Palestinians rise up against the Israeli occupation authorities planned construction of a settlement industrial zone on hundreds of dunums of land seized from southern villages of Tulkarm governorate. Palestinians say, “we will relentlessly keep protesting until we stop the construction of this industrial zone, a place of death and misery for our workers and reclaim our looted lands!” They also say that time is now for the international community to take action to stop Israeli apartheid practices and hold the Israeli occupation authorities accountable for the endless crimes held against the Palestinian people.
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated yesterday, Sep. 1st, against the Israeli occupation’s seizure of over 800 dunums belonging to Palestinians living in the villages of Shufa, Khirbet Jabara and Al-Ra’s, south Tulkarm city. On the seized lands the Israeli occupation plans to build a new settlement industrial zone.
The protest is not the first and will not be the last of its kind. Previous protests also took place since the Israeli occupation authorities have confiscated the land and started the groundwork to prepare for the construction of the settlement industrial zone. There will be a series of other demonstrations organized by Stop the Wall Campaign, the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions and other popular committees in the West Bank in an attempt to halt the construction of the industrial zone and reclaim the confiscated lands.
Tens of heavily armed Israeli soldiers gathering to safeguard the bulldozers and other equipment in the construction area started hurling tear gas canisters and shooting rubber-coated and live bullets at the peaceful protesters. Several protesters were injured, others were brutally handcuffed and arrested.
A video went viral on social media that shows the violence of an Israeli soldier kneeling on the neck of an old Palestinian man in his seventies while trying to handcuff him. The soldier’s brutal act has made Palestinians recall the chokehold technique used by a racist white policeman which ended the life of African-American George Floyd last May. Social media activists commented that, “What happened to George Floyd is a common happening in Palestine… Palestinians can’t breathe!”
Photo credit: Mohammed Hamdan
Commenting on the planned construction of a settlement industrial zone in southern Tulkarm, Popular struggle activist Suhail Salman from Tulkarm said:
The Israeli government seeks to realize more than one goal through the construction of an industrial zone in the area. Firstly, the settlement industrial zone would isolate the southern villages falling within the district of Tulkarm known as the Al-Kafriyyat villages from the Tulkarm governorate. Secondly, the main street connecting the city of Tulkarm with the Al-Kafriyyat villages and the governorate of Qalqilya will become part of the settlement industrial zone. This means that to go to Qalqilya or the Al-Kafriyyat villages, people from Tulkarm need to pass through Nablus and other towns, a one-hour and a quarter long journey while it now takes few minutes to reach the Kafriyyat villages. Thirdly, the construction of industrial zones in Tulkarm and other parts of the West Bank is a mechanism to usurp more land and pillage more natural resources belonging to Palestinians, which will only benefit the illegal Israeli settlers and employers who settle in the stolen Palestinian lands. Forth, the industrial zones the Israeli government erects in Area ‘C’ of the West Bank (under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords) usually include factories for the manufacturing of chemicals and plastic which harm the soil, water and pollute the air. The poisonous effects of the factories would menace the lives of thousands of Palestinians living nearby leading many of them to leave the area for the sake of protecting their lives. In other words, the erection of settlement industrial zones is another technique to dispossess Palestinians in a ‘quiet way’.
According to Who Profits, there are 91 Israeli industrial zones, 19 of them are located in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) near or inside the erected illegal settlements. In addition to the planned construction of a settlement industrial zone in Tulkarm, there is a scheme to erect other three industrial zones in other parts of the West Bank: the Maccabim (near the Palestinian village of Kharabta, Ramallah district), Teneh Omarim ((in the South Hebron Hills), and Nahal Raba ( near the Palestinian village of El Zawiya, Salfit district). These will respectively occupy 301, 2000 and 3000 dunums. After completion, Nahal Raba will be the biggest industrial zone in the West Bank.
Industrial zones are considered a pillar of Israeli economy, especially the economic prosperity of the settlements nearby the industrial zones, while de-developing the Palestinian economy and increasing the exploitation of Palestinian labor, land and natural resources. Industrial Zones in Area ‘C’ of the OPT generate profits for Israeli and multinational corporations. The schemed construction of settlement industrial zones in Tulkarm and other parts of the West Bank would only increase the subordination and underdevelopment of the Palestinian economy to the Israeli one.
Already in 2005, Stop the Wall has denounced the role of these industrial zones as part of the plan to create economic sustainability for the Bantustans carved out by the Wall in its still relevant report “Do-It-Yourself Apartheid”
The economic underdevelopment of Palestinians’ economy caused by the plunder of their land and natural resources in favor of Israeli settlers has increased the unemployment rate amongst Palestinians. This, in turn, has coerced them into seeking work in Israeli illegal settlements, industrial zones and other corporations with the Green Line. Palestinians’ lack of other job options and the high unemployment rate make them exposed to Israeli employers’ exploitation and precarious conditions at the workplace. The construction of more industrial zones would only allow for more exploitation of Palestinian workers working in factories of ‘death’ as Palestinians prefer to call them.
The looting of more land from Palestinians is part of the de facto annexation practices of the West Bank green-lit by the US administration. While the United Arab Emirates claims that through brokering a peace deal with Israel, it seeks to stop the imminent de jure annexation of the West Bank, the Israeli government refuted such a claim and continues relentlessly the de facto annexation. The Israeli government has not been made to choose either halting the annexation of the West Bank or normalizing relations with the UAE. It has chosen to do and intensify both!