What Happened When a Palestinian Family Discovered Settlers Planted a Vineyard on Its Land

12:00 Dec 30 2022 Tarrama ( طرّامة) and Israel's Negohot settlement (נגוהות)

What Happened When a Palestinian Family Discovered Settlers Planted a Vineyard on Its Land What Happened When a Palestinian Family Discovered Settlers Planted a Vineyard on Its Land What Happened When a Palestinian Family Discovered Settlers Planted a Vineyard on Its Land What Happened When a Palestinian Family Discovered Settlers Planted a Vineyard on Its Land
Nizhar Dar-Mohammed and his father, Mohammed, this week. The father was hit in the head with a rifle butt, while the son was hit in the hand with a smoke grenade, causing him to cry out, “My hand is gone, my hand is gone!”
Credit: Manal al-Ja’bari / Courtesy of B’Tselem Published by Haaretz

Sa’id, Hamzi, Jamil and Nizhar. Credit: Alex Levac. Published by Haaretz

Nasser Dar-Mohammed. Credit: Alex Levac Published by Haaretz

Mohammed Dar-Mohammed. Credit: Manal al-Ja’bari / Courtesy of B’Tselem Published by Haaretz

Members of the Dar-Mohammed family from the village of Tarrama were astounded to find one day that settlers had planted grapevines on their land. When younger members of the family began uprooting them, soldiers assaulted them

by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac for Haaretz
Dec 30, 2022

A man gets up one morning and sets out, together with other family members, to harvest olives on his plot of land in the southern West Bank, and discovers a vineyard there that he did not plant. Suddenly, there’s a vineyard encroaching on his land. He didn’t put it there, nor did anyone else from his family. And when children from the distraught family attempt to uproot the invasive plantings, soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces arrive, and they are in turn quickly joined by a larger group of soldiers. They fire tear-gas grenades at the children, strike adult members of the family and drive them all off their own land.

That too is one of the moral missions of IDF soldiers – guarding grapevines planted by Jewish settlers who lack the authority or right to do so, and attacking the owners when they try to defend what remains of their property. And whose job is it to guard them?

The small village of Tarrama, due south of the town of Dura in the Hebron area, sits on a mountaintop 879 meters above sea level. This week, the rain angrily battered its homes. The residence of the Dar-Mohammed family is not far from the entrance to the village, which is considered a suburb of Dura. The father of the family, Nasser, a powerful-looking 42-year-old, is the assistant principal of Dura’s junior high school for boys. He has two sons and three daughters.

A few kilometers east of the village, in an area known as Khalat Taha, he and his brothers have an 8-dunam (2-acre) plot of land, which they received from their 90-year-old father, Abdel Karim Dar-Mohammed. They cultivate olive trees there, most of which they planted 15 years ago – after an earlier vineyard they had at the site was torched by settlers.

The plot is near the edge of the settlement of Negohot. Only about 300 meters separate the family’s land from the settlement, which is situated on a mountain overlooking the valley where the land sits. As with all settlements, Negohot was established under questionable circumstances.

It was initially a settlement from members of the Nahal Brigade. Its name, which means “illumination” in Hebrew, was proposed by poet Yitzhak Shalev, who saw it as a point of light of Jewish settlement high in the Hebron Hills. It was dismantled and converted into an army command post, which again became an army settlement, and then quickly became a civilian religious community that was ultimately authorized and legalized, and which itself later created its own offshoots of unauthorized outposts. For years, access to the road leading to Negohot was limited to Jews only, though of course you shouldn’t think that this was an apartheid road.

The members of the Dar-Mohammed family had never had any violent confrontations with their neighbors from Negohot, but they and other farmers were barred from using the road leading to their land. Instead, they had to create a new path to it.

Every few weeks, Nasser would go down with his brother Mohammed to check on the olives and to work the land. In the fall, other members of the family were enlisted to harvest the olives. That is what they were doing on November 13.

Nasser had finished work at the junior high in the afternoon and his relatives set out with him for the grove. They were a group of five men, five women and 10 children between the ages of 9 and 14. Joining them as well was Abdel Karim, their grandfather.

A day earlier, a resident of his village had told Nasser that someone had recently been working his land and planted grapevines there. He found that hard to believe. But when family arrived at the spot, they saw it with their own eyes: A vineyard had been planted in a 300-square-meter parcel of theirs, the one closest to Negohot.

In the past, the family had grown wheat and barley on the plot, but once it became increasingly difficult and dangerous to reach the site due to its proximity to Negohot, they ceased to work it. Now someone else had begun cultivating the land.

The family’s children raced toward the new vineyard, but then a group of three or four soldiers who had been observing the scene from above, near Negohot, began yelling at them to get out of the area. The soldiers set out down the mountain in the direction of the children. The fathers – Nasser and Mohammed – who saw the soldiers approaching, also attempted to remove the children from the plot, but the kids had begun uprooting the vines, Nasser later recounted.

This week, we asked the young people why they had ripped out the vines. One of them, Nasser’s 14-year-old son, Jamil, replied simply: “They had planted them on our land.” The children showed us their cell-phone photos of the unnamed vineyard and of the soldiers trying to drive them away from the area.

Meanwhile, the soldiers called for backup, due to the rising tension.

Nasser recalled that a force of about 20 to 30 soldiers arrived and began throwing tear-gas grenades at the children, some of which were aimed directly at the youngsters. In the meantime, back among the adults, Nasser called the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank asking for inspectors to be sent in to see what had been done to their land. An officer from the administration did in fact arrive, and Nasser showed him papers attesting to the fact that the family’s ownership of the land dated back to the Jordanian administration of the area, prior to the Six-Day War. He did not have a kushan, the Ottoman-era term for a land deed, but he presented a document that in Arabic is referred to as a maliya, which attested to the fact that he had paid taxes on the land for years and had worked it.

It was not clear what the Civil Administration officer did with the papers, but the soldiers continued try to remove the children – and in fact all the members – from the land. Several settlers from Negohot watched what was happening from above, but they didn’t come into the valley and didn’t intervene.

The children yelled, “This is our land. We won’t leave it.”

One of them, Sa’id, Jamil’s 13-year-old cousin, was caught by the soldiers, who hit him and pushed him to the ground. One of them pressed his knee onto the boy’s throat as his father, Mohammed, rushed to free his son. As the father tried to get the youth out from under the soldier’s knee, the latter hit him in the head with a rifle butt. Blood began running down Mohammed’s forehead, where a large bruise developed.

This week, the IDF Spokesman’s Office provided the following statement regarding the incident to Haaretz: “On November 13, friction developed between a number of Israeli citizens and Palestinians, in the vicinity of Negohot, in the [region] of the Judea Territorial Brigade. Security forces declared the area to be a closed military zone, after the Palestinians refused to leave, and acted destructively. The forces employed riot-dispersal methods. A Palestinian who was wounded was evacuated by the Red Crescent for medical treatment. If a complaint is filed, the matter will be examined, as is standard.”

Following the blow, the 54-year-old Mohammed felt faint, and was unable to stand up. Then Nasser’s son Nizhar, Jamil’s 13-year-old brother, was painfully injured – hit in the hand by a smoke grenade. It later turned out he had sustained a fracture in the hand.

A terrified Nizhar began screaming, “My hand is gone, my hand is gone!” and ran toward his mother, 34-year-old Ibtihal, who was standing nearby.

This week Nizhar was embarrassed to say his mother’s name in front of outsiders (something frowned upon in Muslim tradition), but he obliged after his father encouraged him to. Another boy, 11-year-old cousin Hamzi, was hurt in the leg by a smoke grenade. He too ran to his mother.

The boys’ elderly grandfather, Abdel Karim, began to choke from the tear gas. An ambulance was called, and a medic provided him with first aid. The ambulance crew then took Mohammed, Nizhar and Hamzi from the scene.

Hamzi was left at a clinic in Dura. Mohammed, who had been hit in the head, was taken to Ahli Hospital in Hebron. Nizhar was taken to Alia Hospital in the city.

Nizhar’s hand was set in a cast, which he was to keep on for 24 days. After his wound was treated and bandaged, Mohammed was held in the hospital another two days for observation, to ensure that he had no internal head injuries.

The incident had ended, but the invasive grapevines remain on the family’s land. In the days following the incident, Nasser attempted to file a complaint against the trespassers on his land, as well as to complain about the violence that the soldiers had directed against members of his family.

Nasser said that he was repeatedly rebuffed. Each time, he was turned away by the Civil Administration officers at Beit Haggai and Etzion and at the police station at Kiryat Arba. One time he was told that there was no translator available, another time that there was no investigator. Finally, he gave up, never managing to file a complaint.

Since then, Nasser has been leery about approaching his land. At one point he caught a glimpse of it from a distance, but did not dare to come closer. He’s determined to return to plowing his land in the coming days, but it was difficult to get him to say whether that would include the plot where the vineyard was planted.

“I want to plow all my land,” he finally replied.

Land owned by the Dar-Mohammed family reported seized & planted by Israeli settlers 12/30/2022
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