Israeli Army Won't Let Palestinian Farmers Till Their Land Because of Settler Violence

One family's lawyer reached out 12 times to the Israeli authorities so that the farmers could coordinate access to their almond grove, but to no avail.

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Palestinian farmers trying to enter the West Bank settlement of Ofra to work their lands, August 1, 2011.
A file photo of Palestinian farmers trying to enter the West Bank settlement of Ofra to work their lands in 2011.Credit: Emil Salman
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Despite a 2006 High Court ruling, military commanders in the West Bank are not facilitating access for two Palestinian farming families north of Ramallah to work their land. The plots, both north of Ramallah, belong to Fawzi Ibrahim from the village of Jalud and the other, to the Mu’ein Musa family from Qaryut. In both cases, the proximity of two outposts known for their history of harassing Palestinian villagers prevents the farmers from accessing their fields.

Ibrahim is permitted to enter his 250-dunam (62 acres) plot only twice a year, and only in coordination with and accompanied by the army. If he isn’t able to reach his field this week in order to plough it and sow wheat, he could miss the entire season. The Musa family doesn’t officially need to coordinate with the army but their fears of settler violence and the army’s preference to avoid confrontations between settlers and Palestinians necessitates that they coordinate their activity with the army in practice.

Since the beginning of January, attorney Quamar Mishirqi Asad has appealed to the Coordination and Liaison Administration several times with requests to coordinate Ibrahim’s access to his land before sowing season ends. All of her appeals, in writing, verbally and via WhatsApp, went unanswered. The outpost of Esh Kodesh was built close to Ibrahim’s land. The outpost of Yishuv Hada’at, also known as the Bayit Adom (Red House), was built the Musas' land.

The plots of land belonging to Fawzi Ibrahim from the village of Jalud north of Ramallah.Credit: Haqel - Jews and Arabs In Defense of Human Rights

In August 2016, when Mishirqi Asad appealed to the Coordination and Liaison Administration so that the Musas could access their land, she was told that a new commander had arrived in the area and that he needed time in order to study the situation. She has appealed at least 11 more times so that the Musa family could get to its almond grove, but to no avail. The army spokesman told Haaretz that security considerations prevented the Musa family from entering the western part of their field and that they were requested to coordinate entry at a later date.

Despite written documentation of all these appeals, the army claims that the Musas haven’t yet made their request and that “Ibrahim’s attorney was asked to coordinate his entry in writing but has not done so yet. When such a request arrives, the entry of these landowners to their land will be organized.”

The people that Mishirqi Asad turned to in writing, by phone and through WhatsApp in order to enable these families to access their land were Maj. Yizhar Yitzhak, the head of operations and human rights; David Elmaliach from the coordination office in Nablus; Maj. Rafi Biton from the Ramallah coordination office; and Lt. Yulia Weinshker from the lands division at the Civil Administration.

The CLA is the agency that needs to coordinate with the army. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the body in charge of the CLA, would not comment on the matter.

From the end of the 1990s and particularly since the 2000s, agricultural outposts have been built in the area surrounding the settlement of Shilo. With them came increased harassment and violence directed at the residents of Jalud, Qaryut and three other villages in the area. In response to these attacks, the army closed an area covering 9000 dunams to Palestinian farmers, preventing them from working their land or tending their flocks there. This phenomenon of settler violence leading to the closure of an area for Palestinians is common across the West Bank, and has led to a joint petition filed with the High Court of Justice by human rights groups.

In 2006 the High Court instructed Israeli authorities to allow Palestinians to work their land in coordination with and accompanied by the army. This is done only a few times during the year, for only a few days. Most other days, farmers cannot access land which is close to such outposts.

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