Jordan Valley

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Rina Tzur (photos and report) and a guest


Two youths of the Palestinian Jordan Valley were arrested while grazing their flock, and taken for custody at the Ofer military base // Tractors confiscated a month ago were suddenly and surprisingly released // A huge demonstration protesting the annexation of the Palestinian Jordan Valley, the likes of which has not been seen since the 1967 Israeli occupation.

A Jewish settler-colonist led his cattle once more into sown fields belonging to Palestinian farmers

(Oral testimony) Two youths, cousins who live in En Hilwa, not far from the settler-colony of Maskiyot, went out on Friday (January 31, 2020), as usual, to graze the family’s flock near their home. After a while, a settler-colonist from the new outpost nearby arrived, demanding that they leave the area. What gall! An illegal settler-colonist (in terms of military law) who is new to the area, decides where they would be allowed to graze. When they did not comply he summoned troops from a nearby military base. The soldiers arrived and arrested the two, claiming they had thrown stones at them. I was not there but any reasonable person would deduce that it is inconceivable that Palestinian boys would attack armed soldiers and a settler-colonist. They are responsible for two flocks that provide a livelihood for two families, and it is simply inconceivable that they would challenge the armed lords of the land and endanger themselves and the families’ precious property. The soldiers did not fire shots but arrested and transferred them to Ofer base. On Sunday they will be brought before a judge for remand at Ofer. Usually, when Palestinians in the northern Palestinian Jordan Valley are arrested, they are taken to the Ariel police station and from there to the detention facility at Huwwara.

Five tractors were returned to their owners in an unusual procedure. In mid-December 2019, a regulation issued by the area’s Civil Administration barred Palestinian farmland owners from tending it. This is a change in the status quo that has existed until that time, and in my opinion, it constitutes an order preceding the annexation of the region. Since most of the landowners reside in the town of Toubas, in Area A, the annexation would require cutting off economic ties with residents of Area A so they would not have to have agricultural checkpoints built to enable landowners to reach and tend their fields. In general, ever since the Jordan Valley checkpoints and Gokhia gate were erected, state policy has aimed to disconnect the area from the eastern parts of the West Bank and do everything possible to attach it to the State of Israel.

How is this instruction enforced? Tractors are being confiscated. Thus five tractors were taken on January 3 of this year at Hamam Al Malih. Most of the landowners in the northern Palestinian Jordan Valley have not plowed nor sown their fields this winter for fear of tractor confiscation.

The confiscation of a tractor is a heavy blow financially. The procedure is for the tractor to be confiscated for three months, and only then can it be released in return for a 5000 shekel fine. This time, surprisingly, the tractors were returned after one month, and no payment was demanded.

A giant demonstration protesting the plans to annex the Palestinian Jordan Valley was held on January 30 at Hamam Al Malih. We heard about it from residents of the area and even watched a video: about 7000 demonstrators with flags and megaphones. There were numerous army troops present. Smoke grenades were thrown by soldiers, and stones thrown by Palestinian boys.

The settler-colonist at Umm Zuka continues to destroy tended farmlands belonging to Palestinians, this time at the Hadidiya and Khalat Makhoul areas. These are fields that depend on rainwater for irrigation – the Israeli national water company, Mekorot, does not sell water to Jordan Valley Palestinian farmers – were sown in spite of the Civil Administrationinfo-icon’s orders that do not allow them to farm in the Jordan Valley. Then another blow fell: in recent years, some illegal Jewish settler-colonist outposts have sprung up in the area, whose role is to make life for their Palestinian neighbors so impossible that they would leave.  Even this, I believe, is a part of the plan to annex the Palestinian Jordan Valley that began with the Allon Plan. A part of their mission (which someone certainly initiated and has financed all along) they enter with their cattle into tended Palestinian fields and simply ruin them. The cows eat the young sprouts and trample all the rest. This happens on a daily basis. Thus, the landowners – after experiencing fear of the Civil Administration enforcers, as well as drought – are subjected to harassment by this settler-colonist and his cows that destroy their meager crops.

Today is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. All of the settler-colonists are demonstrably religious.  But I suppose harming Palestinians is a mitzvah (religious law enacted) that is more important. Today Uri and his cattle came to some fields in Khalat Makhoul, before we had arrived, and then continued at Al Hadidiya.

The mukhtar (elder) of the shepherd communities in the northern Palestinian Jordan Valley has distributed a first aid kit to every family and they also heard a physician’s lecture on the use of medical equipment.

The road running through the middle of the West Bank towards the Palestinian Jordan Valley was nearly deserted (I usually travel there on Saturdays). Only the section between Ariel and the Shomron Gate (checkpoint at the entrance to the West Bank) had normal traffic. We hardly saw military vehicles on the way.

Most of the checkpoints were inactive too. Only upon returning did we see two soldiers and a military vehicle at the Maale Efrayim Checkpoint, in the direction of the Jordan Valley – at 4 p.m. (it happens sometimes…)

At Zaatara Junction Checkpoint there were inspections as well as delaying vehicles coming from Huwwara (outskirts of Nablus city) at 4:45 p.m.