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.
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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