In the heart of the West Bank, where ancient olive groves meet expansive wheat fields, lies the tranquil village of Al Mughayyir. This unassuming village, nestled 27 kilometers northeast of Ramallah, is a testament to the enduring connection between the Palestinian people and their land. For generations, Al Mughayyir has thrived as an agricultural hub, its residents nurturing the soil to cultivate wheat, barley, and the iconic olive trees that grace this historic terrain.
However, a shadow looms over this picturesque landscape, cast by an escalating campaign of aggression orchestrated by Israeli settlers who seek to expand their presence in the region. May 26, 2023, marked the latest chapter in this ongoing saga, as a vast swath of the Al Mughayyir Plain was reduced to ashes in the aftermath of yet another settler attack.
A Tapestry of Agriculture and Heritage
Al Mughayyir’s history is intricately woven into the fabric of agriculture. The fertile plains of this village have been the lifeblood of its inhabitants for centuries. Wheat and barley have been sown and harvested with the rhythm of the seasons, while the gnarled branches of olive trees have borne witness to the passage of time. This connection to the land runs deep, echoing the ancient traditions of the Palestinians who have called Al Mughayyir home for generations.
A Village Under Siege
In recent years, Al Mughayyir has become the target of an unsettling pattern of Jewish settler aggression. These attacks, meticulously timed to coincide with critical phases in the farming calendar, are designed to inflict maximum damage. As Palestinian farmers toil to nurture their crops from planting to harvest, Israeli settlers monitor their every move, ready to pounce when the time is ripe. The ultimate aim is clear: to deprive the Palestinian farmers of their hard-earned produce and, in doing so, pave the way for the Israeli settlers’ expansionist agenda.
Adding to the villagers’ woes is the heavy hand of the Israeli occupation forces. Since mid-May 2023, Al Mughayyir has been subjected to a suffocating siege, with the occupation forces closing off village entrances and restricting the movement of farmers to their fields. Daily life has become an exercise in resilience, as the Israeli occupation conducts raids on homes and detains young men, leaving scars that linger long after the handcuffs are removed.
Land Classification and Encroachment
Al Mughayyir’s expansive geography, spanning 41,000 dunams, predominantly stretches eastward toward the Jordan Valley. Tragically, the majority of this land, a staggering 70%, falls under the ominous Area (C) according to the botched Oslo accords, rendering it off-limits for cultivation by Palestinian farmers and vulnerable to Israeli occupation confiscation. The remaining 1,200 dunams, classified as Area (B), are a lifeline for the villagers, but they are surrounded on all sides by illegal settlements, including Shvut Rachel, Adei Ad, Shiloh, and the Alon Shvut settlement street, all connected by scattered settlement outposts.
The recent upswing in Israeli settler hostilities serves as a clear indication that the Israeli government’s continued execution of the annexation plan persists, even though it may have momentarily receded from the glare of media attention. The construction of pastoral settlement outposts in and around Al Mughayyir has dramatically altered the village’s reality. Amin Abu Alia, the head of the Al-Mughayyir Council, asserts, “What is happening today is part of the ongoing practical implementation of the annexation plan, which was frozen in the media, but is being implemented on the ground.”
The Cost to Livelihoods
The encroachment on Al Mughayyir’s lands has not only reshaped its geographical landscape but has also upended its traditional way of life. Livestock raising, once a thriving industry, has dwindled in the face of the Israeli settlement siege and diminishing pastoral areas. The exorbitant costs associated with raising livestock have made it an unsustainable pursuit for most Palestinian villagers, marking a stark departure from the village’s agricultural heritage.
In addition to the deliberate destruction of crops, the Israeli occupation have seized control of crucial water wells in the region. This has not only hindered the establishment of new wells but has also obstructed the construction of vital agricultural infrastructure. Agricultural equipment is frequently confiscated and returned only after hefty fines are paid, further adding to the burdens shouldered by the Palestinians.
In the face of adversity, the people of Al Mughayyir remain unbowed to the Israeli occupation. Their steadfast resolve in defending their land, livelihoods, and cultural heritage bears witness to the enduring spirit that has been a hallmark of the Palestinian struggle spanning generations. Despite the daily toll exacted by Jewish settler aggression, sieges, and confiscations, the villagers of Al Mughayyir stand resolute, tilling the soil and nurturing the seeds of resilience that will ensure their enduring presence in this ancient landscape.