Sunday, October 8 2006 Lift the Siege on the Grapes – al-Khadr

On Sunday October 8, 2006 Ta’ayush set out for an action protesting against the checkpoint policy and the bisection of the occupied territories into small territorial units, a policy which severely limits Palestinians’ freedom of movement. Among other hardships, this policy prevents Palestinians from bringing their crops to market, an especially devastating reality for the grape crop, the main product of the Bethlehem and Hebron regions. The closing of sales opportunities to the West Bank, Jordan and the Gaza Strip, along with the prohibition on importing agricultural products into the state of Israel, resulted in the majority of this year’s crop being left, unsold, to rot.

Some 40 Israelis, Palestinians and international activists participated in the action. We carried boxes full of grapes from the al-Kahdr vineyard, intending to transfer them to Jerusalem despite—and in protest against—the prohibition against this. About fifty meters before arriving at the ‘Minharot’ (tunnels) checkpoint, we were stopped by security forces, who began to push and strike us, and arrested two Israeli protesters and one international. During the breaking up of the protest, grapes were scattered all over the road, an appropriately absurd and sad picture demonstrating the results of the limits the occupation administration places on selling agricultural crops. After things calmed down a bit, we stood on the shoulder of the road with signs and flyers explaining our struggle, until security forces finally forced us to leave the area, without bothering to provide any legal explanation.

el-khader-grapes

al-Khadr is a center for vine yards, as is the Bethlehem area in general. Every year its fertile land yields 11,000 tons of grapes. Not long ago, these grapes were marketed to the entire West Bank, to Jordan, to Gaza and to Israel. Nowadays, when roads are blocked and new decrees restrict the delivery of grapes, the local produce has no market. The prices have dropped so low that the farmers can no longer earn their living. Many just leave the fruit to rot on the vines. In a few weeks, when the separation wall will reach this site, the siege on grapes will be complete.

Where grapes are the prime source of income, when unemployment rates soar, this is the road to starvation.

Is all this part of an elaborate policy? The wall along Road 60 will tear away 20,000 dunams of al-Khadr’s agricultural land from its owners. Still more land is being seized for the expansion of settlements as has recently been done in Beitar Illit, Neve Daniel and Elazar. And the loss of land is but one element: 19,000 Palestinians imprisoned between the newly built wall and the Green Line in this region will soon be separated from the central city of the district—Bethlehem, from their kin, from the entire West Bank. Since a wall is built on the Green Line, why this other wall that cuts deep into Palestinian land and will block these people from markets, employment, higher education and medical care? Is it to break their spirit, to provide contractors with cheap slave work, to force people to despair and make them leave their land and home so that Israel can annex this land to its territory?

There are two nations on this land,
and both deserve their vines and figs.

Lift the siege Stop this wall; Stop the land grab; End the occupation