Bridges are for communicating, walls are for segregating, and this is all too clear in what is named by many locals *‘the wall of apartheid’* as built by Israel in Wad Rahal village, Palestine. *“This wall means Israel has in effect confiscated 120 dunams of our village land (a dunam is 1,000 square meters). This has led to the inability of landowners to work in cultivation of crops or livestock,”* cries villager Shadi fwagra, who is also Coordinator of the Division of Resistance to the Wall in the city of Bethlehem.
*‘Wad Rahal replants olive trees while Israeli forces attack!’* runs the headline in Shadi fwagra’s news release. *“In 2003, Israel closed the road linking our village to the city of Bethlehem preventing villagers from using this road,”* he told Pressenza.
The People’s Committee against the Wall in the village marches weekly and holds work programs of volunteers in the territory adjacent to the wall to prevent the advance of the illegal settlement expansion and do this in the full knowledge and legal right that the Palestinian land owners have formal proof of ownership from the time the British were in the region.
*“I am addressing a message to all of humanity to help the Palestinian people, each person according to his abilities, because we the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government are not strong enough to reverse Israel’s US-backed – US$400 million dollars for weapons – incursions and now this wall, and settlements that are illegal. Please support the Palestinian people with items like flour and sugar. We are not asking for pity. But please understand, we are one people suffering from 63 years under occupation. Now we are in 2010 and still there is the occupation and no human rights? Where the international community? Where is the America that is fighting terror?”*.
March 30, 2010, was typical when yet again Israeli forces shut down a day of voluntary work in this southern Bethlehem village of Wad Rahal: *“The day was organized by the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy, to replant uprooted olive trees that was damage done in works related to the nearby Israeli settlement of Efrat and for the construction of a dividing wall,”* explained Shadi fwagra. *“Israeli soldiers beat several of the volunteers who were helping in the planting. It was the occasion of Palestinian Land Day.”*
At the time participants held banners declaring against the occupation and in support of the 32nd anniversary of Land Day.
Land Day is seen as a pivotal event in the struggle over land and in the relationship of Arab citizens to the Israeli state and body politic. It holds significance in that it was the first time since 1948 that Arabs in Israel organized a response to Israeli policies as a Palestinian national collective. Today it is an important annual day of commemoration in the Palestinian national political calendar, it is marked not only by Arab citizens of Israel, but by Palestinians all over the world.
The banners used on that day also highlighted the decision in the Hague against the Wall – by the International Court of Justice, principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
The advisory opinion was given on 9 July 2004 under the title: Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. *“The Court finds that the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated regime are contrary to international law”*.
Participants in the protest that day reported that guards from the Efrat Settlement surrounded the volunteers. Soldiers fired at Wad Rahal school children who had started throwing stones.
For its part, sources from the Palestinian Center said all efforts are geared toward the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling against the wall in hopes that it will some day be honored via the United Nations Security Council. In brief, the ruling stated that the Wall must be removed and that Palestinians must be compensated for their losses.
The Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy is a non-governmental, non-profit organization inspired by the principle that the future of Palestine lies in an independent democratic state in which there is full respect for human rights, acknowledgement of the importance of freedom of expression and assembly, recognition of every human’s innate right to participate in governance and a vibrant civil society as stipulated in the Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988.
*“Respect for human rights, tolerance towards each other, participation by all, accountability and the rule of law are the pillars upon which our Center’s work is founded,”* informed Shadi fwagra. *“We welcome anyone who wants to support the Palestinian people to come to visit Palestine and see the situation and how the villages suffer such a lot due to the presence of the wall that separates the Palestinians and Israelis.”*
*“It is late June now and the occupation army continues to suppress our peaceful demonstrations, at gunpoint, yet in the village of Wad Rahal we will continue in the effort of peaceful demonstrations, every week, until the collapse of the wall, as happened in Berlin, Germany,”* he added.
**Writers:** Shadi fwagra – firstname.lastname@example.org, and Tony Henderson, Hong Kong.