E1: The End of the Dream for a Palestinian State?

by Jerusalem Team.

The Israeli authorities plan to expand the settlement Ma’ale Adumim and connect it to Jerusalem was approved by the Israeli government 1999. The plan, commonly referred to as the E1 Plan, has long been opposed by the international community as an obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution. Several events that have taken place in recent months indicate an acceleration of the implementation of this plan.

15.08.15, E1 area, Ma’ale Adumim and Jabal Al Baba, Atallah Mazarah Photo EAPPI

15.08.15, Jerusalem, E1 area, Ma’ale Adumim settlement and Jabal Al Baba Bedouin community. Photo EAPPI/A. Mazarah

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The ABCs of occupation; obstacles and aids on the road to peace

by Jordan Valley team

photo of Child walking home from school on demolished road

Child walks home from school along the ‘peace road’ demolished by the Israeli army in 2011, al – Aqaba. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 23/10/14.

Al Aqaba is a picturesque village; located in the Northeast of the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank. Palestinian communities have lived in the valleys and caves of this fertile region for thousands of years. In 1967, the Israeli military occupied the West Bank and in the 1990s Oslo accords divided the total area of West Bank into administrative Areas A, B, and C. The al Aqaba region was included in the 60 percent of the West Bank, classified as Area C, it is subject to the Israeli Civil Administration’s zoning authority and regulations.

The EAs in the Jordan Valley visited the village on three occasions between October and November 2014. Over the course of these visits we were given glimpsed the reality of life under occupation and learned what it means to live in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank.

Al Aqaba is home to the worlds only peace mosque. It has a distinct twin spired minaret which symbolizing peace and V for victory. Photo EAPPI/ I. Tanner.

Al Aqaba is home to the worlds only peace mosque. It has a distinct twin spired minaret which symbolizing peace and V for victory. Photo EAPPI/ I. Tanner.

On 23 October 2014, we meet with Haj Sami Sadeq Mayor of al Aqaba for the first time and ask him what are the main problems facing the community.

He leads us outside and points out a platoon of Israeli soldiers training on the hill behind the kindergarten. The roar of a low flying military jet interrupts our conversation. Haj Sami continues:

“Just yesterday they were shooting bombs from one hill to the other. If something fell it could kill people.”

Since 1967 most of the land in the greater Al Aqaba area (90%) was confiscated by the Israeli Government and is now used for military training exercises.

“Al Aqaba is now like Gaza; every day the soldiers are coming.”

photo of military training in Al Aqaba

Military training in Al Aqaba region as seen from the village kindergarten. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 23/10/14.

Haj Sami reports that, since 1971, more than fifty people have been wounded and sixteen killed during military training exercises in the area. Haj Sami is one of the victims.

“The army shot me three times; one of the bullets is still lodged next to my heart.”

As a young man he was hit during a live training exercises, paralyzed from the waist down and is wheelchair-bound for life. An advocate of nonviolent resistance the mayor is making strident efforts to retain the existing population and attract people to live in the village.

“Many people leave because it is too dangerous. But now we are trying to retain the people here. Three families have just moved here,” he says with pride. “People want to return but they are very afraid that Israel will damage their house.”

Almost all the structures in the town have outstanding demolition orders, including the medical center, the kindergarten, the houses, and the village mosque, the factory and even the roads. Many of the residents have had their homes demolished more than once. 

photo of children playing in their demolished home

Sara Alfaqr stands next to the ruins of their demolished house. Three of their children play on the twisted remains of their living room couch in the background. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 07/11/14.

On 6 November 2014, Defalla Abed Odi Alfaqr and his family, including 4 adults and 6 children, had their home demolished. This is the 3rd demolition this family has faced in just five months. Defalla recounts the incident:

“When I heard that a demolition was going on the other side of the village, I knew that they were coming for us next. They came with a big force and told us we could collect only our clothes and after the demolition the soldiers collected dirt and stones with the bulldozer and piled it on top.”

One the same day Defalla’s neighbor Khalid Ahmad Abdarahman Subeh, had an animal shelter demolished. We go to visit the family and learn that this family is also facing demolition for the 3rd time.

photo of Khalid and Sara describing demolition

Khalid Ahmad Abdarahman Subeh and his wife Sara, describe the demolition. The rubble from the destroyed animal shelter can be see in the background. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 07/11/14.

“When the army arrived, the sheep where in the shelter, they told us to empty the shelter and then they demolished. After they cut our electricity wire.”

When asked what he would do next, Khalid replied with resignation:

“We will stay. Tomorrow when my sons come, we will build another shelter for the sheep. I have four sons, we will have it done in one day.”

Before leaving, we asked Khalid if they had a message he would like us to share about their situation he replied:

“Tell them we want to live in peace and freedom. And we want at least fifty percent of our human rights.”

photo of Sara gathering fresh sage

Sara gathers fresh sage from her herb garden to make tea for the visiting EAs. Photo EAPPI/I. Tanner, 07/11/14.

Both buildings were allegedly demolished because they were built without a permit in Area C. The affected families report that they applied to the Israeli Civil Administration for building permits but were denied. According to UN OCHA, 94% of applications for building permits by Palestinians living in area C are denied.

On the 11 November 2014. EAs joined locals and NGOs in a celebratory volunteer day to paint and clean the village of Al Aqaba. The initiative was conceived as a show of support for the community ahead of their high court case challenging the Israeli Civil Administration for its demolition orders on the village structures.

“We are having this day because the army damaged homes and barracks last week. We wanted to do something for Al Aqaba; to make it more beautiful. We need to paint the village to show it is an existing village. We want to show the court that people live here and care about this place. It is unfair to the people here if they demolish it.”

Israeli occupation policies have severely restricted the ability of Palestinians in Area C to build, access water, land and resources. The cumulative impact of these policies has been the stifling of it economy, high poverty rate, dispossession and displacement.

Despite the hardships faced this mayor remains resolute in his commitment to peace and the survival of his community. Haj Sami suggests:

“We want peace but not with occupation; we need our land. The international community needs to help Israel for peace not for war; if we do this we can change the situation.”

Final destination

After decades of persecution, the Palestinian Bedouins now face a threat of forcible transfer to urban townships. Six township plans laid by the Israeli Authorities have provoked severe opposition from the Bedouins – some of them victims of displacement since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

by Lea, Jordan Valley team

photo of Selim Auda Jahaleen

Selim Auda Jahaleen is 107 years old. A Palestinian Bedouin, he is the oldest member of the Jahaleen tribe. Photo EAPPI/BG. Saltnes.

Selim was born in 1907 in Saba, in the Negev desert, what is now the south of Israel. He lived his childhood under the Ottoman rule of Palestine, his youth under the British Mandate. As a young man he saw the rise of zionism and waves of persecuted Jews fleeing to Palestine. In his prime he became a refugee himself when the state of Israel was established. During the 1948 war he, like many other Palestinian Bedouins, was forced to leave his land in the Negev. He escaped to the West Bank, then under Jordanian rule. In 1967 Israel occupied the West Bank and Selim became a subject to Israeli military rule. During his 66 years in the West Bank he has witnessed several wars, uprisings, peace treaties, processes and negotiations.

Now he lives with the family of his oldest son, Mohammed, in a shack made of tin, iron poles and tarpaulin, in the desert near Jerusalem. The family of 14 gets their living from herding their flock of sheep and goats. To the wider public the hilly desert plains they and their relatives live in are known as E1, named after one of Israel’s most ambitious plans of settlement expansion. Approved by the Israeli authorities in 1999, but halted due the international pressure, the E1 plan would link the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem and create a wider settlement block by connecting it with settlements of Mishor Adumim and Kfar Adumim through a series of roads and housing initiatives.

Today, Ma’ale Adumim houses over 36,000 Israeli settlers. Its Israeli approved municipal boundaries cover 48,000 dunams (48 km2 or 18.53 square miles), all of which are within the internationally recognized 1967 borders of the occupied Palestinian territory. The E1 master plan would allow for Israeli development on 12,000 dunams (12 km2 or 4.63 square miles).

The international pressure may have halted the E1 plan but clearing off the Palestinian population from the E1 area continues. This year 39 homes and livelihood structures were destroyed in demolitions carried out by the Israeli authorities. Selim’s family has had their homes demolished four times during the past two years. The latest demolition took place last month.

“When the soldiers came to destroy our home Selim tried to fight them,” his daughter in law, Salma, says.

“Where are we supposed to go?” he yelled at them.

Now the patriarch looks more docile, relaxing on a mattress with a lit cigarette in one hand while casually caressing some of his grandchildren, who all huddle around him, with the other.

The Israeli authorities have come up with an answer to Selim’s question. In August this year, six municipal plans for as many as 7000 Bedouins to be relocated to planned townships were published. Largest of them is Nuwei’ma, a Palestinian village located just outside Jericho and surrounded by settlements and Israeli military bases. According to the plan three Palestinian Bedouin tribes: Ka’abne, Rasheideh and Jahaleen, Selim’s tribe, will be moved to Nuwei’ma.

Most Bedouins are against the plan. Selim’s son Mohammed is one of them.

“Who will give us money and take care of our livelihoods when we lose the income we produce from our sheep?” he asks.

According to Nuwei’ma plan, the area given for each family would be 500 m2.

“Here we have a lot of space to herd our cattle. There herding will be impossible,” he says.

“Israel must let us stay here or let us go back to Negev, back to where we are from,” Mohammed says.

The township plan also goes against Bedouin cultural customs.

“The Bedouin tribes don’t reside close to one another,” Mohammed explains. “There will be a lot of internal fights if we all will be moved to Nuwei’ma.”

The realization of the township plans would mean putting and end to the traditional Bedouin culture in the Palestinian territories.

If implemented, the six plans plans will lead to a situation of individual and mass forcible transfers. They are prohibited by the 4th  Geneva Convention, regardless of the motive. A violation of this nature may be considered a grave breach of Article 49, giving rise to individual criminal liability and codified as a war crime.

*More photos & stats on the Nuweimah plans.

The double standards of ‘firing zones’ in the West Bank

by Nikki, Yanoun Team

“Why is it a military zone for Palestinians only?” exclaims Ayman Banifadl, Mayor of Aqraba.

He is referring to the ‘closed military zones’ or ‘firing zones’ which the Israeli authorities have assigned to 30% of Area C in the West Bank. These areas are meant to be used for military training exercises and usually have signs prohibiting all access, even though often signs are placed directly in front of already existing Palestinian communities. However, the Yanoun team has recently sighted Israeli settlers alongside the Israeli army during a military training exercise within a ‘firing zone’, indicating the ongoing collaboration occurring between the Israeli army and settlers. This incident also highlights the double standards which are exercised by the Israeli army in relation to who is allowed within these closed military areas.

A typical sign placed in front of a community declaring an area a ‘firing zone’ in the Jordan Valley Photo EAPPI/N. Ray.

A typical sign placed in front of a community declaring an area a ‘firing zone’ in the Jordan Valley Photo EAPPI/N. Ray.

Communities living in areas of the West Bank now considered a ‘firing zone’ by the Israeli authorities face huge threats to their existence. These threats include demolition, displacement, and limited ability to realize their rights to water, adequate shelter, education, health, and livelihood.  Many communities have demolition orders on their structures and frequently Israeli authorities demolish houses & structures.

Nearby to the large village of Aqraba is Tawayel (or, Tell al Khashaba), a small Palestinian herding community located within Area C and within a ‘firing zone’. The very existence of Tawayel has been threatened by the demolition of multiple houses and structures, including the community’s mosque on 29 April 2014. According to Ayman, “in 1976 the Israelis said that all the land from Aqraba [eastwards] to Jordan is a firing zone.” This announcement came despite multiple Palestinian communities living within this area. The reason for declaring the area a ‘firing zone’ seems clear to Ayman: establishment of Israeli settlements. He describes how the settlement of Gittit, to the east of Tawayel, was established. The area was first declared a ‘closed military zone’ and a small army camp was established. A mere 2 years later the camp was disbanded and the land was handed to Israeli settlers who built the Gittit settlement.

“It is clear that these lands are used for economic reasons, not military ones,” Ayman tells us.

10 Israeli settlement outposts have been established and allowed to expand within these ‘firing zones’ in Area C, even though they are illegal under international and Israeli law. Whilst Palestinian communities present before the areas were designated ‘firing zones’, face frequent demolitions and are prevented from building to expand or repair their communities.

 

The remains of the house demolished on 20th August 2014 in Tawayel Photo EAPPI/N. Forsstroem.

The remains of the house demolished on 20 August 2014 in Tawayel
Photo EAPPI/N. Forsstroem.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that the “Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand”. The Israeli army uses the area around Tawayel for military exercises on average once a month. As Ayman stresses, however, “there has been no war in this area since 1967.” The existence of these communities cannot be constituted as an ‘imperative military reason’.

In the case of Tawayel, there are no plans for forced transfer of the community. Instead, the people of Tawayel are being slowly pushed off their land under the auspices of a ‘firing zone’ without anywhere else to go. Ayman believes that the Israeli authority’s policy is to ensure that all remote Palestinian communities are displaced to towns.

If it was not already evident that a ‘firing zone’ only applies to Palestinians and not Israeli settlers, it became clear on 10 September 2014. The EAPPI team in Yanoun was called to Tawayel at 12:30 pm due to sightings of Israeli soldiers near to the village. When we arrived we found a group of 10 soldiers fully armed sitting under a tree sheltering from the midday sun, 100 meters from houses in Tawayel. We stayed in Tawayel to monitor the soldiers’ movements. At 1:30 pm, 3 Israeli army jeeps were sighted at the eastern end of the valley driving towards Tawayel. They had come to drop off more soldiers underneath the trees ready for, what it appeared to be, a training operation on foot.

Following close behind the 3 military jeeps was a civilian jeep. Basem Dili, the Head of Tawayel, identified the driver of the civilian jeep as a settler by the name of Koby. He explains that Koby lives in the settlement of Itamar, near to Yanoun. According to Basem, Koby was the settler who had been in charge of confiscating land around Yanoun to build settlement outposts to expand Itamar. Koby paused to have a conversation with the 2 military jeeps which were stopped by the trees before he continued along the valley. Afterwards the military jeeps returned in the direction they had come from. What was occurring before our eyes was confirmation of the close, collaborative relationship existing between the Israeli army and Israeli settlers.

“No one is making a demolition order for the settlers; [instead] they are building a road for him,” said the Mayor of Aqraba at the most recent house demolition in Tawayel on 20 August 2014, which left 17 people homeless.

‘Firing zones’ in this area are being utilized for settlement expansion towards the Jordan Valley. Like the village of Yanoun, the disappearance of Tawayel would bring the expansion of illegal settlements across the breadth of the West Bank one step closer. It would enable the connection of Itamar to the Jordan Valley settlements. But the people of Tawayel continue to stay strong and remain on their land amidst military training exercises and house demolitions. They have no other choice but to stay, where else would they graze their livestock and earn a living?

*On the morning this article was published, 29 September 2014, Israeli authorities arrived in Tawayel and demolished all the community’s electricity poles.

An innocent oven keeping courts and lawyers busy

A court case over an oven is only one detail in the story of a village under the threat of demolition

by South Hebron Hills team, Group 50

The settlement of Karmel is located right next to the Bedouin village of Um al Kher. Photo EAPPI/ G. Hember.

The settlement of Karmel is located right next to the Bedouin village of Um al Kher. Photo EAPPI/ G. Hember.

We recently visited Um al Kher, a village in the South Hebron Hills, home to 21 Bedouin families, refugees driven away from the Negev after the 1948 war. The head of one family clan greeted us heartily. We were astonished at how close the illegal settlement of Karmel is to these Bedouin tents. The barbwire fence of the settlement is less then 10 meters away.

The contrast is striking! There are nice one-family houses, some of which are not even finished but with gardens and a rather sterile look; these sit behind the barbwire fence and right next to the Bedouin multi-family tents. Sheep, chickens, dogs and some donkeys are in animal shelters nearby the tents or running about freely.

The taboon oven in Um al Kher has a demolition order on it. Photo EAPPI.

The taboon oven in Um al Kher has a demolition order on it. Photo EAPPI.

Our team approached the incriminating oven. It is a wonderful old taboon, the traditional Bedouin mud oven in which they bake their special bread. We are just in time, for as we arrive the bread is ready. And in typical Palestinian style we are given the first warm, freshly baked loaf. Meanwhile, another inhabitant of the community has joined us. Eid, a local artist, told us that the settlers had filed complaints against the oven. Unfortunately, the winds blow the smoke from the oven to the nearest extension of the settlement. But the direction of the winds depends on the season. It is not always blowing towards the settlement. And the baking is only in the morning and evening; however, it seems it was enough to send the settlers to court.

The oven story is only one detail in a long history of injustice. We are in Area C in the West Bank. This area is under total Israeli control. The village of Um al Kher faces restricted access to water and farmland, no public services, restricted freedom of movement, constant military presence and routine harassment from settlers. And besides all of this, there are also demolition orders. Not only is the small oven a target for demolition, but much of the village as well. Bulldozers have shown up several times since 2007. The most recent home demolition was in January of this year, leaving 8 people homeless.

This Bedouin community is comprised of refugees. But they have bought this land and have the papers to prove it. However, this is of no interest to the Israeli authorities. They approved the Karmel settlement in 1981, and since then it has continuously expanded.

We return to the oven and the delicious bread. The Israeli authorities appear to have shown understanding for the alleged unhealthy smoke from the oven. The Civil Administration for the Judea and Samaria Region, Supreme Planning Council, Subcommittee for Supervision issued an order against it. This is the responsible authority for law and order.  The poor oven is a threat to law and order. We wonder if a Palestinian could ever successfully complain against the cruel and unhealthy smell of the numerous factories that have been moved into the West Bank because the emissions were too unhealthy for Israeli citizens.

Shim'a Industrial Complex is built right next to the village of Wedadie. Photo EAPPI.

Shim’a Industrial Complex is built right next to the village of Wedadie. Photo EAPPI.

A couple of days later we visited the village of Wedadie located very near the industrial zone belonging to the Shim’a settlement. Here we were overwhelmed by the smell of a noxious chemical odor that provoked a headache.  Inhabitants of Wedadie have not been able to file a complaint against this enterprise.

These cases are clear examples of human rights violations and the inequality in rights between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. Many rights are given to Israeli settlers who live in the West Bank illegally, yet none are afforded to the local Palestinian population. There will be no equality, no liberty, no fraternity between the two peoples as long as the separation wall, settlements, and daily harassments are ongoing. Peace will continue to be elusive.