Total IDF closure of West Bank for Israeli holidays, followed by IDF build-up in preparation for Palestinian demonstrations this weekend

The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife.

The Israeli Defense Ministry declared a total closure of the West Bank from Sunday just after midnight until Wednesday just after midnight, to allow Israelis to commemorate Remembrance Day on Monday, in honor of those who have died in Israel’s wars, which segued immediately into Independence Day on Tuesday, to celebrate the creation of the State of Israel [according to the Jewish calendar].

Many visited the West Bank for picnics and barbeques, in ease and comfort. Checkpoints all around the northern West Bank town of Nablus were shut down to give extra reassurance to Israeli settlers and their friends and families. Israeli flags were everywhere, flying from windows, balconies, lampposts, and from plastic holders fixed on the front windows of both sides of their cars, like dogs’ ears.

The holidays passed uneventfully, apart from a mini-demonstration staged by the brother of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit at the important televised official ceremony on Mount Herzl during the transition from Monday’s sadness in Israel to Tuesday’s joy.

On Wednesday, as Israelis returned to work, the IDF began to deploy in watchtowers along The Wall, in preparation for demonstrations called by Palestinians for Nakba Day on March 15, to mark the catastrophic dispossession — much of it forced — of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians in the fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

The return, or right to return, of those Palestinians and their descendants is something that has been under discussion for the subsequent 63 years.

Most Israelis are adamantly opposed.

Some say, with emphasis, that this would mean war.

Others say they cannot allow any deterioration of their own lifestyle, which they are convinced would be in jeopardy with any significant Palestinian return.

Most Israelis say they don’t want to even see any Palestinians.

Proposals discussed at the unsuccessful Camp David peace talks in late July 2000 envisaged the return of Palestinian refugees only to a future Palestinian state, with strictly limited and symbolic “family reunification” of between 10,000 and 100,000 Palestinian refugees who would be allowed to enter Israel.

The recent Israeli Peace Initiative, signed by a group of some 70 Israeli ex-military, ex-security, and other officials, contains a distinctly ungenerous proposal to recognize “the suffering of the Palestinian refugee since the 1948 war, as well as of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries”.

This would apparently creates an accounting balance [of zero] on both sides of the ledger.

The Israeli Peace Initiative also notes “the need to resolve the Palestinian refugees problem through realistic and mutually agreed-upon solutions”.

The demonstrations planned this weekend by Palestinians and their supports are scheduled to take place globally — and some, perhaps many, will be on the internet.

There has been intense speculation in recent weeks about these demonstrations — which could be the first large-scale direct confrontations between demonstrators who have declared their dedication to non-violence and Israeli forces at checkpoints in the West Bank and in Gaza, as well as at the Egyptian, Lebanese, and Jordanian borders.

No one knows how many will turn out, how sustained their effort will be, or what will be the response…

On Friday 13 May, a coalition of Palestinian youth groups has announced they will be holding a training session in non-violence in Qalandiya refugee camp ahead of a planned demonstration at the massive and monstrous checkpoint on 15 May, during which time, they say, they intend to enter Jerusalem and “1948 areas” — peacefully, of course.
Also on Friday 13 May, marches were scheduled along Israel’s borders with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

UPDATE: clashes between Israeli military, police, and private security for Israeli settlers (on the one hand) and adolescent male residents of Silwan, on the south-eastern edge of the Old City of East Jerusalem escalated quickly on Friday afternoon. A 16 or 17-year-old, Mourad Ayyash, was shot in the abdomen, and suffered massive blood loss while medical care was delayed due to a police cordon around the area; he died later in hospital after hours of surgery. According to an email from Jonathan Pollack for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the bullet came from a pistoMinor clashes were contained on Friday afternoon — with dozens of protestors detained — in an arc of East Jerusalem neighborhoods from Silwan to the Mount of Olives to Issawiya to Shuafat Refugee Camp to the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. On Saturday at mid-day, there were what Israeli media reported were “violent” clashes at the boy’s funeral procession from his home in Ras al-Amoud to a cemetary outside the Old City Wall (just north of Silwan).

On Saturday 14 May, a demonstration is scheduled to be held in Walajee, ajacent to the north/western edge of Bethlehem, to protest the imminent completion of The Wall and further loss of Palestinian land there. Demonstrators may also be intending to enter Jerusalem — without permits — but peacefully.

UPDATE: There is a demonstration on Saturday afternoon in Yaffa, an Israeli coastal city once home to tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled in 1948, south of Haifa.

On Sunday May 15, the main anticipated demonstration will be at Qalandia checkpoint, which will certainly be shut down for most of the day.

Total Closure of West Bank: Thursday night to Sunday morning

For the Yom Kippur holiday, the Israeli Army has imposed another total closure of the West Bank from Thursday night to sometime on Sunday morning (from just after midnight onward…)

However, tourists are exempt, the Coordinator of [Israeli] Government Activities in the Territories told Ma’an News Agency this evening.

Other categories of people (NGOs, medical workers, journalists, etc.) are also exempt. The closure affects normal, ordinary West Bank Palestinians… unless they have special permits or permissions given by the Israeli Army.

Streets in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be closed for the observance of the 24-hour Yom Kippur fast from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown.

Trucks were delivering dark blue metal police barriers at midday on Wednesday to streets all along the Uzi Narkis highway running from the Old City of Jerusalem to the Neve Yaakov-Beit Hanina intersection before two Qalandia checkpoint on the way to Ramallah.

YNet reported that an average of 61 percent of all Israeli Jews will fast on Yom Kippur, according to information published on YNet: “Asked whether they plan to fast on Yom Kippur, 61% of Israelis said yes and 28% said no. Six percent said they would fast only part of the day and 5% had yet to decide. According to a religious segmentation, 100% of haredim, 100% of religious and 85% of traditional Jews will abstain from eating and drinking for an entire day. Among seculars, about half of respondents will fast (most of them all day) and half won’t fast at all. Among those who fast, 82% will do it for religious and traditional reasons and the rest for other reasons, including respect for their parents, as a sport and to clean their bodies. In all four sectors mentioned, most of those who fast do it to observe the mitzvah [good deed]”.

Especially interesting were the reasons given for asking forgiveness on Yom Kippur: “With the option of choosing more than one answer, here is what respondents said they will ask forgiveness for. Insulting a friend or family member – 47 percent; lack of tolerance – 34 percent; not keeping the mitzvoth – 33 percent; not properly taking care of the body – 18 percent; not spending enough time with children – 11 percent; treatment of weaker parts of the society – 9 percent; not doing enough for the nation and the country – 8 percent; lack of dependability – 6 percent”. This was published here.

Total closure of West Bank for Passover holiday

Another Jewish holiday, another total closure of the West Bank (for Palestinians only — Israeli settlers can come and go as they please…)

Early this morning the Israeli Defense Ministry announced a total closure of the West Bank from Sunday through Tuesday, at the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday which starts at sundown on Monday.

A few hours later, the total closure was extended until the end of the Passover holiday – on 6 April …

Strict restrictions are being enforced by Israeli police against Palestinians trying to enter not only the Haram ash-Sharif mosque esplanade (the Temple Mount) where Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are situated — but also against Palestinian entry into the entire Old City.

Meanwhile, Palestinian protesters marched through the main Bethlehem checkpoint after surprising the Israeli Border Police, but were stopped and blocked a little bit further up the road to Jerusalem.  It had been previously announced that Palestinian Christians would attempt to reach Christian churches and institutions in Jerusalem — without applying for an Israeli permit.

Some of the arrested Palestinians remain in detention on Sunday night…