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Israeli forces attack Mandela commemorations

Dozens of Palestinians were injured and one detained as Israeli forces opened fire to disperse protests against the Israeli occupation and commemorating Nelson Mandela's death across the West Bank on Dec. 6. Protests against the Israeli occupation and separation wall took place in villages across the West Bank, including in Bilin, al-Masara, Kafr Qaddum, and Nabi Saleh. Demonstrators raised slogans and posters of South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in many villages, commemorating the legacy of the "freedom fighter" who passed away the previous day.

Many Palestinian activists argue that the system of racial segregation in South Africa that existed until 1994 resembles the Israel treatment of Palestinians, referring to the current situation as "Israeli apartheid."

Dozens of Palestinians suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation and another was detained as Israeli forces dispersed the weekly protest in Bilin near Ramallah. Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who participated in the protest raised Palestinian flags and posters of the late South African president Nelson Mandela. They chanted songs calling for unity, in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and against the Israeli occupation. 

This week's protest commemorated Mandela's legacy and his fight against apartheid in South Africa. Since 2005, Bilin villagers have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli separation wall that runs through their village on land confiscated from local farmers. Previous protests by Bilin activists have forced the Israeli authorities to re-route the wall, but large chunks of the village lands remain inaccessible to residents because of the route.

Israeli forces also dispersed a protest against the separation wall in al-Masara south of Bethlehem. Protesters marched from the center of the village and raised Palestinian flags in the demonstration which was held in honor of late South African President Nelson Mandela as well as late Egyptian poet and social critic Ahmad Fouad Najm. 

Hassan Brejia, coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall, said "since its beginning, the Palestinian revolution has gained its strength from other revolutions including South Africa and its symbol Nelson Mandela, who was always a help for the struggle and fighting of Palestinians." Brejia also praised the position of a Druze man, Omar Saad, who went to jail this week after he refused to serve in the Israeli army. 

Since 2006, the residents of al-Masara have protested on a weekly basis, demanding Israeli authorities return village lands confiscated in order to build the separation wall as it crosses through their town.

Kafr Qaddum 
Two people were injured and dozens others suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as Israeli forces dispersed a protest in Kafr Qaddum. Spokesman of the popular resistance committee Murad Eshtewi said Israeli forces raided the village after the weekly demonstration started, firing tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets. 

Eshtewi said that the demonstration was in protest against the recurrent raids of al-Aqsa by Israeli extremists, and in response to the "repression" suffered by the people in the village at the hands of Israeli forces. Israeli forces erected a checkpoint at the entrance of the village in the morning, declared it a closed military zone, and prevented ambulances and journalists from entering the village until the demonstration ended.

Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel's closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus.

Nabi Saleh 
In Nabi Saleh, Israeli forces dispersed demonstrators who marched throughout the village raising Palestinian flags as well as photographs of Mustafa Tamimi, who was shot dead by Israeli forces at a similar rally in 2011. Israeli forces opened fire on the demonstrations throughout the day with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.

Protestors marked the second anniversary of Tamimi's death by beginning the protest at the village cemetery and demonstrating in front of his house. They also marched to the site where Tamimi was killed two years ago.

In a statement, the village popular resistance committee also expressed condolences at the passing of late South African leader Nelson Mandela, highlighting his work as a "freedom fighter" who "fought against injustice" and stressing that his passing is a "great loss for humanity."

In 2004, the International Court of Justice called on Israel to stop construction of the separation wall within the occupied West Bank. When completed, 85% of the wall will run inside the West Bank. The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

From Ma'an News Agency, Dec. 6

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