[Faculty of Humanities & Social Science]
Occupation magazine - Settlements
Report from the West Bank
Report by Ehud Krinis, an Israeli anti-occupation activist participating in a group which supports Palestinian villagers. The following report was written by Ehud following a recent visit in the Salem and Dir Elkatab villages.
During the past two months our visits to two Palestinian villages east of Nablus--Salem and Dir Elkatab--reveal a gap between what superficially seems to be happening in the villages themselves and what is actually occurring in the area. On the one side, it is easier to enter the villages than before. For instance, the Beit Furik checkpoint yesterday appeared quiet and peaceful, and our passage into the villages through it was unusually rapid and without incident. On the other hand our friends in the villages relate incidents testifying to the continued violence against them by military personnel and settlers. Among other things, we heard about an incident that occurred at the Asmut checkpoint, located at the point at which one leaves the villages in the direction of Nablus. A few days earlier, a villager, his wife, and an infant son were returning from the Nablus hospital where the baby was born. They were kept at the checkpoint by the soldiers for a long time. When the father got out of the car to try to find out why they were being detained, a soldier shothim in both his legs. He has been in the hospital in Nablus since. A few days ago villagers of Salem learned that in one of the main areas of their olive groves, several kilometers east of the village, settlers had chopped down and mutilated more than 200 of the villagers' olive trees. This grave damage occurred, apparently, 3 weeks ago or earlier. The reason that the villagers did not learn about it immediately, is that the devastation occurred in an areato which the army denying access to the villagers. The mutilation of hundreds of trees near the settlement called 'The Skally Ranch' comes in the wake of a fire,which consumed more than 100 trees in the same area 2 months earlier. Such wanton destruction by the settlers, sanctioned as it is by the army and the police, gradually but relentlessly eradicates the means of sustenance of the Palestinian villages. It is carried out in the framework of a long-term plan of confiscation and appropriation of the land, and systematic reduction of the agricultural area sustaining the Palestinian villagers. This long-term trend has been sped-up during the past few months as a result of political circumstances generated by the the so-called 'Israeli disengagement plan from Gaza.' Whether or not the disengagement will actually take place, it serves its purpose as a very successful distraction ploy. While the world public opinion and the media (not to mention the 'Israeli left') are impressed by the new moderate persona of Ariel Sharon and his willingness to confront his allies the settlers, the same 'moderate' Sharon is skillfully taking advantage of the resulting window of opportunity to destroy the
infrastructure of Palestinian life inthe West Bank. The destruction is carried out in close collaboration with his supposed 'adversaries' the settlers. In villages such as Bil'in and Marda, the Separation Wall is under construction, which will separate the villagers from their fields. The recent demolition of the entire village of Khirbet Tana was carried out by the army, upon the instigation of the settlers. Villages in the vicinity of the settlements of Itamar, Yitzhar, and Alon Moreh, such as Yanun, Awarta, and Salem, had their groves burnt and cut down by the settlers, who also plough Palestinian fields. These West Bank Palestinians are thetrue victims of Sharon's disengagement. They will not be awarded any compensation for their losses. From Sharon's standpoint, the sacrifice of the Gaza settlements is like a move of a chess player willing to sacrifice a rook to win the game. Sharon's game is Israeli takeover of the West Bank in conjunction with settlement expansion, and the reduction of the Palestinian hold on their land.