New York, March 23, 2012—Hundreds led by OneVoice Palestine activists marched to the western outskirts of the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday to peacefully protest against Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land to build the controversial separation barrier and expand settlements.
OneVoice’s chapter in Beit Oula village, west of Hebron, collaborated with other local youth groups and mobilized residents to resist land confiscations by planting dozens of trees brought from across the West Bank and putting up a tent to maintain their presence indefinitely. They were also joined by Mayor Rateb al-Omla. The local Imam, Mohammad Osman, led Friday prayer, telling the crowd that action by OneVoice youth and other civil society organization maintains hope of achieving the two-state solution and establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders.
Skeptical of the prospects for peace given continued Israeli land grabs and unprecedented settlement expansion on privately-owned Palestinian land, residents nonetheless applauded the courage of youth in resisting the occupation through peaceful means.
Israel claims the 720-km (450-mile) barrier under construction since 2002 is a necessary security measure that prevents Palestinian attacks. Palestinians say the route cuts through their farmland and loops around illegal settlements. The activity took place on land slated for confiscation within the next six months.
“The seizure of Palestinian land whether for alleged security reasons or settlement expansion threatens the viability of any peace process,” said Samer Makhlouf, executive director of OneVoice Palestine. “Trust in the political process among Palestinians continues to slip as Israel fails to heed international calls for a settlement freeze. It is our role during this difficult time to mobilize the people to peacefully safeguard the two-state solution.”
Israeli soldiers in armored vehicles prevented demonstrators from entering certain areas and kept a watchful eye on them. The crowd, however, maintained their poise at all times and avoided the looming possibility of a confrontation.
OneVoice activists said they will sleep in the tent they erected and continue to plant trees in the area as a means to prevent Israel from claiming the land is not in use and, therefore, subject to confiscation. "This initiative is an important message to the whole world,” said Nader al-Omla, one of OneVoice’s activists who led the initiative. “We will stay in our land and we will not give in."
Palestinian media, including Maan News Agency and Palestine TV, covered the protest. It was the second of its kind carried out by OneVoice Palestine youth activists this year. Earlier in March, OneVoice Palestine protested pending land confiscations in Dar Salah, east of Bethlehem.