Deir Nizam, Ramallah District: Settlers pry gate off Palestinian farmland; soldiers prevent owner from rebuilding it and drive him away
On 19 March 2021, settlers uprooted some 2,000 almond seedlings and damaged parts of an agricultural fence on land belonging to several families from Deir Nizam. The land stretches about 500 meters north of the village, which lies in Ramallah District. The seedlings were planted as part of a program supported by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by Oxfam.
About two days later, the landowners replanted the seedlings and erected a gate at the entrance to the path that leads to their land, in order to protect the orchard from settler attacks.
On the morning of 23 April 2021, Muhammad a-Tamimi (47) and his son Ramez (16) came to work the plot. At around 1:00 P.M., about five soldiers arrived and ordered the two to leave the area. At the same time, a vehicle stopped by the road nearby and settlers inside began swearing at the farmers. The soldiers went over to the settlers, who drove off.
Muhammad and Ramez a-Tamimi went home. About 15 minutes later, relatives informed them that settlers had uprooted the gate. Muhammad a-Tamimi drove there immediately and found dozens of Israeli security forces spread out on his land. They forced him to leave, threatening and shoving him, on the pretext that it was a closed military zone.
The next day, a-Tamimi returned to his land. Again, soldiers drove him away and prevented him from repairing the gate. A-Tamimi finally managed to repair it on 27 April 2021.
The settlement of Halamish was established about 400 meters southeast of the plot, and the Zvi Bar Yosef farm outpost about 2.5 kilometers to the east. In early April 2021, settlers and soldiers assaulted Deir Nizam residents several times in another plot owned by members of the extended Tamimi family, about a kilometer northeast of Muhammad a-Tamimi’s plot.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 23 April 2021, Muhammad a-Tamimi (47), a resident of Deir Nizam, recounted how the settlers and soldiers colluded to prevent him from accessing his land:
On Friday, 23 April 2021, I came to work the land with my son Ramez. At 1:00 P.M., a military jeep with four or five soldiers arrived. The officers spoke to me rudely and asked me what I was doing there. When I replied that I was working my land, he told me that I didn’t have to work today and should go home. I argued with him. Meanwhile, a car with three settlers showed up and stopped by the roadside. The settlers started cursing me, “You son of a bitch,” “You motherfucker,” and so on. The soldiers ignored it. When I also started cursing the settlers, the soldiers ordered me to shut up. They consulted with each other and only then told the settlers to leave, and they drove away. The soldiers stayed, and I had to leave with my son.
Fifteen minutes after we got home, my nephew came and told me that settlers had pried off the gate, dragged it and thrown it on the ground. I drove over there right away, since it’s only two kilometers away. When we arrived, there were dozens of soldiers, Border Police and Special Patrol Unit officers there, along with dozens of villagers who had come after hearing about the incident, and three settlers’ vehicles.
I immediately turned to the officer I’d spoken to earlier and said to him, “You were here half an hour ago and the gate was still standing, right?” He said, “Yes, you’re right. But we’re waiting for DCO officers to come and solve the problem.” Then he ordered me to move away, but I refused and told him that the settlers should fix the gate first. The officer told me that we’d wait for the DCO and they’d decide who’d fix the gate.
About 10 minutes later, an Israeli DCO officer arrived and ordered me to go home and take the gate with me. He said I should come back the next day to put up the gate instead of getting into a confrontation with the settlers. When I refused, he showed me an order on his phone declaring the land a “closed military zone.”
We insisted and refused to leave until the Border Police officers threatened to pepper-spray us and throw stun grenades at us if we didn’t. We went home and came back the next day to set up the gate, but again they didn’t allow us. Only today, 27 April 2021, I met the soldiers again and the officer told me that the ban had been lifted that day and I could set up the gate.
The settlers constantly harass us and the military covers for them and sometimes even coordinates and cooperates with them. We don’t know who else to turn to. Weve gone through all the official channels, but nothing helps.