“I Am Just Not Afraid” said the Palestinian”
It seems that the machine gun wielding settlers are the only law in the occupied West Bank nowadays.
Today, as many times before, I picked with Abu Said from the village of Haris, on his land near the illegal Revava settlement. That is where 70
years old Abu Said used to come with his family as a child to help pick olives. It was him who, as a boy, planted the now grand pine tree where we have often sat, either taking a break in it’s thick shade, or negotiating with soldiers who felt that we were too near the settlement, or that we should not be there at all.
For years Abu Said has had to get a permit to pick olives on his own land, which meant that a group of soldiers would sit there watching us, sometimes thorough the sniper view, all day, from the start to finish.
Sometimes they were bored, sometimes argumentative trying to persuade us that the land was theirs and sometimes even apologetic, telling us that they had Arab friends and offering us coffee. A Couple of years ago, when a settler appeared promising to kill us all if we did not leave ‘his land’, they intervened and perversely made us appreciate their presence.
So this year Abu Said still needed a permit but there was no soldier entourage.
Uncharacteristically, picking olives with Abu Said this year, became uneventful, until yesterday, that is.
My IWPS friend accompanied Abu Said yesterday and a settler stopped his car and asked her:
“What are you doing here?”
“Picking olives, and you?” she relied.
“I live here.”
“You live on a stolen land.”
“No this is our land and as you can see, we get along with the Arabs very well.”
The settler’s ‘getting along well with Arabs’, meant that he could drive over Abu Said’s land while Abu Said had to park his car half a kilometre away across a dangerously fast settler road. Or that all the settlement building rabble including enormous boulders was dumped on Abu Said’s olive trees at the edge of Reva va.
But the ‘conversation’ ended there and this morning we were joined by a family with two teenage boys who were helping Abu Said with harvesting and pruning of the trees. They picked some distance away from the settlement and then decided to harvest several trees laden with olives right next to the settlement houses. Abu Said tried to warn them to move away but they could not hear him very well and continued to work.
It was not long before a settler came holding a machine gun and yelling that they must leave. The father of the family said that he did not see what the problem was and continued to pick. The settler responded by pointing his machine gun at him.
It was a very scary and a very long moment to watch, knowing that settlers can take life of Palestinians with impunity and that they become particularly jumpy when the teenagers are around.
The family moved to the next tree a few metres away and a settlement security guy arrived in his pick up truck.
The security guy was “nice,” the father of the family told me smiling. “He said that we could pick all but two trees until three o’clock. He is Russian and I speak Hebrew better than him,” laughed the picker. This young father spent six years in Israeli jails and that is where many Palestinians who speak Hebrew learn it.
I asked him why he went so near the settlement and if he was afraid and he said that he went for the trees with lots of olives. He also relayed that the setters keep moving the line which Palestinians are not allowed to cross then asked why wouldn’t Palestinians cross it when it was Palestinian land?
“Exactly, but he has a big gun and you don’t”, my team mate said. The picker explained, “I am just not afraid, he pointed his gun at me and I moved the barrel away with my hand.”
The ‘nice’ settlement security guy stayed near us and the picker offered him a fag and chatted with him in a friendly way, but without reverence.
We finished the threes which were ‘allowed’ by the executive decision of the illegal settler kitted by the machine gun and his Russian ‘bouncer’ and we moved further away from the settlement houses followed by the Russian.