Fukharee, Gaza Strip, Palestine, 11th November 2008
By Donna Wallach
On Tuesday 11th November 2008, four international Human Rights Observers accompanied some farmers to plow their fields for wheat, rye and lentils. The day started out with a long walk to the field. As in previous accompaniments to the “Buffer Zone”, the fields waiting to be plowed were close to the fence separating Palestinians farm lands from Israel.The farm lands of the Gaza Strip located on the eastern border have been turned into a desert by the Israeli occupation force army - destroying all the crops, trees and hot houses that existed 300 – 500 meters inside.
Tuesday’s accompaniment enabled a few Palestinian farmers to plow their lands – something they haven’t been able to do for at least 5 years! If they go by themselves to their fields they are shot at and face imminent death or permanent injury. When international HRO volunteers are out in the fields alongside the Palestinian farmers, the Israeli occupation force soldiers seem to be more reluctant to shoot to kill or to wound and maim.
The work began at 09:30 and by around 10:30 the Israeli occupation force soldiers drove up to the fence in three jeeps. After about 15 minutes of standing the soldiers started shooting their rifles, at first a few shots into the air and then above the heads of the volunteers – it was only a few shots. The tractor driver immediately left the field when the shooting started, to make sure the tractor wouldn’t be damaged. The volunteers and the farmers stood together in defiance of the soldiers shooting at unarmed civilians. Soon the tractor came back to the field and the driver accompanied by the Human Rights Observer resumed plowing.
At around 11:40 the volunteers walked to a nearby field and accompanied another farmer to plow 12 dunams of his land.This time without the soldiers or the gunshots.
The next field was the largest, 50 dunams, and took the longest. At around 14:15, when most of the field had been plowed, three jeeps again drove up to the fence and soldiers got out with their guns and shot a few shots. The volunteers yelled at the soldiers “Stop shooting!” “We are unarmed” “We are on Palestinian land.” “The Palestinians have the right to farm on their land.” The shooting didn’t last long and soon the soldiers got into their jeeps and drove away. The Israeli occupation force soldiers had been watching all day, from before their first attack in the morning. It was a rather ridiculous action on their part to drive up in three jeeps and open fire again when it was so clear that all were unarmed and were just farming.
The loud outcry of outrage at denying farmers to farm their lands and provide a livelihood for their families and to feed the people is overwhelmingly silent! The time is now to roar at the injustice. It is an act of terrorism to shoot at a farmer holding a pail of seeds as he or she sows the fields or at a tractor driver plowing the earth so that the seeds can bury themselves into the dirt and become the food of sustenance.
It was a major victory for the farmers of Fukharee – 72 dunams of land were plowed. The lentils will be ready for harvest in a month and a half, the rye soon after in three months, and the wheat will be ready in the spring, five months from now. What a difference to look out into the fields and see freshly plowed rows and no longer the desert-like fields of weeds and sticker bushes.