Olive harvest in al-Ma’sra: Our message today is that we will not leave our land
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Olive harvest in al-Ma’sra: Our message today is that we will not leave our land

Mahmoud Zaware, 36 years old, is the local coordinator of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign in al Ma’sra, Bethlehem district. He teaches at al Quds Open University and heads the village council an al Ma’sra. His familiy lost 35 dunums of land, due to the Wall. In this interview, he talks about the settlements that colonize the people’s lands, and about the people’s resistance through the olive harvest campaign.

***image2***“On October 17 2008, we launched the 2008 olive harvest campaign in cooperation with all of the actors and popular campaigns of resistance to the Wall near the Israeli settlement of Efrat, west of the village of al Ma’srah. Farmers in this region have come under attack from settlers, who have been stealing olives and grapes from the Palestinian farmlands, and who have destroyed over 5,000 olive trees and 1,000 grape trees since 2006.

“Four months ago, the Occupation confiscated a significant amount of our land to build settler road infrastructure. The Wall now extends for 300 metres to the east of Efrat, and there is also a 200 metre buffer zone that surrounds this area. The number of settlers in Efrat settlement has grown to 8,500, thus matching in numbers the three Palestinian villages in the area. With this settlement the Occupation attempts to create a demographic balance between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, with the aim to slowly ethnically cleanse the area. Some of the most fanatical settlers come from Efrat, as well as its neighbouring settlements, such as Gush Etzion and Ma’ale Adumim, which are part of Greater Jerusalem. The Occupation refuses to abandon these settlements, and it denies the establishment of a Palestinian state in this area because the settlements lie deep within the Green Line. They isolate villages, and separate Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Our natural water resource runs for fourteen kilometres west of the Wall, isolating Palestinians from the third-largest source of water in the West Bank.

“Our message today is that we will not leave our land, and we want to keep our lives on this land. We will continue to travel to our land, regardless of whether or not we have permits from the Occupation. We will not cooperate with the Occupation’s demands, and we will continue to work on the 6,500 dunums of land that is isolated by the Wall.

“Today we announce the start of the campaign, which will last over a month, and which will involve several areas of Beit Jala and al-Walajeh, all of which face potential danger from settler violence.

“The presence of international volunteers during this season is essential, as foreign people and their cameras will help to limit settler attacks. The international presence will also help us spread our message to the world, because we as Palestinians cannot always deliver the message ourselves. Palestinians have a responsibility to challenge the status quo, and I believe that popular support and international solidarity will be necessary if we are to succeed in our mission.”