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Even the Garbage is Occupied

by ISM Nablus

In between the Israeli military checkpoints of Beit Iba and Shave Shomeron settlement, is the Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf. The village has 3,500 residents and is dismembered by a settler-only road, an Occupation settlement and two checkpoints. This village has been fighting a four year battle to dispose of its garbage, after Occupation forces began preventing the village from dumping their garbage on their own land.

Since 2002, the village of Deir Sharaf has had problems from Occupation forces concerning the issue of garbage disposal. Prior to 2002, the village disposed of their trash locally, though soon after the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada, Occupation forces decided that this disposal program could not continue. Currently, the village is forced to drive the trash almost 40km to a dump in Jaba’, due west of Tubas, and south of Jenin.

The small village is having a great deal of difficulty with this restriction. In order to purchase diesel fuel for the daily commute to Jaba’, the village council has to pay more than 200 NIS a day. During their northern trek, the truck must pass through two permanent military checkpoints, and on most days, a number of temporary ‘flying’ checkpoints. Because of the settler-only roads, and the checkpoints, the journey sometimes is too long to be completed in one day, while on the best of days, it takes no less than 5 hours. Sometimes, the garbage truck driver is made to return to the village with his truck still full because Occupation soldiers based at checkpoints along the way decide to not allow the passage of the haul.

The garbage truck used in Deir Sharaf is collectively owned by their village and the village of Beit Iba. Each village is meant to use the truck on alternating days but because often times one load takes more than one day to deliver, the villages are both unable to effectively dispose of their waste. Beit Iba is located on the opposite side of a permanent checkpoint from Deir Sharaf so the collective arrangement is subject to the closures of the military. In addition, every 10-14 days the soldiers staffing Beit Iba checkpoint rotate. When this occurs, the new soldiers always stop the truck from passing, and detain the driver. This means that every two weeks, the President of the Deir Sharaf Council must travel to the checkpoint and renegotiate the passage of the truck with the current crew of soldiers.

The truck has also been seized by Occupation forces four times in four years, when after being unable to make the journey to Jaba’, the truck attempted to dump in the village. During these incidents, the driver was detained and once again, the President of the Council had to go to the detention center to explain the situation and negotiate the release of the driver and the truck. Last time the truck was seized, it was held for 15 days, and upon its release, the Council President was made to sign a paper promising that if the village was seen attempting to dump the garbage in their village again, their truck would be seized and the village fined 20,000 NIS.

The situation with Deir Sharaf highlights the everyday interactions between the Palestinian people and the Occupation. Here, even the seemingly simple task of garbage disposal is subject to the whims of checkpoint soldiers and closures. The Palestinian people of this West Bank village are denied the right to use their land as they like. For some reason, in the village of Deir Sharaf, the Occupation feels the need to regulate the disposal of garbage, while it simultaneously destroys the land in the same village by razing olive groves for an eight meter high concrete wall encircling the settlement. This interaction shows that for the Occupation, their concern is not ‘security’ as they claim, but rather oppression and harassment.