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A protest in Kafr ad Dik village in February 2012 against the theft of land by nearby 'settlers'. Now it's the village's soil that is being stolen. Photo: KafrAdDeek via Wikimedia Commons (CC Public Domain).
A protest in Kafr ad Dik village in February 2012 against the theft of land by nearby 'settlers'. Now it's the village's soil that is being stolen. Photo: KafrAdDeek via Wikimedia Commons (CC Public Domain).
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Israelis steal fertile soil from Palestinian farms

The Ecologist

22nd April 2015

Not satisfied with seizing Palestinian land and water, Israeli settlers in the West Bank have found a new way to enrich themselves at their neighbors' expense - by stealing their fertile soil and transporting it to their own farms and gardens.

In the mostly rocky terrain of the West Bank, fertile soil is a valuable commodity - and its large scale theft would further undermine Palestinian efforts to remain rooted in their native land.

Israeli settlers have stolen large amounts of nutrient-rich soil belonging to Palestinians in the Salfit-district village of Kafr ad Dik in the northern part of the West Bank, witnesses reported last weekend.

They said that Israeli bulldozers moved huge piles of the fertile soil from Kafr ad Dik into the illegal settlement of Lishim.

According to researcher Khaled Maali, the red soil was of an extremely high quality and suitable for horticultural use.

He said it would now be used in settlers' gardens and also to grow trees in land bordering exclusive settler routes that Israeli military forces have seized from Palestinians as a 'buffer zone' for the roads.

Kafr ad Dik has already suffered from the theft of its land by nearby settlements. About a year ago Israeli colonists, backed by the army, bulldozed and stole 600 dunams (60 hectares) of village land in the face of determined opposition from residents (shown in video, below).

Kafr ad Dik has also suffered the demolition of homes and water wells, and the deliberate destruction of olive trees.

Not the first Palestinian soil theft

A soil theft from Palestinian farmland was previously reported in  2012 by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. An Israeli farmer from the Jewish settlement of Ofra in the West Bank, needed soil to cover foundations he had built.

But instead of buying it, he "sent a rented tractor and truck to the outskirts of the settlement, next to the Palestinian villages of Silwad and Deir Dibwan, where they simply stole dirt."

The theft was easily carried out, wrote Haaretz, because "wide expanses of land belonging to Deir Dibwan and Silwad are enclosed within Ofra's security fence, and the villages' residents do not have free access to their own fields. Entry into Ofra requires coordination with the Israel Defense Forces and a constant security escort."

Israeli police were aware of settlers stealing Palestinian soil, the report added, but did nothing about it because there was no formal way of enforcing laws against this kind of theft.

"Crimes pertaining to real estate are handled by the Civil Administration, since they have the authority to determine the true ownership of the land and other such issues", the newspaper reported, however "there is no formal channel for passing information regarding crimes of this nature to the Civil Administration."

But what is new in Kafr ad Dik is that the soil was apparently stolen for agricultural / horticultural use. If carried out more widely this would represent a whole new dimension to Israel's systematic expropriation of Palestinian land and resources.

In the mostly rocky terrain of the West Bank, fertile soil is a valuable commodity - and its large scale theft would further undermine Palestinian efforts to remain rooted in their native land.

A long history of land and water theft

More than 85% of the Kafr ad Dik's 15,500 dunams are classified Area C under the Oslo Accord, giving Israel full civil and military authority, according to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem.

Of those lands, nearly 1,300 dunams have been confiscated for the construction of settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Land has also been confiscated for the construction of Israeli bypass road no. 446, which passes through village lands for 4km and divides the village's north and south. Approximately 75m have been seized on each side of the road so as to create a 'buffer zone'.

The Salfit region has a Palestinian population of 60,000, distributed among the 19 villages and one major town, but accordiong to an IMEMC report, "the aggressive expansion of the illegal settlements in the area means that the indigenous population is now outnumbered by the settlers - one settlement alone, Ariel, has a population of 40,000."

According to the mayor of Kafr ad Dik, quoted in the report, Salfit is a target for aggressive settlement expansion because of the area's water resources: it contains the second largest aquifer in historical Palestine. However, the villages have to pay for water to be imported from Israel as they are not allowed to drill wells.

The mayor also complained of health problems in the area linked to pollution from the illegal industrial settlement of Ale Zahav.

 


 

Principal source: Ma'an News Agency.

 

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