From the Palestinian village of BEIT UMMAR:
Call for URGENT ACTION - ALLOW PALESTINIAN FARMERS TO GET TO THEIR LAND! (CPT)
In June 2002 Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Karme Tzur unilaterally expanded their borders and built a road, destroying dozens of fruit trees, and preventing the Beit Ummar farmers who own the land from reaching it. On July 9, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams accompanied Palestinian farmers hoping to harvest their plums; they were blocked by armed Israeli settlers and soldiers.
This month the grapes in this same area will be ready for harvest. At stake are about 1500 tons of grapes during the next two months. Also at stake are Palestinian rights to go to their land -- in this one case, about 125 acres. At a time when curfew and closure are already choking the economy, preventing the harvest and marketing of produce puts more families closer to starvation.
The situation in the village of Beit Ummar is replicated throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
Please fax or send postcards to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs/State Department, to the PM/President and/or your MP/Representatives and Senators. Ask them to inquire of the Israeli government what provisions they are making to protect Palestinians from Israeli settlers during the coming grape harvest. Ask for a reply regarding the vinyard of Abu Jabr -- see his story below. For groups, pre- printed postcards are available from Christian Peacemaker Teams.
SAMPLE TEXT FOR POSTCARD AND FAX
I am concerned that Palestinian farmers who own land adjoining Israeli settlements in the West Bank are being harassed and assaulted by settlers when they go to their fields. Christian Peacemaker Teams has told us about the problems of the Abu Jabr family and other farm families from Beit Ummar who own land on the north side of the Karme Tzur settlement. The grape harvest is approaching and these families will be impoverished if they are not allowed to harvest their grapes. Please ask our embassy staff to investigate and to report to you what steps the Israeli military administration will be taking to protect these farmers in the coming grape harvest. I will be looking forward to hearing from you what information you are able to obtain.
(sign with your name and address)
Prime Minister Jean Chretien, House of Commons, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham, House of Commons, Ottawa ON
You can mail your MP at the House of Commons address, or find their fax number by looking them up at
President George W. Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC
Fax: (202) 261-8577
Senator _____, US Senate, Washington, DC 20510
Representative ______, US House of Representatives, Washington DC
For fax numbers, go to http://congress.org/ and enter your zip code
CASE: Muhammed Abdel Hamed Jabr Asslebi (Abu Jabr), Beit Ummar Abu Jabr has documents confirming his ownership of an 11 dunam (3 acre) parcel of land between the Palestinian villages of Halhoul and Beit Ummar west of the Hebron-Jerusalem road. In 1984, Israelis established an illegal settlement, Karme Tzur, on land adjacent to his property. Between 1996 and 1998 the Israeli government built bypass road #60, some of it following the Hebron-Jerusalem road, and other parts on land confiscated from Palestinian farmers. Additional roads were built to serve as access roads to Israeli settlements, including Karme Tzur. Palestinian access roads to the Hebron-Jerusalem road were blocked.
In early 1999 settlers moved the fence between Karme Tzur and Abu Jabr's land, in effect confiscating three dunams of his eleven. A lawyer with the Hebron Land Defence Committee took Abu Jabr's case and the case of other affected farmers to the Israeli courts. Six months later the court ruled in his favor. The fences were moved back to the pre 1999 location, with Israeli military personnel witnessing and enforcing.
During the six months while he was awaiting the court decision Abu Jabr experienced many incidents of settler harassment when he tried to work his land. On one occasion a settler named Schlomo, assisted by his dog, physically attacked Abu Jabr. Abu Jabr made a complaint at the Kiryat Arba Israeli police headquarters and was able to identify Schlomo. Upon returning to his land that day, he saw that 25 plum trees, 70 grape vines, and a stone field boundary wall had all been destroyed.
During 2000 and 2001, following his success in the court, Abu Jabr worked on the land and harvested his fruit with few problems. But in June 2002 the Karme Tzur settlement, with Israeli military cooperation, built a road on property belonging to Halhoul and Beit Ummar farmers. They uprooted trees and vines and established a border approximately 300 meters outside of the existing border. Both armed settlers and soldiers guarded the land and prevented farmers access to their land. In recent weeks the Israeli settlers have added lights along the road. This illegal confiscation more than doubles the acreage of Karme Tzur.
All of Abu Jabr's 11 dunams are within this new confiscation. All of his plum harvest, which would have been about a ton, fell from the trees and rotted on the ground. In late July he told members of CPT that he snuck back to his property like a thief to carry one carton of plums to his family.
The grapes will be ready to harvest in August and September. Half of Abu Jabr's land is planted with grapes. He usually sprays the grapes in June and July. He expects the quality of the grapes will be greatly reduced because he has been unable to spray. Still, he hopes to be able to harvest and market what he can. He is afraid that failure to access his land now will mean that it will be annexed to the settlement of Karme Tzur permanently. Loss of his land is the loss of everything for him.