When my EAPPI colleagues and I visited Asira, Naja (pictured here with one of her children) gave us water and tea and cool drinks. She told us their story and showed us how they try to protect their windows and where fire was set to the house. But what I remember best, is the weary expression in her eyes despite her friendly smile. I could see that she didn’t think there is much we could do to help her. Asira is a Palestinian village south of Nablus, in the West Bank.
September 2011: In a special arrangement between the Israeli government and ICRC (the Red Cross), Israel removed 40 of its most vigilant settlers from the West Bank to Tel Aviv (where they were on holiday) for a few months. This was necessary to calm things down in the West Bank when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked the UN to recognise Palestine.
Despite this, other (more moderate?) illegal Israeli settlers did their best to provoke Palestinian villagers during that time…. they damaged hundreds of olive trees, unarmed villagers were shot (one dead and four injured), etc. But the removal did help, as in some of the other villages where we monitored human rights, things were more quiet.
And now those vigilant settlers are back… and they have renewed energy. This news my team members and I have already received from the team who replaced us. They told us about renewed efforts of the nearby settlers (living illegally in the West Bank) to harass Palestinians who have every right to stay in their own land:
On 1 February, 2012 Padre James Bhagwan wrote:
The homes at the edge of this Palestinian village are located a few hundred metres from houses in the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar. But the relationship is anything but neighbourly.
On a late January tour of the Palestinian village led by representatives of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), residents said attacks by Jewish settlers on their village are more organised and increasing.
Sometimes the attacks, which involve rock throwing, vandalism and crowd intimidation, are a part of reprisals known as “price tag” attacks carried out by settlers after an Israeli government attempt to dismantle illegal outposts or a Palestinian attack against Israeli targets, they said.
This breaks my heart. Naja’s husband leaves home early in the morning to start his day as a taxi driver. What happens while he is away – and also why he is there? More damage to their house due to fires, stone throwing, broken windows, and Zionist signs on the walls? Their children scared to come home after school or to play outside next to the fragrant red roses in Naja’s garden? My heart aches for them, and for those who feel called to intimidate others and damage their property.
Naja was right. I couldn’t do anything for her and her family while I was in the occupied territories of Palestine. But I’m not giving up. We, ordinary citizens, need to speak up, and cry out, each and every one of us: injustice no more and an end to the oppression! Like the world did with South Africa under an apartheid regime. The UN is not going to do it, for the USA will continue to veto the UN’s recommendations. They have already done so many times. The mass movement against oppression in Palestine needs to grow and we need to put pressure on the powers of the empire. As Alice Walker said, “we are the ones we have been waiting for”.
(All images in this post were taken by me when we visited Naja and her family)