In Palestine's Beita, the civil resistance vows to fight on

© Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

Civil resistance in the Palestinian town of Beita will intensify again, locals say, in reaction to the Israeli prime minister's recent vow to push ahead with new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank.

In a press conference on Sunday, Naftali Bennett vowed to legalise the settler outpost of Eviatar on Mount Sabih in the Palestinian town of Beita, south of Nablus. Since May, the town has become the centre of a protest movement against Israeli attempts to establish the new settlement, which would be illegal under international law.

The weapon versus the camera. Beita, Palestine. pic.twitter.com/2vF7KUMjbP

— Sakir Khader (@sakirkhader)

'Back to the starting point'

Mahmoud Barham, an activist and former mayor of Beita, told The New Arab that the intensity of the protests has decreased in the past two months, most notably since the Israeli government evacuated all settlers from Mount Sabih, while keeping the infrastructure of the settler outpost in place.

“The people in Beita felt that there was an advance in their case, so their alert towards the settlers’ attempts calmed a little. But Bennett’s declarations will most probably reverse the situation and cause a reaction similar to the beginning of the protests,” he said. “If the Israeli government wants to go back to the starting point in the case of Beita, the people of Beita will most probably go back to the starting point as well,” he added.

Yesterday, this Israeli soldier, from the village of Beita, south of Nablus Governorate in Palestine, fired at the young man who was carrying his country's flag, and sniped his eye. Unfortunately, the young man lost his right eye in a peaceful demonstration pic.twitter.com/ccoCmAhx8u

— Wahaj Moufleh (@WMoufleh)

The Israeli government had evacuated around 100 settlers that moved into the Eviatar settler outpost on Mount Sabih back in August, after three months of daily protests from residents of Beita.

Protests included disturbance actions at night with burning tires and flashlights, which became a distinctive aspect of Beita’s resistance. The Israeli government signed a compromise with settlers to maintain the outpost and open a religious school.

'Not a single settler'

Amal Bani Shamseh, a social organiser in Beita leading a group of women who prepare meals for protesters on Mount Sabih, told The New Arab that the “protests’ intensity calmed even more in the past month because of the olive harvest season, in which families are all busy. But as soon as the season ended last week, women came back in big numbers to act to the activities of the group”.

Instead of spending time with their families on the weekend, Palestinian youth wait for hours in the hospital as their friend, Fayez BaniMofleh, is undergoing a surgery after a rubber bullet was shot by IOF directly to his eye in Beita yesterday. He was JUST holding the 🇵🇸 flag. pic.twitter.com/YdQa4dKno2

— Khaled Abu-Qare (@KhaledAbuqare)

According to Bani Shamseh, families in Beita have suffered under challenging conditions due to Israeli punitive actions, including the revocation of more than 100 work permits for men who work in Israel. “Despite this, the people in Beita can not stand the idea of a single settler moving back to Mount Sabih and are willing to intensify protests, and women are the first to affirm it,” she stressed.

Bennett's 'show of strength'

Protests against Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank mostly take the form of weekly demonstrations on land threatened by settlements, especially in the Nablus region, where settler attacks against crops have increased in recent weeks during the olive harvest season. On Friday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by the Israeli army during protests in the village of Deir Al Hatab, east of Nablus.

According to Jamal Jumaa, coordinator of the Popular Campaign against the wall and settlements (Stop The Wall), Bennett’s declarations are “a show of strength” in front of the Israeli public.

On Monday, Jumaa told The New Arab that “Bennet’s political support comes mainly from settlers and the pro-settler right wing. He is part of a rhetorical competition to satisfy this political sector, and Beita has a big symbolic value in this competition”.

Jumaa highlighted that the Israeli government’s program when it comes to settlements hasn’t changed since the former government led by Netanyahu was replaced by the current one. "It consists in grabbing more Palestinian land and pushing Palestinians into isolated cantons,” he said, adding that “this requires a Palestinian official strategy to support popular resistance on the ground, which is so far lacking”.

The Israeli occupation forces attack Palestinian activists and detained the Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak in Jabal Sabih mountain, Beita#SaveBeita #IsraeliCrimes pic.twitter.com/mVnFi7A2Na

— Pal+ English (@PalPlusEnglish1)

Eight Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the protests on Mount Sabih since May, including a 15-year-old teenager. Hundreds have been injured.

Meanwhile, protests at Mount Sabih have attracted Palestinians from different parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as international attention and solidarity.

Qassam Muaddi is The New Arab's West Bank reporter, covering political and social developments in the occupied Palestinian territories