Al-Walaja Villagers Pledge Steadfastness to Lands
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Al-Walaja Villagers Pledge Steadfastness to Lands

***image2***Palestinians from the village of Al-Walaja, set to see their lands, livelihoods and futures decimated by the Apartheid Wall, gathered to mark the finale of Land Week and assert their resistance to the colonization project of the Occupation Forces. Around 200 villagers came together on Saturday April 9th to mark the culmination of a week of land activities throughout the West Bank. Speeches, music and displays emphasized grassroots resistance to the plans of the Occupation Forces to ghettoize Al-Walaja through the Apartheid Wall, and steal its lands for the expansion of the Zionist settlements.

Dispossession has a long and brutal history in this area. Located to the southwest of Jerusalem, the original village of Al-Walaja was situated between the villagers of Battir and Malha. The village was destroyed in the 1948 Occupation (Al-Nakba), and the Aminadav settlement built on its lands, along with a park for the Zionist colonizers. 1200 people were expelled and turned into refugees. While some of them stayed on in the eastern lands of Al-Walaja that were not occupied, many residents went into exile in Jordan, or to the refugee camps of Bethlehem.

After the war of 1967, the Occupation Forces confiscated further land which was used in the construction of the Gilo settlement. The settlement was built on more than one third of Walaja’s lands. 66% of the remaining land of the village was then annexed into the occupation municipality of Jerusalem. However, the Occupation Forces did not give the people the right of movement within Jerusalem.

Since the late 1980s, Occupation Forces have used various policies against the population of 3000 people, in an attempt to force them to leave what is left of their village. This has included house demolitions and repeated detentions. This has been carried out under the pretext that the villagers have “West Bank ID cards and are living in Jerusalem”. This policy of terror and expulsion has seen 18 houses destroyed in the last few years, while another 56 houses allocated by the Occupation for imminent demolition.

However, the most sinister aspect of occupation policies has emerged in the planned total isolation of the village via the Apartheid Wall. The Wall is virtually finished to the east of the village, shutting it off from Bethlehem. With the final path of the Apartheid Wall approved by the Occupation Forces in February of this year, the Wall will also be built to the West of the village, leaving what remains of Al-Walaja ghettoized. The only openings in the Apartheid Wall in the south west will be for the contiguity of the settlements built inside the West Bank, as part of the Zionist goal of a “Greater Israel”.

Furthermore, land annexed by the Apartheid Wall will be used in the construction of the so-called Giv’at Ya’il settlement which will be built on land stolen from Al-Walaja and the neighboring village of Battir, totaling more than 2000 dunums. The settlement is projected to have some 13,500 housing units and will hold approximately 55,000 settlers, making it the largest colony in Jerusalem. The settlement is supposed to create a link between colonies inside the 1948 areas and those in Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlements, south of the City, serving to shape the demographic goal of achieving the Jewish majority in Jerusalem. This is symptomatic of the destructive colonial Zionist project across Palestine. However, villagers from Al-Walaja, as in every Palestinian village, will never accept this fate of forced expulsion and land theft.

Marking the end of Land Week, villagers agreed resistance to the Apartheid project will continue as long as the Occupation Forces try to impose their colonialism on Palestinian lands, livelihoods and culture.