Last weekend, nearly 200 Palestinian activists pitched tents on the stony territory between East Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, known as E-1. Acting in non-violent protest to Israel’s plans to construct thousands of settlement homes in this narrow corridor, these activists announced the establishment of a village named “Bab al-Shams,” or “Gateway to the Sun.”
E-1 is a critical strip of land that American and European officials have told the Israelis is a red line, which – if crossed – makes two states almost impossible. “This is not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank,” Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel asserted. “The United States has been adamant for many years, including in the Bush Administration, that Israel not build in E-1.”
OneVoice Palestine (OVP) youth leader Mohammad al-Qadi was amongst those activists who pitched the first tents, non-violently registering his commitment to two states and to the preservation of determination, hope, and belief that it can be achieved.
Speaking to OneVoice staff afterward, Mohammad said, “I went to Bab al-Shams for the same reason that I volunteer for OneVoice: my determination to see a two-state solution. I want to play my role in building the Palestinian state.”
Israeli soldiers forcibly removed the activists some 72 hours after the first tent was pitched.
VICE Magazine interviewed Mohammad following the eviction. Below is an excerpt - you can read the whole piece and see a video report here.
VICE: What happened last night?
Mohammad al-Qadi: It was 3AM and most of the villagers were sleeping, when more than 500 police and soldiers entered the village and called for all the villagers to come out of the tents and lie on the ground. Then they started to attack us, before arresting us, putting us in a truck, taking our ID and dropping us off at a checkpoint near Ramallah at 5:30AM. Six of the activists were injured after being beaten by soldiers, so they were taken to hospital.
It sounds like the eviction was relatively peaceful and over quite quickly – didn’t anyone put up a fight?
Palestinians don’t want to lose anyone else. We are human. We're not numbers, we are names. We are people and we care about life. I don’t want to lose any more friends, I want to protect the land and live in a Palestinian state – something we'll achieve through peaceful action. Unlike the Israelis, we didn’t have any weapons last night. Why did Netanyahu send hundreds of men with guns to a village of unarmed men and women?
How long did you expect to stay at Bab al-Shams?
We'd prepared ourselves to stay for a long time. We want to belong to this land. It’s not a joke, it’s not a “camp”. We wanted to start building a new village to say to the Israeli government: "We oppose your plans. If you build on that land, there is no hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
So what’s next? Will you return to Bab al-Shams? Set up new villages?
We aren't finished. In two days, we’ll have a meeting with everyone involved and decide what we want to do next. We will continue to protest and to create villages in the areas that the Israelis want to build. We’ll never stop.