Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Palestinians plow fields near Israeli outpost, despite challenges from military and settlers

Last Saturday, 5 December, Palestinians from the village of Shi'b al-Batin, accompanied by internationals, attempted to plow land in a valley north of the Israeli settler outpost* of Magen David / Mizpe Ya'ir, about one kilometer inside the Israeli border fence that traces the southern tip of the occupied West Bank. See photo: <http://tinyurl.com/ydhtx6x>

Shepherd families of the South Hebron Hills need to plow and seed their fields each autumn so they can harvest and build their stocks of barley each spring, to sustain their flocks through the long dry summers.

As the work commenced, Israeli settlers spotted the action and walked down into the valley. One of them, a security guard, was armed and speaking with someone through a radio. Internationals tried to talk with the settlers, but were ignored. See photo: <http://tinyurl.com/yd4rkna>

Soon four Israeli soldiers came and blocked the tractors and forced the Palestinians to stop plowing. Then four armed officers from the District Coordinating Office (DCO) arrived. Also known as the Civil Administration, this special branch of the Israeli army holds all governmental powers throughout the rural West Bank (Area C). The Palestinian landowner showed them papers confirming the Palestinians’ right to work their own land.

The DCO allowed them to continue, but went to an adjacent valley and stopped one of the workers because he was plowing up on a slope that was above the edge of the field. The man put his son on the tractor, and his son resumed plowing.

A DCO officer forcibly stopped the tractor, detained the boy for several minutes, took the tractor key, and chided the boy that he was behaving badly by not obeying the authorities, and that he would arrest him and confiscate his father’s tractor if he persisted. The father and son gave up trying to plow.

Palestinians report that last year they were able to plow more fields in the same area, indicating that land rights are becoming more restricted. When asked if they hope to accomplish more plowing this year, they answered unequivocally "yes." See a picture of the partially plowed field: <http://tinyurl.com/y9lnwqz>
On each Saturday in recent weeks, Palestinians have organized community plowing and seeding actions in communal and privately owned fields around the South Hebron Hills. They have attained varying measures of success, in each case peaceably disobeying Israeli occupation authorities and settlers. See the 30 November 2009 release, "Palestinian Farmers Plow Fields Despite Settler and Military Harassment": <http://www.cpt.org/cptnet/stories/Palestine>

See all pictures of this event: <http://cpt.org/gallery/album248>

Read "The Right to Access Agricultural Lands" by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): <http://www.acri.org.il/pdf/leaflet-land.pdf>

*According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.

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