Saturday, October 22, 2005
Grapevine Project in Aboud Village Uprooted By Israeli Colonists
Aboud, a picturesque half-Christian half-Muslim village northwest of Ramallah, used to be renowned for its high-quality grape production. On Friday, October 7, a new viniculture project to bring back this venerated livelihood was completed with the help of generous donors. Unfortunately, on that day it was viciously attacked by Israeli settlers, resulting in the destruction of 600 vines and the loss of the entire season for the uprooted section.
The Project was sponsored by the Birzeit University Center for Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. More than six months in the making, including preparing the land, building an irrigation system, and planting the vines, the re-vegetation project planted three cultivated varieties (cultivars) of grapes and utilized modern intensive agricultural methods. Whereas traditional cultivation would have planted 80-100 vines per dunam, the new method planted 300-330 per dunam. About 6,000 vines were spread over 25 dunams. The land belongs to five extended families, and 25 individuals were set to benefit from the project.
The area being rehabilitated was previously the site of 4,000 ancient olive trees, centuries old, known by locals as Roman trees. Israeli army bulldozers destroyed them four or five years ago. Residents of Aboud had requested that the Center for Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences solicit funding to rehabilitate the land and bring back the viniculture that the village was once famous for. The project was partially funded by the Welfare Organization, an NGO that mobilizes money for humanitarian projects.
On the morning of October 7, the owners of the land and the new vines found a scene of devastation where many of their thriving vines had stood. 600 vines, all two months old, had been uprooted and either destroyed or stolen. These vines represented 10% of the total project and 25% of the vines of one particular owner. The financial loss amounts to around $7,000, including the cost of the vines, of planting and irrigating and taking care of them, and the loss of an entire season’s grapes. Even if new vines are planted, they will not be ready before the spring of next year.
Two months before, the owner of this plot had been threatened by a settler from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish, who had started visiting the area and harassing Aboud residents. The settler threatened to uproot his vines once they were planted. The owner lodged a complaint with the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO) about the threats.
The owner immediately lodged another complaint with the DCO and also at the Beit El settlement when he found his plot destroyed on October 7. The DCO informed the Israeli army, and high-ranking officers were sent to the area to investigate and take pictures.
Days later the owner was summoned to a settlement for questioning, and the soldiers asked if he had any Palestinian enemies. He said he had none, and anyway this was definitely the work of settlers, because a permanent Israeli army post near his plot of land had a tower and could see everything. It would not have allowed Palestinians to move freely in this area at night. He listed the settler who threatened him two months before, and is known to have engaged in other terrorist activities, as the prime suspect.
It is doubtful whether donors will be able to secure more funding to repair the damage caused by the settler. Taking the settler to court would be extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, especially with no solid evidence of his involvement in the crime because Palestinians are not allowed on the lands at night and could not have been there to protect their land or document any attacks. The Israeli Army and government almost never compensate Palestinians for crimes committed by settlers, who often act under their protection.
Hence another terrible attack by Israeli settlers is likely to go unpunished, and the victims uncompensated.