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Israeli flags hanged in Yanoun are a reminder of Itamar settler violence

by Ramon Garcia

7 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

 The illegal settlement of Itamar, constructed illegally on the land of Aqraba,  Awarta,  and Beit Furik, has taken a provocative step of incitement in the village of Yanoun, from which Zionists have also stolen land. On 7 March 2o12 illegal  settlers entered the village of Yanoun and rose the flag of Israel over the home of village elder Abu Muhmad al Ajoori, who resides in the lower part of the village. Another flag was suspended over a water reservoir in the upper part of the village. The settlers were then seen by locals, wandering off into the hills.

Yousef Deria, a local activist against the wall and settlements, said locals contacted him following the incident, avoiding any conflict with the settlers who tend to have violent tendencies against Palestinians through their declared “Price Tag Campaign” which violently targets Palestinian villagers.

Deria was accompanied by peace activists and locals as they removed these flags.

Residents of Yanoun have suffered many years of terrifying violence at the hands of Itamar settlers – the murder of villagers, slaughter of their livestock, desecration of crops, property destruction and daily invasions and intimidation by armed settlers. The increasing brutality climaxed in 2002, as settlers rampaged the village, cutting down over 1000 olive trees, killing dozens of sheep, beating Palestinians in their homes with rifle butts, and gouging out one man’s eye.  Unable to stand the fear – and indeed reality – of terrorism any longer, the entire village evacuated at the time, mostly families fleeing to the nearby village of Aqraba.

An international and Israeli activist campaign was launched immediately to allow the residents of Yanoun to return to their lands. A permanent international presence was established in the village by EAPPI which has assisted in encouraging people of Yanoun to return home, and has remained instrumental in what little peace of mind the people of Yanoun have salvaged since they were uprooted from their land. One by one, they boldly returned.

Over the 2002-06 period the entirety of the village’s families eventually came back to their homes and attempted to start their life  in the shadow of Itamar’s ever-increasing outposts that dot the hills surrounding the village.  Approximately 100 people remain in the village – 40 in “lower Yanoun” in the valley, and 60 in “upper Yanoun”, whose houses ascend the hill to where just a few hundred meters away lie dozens of settlement houses and agricultural complexes.

Although the entire village is located in Area C – under full Israeli civilian and military control – and stands at risk of being slated for demolition, residents believe that the settlement’s – and Israeli government’s – strategy is what may already be underway – a gradual exodus of families and individuals as they are confined to an ever-shrinking amount of land, engulfed by the expanding settlement and its violent inhabitants.

There are some who remain though, who are determined to stay – many families steadfastly refusing to relinquish the connection to the land that is rightfully theirs. The very existence of Yanoun today bespeaks its fighting spirit, one that will hopefully continue despite the collective punishment waged on the village.