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A Demonstration at Burqa

Burqa, a village to the northwest of Nablus, began weekly demonstrations against the
"re-incursion" of Israeli settlers onto a hill to the west of their village. An illegal settlement was abandoned and demolished by the Israeli army in 2005, but in recent months two settler families returned. They set up house trailers as an outpost, a precursor to another settlement. Because of these settler families, the Israeli army is denying the owners of the land access to their fields.

View from hills over Burqa

Last week the fall MPT team joined IWPS, International Women’s Peace Service, at the first demonstration in Burqa. We joined the villagers and other internationals on a long winding road up the hill. Farmers intended to plant some olive trees on their land but the army was assembled to deny entry.

Village center before the demonstration

There were soldiers above us on several hills and a line of jeeps and army down the road. A roadblock of large boulders had been placed across the road to stop any traffic. The army was well prepared for any attempt to reach the fields.

Soldiers behind rocks blocking the road

View as we walked up the hill

Soldier prepared to fire, blocking any movement

The peoples stopped at the bottom of the final hill and announced their intentions over a loudspeaker. The soldiers were anxious and lobbed concussion grenades as we approached. There was no warning or provocation. The group backed down the hill a bit and organizers began to make more speeches over the loudspeaker. There was no possibility of advancing any farther. The soldiers directly above us made that very clear, gesturing with their rifles.

Before the tear gas

Observing the soldiers as we walked away presented a living definition of the cliché “itchy trigger finger.” At the conclusion several young boys threw a few stones from the road in the direction of the soldiers. They were so far below the level of the army on the hill that there was no danger to the military. It was a small futile gesture, an expression of frustration, but that wasn’t the issue. The tear gas was handy and it was used liberally. The tear gas blanketed the hillsides. Everyone scattered. There was no planting that week. The farmers will return again.

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