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Israeli settlers vs. Palestinians: Land dispute time bomb

Published time: September 23, 2011 15:30
Edited time: September 24, 2011 10:52

Hebron: Israeli settlers walk along al-Shuhada street, past two of dozens of shuttered Palestinian owned shops daubed with the Jewish Star of David in the West Bank town of Hebron. (AFP Photo / Hazem Bader)

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As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hands over the bid for membership to the UN, Israeli settler clashes with Palestinians are reaching their peak. Both sides are seeking to enforce their claim to the land everybody considers their own.

In the West Bank, which the Israeli settlers call Judea and Samaria, while the Palestinians call it Palestine, emotions are boiling.

Israeli Jacob Taljah has been farming land deep in the Hebron Hills for more than 20 years. He says this land is his and he has the papers to prove it.

“We are the only people in the world that have got a proof document, a document that is international, it is advertised. They call it the Bible,” he said.

However, Palestinian Nasser Wajah makes the same claim. He insists the land has been in his family for some 800 years. Still, now he cannot get close to the land and it is eating him up watching Jacob farm it.

“It is a very hard feeling but what can I do? Nothing,” Nasser Nawajah grieves. “Even if we do not resist with force, it is enough that the settler says we said something, the army will come immediately and arrest us.”

The West Bank is full of people like Jacob and Nasser. Israelis and Palestinians both laying claim to the same piece of land.

Almost weekly, angry scenes of Israelis and Palestinians screaming at each other dominate the landscape. And especially now, as Palestinians head off to the United Nations, the clashes are becoming more violent. It is one thing to declare a state, and quite another to determine where its borders will be.

The fence that cuts through Jacob Taljah’s farm is actually the border between Palestine and Israel. But it is a private land, making Taljah to cross the border many times a day.

For as long as the borders remain disputed, Israel takes advantage and sending its citizens to settle the West Bank so it has a stronger argument not to give it up. But it is throwing up problems like Jochanan and his wife Yael, who are now at the center of a major court battle, not between Israelis and Palestinians, but between Israelis and Israelis.

“I never was beaten up by Palestinians. I was beaten up by [Israeli] settlers. Palestinians never did cut down my barn and tried to harm my animals, settlers did,” shares Israeli settler Yochanan Shareth.

Eleven years ago the Israeli government not only gave Yochanan land to farm, but helped him as much as it could. He was the only Israeli in the area at the time. But now the same government that wanted him here has given half his farm to new settlers it is sending his way and Yochanan’s wife believes ideology is only part of the story.

“I believe there is a management problem or a small little mafia you can almost say that, for them it’s about money and making money and greed and really state development etc,” Yael Shareth says.

Whatever the reasons, Israel says it will not recognize a Palestinian state declared at the United Nations, which means even if the UN rules that these rocky hills are part of Palestine, the clashes of settlers and locals will in hindsight be a warning of what was to follow.

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