Land grab

By EA Bethany, Northern West Bank

This farmer’s land has become a bypass road. No one asked his permission.

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

The farmer lives near Qalqilya in the Palestinian West Bank. A road is under construction that will allow people from nearby Israeli settlements to bypass his village. The Israeli authorities say a bypass is necessary because the amount of traffic on the current road is unsafe.

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

In January 2017 bulldozers appeared and began churning up the 49 acres of land needed to build the road. This land belonged to village residents. It was planted with olive trees and other crops. In total 40 families lost land to the road; 1,200 olive trees were uprooted.

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

This is Salah, next to the site where his olive trees used to stand. His family has lost land that they had farmed for generations. It was the only land they owned, so Salah has also lost his livelihood. Since January he has had to try to find an alternative income. Salah also mentioned that his wife became very sick immediately after their trees were uprooted. Along with all the other land owners, Salah would not accept any compensation for the loss. Selling land is like selling your son, we were told: “The cost of these trees is more expensive than your soul.”

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

Some villagers owned land that has ended up on the other side of the road, so accessing it has become much more difficult. The bulldozers also ruined an underground water irrigation system.

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

Villagers are worried about the impact of the bypass on their shops and businesses. Shop owners said that the village has always had good relations with its Israeli neighbours. Many of the stores along the main road in the village serve both settlers and Palestinians – signs are in Hebrew as well as Arabic.

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

Only time will tell whether settlers stop using services in the village. One shop owner, who said that 90 per cent of his customers are Israeli, thought that settlers would be stupid to take the new bypass road, “It is quicker with the old road but if they are afraid they will take the new road.”

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Photo: EAPPI/Bethany

Destruction of private property and confiscation of land are human rights violations according to Article 46 of the Hague Convention of 1907 and Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli settlements contravene Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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Al-Haq is a Palestinian NGO fighting for human rights in occupied Palestine. Watch this short film Al-Haq has produced to find out why Israeli settlements are a major obstacle to peace, and what effect they are having on the Palestinian economy: https://medium.com/@alhaq/facts-on-the-ground-542fb4d17d08.