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Israeli military constructs new roadblock in West Bank village, crippling farmers’ economy

28 December 2009

The Israeli army erected a giant earth mound across a crucial agricultural road in the northern West Bank village of Madama this week. The road block severely limits hundreds of farmers’ access to their lands, making transport by vehicle all but impossible. The intentional crippling of the village’s chief economy comes as settler violence continues unabated in the region.

Four Israeli military jeeps and one Caterpillar bulldozer entered the village on Wednesday night to construct the road block. The targeted dirt road cuts directly underneath the speedy settler road leading west from Yitzhar settlement, where a tunnel was constructed to allow the road’s continuation to farmers’ land. The bulldozer quickly moved massive mounds of earth across the road underneath the bridge, entirely blocking it and removing the possibility of access to cars and tractors by village farmers.

ISM activists visited Madama to witness families clambering over the earth mound on foot and herding, with great difficulty, donkeys and flocks of sheep and goats across the blockage. The prevention of tractor access is critical now especially, as Palestine enters its wet season and land must be ploughed to become fertile for the new year. Approximately 500 of Madama’s farmers hold land on the other side of the road block, whose economic livelihood is severely threatened by this senseless impediment.

The road overhead, linking Israeli settlers effortlessly with their homes and work outside the settlements, cuts deeply through Madama’s land, as it has done since it was built 10 years ago. Two homes, belonging to Yasser Taher’s family, are now isolated on the other side of the highway, marking them as prime targets for settler and military harassment, leaving children traumatised and inevitably forcing the majority of the family to move to a safer home within Madama.

Madama resident Abed Al-Aziz Zeiyada became the latest victim in an endless series of settler incursions as he drove his taxi home on Friday night. Settlers of Yitzhar settlement, waiting on the side of the road, hurled rocks at his car and destroyed the windscreen. When Zeiyada reached Huwara, now without a windscreen in his car, he was stopped by Israeli forces at a flying checkpoint. Showing them the unmistakeable damage, Zeiyada was refused assistance by Israeli soldiers. He returned to Madama and paid a 700 shekel bill for the window to be fixed the next day.

Residents of Madama always have one eye fixed on the settlements that loom over the village; Bracha to the north, and Yitzhar to the south. Yitzhar alone is built on 1000 dunums of Madama’s land, including all of its water wells. Villagers are forced to spend vast amounts of their income on water, a 90-litre tank costing a crippling 125 shekels. Settler incursions also occur frequently, wrecked upon homes on the edge of the village, if not from the settlers then from the military, whose base next to Bracha send jeeps careening through the streets of Madama and neighbouring villages by night.

Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, and their network of Apartheid roads, in addition to Israeli government and military suffocating policy and presence in occupied Palestine culminate in a devastating effect on the everyday lives of Palestinians, such as residents of Madama village, whose voices all too often go unheard.