LETTERS FROM PALESTINE
seam zone, friction zone, twilight zone
31 October 2004
I will send my olive harvesting story shortly. The
following press release illustrates a larger picture
of living in a demented caricature of
government-sponsored messianic disposession.
Conditions are bad everywhere almost without exception
due to settlements and occupation, but they are at
their worst in the so-called 'friction zones,' where
Israeli settlers are at their most violent and
operating with the most impunity. Generally they are
not significantly punished by the Israeli government
even for the cold-blooded murder of Palestinians.
Israeli settlers wage
campaign of intimidation
on Palestinians and
Press release, 25/10/2004
Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories have
stepped up attacks against Palestinians and are waging
a campaign of intimidation against international and
Israeli human rights activists. Their aim is to
eliminate the presence of witnesses to their attacks,
thereby depriving the local Palestinian population of
this only form of limited protection.
Two US citizens, members of the Christian Peacemaker
Team (CPT), were assaulted on 29 September by masked
Israeli settlers who beat them with clubs and chains
as they accompanied Palestinian children to school
near the Tuwani village, South of Hebron. Kim Lamberty
sustained a broken arm and knee and bruising to her
face, while Chris Brown was left with a punctured lung
and multiple bruises. Members of the CPT and other
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been
escorting Palestinian children to school to protect
them from attacks by Israeli settlers.
A group of hooded Israeli settlers attacked Amnesty
International delegates and members of the CPT and the
Operation Dove NGO on 9 October as they returned from
accompanying Palestinian primary schoolchildren back
to their home. The attackers first threw stones at the
five internationals and then attacked three of them
with wooden clubs. An Amnesty International delegate
sustained multiple bruises on her back, arm and leg
and the Operation Dove member collapsed and had to be
taken to hospital by ambulance. On both occasions, the
attackers came from the nearby Israeli settlement of
Havat Ma’on and returned there after the attacks.
Rather than taking steps to stop and prevent such
attacks and hold Israeli settlers accountable, the
Israeli army and security forces have responded by
imposing further restrictions on the local Palestinian
After the attack, the Israeli army informed the
Palestinian villagers that, if the children are
accompanied by internationals on their way to and from
school, no army patrol will be on site to protect them
from Israeli settlers. The Palestinian villagers
reluctantly accepted that the schoolchildren have make
to the journey without their international escort,
but, two days later, on 12 October, the children were
again chased by Israeli settlers from the Havat Ma’on
settlement while on their way to school. The Israeli
army patrol, which was present, did not intervene.
Israeli settlers again threw stones as the children
passed near the settlement on their way to school on
The only alternative is for the schoolchildren to
avoid passing near the Israeli settlements by making a
long detour that lengthens their walk from 20 minutes
to more than two hours each way.
As in previous years around the time of the olive
harvest, Israeli settlers have also stepped up attacks
on the local Palestinian inhabitants and farmers
throughout the West Bank, preventing them from
harvesting their crops and destroying or damaging
their trees. The Israeli army has done little or
nothing to stop the settlers' attack and has, instead,
banned the Palestinian farmers from going to their
fields, ultimately helping the settlers to force the
Palestinians off their land.
Throughout the West Bank, Palestinian farmers are
increasingly worried that their olives, one of their
few remaining sources of livelihood, are being stolen,
destroyed or wasted as they are prevented from working
in their fields.
In the northern West Bank region of Nablus, where
Palestinian villages are surrounded by Israeli
settlements and settlers’ roads, the Israeli army is
only allowing Palestinian farmers between two and six
days -- on set dates -- to go to their fields to
harvest their olives. Palestinian farmers who have
tried to go to pick their olives on days other than
the set dates have been attacked by settlers and
turned away by Israeli army patrols. In the meantime,
Israeli settlers have been picking olives in
Palestinian groves and have destroyed and burned olive
trees in various areas.
Palestinian farmers, accompanied by internationals
from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program, were
harvesting their olives in Yanun, near Nablus, on 7
October when two settlers and eight soldiers came and
told them to leave. The soldiers did not intervene
when armed settlers assaulted a Palestinian farmer,
fired shots on the ground near him and tied his hands.
The farmer was left handcuffed until a member of the
Israeli peace group Taayush (Co-existence) arrived at
the scene and intervened with the soldiers.
Palestinian villagers in Yanun have been subjected to
attacks by Israeli settlers for years and several
families have been driven from the village by repeated
attacks against them and their property. All remaining
inhabitants were forced to flee the village by Israeli
settlers in October 2002. They were later able to
return with the help of Israeli and international
peace activists. Promises by the Israeli army to keep
the Israeli settlers in check have produced no results
and settlers have continued to attack and intimidate
the villagers with impunity.
In the southern Hebron region, on 15 October, after
Israeli peace activists from Rabbis for Human Rights
had coordinated with the Israeli army that the
Palestinian farmers harvest their olives on that day,
the farmers were attacked by armed settlers. The
Israeli army patrol responded by telling the
Palestinian farmers to leave, claiming that they did
not have sufficient forces to protect them from the
Two days later in Yassuf, near Nablus, Palestinian
farmers, accompanied by Israeli and international
peace activists, were once again evicted from their
olive grove when Israeli settlers turned up. The
soldiers, whose presence was supposed to ensure that
the Palestinians could harvest their olives, told the
farmers and their Israeli and International helpers to
On 11 October, a 26-year-old Palestinian farmer, Hani
Shadeh, was shot and seriously wounded in the neck by
an Israeli settler as he was picking olives with other
farmers in Asira al-Qibliya, a village near Nablus and
near the Israeli settlement of Yitzhar. The day
before, Israeli settlers had set fire to an olive
grove near the Israeli settlement of Tapuach.
Israeli settlers responsible for attacks on
Palestinians and their properties have not been
brought to justice in the vast majority of cases. Such
impunity encourages settlers to commit further attacks
and abuses. In the rare cases when Israeli settlers
have been brought to justice, they have been treated
with a degree of leniency uncommon in other cases.
On 27 September, an Israeli settler from the Elon
Moreh Settlement near Nablus shot a Palestinian taxi
driver dead. Sayyed Jabara, father of eight, was
driving his passengers between Nablus and Salem. The
settler claimed that he shot Sayyed Jabara because he
thought that he intended to attack him, even though
Jabara was not armed. He was released on bail less
than 24 hours after the murder.
Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories,
established by Israel in violation of international
law, are the main reason for the stringent
restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population.
Some three-and-a-half million Palestinians are
prevented from moving between towns and villages;
confined to isolated enclaves and cut off from their
workplace, their land, health and education facilities
and other crucial services.
This is done to keep Palestinians away from Israeli
settlements and from the network of roads built for
the exclusive use of some 380,000 Israeli settlers.
Settlements also continue to be expanded and new ones
to be set up on expropriated Palestinian land.
Israeli settlers who attack and harass Palestinian
villagers frequently come from settlements established
without formal government authorization and which the
Israeli authorities have publicly pledged to
dismantle. However, settlers are increasingly
influential in the army, in government and in
parliament. The rare attempts by the Israeli army and
security forces to dismantle unauthorized settlements
have been mostly half-hearted, with settlers simply
refusing to leave or allowed to return to the site
shortly after having being evacuated.
In recent months, the Israeli government has announced
its intention to dismantle all Israeli settlements in
the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated
places in the world where the presence of some 6,000
Israeli settlers has resulted in one-and-a-half
million Palestinians being confined to less than 60%
percent of the land. However, the Israeli government
has no intention to evacuate more than 100 settlements
in the West Bank, which take up some of the most
fertile Palestinian land and best water resources. On
the contrary, Prime Minister Sharon’s bureau chief
recently confirmed that the planned pullout from the
Gaza Strip is intended to strengthen Israel’s hold of
large parts of the West Bank.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the
Israeli authorities to take measures to evacuate
Israeli settlers from the Occupied Territories and, in
the meantime, to prevent attacks by Israeli settlers,
to investigate the numerous attacks committed by
settlers and to bring those responsible to justice.
Amnesty International has also repeatedly called on
Palestinian armed groups to stop targeting Israeli
civilians both inside Israel and in the Occupied
- About the 'seam zone', the land and villages trapped
between the Apartheid Wall and Israel; villagers are
being intimidated into abandoning their homes and land
solely because they are not Jewish, leaving it open to
Israeli annexation and expansion.
- I don't think ethnic cleansing is too strong
a word here. Many powerful Israelis have admitted as
- More on settlers and their theft and harassment of
Palestinians during olive season, written by a
self-described right-wing Israeli.
- Regarding ethnic cleansing in the Gaza Strip,
specifically in Rafah, where an American girl named
Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while
trying to protect the homes of innocent Palestinians
in March 2003.
- A little about Rachel.
Next: Zaytoun - Olive Harvesting in Jayyous