by Tom Wallace
At approximately 1:00 PM today, April 27, 03, Israeli contractors, protected by Israeli army, police and private security, blasted rock with 50 – 60 sticks of dynamite. The blast was 25 meters from the Peace Camp at Mas’Ha. The Contractors have been charged with building the “security fence” otherwise known as the “apartheid wall” At the time of the blast there were 26 people in the area. They had evacuated the peace camp and move to a safe location. As a result there were no injuries. Damage to the camp is minor with boulders the size of basketballs landing on the tents. In the other direction, boulders the size of couches landed in the olive groves.
Mas’ha was set up 3 weeks ago by local Palestinian farmers and land owners whose land is being expropriated by Israel through the erection of an aparthied wall. The Mas’ha locals made a call to internationals for help. Two weeks later, internationals from the ISM, IWPS and Israel arrived. The Israeli government claims that this wall is for security. However, this claim does not withstand even the slightest scrutiny.
Mas’ha village is isolated and located close to the 1967 ’Green Line’. Relations between Israeli’s and Palestinians were traditionally good, with Israeli’s and Palestinian’s shopping together in the well known local market. During both the first and second intifada there was no resistance to the occupation from Mas’ha. Clearly, there was no security threat from the people of Mas’ha.
However, the Israeli’s want to build their wall through the middle of Mas’ha, separating the villagers from their farm land. Once the wall is erected, the farm land will fall on the ’Israeli’ side of the wall. The map of the proposed wall identifies its’ location between the illegal Israeli settlements and the Palestinian village. It is clear that the wall is planned to wind around the settlement’s annexing the farm land to Israel. In total the wall will expropriate a further 10% of the West Bank from the Palestinians thus contravening UN Resolution 242. It is easy to conclude therefore, that the wall is not for security reasons, but rather, to further Israel’s land interests.
The implications of this wall are enormous. The people of Mas’ha rely on the sale of their olives and other crops as their sole source of income. Currently, thousands of olive trees are either being destroyed or stolen. Normally the villagers of Mas’ha could also rely on work within Israel – though this is considered an embarrassement to the resourcefulness of the Mas’ha people. However, since the start of the second intifada, it has been deemed illegal for Palestinians to work in Israel, eliminating this source of income as well, although some Palestinians do risk short term work in Israel. Presently, the villagers are being forced to rely on charity from Israeli organizations. And again, this is humiliating for the Palestinian people and not a permanent solution.
In order to protect the Palestinian locals from Israeli army aggression, the peace camp is not actively trying to stop the bulldozers from continuing with their work, rather, the camp acts as an information point to locals, Internationals and Israeli peace activists. The locals are not really aware of what the Israeli army is doing to Mas’ha, So locals visit the camp to get more information about the land being annexed and to drink tea with the internationals and Israeli peace activsits. In fact, the camp is a place of relationship building, where all nationalities, including Israeli’s and Palestinians live together and oppose the destruction of the apartheid wall.
Last Sunday there was a demonstration and an information centre with maps and pictures set up in the camp, which the media visited. The most frequent visitors are the Israeli soldiers, who come to the camp an average of three times per day. Sometimes soldiers will ask people at the camp if they need anything, other times they try to push them around. During the night, people staying at the camp work in shifts They keep watch not only for soldiers but more worryingly, for the violent Israeli settlers, who are known to carry Uzi’s with them, even whilst conducting normal daily activities.
At the moment, the land has been cleared and the wall is ready to be erected using stone quarried from the land at the site where the wall will be constructed. When looking over the mountain from the peace camp, you can see the Israeli settlements encircling Mas’ha and its’ olive farmland.
We hope that the peace camp will continue to flourish, and that the people who pass through will tell the story of Mas’ha’s plight to the world.