Saturday, April 18, 2009

Today was another one of those days that can't be adequately described. When I arrived in Mashaha valley, I found a friend of ours absolutely beside himself. His field of wheat had been completely destroyed. Settlers grazed their sheep in the middle of his field and now it's destroyed and now his wheat crop is decimated.

The day went down hill from there. Soldiers drove up clearly intending the declare the area a closed military zone, which always a very troubling development in this area since access to land is so important and so tenuous. You can read more information about what happened in the release below, but that's not what stood out to me.

I was struck deeply by how easily the hard work of a Palestinian farmer is destroyed. In November, Palestinians plowed that field in Mashaha in an impressive act of resistance. That day, the army premited them to work and kept the settlers at bay. But a week ago, I watched as a jeep accompanied a settler has he grazed his sheep in the Mashaha and today, the soldiers confered with the settlers and allowed them to stay in the area. Moreover, they acted as though Palestinians had no right to be there whatsoever. How quickly things change.

It's hard to believe that daily acts of nonviolent resistance - that plowing fields, grazing sheep, and harvesting olives - will be enough to build a just peace against an oppresive, violent state. But what else is there to do?

AT-TUWANI: Israeli settlers destroy crops near At-Tuwani village; soldiers declare area a Closed Military Zone

[Note: 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 are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

On 18 April 2009, Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills reported that Israeli settlers had destroyed a large, privately owned Palestinian wheat field by allowing a flock of goats and sheep to graze on it. Palestinian owners discovered the destruction when they arrived to harvest the crops on the morning of 18 April. The field, located in Meshaha Valley, is the property of a family living in the nearby village of At Tuwani.

Also that morning, Israeli soldiers declared a large area of land east of At-Tuwani to be a closed military zone and forced Palestinian shepherds and their flocks to leave their land. Landowners and internationals were told they would be subject to arrest if they remained. The soldiers also ordered Palestinian landowners to advise the military every time they intend to access their own land within the zone. Israeli soldiers refused to provide Palestinian landowners with copies of the map of the military zone boundaries and would not tell them how long the closure would last. Throughout the morning, a group of at least ten Israeli settlers conferred with the soldiers.

The Palestinian owners of the land said the cultivated area destroyed was approximately forty dunum (approximately ten acres). Palestinians from At-Tuwani and nearby villages have repeatedly observed settlers from the outpost of Havot Ma’on with a flock of sheep and goats grazing on Palestinian land east of the outpost in recent months. Israeli settlers with the flock have threatened Palestinian shepherds and disrupted the grazing of Palestinian flocks on several occasions this spring, prompting Palestinians to file legal complaints against them.

The crop destruction represents a severe economic loss, as the area is experiencing an extremely dry spring and the field was one of the few near At-Tuwani that produced a spring wheat crop. Spring crops and the raising of sheep and goats are central to the economy and way of life in At-Tuwani and the surrounding small villages of the South Hebron Hills. Disruption by the Israeli military or settlers of agricultural work at this time of year represents a substantial threat to the villagers’ livelihoods.

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