27 November 2009
Israeli Occupation Forces arrested an elderly resident of Jayyous this week, a Palestinian village located in the Qalqilya region, that has maintained an active campaign against the terrorisation of its people and the annexation of its land by the illegal Apartheid Wall.
Mohammad Salim, a 63 year old resident of Jayyous was taken from his home in the middle of the night by Israeli Occupation Forces this week. Salim, an elderly man, was just a few short hours away from leaving for Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to make the holy pilgrimage of the Hajj when he was taken by the military. Residents – even his own family – are dumbfounded as to why he would be targeted.
This is not atypical of the military’s strategy in Jayyous – what appears a haphazard campaign of unpredictable – seemingly random – arrests and violent invasions is a methodical attempt of the army to sow the seeds of internal discontent and provocation within the village.
“They want to create problems inside the community,” says Jayyous activist Abu Azam. “They always give the excuse that people are throwing stones at the Wall, but really they just want to make us fight with each other.”
And the sheer brute force exhibited by the army must surely take its toll. Invasions occur any time during the day or night, accompanied by the sound of sirens, tear gas grenades, sound bombs and bullets – plastic, rubber-coated steel or live ammunition – announcing the arrival of Israeli jeeps inside the village. Curfew was imposed three days consecutively during the last month. Parts of the village now have only 2 days of running water a week after dozens of water tanks were damaged by bullets, while farmers have reported the death of 8 lambs and over 600 chickens from tear gas suffocation.
The danger of military violence is only one of Jayyous’ many problems. Construction of the Apartheid Wall began in Jayyous in 2002, prohibiting access of farmers to 8,600 dunums of their land. Demonstrations began almost immediately, and the Palestinian Land Defense Committee launched a case in the Israeli Supreme Court against the government. They succeeded in a 2006 ruling to re-route the Wall, returning a meager 750 dunums to the village. Almost 8,000 dunums stand on the other side, including 3 water wells. The Israeli government has refused requests for permission of residents of Jayyous to pump the water from these wells to their side of the wall. This affects not only the village itself but the surrounding region, such as the larger town of Azzoun that relies on Jayyous’ small supply of water as well, after the nearby settlement of Qarne Shomron annexed all but two of the towns’ supplying wells.
When it comes to accessing the land, the Israeli government employs bureaucracy itself as a weapon, in the form of a labyrinthine system of permit applications for farmers hoping to reach their fields. Although well over 600 families from Jayyous own farmland on the other side of the wall, only 300 permits farming permits were issued in October for farmers hoping to gain access to their crops for the yearly olive harvest. The permits issued rarely meet the needs of the farmers – such as only one or two family members being permitted access to the land, or access restricted to a few short days, entirely disproportionate to the necessary amount of time to collect crops. The situation is even worse during the rest of the year, as the number of permits issued shrinks to 120, for farmers hoping to plough, prune and work their land. Due to this, thousands of dunums of crops become unharvestable, and agriculture becomes an impossibility for many families.
Jayyous has been a prominent village in Palestinian resistance, as one of the first villages to begin demonstrating against the wall and the continued legal campaign for its removal. The recent imprisonment of Jayyous activist Mohammad Othman has brought the village’s struggle into focus. Othman was arrested at the Jordanian border to the West Bank by Israeli military as he returned from a trip to Norway to promote the BDS campaign. He has now been placed under administrative detention, the detention of an individual by the state without trial – in Othman’s case, for a minimum of three months with the possibility for a renewed term. This clear violation of human rights works in conjunction with Israel’s continued repression of popular resistance such as Jayyous’ fight against the illegal Apartheid Wall and the Israeli occupation.