by Badia Dwaik, mondoweiss.net
October 24, 2011
The event was held in the land surrounding the Al- Sumood Centre on the beautiful hill overlooking the city. The coordinator of the youth movement and member of the council of students Murad Amro, invited the collection of students, who arrived in their droves, donning Palestinian state scarves and optimistic excitement.Youth Against Settlements (YAS) are a grassroots organisation who’s main objective is to engage the community in non-violent resistance, actions and to support and protect the local community and families against the abuse and provocations they endure daily from the settlers and Israeli Occupation Force (IOF), who are illegally residing in the centre of the city. YAS involve the locals in many community events, from teaching international languages, training in media to life skills and protests, one of which involved changing the name of Shuhada to Apartheid Street.
Olive harvesting is an ancient tradition and one which not only benefits Palestinians through stimulating local economy and supporting families in their steadfastness, but furthermore since the occupation of the country, it has political value. Since 2000, 1.3 million olive trees have been burnt, cut down and destroyed, so therefore it is of upmost importance for locals and internationals to support the families and to protect their land from such attacks.
Today started in a celebratory tone, a peaceful and defiant gathering of students and activists from YAS with families from the local community. Upon congregating in front of the centre, they were quickly dispersed into groups, each focussing on the olive trees in the surrounding area, a social event which included many men, women and children. However this was stopped short when the settlers arrived on their land with the IOF.
The abuse the Palestinians endured today was tantamount to that which the locals put up with daily, but the most important factor is that they were not isolated. The abuses included but were not inclusive to the following:
– A group of settler children gathered to throw stones at a family collecting olives from the bottom of the hill. Upon confrontation by a member of YAS, the head of the settlements Baruch Marzel snatched the Palestinian flag from him, threw it to the ground and stamped on it.
– The activist who confronted him endured a torent of abuse. When others tried to film this, they were aggressively shoved away by the army and told to shut up and leave.
– The IOF in one instance confiscated an internationals passport, taking it from her sight and not explaining why.
– Baruch Marzel ordered an Israeli police officer to confiscate the youths ID’s and detain them outside for fifteen minutes without explanation. When confronted by international ISMers and activists they responded by stating that having a gathering on the land was illegal. One officer commented that according to them he was God and to shut up and go away as they are on his land.
– The IOF followed a student, provoked him and performed a body search, when internationals intervened, they pushed them away and wouldn’t allow the photographers to film them.
– Two young settlers entered the Palestinians land. A member of YAS asked the soldiers to take them away as it is forbidden to enter without permission. The children refused and fought the soldiers.
– They invited Baruch Marzel to provoke the youths in a non-direct way which ultimately would prevent them from olive harvesting.
In the midst of these violent and abusive acts by the IOF and settlers, the youths showed their steadfastness, optimism and sense of community in the face of their oppressors, by not pertaining to provocations but rather engaging in non-voilent resistance, from singing to upholding a sense of camaraderie and recording these abuses.
YAS will announce all upcoming actions and olive harvesting in the coming days. Please check the website www.youthagainstsettlements.org or facebook youth against settlements.
Badia Dwaik is Deputy Coordinator of Youth Against Settlements.