A festive atmosphere reigned in Khallet Athaba, a tiny village in the South Hebron Hills. Flurries of activity centred around a large makeshift tent that had been erected on a dusty hilltop beside the village. Inside the tent, a couple of hundred plastic chairs were arranged in rows, facing a small stage. There were people from all sections of Palestinian society represented, including a large group of women and children, small knots of teenage boys and clusters of traditionally dressed men.
This June gathering was for a nonviolent resistance festival against the Israeli Occupation in the West Bank. An Amnesty International document released on 3 July explained that the Israeli army plans to expel the residents of eight villages in the South Hebron Hills, including Khallet Athaba, to make way for a military training zone known as Firing Zone 918. Some 1,000 Palestinian residents in these villages are in danger of becoming homeless and losing their livelihoods. Israel’s High Court of Justice has scheduled a hearing on the planned expulsion for 2 September 2013.
Spearheaded by a popular Palestinian committee, the resistance event I attended was the sixth annual festival and marked the culmination of the annual children’s summer camp. Events such as this have become commonplace in the West Bank, where nonviolent resistance is gaining in popularity and becoming a powerful alternative to the politics of Hamas and Fatah.
Hafez Huraini, a member of the popular committee, explained what they hoped to achieve through the festival. ‘We want to send a strong message to everyone, Palestinians and Israelis, with our example: nonviolence is possible, is effective, and it is the only way to fight for justice, dignity and peace,’ he said.