Police stopped over 250 left-wing activists, including three Knesset members, from reaching a West Bank outpost as part of a protest against settler violence on Friday morning.
The demonstrators, led by Meretz MKs Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Issawi Frej, planned to march from the West Bank settlement of Kochav HaShahar to the nearby Baladim outpost, where settler violence was filmed last week, but their four buses were stopped en route by police and soldiers who told them the area had been declared a closed military zone.
Barred from reaching Kochav HaShachar, northeast of Ramallah, the buses unloaded at Michmash Junction, where activists stood at the roadside waving Palestinian and other flags and banners.
After 30 minutes, police allowed the rally to proceed on foot for an additional mile, still short of its intended destination.
Last Friday, a group of young settlers were filmed beating several left-wing activists with clubs and stones outside the Baladim outpost. The assailants were allegedly from Baladim, which is reported to be home to members of the radical settlers’ “hilltop youth.”
The activists were accompanying Palestinian shepherds to their grazing lands after the latter requested protection from continued settler harassment. Four were injured, according to a police complaint filed by the left-wing Israeli NGO B’Tselem.
Earlier this month, the Haaretz daily reported that several Israeli youths were caught on video throwing rocks at IDF soldiers stationed near Baladim. One was arrested shortly after, and released due to lack of evidence.
Friday’s demonstration was organized by a coalition of left-wing NGOs that called on law enforcement authorities to prevent settler violence and also to dismantle outposts in the Jordan Valley
Among the groups taking part in Friday’s protest were members of Peace Now, Meretz, Ta’ayush, Combatants for Peace, Machsom Watch and Standing Together.
Police officers at the scene told The Times of Israel that the closed military zone order was handed down by IDF Central Command in order to prevent rioting or clashes with settlers.
Peace Now Director of Development and External Relations Anat Ben Nun said, “We are seeing cars driving through this area so clearly it is closed only to activists who want to demonstrate here, while settlers are able to travel freely.”
Meretz leader Galon accused the Israeli authorities of “turning a blind eye to the pogroms perpetrated by settlers against IDF soldiers, Palestinians and left-wing activists.”
“There is clear discrimination here,” she charged, “with preference given to settlers in the territories who riot and carry out pogroms against left-wing activists.”