The disruption and annihilation of the Palestinians’ livelihood is total under the growing settlement enterprise and the silence of the International Community regarding this illegal activity is complicit in the Israeli violation of international conventions. Indeed, the construction of settlements is a clear transgression of the art 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates, “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. However, for almost more than half of a century, Israel has invented a complex web of laws and policies to extend in total impunity their illegal appropriation of the land.
The issues are numerous concerning the settlements aside their illegality. Indeed, the Israeli colonies does not only destroy deliberately the Palestinian agricultural lands but also creates a source of pollution for the Palestinian environment, especially by dumping wastewater onto villages, farmlands and cultivated lands. It is not complicated to understand the dramatic consequences of this shameful practice, which leads to the destruction of the Palestinian agricultural production, but also infecting the soil for further cultivations.
This brief introduction represents in a nutshell the daily life of villages and towns living close to a settlement. So when a town, such as Beit Ommar, is surrounding by several settlements, the daily agricultural activities are a constant struggle for economical survival and a continual legal fight to keep and protect the land, their land. The town of Beit Ommar is located between the city of Hebron and Bethlehem and is surrounded by several settlements, which dramatically impact the life of its habitants as previously mentioned. These settlements are Karmei Zur to the South, Migdal Oz to the east and Kfar Etzion and Efrat to the North.
According to a research study, 4,000 dunums (1 dunum=1000 square meter) have been confiscated from the town of Beit Ommar for the construction of the surrounding settlements as well as for bypass roads (Route 60). For instance, it has been evaluated that since 2000 (beginning of the 2nd Intifada), the Israeli Defense Forces have seized 1,000 dunums of land, bulldozed and razed more than 1,150 dunums, in addition to the demolition of 22 housing units and uprooting of 5,000 grape wines, 1,5000 stone fruits trees and 350 forest trees. (http://vprofile.arij.org/hebron/pdfs/Beit%20Ummar.pdf).
The future for the town is even very troubling and worrisome for the habitants and especially the farmers. Indeed, although the plan is not in motion yet, the Occupier authority intends to construct a five kilometers section of the segregation wall on the North and East side of Beit Ommar. The consequences of this construction will be devastating, as it will confiscate approximately 450 dunums of land as well as making 400 dunums, which would be inaccessible by the farmers because it will be behind the wall. Moreover, in the process of the construction of the apartheid wall, 18,000 trees will be uprooted.
The economic survival of the town depends on agricultural production as it represents 60 % of the economic sector of Beit Ommar but the water restriction imposed by the Israeli government is an additional impediment to the Palestinian economic development. As Israel has the control over 80% of the water extracted in the West Bank ground, the shortage of water is not due to the natural environment but clearly engineered by the Israeli laws. The Israeli government opens and closes the tap of water at its will. This is a very powerful tool at the hand of the occupier, who affects not only the day-to-day life of the people of Occupied Territories but also their economical sector, especially the agriculture sector. The injustice of this phenomena is that the settlements suffer from no restrictions regarding the use of water.
Another danger for the agricultural culture is the illegal dumping of wastewater onto Palestinian farmlands, which leads of course to a decline in the production but also damage the soil itself, which makes cultivation impossible anymore. Moreover, this illegal practice increases diseases and health problems among the population. Beit Ommar lands face such problem as a wastewater plant is situated just above farming lands and the colonizers dump each month their used water on the Palestinian crops (see pictures). Although the farmers addresses their issues to the Palestinian or Israeli authorities, nothing is done to protect their agricultural products and the settlers continue their immoral activities without fearing any legal consequences. It is important to highlight that Israeli colonies not only deliberately unload their used water on the Palestinians cultivation, but they also directly poisoned the crops. For instance, the Beit Ommar farmlands closed to Karmei Zur have been attacked various times by the settlers, who had sprayed the grapevines with toxic chemicals, destroying leaves and fruits.
Finally, it is impossible to speak about the settlements without mentioning the violence, with which the settlers lash out at the Palestinian population. There is not a single a week, without a settlers attack on Palestinian farmers or shepherds. Beit Ummar farmers endure day after day the settlers’ attacks, which have started since the establishment their colonies. For instance, the settlers of Karmei Zur, which was established in 1984 on 27% privately owned lands from Beit Ommar, have carried out attacks since that day. Generally, settlers attack farmers working their lands and stone them without differentiate between men, women or children. More often, settlers uproot olive trees but also shoot on Palestinian people with live ammunitions. One of the most violent settlements next to Beit Ommar lands is Bat Ayin. This fanatical and extremely violent religious settlement gained is notoriety from its underground terrorist group, which carried out an attack on a girl’s school in East Jerusalem. Although their attack didn’t go through, this settlement is a nest of hate and violence vis-à-vis the Palestinian population.
As explained earlier, the enterprise of the settlements is growing at a worrisome pace although their illegality before the international law. The international community refused to condemn the colonial project of Israel, which endangers the daily livelihood of Palestinians. Indeed, the impact of the settlement affects each level of the Palestinian society, which includes obviously physical injuries, but also psychological distress. This last point is not often raised but its consequences are troubling for numerous families. For instance, various research studies have demonstrated that the exposure to settlers violence has an impact on women, who reveal “suffering from anxiety and constant fear for themselves and their children” (https://unispal.un.org/pdfs/UHCHR_SettlerViolence.pdf). Moreover, this tension is spread on the whole family. As women are restricted in their daily life to work or going outside by the fear of the settlers’ violence, the men are “exacerbated by a perceived failure to provide a safe haven for their families in accordance with traditional gender roles” (https://unispal.un.org/pdfs/UHCHR_SettlerViolence.pdf).
The settlements in the West Bank are an illegal colonization of the native Palestinian land, which grow at an alarming pace with the silent consent of the Western powers. The only purpose of these colonies is to steal the land from the Palestinian people and push them in geographical enclaves known as Area A. Moreover, the quotidian physical and psychological aggression suffered by the native population is more and more unbearable. However, the Palestinian are resolute to pursue their life and to protect their lands despite the danger and the violence of the settlers. Therefore, there is a need for the international community to take a stand by condemning the colonial project of Israel and to develop a real and sustainable partnership with the Palestinian community to improve their economical and social livelihoods.
Map of Beit Ummar North settlements