Israeli Soldiers, Police Attack Beit Ommar Fruit Vendors

7 September 2011

On 6th September, at 11:00 am, a group of Israeli soldiers and police attacked a group of fifteen local farmers who were selling local fruits at the entrance to Beit Ommar village, on the Route 60 highway. The soldiers then proceeded to confiscate and destroy 15 large stalls of the locals’ produce (consisting of tomatoes, plums, grapes and peaches) without citing any reason or justification. Farmers estimated the cost of the damage at around $10,000. More worrying for the vendors is the possibility that Israel intends to permanently prevent them from selling their fruit on Route 60, the main highway connecting Jerusalem to Bethlehem and then Hebron.

Like much of the West Bank region, Beit Ommar is dependent on agriculture and therefore groups of farmers selling fruit on the side of major roads is a common sight during the autumn harvest months. The summer months provide the farmers with the majority of their income, and it is no coincidence that the frequency of attacks and harassment by settlers and soldiers increases dramatically during the autumn, and particularly October, which sees the beginning of the olive harvests.

Witnesses describe yesterday’s events as part of the escalating Israeli violence towards Palestinian farmers, designed to force them to leave their land. A tactic used repeatedly by the occupation for many decades is to force farmers off their land through violence and intimidation, then claim the land is not being used, and appropriate it for the Israeli state, even though residents have proof of legal ownership.

Beit Ommar farmers have also suffered from Israel’s actions in cutting off the supply of water to the town, often for several days at a time (see report on water shortages here).