous Friday, beginning with prayer, and that several internationals were present. It appears the peaceful people are the Palestinians as they suffer through peaceful demonstrations while confronted by Israeli military.

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