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Israel removes Palestinian protest settlement

Palestinians set up the Bab Al-Shams village two days ago in the sensitive E1 area, pointedly mirroring a tactic used by some Israeli settlers to establish facts on the ground. 

By Staff writer / January 13, 2013

Israeli border police evict a Palestinian activist from an area known as E1 near Jerusalem, Sunday. Palestinian activists erected tents in the area on Friday saying they wanted to 'establish facts on the ground' to stop Israeli construction in the West Bank. The Palestinian activists were borrowing a phrase and a tactic, usually associated with Jewish settlers, who believe establishing communities means the territory will remain theirs once structures are built.

Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP



Israel today evacuated a Palestinian tent village in the sensitive E1 area near Jerusalem, invoking military powers to shut down the nonviolent demonstration despite a temporary court injunction against dismantling the camp. (Editor's note: The original version misstated the nature of the court injunction.)

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Palestinians established the Bab Al-Shams village two days ago, pointedly mirroring a tactic used by some Israeli settlers to establish facts on the ground, to protest the steady expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It’s part of what they hope will become a broader nonviolent movement to pressure Israel.

“We have to move from reaction to taking the initiative, as we did with this activity,” said Mohammed Khatib, a protest leader from the town of Bilin and one of the protests at Bab Al-Shams. “I think it will be an inspiration and a turning point for Palestinians to participate in this activity.”

Israel signaled that it was unwilling to tolerate nonviolent protest in E1, citing security concerns. But while E1 is among the most poignant and provocative locations Palestinian protesters could have chosen, critics of the Israeli government’s crackdown say it hardly amounted to a security threat.

“Is this going to incite the local goat population to sedition?” asks Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney and founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, which tracks developments that could jeopardize a two-state solution. “It is transparent that this was a use of military authority in order to thwart a nonviolent and legitimate political protest.” 

Crucial patch of land

E1 is a crucial connector between Jerusalem and one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Maale Adumim, which Israel would like to retain under any peace agreement with the Palestinians. It is also highly controversial, since critics say it would effectively divide the West Bank in two; the narrow corridor for north-south traffic that would remain, they contend, would be impractical in many cases and potentially vulnerable to Israeli closures for security reasons.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would revive plans to develop E1, eliciting an unusually strong statement of disapproval from the US State Department. The move was seen as both punishing the Palestinians for pursuing statehood recognition in the United Nations, and bolstering Mr. Netanyahu’s standing with right-wing voters ahead of Jan. 22 elections.


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