IDF destroys orchard of Ottoman Palestinians
Ruth Cape, Guest Blog, Land Matters
May 27, 2014
“We refuse to be enemies” is the sentiment upon which the Tent of Nations project in Palestine is built. Painted on a stone which greets every visitor to the Nassar family farm, where the project is based, the phrase encaptures the deep sense of humanity, resolution and faith which emanates from the 100 acres of land and the family who own it.
At 8am on Monday 19th May 2014, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) bulldozers arrived unannounced – presumably rolling past the Nassar’s defiant welcoming statement – and proceeded to destroy between 1,500 and 2,000 mature, fruit-bearing apricot trees, apple trees and grape vines in the lower valley of the farm.
Resting on a hill six miles southwest of Bethlehem in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (the West Bank), the Nassar family hold registration papers for this land dating back to the Ottoman Empire. For over 20 years now, the family have been fighting a legal battle to prove their ownership of the land. For over 20 years they have been challenged by knock-backs, obstacles and violent provocations. The attack at the beginning of last week comes while their latest case for proving ownership has been in the Israeli Military/Civil Courts since February 2013.
The valley before and after the bulldozers arrived.
In 2001 the Nassars set up the Tent of Nations peace project on their farm; a project committed to building intercultural cooperation and understanding; to promoting dialogue and non-violence and to highlighting the connection between people and land. As a volunteer in 2009 (planting and harvesting many of the trees now destroyed), I was struck by the family’s steadfast resolve to remain on their farm despite the pressure to have it evacuated and claimed as Israeli State Land. I noted in a blog during my time there the “shuwe, shuwe” (“slowly, slowly”) attitude to the Nassar’s work; commenting that it “sums up their calm, thoughtful and sustained approach to dealing with an intense and emotional situation.” Such an approach couldn’t be more necessary now as they cope with this latest act of oppression; as ever – they are rising to the occasion with dignity and hope.
In addition to the destruction of the trees, the terraced land on which the trees were planted was also destroyed and left in a state of rubble which cannot currently be re-planted. Having generated income from the fruit of the mature trees, the family are faced with an attack on their livelihood as well as their property. As advised by their lawyer, the Nassars are now appealing for compensation; critically, they are also appealing to have the demolition orders which remain on the tents, compost toilets & other structures on the farm removed. They have asked for international awareness to be raised and for the international community to support their case and to understand that the injustices they face are representative of the oppression faced by the wider Palestinian population.
If you’d like to take action to support the Nassar family and hold the Israeli Military and Government to account for its actions, please write to your MP using this standard letter
I am writing following an act of deep injustice against a Palestinian family by the Israeli Military which took place on Monday 19th May and I ask you to please take the necessary actions called for in this letter. The Nassar family has registration papers for their 100-acre farm dating back to the Ottoman Empire. The family has been working through the Israeli Military/Civil Courts and the Israeli Supreme Court since 1991 to defend their rights to the land on a vineyard just six miles southwest of Bethlehem in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (the West Bank). A Peace Project was established on the land in 2001 called Tent of Nations promoting dialogue, a peaceful approach to conflict and environmental sustainability.
On 19th May 2014, the Israeli Military took unwarranted and illegal action destroying between 1,500 and 2,000 mature, fruit-bearing apricot and apple trees and grape vines growing in the lower valley of the farm. I am asking you to raise this with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and submit a parliamentary question on the matter. The family’s lawyers are pressing for compensation – an action which needs to be supported. Beyond this, the key challenge is to have the demolition orders removed from all structures at Tent of Nations alongside the threat from the growth of the settlements which surround the Nassar family land.
In the past (December 2012), Israeli Military/Civil Courts threatened to demolish 13 structures on the land (pens for animals, tents for volunteers, compost toilets, etc.) and denied the family’s appeal against these 13 demolitions. By appealing these orders through the family lawyers, however, the deadline for action was moved to 24th February 24, 2013. At the same time, the family also requested (again) that the land be re-registered in their name (having all the papers legally required to prove ownership). The family provided all additional information requested by the Military Court by that date, and they submitted and paid for requests for building permits for the existing 13 structures placed under the demolishing orders.
In late April 2014, the Israeli Military placed a warning on the land declaring that the trees were planted on “State Land” and, therefore, constituted a trespass and should be “evacuated”. The family filed an appeal on 5th May 2014; they were waiting for a court decision on these issues, and that is what makes the destruction of these trees illegal.
It is important that you inquire about this issue and raise awareness of the situation. These destructive actions were taken against a family which lives by the motto ‘We Refuse to be Enemies’ and which promotes non-violence as the solution to the occupation – the injustices faced by this family are representative of issues faced by the wider Palestinian population.
Please raise this with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and submit a parliamentary question noting what has occurred and encouraging pressure from the UK Government to ensure that Israel is held accountable for its actions.
I look forward to hearing from you,
See the Tent of Nations website Facebook and twitter for more information and updates.
Ruth works for Community Land Scotland although she writes here in a personal capacity. During the summer of 2009, she spent six weeks volunteering at the Tent of Nations farm in the West Bank, Palestine.
By Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
May 20, 2014
Reflections by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow at The Fellowship of Reconciliation
I am heartbroken and crying tonight. Daoud Nasser and his family at The Tent of Nations Environmental and Educational Farm in the West Bank were invaded by Israel. Entire fields of grapes, apples, apricots, almonds, fig and olive trees were wiped out. Up to 1,500 trees destroyed. Daoud and his family own the land, have papers dating from the Ottoman Empire. This picture, painted in a cave on the land, demonstrates their legacy.
The Nasser family has been persecuted mercilessly by five surrounding settlements, the IDF and the Israeli government for decades. The Israeli authorities had had 13 demolition orders on the land, and forbade the building of any structures (including tents) and placed boulders on the exit and entrances to their farm, and has uprooted trees before. Getting to the farm from Bethlehem-a ten minute ride-can take at least an hour due to circuitous route Palestinians are forced to follow. This is ongoing Nakba in action. I feel this tragedy deeply. Daoud is my friend. I’ve sent people to visit him and work on the farm. I’ve taken delegations there and shared time with him in several cities speaking about “the way forward” toward peace and justice in Palestine. The summer camp, women’s programing and program for volunteers on the farm is remarkable.
Those of us who know Daoud have been deeply impacted by his compassion, nonviolence, resiliency, creativity, and commitment to community. He and his wife contribute so much to their environment, community and world. This outrage cuts deeply into the heart.
Ain’t nobody gonna turn us around. I imagine many of us will want to raise funds for the replanting of the farm, and in fact, go there to help rebuild. More on this aspect soon. For all you who fight for justice: this tragedy is ours to confront.
Background Information from Tent of Nations
As you know, the Nassar Family Farm/Tent of Nations Peace Project has a long history of modeling peaceful co-existence with its neighbors through teaching courses and providing workshops and conferences for women and youth. It also provides opportunities for internationals, Israelis and Palestinians to unite in solidarity around a common dream of a just peace. You have been a part of that journey through your support. For some of you, a visit to the farm itself has made it even more personal. In 2013, 7,000 international visitors were welcomed to the land by the Nassar family. Some were volunteers who worked the land and others were volunteers who taught a variety of workshops in the Women’s Education Center in Nahalin or helped with the Summer Youth Camps. Others included church groups, religious leaders from all faiths, and interfaith peace delegations. We are hoping that all of you will take time to stand with the Nassar family and place as much pressure as possible on your church leaders, political representatives, State Department, and even the White House to ensure that no more unwarranted destruction takes. We will continue to keep you updated on our website at www.fotonna.org.
Click here [Friends of Tent of Nations, North America,to sign the petition deploring this action by the Israeli government.