Protesters wave Palestinian flags in Bil’in / Dylan Collins
On 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voiced resounding approval for a resolution that upgraded the Palestinian Authority to the status of observer state, recognizing its sovereignty within the 1967 borders: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem as its capital.
The following day little changed: Israeli institutions in the occupied territories remained unscathed, including the winding strings of heavily-populated Jewish settlements, military checkpoints strategically dotted across the map, the several hundred kilometer long separation wall, and a number of segregated highways.
Israeli officials reacted by announcing 3,000 new settlement units in the keystone E1 area of the West Bank. In the face of international criticism, PM Benyamin Netanyahu defiantly vowed to press on. “Today we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic interests of the State of Israel,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting on 2 December.
Tensions continue to rise as Israeli military forces have enacted a harsh crackdown in the West Bank, launching sweeping arrest campaigns. As of February, Addameer Prisoner Support Network documents that 4,812 Palestinians were being detained in Israeli prisons, 219 of which were children and 178 of which were being held in administrative detention without trial or charge. Since November, the total number of prisoners increased by 282, including 55 additional children and 22 more administrative detainees.
Additionally, at least seven Palestinians died at the hands of Israel thus far this year. According to Israeli NGO BTselem, five unarmed Palestinians were shot and killed by the Israeli military in January alone. The latest, 23-year-old Mohammed Asfour, died on 7 March as a result of being “shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet” two weeks earlier.
In the face of these steadily intensifying challenges, Palestinian activists in the West Bank have in turn responded by accelerating several creative forms of direct action that have belatedly gained attention in recent years.
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