Bab al-Shams: a new and important form of resistance
There are four items in this posting; 1) Jonathan Cook – 250 Palestinians outstrip their passive leaders; 2) IMEMC: Bedouins’, not state, land; 3) a new and important form of resistance; 4) PA officials prevented from entering Bab al-Shams
Screenshot from Palestine TV live stream of the eviction of people from Bab Al-Shams
By Jonathan Cook, Global Research,
January 14, 2013
When the Palestinian leadership won their upgrade to non-member observer status at the United Nations in November, plenty of sceptics on both sides of the divide questioned what practical benefits would accrue to the Palestinians. The doubters have not been silenced yet.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has done little to capitalise on his diplomatic success. There have been vague threats to “isolate” Israel, hesitant talk of “not ruling out” a referral to the International Criminal Court, and a low-key declaration by the Palestinian Authority of the new “state of Palestine”.
At a time when Palestinians hoped for a watershed moment in their struggle for national liberation, the Fatah and Hamas leaderships look as mutually self-absorbed as ever. Last week they were again directing their energies into a new round of reconciliation talks, this time in Cairo, rather than keeping the spotlight on Israeli intransigence.
So instead, it was left to a group of 250 ordinary Palestinians to show how the idea of a “state of Palestine” might be given practical meaning. On Friday, they set up a tent encampment that they intended to convert into a new Palestinian village called Bab al-Shams, or Gate of the Sun.
On Sunday, in a sign of how disturbed Israel is by such acts of popular Palestinian resistance, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the the occupants removed in a dawn raid — despite the fact that his own courts had issued a six-day injunction against the government’s “evacuation” order.
Intriguingly, the Palestinian activists not only rejected their own leaders’ softly-softly approach but also chose to mirror the tactics of the hardcore settlers.
First, they declared they were creating “facts on the ground”, having understood, it seems, that this is the only language Israel speaks or understands. Then, they selected the most contentious spot imaginable for Israel: the centre of the so-called E-1 corridor, 13 square-kilometres of undeveloped land between East Jerusalem and Israel’s strategic city-settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.
For more than a decade, Israel has been planning to build its own settlement in E-1, though on a vastly bigger scale, to finish the encirclement of East Jerusalem, cutting off the future capital of a Palestinian state from the West Bank.
The US had stayed Israel’s hand, understanding that completion in E-1 would signal to the world and the Palestinians the end of a two-state solution. But following the UN vote, Netanyahu announced plans to build an additional 4,000 settler homes there as punishment for the Palestinians’ impertinence.
The comparison between the Bab al-Shams activists and the settlers should not be extended too far. One obvious difference is that the Palestinians were building on their own land, whereas Israel is breaking international law in allowing hundreds of thousands of settlers to move into the West Bank.
Another is that Israel’s response towards the two groups was preordained to be different. This is especially clear in relation to what Israel itself calls the “illegal outposts” — more than 100 micro-settlements, similar to Bab al-Shams, set up by hardcore settlers since the mid-1990s, after Israel promised the US it would not authorise any new settlements.
Despite an obligation to dismantle the outposts, successive Israeli governments have allowed them to flourish. In practice, within days of the first caravans appearing on a West Bank hilltop officials hook up the “outposts” to electricity and water, build them access roads and redirect bus routes to include them. The spread of the settlements and outposts has been leading inexorably to Israel’s de facto annexation of most of the West Bank.
In stark contrast, all access to Bab al-Shams was blocked within hours of the tents going up and the next day Netanyahu had the site declared a closed military zone. As soon as the Jewish Sabbath was over, troops massed around the camp. Early on Sunday morning they stormed in.
Netanyahu was clearly afraid to allow any delay. Palestinians started using social media over the weekend to plan mass rallies at road-blocks leading to the camp site.
However futile the activists’ efforts prove to be on this occasion, the encampment indicates that ordinary Palestinians are better placed to find inventive ways to embarrass Israel than the hidebound Palestinian leadership.
Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi extolled the activists for their “highly creative and legitimate nonviolent tool” to protect Palestinian land. But the failure of PA officials, including Saeb Erekat, to make it to the site before it was cordoned off by Israel only heightened the impression of a leadership too slow and unimaginative to respond to events.
By establishing Bab al-Shams, the activists visibly demonstrated the apartheid nature of Israel’s rule in the occupied territories. Although one brief encampment is unlikely by itself to change the dynamics of the conflict, it does show Palestinians that there are ways they themselves can take the struggle to Israel.
Following the Israeli raid, that point was made eloquently by Mohammed Khatib, one of the organisers. “In establishing Bab al-Shams, we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier — from now on we shall seize them ourselves.”
That, of course, is also Netanyahu’s great fear. The scenario his officials are reported to be most concerned about is that this kind of popular mode of struggle becomes infectious. If Palestinians see popular non-violent resistance, unlike endless diplomacy, helping to awaken the world to their plight, there may be more Bab al-Shamses — and other surprises for Israel — around the corner.
It was precisely such thinking that led Israel’s attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, to justify Netanyahu’s violation of the injunction on the grounds that the camp would “bring protests and riots with national and international implications”.
What Bab al-Shams shows is that ordinary Palestinians can take the fight for the “state of Palestine” to Israel — and even turn Israel’s own methods against it.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers and policemen attacked, on Saturday at dawn, the Bab Al-Shams Palestinian village, installed east of in occupied East Jerusalem, and forcibly removed dozens of activists loading them into buses.
By Saed Bannoura, IMEMC News
January 13, 2013
The soldiers dragged several activists into the ground, attacked reporters and journalist and declared the area as a closed military zone, several injuries were reported.
The Israeli decision to evacuate the village came, on Saturday, through a direct order issued by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his right-wing fundamentalist cabinet.
Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that by midnight Saturday, the order was signed by Osnat Mandel, head of the Israeli High Court division of the Justice Ministry, under the claimed that “the people and the tends must be removed due to security considerations”.
The Israeli Police said that the eviction order, issued by the court, prohibits the army from removing the tens, but orders the removal of the people staying there.
Also, the so-called Israeli Civil Administration Office, run by the occupation in the West bank, claimed that the Palestinian tent village “was installed on state land”.
But four Bedouin families living in the area confirmed that they own the land, and even showed deeds proving ownership.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, who was also at the Palestinian village, stated that hundreds of Israeli soldiers invaded the village after surrounding it, and attacked the nonviolent activists camped there, and started kidnapping them.
The soldiers violently attacked the residents, including journalists, elderly and women, and dragged several resident onto the ground.
The soldiers repeatedly interrupted the work of local reporters, flashing their lights onto the camera, and pushing the reporters away, and dragged dozens of activists into buses that were brought by the army to the area.
On Saturday evening, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered the army “to remove the Palestinians and their supporters from the Palestinian outpost” that was installed on privately-owned Palestinian lands to send a message to Israel and the entire world that this land is the land of Palestine, and the Palestinian people have the right to inhabit it.
The army installed dozens of roadblocks around the area to prevent Palestinian traffic and surrounded the Bab Al-Shams where around 200 activists installed around 20 tents declaring the Bab Al-Shams Palestinian village, in the area were Israeli illegally declared it intends to build thousands of homes for Jewish settlers, east of occupied east Jerusalem.
The Israeli decision to build the illegal settlements in the occupied state of Palestine came after the Palestinians managed to obtain an observer state status at the UN – General Assembly.
The Israeli decision was met with international condemnation, but the settler-led government of Benjamin Netanyahu, approved the illegal settlement project.
The so-called E1 settlement project aims at linking the Maale Adumim illegal settlement, where 35000 reside, with occupied East Jerusalem, thus illegally confiscating Palestinian lands and blocking geographical continuity in the occupied West Bank.
This illegal Israeli project would divide the West Bank into two parts, and would completely isolate it from occupied East Jerusalem, an issue that would prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, a Palestinian nonviolent activist from the West Bank village on Bil’in, who was also detained when the army attacked and evicted Bab Al-Shams, stated that this village is on private Palestinian land, and that the Palestinians are not invading anybody’s property, as they are establishing a village in the land of Palestine.
“We tied our hands, chained ourselves with each other to prevent the soldiers from removing us”, Abu Rahma said, “The Soldiers violently attacked us, beat us, and injured at least 10”
He added that there will be more nonviolent activities, and that the struggle for Bab Al-Shams, the nonviolent struggle for the liberation of Palestine will continue as the Palestinians are practicing their internationally-guaranteed right.
It is worth mentioning that the Palestine TV was live streaming from Bab Al-Shams, and the army repeatedly tried to interrupt the stream, pushing the reporters, and using large flashlight, pointing them against the camera to disrupt the images.
By Palestinian Information Centre
January 14, 2013
GAZA – Ihab Ghussein, head of the Government Information Office, [for Gaza, Hamas, Interior Ministry] said that setting up the tent village of Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun) east Jerusalem, is a new and important form of resistance against settlement.
“The construction of the village is a step in the right direction, and a Palestinian need to restore resistance in all its forms against the occupation,” Ghussein said in a written press statement on Sunday.
He rejected the notion that the destruction of the village, at dawn on Sunday by the Israeli occupation, is a failure for the protestors, stressing the need to continue similar steps to impose the reality against the occupation in light of international silence.
He reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s right to use all available means of resistance, including armed struggle.
Ghsain said that the Palestinian government and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh have appreciated the efforts of the Palestinian activists who challenged the occupation and its aggression and devised a new way to resist settlement.
Palestinian activists set up a village, named Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun in Arabic), on Friday in east occupied Jerusalem challenging the Israeli decision to build settlements in the so-called (E1) area project.
Occupation troops moved in at dawn Sunday, arrested the activists and destroyed the village.
By Ma’an news
January 13, 2013
BETHLEHEM — Israeli forces on Saturday prevented Palestinian officials from entering the E1 area east of Jerusalem to visit protest tents set up a day earlier by activists.
“The soldiers treated us improperly and savagely before they forced us to go back to Ramallah,” PLO official Hanan Ashrawi told Ma’an.
A vehicle carrying Ashrawi and PA minister of social affairs, Majida al-Masri, was stopped and searched at a checkpoint, with soldiers preventing the officials from continuing to the E1 area, despite holding Jerusalem ID cards.
Ashrawi said earlier that she fully supported and encouraged non-violent popular resistance against Israeli occupation, praising the activists for their “creative” means of protecting Palestinian land.
Al-Masri also congratulated the activists for their actions, saying it provided an example which should be followed across the occupied West Bank.
“Establishing a Palestinian village on Palestinian land slated for confiscation by Israel for thousands of settlement units is a form of popular resistance to the Israeli occupation and land theft,” the PA official said.
“Bab al-Shams must be set up in all Palestinian districts, in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Tubas, the Jordan Valley, Salfit, Qalqiliya, Jenin, and Tulkarem. Organizers of such protests must receive support,” al-Masri added.
Palestinian activists erected over 25 tents and a medical center in the E1 area of East Jerusalem on Friday to protest Israeli settlement plans and protect Palestinian land from annexation.
Israel’s military handed evacuation orders to activists in the Bab al-Shams, or ‘Gate of the Sun’, protest village on Saturday, stating that the military intends to move protestors by force, local activist Abdullah Abu Rahma said.
Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat said Saturday that the Bab al-Shams protest movement is attempting to save the two-state solution at a time when Israel is determined to undermine it by building illegal settlements.
In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, drawing widespread international condemnation.
Construction in E1 would divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.