Gallery

A mother and her children at home

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.

Read more…

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)

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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.

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.