AL WALAJA: The wind at Al Walaja 23May10 May 24, 2010

Report and photographs by Robert Birch

Al Walaja village, close to Bethlehem, faces the threat of being totally isolated from the surrounding countryside by an apartheid wall which is currently under construction. When it is finished the only access villagers will have to the outside world is through a  tunnel which can be opened or closed at the whim of the Israeli authorities. This nightmarish prospect is being protested each Sunday by the villagers, supported by Israeli and international sympathisers.

This Sunday, 23 May, approximately 70 protesters attempted to march from the village to the site of the wall’s construction. Before they could reach their objective they were met by a squad of a dozen border police who ordered them to disperse. They chose instead to sit in the roadway, where they were addressed in English and Arabic by a resistance leader, who emphasised the justness of their cause.

On this Sunday the Israeli troops did not resort to the use of tear gas or other violent methods of crowd control. Unfortunately for them, they were standing upwind of the demonstrators and ran the risk of gassing themselves rather than their prospective victims. One of them, “The big Russian with the red hair” – as he was described to me by a nearby Israeli journalist – appeared anxious to wreak some havoc. One of his companions, by contrast, seemed to indicate by his body language that he wished he could have been somewhere else.

Finally, the need to be somewhere else motivated the protesters to peacefully disperse. The only casualty of the day was the magnificent landscape as the bulldozers continued to rip apart the earth for Al Walaja’s unwanted and illegal prison wall.



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