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.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Israeli Border Police destroys vegetable fields

We got called out to the Baqa'a Valley, a fertile valley on the east side of Hebron. The Baqa'a lies close to the Israeli settlements, Kiryat Arba and Givat Harsina, and thus the Baqa'a faces numerous problems from the Israeli occupation forces. I won't give a full blow-by-blow-blogosphere-style rundown because I spent lots of time working on a press release, photos and videos, and I think that suffices.

But I will say that it was utter chaos, which the video demonstrates. We arrived and the hillside was on fire from a stray tear gas canister, fired by the Israeli Border Police. Young men were running around like crazy trying to save crops and trees, but the nearest well was quite a distance away. Below us there was a huge group of soldiers who were in a circle talking with 3-4 Israeli settlers. There were 20-30 workers in the fields pulling out piping out of the ground. There were Palestinians picking up rocks and yelling at us, thinking that we were settlers who had come back to the scene of the fire. Then we had young Palestinian kids offering us tea. Then once we thought we had sorted out the first incident, in which workers and border police destroyed a few fields and then left, we heard tear gas canisters and sound bombs exploding a half of kilometer from us. So we ran through the vineyards (do you call them that if the grapes aren't used for wine?) to see what was happening. We stepped out of the orchard and immediately got hit with a semi-dispersed cloud of tear gas.

So, I think you get the idea. It was chaos and we were trying to sort of what was happening, while still remaining appalled that these people's fields had been destroyed, while trying to ask the police why they were doing this, while we tried to document. This is the occupation. It's just absolutely crazy, in the sick, twisted, evil kind of way.

Here's the video, followed by the release:

For Immediate Release
Al Khalil/Hebron: Israeli Border Police Destroy Vegetable Fields in Al Baqa'a Valley
July 7, 2010

Photos from the incident are available here:

Israeli border police destroyed several Palestinian fields in Al Baqa'a Valley just east of Hebron on July 6, 2010, directly impacting the livelihood of more than one hundred Palestinians.

Landowners said that Israeli border police and the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO),
responsible for the coordination of Palestinian civilian affairs in Area C, began implementing the destruction at around 8:30am. Israeli authorities, with the assistance of hired labor, damaged fields of vegetables and destroyed the irrigation systems of those fields.

When international peace activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams arrived in the area at 11:30am, about 20 workers hired by the Israeli border police and DCO had cut and disposed of

the irrigation pipes laid in two fields. The fields each measured 10 dunams (approximately 40 acres) and included tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, and beans. In addition to dismantling the irrigation pipes, the workers also cut the twines that were holding up each tomato plant. A matriarch of the family, Aratiki Karim, said, "These tomatoes are for the kids, for the babies, to feed the kids and to sell them to buy other food for the kids." The Palestinian farmers had planted the tomato plants nearly three months ago and the tomatoes were only 20 days from being ready for market.

The border police, DCO, and hired laborers then moved to another field further along Route 60 in the Al Baqa'a Valley to perform the same procedure. The border police blocked the junction between the residential zone and the nearby fields, shooting tear gas and sound bombs to prevent Palestinians from going to the area where the hired workers were removing more irrigation pipes. Several women and children suffered from tear gas inhalation and required hospitalization.

Badran Mohammed Jabber, looking out onto his destroyed fields uttered in exasperation, "I have spent 43 years under the Israeli reign of terror. I have lived my life in fear, I never know what the Israelis will do tomorrow. They have destroyed my land, they have destroyed my life, these fields are my life."


This is not the first time Israeli authorities have destroyed crops and irrigation equipment in the Al Baqa'a Valley. See the following links for further reading on demolitions in the Baqa'a Valley:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is atrocious. Thank you for sharing and letting the world know. But first thank you for your commitment and your courage to witness these shameful events in the first place.