Israeli forces dismantle West Bank protest camp; no arrests

01:00 May 21 2017 Sarura (South Hebron Hills)

Israeli forces dismantle West Bank protest camp; no arrests
Israeli forces dismantle West Bank protest camp set up by Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli activists, less than 48 hours after it was built. (Activestills). Published by 972Mag.

Palestinian, Israeli and international Jewish activists build a protest camp in Surara, West Bank, May 19, 2017. (Photo: Ahmad Bazz/ Published by 972Mag.

Dozens of Israeli soldiers dismantled on Saturday night a protest camp in the West Bank village of Sarura that was set up by a few hundred Palestinians, Israelis and primarily diaspora Jewish activists on Friday morning. At the time of the dismantling, around 80 people were there, roughly 60 American Jews and 20 Palestinians.

By Mairav Zonszein for 972Mag

The camp, called by the activists “Sumud: Freedom Camp,” was set up to return Palestinian residents of the village of Sarura who were expelled by Israeli forces between 1980 and 1998. The residents have been unable to return to their lands due to a combination of military orders and ongoing violence and harassment from Israeli settlers nearby. As a result, Sarura was completely depopulated from 1998 until Friday, when the village was re-established.

After nearly 48 hours of restoration work, soldiers came in without a military order and began taking the camp apart, disconnecting it from electricity and confiscating all the equipment as activists chanted in English, “We will build this tent again!” and “The whole world is watching” and “There is no other time, Jews must stand with Palestine!” Some also screamed out, “What will I tell me congregation about this back home?” and “What will I tell my Hebrew school students?”

It is important to note that as of publication time at about midnight local Israel time, no arrests were made and no one was forced to leave. According to people on the ground, some were shoved and pushed to the ground around and a few of the Jewish activists were punched, however no crowd dispersal methods were used.

As of Saturday night, there was no coverage of the event in Hebrew (except for +972’s sister site, Local Call) and none in English media either except here. The action, linked directly to the 50-year anniversary of Israel’s occupation, took place in the shadow of the mass Palestinian hunger strike and protests taking place across other parts of the West bank, in which dozens of Palestinians have been wounded – and of course Trump’s visit to Israel on Monday, which has the press crazed.

The encampment was organized by an anti-occupation coalition of groups, including the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, local Palestinian committees, Youth Against Settlements, the All That’s Left Collective, the Holy Land Trust and Combatants for Peace. Members of IfNotNow also participated in the action. Activists arrived Friday morning and continued working through to the afternoon, when several people — including Youth Against Settlements’ Issa Amro — spoke about the purpose and impact of the event.

While Palestinians in the West Bank have been engaged in nonviolent protests against Israeli occupation for many years, and Israelis have joined them in solidarity, this is probably the biggest delegation of Diaspora Jews to ever come to Palestine and engage in direct action against Israeli government policies. The American Jewish activists, some of whom speak Hebrew and have spent substantial time in Israel, are challenging the Israeli occupation because they say it violates their Jewish values.
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