Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Historical Sebastiya resists by marching toward settlement


By Felix Black - March 10, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [sewage] [Sebastiya]

One hundred and fifty Palestinians conducted noon prayers and demonstrated in front of the Shave Shomron settlement on Friday, March 8.

For the past three months, the illegal settlement has been expelling untreated sewage into lands owned by the people of Sebastiya.

The protest is the first effort to put a stop to the expulsion of sewage onto their lands. Ahmad Kayed, a member of the Popular Struggle Committee in Sebastiya said, “We will build on this protest and do many more protests in the future”.

Protestors prayed in one of their fields, near the fencing that creates a haphazard border between the illegal settlement and the village’s land. 

Upon finishing the prayer, the protesters attempted to scale a hill overlooking the settlement. As a result, eight Israeli occupation soldiers in four heavily armoured personnel carriers intercepted them. 

The soldiers released several sound bombs to disperse many of the protestors before firing several volleys of tear gas. Two people suffered minor injuries and one Palestinian suffered severe gas asphyxiation.

A large contingent of Israeli activists was present at the protest. One of them remarked, “It’s quite obvious that Palestinians are oppressed in the West Bank, so it’s important that conscientious people support them. We have an extra duty [to do that].”

In 2006, settlers erected a fence in an attempt to confiscate the land by de facto separation. Even though the people of Sebastiya tore the fence down, the latest sewage attack has presented a more underhand attempt at land confiscation

He also describes how Sebastiya symbolizes the beginning of settlements in Israeli culture. The second settlement in the West Bank was built next to Sebastiya in 1975, just after the first one was built in Hebron. Since then it has gained notoriety in the region, partly due to the village’s historical relevance.

Sebastiya has existed on the land since 800 B.C., and draws in thousands of tourists every year due to its antiquity and the presence of several religious sites.

“This makes what is happening to Sebastiya all the more unique and significant,” said Ahmad Kayed. What’s more, Kayed added that Sebastiya was the first village to hold demonstrations in the West Bank in 1967.

Yet since the second Intifada, Sebastiya has been under increased attack. In 2001 settlers uprooted 200 olive trees owned by the villagers. In 2006, settlers erected a fence in an attempt to confiscate the land by de facto separation. Even though the people of Sebastiya tore the fence down, the latest sewage attack has presented a more underhand attempt at land confiscation, and one in which the villagers cannot physically prevent.

The present situation has also severely affected the town’s economy. Before 1967, the town was a major tourist attraction— one of the largest in the Middle East. However, since the occupation the tourist industry has taken a huge hit, with several shops closing due to a decreased number of tourists. When settlers wish to visit the ruins, the Israeli military close the site and the villagers are not allowed near to the town center.

“Our farmers cannot work on this land. Many families have been affected and there is a very bad smell that affects the tourists,” Kayed stated. “My friend and I managed to reach the open pipe that was releasing the sewage. It was [going] onto our land. There are probably others.”

Besides demonstrating, the village is also pursuing legal action against the settlers for releasing the sewage onto their land. Shave Shomron is known to have industrial units that process plastics and aluminium. If the sewage contains waste from these factories, there could be far more serious health and environmental concerns for the farmland and the people of Sebastiya.

The demonstration in Sebastiya corresponds with a renewed effort throughout the West Bank to bring justice for Palestinians using new and creative methods of resistance. Under the Israeli occupation, Palestinians are not allowed into settlements, yet by marching on Shave Shomron, the people of the Sebastiya were directly confronting the occupation and attempting to open dialogue with the settlement to stop the sewage flow onto their land. What’s more, the banners and flags of the demonstrators carried slogans expressing a commitment to non-violent resistance with an emphasis on achieving justice and equality for all people.




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