AT-TUWANI: Five Palestinians arrested while settlers attack and harass Al-Buweib farmers

19 May 2007
AT-TUWANI: Five Palestinians arrested while settlers attack and harass
Al-Buweib farmers

by Eileen Hanson

On 18 May, four CPTers from the Hebron and Tuwani teams, in coordination
with Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and the Israeli group, Ta'ayush, went to
the village of Al-Buweib in the South Hebron Hills to accompany local
farmers tending their land. Farmers in this area have repeatedly asked for
accompaniment because they are unable to access both grazing fields and
olive groves because of threats and harassment from settlers in the nearby
Israeli settlement of Pnei Hever.

In recent weeks, Operation Dove and CPT's Hebron have responded to the
farmers' invitations on several occasions, each time encountering settler
harassment and threats of violence against the Palestinian landowners.
Three weeks ago, settlers attacked a Palestinian partner from Tuwani, and
Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights. One settler also tried to steal
the camera of a member of Operation Dove, and chased him down the valley.

Shortly after the Palestinians and solidarity groups arrived on 18 May,
several settlers as well as Israeli Army and Police jeeps showed up. In an
act of nonviolent resistance, the Palestinians sat down in the intersection,
preventing vehicles from reaching Al-Buweib. However, a group of the
settler youth broke from their group and started running up the hill toward
Al-Buweib, where farmers were out plowing and several women were harvesting.

Later, settlers also ran into an olive grove where the Palestinian farmers
were working and began shaking the trees and harassing the farmers. One
settler stood in front of a tractor so the Palestinian driving it could not
continue working. The settlers did not offer any evidence to support their
claims to the land. In contrast, the Palestinians landowners had full
documentation of their ownership and had contacted the District Coordinating
Office of the Israeli Army (DCO) the day before to clarify their right to
access this land.

In June 2006, the Israeli High Court ruled, "The army and police are
obligated to take action to protect Palestinian farmers and their property
from any individuals attacking them . . . the defense of Palestinian farmers
cannot be carried out through the closure of agricultural land; rather, the
military commander must act to both ensure that the Palestinian farmers can
access their lands, and to protect their right to property." (Complete
statement: The Right to Access Agricultural Lands

However, the DCO on this occasion did not defend the Palestinians legal
rights to work their land. Instead, the military declared the entire area a
closed military zone, and ordered everyone, including the landowners, to
leave. Police arrested five Palestinians for allegedly refusing to leave the
area. (In fact, the Army had temporarily blocked the road and prevented
anyone from leaving.) Three of the men were released after a few hours, but
as of this writing, two men remain in police custody. In spite of the
attacks and arrests, Palestinians remain determined to work in their fields
and groves.

Photos from Al-Buweib are available at the Tuwani photo gallery