Villagers from Wadi Fukin, west of Bethlehem, protested this afternoon against the planned confiscation of just under 1,000 acres (3799 dunums) of land by Israeli settlers. The group marched to the area that is to be expropriated following Friday prayers and was confronted by IOF forces. The peaceful demonstration was dispersed using tear gas.
The protest follows the Sunday's announcement by Israeli authorities that around 1,000 acres of land is to be confiscated for illegal settlements, affecting the Palestinian villages of Jaba'a, Nahalin, Surif and Wadi Fukin. The decision brought international condemnation.
Today's demonstration saw villagers defending their legitimate right to their land, waving Palestinian flags and brandishing banners that read "Stop confiscating our land" and "Stealing land makes you a thief, not a partner for peace." As olive saplings were planted on the hill, IOF forces pushed and shoved protesters back. Once tear gas dispersed the crowd, soldiers destroyed the olive trees.
Ahmed Sukar, head of the village council, highlighted that with the existing settlements of Alon Shevut, Betar Illit and Bet Ayin encircling the population they felt "surrounded, like an island". Only 2,500 dunums remain in Wadi Fukin from the 12,000 owned prior to 1948. Under the current plan around half of that land would also be lost.
Evoking the catastrophe land confiscation would represent for agriculture and the building of new homes, Sukar stated that the protest was "a message to Israel that this is our land, we will be here" and that "they cannot confiscate our land".
Mundher Amiera, coordinator of the PSCC, commented that the village would resist both through legal channels and popular struggle although he expressed his lack of confidence in the Israeli courts. He vowed the village will continue to defend itself with regular demonstrations and emphasised how the planting of trees symbolised the close connection between the people and their land. With 60% of the confiscated land in private hands directly on the edge of the village Ameira stated that "we will help and empower those whose land is taken".
Beyond encroaching on Palestinian land and prohibiting the population's natural growth, settlements damage the mountain aquifer and thus local agriculture, increase insecurity and fear amongst the inhabitants and destroy the natural surroundings.