12 February 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Sabastiya, Occupied Palestine
Sabastiya is an ancient city located just 10 km north of Nablus, West Bank. It contains Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine ruins as well as the tomb of John the Baptiste. The winding city streets along with its history make Sabastiya an ideal place to visit. Yet, as charming and beautiful as the old city is, the nearby Israeli settlement of Shafi Shamrom is making lives of Sabastiya’s residents very difficult: settlers uprooted olive trees, introduced wild boars into the environment to damage the land, and most recently, sewage has started leaking from the settlement flooding Palestinian fields.
In 2001 settlers uprooted and destroyed around 1000 olive trees, substantially damaging the land of several families. In 2006 the army put up a fence in an attempt to confiscate the land where the trees had originally been. Sabastiya’s farmers acted: they pulled the fence down in a defiant act of resistance and since that time there have been no further attempts to install it again.
The most recent and disturbing action on the part of illegal settlers of Shafi Shamron is pumping their raw, untreated sewage directly onto Palestinian fields. As the sewage is absorbed into the land, olive and apricot trees are rendered diseased and, according to the residents, “poisoned”. The flow of human waste begins from a pipe on the perimeter of the settlement, creating a sort of reservoir which then runs through the adjacent Palestinian fields, compelling each subsequent land owner to create a canal in order to drain the sewage water on to his neighbors land and further away.
Residents of Sabastiya are currently bringing legal action against Shafi Shamron in order to stop the settlement from dumping its sewage on Palestinian lands. The malodorous sewage running through the fields must remind a regular visitor of non-violent protests of a very effective strategy used by the army; the “skunk” water, which is chemical liquid smelling of excrement commonly sprayed on protesters. Settlers are evidently using a similar technique to make local residents’ lives even more difficult.