Friday, August 21, 2009

'State lands being commandeered by Arabs'

HaShomer HaHadash, established in order to prevent Arab takeover of Jewish lands, convenes in north. 'State decided it doesn't care about racketeering in Negev or about land expropriation in Galilee,' complains organization's founder

Sharon Roffe-Ofir

Hundreds of volunteers from the HaShomer HaHadash organization met Thursday to express their grievances over supposed public land expropriation at the hands of the Arabs in the north. "The State of Israel has a national mission to protect the 4 million dunams (about 988,500 acres) that are being stolen from under their noses," said one of the organization's members, Brig. Gen. (res.) Ram Shmueli.

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During a conference that took place next to the statue of legendary valley land protector, Alexander Zaid, near Tivon, the organization's members asked that national priorities be adjusted.

Yoel Zilberman, 24, from the town of Tzippori, established the organization two years ago along with his friends. Since, the group has blossomed to 300 members, who keep watch every night over Galilee and Negev lands over which nearby Arab residents attempt, and sometimes succeed, to overtake.

The organization provides support for any farmer who encounters a problem. They believe that by 2012, their ranks will number 2,000 members. "We have given ourselves and objective to bring back courage and strength," said one of the members, Erez Eshel. "It shouldn't be that a farmer is afraid to work his land. It starts with bullying on farm lands and ends with bullying on the Tel Aviv promenade. Therefore, what goes on here needs to worry not just a handful of people, but the entire country."

"We believe that the country decided it doesn't care if protection money is collected in the Negev or if land in the Galilee is commandeered every day and farmers looking to protect their land are beaten up," said Zilberman. "The State, unfortunately, cares only about Azrieli Towers. We won't let this happen. The time has come for the country to wake up and understand that this is the cancer of the country, and if it isn't taken care of, we won't have any state left to live in."

'Choose good over comfortable'
Both MK Yisrael Hasson and Minister Moshe Ya'alon were invited to the event, entitled "Who will save my home," Thursday evening. However, because he was summoned for a talk with the prime minister, the latter could not attend.

Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso spoke at the event and explained why he believes this is not just a problem for farmers, but for everyone: "The State of Israel's plan was that 45% of the Galilee will be Jewish by 2010. In reality, we are less than 40%, and if the State doesn't make sure to bring Jews here en masse, we will lose the Galilee."


Brig. Gen (res.) Ram Shmueli, who served on nearby Ramat David air force base, spoke after Gapso. He told those present how the State is losing the Negev: "This country was not conquered by the soldier's sword, but the farmer's plough. There is no Right or Left here. Our future is in holding on to State lands. It is a deposit no government has the right to get rid of. We must understand what our national objectives are in order to be here for another 60 years, and another 60 years after that.

Zilberman concluded the meeting, saying: "This generation has been lost to Survivor and Big Brother. I promise there will be a reawakening of people who choose good over comfortable in order to protect this country."

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