Palestinian activists have established a protest encampment in the E1 Corridor, a piece of land where the Israeli government plans to build new settlements linking Jerusalem with the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc. Some 250 activists are now at the tent city, which they have dubbed Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), and they say they plan to stay for the long-term. The camp was launched last month ago, mainly by Palestinian residents of villages in danger of having their lands "frozen" to accommodate settlement expansions.
"We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it," reads a statement released by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which supports the weekly Friday protests in West Bank villages against the separation barrier that eats into Palestinian lands. "We will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village of Bab Alshams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right to build on their land."
The name of the village was inspired by that of a novel by Lebanese author Elias Khoury, which tells the story of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi praised the project as a "collective effort initiated by civil society, including youth, social, and political organizations, who came together to support the right of the owners of the land to make use of it as they see fit." She added: "What is happening at Bab al-Shams is a reminder of the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed for the exclusive use of land for Jewish Israeli settlers all over Palestine."
In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the corridor, drawing widespread international condemnation. The UK, France and several other European countries summoned Israeli envoys to protest the plan, while Palestinian 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 practically impossible (Maan News Agency, Haaretz, AlterNet, Jan. 11)