Topic(s): Palestine / Israel | Comments Off on Rene — WHEN THE OCCUPATION GETS REALLY FILTHY

Nora Barrows – Friedman
IPS-Inter Press Service
Aug 21, 2007
BETHLEHEM, Aug 21 (IPS) – In the orange glow of another sunset,
Awad Abu Swai, 36, stands underneath a towering fig tree, a sample of
its fruit in his hand. He peels back the bright green skin to expose
crimson jelly and seeds inside”The Israeli military came inside the
valley and cut about 50 apricot and walnut trees since May. And now,
they are coming to cut more trees. This is all because of what they
are building through this land — my land. Here, they are building a
sewage channel to run raw sewage through this valley collected from
four Israeli settlements near here.”
Abu Swai is one of approximately 4,000 residents of the Palestinian
village of Artas, located southeast of Bethlehem city. Artas is known
regionally for its succulent vegetables, and fruit and nut trees. But
over the last few months Israeli occupation forces have brought dozens
of bulldozers to the eastern valley fields of Artas to construct
a wall that will cut villagers off from this fertile land, while a
concrete tunnel for raw settlement sewage grows longer each day.
Efrat settlement colony, part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc
that stretches around several villages and towns near Bethlehem,
sits perched on a hill over Artas. Below the settlement, a colony
which houses approximately 9,000 Israelis and immigrants, Israeli
bulldozers and earth movers work day and night constructing the sewage
channel and building the wall.
Artas villagers have kept up an active and defiant campaign over the
last year after unofficial information was leaked to the community that
the village was in danger. Villagers watched in shock as bulldozers
kept moving down the hillsides from Efrat toward the orchards on the
valley floor.
Since May, Abu Swai has led actions as head of the popular committee
in Artas, inviting international and Israeli peace activists to join
villagers in their fight against the occupation administration’s
designs on this land.
Non-violent protesters have been shot at, beaten and arrested by
Israeli occupation soldiers and private settlement security guards. Abu
Swai tells IPS that he was imprisoned for five days after being badly
beaten by an Israeli soldier during a non-violent demonstration as
he tried to protect his land.
Elsewhere across the West Bank, Palestinian villagers are facing land
confiscation as illegal settlement colonies expand and tumble down
hillsides. Some are watching as crops and orchards become poisoned
and contaminated from raw sewage being actively pumped into their
land from the sewage treatment facilities inside Israeli settlements.
South of Artas village, sewage from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc
is slowly decimating the farming village of Beit Ommar, a small
community reliant on its agricultural exports. Next to a vineyard
owned by several families in Beit Ommar sits Gush Etzion’s sewage
treatment facility, surrounded by a fence with barbed wire. Two pipes
jut out from the edge of the brackish open water pool, aimed directly
at the vineyard.
“Here, you will see that the land is black. This is where the sewage
is pumped when the sewage pool from the settlement gets too full,”
Musa abu Mariya, 29, a farmer and Beit Ommar community leader tells
IPS. He points to an area in front of the facility that was once full
of Beit Ommar’s apricot and plum trees.
“The bulldozers came about two years ago and started to pile dirt
into a circle so that the overflow from the pool would go there.” Abu
Mariya says that every few months, especially in the rainy season,
Gush Etzion starts to pump overflow sewage over the fence and into this
built-up area — an open and unprotected pit. “The water just shoots
right out. It is destroying all of these crops on Palestinian land.”
Abu Mariya tells IPS that a whole area in this vineyard is now
completely contaminated because of another open pipe leaking sewage. On
the other side of the sewage facility, a small orange pipe connected
to the facility cuts through the barbed wire fence and opens directly
in front of the vineyard. Dirty, foul-smelling water drips from the
end of the pipe.
“Look at these grapes,” Abu Mariya says. “They are not good
here. Before the sewage plant started pumping water here, these grapes
used to be beautiful and delicious.” On one grapevine, the leaves
are yellowed and curling, and the grapes themselves are grey and
withered. “They are obviously sick grapes,” Abu Mariya remarks. “They
are all poisoned and dirty. This is from the water that they pump
onto this land from the sewage.”
Jeff Halper, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, former professor of
anthropology at Ben Gurion University and co-founder of the Israeli
Committee Against Home Demolitions, tells IPS that this otherwise
banal issue of sewage infrastructure is consistent with broadening
Israeli policies of Palestinian dispossession.
“Infrastructure sounds innocuous, but the partisan planning behind it
simply pushes Palestinians out of historic farmlands that are ether
expropriated for settlements or Israeli-only highways, or which are
flooded by sewage by settlements with no sustainable infrastructure
of their own.
“Planning by the Israeli authorities is done with impunity regarding
the Palestinians,” adds Halper. “It is merely one more means, more
subtle than actual transfer, to alienate them from the lands and,
in the end, render the greater Land of Israel cleansed of all but
remnants of non-Jewish populations. It constitutes a crime of genocide,
a crime taking place in the light of day and over six decades, that
must be urgently addressed by the international community.”
Meanwhile, Abu Swai says he remains anxious as the sewage channel
expands each day and the village prepares another round of direct
actions against the confiscation and destruction of Artas. “We
are going to the (Israeli) Supreme Court in two days to await a
decision…they should determine that all of this destruction is
illegal. We have certificates of ownership for this land from 1936. We
hope we get justice.” (END/2007)