On June 24, Ta’ayush organized approximately 30 Israeli and international activists in a peaceful protest against the inner barrier built by the Israeli government through the southern Hebron hills. The activists were invited by Palestinians from the village of Imneizel, whose livelihoods are severely disrupted by the barrier. The Ta’ayush demonstrators were supporting over twice as many local participants.
The inner barrier is an 82-centimeter cement wall that runs through 41 kilometers of the southern Hebron hills, along Routes 317 and 60. The barrier is so low that it neither blocks the passage of humans nor shields the potential impact of weapons and explosives, the premise on which the Israeli government justifies its larger Separation Wall. Thus, the wall serves only to separate the villagers from nearby settlements and illegally annex approximately 80,300 dunams of Palestinian land.
The Separation Wall was originally scheduled to be built along the route of this inner barrier, but the High Court ruled in February 2005 that the primary wall be pushed back toward the Green Line. In early 2006, the army built this inner barrier in its place, maneuvering around the orders of the High Court. The barrier isolates over 3,000 Palestinians from the nearby town of Yatta and prevents access to roads, grazing pastures and cisterns.
Early in the day’s events, local protestors attempted to bulldoze a section of the barrier in order to create a gate for the passage of people, equipment and sheep, but threats of teargas from the military quickly thwarted the endeavor. Instead, Israeli and Palestinian protestors made a joint effort to haul heavy stones against either side of a small section of the barrier, forming a makeshift ramp. Once both sides of the ramp were assembled, several village boys released a herd of sheep and drove them over the ramp and into the grazing pastures on the opposite side.
The protest ended in an exchange between the village leader and the commander of the Israeli military unit, in which the latter pledged his recommendation that a gate be created so that the villagers and their sheep may gain access to land and water. A deal was struck; the protestors agreed to dismantle the ramp in exchange for the hope that the gate would be built within three days. Whether the gate will be realized remains to be seen. In the event it is not, a new demonstration will be organized and the ramp re-constructed.
The village of Imneizel has a population of approximately 700, whose primary sustenance is derived from the herding of approximately 2800 heads of sheep, along with the modest production of olives and wheat. Faced with a seasonal drought, both people and animals continue to be barred from their land and water by the presence of the barrier and frequent harassment by settlers. One resident claims to have lost 16 heads of sheep since the beginning of the summer, due to lack of water.
The cisterns that provide Imneizel with water are now difficult to access. The settlers of Susiya have drawn artificial boundaries around their settlement that are five times the size of the settlement itself. The land within these boundaries belongs to the Palestinian residents of Imneizel, but if any Palestinian crosses into this area, they are vulnerable to attacks by the settlers, who receive the tacit support of the Israeli army.
The army had previously told the villagers that they could have access to the cisterns this Saturday, during the Jewish holiday. But when the villagers attempted to collect water, a group of settlers moved to intercept them and prevent the water transfer. The army, charged with “keeping the peace” between the settlers and the Palestinians, turned the villagers away, ostensibly in an effort to prevent violence.
It is important to note that the settlers of Susiya enjoy government-funded water pumps and electricity, so they have no use for the cisterns frequented by the residents of Imneizel.
Posted By Sarah Sachs (Palestine)
Posted Jun 26th, 2006