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First-Hand Reports

‘Accidents’ that happen

by Greg Rollins
Christian Peacemaker Team, Hebron, West Bank
October 27, 2003

In life, accidents happen, some suspicious, some real. In the West Bank, accidents are often suspicious. Take, for example, the spring of 2001, when an Israeli soldier in Hebron “accidentally” dropped a concussion grenade into a crowded schoolyard. The soldier was on the roof of a building across the lane. The army said he was playing with the grenade when he dropped it. Why he was “playing” with a grenade in the first place, and how he “dropped” it across a lane is suspicious if you ask me, especially when the result was a dozen Palestinian children hospitalized.

Not long ago, another suspicious “accident” took place. The Israeli army accidentally set 1200 Palestinian olive trees on fire. During one of its drills, the army set off a bomb that ignited the fire. Fifteen families lost their trees [and thus, their means for survival]. The army will not compensate them. One family lost 700 trees.

My teammate, Chris Brown, and I drove down to the village of Idna where the fire took place. A cab driver drove us out to the burnt orchards. In the distance, we heard the army practicing their drills somewhere else. The trees were not all scorched, but they were dead. We saw only half of them. The other half was a kilometer down the valley and around a corner.

As I stood there surveying the damage, I found it interesting that the Israeli army had practiced its drills in that valley. It was farmland. Just over the hill, there were Palestinian houses within easy range of a stray bomb. I doubt the army would have practiced that close to a civilian area in Israel. What I found even more suspicious, was when I got home, I looked on a map of the Hebron District that shows the route the Israeli wall/fence will take in the Idna area. Looking at the map, it appears that the wall/fence will go right through the burnt olive groves.

Some people might think this is a coincidence, but I am not too sure. This is how the Israeli army usually “sterilizes” an area. They start with an excuse. Something like a Palestinian gunman shot from an orchard, or a bomber came from a certain neighborhood. The army then declares the place a closed military zone and does what it wants. No one can stop them, not even the Israeli High Court.

In this particular case, Palestinians did nothing to provoke the army’s actions, but the army does now have a convenient argument for the wall/fence. The army can now say they are not destroying many olive trees when they put the wall/fence through the Idna area. No one will notice that the army already destroyed 1200 olive trees there. Sure, the Palestinians of Idna noticed, but no one will listen to them. And if the Palestinians of Idna feel bad about what the army has done to their orchards recently, the destruction that the wall/fence will inflict on the lands of Idna will be a catastrophe in their eyes.

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