Tuesday, August 21, 2007
by Nora Barrows-Friedman, IPS
"BETHLEHEM - In the orange glow of another sunset, Awad Abu Swai, 36, stands underneath a towering fig tree, a sample of its fruit in his hand. He peels back the bright green skin to expose crimson jelly and seeds inside.
“The Israeli military came inside the valley and cut about 50 apricot and walnut trees since May. And now, they are coming to cut more trees. This is all because of what they are building through this land — my land. Here, they are building a sewage channel to run raw sewage through this valley collected from four Israeli settlements near here.” Abu Swai is one of approximately 4,000 residents of the Palestinian village of Artas, located southeast of Bethlehem city. Artas is known regionally for its succulent vegetables, and fruit and nut trees. But over the last few months Israeli occupation forces have brought dozens of bulldozers to the eastern valley fields of Artas to construct a wall that will cut villagers off from this fertile land, while a concrete tunnel for raw settlement sewage grows longer each day......
“Look at these grapes,” Abu Mariya says. “They are not good here. Before the sewage plant started pumping water here, these grapes used to be beautiful and delicious.” On one grapevine, the leaves are yellowed and curling, and the grapes themselves are grey and withered. “They are obviously sick grapes,” Abu Mariya remarks. “They are all poisoned and dirty. This is from the water that they pump onto this land from the sewage.”
Jeff Halper, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, former professor of anthropology at Ben Gurion University and co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, tells IPS that this otherwise banal issue of sewage infrastructure is consistent with broadening Israeli policies of Palestinian dispossession.
“Infrastructure sounds innocuous, but the partisan planning behind it simply pushes Palestinians out of historic farmlands that are ether expropriated for settlements or Israeli-only highways, or which are flooded by sewage by settlements with no sustainable infrastructure of their own.
“Planning by the Israeli authorities is done with impunity regarding the Palestinians,” adds Halper. “It is merely one more means, more subtle than actual transfer, to alienate them from the lands and, in the end, render the greater Land of Israel cleansed of all but remnants of non-Jewish populations. It constitutes a crime of genocide, a crime taking place in the light of day and over six decades, that must be urgently addressed by the international community.”...."