“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs… Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home”
-Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Ma’an News – Hundreds of Palestinian activists set up protest tents on Friday in the controversial E1 corridor area near Jerusalem as part of the non-violent resistance movement against Israel’s occupation, a local group said.
Said Abdullah Abu Rahma, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bilin, told Ma’an that Palestinian activists had set up the village of Bab al-Shams, or ‘Gate of the Sun’, in protest against Israeli settlements.
“We will not be silent while settlements and the colonization of our land continues, and confirm that the village will endure until the rightful owners of the land are installed,” Abu Rahma said.
Over 25 tents and a medical clinic have been set-up in the E1 area by protestors from all over the West Bank.
The name of the village was inspired by Lebanese author Elias Khoury’s novel, which tells the story of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
“Israel has imposed facts on the ground for decades amid the silence of the international community, and the time has come to change the rules of the game, we are owners of this land and we will impose the reality on the ground,” Abu Rahma said.
Although there was no immediate response from the Israeli authorities, police and soldiers in the past have moved quickly to shut down any such spontaneous Palestinian camps
In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, drawing widespread international condemnation.
Britain, France and several other European countries summoned Israeli envoys to protest the plan, while President Mahmoud Abbas called the E1 area “a red line that cannot be crossed.”
Construction in E1 would divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.
Settlement building is illegal under international law.
AFP – A delegation of pro-Palestinian activists, mainly French and Egyptian, crossed into Gaza from Egypt on Thursday to deliver aid, AFP correspondents at the border reported.
The “Welcome to Palestine” delegation of about 90 people is to stay in the territory until January 1, in solidarity with the people of Gaza and in protest against the Israeli blockade in force since 2006, organisers say.
Organised by French group EuroPalestine, the delegation includes 60 French members and 25 Egyptians, and entered Gaza through the Rafah border terminal, the only land crossing between the territory and the outside world not dependent on Israel, which also maintains an air and sea blockade.
The visitors brought drugs, surgical supplies and French textbooks, the organisers said.
Palestinian demonstrators hold banners and wave their national flag during a weekly protest against Israel’s controversial separation barrier in the West Bank village of Maasarah, near Bethlehem, on November 30, 2012. AFP Photo/Musa Al-Shaer
RT – International criticism has been mounting against Israeli plans to build new settlements. The UK and France summoned their Israeli ambassadors to get clarification and show disapproval amid reports of recalls. Other countries also spoke out.
International reaction against Israel has been heated.
Britain is reportedly considering a strong reaction to Israel’s plans and has summoned Israeli ambassador for talks over planned settlements, asking for clarification on the issue. However, conflicting reports say that Britain has denied consideration for recalling its ambassador to Israel.
British Foreign Office spokesperson told AFP that “the recent Israeli government decision to build 3,000 new housing units threatens the two-state solution and makes progress through negotiations harder to achieve.”
France, which was the first major European country to announce support for Palestinian recognition at the UN, echoed the position of the UK. Paris sent a letter to the Israeli government, calling the settlement decision “a considerable obstacle to the two-state solution.”
France and Sweden also consulted their ambassadors to Israel to decide on measures to show their disapproval. However, French President Francois Hollande says he does not want to impose sanctions on Israel.
These moves come amid speculation both countries could recall their ambassadors. But France has reportedly downplayed recalling its Israeli ambassador, arguing there other ways to show disapproval.
The three European diplomats who spoke to Haaretz indicated that London and Paris were coordinating their moves against Israel.
“This time it won’t just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel,” a senior European diplomat said.
The action, whatever it may be, could be implemented in the next few days. “London is furious about the E1 decision,” one of the diplomats said.
According to the reports, Britain and France already informed the United States and other European countries, including Germany, of their intentions.
International reaction was triggered after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the construction of thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements in the area known as E1, between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem – a step widely seen as retaliation for recognition of Palestine as non-member state by the United Nations.
Israeli academic Miri Eisin disapproves of the UN’s recognition of Palestine.
“The decision that was made on Thursday, from my point of view as an Israeli, was anti-Israel – not just pro-Palestinian. I want to see something that is a win-win situation. Something that goes toward an independent state – not just in rhetoric, not just in declarations – but in actuality. And to do so, Palestinians have to go back to the negotiation table. For the past four years, they have refused to do so,” Eisin told RT.
The new settlements would completely cut off Palestinians in East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, UN head Ban Ki-moon stated.
“It would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution.”
Also Germany has joined in and asked Israel to refrain from proceeding with settlement building.
“We appeal to the Israeli government to desist from this procedure,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a news conference.
Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt criticized Israel on his blog. “The Israeli government’s plan is pure vengeance against the Palestinians following the UN vote.Israel’s decisions to halt tax payment transfers and to extend illegal settlements around Jerusalem might dramatically escalate the situation,” he said.
In addition, Turkey strongly condemned Israel’s plans and demanded to stop construction.
“Israel’s illegal settlement activities intentionally deprive conditions of lasting peace in the region,” said a statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has also issued a statement saying it is very concerned with Israel’s plans and is asking Israel “to reconsider its plans regarding the new settlements and transfer the money to Palestine,” referring to the tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of Palestinians.
During the weekend, Israel canceled the transfer of US$120 million collected in taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in an apparent response to the Palestinian UN-bid.
On Sunday Netanyahu clarified his stance on building new settlements, stating that the Israeli government gave the green light to zoning and planning, but not construction in East Jerusalem.
“We will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests,” Netanyahu said.
This move meant to signal to the Palestinians that if they continue unilateral actions, such as the one with the UN-bid Thursday, Israel would move forward with actually building the settlements, Jerusalem Post reported.
But the settler population isn’t convinced that Netanyahu will follow through with his plans.
“The settler population does not believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go ahead with building these units. They believe it’s almost a cheap move by Netanyahu to try to gain support ahead of January’s elections and that this is an internal matter to try to build votes,” RT correspondent Paula Slier, who is in Tel Aviv, reported.
The construction of the new settlements in the E1 area connecting the Israeli settlement Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem could become a big obstacle for the future any Palestinian state as it would prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank.