Israelis driving along Highway 505 in the West Bank have been greeted with an unexpected sight. Signs that usually guide them to settlements instead on Saturday reminded them of the illegality of the construction on confiscated West Bank land.
A sign pointing to Ariel, the largest settlement in the northern West Bank, built on land belonging to the Palestinian villagers of Salfit, now marks the way in Hebrew, Arabic and English to “stolen land”.
Another sign that indicates the distance to Ariel from an Israeli checkpoint 12km away reminds drivers of the ongoing occupation and of the separation wall being built around Palestinian towns. “1967: Occupation; 2005: Apartheid Wall in Salfit” read the signs.
Signs of Truth, a group of Israeli and international activists acting in solidarity with local Palestinians, altered the signs on Saturday to coincide with the 38th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
Later on Saturday, demonstrators protested against the separation wall. “We came together today to bring some truth to the signs in the West Bank region and specifically in Ariel, where all signs point to settlements and ignore current realities of Palestinians,” said one of the organisers and member of the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS), Hanna M, who asked that, for her protection, her full name not be used. “Road signs that previously marked Jewish-only settlements are now proclaiming historical and current realities,” she said.
The activists, marching with Palestinian villagers of the Salfit region, were confronted by Israeli soldiers. “We were walking out the village, towards the main road, and the soldiers stopped us, 40 or 50 of them, and 15 Jeeps. We made a line, but they kept pushing us back, and at some point lunged forward and started beating us. They took one Israeli and beat him. His head and leg were injured, and he was carried away to a hospital,” said Hanna M.
A Palestinian from the village from Marda, Adel Shehadah, was also injured, according to eyewitnesses. Both were hospitalised, and news on their condition was not immediately available. On Friday, Israel revealed plans to build 22 more homes in Ariel, despite US pleas the week before to end the expansion of settlement outposts.
The protest march along Highway 505 from Marda to Kifl Hares, parallel to the proposed path of the wall, was to assert the villagers’ right to be on their land, said Naffat Khuffash, a Palestinian organiser of the protest and resident of Marda.
“We called for protest in order to call for an end to the occupation and the annexation of our lands in Salfit. The wall being built will split Salfit into three parts, and isolate it from Nablus,” said Khuffash, who is coordinator of the Popular Committee for Resisting the Apartheid Wall. Khuffash said the barrier threatened farmers in the area.
“Yesterday hundreds of olive trees were cut down in front of me, and it pained me deeply. They are cutting hundreds of years of Palestinian toil and sweat. Now the farmer who works to build his land sees it being cut down for no other reason than the pioneering of illegal settlements … it makes me doubt any peace can materialise.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, 500 trees were cut in Marda to make way for the Ariel loop of the separation wall. The wall was ruled illegal by the Hague-based International Court of Justice in July 2004.
Laila El-Haddad is a journalist based in the occupied Gaza Strip. This article was originally published by aljazeera.net and reprinted on EI with permission.