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Kibbutz Insists On Palestinian’s Fair Treatment

Afflicted Kibbutz Insists On Palestinian Neighbors' Fair Treatment

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - http://www.gush-shalom.org/

Tel-Aviv, 11/11/2002

Once again a tragic and painful day.

The attack in which five random civilians were killed, two of them children, terrible.

The Israaeli media emphasize as an additional dimension of horror the fact that it happened in Kibbutz Metzer, a place known for its inhabitants' committment to peace.

Indeed, we use to see Metzer kibbutz members in peace demonstrations.

Moreover, the Kibbutz maintains in everyday life good relations with the neighboring Arab villages: a particularly close partnership with the village of Meiser, near which the Kibbutz was founded in the early 1950's; and since 1967 also with the West Bank village Kapan just across the Green Line.

It scarcely matters whether Metzer was a randomly chosen target; whether the attack was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the talks held in Cairo between Palestinian factions, aimed at putting an end to such attacks. In either case it is a heavy blow to any however hesitant effort to get out of the hellish situation.

The "dire retaliation", was already announced by the newly-appointed Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, will doubtlessly add still another blow, and the cycle of revenge upon revenge upon revenge seems never-ending.

The one ray of light in this dark moment is the continuing committment of Kibbutz Metzer to the cause of peace and coexistence - a commitment which the inhabitants of Metzer are reiterating again and again whenever the issue is touched upon by the avid representatives of the media who descended upon the stricken kiubbutz.

* * * *

The attack upon Metzer, a community located very near the pre-'67 border, would probably bring once again to the fore the issue of the "Separation Wall" being erected in that neighborhood. The simple-minded logic - "the border must be sealed against terrorists" - will now have an even greater apeal. It will be even more difficult than before to say, as we do, that ending the occupation and establishing a peaceful border between two states would make a high Separation Wall superfluous - and that if the occupation army and settlers stay on inside the West Bank, erection of a wall solves nothing.

Still, even if the principle of "a Separation Wall" is granted, one must take issue with the wide- spread confiscation of Palestinian land which is carried out with the ewxcuse of building The Wall. The members of Kibbutz Metzer spoke out, already several months ago, against the wall being used as an excuse to confiscate and destroy the olive groves of their Palestinian neighbors of Kapin Village, and demanded that the fence be erected at the only logical place - the exact line of the pre-'67 border. Moreover, if some land would be needed for a patrol road and the like, they offer to give up some of the Kibbutz's own land for that purpose; and this position, too, was reiterated today on Metzer's dark hour.

A bit further south, this kind of problem is right now examplified: at the Palestinian village of Falami trees of all kinds - olive, cirtus, guava - are being uprooted in their hundreds "to make place for the wall" and the village stands to lose most of its agricultural lands and water sources. Yesterday morning, a delegation of Gush Sahlom were trudging together with Falami villagers through the devaastated fields, following three enormous yellow Caterpillar machines which were systematically uprooting tree after tree. After last week's protests, at which villagers and peace activists tried to block the destruction and were dispersed with the massive use of tear gas, the army threatened that any further obstruction would entail the imposition of indefinite curfew over the whole village. So we did not obstruct the big bulldpzers, just pointed at their crews (and at the surrounding Border Guards and private security men) our signs reading "Uprooting trees is sowing hatred" and "For man is the tree of field" (part of the Biblical prohibition on cutting down trees, which is so often ignored by modern Israeli practicioners of Orthodox Judaism").

Later, when BBC and Al-Jazeera arrived with their cameras, we posed with the signs on the background of the ongoing destruction. "Why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve?" asked one of the bulldozer drivers when he climbed down to take a break. "We have to protest injustice to the best of our ability, even if we can't change it. Are you not feeling uncomfortable at uprooting trees?" "Sure I feel uncomfortable. I am a religious man, I know that verse. The contarctor cheated me, he told only that I was going to shift rocks. But what can I do, it is my job, and if I had not done it somebody else would". And he climbed back into the cockpit.

The Palestinian landowners who came with us were mainly concerned to salvage what they could of their olives. The huge machines which take out the whole tree by the roots - rather than the chainsaws which were last week used to cut trees to pieces - left open the possiblity of replanting the tree elsewhere. The operationaal change was not necessarily done for the villagers' benefit - so the farmers said: it is rumored that contractors often sell olive trees in Israel for a lucrative side- profit. That may well have happened in Falami, too, except that our presence enabled the villagers to get into what was officially "a closed military zone" and recover some of the uprooted trees.

And then we saw our friendly bulldozer driver suddenly veer over and actively help them dig holes for replanting the trees in a new location - which probably was not part of his official job description.

On our way out of Falami, we passed still-intact green fields and orange groves at the heart of Falami's farmlands. "They will arrive here before the end of the week, and we can do nothing, absolutely nothing" said S., a Falami-born engineer who came back from a Gulf emirate to help his fellow villagers in this crisis and who conducted us about the Falami lands. "The wall will go up, and we will need a miltary permit any time we want to get to the oranges and to the tomatoes and cucmbers in our hothouses. The army says that there will be gates in the wall and that we will be allowed to get through to our land. If you believe that, you will believe anything"

[If you decide to forward this message then, please, copy it and send it as a new mail - in order to avoid broken lines.]

For more information: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson info@gush-shalom.org ph: 03-5565804 / 056-709603

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