Israel Sequesters Palestinian Farms West of Wall
Israel Sequesters Palestinian Farmland West Of Wall
Kicks farmers out of their orchards, claiming land is "Israel"
[Occupied West Bank] Contrary to what the Israeli establishment has been saying, the government of Ariel Sharon has made another big land grab. A new order issued by the military commander of the West Bank announced to Palestinians that they are no longer allowed to be on their land west of the separation wall. The order, which was distributed in Hebrew and illegible Arabic last week, states that the land west of the wall is a closed military area and that only Israelis, those eligible to be Israelis under the Law of Return (i.e. practically every Jew in the world) or those issued special permits would be allowed to be on the land. (See below for English translation of order)
The military order announcing the new restrictions, signed by Major General Moshe Kaplinski, the commander of IDF forces in "Judea and Samaria", and dated October 2, 2003, declares that lands west of the barrier are closed military zones and farmers who want access need to apply for a "long-term residency" permit. Palestinians also found at least two accompanying orders, signed by Brigadier General Ilan Paz, the head of the civil administration, and dated October 7, 2003. These orders detail how Palestinians are supposed to go about applying for the appropriate permits to be on their land west of the wall.
Of course, nothing in the order guarantees that permits will be granted to these Palestinian landowners, nor even respecated if granted.
The idea of applying for a permit to be on one's own land is rejected by Palestinians who have been on these lands for generations. In addition to the thousands of dunams of farmland, water wells, and greenhouses that are being isolated from their owners, thousands of Palestinians reside in 15 villages that fall between the wall and the Green Line. According to this new order, these Palestinians are "illegally" residing in their homes now.
In building the Separation Wall, the Israeli government has insisted that it is not confiscating more Palestinian land and has argued against the negative impact of this wall on Palestinians by claiming that farmers with land falling on the other side (west of the wall) will have access points - openings that they can pass through into their farmlands. Since the concrete walls have been built and the fences erected, a small number of gates have been built into the barricade and a prison-like system of access to orchards for farmers implemented.
Due to the random open/close schedule of the gates, however, and the harassment faced by farmers attempting to pass daily, dozens of farmers in Jayyous [Qalqilya region] had taken to camping out on their land to ensure that they could tend to their fields, while other farmers faced up to the abuse and daily attempted, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to reach their fields. (For video footage of events at the gate in Jayyous on October 8, please see www.palsolidarity.org). For the farmers that have been camping out on their land, ISM volunteers have been helping with the delivery of food to them from the village, passing bread, water and some home-cooked meals through the barbed wire to the farmers on the other side.
On Friday October 3 the gate was not opened at all for the farmers of Jayyous and Palestinians throughout the West Bank. The gates have remained totally closed since.
On Monday, October 13, 2003, in Jayyous, over 30 of the farmers who were camping on their land were rounded up, their IDs confiscated and told that they could no longer be on the land, because the land was "now Israel". A 17-year-old boy, Nael Zaher Nofel, who was riding his bike near Jayyous' west gate was abducted by Israeli soldiers yesterday and has yet to be released.
As opposed to Israeli government claims that the wall is a security messure, this military order is seen by Palestinians as another political move, part of a political initiative - the Seperation Wall, in Israel's overall political plan to remove them from the area, taking their land. According to Israeli State Law, land that is neglected for 3 years or more can be siezed for state use. Making it almost impossible for Palestinians to be on their land ensures long-term neglect and thus "legalized" confiscation of the land by the Israeli State. Soldiers enforcing this new order have already called it for what it is - "this land is now Israel" an Israeli soldier screamed at a Palestinian farmer in Jayyous as he forced him off his land yesterday.