Israelis and Palestinans protest at destruction of ancient olive groves

 During Holy Week, a young Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman, chained themselves to olive trees and faced down a bulldozer that had come to uproot them. The orchard is set in peaceful landscape in a remarkably beautiful area, just outside the Palestinian village of Deir Istia. Facing down a bulldozer was not the least bit peaceful. These two women ended up spending three days in jail. The Israeli army told the court that they had come to prepare for the building of a road through the ancient olive grove, thus the destruction was necessary, and that is just what they did to the precious olive trees. This week we learnt there was to be no road. Instead, Israeli settlers placed four caravans there on that tract of land, to begin a new settlement, in spite of the fact that this property belongs to a Palestinian family of Deir Istia, and they have the land deed to prove it. The Israeli army also set up a military post on the land to give security to the settlers' caravans. This is how land confiscations happen in this country which American calls the "Democracy of the Middle East". Despite international law, U.N. resolutions, despite the findings of both the U. N. Human Rights Commission report and the recent Mitchell Report, the Israeli government continues to confiscate the land of the Palestinians in order to expand settlements and build new ones. How can this be the road to peace, surely it is the road they are paving toward further injustice. But this action did not pass by the Internationals present here in this country. They, accompanied by Israelis who are fed up with their government policies of injustice, joined with the Palestinians of Deir Istya on Friday and marched peacefully through the olive groves until they met with the Israeli army. The Army reacted violently to this peaceful march of 300 persons. We were tear-gassed at least 30 times and one journalist was slightly injured. The army jeep started after us in the olive groves and the Arab men knelt down on the ground to pray, I felt that it was a moment right out of the movie "Ghandi". On Friday I discovered what this is really all about. There is a spring and a natural underground reservoir under this land and that is why the olives trees, many of them a good thousand years old, and the lemon and orange trees have flourished in Deir Istya. The Israelis have their sights on the water, never mind that it is on land that belongs to someone else. At one time the olive branch was a symbol of peace; the Israelis are uprooting the whole olive tree in more ways than one. The symbolism is now even more powerful.

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