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CPT: Settlers Heat Up the Air in Al Bweireh

Christian Peacemaker Team – Hebron

Since approximately 2000, the Israeli Military and nearby settlers have set in place an iron gate across the road leading to Al Bweireh. They have also positioned a huge several-ton rock perhaps 25 meters from the barrier gate on the same road and another gigantic heap of rock and earth 100 meters up from the second blockade. Three roadblocks and a huge settlement, plus Outpost Hill 86 have all but destroyed the “heaven” these villagers once enjoyed on their beautiful land.

Fifty six families representing 560 people no longer have the “luxury” of carrying their groceries to their home by car, of driving their children from school in rain and storm to their homes, or of shipping grain and grapes to market without passing a settlement and military tower. Now, if these Palestinians are going to use a car, they need to go an extra six or seven kilometers on a very bumpy detour road to get to their destination..

In Nov. 2009 CPT was invited to accompany the children of the village on their way home from their schools. The children had experienced stone throwing, cursing, and chasing by the settlers. At times they also had their bicycles stolen. Some of the villagers therefore invited CPT to accompany their children from the eight schools they now attend, past the settlement and outpost to their homes.

Within the last six months, the settlers from the Outpost and Harsina Settlement have begun to “heat up the air” in Al Bweireh with their violent provocative activities toward the Palestinians. Every Friday the settlers enter the village to reach a lone tree on the hill opposite from Outpost Hill 86. They say their leader, Neti, was killed some years ago on this hill. According to the Palestinian residents, as the settlers walk through the Al Bweireh village, they try to pick a fight with some of the Palestinians.

During the week of July 11 the settlers broke two Palestinian car windows and started a fire in a Palestinian neighbor’s lawn. They also threw stones at the farmers and cut the water pipes in one of the grape fields. Prior to these activities, at the beginning of planting season, settlers stole a horse from one of the families. This put the farmer behind in his plowing and also forced him to borrow money to buy a new horse to use until the settlers returned his former horse one month later for the ransom price of 1200 shekels.

During the week of July 18 “about 200 settlers” gathered on the Palestinian road leading through the village. A local Palestinian called CPT to come, to see, to document what was happening. Two CPTers responded, but when they saw the settlers on Outpost Hill 86, they feared something was happening to one of the Palestinians. They approached the settlers at the Outpost and were told to leave. When they began to leave the Outpost, the settlers kicked the CPTers and attempted to steal one of their cameras.

In response to all these provocations, members of CPT or ISM (International Solidarity Movement) are present for some hours in the village every possible day of the week. Also, every Sunday CPT plus their translator Hani Abuhaekel visit the families, build relationships, ask for a review of the past week, and check any further growth of the Outpost. On one Sunday the former Sheik spoke so poignantly: “Why do they (the settlers) come here and do this to us? We all – Jews and Muslims – lived as one family before 1928.”

CPTer Paul Rehm presented a proposal to the “U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation” to help the village of Al Bweireh remove the road blockades to their village. The organization accepted his proposal unanimously and will send it to all 300+ organizations of the Campaign in hopes that each sub group will work creatively in their context on this proposal for the next year.

Though it is not clear what will result from this action, soldiers and police arrived in Al Bweireh at 3:00am Thursday Aug. 5 to dismantle the Outpost. A neighbor said the soldiers found the settlers asleep and had to forcibly carry some of the settlers out of the Outpost. By the time CPT was alerted and was able to arrive in Bweireh, there was evidence of settler reaction to their removal: huge rocks and glass on the Palestinian road and a part of a grape field burned. The military had built a huge earthen mound on the road to the Outpost, making it inaccessible to the settlers. Typically, the settlers begin rebuilding almost immediately. Time will tell.