Update 07.01.2012: Pending demolitions and a letter to Tony Blair

On Thursday November 10 2011, the Israeli authorities handed over demolition orders for 17 structures affecting 72 people, in Al Hadidiya, Jordan Valley.  More about this, as well as why Tony Blair received a letter from the Al Hadidiya community below (ook in Afrikaans). 

But first, the latest news…

UPDATE 07.01.2012: To our relief the Yanoun Team 42 reported that all the demolition orders in Al Hadidiya as well as those in eight surrounding communities were frozen – and signed as such by Ehud  Barak.
HOWEVER the team also reported home demolitions in Fasayil al-Fauqa and Fasayil al-Wusta, two other communities in the Jordan Valley.  Remember that it is winter – and very, very cold. (These demolitions started on the day that we left Yanoun, as we were waiting for our transport to arrive.  It was terrible to leave like that.)  No news to date on the letter we handed to Tony Blair at the Quartet’s office in Jerusalem.

Another round of demolition orders in Al Hadidiya

Al Hadidiya is a Bedouin community of some 112 permanent inhabitants.  a further 130 inhabitants return to villages near Tubas during the two cold winter months as Israeli forces have already destroyed their homes and they have not found the necessary means to build shelters that can protect them from the winter cold.

In fact, many of the families have already suffered several home and property demolition in clear violation of international law and human rights.  Since 1998, the Israeli occupation authorities have implemented a systematic and continuous drive to permanently expel the Palestinians residents of the Jordan Valley from their lands. Most of the people in Al Hadidiya have already had their homes and/or animal shelters destroyed more than five times by the IDF.

The people in Al Hadidiya are entirely dependent on rearing animals as they do not have sufficient water for agriculture. In the nearby Jewish-only settlements of Ro’i and Beqa’ot, agricultural produce is farmed using hi-tech methods and with an abundance of water.

Much of this agricultural produce is exported to world supermarkets by Israeli agricultural export companies swuch as Bickel, Mehadrin, Arava and Carmel.  These products are labelled as “Produced in Israel” (also check the products in Pick and Pay and Woolworths.)


One of the 17 demolition orders without ID numbers, Abu Saqer in the background.

The latest orders were simply left in a shelter on Abu Saqer’s farm where he later found it.  None contain ID numbers. The community is assisted by a lawyer.  They have papers from the Ottoman period (thus before the Jordanian and the British reigns) to show that they live on their own land.

While the international community discusses Palestinian statehood,  Israel is continuing the ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine with  further displacements in the Jordan Valley.

The new Yanoun team (Group 42) discussing the demolition orders with community leader Abu Saqer on his farm.

One of the first things our team did, was to agree with Abu Saqer that he would write a letter to Tony Blair on behalf of his community to ask for a proper school building.  We, the Yanoun EAPPI team 41, promised to deliver this letter to him.

Tuesday 29 November 2011: Abu Saqer signs his letter for Tony Blair.  This was my last ask in Al Hadidiya – to receive this letter:
My colleague Linda Baily handed the letter to the Office of the Quartet in Jerusalem on behalf of our team during the last week of our term. 

Abu Saqer (60) on his farm in Al Hadidiya

Abu Saqer’s story:

We will not leave (again) …

(Afrikaans hieronder)

Abdel Raheem Bsharat-Abu Saqer (60) greeted us energetically, his wiry figure in black against the pastel shades of the untilled land like a pen on a pale page.  It was around noon and blisteringly hot.

Abu Saqer's current house

He farms with sheep and plants oats and wheat in the winter when it rains. We climbed the rocky hill behind the house. On the other side, beyond the dry dust beneath our feet, lay a lush green strip of land with permanent structures – Roi, an Israeli settlement.

Water is precious and scarce in the Jordan Valley. Illegal Israeli settlers are allocated by far the greater portion of the water (45 million cubic metres per annum for 64,000 people at subsided rates, compared to the unsubsidised 31 million cubic metres allocated to the 56,000 Palestinians in the valley in 2008).

Abu Saqer’s farm in the foreground, with the illegal Israeli settlement Roi in the background.

As we made our way back down to the home built of canvas and reeds and other portable materials, the Israeli military base on the opposite hill caught my eye. Abu Saqer’s previous home was demolished by the Israeli Defence Force while he had taken his wife to hospital for the birth of their youngest child.

We asked about the green strip on the other side of the hill:

“They are stealing our water.  They plant flowers in the settlement and we don’t have water to drink.  The Israeli politics is to move us – should I then live in the air?

Our message to the world is to look at us as human beings.  I am not a political person or a negotiator, but I need to feed my family. My message is for them to look at us as people who want our children to be educated.  I now need to drive a 35-40 km detour each day when I take my children to school because they closed my gate.  This means that our children are in the village while we are here and we cannot take care of our children and their school work.

My message to Great Britain is to stop helping the Israelis.  They have helped them since 1916 until now and this is why the Israelis continue to break the law.  My second message is for the United States of America.  The tax payers in the USA should know that they support the Israelis to fight us. My message for the Israelis is you cannot take our land. We will not leave our homes like those who left their properties in 1948. Not all Israelis are the same and our aims are supported by many organisations and individuals in Israel and in other parts of the world.

We hope that this awareness of our humanity will grow. We want to live in peace with the Jews and Christians. Peace and love is the essence of all three our religious traditions. The current Israeli politics cannot last forever. We hope the situation will change because people all over the world appreciate us.  We want a peaceful solution.  If things are not changed in a peaceful way, then I have no solution for our children.

But we need a true state and freedom.  It should be democratic and by election.  Then we should have a school building here and not just a tent which is too cold in winter and too hot in summer. Then a letter to Tony Blair will not be necessary. But if we are a state and we still have no water, and if the soldiers continue to demolish water wells without permits as in An Nassariya, it will mean nothing.  We need to have a proper infrastructure.

Ons vlug nie weer nie

Die songedroogde boer groet ons met vitaliteit, sy skraal figuur in swart soos ‘n pen afgeëts op die blad van die pastelkleurige, onbewerkte landskap.

Dis ons eerste besoek aan die gemeenskap van Al Hadidiya in die Jordaanvallei. Dis in die middel van die dag en warm. Hy boer met skaap en plant hawer en koring in die winter as dit reën. Hy is nog besig met enkele sake en ons stap solank oor die klipperige heuwel om die wêreld te bekyk. Aan die anderkant van die dor stof onder ons voete lê ‘n lieflike groen strook met permanente geboue. Dit is Roi, ‘n (onwettige) Israeliese setlaarsgemeenskap.

Water in die Jordaanvallei, soos elders in Palestina, is kosbaar en skaars. Die Israeliese setlaars kry by verre die meerderheid daarvan (45 miljoen kubieke meter /jaar vir 64 000 mense) teenoor die 31 miljoen kubieke meter (in 2008) vir die 56 000 Palestyne in die vallei. Ons draai terug en my oë val op die Israeliese militêre basis op die oorkantste heuwel. Ons stap terug, af na die huis van tente, riete en ander vervoerbare materiaal. Abu Saqer se vorige huis is deur soldate vernietig terwyl hy sy vrou hospitaal toe geneem het vir ‘n bevalling.
Ons is bly oor die glasies tee wat ons aangebied word. Ons stel onsself voor en Abu Saqer wil by my weet hoe dit was om in ‘n land van apartheid te woon.
Ons gesels. Hy meen dat Palestina ‘n speelbal is vir wêreldmagte. Dalk gee hulle geld, sê hy, maar hulle harte is nie oop vir ons nie. Hulle gee nie regtig om wat van ons word nie. Om nou as ‘n staat verklaar te word, gaan volgens hom niks beteken nie.  Die land het hulp nodig met die opbou van ‘n infrastruktuur.
Ek kyk na hom, want daar is ‘n lig in sy oë. Ek vra wat laat hom en sy familie dan aanhou. Ghassan, ons bestuurder en tolk, dra sy woorde oor:

“This land is my life, if you take this away from me, I will die. We will not leave our homes like those who left their properties in 1948. Not all Israelis are the same and our aims are supported by many organisations and individuals in Israel and in other parts of the world. We hope that this awareness of our humanity will grow. We want to live in peace with the Jews and Christians. Peace and love is the essence of all three our religious traditions. The current Israeli politics cannot last forever.”

Abu Saqer se vraag oor hoe dit was om in ‘n land van apartheid te woon, en hoe dit nou met ons gaan, bly my by toe ons wegry.

Earth banks created by the IDF prohibit Palestinians to reach their own land in the Jordan Valley.

Double standards:
A warning of a firing zone (i.e. Palestinians who enter may be shot)
and on the side,
a trail marker (i.e. if you’re an Israeli, go ahead and enjoy nature).
There are many of these in the Jordan Valley.

The entrance to Abu Saqer’s farm has been blocked by inhabitants from the illegal Israeli settlement Roi, and he now has to use a 15 minute detour through the veldt to reach his home.

When you may not rescue your own furniture…

They gave us their testimony, freely, surrounded by their relatives and using a translator, knowing we would tell the world. The two Palestinian girls, one 21, the other 17, were brutalized for no reason on Thanksgiving Day in the southern part of the West Bank.

The young woman, Sausan, was in a cave dwelling with three children when she heard the sounds of machinery and voices.  She came out and saw the bulldozers and she quickly got the children out of the cave.  She started screaming and ran to get some things out of her house, which she could see was about to be demolished.  An Israeli soldier pushed her and told her to stop, but she kept moving. He pulled and dragged her to a place where they sprayed some kind of spray in her eyes and mouth at very close range.  She fainted to the ground then.

When she woke up, the soldiers were all around her. They were going to arrest her. When her mother protested, they pushed her mother to the ground, breaking her leg. By now the young woman’s eyes, affected by the spray, hurt so badly that she cried, “Give me water for my eyes.” A soldier put a very little bit of water in her eyes so he could have a friend take a photo of him doing so, but then wouldn’t give her any more.

The above is a quote from fellow EA Chris Cowan’s blog.  Chris is from the United States and worked in the Southern Hebron Hills in the West Bank where this incident happened.  She had to wait for the court hearings to be finished before she could publish Sausan’s testimony.

Read the full, terrible story here on her blog.

There are more photos and a video on fellow EAPPI colleague Jan McIntyre’s blog:

….When the bulldozer pulled up to the front of the family’s home, a solid stone house, his 19 year old daughter Sausan realized what was about to happen. She tried desperately to get some of the family belongings out of the house before the soldiers began this part of their destruction. That did not go over well with the soldiers. They stopped her from going into the house, they restrained her and then they administered a gas that rendered her unconscious. As she lay on the ground, her mother, Haleeni (Mahmoud`s wife), went to attend to her.

That also did not go over well with the soldiers.

As Haleeni attempted to get to Sausan, a soldier forcefully pushed her away. Haleeni lost her balance and fell against either a rock or the bulldozer, breaking her leg in the process. As Sausan lay on the ground, still unconscious, she was handcuffed. Mahmoud watched all of this, completely unable to help.

After regaining consciousness, both Sausan and one of her relatives, a 17 year old girl Amel, were arrested and taken away by soldiers in army vehicles. As of Friday at 5pm, villagers had no idea where these two young girls are, how to contact them, what charges were laid against them (if any), when they will see them again or how to help them. They too, know the reputation of Israeli jails and their treatment of Palestinian prisoners…

View the video here:

Click here for Jan’s account and photos.

Gallery

Demolitions: An account of ONE week

To sit with a family whilst their houses or water cisterns are being demolished, or when their olive trees are bulldozed to make way for the illegal Israeli wall, is a nauseating experience.

Israel demolishes all kinds of Palestinian structures… schools, clinics, roads, houses, animal shelters, mosques…anything one can think of. They say they  do this for “security reasons,” but in reality they displace people and grab more land for settlements and agriculture – in other words for economic gain.

  • The current Palestine is only 22% of what the UN allocated to them in 1948.  Israel took the other 78% by force.
  • Israel currently occupies most (66%) of this 22% (Areas B and C in the West Bank) and they continue to grab more land, day by day.

According to international law, no occupying power may confiscate land to use it for their own gain, and everyone in an occupied territory have the right to basic human rights.  Yet there are many, many, many (yes many) examples of how Israel violates these laws (and the USA consistently vetoes UN resolutions that want to stop Israel).

The examples below, are a collection of some (yes some) of the things I encountered during ONE WEEK.

HEBRON:
One farmer, fifteen soldiers, a bulldozer and loads of rocks…

While visiting the Hebron EAPPI-team (a programme of the World Council of Churches) I witnessed the demolition of a farmer’s water cistern on 17 November 2011.  After destroying the cistern, the hole was filled with 20 truck-loads of rocks.

Fifteen soldiers, the contractor, the media, internationals as well as the owner and his friends and family stood by as it happened.

The Equipment:

The farmer….

The soldiers…

On what level does this make sense?

We do not know…

JERICHO, AL QASAB:
In one sweep – houses, furniture, everything…

My team and I were working on our advocacy strategy for former Ecumenical Accompaniers on 15 November 2011 when we got the call.

In total 21 people including 15 children were displaced by the three demolitions on 15th November. One person told EAPPI:

“Everything is gone. All my daughter’s toys – it is so hard.”

The New Age in South Africa published an article on the demolitions:

http://www.thenewage.co.za/35146-1020-53-Israel_demolishes_Palestinian_homes_near_Jericho

I replied to this letter on 16 November, but do not know if they published my comment:

Dear Editor of The New Age,

As my team were present at the site of the demolitions yesterday and took testimonies, we would like to draw your attention to the following:

You quote Israeli civil administration spokesman Guy Inbar saying that the structures were “uninhabited”.  In fact two of the demolished houses were inhabited, but the owners were simply not home when the Israeli Defense Force demolished the structures. The owners received no warnings, neither written nor verbal. The first house had some items removed by the soldiers before it was demolished. Nothing was removed from the other two which were demolished with everything still inside.

According to Inbar the houses were built “near an archaeological site with the risk of endangering it”.  Yet the houses were on a street amongst other houses so it was not clear to the EAPPI eye witnesses (or to the owners and their neighbours) why these particular houses posed a threat.

My team and I form part of a group of internationals who monitor human rights violations and transgressions of applicable international law in the West Bank.  We report these to the United Nations, the Red Cross (ISCRC), the Quartet and other partner organisations.

We all participate in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches.  Some of us are affiliated to churches and some are not, but we all subscribe to an ending of the occupation and a just peace based on international law and human rights.

Please see the attached photo by Eduardo Minossi, one of our team members, taken yesterday at one of the demolished houses.

These photos in Al Qasab were all taken by my colleagues Linda Bailey (Wales) and Eduardo Minossi de Oliveira (Brazil):

AL ‘AQABA: 95% of this village has demolition orders…

We visited this village on 14 November 2011 to interview learners and teachers for Save the Children.  This village is considered as a place of training by Israel, as “it looks like South Lebanon”.  The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) conducts regular training in this village, i.e. weekly sessions.  They practice by “arresting” locals and “releasing” them after their training.

When we spoke to them, the mayor told us that the last army incursion into the village was two days ago.  95% of the village has demolition orders but they are on hold as they are waiting for a ruling by the High Court of Israel.

Here are some verbatim comments from the teachers and children we spoke to:

“We don’t teach the children about the war or the occupation, we teach them peace.”

“I am so afraid when the army trains here and I’m an adult – so you can just imagine how the children feel.  They can’t concentrate.  They want to watch what happens and want to know how they will escape and what they need to do.”

“Our minds are not with our teachers when there is training happening.”

“I am scared when I see their guns and that they may hit me with it. I have seen them hitting motorists at Tubas with the back of their guns.”

“When I see them, I think they came to demolish my home.”

“They sometimes knock on our door (at night) and search our house.  They ask if we have guns. We are scared that they may leave guns in our house just to be able to say that it belongs to us so that they can arrest us.  They once took my neighbour’s father far away for a week.”

“I started to cry when I arrived at my house after school and saw that it was demolished. We couldn’t remove anything from the house.”

The town’s mayor is in a wheel chair after being hit by three bullets when he was 16 years old.  Over the years, 50 people in this village have been injured and 13  killed as a result of the IDF’s training.

The next two photos feature Mayor Haj Saml Sadiq.  He travels the world to spread his message of peace and the ending of the occupation:

AL AUJA: A mud school threatening Israel?

This mud school of the Bedouin community outside Al Auja received a demolition order (the green in the background is an illegal Israeli settlement):

This is what fellow EAs Linda Bailey (Wales) and Jan McIntyre (Canada) looked out upon as they stood in front of the school….

How do we make sense of this?

We don’t.

Instead we advocate for the ending of the occupation and a just peace based on international law.

In the mean time, life goes on…

… several baby goats were born a few metres from the  school while we were there

And across the road, in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement, life also goes on – one with houses, swimming pools and electricity…

And finally….

AL HADIDIYA:
June 2011, and again in November 2011

In June 2011, 40 people including 15 children were made homeless in Al Hadidiya.  See Fact Sheet 2011 02 on the EAPPI website:

Last week we heard that the Israeli authorities handed over demolition orders that target 17 structures and will affect 72 people, including women and children, in Al HadidiyaThese demolitions were due on 18 November 2011.  However we contacted our respective national representative offices, and so far the demolitions have not yet taken place.  We hope….

(See also my post on Pending demolitions in the Jordan Valley for details on Al Hadidiya)

More on demolitions:

Sometimes the Israeli Defense Force demolishes Palestinian structures without orders to do so as in September 2011 when they destroyed six water wells in An Nassariya.  (See my post All we have in our hands are plants.)

Are the demolitions of Palestinian structures perhaps on the decrease?

I wish I could say yes. However house demolitions in 2011 were 80% more than in 2010.

This trend continues in 2012. 120 Palestinian structures were demolished in the first two months of the year, including 36 homes.  Remember that it is winter and very, very cold. On average over 25% more people were displaced per month in 2012 than in 2011 (125% more than the average per month in 2009).

By March 2012, whole towns were under threat of being demolished by Israel (Al ‘Aqaba in the Jordan Valley and Susiya in South Hebron Hills).

More photos by EAPPI on recent demolitions.  

United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied territories of Palestine: Statistics and more information

Al ‘Aqaba in the Jordan Valley

Susiya in South Hebron Hills



Gallery

Israeli’s met verskillende perspektiewe

In die middel van ons termyn, het al sewe die EAPPI spanne meer opleiding en blootstelling buite die areas waar ons werk gekry.  Ons het met Israeli vredesorganisasies gepraat, asook met ‘n (onwettige) Israeli setlaar.

Hier is ‘n paar foto’s:

Ons vertrek Sondagoggend opgewonde vanaf Yanoun – Eduardo (links), Ghassan ons vriend, kontak, vertaler en taxi-bestuurder (middel) en Ueli (regs)

‘n Gesprek met Michael, hoof van Breaking the Silence – ‘n groep veteraan Israeli soldate wat vrede nastreef.

By die Suid-Afrikaanse verteenwoordigende kantoor in Ramallah.  Hier is ek, Mpumi, Zodwa en Alicia by SA Ambassadeur Makalima.

Die gesprek met Ruth Hiller van New Profile was fassinerend. Sy is deel van ‘n Israeli vredesorganisasie wat jongmense help om kwytskelding van militere diensplig te verkry.

 

Bob Lang, voorheen van die VSA maar nou setlaar van Efrat by Bethlehem, is  hoof van die Efrat godsdienskomitee. Hy ontvang gereeld toeristegroepe en het ook met ons gepraat.

Kort voor lank haal Bob ‘n kaart uit om te verduidelik hoe klein (die supermoondheid) Israel is en dat al die grond deur God aan die Jode beloof is.

Hy verduidelik dat die heuwels waar daar tans (onwettige) setlaarsdorpe is, “leeg” was. Hy laat na om te noem hierdie heuwels (en setlaarsdorpe) is binne die grondgebied wat die VN aan Palestina toegestaan het in 1948 en dat Israel dit volgens die Geneefse Konvensie nie mag benut nie.

As hulle (die Palestyne) kan bewys dat hulle die grond besit, sal ons meer as gelukkig wees om dit van hulle te koop“, vertel hy. Hoekom noem hy nie dat die VN in 1948 die grond aan die Palestyne toegewys het nie? Die VN se stappe teen Israel lei  tot niks nie, want die VSA veto telkens (ten minste 14x al) optrede teen Israel.

Ons streef vrede na. Ons moet hier leef want Abraham het op hierdie grond geloop. Ons hoop om verder uit te brei. Ek glo in ‘n een staat oplossing – die staat sal Israel wees. Dit sal vrede bring gebaseer op gelykheid.” Gelykheid? Wie besluit wat is gelyk? En geregtigheid? Watter soort vrede? Vir wie? Ek skat dis die soort praatjies wat toeriste se harte sag maak vir Israel se wandade.

Oor die meer as 750 000 Palestynse vlugtelinge van 1948 sê Lang: “‘n Mens kan nie na 60 jaar nog ‘n vlugteling wees nie – they must get over it“. Verstaan ek reg – mense wie se voorgeslagte nog nooit in Israel gebly het nie, mag “terugkeer” solank hulle Joods is, maar mense wie se voorgeslagte terugstrek na die tyd van Ou Testament en nie Joods is nie moet voert en is nie vlugtelinge nie?

Terug in Jerusalem ontmoet ons nog mense…

Tim Williams van die Kwartet (links) en EA Jan-Egil Berg in gesprek. Op ons vraag aan Tim oor wat in die pad van vrede staan, was sy antwoord dadelik: “Sonder twyfel Israel se besetting van die Palestynse gebied.”

Daar was selfs tyd om vinnig toeris te speel in Jerusalem…

Skemer in die tuin van Getsemane – ‘n wonderlike, wonderlike ervaring vir my. Hierdie olyfboom is 2000 jaar oud!

Jerusalem: die ou stad se muur.

Wat ek nie hier genoem het nie, is:

Ons gesprekke met spesialiste oor Christen-Zionisme, ons fantastiese gesprekke met die Israeli vredesorganisasies Peace Now en The Other Voice asook met iemand van die Arab Minority Rights in Israel.  Ek hoop om later iets hieroor in die media te doen.

Bethlehem se onwettige Israeli Muur

Bethlehem se onwettige Israeli Muur
(soos verskyn in Die Kerkbode, Desember 2011)

Die donker, hok-agtige staalgang van Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem, Palestina, begin reeds om 02:00 opvul met die half-slapende liggame van diegene wat wag op die hekke se opening om 04:00. Dis meestal Palestynse werkers wat, as hulle nie betyds opdaag vir werk nie, hul werkgewerpermitte en dus hul inkomste verloor. Ander probeer hospitale bereik.

Tydens spitstyd op werksdae moet ongeveer 2500 mense daagliks hier deur die draaihek, metaalverklikker en die paspoortkontrole gaan. Soos baie ander kontrolepunte in die Wes-Oewer is hierdie Israeli-beheerde punt nie ‘n deurgang tussen Israel en die besette Palestynse gebied nie, maar binne-in Palestynse gebied.  Die prosedure kan ‘n paar uur duur en die hekke kan sonder aankondiging en onbepaald op enige punt sluit. Soms gebeur dit omdat ‘n soldaat homself skeer in die aangesig van diegene wat hul brood wil verdien, maar meermale is daar geen duidelike rede  nie.

Israel het in 2002 begin bou aan (wat algemeen bekend staan as) die Muur in die Wes-Oewer na ‘n reeks selfmoordbomaanvalle. 60% daarvan is reeds voltooid.

Die Internasionale Geregshof meen Israel “has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens (but) the measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.”  Volgens die Internasionale Hof voldoen die Israeliese Muur nie aan toepaslike internasionale wette nie en hulle het Israel reeds in 2004 versoek om alle bouwerk te staak, voltooide dele af te breek “and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto”.

Maar deur die jare het Israel se planne vir die Muur herhaaldelik uitgebrei en die bouwerk gaan voort. ‘n Deel loop deur Bethlehem en die aangrensende distrik. Sedert bouwerk aan die Muur hier begin het, het Palestyne 520 hofsake in Israel aanhangig gemaak, meestal sonder enige effek.

Bethlehem se omliggende heuwels bied ‘n duidelike blik op hoe die Muur wegswenk van die internasionaal erkende grenslyn (die “Groen Lyn”) om vrugbare Palestynse landbougrond in te palm.  Wanneer dit klaar is, sal die Israeli Muur 709 km lank wees, dus meer as dubbel die lengte van die Groen Lyn.  Slegs 15% van die Muur sal wettig en op die Groen Lyn (of in Israel) wees met 85% daarvan onregmatig in Palestynse gebied.

Die dorp Al Walaja, wes van Bethlehem, is in 1948 uitgewis waarna talle inwoners vlugtelinge geword het. Dié wat terug gekeer het, het weer huise gebou, maar talle hiervan het tans slopingsbevele van Israel waarvan baie reeds uitgevoer is. Muna (40) en Aisa (50) Hagahla is op Maandag 3 Oktober onregmatig van hul familiegrond vervreemd ten spyte van hul regsaansoek.

Al Walaja is daardie oggend om 06:00 afgesper sodat niks buiten stootskrapers en soldate die dorp kon binne nie.  Teen 14:00 was 50 volwasse olyfbome reeds ontwortel en die nuwe “slegs-Israeli’s” pad en area vir die Muur reeds skoongeskraap was.

Ons het die middag saam met die Hagahla gesin in die skadu van ‘n boom gesit en kyk hoe die Israeli stootskraper se geel tentakel die ledemate van gebreekte, ontwortelde bome hys deur stofgevulde lug.

“Waarheen kan ek gaan?” het Muna gevra. “Die Israelis praat van menseregte, maar hulle respekteer dit nie.  Hierdie grond is ons brood en botter en dateer ses geslagte terug. Ons eet hieruit en verkoop die res om ander dinge te koop.  Wat het ons nou vir ons kinders?“

Artikels 47 and 49 van die Vierde Geneefse Konvensie verbied ‘n besetter om privaatgrond te konfiskeer en eienaarskap oor te dra aan sodanige besetter.

Ons was daar todat dit stil geraak het, die stof gesak het en die gewapende soldaat op die oorkantste heuwel saam met die stootskraper weg is. Die wind het opgekom.  Ek het bly kyk na die beskadigde bord van World Vision wat die dorp se fontein in 2003 herstel het. Wanneer dit klaar is, gaan die Muur hier alle landbougrond inpalm en die dorp afsluit van ander Palestynse gemeenskappe.

Bethlehem se area strek oor 660km2, maar Palestyne beheer net 13% daarvan, die meeste daarvan gefragmenteerd. Israel se onwettige setlaarsdorpe en Muur verbied Palestyne op die meeste van hul eie grond.

In die stad wat geboorte geskenk het aan ‘n Boodskapper van inklusiwiteit, menseregte en liefde, lei toergidse hul reisigers verby die onwettige Muur en die effek daarvan op Christen en Moslem inwoners.

Die Bethlehem EAPPI-span moniteer Checkpoint 300 elke dag vir vyf dae per week, twaalf maande van die jaar, reeds sedert 2003. Ek was daar op ‘n plasingsbesoek. Ons staan om 3:00 op om 3:40 by die kontrolehek te wees waar mense reeds sedert 2:00 wag.

EAPPI is die enigstes wat deur Israel toegelaat word om diens in die kontrolepunt te doen.  Ons tel hoeveel mense deur die normale ry gaan asook hoeveel deur die humanitêre lyn gaan en skakel die “Hot line” wanneer van die hekke sluit in ‘n poging om dit weer oop te kry.  Hiefdie nligting word deur die VN se Humanitêre afdeling gebruik om tendense te moniteer en aksie te neem waar nodig. Hulle gee weer op hul beurt die inligting aan politici en ander rolspelers.

Ons mag nie daar foto’s neem nie, ek kon net ‘n paar op redelik veilige plekke neem:

Ons begin in die donker werk… hier breek die dag

Wagtend

Let op die mense bo-op ander se skouers

Gallery

“I am a farmer. All we have in our hands are plants.”

Jordan Valley. The agricultural lands of An Nasariya are considered the food basket of the Nablus area.  On 8 September 2011 Israeli soldiers (without a demolition order) forcefully destroyed three Palestinian water wells of this farming community with a bulldozer.

Two members of the Yanoun Team 41 (Ueli, Linda) our driver and the mayor of An Nasariya looking at one of the demolished wells

The soldiers confiscated all the equipment, including pumps, engines, filters and 4 000 liters of gasoline (at 7 NIS per litre) that provided water to a network of farmers and threw the owners’ tools into the wells.

The livelihood of 350 families and 1000 contract workers are directly affected by this illegal deed. Yet Palestinian farmers say that they don’t give up.  To them, the rebuilding of the wells is an act of resistance. Nagahe Zaad (54) with a family of ten members owns one of the destroyed wells.  He spoke to the Yanoun EAPPI (Team 41):

Nagahe at the place where his well used to be. His tools were thrown into the hole.

Now we understand the Oslo Agreement.  In this agreement, all wells that were built between 2002 and 2005 may not be demolished.  But Israel does not keep this promise. I went to court after the second demolition, but it is a military court and they told me they cannot help me and that Israel had to destroy my well for security reasons.

I am a farmer. I plant tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, melon, aubergines, peppers and many other things. Our sheep eat the foliage after we have harvested. Now we have no water and we cannot plant and our sheep drink the sewage water from the open canal.

When it happened, I just stood there. I felt so angry, but I could just stand looking. There were so many soldiers and military vehicles that came for us and we are just civilians. All we have in our hands are plants. It took about three to four hours and it all happened right in my face. No one was allowed to enter this area when it happened. I was thinking of all the other farmers who depend on the water.  I fell down to the ground and was taken to a doctor.

We do not get support from the authorities or from NGOs. The PA talks to the Israelis to get permits for our wells, but they never return with signed documents. They also don’t get help from the UN. Our water hole gives only 7 m3 per hour and the Israelis get 500 m3 per hour and still, we may not have water. Before 1948,  Jews and Palestinians were neighbours in this area and we all had good lives. We are willing to live with Israelis and we will share our water. We live in a holy land and we do not want to suffer anymore. We ask – what does the world think to watch us like this?

We need money to repair our wells and we are scared that they will demolish it again.  The other two owners of wells and I decided that we shall now rebuild only one well, then we can share the costs. But it also means that we shall produce less. We know the Israelis will destroy our wells again. But I have been a farmer all my life.  My father and grandfather also farmed on this land. This is what I do.  We now live with this, we will not move. We stay here.

This article was published in the UNOCHA Monthly Humanitarian Monitor, September 2011.


Starting as an ecumenical accompanier…

I will never forget our handover ceremony on 22 September 2011  in the Church of the Redeemer in East Jerusalem.  This prayer was used:

O God of many names,
Lover of all the nations, we pray for peace
In our hearts, in our homes
In our nations, in our world.
For the peace you will, we pray.
For everything there is a time:
A time for going out and a time for coming in.
For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven.

Two South Africans who served in Jayyous:
Carol Martin (Team 40) handed over to Zodwa Nsibande (Team 41).

We left the next morning to our placements (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Jayyous, Yanoun, Hebron and the South Hebron Hills).

EAPPI Team 41, Yanoun group: Emma Idestrand (Sweden) in the front, to her left is Linda Baily (Wales), Ueli Schwarzmann (Switzerland), with Eduardo Minossi D’Oliveira on the right.

 

Yanoun: peace and quiet?

Lower Yanoun (Area B, thus under Palestinian administration and under Israeli security)

Yanoun means “peace and quiet”.  It is easy to believe this when one’s eyes follow the contours of the  landscape.  But the hilltops are dotted with settlement outposts.  All movements in this ancient village are watched from the illegal Israeli settlement Itamar and its outposts.

The illegal Israeli settlement, Itamar

The village is situated in the hills south-east of the city of Nablus.  Ancient ruins in this town is considered by Biblical scholars to occupy the site of the ancient town of Janohah which belonged to the Tribe of Ephraim.

It is one of the smallest surviving villages in the occupied Palestinian territories after it was nearly wiped off the face of the map in 2002 when Israeli settlers invaded the village and forced the men, women and children from their homes. Mayor Rashed Murrar remembers the events of 2002:

They came with dogs and guns, every Saturday at night. They beat men in front of their children. One Saturday they said that they didn’t want to see anyone here next Saturday and that we should move to Aqraba. The whole village left that week.

The families returned to Yanoun following intense international media interest and with help from an Israeli peace group called Ta’ayush. (Living with Settlers, Thomas Mandal, 2006).

The International House (my home) in upper Yanoun (Area C, thus under full Israeli occupation and control)

Since 2003, at the invitation of the village mayor, there has been an international protective presence in Yanoun provided by the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

Friday 23/9: Patrolling the road between upper Yanoun (Area C) and lower Yanoun (Area B)

The EAPPI presence has created some breathing space for the villagers of Yanoun and the level of settler of violence has reduced in recent years. Nevertheless, the underlying problems of lack of development due to being in Area C and the constant illegal confiscation of their land (and therefore their livelihood) remain massive challenges for the villagers.

The Yanoun farmers and their families still face regular intimidation and harassment from armed groups of settlers from Itamar settlement.

Hundreds of acres of land belonging to the villagers have been gradually stolen by the settlers – the villagers now  to grazing their sheep on the last remaining few acres of land in the valley. The hilltops and fields beyond are off-limits to the Palestinian farmers. If they attempt to reach their land they risk being shot on sight. Meanwhile, the Israeli settlers, supported by the Israeli government and army, construct agricultural facilities, houses, roads, and infrastructure to connect their illegal settlements and outposts, making a two-state solution an impossibility.

Late afternoon, herding the animals home.

The road to Nablus, reserved for (illegal) settlers only. Townsfolk from Yanoun use a different route which takes more than double the time it used to.

For a follow-up on an incident in July 2013 with armed Israeli settlers,
click here.