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IMEMC: Non-violent action on Palestinian land occupied by Israeli convict

Non-violent action on Palestinian land occupied by Israeli convict
by Polly Bangoriad, 28 April 2007

Israeli peace activist converses with Israeli soldier- photo by Polly Bangoriad

On Saturday morning Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists accompanied a Palestinian farmer to his land near Al Khader village, in the southern West Bank Bethlehem district. Their intention was to plough the agricultural land in preparation for planting crops. However, the land is being occupied by an illegal Israeli settler and convict, who has been permitted by Israeli court to spend the remainder of his sentence there.

The land in question is the centre of a complex situation. Recently, the Israeli settler named Hanan, was charged with the attempted armed robbery of a bank in Israel. The Israeli court sentenced him to 8 years in prison, 6 of which he has served. However, the convict suggested to the court that he ‘imprison’ himself for the remaining two years in an illegal settlement outpost on Palestinian land instead. Bizarrely, the court agreed, and Hanan is presently occupying an illegal outpost on the agricultural land of a Palestinian farmer, Ass’ad Sudeh from Al Khader. The settler has now started trying to use the Palestinian’s farm land for himself.

Upon hearing this story local activists decided to support Sudeh, whose land is under threat from the convict settler, and help him plow it today. It soon became apparent that the land has already been utilized by the convict- who is aware that he does not rightfully own it- for his own personal use. However, the settler argues that if the Palestinian farmer who owns the land attempts to remove the grape vines he has planted on the land and farm it himself, he will charge the farmer a great deal of money. This threat may sound petty and inconsequential, but the Israeli court is notorious for manipulating or even inventing new laws for Palestinians. The farmer could easily be forced to pay the settler a huge amount of money for the ‘right’ to remove the vines planted by the settler and work his own land.

About half a dozen illegal settlers some of whom were armed intervened when the peaceful activists started working the land. Despite the fact that the convict settler himself admitted that the land is owned by the Palestinian farmer, some of the other settlers confronted the activists, saying that they owned the land themselves and always have done. About a dozen Israeli troops also arrived promptly at the scene and demanded that the activists leave the land. Eventually the activists decided to leave but some were forbidden to use the dirt road leading out of the rural area by the Israeli troops, who deemed it an “Israeli-only road”. After much protest the armed Israeli troops finally permitted an elderly female British peace-activist to use the easier road instead of the uneven hillside.