Nearly 60 kilometers of the wall already cuts through the Bethlehem governorate and is built on Palestinian land, according to the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs
by Ann Farr and Dan Bergin and Abouna
(Abouna.Org) August 31, 2015 – The Patriarch Eemeritus of Jerusalem joined hundreds of Palestinians demanding a stop to the construction of the wall near Bethlehem. Fears over new illegal settlements of Jewish settlers. “This land belongs to us … and one day will be returned to us”. “You are stronger with your guns, but you are not the strongest when it comes to humanity.”
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, made a desperate appeal to the Christian world after Sunday Mass, On August 30, at Cremisan, near Bethlehem. Sabbah said: “The message to the Christian world, the international community and the Arab world is that this Holy Land is burning, dying, and being destroyed, and if you really care about justice and equality, you have the obligation to stop this war, killing, and destruction.”
Addressing participants who went on to take part in a protest march after the Mass, the Patriarch said: “This is our land, and will always remain ours. They claim it’s their land, but they use their soldiers, their tanks, their military occupation to force their will — and it is not their land. It is our land, and one day their forces will withdraw, and the land will return back to its indigenous Palestinian owners.”
Sabbah urged the world to support the people of Beit Jala in their battle against the separation wall and called on the Palestinian Authority to bring attention to Israeli violations against Palestinians. Nearly 60 kilometers of the wall already cuts through the Bethlehem governorate and is built on Palestinian land, according to the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs. Israel’s High Court ruled in April that the work must stop and told the government to consider alternative routes.
Israeli forces attacked a protest rally by Palestinian Christians following the Sunday Mass. Priests, patriarchs and other church leaders processed with crosses to an area where more land has been confiscated to extend the Separation Wall in the Christian majority town of Beit Jala, in the occupied West Bank, near Bethlehem. Last week, bulldozers moved into an ancient olive grove, uprooting trees dating back to the time of Jesus. Two parishioners were arrested. Many more suffered from the effects of tear gas inhalation.
Protesters also condemned the nearby illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo, which are scheduled to be expanded as the construction on the wall goes ahead.
The demonstration was attended by his eminence Patriarch Michael Sabbah, representatives of Palestinian political parties, and the Governor of Bethlehem.
Israeli forces shot tear-gas and concussion grenades at protesters, and physical altercations broke out between Israeli forces attempting to suppress the protest.
Israel began building the separation wall with concrete slabs, fences, and barbed-wire inside the occupied West Bank in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada, or uprising, claiming that it was crucial for security.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that construction of the wall was illegal and, like the UN General Assembly, demanded that it be dismantled.
Palestinians, many of whom refer to it as the “apartheid wall,” say the wall is a land grab, pointing out that when complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the West Bank.
The wall has already completely cut off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem says the wall will effectively annex around 13 per cent of the total area of the West Bank.
Palestinians living in the Bethlehem district have already lost a substantial amount of land due to the wall and the expansion of 19 Jewish-only settlements and outposts in the area.