Friday, September 22, 2017

Kufr Qaddum Stands Strong


By Tadas Blinda - July 16, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Kafr Qaddoum] [protests] [Israeli army] [nonviolent resistance] [Occupation]

Residents of Kufr Qaddum march during a weekly demonstration.  Photo by Eugene Peress

On Thursday July 4th, the Kufr Qaddum village in the occupied Palestinian territories celebrated its two year anniversary of peaceful protests against the Israeli occupation.  On Friday the weekly protest was violently suppressed by Israeli soldiers.  

Kufr Qaddum village held a festival to commemorate two years of peaceful resistance against the theft of their private land by the neighboring Qedumim settlement, along with the Israeli closure of the main road to Nablus and villages close by. Celebrations included encouraging speeches by local activists and officials, music performances and improvised traditional dabka dance by the youth. 

After the festival the coordinator for the Popular Resistance Committee in Kufr Qaddum Murad Shtaiwi spoke to Palestine Monitor, “The struggle will continue despite attempts to crash it for two years and I think this festival and this celebration here will give the power for the people, more emotions for the people, and more ability to continue the third year.”  

Friday July 5th marked the beginning of a third year of demonstrations. In response Israeli soldiers invaded the village before demonstrations had started, making it harder for people to reach the mosque for Friday prayers. The soldier’s actions to instill fear did not affect the spirit of local protesters.   After prayers had ended a large crowd of people carrying Palestinian flags marched chanting and clapping towards the closed road adjacent to the Qedumim settlement. Demonstrators were met with tear gas and stun grenades as Israeli soldiers attempted to push the protestors down the street and away from the closed road. 


A boy wearing a gasmask before the weekly protest in Kufr Qaddum. Photo by Eugene Peress

Residents of Kufr Qaddum have been denied access to this closed road (leading to Nablus) since 2002, it is open only for residents of the Qedumim settlement. A short trip to the city of Nablus or neighboring villages located just a few kilometers away now requires residents to travel 15 kilometers on bad quality roads.  Qedumim settlement additionally stole around 4,000 dunums (400 hectares) of private Palestinian land from Kufr Qaddum residents. 

The first demonstration in Kufr Qaddum was held on July 1st, 2011 after villagers decided they would have to start fighting against the occupation. Murad Shtaiwi remembers how demonstrations started, “Before we started our peaceful struggle in the area of Kufr Qaddum we held a lot of meetings. I remember the last meeting was on June 30th, one day before we started our struggle. It was Thursday and the first march was on Friday. Around one thousand people attended this demonstration, from neighboring villages, media and international movements.”

Within two years 110 demonstrations were held in Kufr Qaddum.   Murad Shtaiwi said, demonstrations are held not only on Fridays but also during a week: “We do a demonstration whenever we want to send a message to the Israeli occupation. We have faced a lot of suffering during these two years.”

Around 120 demonstrators have been arrested since the beginning of the marches, paying over 100,000 Shekels to the Israeli authorities in bail. A Checkpoint is set up at the only entrance to the village nearly every day making it hard for locals to get in and out of the village. Residents of Kufr Qaddum are also targeted at other checkpoints across the West Bank.

“If they find out that a person is from Kufr Qaddum they would punish him,” – Murad told Palestine Monitor.

When asked if he sees any changes on the ground after two years of the demonstrations Murad Shtaiwi claims that suppression of the demonstrations by the Israeli army has changed: 

“I think the situation started to get worse, especially from the side of the Israeli army. According to our point of view the struggle has not changed. The nature of the peaceful marches that began in 2011 hasn’t changed, the way in which Israeli army crashes demonstrations has changed. We have nearly twenty people injured by rubber bullets, a lot of them in the upper part of their bodies.”


Man holds a picture of imprisoned relatives while celebrating two years of peaceful resistance in Kufr Qaddum.  Photo by Tadas Blinda

In the last few weeks Israeli soldiers have attempted to capture people before Friday prayers end in order to prevent people marching towards the gate of the closed road. 

“That’s a new strategy of crashing the demonstration that Israeli army uses, but despite that the demonstrations will go on and it will be very difficult for them to stop the struggle,” – added Murad.  

Two accounts of extreme Israeli army violence from 2012 stand out from usual force applied to suppress the demonstrations. On March 16th, 2012 Israeli soldiers released a police dog to attack the demonstrators. One person was seriously injured in his hand by a dog and later arrested together with Murad Shtaiwi who tried to convince soldiers to stop the dog that had been attacking a young man for nearly 15 minutes. 

“I was released in 7 days but he [young man attacked by a dog] was released in 9 months. I paid 7500 Shekels in order to be freed,” – Murad recalls.

Another incident occurred on April 27th 2012 when Israeli border police shot a tear gas canister directly into a demonstration, fracturing a young mans skull causing brain damage which led to his loss of speech.  

“There were many dangerous incidents. We will not end our marches despite the suffering.  We will not stop as a Palestinian people, Kufr Qaddum will not give up despite arrests, and the targeting of our houses and children during demonstrations,” – said Murad Shtaiwi.

When asked if Kufr Qaddum will continue their struggle during Ramadan, organizer of the demonstrations Murad Shtaiwi was determined to keep resisting against the occupation even while fasting.

“We will not stop even during the Ramadan, hot weather, even if we are thirsty and hungry - we will not stop our demonstration even in Ramadan, “– he said.

 

  

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