Fri 13.11.09, Morning
The tour was conducted by Dali Golomb and Tzvia Shapira who conducted a preliminary tour and prepared the tour for us. May God bless them as well as us.
When we arrived in Jiyus there were two army jeeps on the road and transportation was stopped. Why? Who knows? There was a lot of information and translations at the meeting and there was a feeling of frustration and anger to hear what was said, so there may be some details lacking and some errors. I attempted to report things as they were told by the brave residents of Jiyus.
Jayyus (جيوس in Arabic) is a Palestinian agricultural community located in Western Shomron near Qalqiliya and the settlement of Tzufim. The community numbers 3,200 residents who make their living through agriculture.
The village is located very close to the separation fence and more than 70% of the residents' land (8,600 dunams or 2,150 acres) and six wells are located on the western side of the fence. There is an agricultural gate that is open several hours a day. There are also 600 dunams (150 acres) or land surrounding the village that have been annexed for building the fence. The residents of the village are currently engaged in a legal struggle to have the route of the fence moved and return their land.
The residents of Jiyus held demonstrations each Friday protesting the separation fence that lies between the villagers and their land. These demonstrations ended after the State of Israel changed the route of the fence and returned most of their land. These facts are stated in Wikipedia.
The following are explanations by the residents of Jiyus concerning what is taking place - abuse by the courts, the attitude of the army and the authorities (the water company( towards the residents of the village.
The Case of Abu Azami who represents the other farmers
We met in the Regional Council Building and Abu Azami - a farmer who speaks excellent English - began to state the facts: all the agricultural practice has to be based upon court rulings. 18 farmers have not gotten their land back from what was usurped to build the fence. There are farmers who had only part of their land returned. Azami himself was arrested several times for planting saplings and claimed in his defense that it was his natural right that had been passed down to him from his grandfather.
In his opinion, most of the legal claims that the state used were the following:
1. We learned that [the state has] a right to confiscate any piece of land in order to lay pipelines for new settlements (such as Tzufin).
2. We learned that land can be confiscated for paving roads.
3. If more than 50% of the land is terraces "land is not suitable for agriculture."
Abu Azami had to sell his flocks in order to pay for a bulldozer to plow his terraces to prove that his land is suitable for cultivation. The state used its entire arsenal of codes and laws: the Mandatory Law, the Ottoman Law and the Absentee Property Act in order to increase the amount of land it annexed for settlements. The Absentee Property Act claims that any section of land that was not cultivated for a period of three years is automatically transferred to state ownership. Therefore, land under common ownership of the village that was previously under Jordanian Law was also turned over for "security needs."
The legal proceedings in the village are organized by the Land Protection Committee. These are committees that were organized in the villages but of course have a problem getting to the courts to defend their rights.
Another farmer who was present spoke about impossible permits for the olive harvest. The olive crop is the main source of income for farmers in Jiyus. The year 900 requests were submitted by farmers to harvest their olives, and only 120 requests were approved!
The farmer's olive groves are scattered around three different agricultural gates in the separation fence. He can only go out through one gate. It is the only gate that is opened three times each day and is only opened for a limited period of time. He only received a 23-day permit for the olive harvest which is, of course, not enough time [to finish] harvesting, pruning, and cultivating the land. He is allowed to take one other person from his family to work in the harvest. Of course under these conditions there is no possibility of harvesting, taking the olives to the press, pruning, caring for the trees, plowing , and weeding, and the olive groves are sorely neglected. (The Ottoman Law dictates that land that is not cultivated for three years is allotted to the State).
Haj - Mukhtar Tahar Jabar - Head of the Regional Council spoke mainly about the severe water problems in the village.
The wells that were confiscated with the building of the separation fence provided the needs of the village for home and agricultural use. Since the village suffers from a severe water shortage, the water for home use is piped in from Azun. This water comes from a well where there has been a waste disposal facility for Alphei Menasheh and the surrounding area built next to it. Pollution from the waste and garbage is penetrating into the water, forcing the village to connect to the Israeli Water Company pipeline and to pay a higher rate for water of NIS 15 per metric cube. Legal appeals to receive water from their wells on the other side of the fence have cost the village $15,000 merely for the bureaucracy. The legal proceedings have been going on for three years and the Palestinian Authority is attempting to reach an agreement with the civil authorities. The water would be available to irrigate the fields but could not be brought to the village. More water is needed.
Mazuz - Testimony of the accountant and worker for the Regional Council
Mazuz arrived agitated from the incident that took place an hour an a half ago in which the army entered the village and aroused provocation with "hummers" and jeeps. The army stopped on the road and don't allow traffic. Children began to throw stones and the army declared a curfew over the loudspeakers, and threw tear gas and shock grenades. Mazuz said that his wife was on her way to the doctor because his babies were suffering from shock. Incidents such as this take place on a daily basis and frighten the residents. Mazuz told how soldiers had climbed on top of the roof of the regional council building that commands a view of the entire area and demanded the keys to the building. Mazuz refused and shouting erupted. They demanded that the village residents discipline their children and Mazuz told them that if they didn't enter the village there would be no more stone-throwing.
At the end of the discussion we raised a proposed to remain in contact with the representatives and to receive warnings immediately of any instances of violence on the part of the army so that we will be able to use information and our contacts while working at the checkpoints. After our next meeting in Tel Aviv we will decide on how we will continue to work in a more orderly manner with the village committee.
We went up on the roof of the council building and received an explanation about the view we saw from there, the villages, and the fence, the settlements in the area. The picture was tangible: the pastoral panorama of the hills of Shomron have been marred by a violent occupation.