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Posts Tagged ‘settlement’

After last week’s violence in Safa, it seems that the IDF has come to an agreement with the residents and will permit the farmers of the town to work, but no one else will be allowed in the agricultural area.  Therefore, Ta’ayush agreed to not go to Safa, hoping that the farming would resume without problems and that our activities there had indeed been successful.

Instead we went to accompany Palestinian shepherds from the small village of Tu’ba  who wanted to graze their goats near the chicken houses of the settlement Ma’on.  There was little vegetation to graze in the area, and even less in places further from the settlement.  Our group was a few hundred meters from the settlement itself, and the chicken houses were only inhabited by chickens, so we were not very close to any settlers.  Nonetheless, settlement security came to the area and called in the IDF, Border Police and civilian Police.  They declared the area a Closed Military Zone and said we had to leave in 5 minutes.  No explanation was given even though we repeatedly asked for one.  Luckily, by that time the goats had nearly finished their grazing so we were not upset about leaving.

We received a phone call that some Palestinians in the village of Sha’ab al-Buttun had been attacked by settlers from Mitzpe Ya’ir, so we gathered in our cars and went there.  By the time we arrived the settlers had already left, but the Palestinians showed us some video they had taken on a phone.  Apparently, 3 settlers entered the village and went inside the homes of a few residents.  They also hit some of the Palestinians, one of whom showed us the welts on his arms.  Perhaps most disturbingly, the settlers also broke the legs of 3 of the Palestinian’s sheep.  We will try to file a complaint and hopefully be able to press charges against the settlers.  There is a chance of some success because their faces are on video.

Finally we went to visit the small Palestinian village of Susya, where the Border Police and IDF had followed us.  After drinking tea and some discussion, it was decided to go up to Givat HaDegel, the illegal outpost built by settlers from the settlement of Susya on private Palestinian land.  The soldiers and Border Police were already at the outpost when we arrived, ready with an order for a Closed Military Zone.  At least 15 soldiers and Border Police prepared to eject our group of 15 from the area.  After a brief argument, we went back to the village of Palestinian Susya and said our goodbyes

IDF soldiers on Givat HaDegel

IDF soldiers on Givat HaDegel

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Most of the group continued back to Jerusalem after this, but I went to Beit Ummar with two others from Ta’ayush to say hello to Issa (a Palestinian Ta’ayush activist) and to see if the Palestinians in Safa were able to do their work.  We found that the farmers were able to work today without any problems, which was very positive news.  However, we also heard that the IDF had destroyed part of the walls on either side of a path leading to the farm area and also destroyed a few fruit trees.

Apparently, an army vehicle became stuck in a ditch in the farmland area.  To get it out, the soldiers decided to bring  a bulldozer, which then destroyed part of the walls on either side of the path, leaving rocks and rubble in the road.  Another vehicle had driven in between the fruit trees, at least one of which was totally destroyed, and two or three others were seriously damaged and did not look to me that they would survive.  I don’t think the soldiers intentionally did this damage, but the way they did it indicates that it does not matter to them.  They did not make efforts not to damage property, and there was no discussion with any of the Palestinians about it.  This destruction didn’t take place during a military operation or any kind of emergency, it just was easier for the soldiers to do their work this way.

(Photo by Mairav Zonszein)

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On this last Saturday, June 6, Taayush members started the day by going to Safa.  Honestly, after last week’s violence I wasn’t that eager to go, but as Amiel said, for that reason, “the people there need us the most.”

We went to the fields where the villagers of Safa pick grape leaves.  Upon arriving we discovered that the army had declared a “Closed Military Zone” on the lands they use for agriculture.  Not only was the land off-limits, we were told that the order was in effect until June 21, over two weeks.  By that time, many of the grape leaves may no longer be usable.  Furthermore, this goes against an Israeli Supreme Court ruling stating that the Palestinians should not be prevented from accessing their agricultural lands.

The IDF, in trying to make their own job easier, is essentially punishing the Palestinians for the settler attacks against them.

After we photographed the military order for a Closed Military Zone we left.

Our next activity took place in the village of Susya, in the South Hebron Hills.  The Israeli-Palestinian group Combatants for Peace had organized a group of about 100 Israelis, Palestinians and internationals to erect a structure along-side the developing illegal outpost ‘Givat HaDegel’.

The land the outpost is on is unquestionably Palestinian.  The owner has documentation, the IDF did not dispute it, and Israeli news confirmed it.  Nevertheless, the IDF is allowing the settlers from the settlement of Susya to build there.

Back in January I wrote about the developments at Givat HaDegel. A couple months after that, I saw that they had started to build a cement floor.

Cement floor at Givat HaDegel

Cement floor at Givat HaDegel

On this Saturday, when we ascended the hill, I saw close-up that a full building had been constructed.

G HaDegel

The Combatants for Peace and the people that joined them built what was essentially a ‘sukkah’, and covered it with the colors of the Palestinian flag.  Immediately soldiers started to dismantle it.  After a short time they declared a Closed Military Zone.

Palestinians waving their flag and colors after their 'sukkah' was dismantled

Palestinians waving their flag and colors after their 'sukkah' was dismantled

I cannot say that I was surprised by what happened.  However, Givat HaDegel is not on the government list of illegal outposts, which has 26, far short of the actual number.  Also, Israel’s Channel 2 news had a brief piece on the event, but neglected to even mention the settler’s construction.

There is something very wrong here when it is regarded as radical action for people to go to their private land.  It is somehow normal here that the land owner is not allowed onto his own land, and that the IDF is used to keep him off, while permitting Israeli citizens to build on it.  This is the situation Palestinians find themselves in.  The Israeli police and military have authority over them, but only work to protect Israeli citizens, even when they are committing crimes.

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Yesterday morning members of Taayush split up into two groups.  One group went to Khirbet Safa, and the other group – which I was in – went to Umm Zeitouneh.

Havat Ma'on

Havat Ma'on

Umm Zeitouneh is a valley between the outpost of Ma’on, and the barn that is shared by Ma’on and the settlement of Susya.  The settlers from Ma’on have a history of violence against Palestinians, and our goal was to try to prevent any attacks on them.  We were accompanying Palestinian shepherds from the village of Tubah who had brought their sheep out to graze.  Some of the young shepherds, boys of 14 and up, had in the past been attacked by settlers on their way to school.

Two young Palestinian shepherds

Two young Palestinian shepherds

Luckily however, the sheep’s grazing passed without incident.

Sheep grazing

Sheep grazing

Later on, the group that went to Khirbet Safa met up with us and we all went to see if there had been any additional building on Hill 26.  Upon arrival, we could see that the whole area was a mess.  Building materials and garbage were strewn around, and there was a spot with used toilet paper.

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There had been some small changes made, but no new structures had been built.  There were a few teenage boys from Kiryat Arba hanging out in their ‘hut’, and upon our arrival one of them pulled out a video camera to record us.  Minutes later, a group of soldiers arrived.  They did not speak to us, but rather with the teenage settlers.

We waited for the arrival of an order for a Closed Military Zone, which would compel us to leave the area or face arrest.  In the end, 7 cars from the army, border police, and police arrived.  There were more police and soldiers than Taayush members and settlers combined.

Soldiers and police around the settler's structure

Soldiers and police around the settler's structure

A Closed Miltary Zone was declared and we were told to leave.  The police officers said that the settlers would also have to leave.  They had said this on previous occasions and the settlers were permitted to remain.  This time, however, the soldiers did actually make them leave.

Young settlers being escorted away

Young settlers being escorted away

To be sure, while we were made to leave by threat of force and arrest, the settlers left through urging and polite escort.  Also, it seemed likely the settlers would return after an hour or so.  Nevertheless, they did actually have to leave their illegal structure for the first time.  Hopefully this has helped to establish a precedent, so in the future whenever we have to leave, they will as well.

For an account of Taayush activities yesterday in Khirbet Safa, check out IbnEzra’s blog

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This last Saturday was an eventful day for Taayush in the South Hebron area. First we accompanied Palestinians to go farm their lands near the illegal outpost of Asahel.

Soldiers standing next to settlers

Soldiers standing next to settlers

Immediately after arriving near the outpost, a female settler came out and started throwing stones at our group.  A few soldiers were already there, and they just watched while she threw rocks which hit a couple of people.  Soon after this we started working, a young Palestinian man was arrested – apparently for not moving back a foot when the soldiers told him to.

Settlers sitting with a police officer

Settlers sitting with a police officer

The soldiers then demanded that the Palestinians and Taayush members leave the area stop working.  To hasten the process, the soldiers came with a paper they said was a military order identifying the area as a closed military zone, and an accompanying map to prove it.  However, when we challenged the authenticity of the order and the map, they backed down.

Soldiers overlooking Palestinians and others workingSoldiers overlooking Palestinians and Israelis

While this was happening, a few more settlers came down the hill, yelling obscene insults at us.  This included graphic comments about Taayush members engaging in sodomy.  There were more threatening gestures and comments, however.  The male settler pretended to shoot us with his fingers, and said we belonged ‘underground’.  One of the women said to a Taayush member that she would kill her, and threatened another with having his head smashed by a rock.

Eventually the soldiers brought a real military order for a ‘closed military zone’.  The soldiers wanted to make us leave in a way that required the least effort from them.  They proposed that if we left, they would release the Palestinian they had previously arrested,although he would have to report back to the police the next day.  After a bit of wrangling over details, we came to an agreement and set off for our cars with our Palestinian friend in tow.

As we neared the road, two of the settlers approached from the opposite direction.  They had gone around the back of the hill to meet us.  The same female settler as before started throwing rocks at our group, hitting several people.  One time, she was clearly aiming at the head of a young Palestinian, and the rock cut the hand of a Taayush member who tried to block it.

Settlers covering their faces

Settlers covering their faces

During this barrage, the two settlers covered their faces.  The man wrapped his tallit (prayer shawl) around his face, and the woman covered her face with part of her head covering.  It is not clear why they did so because we had already seen their faces.

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The next notable event of the day occurred near the settlement of Kiryat Arba, close to Hebron.  We had heard that some settlers from Kiryat Arba were starting to fence off an area on a Palestinian’s land.

Settler family on Palestinian land

Settler family on Palestinian land

The status of the land there is particularly clear-cut, as Kiryat Arba is fenced off around its perimeter, negating any possible claims that its land extends further.  We went to inspect the land in question and found a family of settlers sitting there surrounded by several poles they had recently erected.  From there, we went about 100 meters to view a structure, apparently some sort of clubhouse, that had been built by settlers.  On this day, there were several boys, none older than 14, standing around this crudely built structure containing supplies of water and gas.

dscn1241

Three soldiers sudenly arrived, apparently in response to having been alerted by the settler family.  The leader of the three was fairly aggressive, and tried to grab the video camera out of the hand of a Palestinian who was with us.  This soldier then approached him again as if to threaten or engage him physically, but turned away when the Palestinian yelled for us to film what was happening.

Shortly thereafter, the family of settlers came over, and then around 10 more soldiers arrived.  The mother settler immediately started screaming invectives at us, and yelling at the Palestinians with us to ‘go back to Iraq’.  After some Taayush members argued with her for a little while, the soldiers produced a document declaring the area a closed military zone.  However, there were two problems with this claim.

First, the military order wasn’t signed, making it invalid.  Second, and more significantly, the soldiers only wanted us to leave, and to let the settlers stay where they were.  This was a violation of the law, as the structure was on private Palestinian land.  Legally, all of us, including the settlers, should be required to leave, however the settlers were permitted to stay.

The unsigned military order

The unsigned military order

We pointed these facts out to the soldiers, but they told us that if we did not leave the area in the next 10 minutes, we would all be arrested.  During our argument, the settlers all went inside the clubhouse.  With no alternative, we left, but with the knowledge and proof that in this instance the soldiers had broken Israeli law.

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Going back to a few weeks ago, I’ll report on events that occurred near the settlement of Karmei Tzur.

Members of Taayush went there to escort Palestinians to their own lands close to the settlement.  Under Israeli law, the land-owners are able to go up to the fence of Karmei Tzur to work.  In practice however, the army will often prevent the Palestinians from working.

Soldiers blocking us from accessing Palestinian land in front of Karmei Tzur

Soldiers blocking us from accessing Palestinian land in front of Karmei Tzur

Beyond the hardship of not being able to go to their own land, the Palestinians fear this land could be seized by the settlers.  In the West Bank, there is an Ottoman Law in place which allows the state to take land that is not worked for 3 years.  Therefore, the Palestinian owners need to go to work their land to keep their legal claim on it.

When we went out, we were joined by about 20 Palestinians who came to assist in the work and to protest against the restrictions placed upon them.  Immediately, Israeli soldiers and police arrived on the scene.  Instead of allowing us to work the land near the fence, they would not let us within 500 meters – perhaps more – of the settlement.  We had planned to work the land of a farmer named Issa, a very friendly man with the appearance of a Palestinian Santa Claus.

Soon after we started to do work where we were permitted to stand, the soldiers and police told us to leave.  They eventually produced a document declaring the area a ‘closed military zone’ – and threatened anyone remaining in the zone after 15 minutes with arrest.

As the Palestinians continued working, more soldiers showed up.  Then, without warning, they started throwing stun grenades at us.  Stun grenades emit a bright flash and a deafening noise.  My ears were ringing for hours afterward.  More than 10 stun grenades were thrown.  At the same time, soldiers and police started physically pushing us back.  Some of them became overly aggressive in my opinion, shoving women and people from behind who were already walking away.

Soldiers herding us away

Soldiers herding us away

Israeli activist in front of smoke from a stun grenade

Israeli activist in front of smoke from a stun grenade

At one point we had to descend a steep, rocky incline, and one of our members was pushed backwards from it, and could have been seriously injured.  Two Taayush members were arrested for non-violently resisting the soldiers and police.

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Taayush member after being pushed by soldier

The soldiers and police went with us some distance to the road and stayed with us until our transport came.

What began as a simple, peaceful effort to escort and assist Palestinian farmers in working their lands was turned into an ugly confrontation by the soldiers and police forces.

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Another illegal outpost of some interest is Nof Nesher, also called Lucifer Farm.  I want to make clear that Lucifer Farm is a name the settlers themselves use, not some nickname the Palestinians came up with.

Here is a sign near Lucifer Farm.

Lucifer Tower

Lucifer Tower

The sign says Lucifer Tower in large print.  Above in smaller print it says ‘tradition/heritage/source  national water company’ (I am not sure which meaning is intended for the first word, possible all of them).

The Lucifer Farm is apparently home to only one family.  It was founded by Yaakov Talia, who, according to David Shulman’s book “Dark Hope”,  is a South African who converted to Judaism at the end of apartheid, and moved to Israel.  What does that say about the settlers in South Hebron?

Here is the settlement.

Nof Nesher/Lucifer Farm

Nof Nesher/Lucifer Farm

At the top of the hill is the settlement, and I want to point out a couple things in the picture.  It may be difficult to see, but along the left side of the dirt road there is a low cement barrier, and in one part there are rocks serving the same purpose.  This barrier was constructed to prevent the Palestinian’s sheep from grazing, and it also limits their freedom of movement significantly.

Also, note the power lines and radio tower.  All of this was built for one family – living in an illegal settlement.  It seems like an illogical use of resources beyond even the issue of legality, which is clear.

More on the Tour to come…

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On Saturday I was given a sort of tour around the South Hebron Hills.  I saw some new areas and learned more about the history there.  It was a tough day mentally – hearing upsetting stories, and seeing the difficulty of Palestinian life in this area first-hand.

I will break up the day into a few posts.  First, the road to Avigail.

One of the most affecting parts of the day involved driving on the paved road leading to the illegal outpost Avigail.  When I say ‘illegal outpost’, this means it is illegal under Israeli law, not just International law.

The terrain around the outpost is rocky and hilly.

Avigail in the distance

Avigail in the distance

The road at the bottom leads all the way around to Avigail, which is a fair distance.  Here is what is amazing about this road.  It was originally built by local Palestinians to lead to their villages.  There are a few small villages in the area, I have been to one of them, Jinba.

Anyway, the Palestinians built this road with their own money.  According to haaretz the outpost was built in 2001, and The Washington Post reported in 2002 that Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the settlers there to be evacuated. I guess the IDF is still waiting for the right moment to make the settlers leave.

In the meantime, the road was paved with money from the Israeli government, and the Palestinians who had originally built the road are no longer allowed to drive on it.  You can see on the picture above that the terrain is rough.  There are now no roads leading to the Palestinian villages near Avigail.  As I mentioned before, I have been to Jinba, one of the small villages nearby.  The drive to get there – over rocks and hills – was like being on a roller-coaster.  For all practical purposes, these villages are inaccesible by car.

More to follow soon…

The Road

The Road

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