Israeli Army Preventing Palestinian From Sowing Land Near Settlement

Army evading obligation to escort and protect Fawzi Ibrahim while he farms his land, rights group says.

The Israeli military is preventing a Palestinian from sowing the land he owns because of its proximity to an illegal settlement outpost, which lies on a plot of state land, right in the middle of his property.

Fawzi Ibrahim, a resident of the village of Jalud, south of Nablus in the West Bank, has been trying in vain for more than a month to coordinate with the Israel Defense Forces to find a time to sow his 220 dunams of land. In November, he was able to plow the land under IDF escort. But if he isn’t able to sow it in the coming days, he says, he will lose the 18,000 shekels ($5,200) he spent to buy seed, and miss the chance to harvest a crop.

Ever since the second intifada erupted in 2000, the IDF has opted to bar Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands near settlements and outposts rather than confront the settlers who sometimes attack them. In 2006, the High Court of Justice ruled that the IDF must enable Palestinians to work their land. Since then, Palestinian farmers have been able to work their lands under IDF escort, but only with prior coordination, and only for a few days a year, during the plowing, planting, reaping and olive harvesting seasons.

Ibrahim was unable to access his land near the Esh Kadosh settlement for about a decade. Only last year, following a protracted legal battle, waged by Rabbis for Human Rights, was he finally able to plow and plant it again. Rabbis for Human Rights said the IDF’s current failure to set a date to escort Ibrahim to his fields not only violates the court’s ruling, but also encourages violence by Esh Kadosh residents.

About three weeks ago, the IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank uprooted grapevines that settlers had illegally planted on another plot of land Ibrahim owns. The vines were planted during the long stretches when Ibrahim was barred from accessing his land, and their uprooting was the pretext for a planned attack by Esh Kadosh residents on the nearby village of Qusra on January 7. That attack went awry, however, when Qusra residents instead captured and beat the settlers.

Last month, Ibrahim asked Maj. Tzidki Maman of the IDF’s Coordination and Liaison Administration to arrange an army escort for him to sow his land near Esh Kadosh. When he failed to get a response, he sought help from Rabbis for Human Rights. On January 2, the administration informed them that the IDF didn’t know when Ibrahim would be able to access his land, since “it’s impossible to foresee the future.”

Rabbis for Human Rights sent a letter protesting the delay to the Military Advocate General, and on January 12, were told that the regional brigade would be prepared to escort Ibrahim to his land in the near future, “subject to the security situation and the periodic situation assessment.”

On January 14, Maman said he thought the escort would be arranged for January 20 or 21. But on January 19, he told Ibrahim that he hadn’t received approval from the brigade. Since then, Ibrahim and Rabbis for Human Rights have contacted the army repeatedly, both verbally and in writing, but received no answer.

Because the Shiloh Valley, where Esh Kadosh is located, contains several outposts in close proximity, the IDF has barred residents of Jalud from accessing about 10,000 dunams of land, out of a total of 16,000 dunams privately owned by village residents. Most of this is agricultural land, and on about 1,550 dunams of it, local settlers have planted vineyards and olive groves. In addition, Ibrahim and other Jalud residents have had their olive groves vandalized repeatedly over the years, with trees being either chopped down or torched.

The Civil Administration told Haaretz the liaison administration is aware of Ibrahim’s case and is dealing with it.

“Every few days, the administration’s infrastructure officer has a conversation with Mr. Fawzi Ibrahim,” a spokeswoman said. “He was told explicitly that there is no possibility of coordinating his access to the area because of the security situation at the moment. There’s no basis to his claims about not receiving a response from the administration.” 

Fawzi Ibrahim on his land near the outpost of Esh Kadosh in 2013
Moti Milrod