Access to water in the Jordan Valley

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” John 7:37

by Sophie, Jordan Valley team

The midday sun is coming into it’s own as we seek sanctuary under a tree in ‘Ein el Beida. As the first EAPPI Jordan Valley team, we are warmly welcomed by Abu Omar and his elderly uncle Abu ‘Akab, a kindly man with a sense of humour, against the odds.

‘Ein el Beida and its neighbour Bardala are located in the far north of the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley makes up almost a third of the West Bank, and is traditionally known as being the ‘breadbasket of Palestine’ because of its fertile land for agriculture. Yet Palestinian farmers in the area are struggling to survive. We have come to find out why.

“Before they were public springs, no one paid, it was communal water in ‘Ein el Beida, our tradition. After, they take our spring and we have to pay them agora [money] for our own water, and then they do not give us enough”, Abu Omar explains.

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed.  Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed. Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ Abu ‘Omar refers to is the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. In 1967, a series of military orders declared all Palestinian water resources to be Israeli state property. Under these orders, Palestinians are prohibited from developing water resources without a permit from Israel. This means that they cannot maintain a spring, repair a cistern, or develop irrigation networks without Israel’s permission, and permission is almost always refused.

In Bardala, the Israeli government confiscated the land of the village’s main spring and the national water company, Mekorot, dug deeper into the mountain aquifer. As a result, the nearby Palestinian spring in Bardala, and the 9 more shallow springs of Ein el Beida, dried up. According to the Joint Water Committee there were 774 operating wells in the West Bank in 1967, now due to Israeli restrictions there are just 264 operating wells, an EWASH (Emergency Water And Sanitation/Hygiene) representative informed us.

Abu ‘Omar tells us what it means for his farming:

It is a huge problem for our plants, the plants are our economy, our resources. We need water for our traditional plants…carrots, nuts…Now we have to try plant vegetables that don’t need as much water. But then we all produce the same, tomatoes and cucumbers in greenhouses, and this reduces the price at market so we cannot make a living. The water goes to the settlements and they have as much as they like.

Bardala’s water is diverted to nearby Israeli agricultural settlements including Mehola and Rotem, illegal under International Humanitarian Law. They export everything from dates to herbs, mostly to European markets.

The difference in overall consumption is stark. According to EWASH, a coalition of 30 NGOs working on water, hygiene and sanitation issues in the Occupied Palestinian territories the Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area are allocated 75 times more water than the average West Bank Palestinian.

As we walk around the villages, the contrast between the settlement and village lands are striking.

‘Ein el Beida’s agricultural land in front. The orange trees cultivated by illegal Mehora settlement behind. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

‘Ein el Beida’s agricultural land in front. The orange trees cultivated by illegal Mehora settlement behind. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Abu Dirar is a representative of Bardala Village Council, a farmer and a father. We ask him about the impact on daily life of the water restrictions:

“We just don’t drink lots of water here. And it’s hot, between May and November it is very hot. You need to shower 4 times a day if you go out. But we have to go 2 or 3 days without a shower. We joke about it, but it is a miserable life.”

The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 100 litres of water per person per day for domestic use and personal hygiene. Israeli restrictions mean that Palestinians have access to an average of only 70 litres, and many vulnerable communities in the Jordan Valley have to survive on as little as 20-30 litres because it must be tankered in at high cost.

Abu Dirar used to plant 10,000 dunums (1000 hectares) of his land, but now only a third routinely, the rest only if there are heavy winter rains.

“The economy needs water. Now people don’t plant in summer. In summer we just sit.” He is keenly aware of the impact on the next generation, the future of Palestine, “the young people are researching jobs in the cities, they are leaving. I will cope, but my son, I know he will leave.”

After all they need to go somewhere to drink.

Take Action now to support Palestinian water rights.

 

A trip down memory lane

Anna was an EA from Sweden in 2004.  Even 10 years later, the stories and encounters she witnessed here have stuck with her. Our EAPPI staff had the opportunity to sit down with her and hear some of these stories and here her wise advice for those who want to join EAPPI today.

A trip down memory laneWhat was it like to be an EA?

I remember feeling like work was a double challenge.  On the one hand, the situation in 2004 was extremely intense.  It was during the Second Intifada.  We lived in Ramallah, but witnessed the separation wall being built in Qalandiya. There were many incursions at night by the Israeli army into the towns that we worked in. Yet, at the same time, our work was very slow.  Some days were intense, but many we visited with people, heard their stories, drank tea. It was a challenge to have a slow job in an extremely tense situation.

Tell me about some of the people that you met

One of the best parts of our job was meeting people.  We had a lot of fun talking to neighbors in the evening and living closely with the community.  I remember one man we met.  He was a pharmacist.  He was always very afraid of germs. He washed his hands many times a day and was always tell us to be careful of germs.  One day he told us about his experience with an Israeli military incursion.  Right after telling us the story, he went right back to washing his hands and talking about germs.  He epitomized to me the fact that living under occupation became normal, as normal as talking about germs. I also felt that his fear of germs may have been a diversion. He chose to fear germs, something he could control, rather than the Israeli military.

As part of our work, we frequently visited the women and children’s center Amari Refugee camp near Ramallah.  This was the most rewarding experience.  We felt really appreciated. Even though we had a hard time talking because of our Arabic skills and we simply drank tea and played with the kids, we felt that the women appreciated us, because we had took the time to come see and share in their lives.

Amari Refugee camp was also a tough place. It was really hard to see life there. I had previously traveled to Eastern Africa and seen people who suffered from extreme poverty. But life in Amari camp was hard to see, because the people there were not only vulnerable economically, but also politically. It was tough to see this doubly vulnerability.

Even 10 years later, I remember the people, not the activities I did.  I was struck by their constant enthusiasm to change their reality, despite its difficulty.

What memory sticks out most for you from your time as an EA?

I remember the absurdity of life in Ramallah. There’s one night in particular that I remember.  In our apartment in Ramallah we had a clear view of the Israeli settlement on the other hill.  Usually at night we would watch TV, mostly The King’s News from Jordan. One night, my colleague made popcorn.  We sat down at the TV, but then thought that popcorn doesn’t really go with The King’s News.  So we went outside on the balcony. We immediately noticed that something was happening near the settlement across the valley.  The Israeli army was shoot flare grenades to give themselves light and a better view of what was happening. We didn’t know what was going on, but I just remember the absurdity of daily life in such a crazy political situation. We were eating popcorn on the balcony as we watched the Israeli army shoot flare grenades. This always comes back to me, the double life of occupation and eating popcorn.

Why did you specifically choose to join EAPPI as opposed to another group working in Israel and Palestine?

For me it was the church aspect of the program.  I had come to Israel and Palestine and 2000.  Growing up in the church, I was very interested in Palestinian Christians and wanted to come back with a program that had this aspect.

What’s the biggest change you think EAPPI has made?

Since I’m Swedish, most of the change I have seen has been in Sweden.  There, I can see that EAPPI has had a big impact in raising awareness about the situation in Israel and Palestine.  It has become a very well-known program and has sent many EAs.  These EAs have given lectures in schools, churches, and other organizations. Since I came in 2004, I’ve seen how over the years, EAPPI has had a slow, but steady impact in keeping Israel and Palestine in the minds of those in Sweden.

Why do you think it is important that internationals come to Israel and Palestine?

When things are far away from us, it’s easy to say that the situation is not bad. It’s easy to rationalize that things are not actually as bad as we hear. But when you’ve been here, in Israel and Palestine, you can’t keep things away.  You can’t ignore or forget.  We must go so that we don’t become complacent to situations of injustice.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming an EA?

Do it. Absolutely do it! You won’t regret it.  But don’t do it if you expect to change the world, but if you expect to change yourself.  The solution to the Israel and Palestine won’t come from just you, but you will have the chance to be part of something, contributing to a small bit of change. Everyone who even thinks about it should just do it.

Operation ‘Collective Punishment’?

An overview of the village of Haska. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

An overview of the village of Haska. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

by Nanette-Marie, Trine, Simone, Itani, & Chris, Hebron team

Do you remember the three Israeli teenagers that were kidnapped and killed in June? The world has turned its attention to Gaza, so what might now be forgotten is that the current outbreak of conflict started from the three Israeli boys who disappeared and were later found dead near the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. In the search for the three teenagers, the Israeli army blockaded the city of Hebron, and turned the nearby village of Haska upside down. Many international organizations called on the Government of Israel to refrain from using collective punishment in “Operation Brother’s Keeper”, as homes, universities and charitable organizations were raided throughout the West Bank and over 700 Palestinians arrested, most of whom were not connected to the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers.

We visited the village of Haska to hear their accounts of what happened this June.

The army specifically targeted children, leaving them traumatized by the experience, says villager Mustafa Allan, father of four:

They beat my seven-year-old son up in order to get information from him. Now he wets his bed at night, which he never used to do before.

Mustafa Allan shows the results of the raids in his house. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Mustafa Allan shows the results of the raids in his house. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

The common understanding in the village is that the Israeli government knew that the three boys were dead from the beginning. This understanding stems from reports that surfaced that the Israeli army had evidence of their death from the day of their disappearance and that parts of the operation were planned before the disappearence. The villagers see the operation in Haska as a form of collective punishment, and the alleged kidnapping as a false justification to start an operation against Gaza.

They even blamed my twelve-year-old son Muhammed for being the kidnapper.

Looking at this shy little boy with big eyes and thick glasses, no one in his right mind could ever take him for a kidnapper. Apparently another young boy in the village had told the soldiers that Muhammed had seen the car of the kidnappers. According to some theories, the kidnappers had stopped in Haska for 40 minutes.

As a result, the Allan family was specifically targeted during the searches. Mustafa Allen showed EAs around his house, pointing at broken mirrors, cupboards and windows – and where once there was a bed, only rubble is left. The soldiers also destroyed their computer, apparently for no reason since they weren’t interested in any of the information stored on it.

They also took my 14-year old son away in their army vehicle and interrogated him. He used to be so open and social, but now he mostly keeps to himself.

Muhammad, Mustafa's 12 year old son. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Muhammad, Mustafa’s 12 year old son. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

The army also targeted the irrigation system and emptied water cisterns “looking for bodies”. The soldiers put chemicals into the cisterns, saying that it would react with any human remains in the water. This meant that some families were unable to drink their water for a whole week, as it was polluted with the chemicals.

In the neighbouring house, the farmer Jihad Abu Saymeh tells a similar story. He too was beaten up by the soldiers, ending up in hospital due to the wounds.

They took me to my green house and made me watch when they destroyed my crops. I couldn’t give them any information since I didn’t have any.

Jihad Abu Saymeh. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Jihad Abu Saymeh. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Jihad Abu Saymeh suspects that the whole operation was merely a military training, as a new troop of soldiers would enter the house as soon as the previous soldiers had left. Saymeh tells the EAs that he didn’t dare to leave his family alone during the 18 days that the searches went on.

The soldiers could come several times a day. They tore everything down and made a huge mess. They even told us not to clean it up since they were coming back.

The operation only finished after the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers finally were found – 60 kilometres away from Haska. For the Allan family, this came in the very last minute, as the army was going to demolish their house. The soldiers had just ordered them to leave their home within two hours, but Mustafa Allan refused.

I told them we’ve lived here for seventeen years, so if they wanted to demolish our home we would go down with it.

Regardless of how traumatic the operation has been for the villagers, they see their suffering as small in comparison to elsewhere.

What we have gone through here is nothing compared to what the people in Gaza have experienced.

‘Price tag’ attacks: Violence is never the way forward

by David, Summer team

David worked as an EA in Jerusalem from April until June 2014.

Muhammed’s car where Israeli extremists have slashed the tires and written, “All Arabs are the enemy”, in the background an Israeli settlement. Photo EAPPI/D. Jakobsson.

Muhammed’s car where Israeli extremists have slashed the tires and written, “All Arabs are the enemy”, in the background an Israeli settlement. Photo EAPPI/D. Jakobsson.

We walk down a street just outside of Beit Hanina, a suburb of Jerusalem. Last night Israeli extremists slashed the tires of 10 cars and sprayed graffiti of hateful messages, including a Palestinian school bus were they have written “Death to the Arabs” in Hebrew.

Muhammed noticed the destruction in the morning when he was supposed to take his kids to school. Someone had slashed his tires and sprayed “All Arabs are the enemy” on his car. Aisha, his wife, tells us that she thinks it is the Israeli extremist youth in an outpost about one block away that are responsible. They have been responsible for similar attacks in the last two years, after they took over a Palestinian house in the area.

Harassments like these are called price tag attacks. The name comes from that Israeli settler extremists put a “price” on events that Palestinians been involved in. For example if a settler is attacked in the occupied Palestinian territories, then Israeli extremists will conduct revenge attacks on Palestinians in both Israel and in Palestine. These revenge attacks can be everything from hateful messages to burnt down houses, cutting down trees and physical attacks on Palestinians.

Picture of a price tag attack in Aqraba in the West Bank, where Israeli extremists had written “Price tag, Jewish revenge”. In connection to this they also put an animal storage on fire which led that the assaulted family now will have trouble feeding their sheep. Photo EAPPI/L. Hilton

Picture of a price tag attack in Aqraba in the West Bank, where Israeli extremists had written “Price tag, Jewish revenge”. In connection to this they also put an animal storage on fire which led that the assaulted family now will have trouble feeding their sheep. Photo EAPPI/L. Hilton

When the three missing Israeli teenagers were found dead outside of Hebron the attacks on Palestinians from Israeli extremists became more frequent and crueler. A Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and murdered, which led to riots from Palestinians in Jerusalem and surrounding areas.

The murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir were also condemned by the family of the three murdered Israeli teenagers, and in a statement they said that “There is no difference between blood. Murder is murder. There are no forgiveness or excuses for murder.” Many Israelis have also demonstrated against the Israeli extremist mobs that walked around in Jerusalem and attacked Palestinians.

In Beit Hanina we also meet Hussein that also had his tires slashed, among them the school bus that he drives during the day where the Israeli extremists had written “Death to the Arabs.”  The Israeli police offered to take it in as evidence and take care of it for him. He accepted, as he anyways cannot drive around children in a bus with such message. But Hussein is not especially down after the attack. He has bigger problems right now; his house has a demolition order, which he will go to court to try to revoke next week. The price tag attack is just as he states it “a part of life here”.  Israeli police is investigating the hate crimes, but without evidence and identifications of the perpetrators Hussein says it probably will not lead anywhere.

I believe generalizations and collective punishment never is a way forward and the vendettas that follow will escalate the violence.

Even in our own countries we see hate on Facebook and other social media and it is important that we dare to question hate and generalizing descriptions of both Israelis and Palestinians. To dare to be uncomfortable and question when others dehumanize groups of people, no matter what group. You can make a difference!

*You may also be interested in: ‘Price tag’ attacks: It’s not about the graffiti by Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din.

 

 

 

 

The Bicycle

by Stefanie, Summer team

Stefanie worked as an EA in Hebron from April until June 2014. This story was first published on her blog www.philnemo.com/en on May 5th, 2014.

Like any other day in Hebron, I spend this sunny Tuesday afternoon observing the kids in Shuhada street on their way back from school. I am standing at checkpoint 55, on the foot of Cordoba school. There is no physical barrier, yet a soldier makes sure that none of the kids continue walking on Shuhada street – because that part of the street is closed for Palestinians – but they all turn right to walk up the stairs. Next to the stairs there is a small square, which is used as a parking lot by Israeli settlers.

Checkpoint 55 in Hebron. Photo EAPPI/S. Gartlacher.

Checkpoint 55 in Hebron. Photo EAPPI/S. Gartlacher.

 

I am talking to the soldier. He tells me that he joined the army 6 months ago and that he came to Hebron three weeks ago. There is also a German tourist group asking me about my work in Hebron. While we talk, two 10 year old boys come down the stairs and stop to talk to the soldier. One of the youngsters points at an old bicycle that is lying in the square that he is not allowed to enter. He explains to the soldier that it is his bike. One of the German tourists speaks Arabic and translates the conversation for us.The soldier looks at me and says: “You can pick it up.” Without thinking about it, I walk towards the bicycle and pick it up. In the same moment Anat C. – a famous Israeli settler, who lives next to checkpoint 55 – shows up.

All of a sudden I remember: The bike is on the “Israeli side”, so maybe it’s not the Palestinian boy’s bike? I put the bike aside and walk back to the group. A couple of minutes later the police shows up. In the H2 area of Hebron there are two different law systems: Palestinians are ruled by military law, the Israeli police takes care of the settlers. The situation is chaotic, with the soldier trying to explain the situation to the policeman and Anat interrupting the conversation, pointing her finger at me. The policeman comes up to me and asks, why I had picked up the bike and if it was mine. “No,” is my answer, “I just wanted to pick it up for the boy.” The policeman asks: “Do you know that the bike is placed on the side Palestinians are not allowed to enter?” Yes, I know, but in that moment I didn’t think about it. I sometimes forget about all the invisible borders….

The Bicycle. Photo EAPPI/S. Gartlacher.

The Bicycle. Photo EAPPI/S. Gartlacher.

The policeman asks for my passport. To my relief my colleagues show up and observe the scene. Then the policeman tells me to get into the police car. I am nervous. He acts with authority but friendly and agrees on letting one of my colleagues come with me. The policeman tells me not to worry, we’re just going to the downtown police station. If I was in real trouble, they would bring me to Kiryat Arba, the settlement on the outskirts of Hebron. All right, even though I am sitting in a police car with bullet-proof windows, I am not in big trouble. I am not sure, if that makes me feel any better…

Anat C. is already at the police station. She accuses me of having tried to steal the bike. The police officer takes her evidence, I sit two meters away from them. While telling her side of the story, she looks at me for a brief moment with an empty gaze.

Stefanie explains her case to the soldier after Anat C. accuses her of stealing the bike. Photo EAPPI.

Stefanie explains her case to the soldier after Anat C. accuses her of stealing the bike. Photo EAPPI.

Then it’s my turn. I am nervous but calm, explaining the situation again. I also mention, that I cannot sign a document written in Hebrew, because I cannot read or understand it. With a friendly voice he offers that I write the testimony myself, since he doesn’t speak English very well. “I am allowed to write the testimony myself? That’s strange.” He gets my concern and explains to me, that he has to follow up on these cases, even if it seems weird to me. You are in Hebron. Things are different here. You have to be careful,” he says. I sign my testimony and he hands me my passport. I’ve never been happier to be able to hold my passport in my hands. On my way out, my colleague takes a photo of me and the police man. I am so relieved, I even give the policeman a hug. Outside, my colleagues are welcoming me with a warm smile.

The same evening I think back on the event. There is a boy who wants his bike – I still don’t know who the bike really belongs to – but can’t get it, because it’s on the “wrong side.” I  pick the bike up and end up being detained for attempted bike theft. The policeman is doing his job and follows up on every case, even the smallest one. In Anat’s view, I was intentionally committing a crime against the settlers. I can’t stop thinking about her empty gaze – what a sad look. Yes, life in Hebron is really different… 

Celebrating ‘expulsion disguised as archaeology’ in Silwan

by Lindsey, Jerusalem team

Silwan is located just south of the Old City walls in Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI/L. Sharpe.

Silwan is located just south of the Old City walls in Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI/L. Sharpe.

55,000 people live in Silwan, a beautiful but run-down area of East Jerusalem, close to the walls of the Old City. Its name comes from the Greek Shiloam whose pools are mentioned in the Old Testament books of Nehemiah and 2 Samuel, as well as in John’s Gospel where Jesus heals a blind man.  It is perched precariously on steep slopes along both sides of the Kidron Valley, above the Gihon Spring. The upper part of Silwan is known as Al-Bustan and the lower as Wadi Hilweh.

Until 1967 the area of Silwan was an almost totally Palestinian Muslim area, under Jordanian rule.  The families here owned their properties since Ottoman times.  After the 1967 war, the area was annexed by Israel and it is the declared plan of the Jerusalem Municipality to have 75% of Silwan Israeli-owned.  To this end, illegal Israeli settlers are moving into the area, particularly at the end nearest the Old City. 

In a tour with Mahmoud Qaraeen, who works at the Wadi Hilweh Information Centre and leads regular tours of the area, he describes the variety of ways Israeli settlers are able to move into Silwan. Some of the houses have been purchased using middle men so that Palestinians are unaware that they are selling to Israelis; some obtained by the forging of documents.  Most have been acquired by invoking the Absentee Property Law, a law which came into being after the Nakba of 1948 declaring that any Palestinian property which was empty for three years – or for which no documents of ownership could be produced – could be appropriated by the Israeli State.  Many Palestinians have no documents to prove their ownership.  Historically, land and property has been passed down informally through families.

Israeli settlements and archaeology in Silwan

According to Mahmoud, there are now 250 illegal settlers in Silwan.  Many Silwan residents have been evicted from their homes and 64% of the houses in the area are under demolition orders.  In 2013, 123 houses were demolished in East Jerusalem; many of them were in Silwan.

The biggest illegal settlement establishment in the Silwan area is the controversial City of David archaeological park, to be called the Garden of the King.   Some Israelis believe that this is the actual location of the biblical city of Jerusalem captured by King David over 3,000 years ago. The City of David Foundation (Elad is the Hebrew acronym) is dedicated to the preservation and development of the Biblical City of David and its environs.

 

The excavations, however, which are still ongoing, have been carried out clumsily by bulldozers and some ancient Islamic remains have been carelessly destroyed. 

Adina Hoffman writing in the Nation in 2008 describes the methods used:

“As Rafi Greenberg (University of Tel Aviv professor of Archaeology explained during an alternative archaeological tour) the digs in Silwan are being conducted in the most tendentious way–with bulldozers clearing huge areas in haste and multiple levels being dismantled in a race to get to “Jewish” bedrock. Settlers build houses right on top of relics, and extremely tenuous conclusions are being drawn on the basis of nationalist ideology and a literalist reading of biblical texts, not the actual shards and stones that turn up in the course of the digging. Historical cross sections aren’t being preserved. Instead of the usual timetable for a dig-with one season of excavation followed by months in the lab-the City of David excavations are taking place year-round, straining professional standards and leaving no time for careful analysis.

It is, says Greenberg, ‘bad science.’”

Life in Silwan

In Silwan, the roads are pot-holed and narrow like a refugee camp and the neighbourhood itself is greatly overpopulated. Palestinians residing in Silwan are plagued by poor infrastructure. Even though East Jerusalemites pay 47% of the city’s municipal taxes they receive a mere 5% of the revenue back in benefits.  There is no secondary school, no post office and the small number of green spaces they had have been appropriated by Elad and named as archaeological sites, off-limits to Palestinians.

Mahmoud Qaraeen says that the Silwanis feel that they are constantly under scrutiny from the Israeli police and army.  There are more than 550 CCTV cameras around the area. There are many night raids and child arrests. Both children and adults are frequently assaulted and abused by settlers, the settlers’ armed guards and the Israeli army. There are not enough school places for the children of Silwan and the school dropout rate is 65%, compared to 52% in Jerusalem as a whole.

 

Overcoming difficulty with creativity

In 2007, the residents of Silwan decided to take matters into their own hands  and, with mostly European funding, established the Madaa Silwan Creative Centre, as a means of non-violent resistance.   Here women can do courses in cookery, sewing and life skills and children can learn music, dabke dancing, drama and art.  It started small but has grown and now has after- school activities for the children, including a computer room and a well-stocked library.  More than 200 children per week participate in the activities here and it also provides a safe place for adults to meet and talk.

Life is still hard for children in Silwan.  In 2012, Jawad Siyam the General manager of Madaa Centre, formed a Children’s Protection Committee. It came as a result of the frequent assaults and abuses of children, who are often kidnapped and arrested in ways which flagrantly violate the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Room No 4 is a photographic project which was based on a Madaa report published in 2012: The impact of child arrest and detention.

Room number 4 is the room in the Russian Compound – the main Israeli police station in Jerusalem – where Palestinian Jerusalem residents, including children, are investigated.  The exhibition, which is based on real testimonies of children aged 7-17, deals with issues such as night arrests, investigating children without the presence of their parents and assaulting and threatening them.  It has been shown in various places in Palestine and Israel and also in Europe.

Children playing in Silwan.  Night arrests of both children or their parents creates a difficult environment for children to grow up in. Photo EAPPI/L. Sharpe.

Children playing in Silwan. Night arrests of both children or their parents creates a difficult environment for children to grow up in. Photo EAPPI/L. Sharpe.

To return to Adina Hoffman’s account of the area, she reports on the Israeli plan to take over the area of Silwan:

“Most clever of all was Elad’s decision to fix on archaeology as the key to winning the hearts and minds of the wider Israeli Jewish public. Archaeology has, of course, long been something like Israel’s national pastime, a “scientific” discipline that, in this particular cultural context, has often blurred into the realm of major-motion-picture-scale mythmaking (see under: Masada). Since the early days of the state, archaeology has provided vivid settings and props that have helped Israelis both secular and religious to dramatize the stories they like to tell themselves about their historic bond to the modern homeland.”

Dig, popularizing ‘explusion disguised as archaeology’

In the last few weeks, Hoffman’s words have come to seem prophetic. NBC, which owns the USA cable network, has started shooting its Dig archeological thriller series there. Starring Anne Heche and Jason Isaacs, it will be broadcast on popular channels in the United States and has brought tens of millions of dollars in investment to Israel. It is based on the story of an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem who is investigating the murder on an American archeologist at the Silwan excavations. NBC will receive a $6.5 million grant from the Israeli government, via the Jerusalem Development Authority, to make the series.  A film by Dave Lippman about the project calls it a celebration of ‘expulsion disguised as archaeology.’

The raising of Silwan’s profile by the presence of Hollywood is unlikely to make any positive difference for Silwan’s Palestinian residents. It is much more likely to give strength to the Israeli settlers moving into the area. As with many, many of the injustices of the occupation, the international community appears to be turning a blind eye.

In the gospel of John, Jesus takes dirt from Silwan and makes a blind man see.  Is it too much to hope that it can happen again?

The article Celebrating ‘expulsion disguised as archaeology’ in Silwan was originally published on our EA’s blog This Year in Jerusalem.

Khallet Annahlah: Israelis, Palestinians & Internationals Working Together Against the Occupation

EAs and members of Combatants for Peace walking together at the demonstration. Photo EAPPI/L. Hilton.

EAs and members of Combatants for Peace walking together at the demonstration. Photo EAPPI/L. Hilton.

by Liam, Bethlehem team

“Swiss Cheese land”

The Bethlehem Governorate is one of 16 administrative governorates in the West Bank. It covers an area of 658km2  with approximately 210,484 people as of 2014.

With the 1995 Oslo II Accord agreement, the West Bank was split into 3 non-contiguous areas with Area A (theoretically) in full Palestinian control and comprising 3% of the West Bank, Area B under Palestinian civil control but Israeli military control, 23-25% of the West Bank, and Area C completely under Israeli control, currently over 60% of the West Bank territory. This fragmentation, with some referring to the West Bank as “Swiss Cheese land”, was meant to be for an interim period of 5 years, until 1999, but the Bethlehem Governorate, as with all of the West Bank, is still divided, although with slightly different percentages, into these administrative “islands” of Areas A, B and C classification.

In addition, 10km2 of the Bethlehem Governorate have been illegally annexed by Israel as being within its “Greater Jerusalem” designation. This intricately complicated division, usually left not signposted, leaves only 13% of the 658km2 of the Bethlehem Governorate under full or partial Palestinian Authority control.

“A Palestinian Walking on their Own Land is a Demonstration”

What do these numbers mean in reality? Take Khallet Annahlah, a small rural village with rich fertile land close to Bethlehem. On the 16th April, one of our first duties within the Bethlehem team was to attend an incident there. We met with a local Palestinian nonviolent activist named Hassan, from the nearby village of Al-Masara, as well as members of Combatants for Peace (CfP), an Israeli and Palestinian organisation set up in 2005 from former combatants of both sides who have decided to relinquish their weapons and work together in nonviolent approaches towards ending the occupation and a just peace for both sides.

With Hassan & CfP, we walked on the farm of Mohammed Khalil where a new Israeli settler tent had appeared, in the land that he was born on and now fears will be confiscated – either by settlers or the Israeli authorities. The tent was put up in the middle of the day, with unabashed impunity, on a hill across from the already established “Blue Tent”, so-called due to the settler choice of colour. The first tent appeared 6 months ago and now has developed into a caravan-tent lodging big enough for one or two families.

Hassan then took us further along and we entered the farmland of Ziat Zenat though we couldn’t make out where his farm actually was as, on 11 April, the Israeli army bulldozed all of his stone terraces that were used to grow a variety of herbs, such as sage.

While speaking with Ziat, 3 Israeli settlers in a white car saw us on a hill opposite with binoculars and made a phone call. Within 10 minutes, 4 army vehicles had rushed on the scene, each full of soldiers – at least 13 in total – with the settlers following behind. The settlers and soldiers were all heavily-armed and the Commander of the soldier’s unit was seen laughing and shaking hands with the settler behind the wheel of the car. We have come to learn that it is not unusual to see soldiers and settlers fraternising together. A soldier, originating from Los Angeles who has been in Israel for 3 years, questioned us over our presence despite being with the landowner on his land, and accused Hassan of trying to do a demonstration.

Hassan protested:

“A Palestinian walking on their own land is a demonstration”.

A court case on the 24th April declared 300 dunams (3 hectares) of the area as “State Land” but this is currently under appeal so no action should have been taken by Israeli authorities to destroy Ziat’s stone terraces. The declaration of private Palestinian property as “State Land” is a former Ottoman-era policy used consistently by the Israeli authorities to claim large swathes of Area C in the West Bank if the State deems them to be “uncultivated” or without documented ownership.

According to the Israeli human rights NGO, B’tselem, only 9% of the total area of the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) was registered as being owned prior to Israeli occupation in 1967. Nonetheless, Israel defines “State Land” as being for the benefit of the local population, which would be Palestinian. However, since 1967, the Israeli Civil Administration own figures state that Palestinians have been allocated only 0.7% (860 hectares) of “State Land” in Area C whilst the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), which develops illegal settlements, has been allocated 31% (40,000 hectares). Approximately, 21% of the total West Bank defined as “State Land” (BT’Selem 2013); land that Palestinians have little hope of being authorised to utilise. In this way, Israeli authorities reappropriate land by misusing old laws whilst disregarding international laws regarding the occupier’s responsibilities to those occupied.

“A Demonstration without Media does not Exist”

On the 18th April, recognising the strategic importance of the area, a nonviolent demonstration was led by Combatants for Peace (CfP) member Udi with Hassan and other local Palestinians from the village to make a public statement of the illegality of the settler’s actions. When organising the demonstration, the local media are always invited to ensure that as many hear about it as possible.

CfP member, Larry, says:

“A demonstration which does not make the media, does not exist”.

An Israeli peace activist with Combatants for Peace joins the demonstration. Photo EAPPI/C. Holtan.

An Israeli peace activist with Combatants for Peace joins the demonstration. Photo EAPPI/C. Holtan.

The Israeli peace activists parked up on the road, blocking the entry to the land, and walked quickly over to the settler tent holding two Palestinian flags. Speed was of the essence as everyone knew how quickly the soldiers would be called out by the settlers. The white settler vehicle could be seen observing the demonstration and, again, within 15 minutes; the soldier’s jeeps could be seen driving towards us in the distance. Udi and the other Israeli peace activists placed the Palestinian flags over the settler tent to “reclaim” it, and its land, as Palestinian. Udi then announced through a megaphone that the settlers are on Palestinian land and that they are even outside of the artificial border Israel has created through building the Separation Barrier.

Observing the Israelis and Palestinians working together towards a common goal; it was possible to see that both members are equal with neither instructing the other – even if the law is not applied equally to them. Only Israelis can dare to place their cars blocking the road and risk putting a Palestinian flag over the settler tent because the soldiers only have jurisdiction over the Palestinians, who live under martial law, whilst the Israelis live under civil law which means that they fall under the authority of the Israeli police. This dual legal system over the same territory is inherently discriminatory and disenfranchises Palestinians.

Once the soldiers had reached the tent by foot, everyone was ordered to leave by 11am, and having achieved the objective, the demonstrators complied and returned to the village of Khallet Annahlah. Once returned, a soldier accused Hassan of assault using a word in Hebrew which is ambiguous as to whether it was a verbal or physical assault, and the soldiers seemed incensed at being prevented from stopping the demonstration. A member of CfP said that, for soldiers, “lying to them is an assault to the respect they expect”. They detained Hassan and attempted to arrest him but after an hour of negotiation by Israelis; the soldiers let Hassan go. It was clearly due to international presence and Israeli activist intervention that Hassan evaded arrest and the demonstration was a success.

Continued Protective Presence

We returned to Khallet Annahlah on 29 April, the same day settlers were ordered by the Israeli High Court to remove the illegal new tent there, to see Mohammad Ayesh, 55yrs old and his son Qasm, who own the farm next door to Ziat. Settlers had come the day before and tried to take Mohammad’s sheep and goats. He told them that they couldn’t take his animals but the settlers called the army and they detained him for 2 hours. The morning we went, at 9am, the settlers brought a horse and allowed it to eat the farmer’s crops and started constructing a barracks.

Mohammed has been fighting his case through the courts since 2004. All three farmers in the area have had their water cut off for 120 days and the Israeli authorities told their neighbour:

“We will give you water but only if you don’t associate with them [the three farmers]”.

On the 2 May, we returned once more after Mohammed had trees cut down by the Israeli authorities. Hassan explains the community’s response is a call to action:

“The settlers have taken 40 dunams, but that’s just a step on their way to take…the remaining 300 dunams [30 hectares]…We’ve decided to make non-violent and useful activities here together, to save the land”.

With the 3 families in their tiny rural village, it is easy to see the interconnected nature of the relentless number of incidents Palestinian farmers face in protecting their homes, land and livelihoods. It is also possible to see what a difference Israeli and internationals, such as yourselves, can make to ensure that their stories and acts of nonviolent demonstration are heard. CfP member Hillel told us:

“We know you [Ecumenical Accompaniers] come here and volunteer your time, working day and night, to help and we feel it’s something that we, as Israelis, should be doing. Thank you, we appreciate you”.