Qaryut, Nablus District: Settlers uproot trees in Palestinian farmer’s plot, planted their own trees in another’s and used soldiers to help them drive him away.
On 20 March 2021, at around 2:00 P.M., Shenar ‘Amer, a 37-year-old married father of five from Qaryut, arrived at a plot of land he leases from another village resident. The plot lies south of the village, several hundred meters from where the settlements of Shilo and Shvut Rachel were built.
When he arrived, ‘Amer saw settlers had planted about 20 citrus trees in the plot and put up metal barrels around them. He began removing the barrels, and then the security coordinator of the settlement of Shilo showed up and told him to leave. In the meantime, a car with three other settlers arrived along with a military jeep. The settlers claimed they owned the land, and the soldiers ordered ‘Amer to present them with ownership documents, which he had not brought with him. Fearful of confronting the settlers and soldiers, ‘Amer had no choice but to return home. The next day, the settlers put the barrels back around the trees they had planted in the plot. ‘Amer asked the plot owner to file a police complaint.
Three days later, Bilal Badawi (44), a father of four, arrived at his plot, which lies about a kilometer southeast of the plot leased by ‘Amer (and about 300 meters from the settlement of Shvut Rachel). When Badawi arrived, he discovered settlers had damaged the fence encircling his plot and uprooted about 50 young olive trees he planted several months earlier. Badawi informed the Shvut Rachel security guard, who arrived at the plot, as well as the Qaryut Village Council and the Palestinian DCO. He also filed a complaint with the Binyamin police.
B’Tselem documented another case of settler interference with farmland belonging to a resident of Qaryut in early March 2021. Residents of Qaryut suffer from repeated settler harassment in this area. Multiple settlements and outposts have been established around the village - Shilo, Shvut Rachel, Eli, Ahiya, Nof Harim, Hayovel, Hakaron and Giv’at Harel.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Shenar ‘Amer recounted the attempted takeover of his plot and how the soldiers had backed the settlers:
I came to the plot I’ve been leasing for years from another village resident. I grow wheat and barley there, and was going to plow that day. When I got there, I saw metal barrels had been put up around about 20 citrus saplings in the plot. I realized right away that settlers had put them up and started removing the barrels and throwing them aside.
Suddenly, the security coordinator of the settlement of Shilo, which is located 300 meters away from the plot, showed up and asked me what I was doing and why I was there. I told him it was my plot, and he told me to get lost or there would be trouble. Meanwhile, three settlers came by car, escorted by a military jeep that had been standing on the Shilo settlement “security road.” One of the settlers said he owned the land. I told him: “No way is this your land! It’s our land!” What I meant was that the land belongs to Palestinians, because someone from the village owns it. I’ve been working in farming with my father since I was a child, and I know all the plots and their owners.
The settler and I got into an argument and eventually, the soldiers demanded I show them ownership papers, which, of course, I didn’t have on me. It never crossed my mind to bring the papers to plow. I had to go because I was scared and I was facing the settlers, the security coordinator, the settlement and the soldiers all alone.
I told the owner of the plot what had happened and asked him to file a complaint, out of concern that the settlers would take over the land and deny us access to it.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Bilal Badawi spoke about the damage the settlers had done to his fence and about the trees they uprooted:
I came to the plot to tend to the olive trees I planted in November 2020. At the time, I bought 75 five-year-old trees, and I put a fence up around the plot to protect them from settler aggression and wild animals. I discovered the fence had been cut in several spots and that some of the tree trunks had been broken and others had been uprooted. I froze on the spot and didn’t know what to do. Two days before that, on 21 March 2021, I went there and saw footprints and signs that someone had tried to damage the chicken wire fence.
While I was standing there, the security coordinator of the settlement of Shvut Rachel drove up and asked me what happened. After I told him, he left. I called the council and told them what happened, and then two members of the council came to the plot. I filed a complaint with the Palestinian DCO and went to file a complaint with the Israeli police too, at the Binyamin station, even though I know they won’t take it seriously. I still wanted what happened to be documented.
If a Palestinian tried to get into the settlement security area, they would have turned the world upside down. He’d be caught or maybe even shot. But they belittle anything the settlers do to the Palestinians and don’t consider it important at all.