Palestine Monitor: A New Stage for West Bank Protest

29 January 2012

from the Palestine Monitor
By Dylan Collins

In a hazy room, clouded with cigarette smoke and steam from hot syrup-sweat tea, residents of Kafr ad-Dik and its neighboring villages, along with Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists, excitedly gathered together waiting for the midday prayer to finish. The twenty-seventh of January marked the fourth Friday during which the village of Kafr ad-Dik has staged a nonviolent protest against the annexation of its agricultural land by the Israeli Occupation Authority (IOA).

The village of Kafr ad-Dik, and the greater Salfit District, is located on top of the largest water table in the West Bank, thus providing it with some of the most fertile land in the region. Home to generations upon generations of farmers, Kafr ad-Dik, and the neighboring villages of Rafat, Balut, and Bruqin, have had the majority of their agricultural land stripped away from them in the last ten years by the IOA. In turn unemployment and poverty rates in the farming-based community have skyrocketed.

In a village of which 99% of the inhabitants are olive farmers, the IOA’s annexation of the majority Kafr ad-Dik’s groves has been devastating.

Approximately 4,000 dunams of vital agricultural land, shared by the four villages, has been appropriated by the IOA over the past ten years. Last month, the IOA significantly increased its total of annexed land in the area when it earmarked an additional 1,000 dunums for the alleged expansion of the nearby illegal Israeli outost, Ale Zahav. Kafr ad-Dik residents, however, are convinced this latest annexation of land will be allocated to the construction of an entirely new outpost.

Left with no land to farm, and consequently no source of income, Kafr ad-Dik’s farmers have been forced to either rent out small plots from farmers who still have access to their lands in neighboring villages, or work their own land, now owned by the illegal Israeli settlements, for a paltry wage of around $13 a day.

Popular resistance, in the form of weekly nonviolent marches and demonstrations, has become increasingly commonplace in many West Bank villages since the beginning of the IOA’s construction of the Separation Wall and its subsequent seizure of Palestinian land. Villages such as Bil’in, Ni’lin and, more recently, Nabi Saleh have been the vanguard of the West Banks popular resistance movement over the last few years, with the media giving little to no focus to villages outside the spotlight.

As illegal Israeli settlements continue their unhindered expansion with impunity, robbing Palestinians of their land and livelihood on a daily basis, similar popular resistance demonstrations are popping up in villages all over the West Bank. In order for the new popular resistance efforts to be effective, it is imperative that media sources lend their ears more equitably to the growing number of villages cooperatively combating the occupation.

Nasfar Qufesh, the coordinator for the Popular Committee in the Salfit District, is insistent upon the fact that widespread, disciplined popular nonviolent resistance, represents the strongest means by which West Bank villages can resist the occupation. He says the aim of popular resistance is to, “create awareness in western countries, particularly America, of how, and for what purposes, their hard earned tax money is used.”

The Israeli Occupation Force’s (IOF) blatant use of excessive force during the weekly nonviolent protests throughout the West Bank, via mass amounts of tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades, and live ammunition, is an excellent example of American tax dollars hard at work. The US furnishes Israel with over three billion dollars a year in military aid alone, most of which is made up of non-repayable grants.

Although still in its nascent stages, the popular resistance in Kafr ad-Dik is growing. Community leaders predict similar movements to fan out across West Bank villages as a main method of confronting the occupation and its confiscation of their land.