7 September 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On Tuesday September 6th local Palestinians from the village of Al Walajeh gathered with international activists to protest the building of the illegal separation barrier as well as the destruction of ancient olive trees. The demonstrators succeeded in halting the razing of Palestinian land for approximately one hour before soldiers violently broke up the protest arresting one Palestinian and one Israeli activist.
On September 5th bulldozers protected by dozens of soldiers arrived at 4 AM and uprooted 50 olive trees that date back at least 100 years. The bulldozers also destroyed 18 almond trees, 27 pine trees, and 8 fruit trees. The destruction took place in an area of over 1 square mile and was declared a closed military zone, prohibiting media coverage of the devastating operation.
Mohammed Al-Atrash (Abu Wajih), the elderly farmer who owned the trees, will receive no compensation for his loss.
In the aftermath residents of Al Walajeh called for a presence of media and activists to highlight this illegal destruction carried out by the Israeli government. At approximately 10am on Tuesday several residents from the village, joined by ISM and other activists, walked down to the site of the olive grove, which is now a wasteland. Upon arriving they stood in front of the construction machines and forced them to halt their work.
Soldiers declared the area a closed military zone and disbanded the protest by force within an hour. Yousif Shakawi, a local resident in his 50’s was arrested along with one Israeli activist. The remaining protesters were held at distance so that the work could resume.
The trees were destroyed in preparation for the building of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall which is planned to run several hundred metres inside the 1967 green line, effectively seizing hundreds of dunnums of land from around Al Walajeh. If the Israeli government succeeds in completing the wall along the planned route the village will be surrounded on three sides with the army controlling entrance and exit to the village.
Sheerin Alaraj, who has lived in Al Walajeh all her life, explained to us that construction of the wall was continuing in spite of an on going appeal process in the Israeli high court with a ruling expected September 27th . However Sheerin has little confidence in the process as she explained to us “the court is just an extension of the military arm of Israel.”
In 2004 the International Court of Justice declared that the apartheid wall is illegal and Israel should tear it down immediately and compensate the victims. In spite of this ruling Israel has continued construction of the wall which annexes 8.5% of the entire West Bank territory. Since 2000 Israel has destroyed approximately 330,000 olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza. There is currently a campaign to boycott Caterpillar Inc. for its role in supplying the Israeli government with equipment used to enforce the occupation.
As the time for harvesting olives nears and Israeli military and settlers continue to destroy the main agricultural pillar of Palestinian culture and livelihood, International Solidarity Movement will be actively working throughout the harvesting season to safeguard Palestinians and assist in harvesting despite this and other events that have threatened security and access to Palestinian farmland. For more information on ISMs Olive Harvest Campaign, visit our website.