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Jit, A Village under Siege

The village of Jit, under a setting sun.

Jit made Israeli Channel 2 news this past week. Jit is a Palestinian hilltop village of about 3000 people, located six miles west of Nablus. While Israeli Prime Minister Bejanmin Netanyahu was in Washington DC, being requested by President Barak Obama to stop settlements, the settlers from the illegal outpost [pre-settlement, “illegal” under Israeli law] Havat Gil’ad were in Jit causing serious problems for the villagers.

The TV station commentator pointed out the contradiction of the Washington meeting and the reality in Palestine. The Israeli occupation army was present in Jit for the altercation. The video shows the Israeli settlers pushing the Israeli soldiers, but does not show the army abusing the Palestinian villagers, which happens frequently. Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights speaks of being hit in the face by a stone thrown by an Israeli settler.

Briefly, this is what happened. After many months delay, a Jit villager finally received permission from the Israeli army’s District Coordinating Office [DCO] to plow his fields in an area between the Havat Gil’ad outpost and Jit. When the villager started to plow, the Israeli settlers from Havat Gil’ad outpost brought a settler tractor in to plow in the same field claiming it was Israeli settler land and not Jit village land. Although the Jit villager had DCO permission to plow, the Israeli settlers repeatedly told him that the land was not his land, but Israeli land. The Israeli settlers told the villager he had to show the title for his land in order to plow there. When villagers tried to prevent the Israeli settlers from plowing, the settlers called the Israeli occupation army. Ultimately the Israeli soldiers did not give allow the villager to finish and they sent the Palestinian farmers home. The Israeli settlers left also, probably to return another day
Below are 5 pictures chronically last week’s incident.

Israeli settlers from the Havat Gil'ad outpost bring their tractors to plow Palestinian land in Jit. The villagers with Israeli DCO permission have already begun to plow this same land, their village land.

The Palestinian villagers protest to the Israeli soldiers.
The soldiers try to keep the Israeli settlers back.
People from Rabbis for Human Rights are taking pictures.

The Israeli settlers refuse to leave the Jit village land. At first the settlers attacked the villagers in the presence of the army, later both the Israeli settlers and the Israeli army attacked the villagers.

The Israeli settlers negotiate with the Israeli army.

The Israeli occupation army continues talking to the Israeli settlers. The Palestinians wait. Both settlers and villagers are sent home. The Palestinians have not yet plowed their fields and may or may not get a renewed permission. The settlers will return another day to harass the villagers on Palestinian land because there are no penalties for their actions.

The above-mentioned TV video of this same incident is in Hebrew, but it is not difficult to identify the Israeli settlers who are wearing side curls and kippahs or yamulkes, the Israeli occupying army in uniform and the Palestinians in regular dress.

After this plowing incident last week, Israeli settlers invaded the village, entered homes and shot holes in walls and windows. In one home, the shards of window glass fell on a ten-year-old girl who was sleeping in the bed below the window.

The village of Jit has also had ongoing difficulties with the Israeli settlers of Qedumin, an illegal Israeli settlement to the west of them. Qedumin was established in 1975, taking 90% of the land of the Palestine village Kafr Qaddum. The rest of the land came from nearby villages including Jit. Qedumin has continued to expand its borders mainly by destroying olive groves. It now has a population of over 3000. [For more information on illegal Israeli settlements click on http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article7

Qedumin, one of the largest Israeli settlement in West Bank,
is built over the Western mountain aquifer in the middle of a Palestinian agricultural district. Thus Israel controls this water source.
The livelihood of the Jit villagers mainly comes from agriculture. In 2004, they had 50,000 olive trees, but they only have access to 10,000 trees or about 20 % of these trees. For the other 80% there are tight restrictions - authorization from the Israeli District Coordination Office [DCO] must be given for access to the trees for plowing, trimming, planting and harvesting. The permission to work on their own land is often given late in the season and for a very short period. [For more information on the olive harvest situation see: http://www.palestine-pmc.com/pdf/1-12-04.pdf ]

In April 2008, gangs of Qedumin Israeli settlers uprooted and destroyed more than 1000 mature olive trees belonging to the villagers of Jit. Some of these belonged to the family of Zakiraya, our MPT Palestinian contact. The raid was part of a series of mob-type attacks by Qedumin settlers on Palestine villages in the area. One Palestinian was beaten with stones, tractors were damaged and sheep were killed. [For more details see: http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/event.php?eid=2528 ]

An MPTer visited Jit to obtain information about the village from Zakiraya, MPT Palestinian contact and a Jit villager. According to Zakiraya, Havat Gil’ad, established in 2002, is the most dangerous outpost in the West Bank. Every week Havat Gil’ad settlers attack different villages, beating people and stealing whatever they can find: sheep, goats, and olives. Settlers break olive trees branches to feed their horses.

Three weeks ago, this Israeli settler carrying two firearms arrived in Jit by motorcycle. He and other settlers harassed the people of the village.
The villagers of Jit are under constant siege from settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Gil’ad and the illegal settlement of Qedumin, but they are united in protecting the land that their ancestors have tilled for hundreds of years. One Jit villager has replanted 100s of olive tree plants, three times. With patience and persistence, the villagers of this Palestinian village struggle for a future for themselves and their children.

This man has planted many olive trees
to replace those burned or uprooted by Israeli settlers.

Palestinians have a special love for the hardy olive tree that lives hundreds of years with little care.

Under international law, Israeli settlements are illegal.
· United Nations Security Council Resolution 446, on March 22, 1979, determined “that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
· An advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in 2004, addressing the West Bank barrier in particular and the West Bank itself in general, concluded “that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”
[photos were taken by Zakiraya, some with an MPT camera.]

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