New Saffa Update: Land Was NOT Declared ‘State Land’…Yet

4 February 2010

Update: Preliminary research done by Peace Now has revealed that the area in which farmers from Saffa planted trees (to replace what was destroyed by settlers from Bat ‘Ayn) that the Israeli military announced it would uproot last week was not registered as Israeli ‘state land’ in the 1970′s as they previously claimed. They are, however, in the process of declaring it state land, a legal maneuver to confiscate the land from the Palestinians who have been using it since the before the creation of the state of Israel.

Update February 1, 2010: Farmers Prevented from Accessing Land Ahead of Uprooting

On Saturday, January 30, a group of farmers from Beit Ommar and Saffa, including those from the Thalji family whose land is the target of an Israeli military order to uproot several hundred trees planted two weeks ago and some Israeli activists who participated in the planting, attempted to access the land to see if the uprooting had started and to fully understand what land was included in the order. The group was quickly approached by a group of Israeli soldiers, including some who appeared to be with the District Coordination Office, who were informed that it was a closed military zone and the group would have to leave immediately. Women of the family of land owners began a heated discussion with an Arabic-speaking officer, demanding more information on why the military had suddenly decided this land, which the family had used to plant wheat and oats for decades, needed to be ‘reclaimed’ as state land.

Woman from Thalji family

An Israeli lawyer with Rabbis for Human Rights petitioned the Israeli court with the hopes of delaying the uprooting, which could have begun as early as Sunday after the Israeli weekend. She later informed the farmers from Saffa that the military is relying on both British and Israeli law in declaring that since the land had been “unused” it was state land. Though it will be an uphill legal battle for the farmers, they have not yet given up on the trees that were planted there to replace what was destroyed by a fire set by Israeli settlers from Bat ‘Ayn last summer. As the Israeli military backed the farmers and supporters back into the built-up area of Saffa, Israeli soldiers took over the roofs of several houses and detained 1 boy.

Hundreds of new trees to be uprooted

In what can only be called shear irony, an Israeli military spokesperson told reporters that the military had only closed the area in response to some “Israeli backpackers” and that the Palestinian farmers were not moved out of the area at all. This new vigilance against alleged Israeli trespassers (these invited by the Palestinian owners) is held in stark contrast to the failed IDF response to settlers destroying the Palestinian agricultural land on several different occasions over the summer, which led to the tree-planting they are now trying to undo.