Issue No.
139, November 2009 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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   Tue. October 23, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by George Azar

Harvest under Fire
Compiled by the Palestinian Grassroots
Immatin is a small village of nearly 2,500 people that is nestled in the hills east of Qalqilia. Like so many other villages in Qalqilia, Immatin’s recent history is marred by stories of confiscated lands, uprooted olive trees, and the approach of the Wall, which threatens to isolate 10,000 of the village’s 27,000 dunums.

To make matters worse, the people of Immatin have the misfortune of living just south of the Qedumim settlement. Founded by the religious settlement movement Gush Emunim in 1975, Qedumim is populated by settlers infamous for their violence, which inevitably increases during the olive harvest. These settlers were responsible for nearly a dozen attacks during last year’s harvest, when they burned and blocked access to fields and attacked farmers with sticks and stones.

In just two weeks last October, Qedumim settlers perpetrated three attacks in Immatin. On 2 October, settlers set fire to trees, and the next week they stoned a solitary farmer on his way to the fields. Several days later, Mohammed Abdel Atif, Abdel Karim, and Hassan al Shersh, along with their families, were picking olives when they were set upon by settlers who hurled stones and beat them with sticks. When Israeli soldiers arrived, they proceeded to detain Abdel Karim’s children along with Hassan al Shersh and his wife until late in the evening.

This year, history is gearing up to repeat itself. We spoke with Sayil Ibrahim, a farmer from Immatin, about the olive harvest, which traditionally begins during the first days of October. It is becoming a bigger challenge every year for the farmers who face a tightening siege due to the Wall, expanding settlements, settler attacks, and permit restrictions. Sayil Ibrahim explained that on 10 October, settlers from Qedumim were celebrating into the late hours of the night. After finishing with the celebrations, they came down from the settlement into the farmland of Immatin where they set fire to the olive groves. Villagers awoke at three in the morning to the smell of smoke and the light of the fires, which were later extinguished by Palestinian fire-fighters.

The following morning the villagers headed towards their land to pick olives. While they were working in the groves, settlers came down and set fire to the fields again. Since no one was in the area, it was only after the fire spread considerably that people became aware of it.

Sayil Ibrahim recalled, “I was picking olives with my family when people from the village told me that the settlers had burned land on the northern side of the village. I hurried to the land, and there I came upon a terrible sight.

“You must come and see for yourselves. This year my trees had olives unlike anyone else’s olives, despite the fact that this current season is bad; this land produces good fruit. But now the trees have been burned and nothing remains.”

This is not the first time Sayil’s olive trees have been torched; last year settlers set them on fire as well. He explained that because the groves are located in a mountainous area, the dry climate and winds helped the flames spread quickly, and no one could even get close. By the time the fire-fighters arrived, more than 500 olives trees had been lost.

“I called the Red Crescent and raised the issue with the Occupation authorities. I witnessed what happened and could prove the assault; however, the issue continues to sit in the Occupation courts. Until now they haven’t issued a ruling! We didn’t get a ruling last year, and now they burn what remains of my land. Will I raise the issue again?” He laughs bitterly.

Whether it is the courts or the military and police forces, Israeli institutions always act for the benefit of the settlers, allowing them to act with impunity.
“Each time the settlers come they call the Occupation army or settlement guards who kick me out and demand entry permits from me! I own this land. I should be asking for a permit from them to enter my land.”

Sayil, along with the rest of Immatin, has refused to bow to pressure from the military and the settlements and continues to hold on despite all the attempts to expel them. He answers simply, “We will stay on this land because it is ours.”

This tenacity is all that stands between the people and another Nakba. The government has neither defended the villagers nor attempted to intervene, and rights organisations that focus on the issue have offered little in terms of material and moral support. But this has not stopped the village in past, and this year they will carry out their harvest under fire, as they have been doing for years.

Compiled by the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign -
www.stopthewall.org.

The Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign is the main national grassroots body that coordinates the struggle against the Wall. We are a coalition of ten popular district committees representing over 100 communities, youth committees, and Palestinian NGOs. For three years the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign has coordinated collective olive harvest efforts to help farmers in targeted areas to reach their trees. We identify locations particularly threatened during the olive harvest and invite Palestinian and international volunteers to join the farmers in picking the olives. Monitoring the attacks on the farmers and their lands as well as media coverage complete the effort.
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