On Tuesday 4th of January 2005 about 30 ISM activists went up to Jayyous to join a local informational meeting about the devastating effects that the Apartheid Wall is having on the people there.
The State of Israel is building a so-called “security barrier” throughout the West Bank, supposedly to keep out suicide bombers. Now... if you wanted to put up a fence between your garden and your neighbor’s you would have to put it on your side. Not the state of Israel. Here the fence was built well within the 1967 Green Line, so that yet more Palestinian land is confiscated and effectively annexed to Israel.
The mayor of Jayyous spoke of 74% of their land being confiscated. He also said that 90% of the population in this province depends on agriculture for their living.
The land was confiscated to allow expansion of the existing Zufin settlement (built on land confiscated in 1993) into a new settlement called “Nofei Zufim” ("North Zufin"). He described how the village used to be self-sufficient. He asked why the Wall is not being built on the 1967 Green Line if the Israeli Government truly wants peace.
Israeli Border Police use US equipment to keep Palesinians from their land. Apparently 58% out of the whole West Bank will be annexed to Israel after the wall is complete, which would increase poverty since Palestinians are so dependant on their land. Uprooting olive trees with bulldozers will not bring peace.
The speaker from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel gave a moving account of what happened on the 9th of December when he and some Israeli activist had passed through a gate in the fence to go olive picking in the confiscated olive tree groves. They saw whole olive trees being uprooted and taken away to be sold in Tel Aviv and other places, including to settlers. A Danish member of the EAPPI described how on some of the newest settlements, you can see extremely old trees.
On that day in December, two armed settlers accompanied the truck that took the trees away - they said they were from the Jordan valley. After the settlers and the truck left, Jameel Saleem and his brother Tariq came down to assess the damage. Counting, the Palestinians found that 117 trees had been uprooted on that day alone. Jameel planted these trees himself 35 years ago; “now what can I do?” was his expression of frustration to the world.
Since that day in December, it seems that uprooting of their trees has continued regardless, with 700 trees destroyed or stolen up until the 17th of December alone.
After the meeting we went up to a gate to the groves, which was guarded by lots of soldiers. The more official international types (EU and the like) tried unsuccessfully to negotiate us passage through to the fields to plant new olive trees. The end result was that we ended up going to another section of the fence and planted them on the village side of the fence.
On the way back to Jerusalem we were pulled over by Israeli soldiers - a flying checkpoint. Checkpoints are not just fixed features of the West Bank and Gaza Strip - two soldiers, a Humvee and some concrete blocks can make a checkpoint. It was not too bad this time, with a delay of only 15 minutes or so (the Israeli authorities are relatively calm at the moment with all the internationals here because of the PA elections). Still, having an M16 lazily waved at your windshield to pull over the taxi you’re in is not exactly a beautiful experience.