AlMa'asra to Fuse Art and Protest to Commemorate the Nakba

Singer Rim Banna and other artists will preform by the path of the Wall near alMa'asara, south of Bethlehem, to commemorate 62 years to the Nakba and celebrate the culture of popular resistance.

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What: Concerts, performances and a mass demonstration in commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba and in resistance to the Wall and the Occupation.
When: Friday, May 14th, 1:30 PM
Where: The entrance to alMa'asara village, by the roadblock the Army erects every Friday in order to stifle protest

The 1948 Nakba and the 1967 occupation are, among other thing, an assault on Palestinian heritage and culture. This week's Friday demonstration in the village of alMa'asara, will this week be transformed into a cultural event commemorating the disaster of the Palestinian refugees and the celebrating the Palestinian culture of resistance in concerts, poetry, dance and protest.

As soldiers amass at the entrance to the village, as they do every Friday in an attempt to quell the demonstration, Internationally renowned Palestinian singer Rim Banna, accompanied by Beit Sahour guitarist Usama Al-Lati, will hold a special performance. The event will also include a dabka performance, poetry reading and speeches by a representative of the village's popular committee and by Palestinian Minister of Culture, Mrs Siham Barghouthi.

alMa'asara is a mountain-top village of 900
residents located 13km south of Bethlehem. It is one of nine intertwined villages that are surrounded by the illegal Jewish-only settlement of Efrat, which is part of the Gush Etzion settlement block. The 9,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the nine villages are surrounded by almost as many illegal settlers. In November 2006, Israel began the construction the Wall on the villages' land, which would annex an additional 3500 dunams, if completed.

Since November 2006, demonstrations organized by the alMa'asra Popular Committee are held on a weekly basis to protest the Wall, settlements and the Occupation in general. Initially, protesters were usually able to march to the construction site of the Wall and at times to temporarily block bulldozers and disrupt construction. Today however, protesters are stopped near the entrance to the village. Every Friday, the Israeli army erects a razor-wire barricade and heavily armed soldiers take positions behind it, effectively sealing all access to at least two villages.

As part of the recent wave of ongoing repression against the Palestinian popular struggle, the army's position has gradually moved closer into the built-up area of the village, also positioning soldiers on the rooftops of residential buildings, overlooking the demonstration like snipers.

In May 2009, three members of the Popular Committee were violently arrested during a Labor Day protest in the village together with other Palestinians, an international, and an Israeli activist. While the international and the Israeli were released hours later, the Palestinians were released only several weeks later after depositing the total of 78,000 NIS in bail and on the condition that they do not participate in demonstrations until the end of legal proceedings in their case. To date, a year later, their cases are pending.

As the protests in the South of Bethlehem continue with growing support, the Army has launched a wave of repression hoping to squelch the popular struggle. Since the end of 2009, members of the Popular Committee were explicitly threatened eight times that they will be arrested and beaten should demonstrations continue. The threats were issued during night raids on the houses of Popular Committee members. During one of these raids, an officer "if trouble continue, a child from the village may find himself dead".

In March 2010, two organizers from the village were assaulted at the Container Checkpoint on the road to Ramallah after Border Police officers recognized them from demonstrations. On March 2nd, the Mayor of alMa'asara and member of the popular committee, Mahmoud Zwahre, was searched for over an hour at the checkpoint on his way to a meeting in Ramallah. He was then taken to an interrogation room, where he was assaulted by a soldier, explicitly told that he is beaten for his involvement in the Friday demonstrations. On March 14th, Omar Alaaeddin was nabbed from the Container Checkpoint after a Border Police officer recognized him from the Friday demonstrations. He was beaten and thrown on razor-wire at the checkpoint, and subsequently tortured while in jail. He reports to have been kicked, punched and even electro shocked with a taser by the soldiers and his jailers.

In addition to the weekly demonstrations, the alMa'asara Popular Committee also organizes summer camps, olive tree planting, workshops for children, youth and women, and capacity building trainings. Members of the popular committee frequently tour Europe, giving talks and presentations on the popular struggle. In addition, the Popular Committee will soon open a new center in the village that is designed to both host international guests and volunteers and to provide particularly the village's youth and women with a safe meeting place. A women's embroidery circle will also use the facilities and continue a project in cooperation with indigenous women from South America and Ireland that use their work in order to visualize their histories.