Farmers in the Gaza buffer zone

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Al Faraheen Buffer zone  IDP attempts to coerce us deeper into the buffer zone as sniper sits on the hill
Al Faraheen Buffer zone the Israeli military  attempts to coerce us deeper into the buffer zone as sniper sits on the hill. November 30, 2012 (Photo: Tiffany Ornelas de Tool)

Today was an exceptionally dangerous day to be a farmer in the Gaza Strip.

“We went out to sow our wheat and saw [Israeli] soldiers hiding behind the hills [on the other side of the buffer zone]. One pointed his gun at us and we started to run, there were many gunshots.”

This is the reoccurring reality for many Palestinians struggling to maintain their way of life in the face of grave hostility. Salem Qu diah is a soft-spoken man who knows exactly what he wants, to farm his land peacefully as his ancestors did generations ago. Just over a week has passed and another ceasefire was agreed upon between Israel and Palestine, yet, every day since then fire has continued to be anything but ceased.

Salem has the title for more than 2,000 Dunams (1,000 Meters squared) of land that has been in his family for generations. However, it is now on the other side of a long stretching fence impassable to the people of Palestine including Salem. The remainder of his land is in what is known as the ‘buffer zone’, 300 meters from the fence into the Gaza strip.

Located in the southeast of Gaza, Khoza’a is a small farming village. Salem and the other farmers are the perfect example of nonviolent resistance. Instead of fighting back, they risk death every day by working their fields as though there were not thousands of soldiers within eye view with ready guns pointed at them.

“Can you tell your government to stop Israel from doing this? Why does America hate [us]? Why does this happen to us farmers?”

The group of internationals interviewing Salem represents five countries including the U.S. The farmers are hopeful that the ceasefire will be clarified and they will be guaranteed safety to work in the fields. In the meantime, they are preparing once more their attempts to sow the fields, which now require the use of tractors. This use of common equipment may only further escalate the already tense situation; however, for them it is a necessary risk in order to provide for their families.

“We cannot even imagine what the Israelis will do, we don’t know.”

There is a consistent response by farmers interviewed along the buffer zone – if internationals are present they feel safer. However, that does not guarantee the safety of the farmers nor the internationals. Nonetheless, Salem and the farmers will go this upcoming Saturday the 8th of December to plant their wheat and have invited any and all international organizations and media to be present to witness what they must do in order to survive.

About Tiffany Ornelas de Tool

Tiffany Ornelas de Tool is an experienced trainer specializing in conflict resolution, human rights, intercultural dialogue and community participation. She holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in Public Affairs. As a certified Peace and Conflict Consultant, she has worked in West Papua, Indonesia, the Yida refugee camp, South Sudan and Jeju Island, South Korea. She is currently in the Gaza Strip providing trainings and collecting testimonies of the truth.

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