By Jonas Webber
31 July 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
Three days before the start of Ramadan, the small mountainside town of Iraq Burin was attacked by Israeli settlers from the illegal colony of Bracha. The attackers descended from the settlement at 12:30 a.m. and were soon followed by the Israeli military, shooting tear-gas and sound grenades.
“Since Ramadan started, things have been relatively calm here,” says Yousef, a resident of Iraq Burin, “earlier we used to have trouble all the time.”
Ironically, the settler attacks are most common on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, which traditionally is revered as a day of rest.
“But there have also been plenty of attacks on Wednesdays and Thursdays,” says Yousef.
The settlers target farmers closest to the settlement, making it impossible for them to work their land due to risk of being attacked or shot. The farmers’ lack of activity is then used against them as settlers claim the land to be abandoned and subsequently annex it. By these means, the illegal settlements across the West Bank continue to steal the lands of neighboring Palestinian villages.
Bracha is one of over 250 Israeli settlements and outposts erected in the Palestinian West Bank and violating Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. “Seizure of land for settlement building and future expansion has resulted in the shrinking of space available for Palestinians to sustain their livelihoods and develop adequate housing, basic infrastructure and services,” wrote the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
From Yousef’s rooftop one can see clearly where the irrigated fields of Bracha have stretched down into the valley since its construction in the early 1980’s.
Of the 2000 dunums that originally was Iraq Burin, 300 have been annexed by the settlement of Bracha and many hundreds have become inaccessible to Palestinians due to the risk of violent attacks. To protest this, the village has been holding demonstrations every Saturday for the past year. Similar to numerous protests across the West Bank, Iraq Burin’s regular demonstrations are met with brute force by the Israeli army.
“The failure to respect international law, along with the lack of adequate law enforcement vis-àvis settler violence and takeover of land has led to a state of impunity, which encourages further violence and undermines the physical security and livelihoods of Palestinians. Those protesting settlement expansion or access restrictions imposed for the benefit of settlements (including the Barrier) are regularly exposed to injury and arrest by Israeli forces,” noted OCHA.
For a short while, the demonstrations ceased after 2 young men, Muhammad and Usaid Qadus, were shot dead at close range by an Israeli soldier.
“But our peaceful struggle will continue among both the young and the old,” promises Yousef.
Jonas Webber is a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).