Soldiers abandon Palestinian farmers in Kufr Qalil
Farmers in Kufr Qalil, near Nablus, were scheduled to receive army protection yesterday through the Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO), in order to harvest their olives on land near the illegal Bracha settlement. The family, accompanied by four international activists, went to the land and was initially pleased to find army jeeps nearby as planned. Later in the morning, two settlers came down from the nearby outpost, yelling at the Palestinians and internationals from across the settler-only road. As the nearby army vehicle came down, seemingly to intervene, the farmers were again relieved by the fact that the DCO was keeping their word. But the jeeps soon disappeared, while the settlers remained. Tension was high in the olive groves, and fear of what could happen prompted a phone call to Rabbis for Human Rights, who got in touch with the DCO, demanding that the “protection” return. The soldiers eventually came back, driving to the settlers and joining them across the road from the olive fields. They walked together, talking casually, but the army never approached the Palestinian farmers. After a short time, the owner of the farmland decided to give up and continue harvesting a safer plot of land, farther from the settlement, as he was feeling very nervous, and had three of his young grandchildren with him.
The Israeli DCO provides farmers with permits to access their own land with the protection of Israeli forces. Often these permits are only for a day or two (usually not long enough to complete a harvest), and the DCO decides which days the farmers can go. This means that they frequently have to choose between “army protection” and the best day for harvesting their livelihood, which often results in the army playing the opposite role, forcing farmers to leave their land. As can be seen from yesterday, even when Palestinians receive a permit and comply with the decisions of the DCO, they often don’t receive any sort of real protection, with the army leaving, or even protecting settlers when they harass the farmers.