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Testimony: Settlers attack Palestinian farmers on their land, Jan. '09

Ziad Sawan, unemployed

Hamdallah 'Afaneh

I have a few plots of land that I inherited from my father. About six years ago, settlers established Gilad Farm about two kilometers from one of my plots. Since then, they have attacked farmers in the area and torched and cut trees. Las spring, they set fire to orchards in the area, and the fire spread to my land. As a result, I lost many olive trees and lots of money during the harvest season. I filed a complaint, but nothing came of it. A little while later, at the checkpoint, my permit to work in Israel was taken from me, and now I'm unemployed. I think they took it because of the complaint I filed.

I work my land only in the early morning hours, so I don't encounter settlers. On Saturday, 10 January, I went to plow the land with my son Tareq, 23, around 5:30 A.M. We worked quietly until about 7.30. Tareq drove the tractor and I removed stones and weeded.

At about 7:30, I heard shouting. I saw 10-15 settlers about 20-30 meters from us. They had a dog with them. They shouted at us and threw stones in our direction. I called my family to tell them what was happening. The settlers continued to throw stones at us and try to expel us from the land. Then two men armed with M-16 rifles arrived. They came to about three meters from us and didn't let us defend ourselves. A few minutes later, about fifteen persons - relatives of ours from Immatin and farmers from Far'ata who were working in the area - joined us.

About fifteen minutes after that, three Hummer jeeps and a regular jeep pulled up and officers and soldiers got out. The moment they arrived, the settlers got braver and began to shout and swear loudly. The soldiers told us to move away. As we did, settlers came toward us and said it was the land of Our Father Abraham. The settlers swore at us and the soldiers did not tell them to go away. I asked one of the officers to move the settlers away, but he told me, in Hebrew, to go. I speak and understand Hebrew well.

Ten minutes after the army arrived, three more jeeps pulled up: a white jeep of the Civil Administration and two jeeps of the regular police. As soon as the police arrived, the settlers began to move back and return to the settlement. I spoke with the officers from the Civil Administration in Arabic, and he told me I could continue working. He called the soldiers by phone - they had gone a distance away - and told them, in Hebrew: “He's allowed to finish his work.” He told me a patrol car would remain to guard me while I worked, and that I could work as much as I have to. One of the policemen demanded that I not work on the Sabbath. He told me not to even try to get close to the land on that day. When I asked him why, he said that on the Sabbath, settlers from other settlements come, and that work on the Sabbath upsets them. Before the police and the Civil Administration officials left, one of the policemen gave me a piece of paper and asked me to file a complaint with an investigator named Munir.

The Civil Administration officer asked the soldiers to remain with us to protect us, and they stayed with their jeep in a place nearby. After a short while, one of the soldiers called to Tareq and asked him to go over to him. I went with him to the soldiers. The soldiers took his ID card. They told me I could go home and that Tareq would come later. I didn't agree because I was worried that something would happen to him. I told them I'd remain and return with him.

Earlier, during the attack, the soldiers had checked Tareq's identification. I was afraid they wanted to beat him, and I called the Civil Administration. I told the person who answered that I was the person the settlers had attacked a bit earlier and that the soldiers took my son's ID card again and don't want to release him. The fellow on the telephone said he would call the soldiers. I immediately heard a conversation on the transmitter. I heard the fellow tell the soldiers: “Release him, he doesn't have anything.” One of the soldiers gave Tareq back his ID  and said to him, “If I see you here, if you come back here, I'll  put you in jail.” This was about two and a half hours after they detained Tareq. They released him at about 1:00 P.M., and we left.

The next day, I went to the Ariel police station. I stood at the entrance to the settlement and a police car picked me up and took me to the station. The investigator Munir wasn't there and another policeman took my testimony and particulars. In the evening, Munir called and said that I needed to go to the Qedumim police station the next day. I apologized and told him I could only get there the day after that, Tuesday. On Tuesday, I went with Tareq to Qedumim, and Tareq gave his statement to the police.

Since then, I haven't gone back to the land, but I will when I have to, in another month maybe. In the meantime, I am waiting to see what happens with the complaints I filed with the police.

Ziad ‘Abd al-Hafiz Ahmad Sawan, 53, married with ten children, is an unemployed resident of Immatin in Qalqiliya District. His testimony was given to ‘Atef Abu a-Rub in Immatin on 21 January 2009.