Beit Ommar Farmer Remains Steadfast on His Land Despite Army, Settler, Harassment

4 April 2011

Mohammed Abd Alhamid Soleibi has lost land before.

Four years ago, twelve dunams of farmland near Karmei Tsur—land for which he had all the appropriate deeds and documentations of ownership—was surrounded by a fence, essentially annexed by the settlement. This left the seventy-year-old farmer with eighty-eight dunams about a kilometer and a half from the settlement of Bat Ayn in the Saffa Valley. He shares this land with his extended family—in all, around one hundred and fifty people make use of it.

Around eight thirty on the morning of Saturday, April 2nd, Mohammed went out to his remaining land with his brother, sons, and grandson. He and his grandson took a donkey and began plowing one field while the others worked with a tractor on another field.

After a short while, his grandson stopped him and pointed north towards Bat Ayn. A group of sixteen settlers, wearing white masks and escorting dogs, was approaching them from the settlement. The settlers began yelling in Hebrew, but their words were not understood. Mohammed and his grandson unhitched their donkey and began moving towards their family members a field over.

As they moved back, and within five minutes of the settlers’ arrival, a jeep full of Israeli Forces arrived from the east. At the same time, a group of twenty soldiers approached from the west. The settlers stopped their advance, waiting on a hill above and to the north.

The soldiers approached Mohammed and told him to leave his land. When he refused, he was informed that it was a closed military zone, but no paperwork was produced to confirm this. They demanded he go to Gush Etzion where, they said, settlers from Bat Ayn had advanced charges of general trouble making against him.

Mohammed called his lawyer, who in turn called the Gush Etzion administrator. The administrator said that the land was a Closed Military Zone and that he should not be there. He should come in to discuss the matter, the administrator told him, but Mohammed refused, sure that he would be forced to wait several hours outside before returning home having accomplished nothing.

Instead, the Soleibi family continued to work the land. The soldiers stood by, calling on the family to leave. Some of them pointed uphill towards Bat Ayn, where the men in white masks still stood, saying, “if you do not go, we will loose the settlers on you.”

The farmers returned home only after their work was completed, at one in the afternoon.