Photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler
With the Israeli settlement Maale Adumim covering a nearby West Bank ridge, Palestinian activist puts the finishing touches on a tent in the new "Ahfad Younis" neighborhood of E1, erected to protest Israeli settlement expansion and to criticize President Barack Obama's ineffectiveness as an honest broker for a just peace in the Middle East.
As U.S. President Barack Obama arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, Palestinian activists returned to the E1 area to establish yet another protest village in the tradition of Bab Al-Shams and other similar actions in recent months. Organizers called the new village "Ahfad Younis" after the main character in the novel Bab Al-Shams ("Gate of the Sun"), the namesake of the first protest village in a wave of such actions this year. Activists targeted the area because of Israeli pledges to build some 4,000 new settlement units there, to which Western nations, including the U.S., have continually voiced their objections but taken no other substantive action to prevent them. Activists hung banners criticizing President Obama's record on issues affecting Palestinians, pointing out that the hopeful words early in his first term have not yielded fruit.
A small force of Israeli border police monitored the situation as hundreds of activists converged on a hillside near Al-Azariya, across a valley from the Israeli settlement Maale Adumim. Like all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Maale Adumim is illegal under international law. Later, however, as evening drew near, according to Maan News:
Israeli forces on Wednesday surrounded a new tent village erected by Palestinian activists in Eizariya east of Jerusalem.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians established "an illegal settlement" and that security forces were in the area "to maintain order."
She said soldiers arrested the driver of a truck loaded with equipment including tents.
Mohammad Khatib, a spokesman for the activists, said soldiers handed protesters a document declaring the area a closed military zone.
According to a statement by the action's organizers:
...the action today aims “first, to claim our right as Palestinians to return to our lands and villages, second, to claim our sovereignty over our lands without permission from anyone. Third, our actions are aimed at protecting our land from continued confiscation and threat of settlement and colonization. And Fourth to expand popular resistance as one form of resistance, out of many, that our people are engaged in everywhere.
As the action today coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to the region, activists assert their opposition to the American Administration policy, which has been complicit in Israeli occupation and colonialism. Organizers stress: “An administration that used the veto 43 times out of 79 (between 1979 to 2011) in support of Israel and against Palestinian rights, an administration that grants military aid to Israel of over three billion dollars annually, can’t have any positive contribution to achieve justice and rights of the Palestinian people.”