Friday, May 25, 2007

Illegal Land Theft in Artas

Driving through Jerusalem I saw tourists taking pictures of the sites of what is considered this holy city. The past hours I had spent in the village of Artas surrounded also by cameras and foreign visitors, these were not documenting the stones of the past, but the injustice of the present.

The village of Artas lies in a valley, the settlement of Efrat has been built on the village’s land along with land from neighboring Al-Khadr. Last week the villagers had received word that the Israeli army had its eye on some of the land close to the settlement-colony. Together with Israeli and International activists a constant presence was maintained on the land until last Sunday at 5am the army came to clear the land of its trees. The plan seems to be for sewage pipes to be placed in the Palestinian valley to dispose of the Israeli colony’s waste. If this plan is carried out the entire valley will be polluted and the trees and crops that grow there will die.

I don’t understand what could be going through the mind of the soldiers we met on that dusty path in Artas. After Friday prayers the villagers joined the Internationals and Israelis to try and reach the newly cleared land in solidarity with its owner. The army was prepared, they blocked the path and would not let anyone through. What does one such soldier think he is achieving by stopping Palestinians from reaching the land they own? Whom is he serving? How does he believe to be protecting his countrymen and women by covering up, by protecting the stealing, stealing, stealing of other’s land? Where does she believe the rich Jewish heritage of Justice is in such acts of land theft? The group of us chanted for a while and there was some moments of push and shove which did not lead far.

In some ways such an event seems weak and pointless to me. On the upside with the presence of the crowd and the media, the villagers were able to express their opposition to the army’s illegal activities, and yet we were not able to achieve anything substantial. Pictures were taken of a stronger army standing in the way of peaceful and unarmed farmers and supporters from around the world. But then what are they to do as their land is taken from them before their very eyes? Today, we stood powerless before an army, armed to the teeth, only to communicate a message, that this is injustice.
The illegal Israeli colony looms over the demonstratoin in the background.