Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Activists remain steadfast at ‘sumud’ protest camp


By Ayesha Khan - June 10, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [House Demolition] [South Hebron Hills]

“Through non-violent direct action against the occupation and settlements, we want to establish a model on how to form Israeli and international solidarity to help Palestinians stay in their land,” said Riyad Al-Halees, co-founder of Taghyeer Palestinian National Nonviolence Movement.
 
Sumud Freedom Camp is a movement established by a coalition between Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, and international activists against the occupation of Palestine, with a camp based in the village of Sarura in the South Hebron Hills.
 
Sarura is a village located in Area C, the roughly 60 percent of the West Bank under Israel control. Its Palestinian population was forced out from 1980 to 1998. Symbolically reclaiming their right to the land, resident families moved back on May 19, the date on which the camp was established.
 
This Palestinian-led coalition of activists and local residents have united under the slogan, “we are Sumud,” which means that all participants share a social responsibility in fighting for the rights of the natives and condemning the trivialization of land through occupation and force - a sentiment inspired by Standing Rock. "Sumud" means steadfastness in Arabic.
 
Since its establishment, the camp was raided three times by the Israeli army. On May 29 at 12pm, Israeli troops and civil administration officials stormed the camp, destroying and confiscating property (two tents, blankets, mattresses, and cables) without a demolition order, according to activists present at the scene.
 
“Israeli forces during the time of the demolition, confiscated mine and two other people’s phones and detained us until the demolitions were over,” Sami Tuwani, an activist at the camp, told Palestine Monitor.
 

In an email to Al Jazeera, COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry department responsible for civilian matters in the occupied territories, stated that the camp was demolished since "the land in question is a military firing zone, where entry is forbidden." The statement added that camp was "illegally built". Israeli settlers from Havat Ma’on, a neighboring settlement, came to support these actions taken by the Israeli military, and were not turned away.
 
Despite the raids and activists being detained and injured, Sumud Freedom Camp is not succumbing to Israeli forces' pressure since its erection. “The camp will continue despite the harassment from the army. We are standing steadfast and working to sustain life for the families of Sarura,” said Tuwani.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that so far in 2017, 274 structures owned by Palestinians have been demolished, displacing an approximate of 414 members of the population. 2016 saw a record number of demolitions, as Israeli authorities demolished or seized 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures, displacing 1,593 Palestinians and affecting the livelihood of another 7,101, accrding to OCHA. Sumud Freedom Camp aims to counteract this by rebuilding and rehabilitating the infrastructure for the local community.

Activists at the camp are working in coalition with Palestinian and Israeli counterparts comprising of Combatants for Peace, Center for Jewish Nonviolence, the Holy Land Trust, and All That’s Left. The coalition hopes for their non-violent political action to be a “call for an end to the systematic displacement of Palestinians and a future of dignity, freedom, and equality for all.”

The name 'Sumud’ is certainly representative of the morale behind the establishment of the camp - to resiliently practice direct non-violent political action for social justice. In regards to this shared belief among the activists, Soulaiman Khatib, organizer for Combatants for Peace, said: “we know that choosing this is not the easiest path, but we are accepting all of the challenges, and we will succeed.”  

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