IWPS returns to Deir Istiya
An IWPS team is back on the ground in Deir Istiya. The jasmine trees are blooming, and the grapes are almost ready to eat! However not all is well. On our first night back, Rizziq abu Nasser, a local poet, activist, and friend of the IWPS laid out the three biggest challenges in Deir Istiya today:
Israel’s water company, Mekorot, is reducing the amount of water provided to the Salfit region, while still keeping the same service to illegal settlements. This problem is worse during the summer. While Palestinian villages have not had water for several weeks, illegal settlers have not seen any reduction in their water supply, and continue to enjoy full swimming pools. There have been demonstrations against water cuts within Palestinian communities such as Qarawat-Bani-Hasan, Sarta, and Biddya. In order to mitigate the problem, the Salfit governate is only supplying water to one third of the surrounding villages at any given time. The village of Sarta in Area B is building a large tank to maximize how much water they can receive. They don’t need Israeli permission to build the tank. This action is purely to mitigate, but not stop, the water apartheid.
PROTESTS OVER ROAD CLOSURE IN DEIR ISTIYA
The settler highway that separates the Village of Deir Istiya from most of the surrounding agricultural land has already posed a safety hazard- a few years ago a farmer and his donkey were hit by a setter car and killed while crossing. Now, a new measure to widen the road and put up guard rails poses a new problem. Seven of DI’s agricultural roads have been shut down by the widening process. Israel also built fences to prevent farmers from crossing the highway, sometimes forcing farmers to go several kilometres out of the way in order to cross the highway with their animals or tractors. The residents of Deir Istiya have joined together to protest the loss of access through peaceful demonstration. Young, old, and members of different political factions gathered every Friday for three months to pray and protest at one of the closed agricultural roads. Only one incident occurred: an illegal settler stopped while driving by, and screamed at the protestors that “this is not your land”, one of the young men threw a stone, and the soldiers fired a single round of tear gas into the crowd of protestors, which included young children. Protests have currently been put on hold to allow for negotiation, and to observe Ramadan. Organizers say three main things have been achieved by the protest: it remained almost entirely nonviolent, international and Israeli activists and journalists attended the protest, and the Israeli government has agreed to open two out of the seven closed roads. The third point might be a hollow victory though, as only one road has so far been opened.
The Deir Istiya community learned of a new threat to the beautiful valley of Wadi Qana, where many members of the community hold agricultural land. The local illegal settlement council located in Karne Shomron, along with the Israeli Ministries of Tourism, Environment and Agriculture created a Wadi Qana Directorate. The goal of the Directorate is to assimilate the valley to be completely under settler control as a recreational area/national park. Wadi Qana consists of 15,000 dunams of land – half the agricultural land of DI – and is an important recreational site for the community. Now the entire rim of the valley is covered with illegal settlements and illegal settlers are a common sight in the valley…often heavily armed. This is the next step in an ongoing pattern of encroachment on Wadi Qana. Settlers have been bulldozing olive trees by the hundreds each year since 2010, and some efforts, such as installing park benches, have been made by the local settlements in order to make the area appear less like agricultural land, and more like a park.