'Olives more important than Abbas'
Rising 'price tag' operations, settler threats do not excite Palestinian residents of West Bank, but neither does statehood bid at United Nations. 'Many people don’t even know or care what Abbas does. All they care about is their olives and fields,' says Beit Furik resident
VIDEO - Looming September- In the past two weeks, "Price tag" operations have been a common occurrence in Palestinian villages, especially those located between Nablus and Ramallah.
Yatma, Beit Furik, Sinjil and Kusra are only some of the villages that have been affected by the cycle of violence. The local residents believe that the there is a connecting thread between the graffiti slogans on the village mosques and the upcoming Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.
"We are expecting the settlers to carry out price tag operations in the upcoming week because we believe that there is a direct link between them and the Palestinian recognition bid in September," said Ahmed Nasasra, the secretary of Beit Furik village, where three vehicles were recently torched.
"Though we've had price tag operations in the past, and we'll have more in the future, recently there's been a high concentration of attacks that are organized by the settlers against the Palestinians," he said.
It's hard to spot a sense of excitement among the Palestinian public ahead of this "fateful" week that has been the focus of conversation for the past year.
- For full coverage of PA's statehood bid, click here
Price tag on the streets of Kusra (Photo: Sami Hamid, Zoomout)
"Many people don’t even know or care about what Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) does. All they care about are their olives and fields," exclaimed Walid abu Reida from the village of Kusra.
Despite the lack of excitement, it is the younger generation that is actually optimistic over Abbas' political move in the United Nations. "We are protecting our legal rights; the settlers are illegal and for us this is the essence of the September bid," explained 21-year-old Uday.
Two weeks ago, settlers tried to set on fire the ground floor of al-Nurin Mosque in the village of Kusra, and sprayed graffiti slogans on the exterior walls reading "Muhammad the pig" and "Alei Ayin and Migron = Social justice."
The village residents cleared the ashes from the mosque, but decided to leave the slogans so as to remind everyone that the danger is still present.
Graffiti on mosque (Photo: Sami Hamid)
Another decision that came on the heels of the latest incident was to establish a "neighborhood watch" that will protect the village property from future attacks. "We decided to have people guard the village – even if they do not carry arms or have no permit. They can call other residents if the settlers try to attack again," noted Abu Reida.
"We are not afraid of anyone. For each tree they burn – we'll plant another ten," added village committee member Abed al-Azim Uda.
September or not, Kusra residents decided to rely only on themselves and guard their own lands. "If we don't do it – no one will protect us – not the army, nor the Palestinian Authority," Uda said.
Battle of flags, not violence
Lately, it seems as though the battle in the West Bank has been fought through flags, rather than violence; the main road of the town of Beit Furik is lined with Palestinian flags, while the regional councils in Samaria just finished hanging Israeli flags along the junctions of Highway 60.
The feeling in the air is of an independence day. The question is whose.
Battle of flags in West Bank (Photo: Elior Levy)
The office walls of Beit Furik Mayor Atef Hanani abu Akram are decorated with a map of historic Palestine, alongside pictures of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.
"There will be no violence on the side of the Palestinians," he states. "This is something that comes from above and penetrates down to the simple people – we don’t want clashes with the army or with settlers," abu Akram stated.
Nasasra also stressed that no violence is planned, despite the rising number of price tag operations. "Our preparedness is in the positive sense. The Authority decided to conduct a non-violent struggle," he said, adding that political activity has no room for violence.
Abu Akram noted that the rallies planned in celebration of the statehood declaration will take place only in the main cities. "We will all go to Nablus to celebrate in the central square, and even schools will close early that day.
"I am only afraid that the army will place roadblocks to prevent us from getting there," he said, adding humorously that after the United Nations recognizes Palestine, every resident can send his speeding tickets to Ban Ki-moon.
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