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.
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.
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.
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.