Our top 10 posts from 2015

Happy New Year to all! We want to say thank you to all our followers for reading our blogs and to all our Ecumenical Accompaniers for their eyewitness stories. We are encouraged by your interest and pray that 2016 will be a year of renewed hope for a just peace.

2015 was a challenging year in which occupation related human rights violations continued throughout the West Bank. August registered the highest number of structures demolished by the Israeli authorities in a single month in five years (since July 2010), settlement expansion was ongoing in Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and construction of the separation barrier resumed in Bethlehem. In addition, the escalation of violence that began in mid October led to a tragic loss of life in both Israel and Palestine. Here we shed light on some of the injustices that occurred in our 10 most viewed posts from 2015.

1. Uprooted lives: Christians protest the construction of the wall in the Cremisan

06.09.15 Bir Ouna land owner in front of Israeli soldiers during Sunday demonstration Photo EAPPI/T. Finstad

06.09.15 Bir Ouna land owner in front of Israeli soldiers during Sunday demonstration. Photo EAPPI/T. Finstad

On August 17, Israeli soldiers and security personnel supervised the the bulldozing of land and the uprooting of over 100 ancient olive trees in the Bir Ouna. The land is being cleared to facilitate the routing of the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. Local Christians have been gathering daily at the site of the bulldozing to protest the illegal confiscation of their land and to pray for the protection of the Cremisan Valley.

Continue reading

Displacement: a daily reality in East Jerusalem

by Nancy and Malin from the Jerusalem team, 

Moving to a new place may sound exotic… unless one is forced to move. We have had the opportunity to visit several families who have experienced or are facing such a threat. Displacement is the name given to such an action and it violates several recognized human rights, such as the rights to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement. [1]

For Bedouin families in Palestine displacement is a reality. In Al Eizariya, in East Jerusalem, we met Maryam, her sister and her four nieces. When Maryam was twelve they were forcibly moved to this permanent residence. Some of the women in the community attend university but the men find it difficult as it is not a part of their tradition. Having left behind the tending of animals and land, some men now work as cleaners in the nearby Israeli settlements. It is, however, a difficult life. Maryam offered tea while we planned future visits. As we left, the girls were eager to take photos with our cameras. They looked like budding journalists as they told us where to stand and they giggled loudly when they reviewed the photos they had taken on the phones and digital cameras.

21.12.15. Al Ezariyah, EAs from groups 58 and 59 with Bedouin children. Photo EAPPI/M. Carvalho

21.12.15. East Jerusalem Al Ezariyah, EAs from groups 58 and 59 with Bedouin children. Photo EAPPI/M. Carvalho

Continue reading

Uprooted lives: Christians protest the construction of the wall in the Cremisan

By the Bethlehem team.

On August 17 Israeli soldiers and security personnel supervised the the bulldozing of land and the uprooting of over 100 ancient olive trees in the Bir Ouma. Many of the trees that were uprooted were as old as 1500 years old. The land is being cleared to facilitate the routing of the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. The planned route for the wall is three kilometers inside the 1949 Armistice ‘green line’ and is set to be built on privately owned Palestinian land in Beit Jala.The clearing of the land is taking place despite a previous court ruling and without any warning being given to the local landowners. Local Christians have been gathering daily at the site of the bulldozing to protest the illegal confiscation of their land and to pray for the protection of the Cremisan Valley.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Wait for the Bulldozers or Demolish it Yourself?

Self-demolition is an increasing trend in East Jerusalem. This phenomena receives little international attention as it is difficult to track, both in numbers of those affected and its psychological impact.

by Emmi & Zoë, Jerusalem team

The Haq family needed to wait for the authorities to verify the demolition before cleaning up the rubble. This took one month. Photo EAPPI/M. Kjellstrom.

The remains of the Haq children’s bedrooms. The family needed to wait for the authorities to verify the demolition before cleaning up the rubble. This took one month. Photo EAPPI/M. Kjellstrom.

One and a half rooms is what is left of the Haq family’s house in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. For the family of seven, this means living shoulder to shoulder.

“It is especially difficult for the older children to share,” Huda Haq, the mother, regrets.

In addition to an 18-year old son and a 16-year old daughter, she has boys aged 12 and 9 and a baby girl aged 4. Since three months ago, all of the children have been living in one room.

Last October, Ameen Abdel Haq was forced to demolish half of his house, an extension that the growing family built in 2009 . The court ordered the two rooms to be demolished because they were built without a permit. To avoid the demolition fine, a minimum of 20,000 NIS, the family was forced to deconstruct two rooms which were used as the children’s bedrooms.  

The 5 children of the Haq family all sleep in one room now. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

The 5 children of the Haq family all sleep in one room now. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

For Palestinians living in East Jerusalem it is next to impossible to acquire a building permit. The same goes for other Palestinian areas under full control of Israel, namely Area C in the West Bank. According to an Israeli peace group ICAHD, more than 94% of all Palestinian permit applications have been rejected in recent years.

“In most countries, you need a permit to build because the local municipality needs to make sure that your plans match up with theirs,” says Ruth Edmonds from ICAHD. “The problem is that in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem there is no development planning in place.”

Waiting forever for a permit is not an option with an ever-growing population, so people build without them.

Israel frequently demolishes Palestinian homes. Last year, the United Nations reported the demolition of 406 structures in the West Bank and 48 in East Jerusalem.

The number of self-demolitions is a figure that is more difficult to track. There is no comprehensive information on self-demolition in official government data, which makes international attention more difficult to foster. However, according to ICAHD the self-demolition of personal property is an increasing trend.

Two of the major reasons that families self-demolish are to avoid unnecessary attention and to dodge high demolition fines, Ruth Edmonds says.

According to ICAHD, some families also self-demolish in order to avoid the psychological burden, particularly for children, of waiting for a bulldozer to show up at their door.

Farah, 4, and Mu’nes, 9, in their now demolished bedroom. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

Farah, 4, and Mu’nes, 9, in their now demolished bedroom. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

The Haq family in Ras al-Amud was given one month to demolish the newer part of their home.

“We discussed the reasons with the children why we need to do this. I think it made it easier for them to accept the situation. They have not been angry,” Huda Haq explains.

The family undertook the demolition together.

“It took three to four months to build the rooms, demolishing them only two days,” the mother sighs.

The oldest son of the family, Mohamed Haq, describes the mentality needed to carry on under the adversity caused by the occupation.

“If you want to be able to live in this country, you have to feel nothing.”

 *Learn more about the people affected by Demolitions & Evictions.

Closure of Al Aqsa Mosque limits Access to Worship & Education

by Debbie & Nkosi, Jerusalem team

EA outside Old City of Jerusalem

An EA stands outside the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI/D. Hubbard.

Why should we not be able to pray?

This is the question asked of us by Zarifa Ibrahim, a Muslim woman who is standing with other women outside Bab Hutta (the gate leading to a Muslim neighborhood bordering the Al Aqsa mosque compound) on November 5. She along with all other Muslims, including the students from the schools are locked out of the Al Aqsa mosque compound

Zarifa at Bab Hutta in Old City Jerusalem

Zarifa waits to enter Al Aqsa mosque compound. Photo EAPPI.

The Al Aqsa mosque compound, which lies in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem is the third most Holy site in the world for Muslims . It is has been a site that has seen much conflict over who should have access.

Each morning as the EAPPI Jerusalem Team, we monitor access to worship at the gates to the Mosque to see which gates are open and to which people. On October 30, Israeli security forces completely closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem. It was the first time in more than a decade that Al-Aqsa was closed to this extent.

Since the October 30th closure, all women and men under 50 have had reduced or no access to the mosque. Needless to say the increased restrictions to the Al Aqsa have also resulted in increased clashes between Israeli Security Forces and Palestinians both in the Old City and several neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. To those of us monitoring the situation, Jerusalem is not the city of peace that we had imagined in our minds.

The clashes have also been fueled by the discussion in the Israeli parliament about dividing Al Aqsa mosque both in terms of the physical space and the hours of prayer for the two groups. Moreover, it seems to us, that the clashes are a chain reaction to all the restrictions and denial of basic human rights that Palestinians living in Jerusalem experience on a daily basis.

Mousa Hijazi, is an engineer who works inside the compound each day. Like the others, he is waiting to be let in and says to us:

“All of the time the European people say they want a democracy but where is the democracy here. Why aren’t they asking for a democracy here?”

President Mahmoud Abbas, in a speech to mark the 10th Anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, noted that the closure of the Al Aqsa is tantamount to a ‘declaration of war,’ which is turning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict into a religious war, rather than a political war.

On November 5, girls going to Al Sharim Sharif girls school are waiting to access the Al Aqsa mosque compound for the school day. Photo EAPPI/D. Hubbard.

On November 5, girls going to Al Sharim Sharif girls school are waiting to access the Al Aqsa mosque compound for the school day. Photo EAPPI/D. Hubbard.

When the Al Aqsa mosque is closed, it not only denies Muslims access to prayer in their place of worship but also denies children access to education. The Al Aqsa mosque does not only serve religious purposes, but inside the mosque there are two schools; one for boys and another for girls. So these frequent closures affect the students at these schools, along with Muslim worshipers.

“This is our Holy place where we pray. I don’t understand why they closing us out. What is a man without God?”

Says another man who has been waiting for two hours for the soldiers to grant access to the Mosque.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (ICCPR), Article 18, states:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

This right to worship individually or in community on a daily basis at the Al Aqsa mosque remains a dream for many Palestinians. Physical barriers, ID checks checks, soldiers saying, ‘not until 10:00’ prevent them entering for prayers and schools.

*Read our previous post about Who is allowed on the Al Aqsa mosque compound

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.