Residents of Husan Reclaim Land After 10 Years

7 December 2008

Husan is a village of just under 5,000 people situated in the western Betlehem District. It’s existence is precarious; it is crammed between two rapidly expanding settlements, Batar Illit and Har Gilo. If the Annexation Barrier is completed on its intended path Husan, along with 4 other villages, will be on the Israeli side of the barrier. Due to the desirability of the land, Husan’s land has been consistently encroached upon by settlers in a variety of ways. 10 years ago, a section of agricultural land was cut off from the village by an Israeli military checkpoint. Access was prohibited and though residents have documentation of ownership of the land from pre-1967 Israeli Occupation, it appears to have been declared public Israeli land, though no formal documentation has ever been presented to the Palestinian owners. Just over 6 months ago, the military outpost was removed, allowing access to the land for the first time in 10 years. Still, residents were afraid to approach. During the time the land was off-limits an Israeli settler built first a gas station on the land, and then began building homes around it, creating his own small illegal outpost. Though there is an Israeli military post within sight of the settler outpost, it was never dismantled.

Saturday, dozens of residents of Husan were joined by the newly formed Betlehem-District Committee against the Wall and Settlements, of which PSP is a founding member, and Israeli and international activists as they went to the land for the first time in a decade. Some of the activists coming from Betlehem were engaging in a return of their own; their families had been residents of a village nearby, that was demolished by the Hagana (Pre-Israel Jewish militia) in 1947.

The land had recently been planted with small non-native evergreen trees by the Jewish National Fund via a program in which people around the world donate to have a tree “Planted in Israel.” It was another attempt to claim the land illegally as Israel’s, yet another land confiscation and theft of Palestinian rights and property. Residents and activists quickly got to work reclaiming the land by removing thorns and weeds and symbolically uprooting some of the trees that were being used for illegal purposes. For the residents of Husan it was the first coordinated action of non-violent resistance to the Israeli Occupation. It will not be the last.