Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The "Absentees" Who Were Still Present

We're all used to hearing about Palestinian terrorist bombings and Israeli military incursions. In contrast, this type of action -- a land-grab -- doesn't kill anyone; it doesn't even affect a great many people. All that is destroyed is goodwill, if there is any left.

Israel has ordered an urgent review of the seizure of thousands of acres of land from Palestinian farmers, who were cut off from their ancient olive groves by the separation barrier built in the West Bank.

Menachem Mazuz, Israel’s Attorney-General, admitted yesterday that the policy of seizing land in east Jerusalem from so-called "absentees" had been approved secretly by Cabinet ministers last summer without his consent. The review was made public in a letter from Mr Mazuz to a lawyer representing some of the farmers”.

Hundreds of farmers in Bethlehem have been unable to tend their olive groves and citrus orchards because of the electric fence that cuts through their land. In November they were told that the land had been seized for the expansion of Jewish settlements.

"How are we absent?" Jonny Atik, a 55-year-old farmer, asked as he surveyed his eight acres of inaccessible fields just metres away yesterday.

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