Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Postcard from Palestine 5 - last one, for now
Hebden Bridge's Ron Taylor is a regular visitor to Palestine, part of an international movement of supporters.
Last day with Ta'ayush - Keeping Palestinians on Their Land
The final Saturday with Ta'ayush was an eventful one and included many of the elements of the struggle to keep Palestinian land for its Palestinian owners. Our first stop was Avigail settlement outpost in the South Hebron Hills. A few days earlier Israeli settlers had tried to steal more land to extend the outpost. Fortunately, local farmers had alerted Ta'ayush and two activists had rushed there to photograph the arrival of a caravan under the cover of darkness; the action persuaded the settlers to withdraw.
Our presence was requested by the rightful landowners who wanted to record, in daylight, what had been done to the land. We found a sizeable area had been cordoned off by the settlers and part had been excavated for a caravan base. Settler security and the Israeli army were soon on the scene. Armed only with cameras, maps and ownership documents we were able to demonstrate that the attempt to take over the land was illegal, not only under International law, but under Israeli law, too.
The settlers will no doubt try again but, for the time being at least, they have been deterred. Another small victory in the war for land and it was with pleasure that we watched the farmers remove the cordon from their land. But then we received an urgent phone call from farmers much further to north. It was time to leave for Safa where farmers had reported another settler attack.
By the time we reached Safa, near Hebron, the attack was over. A family had been working in their orchards when settlers from the notorious Bet Ain settlement had pelted them with rocks, forcing them to leave the area. Apparently, the Israeli army arrived on the scene but, as usual, no arrests were made - settlers committing crimes are rarely subject to legal action. Palestinians, on the other hand, can be detained without trial for months on end.
From Safa we headed south again to the settlement outpost of Mitzpe Yair. Shepherds wanted to graze their flocks but were concerned they would be attacked by settlers. Shortly after we arrived settlers and soldiers appeared. The settlers, headed by the infamous Avidan (well known in these parts for his leading role in driving Palestinian farmers from their lands), tried to move the flocks away but the shepherds stood firm and insisted on their right to stay.
The final call of the day was to land close to the settlement of Ma'on (famous for its attacks on Palestinian children on their way to school in the village of At-Tuwani ).Here, I was told, we would see a classic case of an attempt to set up a new outpost. There, on a hill top was a wooden structure - rather like a large box - with two beds inside. Soon the settlers would bring in a caravan or trailer and then request electricity and water supplies. The military would then proclaim it a security zone and Palestinian farmers would be denied access. In a short space of time more Palestinian land would be lost and more Palestinian livelihoods at risk. Ta'ayush stayed long enough to make sure the settlers and the military were aware of our presence; it may help to delay the seizure of the hilltop.
Official Israeli policy is to have two states - Israel and Palestine - existing side by side. All the Palestinians have to do, we are led to believe, is negotiate with Israel on the details and a Palestinian state will emerge. This is the two-state solution and is not only Israel's position but that of all western governments. David Cameron, for example, in January told an audience that, "Britain wants to see a two-state solution come about. We are passionate about this; we do everything we can to push and promote this agenda at every available opportunity."
But official Israeli policy is not the real policy. It is clear to me, Ta'ayush activists and every Palestinian I have spoken to, that the official line is a lie. And our government is complicit in maintaining the lie. The reality is that Israel has no intention of allowing a viable Palestinian state to come into existence - never has had and never will have.
If Israel is serious about two states, why is it allowing settlers, aided and abetted by the Israeli army, to steal land, intimidate Palestinians and force them away from territory on which a Palestinian state will supposedly arise?
It can only be the case that, what any Palestinian will tell you about Israel is true; that "The Israelis want all the land but without the people."
Postcard from Palestine 4 - attacked by settlers
Postcard from Palestine 3 - detained by the Israeli army (16 March 2012)
Postcard from Palestine 2 (19 Feb 2012)
HebWeb Forum: Postcard from Palestine
Postcard from Palestine 1 (8 Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Hebden Bridge Old Gits support Palestinian farmers