Last Wednesday, soldiers prohibited farmers from entering their land and harvesting olives in the area of Wadi Ahmed, west of Beit Jala (Bethlehem). Residents stated that they were heading to their lands in the morning when they suddenly encountered Occupation forces who had placed a gate and barbed wire in their way. Farmers were turned back under the pretext that they did not have proper permits.
Farmers, accompanied by international volunteers, explained that they did not need permits. Border police then began shouting at the farmers, again telling them to leave but this time claming that since the crop was weak this year, there was no need to enter the area. When farmers refused, soldiers forced them away, arresting 42-year-old Abu Srour and trying to confiscate cameras from those present.
Awwad Abu Sawi, who had come from the village of Artas in solidarity with the people, emphasized that the farmers refused to obtain permits because the permit system is merely a scheme used to prevent access further the annexation of Palestinian land. While the land requires plowing, pruning, and fertilization all year, permits are only occasionally issued for 20 days during the olive harvest. âThe Occupation depends on these practices to destroy the land, in a way that appears âlegal.â [They} cut us off from it in preparation for confiscating it,â he said.
According to the Coordination Office, the Occupation requires farmers, before they go to their land, to turn in lists of names three days prior. While farmers should be able to enter their land without obstruction, the act of forcing coordination and permits is itself an obstacle to access. Further, only a small proportion of farmers who names are submitted are actually approved. A variety of excuses, for example if the applicant is not the first heir to the land or for security reasons, serve to further restrict the ability of farmers to use their land.