While the world’s attention is riveted to East Jerusalem, the theft of land in the West Bank is in full swing. One of the focal points is the village of Isbat al-Tabib, east of Qalqiliya.
The village was founded 90 years ago, but cannot be found on Israeli maps. The occupation authorities intend to eradicate it and demolish most of its buildings, contending that they were built without permits. The intention is to annex its lands to the Alfei Menashe settlement, several kilometers away.
Saturday morning (March 27), the inhabitants and community leaders from the Qalqiliya region and from all over the West Bank assembled there in the presence of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayad. The event took place on the 34th anniversary of “Land Day”, which has become an all-Palestinian event.
Among the speakers were the Palestinian Authority’s governor of the Qalqiliya area, Rabih Fundakji, the renowned human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti, Knesset Member Muhammad Barakeh and Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.
Avnery recounted that on the morrow of “land Day”, on which Israeli soldiers killed Arab citizens who protested against the expropriation of their lands, Israeli peace activists had laid wreaths on the graves to express their shame and protest.
Pointing out that there might be a change in American policy, Avnery called for a big, joint campaign of Israeli and Palestinian peace forces, in order to bring about the establishment of the Palestinian state within two years, in the framework of a peace agreement. “The close cooperation between the Israeli peace camp and the Palestinian people has weakened since the assassination of Yasser Arafat and Feisal Husseini,” he said, “now is the time to strengthen it!”
Addressing the Palestinian Prime Minister, Avnery proposed to convene in Ramallah a big meeting of all Israeli and Palestinian peace forces, who should together call upon President Obama to work for peace and assure him of the support of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Avnery, who wore on his chest the Gush Shalom emblem featuring the flags of Israel and Palestine, declared: “The State of Palestine will arise, East Jerusalem will be its capital and the Green Line will be its border. The flag of Palestine will wave over Qalqiliya and the flag of Israel will wave over Kfar Sava, and the border between them will be open, without fences and walls. You will go to the sea shore, we shall go to Nablus.”
Avnery summed up his speech with the words: “One can be for Palestine without being against Israel, and one can be for Israel, without being against Palestine. One can be for Israel and Palestine, and for peace.”
After the rally, the participants marched to an open field and planted saplings, as a symbol of peace and attachment to the land.