Israel Demolishes Beit Ommar Farmer’s Dream
Mousa Abu Maria’s family has been the owner of their farmland for over 100 years. Mousa’s father received it from his grandfather and then gave a portion of it to Mousa. Mousa’s plot of land is a 1400 square meter parcel on the far northern border of his hometown, Beit Ommar. It is situated between the city of Beit Ommar and the settlement of Gosh Etzion. This region is an Area C zone, meaning that the Israeli army has complete control.
Mousa’s aspiration is simple; to be a farmer. In the last few years, he started taking the necessary steps towards turning the land his father gave him into a farm. His hope was for the land to be a sheep farm that will eventually be a sustainable income for his family. In addition to preparing the land, Mousa has spent the last year going through the appropriate legal channels, including the Municipality of Beit Ommar and commissioned engineers, to ensure his plans fit within the integrity of the land and the city. He has filed the necessary papers with the Palestinian Authority, the only entity that he had been instructed to consult with in regards to his land.
However, on July 5th, Mousa’s plans were dramatically interrupted. Israeli soldiers stormed onto his farm, unannounced, claiming that they were looking for evidence of kidnapped settlers. Mousa told them that he had no involvement whatsoever, but it made no difference, as the soldiers tore apart the farm. While “searching” for evidence, the soldiers damaged the farm building, including roof
and structural damage and put bombs in the well, cracking the well walls. Now Mousa’s wells cannot hold water making them entirely ineffective. Although it was a setback, it didn’t deter Mousa from moving forward with the vision of his farm. Since that time, Mousa has been rebuilding the farm and repairing all of the undeserved destruction.
The farm was beginning to get back on track until October 1st, when about 20 soldiers in 5 jeeps came to the farm again to give him a notice of scheduled demolition. The demolition order gives him until 26-10-14 (less than 1 month) to try to fight to get the decision reversed in the Beit El military court. This court notoriously only rules in favor of the military in their pursuits against farmers.
Now Mousa has the choice to go to a traditionally unjust court and face substantial legal fees in a desperate attempt to save his farm, or to allow his farm to be demolished at the hands of the occupying army that has been taking his family’s land for decades. For Mousa, there is only one choice; he will fight the demolition order despite the bias of the court. Although the court case will cost him significant legal fees, it will certainly be less than the time and money he has put into the land up to this point. If his situation weren’t difficult enough, there is one more layer to his story. Mousa has borrowed money from multiple financiers for creating the improvements to the land. If the court rules against Mousa, his farm will be demolished and he will be stuck with a pile of debt. Even if he wins the case, Mousa will still have to deal with legal fees on top of the loans he has to pay back from the farmland.
Mousa’s case is just one in a large stream of many that have been continuously occurring during the Israeli occupation. This is just one example of the insidious way that the Israeli occupation further damages the hope of the Palestinian people in attempts to drive them to despair.