As they organize to defend their land and Palestinian farming against the onslaught of settlements and siege, Palestinian agricultural workers and organizers have been subject to an intensified arrest campaign in the occupied West Bank of Palestine. We write to demand an immediate end to the targeting of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and all Palestinian farmers and agricultural workers, and the freedom of the Palestinian organizers imprisoned for defending their rights.
A number of staff of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a Palestinian grassroots organization that organizes Palestinian farmers to defend their land and develop their products, have been targeted in recent days for arrest by Israeli occupation forces.
On July 31, Dr. Moayad Ahmad Bisharat, the coordinator of UAWC's Jericho office was abducted at dawn from his home. The UAWC office in Jericho was then ransacked by Israeli forces, who confiscated the computers, laptops, and files of the organization. This is the most recent in a series of arrests of UAWC activists in recent weeks, including the Director of Development and Operations, the engineer Fouad Abu Saif on July 26 in an early morning raid on his home in Hebron, in which his computer, mobile phone and other communication devices were seized. The director of the UAWC Jericho office, Mohammad Nujoom was abducted on July 16 as he re-entered Palestine from abroad. Both were taken to the Moskobiya compound for interrogation.
In addition, UAWC Board Member Ahmad Soufan, held in administrative detention for one year, was recently ordered into a third term of six months in arbitrary administrative detention without charge or trial. Two other UAWC leaders, Abdel Razzak Farraj, administrative and financial director, and Board member Dr. Yousef Abdul Haq, were both finally released from administrative detention after multiple renewals of their imprisonment.
As the UAWC noted in its statement on the arrests, these arrests are part and parcel of the ongoing attacks on Palestinians' right to the land, including massive settlement building, land confiscation, home demolitions, and the construction of the apartheid wall, as well as the siege and firing on farmers and agricultural workers in Gaza. The UAWC called on international organizers to defend Palestinian national rights and demand the freedom of the UAWC detainees and all Palestinian prisoners.
UAWC, which recently marked its 25th anniversity, has been struggling with Palestinian farmers and agricultural workers to defend and develop their land, support Palestinian agricultural projects, and support farmers' steadfastness on the land in the face of Israeli occupation and aggression.
The attack on the UAWC is part of the overall attack on Palestinian farmers and agricultural workers, from olive farmers whose trees are set ablaze by settlers, tthose whose land was stolen for settlements, "military use," or "buffer zones", to the fishers of Gaza, who daily brave military attack for seeking to fish in their sea. It reflects the over 64 years of occupation, land theft, displacement and dispossession of the occupation of Palestine. Farmers and agricultural workers are on the front lines of resistance as they struggle to remain on their land - and are thes being targeted for arrest and imprisonment in an attempt to undermine the steadfastness of the farmers.
We demand that the Israeli government immediately free Bisharat, Abu Seif, Nujoom and Seifan and end this targeted attack on Palestinian agricultural workers.
Furthermore, we demand an end to the policy of settlement construction, land confiscation and home demolitions targeting Palestinian farmers and villages in the West Bank, and an end to the targeting of Palestinian farmers in Gaza in the "buffer zones" and fishers at sea.
Finally, we demand an end to the mass imprisonment of Palestinians and freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners.