Israel Destroys 1500 Fruit Trees at Palestinian "Tent of Nations" Farm

Posted May 28, 2014

MP3 Interview with Daoud Nassar, owner of the Tent of Nations Farm, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

tentofnations

On May 19, the Israeli military entered the Nassar family farm a few miles outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank and bulldozed more than 1,500 mature apricot and apple trees that were almost ready for harvest. The family has been battling in Israeli courts to hold onto their 100-acre farm, which is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements. Despite having all the paperwork documenting their ownership of the land going back almost a century, Israel claims the property is state land. In 2010, the family was served with 13 demolition orders which they are fighting in court. The Nassar farm is known as the Tent of Nations because the family has nurtured peaceful relations with their neighbors and with Israeli and international supporters.

The Israeli military’s action at the Nassar farm came less than a week before Pope Frances visited the Middle East and nearby Bethlehem, where the pontiff openly supported Palestinian’s pursuit of an independent state, said a short prayer alongside a section of Israel’s controversial separation wall and invited Palestinian and Israeli leaders to the Vatican to pray for peace.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tunus spoke with Daoud (David) Nassar, who lives on the farm with his wife and children and other relatives. He was traveling in the U.S. on one of his regular speaking tours when his wife called to inform him of the destruction of the fruit orchard. He said this was the first attack by the Israeli military or settlers since 2002, and that despite the high emotional and financial cost of losing so many trees, the family and its supporters will replant, and continue to pursue legal remedies.

DAOUD NASSAR: Two months ago, they declared the land where the fruit trees are as state land, and of course, it's private property, and we appealed on the 12th of May, and usually after the lawyer appeals, we get a court date. But what happened is they came on the 19th and destroyed, even without waiting for a court date. Yeah, it's a very difficult situation for us, but we are trying now to go legally and raise this question: Why did they do it? Although the land is private property, the thing is, I believe in different ways they are trying to move us out of the area.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Are you going to ask for compensation?

DAOUD NASSAR: Well, we will of course, and this is something we will never get, but this is important to react legally and ask for compensation, of course.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Thousands of people – internationals, and also Israelis – have come to work on the farm. Do you know if there's been any response to this inside Israel?

DAOUD NASSAR: Well, I got many emails from Jewish people and Israeli people who are very shocked to hear this, and of course they are supporting us, and they said also that when you start planting new trees we are ready to come and help you with that. It's good to feel support from the other side; there are people who believe in justice and they don't like what is happening in their name.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Will you replant trees, and if so ... the financial cost must be high, as well as the emotional cost of this attack.

DAOUD NASSAR: The first step is to inform people to react internationally and the second part is to appeal and go on a legal battle there, of course asking for compensation and all of that. And the third step is to cultivate the area because it's damaged, to build the natural wall, the terraces again, and prepare the ground to be planted by this coming December or January; the planting season is in the rainy season. It's a big loss; emotionally it's huge, but also, trying now to replant and to rebuild and so on, it's also a huge burden on us.

BETWEEN THE LINES: It seems with the relationships you've built around the world, this might become a better known incident than the daily occurrences of uprooting of trees in Palestine. Do you think the Israeli military might think in retrospect this wasn't such a great idea, given the response to it?

DAOUD NASSAR: I hope so, but not only because of the response, but because also, it's unjust, even according to their system, because the moment you appeal, they are not allowed to act this way until the court decides. With our situation now, they did not wait for a decision – they came and smashed the trees without even a notice that this is going to happen. This is what our lawyer said that this is an illegal reaction even according to their system. And that's why it's important to go to court and try to solve it legally. And, of course, international awareness and pressure is important and needed in this way. Taking into consideration that this is an example of what is happening all over the Palestinian territories. It's not like a unique story, but we want people to raise this question, why it happened to the Tent of Nations, but also inform indirectly about what is happening in general.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I called the Israeli embassy, and the woman I spoke with said Israel is looking into the incident and will issue a report. Has your family been in touch at all with Israeli authorities, and do you think there will be any kind of report?

DAOUD NASSAR: Well, I hope so, because we need some answers. They might say, "It's state land and he planted on state land," which of course is not true, but even as they declared it state land, we reacted legally, but why they came and uprooted the trees, you know? So I hope to have some explanation and also to go legally. This is what we're trying to do through our lawyer. This is illegal action and illegal action must be stopped by court, so this is what we are trying to achieve there, and hopefully justice will prevail. We have to continue this struggle with faith, with love and hope. You know, we cannot change our way of action.

For more information on Tent of Nations Farm in the West Bank, visit tentofnations.org. Their Facebook page is Tent of Nations

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