So, for a Palestinian landowner, the natural course of action is to use your land so that it won’t be confiscated. Hence, these farmers went to prepare the ground for planting trees when the short rainy season comes in January and February.
However, these farmers have been having some difficulties. At times, they have been attacked by settlers who have a vested interest in preventing them from using their land for the next three years. Additionally, the Israeli Army has also begun to bar the farmers from their land, a practice that the Israeli Supreme Court has declared unlawful.
Because of the farmers’ fears of attack and brutality from both settlers and the Israeli army, they asked a group of internationals to accompany them and hopefully provide a protective presence as they work their family’s land. So we joined them, and had been with them for about an hour when three Israeli soldiers arrived.
The soldiers stood about 10 yards away, watching the group of farmers working. They didn’t say anything, but just stood, observing. After about five minutes, the farmers decided that they were anxious enough to leave, so we all began walking back down the hill and toward the Arab village where they live.
The soldiers quickly cut off the group and told us we were not permitted to leave. They then informed us that we were being arrested. Fortunately, they did not detain any Palestinians, but only the five internationals present. If you’d like to see this event, there is a video up at: http://palestinesolidarityproject.org/2010/11/14/5-internationals-arrested-1-beaten-in-saffa/.
So, we were escorted back to the military jeeps where we were loaded up and hauled off to the police station. At the station, we did lots of sitting and waiting, with no word as to why we had been arrested. To their credit, we were served a nice lunch of salad, bread, hot dogs and hummus, but I would have preferred to buy my own lunch on my own dime and in my own time.
After nearly four hours, we were questioned individually and finally told why we were being detained. You can imagine my surprise when I was told that I had been arrested for trespassing in a closed military zone, refusing to leave when shown documentation of the land’s status (which by the way doesn’t exist, wasn’t shown to us, and we were in fact trying to leave), and not cooperating with instructions from a soldier!
I was then told by the police investigator in a disdainful tone that if he had come to my country and done such terrible things he would be instantly deported. I was so surprised that I couldn’t even manage to point out how perfectly acceptable it would be for him to walk around a farm with its owner in my home country! He then told me to go back to my country and stop causing trouble here.
My colleague Viking and I inside the police station, being carefully guarded so that we don't cause any more trouble.
Another one of the girls who was detained with us is a Jewish girl from California. She was severely offended when the police investigator told her, “in a month you will be a Muslim.” She articulated beautifully that what caused her offense was not being associated with the Islamic faith which she respects, but due to the policeman’s insinuation that her status as a Jewish person was in jeopardy if she opposed what she viewed as unjust policies of the Israeli army and its support of illegal settlement activity.
After a few more hours, we were finally released since they of course didn’t have a single legitimate charge against us and it was nearing supper time. None the less, in order to leave we were required to sign papers indicating that we would not return to the area for 14 days.
So, while nothing akin to justice occurred at the police station that day, and decisions of the Supreme Court continue to go ignored in principal and practice, the military and the settlement’s objectives were met. We will not be able to accompany the farmers. They are too intimidated to go to their own land alone. The ground will not be ready for saplings when the only short rainy season of the year arrives. The powerful will slowly but steadily take more land, and the powerless will be told by men with guns to be quiet and to not cause any trouble.