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Attempts to tend to farmland result in arrests

13 July 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

On the 12th of July 2011, 4 ISM members with a group of international activists, including Israeli, French, Belgian, Portuguese and a 5 Palestinians attempted to enter the illegally, occupied farmland of a Palestinian landowner in Beit Ommar. The initial plan was to try to farm and clean the land of litter near the military placed fence, which separates the remaining Palestinian land because of an illegal settlement. We attempted to enter the area through the road path leading to the farmland but we were blocked by 20 military men from the Israeli army. The following actions involved heavy discussions between an Israeli activist and what seemed to be the official of the military Israeli unit. We tried to attempt another route but we were blocked again by the same military Israeli unit. The group was then shown a document in Hebrew from the commander of the unit that this was a closed military zone and that we had 10 minutes to leave the area before they arrested any of us. The collective decision was then to back-off and set up a plan to start cleaning the nearest farmland.

The ISM team decided to accompany the civil disobedience action remaining between other activists. When the 10 minutes were over, the Israeli army pushed us backwards physically, and as we moved backwards, I saw one Belgian activist getting grabbed from the back and getting arrested. There were other activists who were arrested at this time but which I couldn’t see since the Israeli army began to throw sound bombs at us. After the first wave of arrests, the Israeli army began throwing more sound bombs at the activists that still remained on the farmland. At this time I managed to observe one Israeli activist getting arrested in the front area. We moved backwards slowly while a number of soldiers commanded us to leave the area. I didn’t witness any further arrests.

Later at a debriefing at the Palestine Solidarity Project center/ Friends for Freedom and Justice Center we were told that 2 international activists and an Israeli activist had been arrested.

Background information:

In 2006 two fences were built in Beit Ommar confiscating Palestinian land. The Palestinian landowners had to either pass through entrances controlled by the Israeli army or were either prevented at all from entering their farmland. Demonstrations started in 2006 against the fence. Farmers succeeded to work on the land legally but were not allowed to enter or farm by the illegally occupied military zone. 2006-2008 2 Palestinian farmers made it through and in 2008 heavy military occupation began around the zone. A curfew was imposed, mass arrests and hence demonstrations began again. ThevillageofBeit Ommaris surrounded by three settlements, one of them being Karmei Tsur. The way settlements expand is done through the creation of buffer military zones, stating that the Israeli government has the right to “protect” the illegal settlements around the area. With the expansion of areas around settlements many Palestinian farmers and residents have been shot and arrested.