About Mas'ha and the Camp

Mas’ha is a Palestinian town located in the Salfeet Governorate in the northern West Bank. Mas’ha is a border town eight kilometers east of the international border known as the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank. The small town of Mas’ha has approximately 2,000 people (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 2009). Mas’ha used to own approximately 6,000 dunums of land. The vast majority of Mas’ha’s lands are located on the Western side of the town. The war of 1948 and 1967 cost Mas’ha a large amount of its land. Nowadays, Mas’ha is surrounded by three Israeli Jewish settlements: El Kana, Ez Efrayem, and Sha’ari Tekva. The three settlements are built on private land that belongs to the local Palestinian population of the area. The first settlement established in the area was El Kana in 1978. The land grab didn’t stop there.

In 2002, the Israeli government publicly announced they would build the Wall, defined as a security fence by the Israeli government. However, the Israeli government never issued a complete map of first phase of the Northern route and the people of Mas’ha learned only from unofficial maps where the path of the wall was planned and where it would cut through their lands. Even though no suicide bombers infiltrated through the small and peaceful town and Mas’ha posed no security threat, the planned route of the wall came to cut the village off from its lands. This has left the local farmers without the means to continue farming. The Israeli government could have fulfilled its need for security for its citizens if they built the Wall on the international border, but the security need was an excuse for more land grab, and to establish new irreversible facts on the ground.

In March of 2003, when all of the world’s attention was directed to the war on Iraq, the Israeli bulldozers arrived to the lands of Mas’ha and started the destruction of farmland necessary for the construction of the wall. Hundreds of olive and fig trees were uprooted as well as grain fields. In response to this destruction, the local farmers, joined by local and international peace activists, gathered and discussed the possible responses. The peace activists were behind the farmers who decided not to leave their lands. A decision of establishing a protest tent was made. This tent became know as Mas’ha Camp. Below are the three different locations of the camp as well as a brief description of each one.

The creation of the camp

Bulldozer Near the CampIn March 28, 2003 there was a demonstration and march into the olive fields that were to be taken away from the village of Mas'ha (5,500 dunums out of the 6,000 dunums of the village's agricultural lands). Villagers received notification that their lands would be confiscated by the Israeli military in February 2003 for the construction of the first phase of the Apartheid Wall. At the end of the march, we've settled down in a camp, which is maintained by villagers and international and Israeli peace activists 24 hours a day. Originally we thought that we'd be evacuated right away, but we've managed to stay there until July (when the building of the wall made it impossible to carry water and supplies and we had to move to a new location).

The second location

View of the Second Location of the CampFor various logistic reasons, we had to move the camp to a smaller area in June 2003. One of the advantages was that we were able to supply electricity from the village to the camp, so it became an information center where we were able to use computers and edit presentations about the wall (like the exhibition we did at Salfit town). By this time about one thousand Israeli and international activists had visited the camp and, for the first time, the construction of the wall in the West Bank was broadcast on Israeli TV Channel 2 due to the attention that the peace camp demanded.

Hani Amer's yard

On the evening the 2nd of August 2003, we've found out that in the morning the constructors of the wall intended to start working inside Hani Amer's yard at the edge of the village of Mas'ha (all this during the "Hudna" agreement where Israel is supposed to stop construction in disputed areas).

In order to construct the wall inside the yard several structures had to be destroyed (crippling Amer's sources of income), and the final plan is to have his yard surrounded with fences, and to "allow" his family and visitors strict times during the day to enter and exist the Amer yard (as if it were a prison camp). Of course, this is also dependant on the "good will" of the Israeli soldiers and police.

Early morning on the 5th of August, after a promise from the constructor that he wouldn't destroy structures in the yard until the issue was discussed with higher authorities, all structures but the house itself were destroyed, a total of more than 60 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists were detained. The tent for the camp was removed, and the Amer's yard was declared a closed military zone.