Palestinians return to own farms in northern Jordan Valley for 1st time in 46 years

Jordan Valley/ Dec. 28 (Xinhua)

Happiness was apparent on the face of Zeyad Sawafta, a Palestinian farmer who, for the first time in 46 years, was finally able to enter the farm of his grandfather at al-Qa’oun valley in northern Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

“I can’t describe my feelings while entering our farm for the first time after 46 years of being banned by the Israeli occupation,” Sawafta told Xinhua, with tears in eyes.

Israel took control of al-Qa’oun valley after it occupied the West Bank in 1967, and in 1974, it built up an electronic fence that surrounded the area and banned entry of Palestinian land owners.
In 2015, the Palestinian National Commission to Resist the Wall and Settlement filed a case in the Israeli court to recover the land. Two years later, it obtained a final verdict allowing the Palestinian owners to take back their land in al-Qa’oun valley.

However, the verdict failed to be implemented because Israeli settlers lived in the area.

Sawafta, a 45-year-old farmer who owns 22 dunums (2.2 hectares) of land that he inherited from his grandparents, said that Israel “occupied and confiscated our farm before I was born, but we have proof of our right to it and never give it up generation after generation.”

“Today we are fulfilling our people’s desire to enter and cultivate the land,” Sawafta spoke, while driving his tractor to plow the land for planting wheat as the agricultural season is nearing its end.

Besides Sawafta, dozens of Palestinian farmers entered their farms, surrounded by the iron fence and the barbed wire, through an electronic gateway with tractors.

“I wish my father and grandfathers could live till this historic moment for which they had fought,” said another farmer, who only identified himself as Derrar.

Derrar insisted that the land is private property and the owners should have the right to enter it at any time they want.
The Civil Affairs Corporation of the Palestinian Authority said in a press statement on Sunday that the farmers’ move came after an Israeli decision to evacuate settlers from the area and give the land back to its owners.

“The corporation agreed with the Israeli side to open and rehabilitate a road between the village of Bardala and al-Q’oun valley for the farmers to use, and the work will be done on it soon,” the statement said.

Mu’taz Bsharat, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of the Jordan Valley’s affairs in Tubas, told Xinhua that Israel prevented Palestinians from entering the 1,380 dunums of land in the West Bank since 1974.

He hailed the Palestinian owners’ return to their farms as “a historic achievement and a real victory,” which were achieved through the unification of all Palestinian efforts.

Tawfiq Jabareen, the lawyer who defended the case in the Israeli court, said that after occupying the West Bank in 1967, Israel declared the area a closed military zone because of its proximity from its borders.

Later, Israel began to allow Israeli settlers to enter the area and establish settlement outposts, Jabareen said.
The Jordan Valley, covering a quarter of the West Bank, is considered as the Palestinians’ food basket, as it covers 50 percent of the total agricultural areas in the West Bank and produces 60 percent of total Palestinian vegetables.

Israel regards the Jordan Valley as a security buffer zone, of which it hopes to keep control as part of any permanent solution to the Israeli-Palesitnian conflict.