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In the West Bank, even calling the fire dept. has an ethnic dimension

How does the IDF deal with brush fire? Depends whether it threatens Jewish or Palestinian property.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

Palestinian farmers clash with Israeli settlers after they set fire to Palestinian agricultural fields in Burin village near Nablus, October 3, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

File photo of a fire set by settlers on Palestinian fields in Burin village near Nablus, October 3, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

In the beginning of May 2016, S., a resident of the West Bank village of Sur, returned to his village and immediately noticed heavy smoke billowing from his land. Normally in such cases one hastily summons the firefighters; but we are dealing with the West Bank under Israeli military rule, so things tend to get complicated.

S. grows olives on his land, where he owns around 100 trees. He lives off the olive harvest, estimating that he produces between 200 to 250 olive oil drums — each one weighing 17 kilograms — per season.

Unfortunately for S., Israel built the settlement of Sil’it right next to his land. It did so by using an old schtick: it seized the land for “security needs” in 1977, created a NAHAL outpost (a military unit with a dual purpose – both combat and settling land), which gave the place the look of a military outpost. On August 29th 1979, the government quickly declared it to be a civilian settlement. The timing is important: at the time, the High Court of Justice was deliberating the Elon Moreh case and would eventually rule (Hebrew) that the practice of building settlements on land seized for military purposes is illegal. At that point, however, the court had yet to issue its groundbreaking ruling. The distance between S.’s land and Sil’it is only 150 meters (some 450 feet).

In 2004, under the cover of the Second Intifada, Sil’it’s security fence was expanded to includes S.’s land. Now there is both a fence and gate between him and his land, meaning he can no longer reach his land – no one disputes the land is his – unless he receives prior permission from the military commander. In 2009 his land was set ablaze; he believes Israeli civilians were responsible. During last year’s olive harvest, S. managed to obtain permission for his workers for three workdays – yet the IDF prevented them from accessing the land. S. kept trying to get them permits to work the land, but the IDF bureaucracy is slow, and in the meantime the harvest season passed.

Half a year later S. was standing and watching his land burning from across a locked gate. He called the Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO), which in turn summoned Palestinian firefighters. But the IDF did not allow them to enter the land; it is unlikely we will ever know the reason for the refusal.

But the wind, damn it, the wind — it does not discriminate between Palestinian or Israeli property; it is indifferent to land documents and ethnicity. The wind blew the fire toward Sil’it. The distance, you will remember, is only 150 meters.

And then S. beheld a wondrous sight: as the flames consumed his land while Palestinian firetrucks were prohibited from aiding him, Israeli firetrucks swiftly reached the other side of his plot and quickly began dowsing the flames. The firetrucks weren’t sufficient, so a short time afterward two firefighting planes flew overhead and extinguished the fire, which nearly reached the gates of Sil’it.

Unlike the wind, Israeli soldiers can perfectly discriminate between land owned by a Palestinian and land seized by Israelis. And there you have it, the whole occupation in a nutshell.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. This post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      The problem with “palestinian property” is that it does not exist and never will. What the author is talking about is “Jordanian property” that is now hiding under a new name. That is the crux of the problem. The change of adjective a few years after the 6 day war is essentially a pathetic attempt to create a phantom peoplehood that is outside the historical narrative. It is a shame that the author falls for this perversion.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Lewis, this is the strangest non-argument, a by-product of idiosyncratic obsessions. Yossi’s report is not about land owned by “a peoplehood,” but by real Palestinian human beings, and seized illegally by Israel. As he says, “the whole occupation in a nutshell.” Your “does not exist” slogan is, like the way the fire got fought depending on whether the fire blew towards Jews or towards Arabs, at bottom simply racism. You really should read all of Yossi’s articles here. Annals of crime. The settlers are gangsters. The occupation is organized crime.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Gearoid

      A person legally holds that land even under the harsh laws of the Israeli Occupation. No one disputes that but some racist fool like you.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      The property is Jordanian and the human beings are Jordanian. If you were to admit this, your entire hypothesis falls apart. They already have a state, a capital, borders, an army, a police force, a history, a narrative, full state representation in the UN. ITS CALLED JORDAN!

      The conjuring up of a phantom peoplehood after the 6 day war is the root of all your cognitive dissonance and confusion.

      Did you know that the first demonstration of Yesha Arabs where they waved PLO flags occurred in 1972. That was 5 years after the war. Why did Arabs take 5 years to discover who they were?
      Because the whole thing is a sham and a scam.

      Reply to Comment
    5. The state of Palestine was legally created by Article 22 paragraphs 1 and 4 of the League of Nations Covenant. This was twenty-four years before Israel carved itself out of Palestine by using UNGAR 181.

      In 1950 the Kingdom of Jordan passed law specifically standing up for the state of Palestine and the Palestinian nation that all real people on the planet admit exist, from Herzl to Ben-Gurion.

      It is you who is on the wrong side of factual reality. And you will eventually lose.

      Reply to Comment