“On July 23, 2022 Israeli settlers brutally invaded my land, located in Ein Samiya and stole 22 beehives belonging to me through. These beehives were my only source of livelihood. Now, I only have four beehives,” narrated Amer Rustom, a farmer and beekeeper from the village of Kufr Malek, North-East Ramallah.
Ein Samiya, classified as part of Area ‘C’ under full Israeli control, is an agrarian land reserve of 58, 000 dunams [1 dunam=1000 square-meters]. About 90% of the land of Ein Samiya is owned by the residents of Kufr Malek. The rest of the land is owned by villagers from Al-Mughayyer and Deir Jareer. The area is targeted by Israel’s settlement expansion and Jewish-only bypass roads.
Amer’s land is adjacent to one of Israel’s bypass roads connecting Jewish settlers to the illegal settlement of Kokhaf Hashaher [Arabic: Kawkab Al-Sabah].
Amer explained that he has been making a living through agriculture and beekeeping for years. “To make sure that I don’t cultivate my land, the settlers damaged the four water tanks I use for the cultivation of crops in my land,” Amer commented.
Systemic settler violence against him and many other Palestinian farmers and shepherds in Ein Samiya and beyond is part of Palestinian daily life. Settler violence, usually under the protection of the Israeli army, includes violently assaulting Palestinians, death threats, throwing stones at their cars, stealing Palestinian property, torching olive groves, farms, cars, and even homes; as well as blocking the access of farmers and shepherds to their land.
Ein Samiya is abundant in water resources. The area contains six natural water springs that meet the water needs of thousands of Palestinians residing in the villages located to the north of the Ramallah district. Thus, “it’s hardly surprising,” Abu Ali, a grassroots organizer from Sinjel, a neighboring village to Ein Samiya, “that Palestinians of Ein Samiya are facing intensified violence against them. Israelis want to take over the water resources Palestinians still have access to.”
Apartheid Israel is already controlling more than 85% of Palestinian water resources in the West Bank. While illegal Israeli settlers enjoy unlimited access to water, thousands of Palestinians are denied their basic human right to water.
Israel’s attempt to take over Palestinian water resources in Ein Samiya in favor of settlers is part of long-standing policies and practices of discrimination in the access to water along racial lines.
This is called water apartheid.
Through its water apartheid practices, Israel weaponizes water against Palestinians to force them from their land. Water apartheid has been used as an effective tool of ethnic cleansing.
Last year, Israel ethnically cleansed the entire community of Humsa Al-Fawqa in the Jordan Valley through intensifying its water apartheid practices. Denied connection to the water network of Israeli settlers in the area for decades, the residents of Humsa were forced to transfer water from Area ‘A’ and ‘B’ in water tanks. Yet, in February 2021, the Israeli occupation started confiscating the water tanks of the residents until they expelled them from their homes in July, 2021. Before displacing them, the Israeli occupation bulldozed Palestinian homes in Humsa and besieged them without water for days. Residents of neighboring villages had to smuggle some bottles of water to the besieged Palestinians in Humsa.
The community of Ras Al-Tin
The presence of Palestinians in Ein Samiya disrupts Israeli attempts to plunder their water resources. That is why Israel has been creating a coercive environment of settler and army violence, home demolition and restrictions on Palestinian movement to squeeze Palestinians out of Ein Samiya.
The Bedouin Community of Ras Al-Tin has been an obstacle to Israel’s settlement expansion in Ein Samiya for decades. After enduring decades of violence, home demolition and dehumanization, apartheid Israel forcibly expelled about 120 Palestinians living in Ras Al-Tin earlier this month.
Increased settler violence was the main reason that forced the residents of Ras Al-Tin to leave the area. In the months preceding their forcible displacement, the residents encountered escalated settler violence under the full protection of the Israeli army.
Before displacing the community, settlers used to invade the community on a daily basis to violently assault Palestinians. Settlers also torched the residents’ cars and cut their access to water several times.
Three weeks before expelling Palestinians from Ras Al-Tin, a group of fanatic Israeli settlers raided the home of one of the families inhabiting the community and aggressively harassed all of its members, including men, women and children. One of the women was seriously injured and was transferred to hospital due to the brutal attack.
Adding insult to injury, settlers, who live in shepherd settler outposts in the area have been clamping down on Palestinian shepherds in Ein Samiya. As a herding community, the residents of Ras Al-Tin have lost their source of livelihood by being prevented from accessing their pastoral land.
What the community of Ras Al-Tin encountered before their displacement is a culmination of years of apartheid practices and Israeli brutality. on July 14, 2021, the Israeli army invaded Ras Al-Tin and bulldozed the homes of eighty-four people.
Photo credit: UN OCHA
In an attempt to reinforce the steadfastness of Palestinians in Ras Al-Tin, civil society organizations built a school in the community in 2020. A month after students started attending it, Israeli bulldozers reduced the school to rubble.
Despite this, the community tried to continue living steadfastly on their land against all odds. Yet, the recent harassment by settlers and the army, particularly cutting the residents’ source of income by denying them access to their land has led to their forcible expulsion.
Israeli shepherd settler outposts, which are a recent, yet, increasing phenomenon is an onslaught on Palestinian pastoralism. Shepherds in Ein Samiya, Masafer Yatta and the Jordan Valley are struggling to graze their herds and continue to live a sufficiently pastoral lifestyle.