October 19, 2009

Olive Harvest: notes from the field

17 October 2009

Farming in the villages around Nablus has become a perilous task of late. Each year vandals from nearby Israeli settlements plague the olive farmers, destroying their trees and attacking workers. In the village of Burin, we saw evidence of a more sinister trend
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Issam Shedahah with the remains of his car
Photo by Lazar Simeonov

Issam Shedahah, 39, is a long time resident of Burin and it has cost him dear. We are looking at the burnt out husk of his car, torched the previous night by the settlers of Itzhar. “This is the fourth time they have burnt my car”, he tells us, “now it is very common that they come into the village at night”. Neither does Issam’s suffering end with material damage. Another recent settler invasion resulted in the murder of his brother. “He was sitting on the roof one evening, not doing anything. They shot him in the head.”

He indicates the roof of the shop/apartment the family own. It is directly across the street from the remains of his car. “Last night I woke up at 3am and I heard voices. I looked out the window and I saw them breaking the windows and throwing Benzene all over the seats, then they set fire to it and walked away.” Issam explains that the people of Burin are used to having their farms attacked, he points up to ‘black mountain’, where all the once-green trees have been reduced to charcoal. But the recent tendency of settlers to enter the village, with full knowledge of Israeli Army soldiers, is making life unbearable. “All the time we are attacked by settlers. They have taken my grandfather’s land; they want to steal all of our land. All the time we are suffering”.

Neighbours inform us that several more cars have been burnt recently. We can see that nearby houses also bear the scars of settler attacks. Huwara Mayor Samer Odeh has condemned what he called “continuous settler attacks”, while Union leaders tell us that 5,000 PA security troops have been assigned to protect the farmers. For Issam Shedaheh and the people of Burin, no protection exists. Just the daily horrors of a life under siege.

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