A Palestinian Farmer Just Wanted to Work His Land. He Got an Army Raid Instead

Israeli settlers are doing all they can to prevent the Jabaris from cultivating their six acres. The Israeli army helped out.

Abdul Karim Jabari works his land.
גיא בוטביה

In an interesting sequence of events, only three weeks after the state said the settlement of Kiryat Arba had no authority to collect real estate tax (arnona) from two Hebron brothers, the Israel Defense Forces raided the home of one of them. It was the night between January 19 and 20.

The arnona bill of 176,000 shekels ($47,360) levied on Abdul Karim and Zaidan Jabari in January 2015 was part of a larger interesting sequence of events. It was sent a few months after the two had petitioned the High Court of Justice against an illegal structure that Kiryat Arba residents had built on the brothers’ land. This is why the state to declare Kiryat Arba’s “lack of integrity” in issuing the arnona bill.

On February 8, Jabari experienced another coincidence when he set out to plow his land only two meters from his home. Kiryat Arba’s security coordinator, Moshe Botavia, suddenly appeared and summoned soldiers and a policeman, who together stopped the plow.

Botavia declared that Jabari’s working his land “hadn’t been coordinated” and launched into a long, arcane monologue that was filmed by one of two members of the grassroots group Ta’ayush who were accompanying the plow. The security coordinator, who seems full of himself and in full recognition of his power, encouraged them to film him and put the video on YouTube. In the clip you can see Jabari and the tractor driver he had hired – two men in their late 50s – looking embarrassedly and implacably at the armed, kippa-wearing Jew who wouldn’t stop pontificating.

Since when does someone need to coordinate the plowing of the land where his house sits? The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said, “To access his land, Mr. Jabari does not require coordination. It was recommended that he contact the Civil Administration and the IDF to accompany the work to make sure it was done properly.”

Actually, Jabari did contact an officer at the Civil Administration. At first the officer told him he should plow on Tuesday, but later said Wednesday February 8 was better. But according to COGAT, “The accompaniment was not possible because of operational considerations, and this answer was given to Mr. Jabari.”

COGAT, of course, did not explain why it had made that recommendation in the first place, but the reason is known: The Kiryat Arba settlers continue to do all they can to prevent the Jabari family from cultivating its 25 dunams (6.2 acres) of land.

After two Jews, Betar resident David Cohen and Kiryat Arba resident Yehezkel Moalem, were murdered on the road leading from Kiryat Arba to Hebron’s Old City in July 2001, the Jabaris were forbidden to enter and work their land, harvest olives, plow, plant or let their animals graze there. The illegal structure put up on their land was built in 2003. The entry and cultivation ban was rescinded in 2007, only after the attorney Labib Habib petitioned against it.

Jabari resumed working his land, but saplings that he had planted were uprooted, and when he and other members of the family went out to plow or do other work, they would be threatened and attacked by armed Israelis.

In short, that’s why a man may not need coordination to enter the land at his doorstep, but a military chaperone is recommended.

Fifty soldiers

Proximity plays an important role here, too. Across from the Jabari home, right across the road, is the western entrance to Kiryat Arba. That’s also where the grave of murderer Baruch Goldstein is located. Among the 29 worshippers that he murdered in February 1994 at the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron was Jabari’s oldest brother, Abdul Hak, who was 53 at the time.

At the top of the hill is the Givat Ha’avot neighborhood, built on land that was declared state land in 1980. But aerial photos obtained by Dror Etkes, who researches settlement policy, prove that most of the land was being cultivated by Palestinians both before and after the declaration. There, at the edge of Givat Ha’avot, some 200 meters above Jabari’s home and 300 meters from the illegal structure, is the Kiryat Arba police station.

Back to last month’s IDF raid. Family members estimate that some 50 soldiers, two female soldiers, two policemen in civilian clothes and a dog took part. Some of the soldiers entered the house, while others remained outside.

“They knocked on the door at exactly 1 A.M. and said it was the army. I asked them to show me a warrant,” Jabari told Haaretz a week ago Friday.

“They told me it was the army and there was no need for a warrant. At the same time, they knocked on the door of my son’s apartment. They said, ‘We’re counting to three and if you don’t open up we’ll blow down the door.’ He opened at the count of three. They were all masked, wearing black knitted hats, except for the two policemen.”

They collected all the family’s cellphones and the video camera with which one of Jabari’s daughters, who is also a B’Tselem volunteer, had started to record. The two female soldiers made the 15 women of various ages strip down to their underwear. The two soldiers sufficed with merely patting down a 7-month-old baby, and the male soldiers sufficed with patting down the men, before confining all 25 family members to two rooms in two of the apartments.

According to Jabari, the soldiers didn’t let the family bring milk and medicine for the baby who was trapped with them. “One of the officers in civilian clothes brought me my cigarettes,” he said. “He sent a Druze soldier to bring me a lighter. Another soldier said, ‘Don’t smoke.’ We started to argue and he yelled at me. Then the big officer came and told me, ‘It’s for your health.’ I said to him, ‘What do you care about my health?’

“Meanwhile, I heard yelling outside from my son Diya [who suffers from dwarfism like four of his brothers]. The soldiers took me out to him so that he would stop screaming. I saw three of them, masked, carrying him, small and disabled. I also started to scream. They shoved me against the wall and yelled, ‘What are you doing, crazy man, we’ll beat you.’ I told them, ‘I’m in my own home, why would you hit me?’ The soldier told me to shut up and crushed me against the wall. In the end they put me inside and left my son outside in the cold.”

The raid lasted until around 4 A.M. When the family came out of the two rooms, they didn’t recognize their home. Everything in the cupboards and draws had been dumped on the floor among piles of clothing, boxes, papers and mattresses that had been tossed around and ripped. There were overturned chairs, broken television sets, shattered cups, ripped-up floor tiles and smashed furniture. They still come across things that were broken or simply fell behind or under furniture.

No one was arrested. According to the army spokesman, the soldiers informed Jabari immediately upon entering the home that they were looking for weapons. According to Jabari, they did not. They only handed him a summons to one Captain Amran in the police and said “it will tell you why we carried out the search.”

The army spokesman’s office did not respond to a Haaretz query on whether any prohibited items were found in the house. It may be concluded that nothing was found, otherwise arrests would have been made.

The IDF responds

According to the army spokesman that night: “The IDF and the police carried out sweeps to find weapons in the home of Abdul Karim Jabari in Hebron, following intelligence information on the sale and possession of arms in the house. Contrary to the claims in the article, it was explained to the homeowners that the forces had come to look for weapons and the family was even given the possibility of taking valuables before the search was made.

“The soldiers did not threaten the family and allowed them access to food and water during the search. The forces’ conduct regarding the manner of the search for weapons was investigated by the brigade commander, and search procedures were clarified thereafter.”

On Sunday, Jabari went up the hill to the police station for a talk with Captain Amran. He waited for three hours and the police didn’t bother to open the gate. He then filed a complaint with the police officer at district coordination and liaison office regarding the destruction of property at his house by the soldiers.

According to the spokesman for the police district in the territories: “The search in the home of the suspect was carried out during an operation by the security forces to find and confiscate illegal weapons. This operation joins many such operations carried out by the police in determined, ongoing fight against the possession of illegal weapons that have been used more than once to commit acts in one context or another. Mr. Jabari’s claims are not known; his complaint on the subject is being examined and dealt with and he will receive a response accordingly.”

The meeting between “the suspect” and Captain Amran at the hilltop police station has not taken place to this day.

It may thus be concluded that the intelligence information given to the army and the police was false, because nothing was found in the meticulous search and no one was arrested. There is no chance the source of this false information will be revealed. Will anyone be punished for such a large contingent wasting the IDF’s time and resources to harass a family of 25 over nothing?