Our Top 10 Posts from 2014

Happy New Year to all! We want to say thank you to all you follow our blog and read our posts. It’s you who help us get the word out about the injustices happening in Palestine and Israel.

The year 2014 was a difficult year with the assault on Gaza, the kidnapping of 3 Israeli teens, the closures & raids that occurred across the West Bank in the search for the teens. It was also a 6 year high for displacement from demolitions and human rights violations continued throughout the West Bank.  Here we shed light on the injustices that occurred and the faces of hope & perseverance through it all in 10 most viewed posts from 2014.

10. Final destination

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.

Israeli authorities announced plans, Nuwei’ma plans, to forcibly transfer over 7,000 Bedouin from the Jerusalem periphery/E1 area and Jordan Valley. Bedouin who have already become refugees twice, face imminent displacement again and the loss of their traditional way of life. Demolitions of homes and property are the immediate result of these plans and affect families such as Selim’s.

9. Responding to tragedy with smiles and sweet tea

The Daraghmi family after their home was demolished. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

The Daraghmi family after their home was demolished. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

Demolitions are a common occurrence in the Jordan Valley. Some homes & villages have been demolished many times. In January 2014, EAs went to the home of Nimer Hassan Hussein Daraghmi in Al Farisiya only 3 hours after his home was demolished. They found that in the face of tragedy & disaster, this family showed remarkable hospitality.

8. Humanitarian Situation Deteriorates at Bethlehem Checkpoint 300

Checkpoint 300. Photo EAPPI/S. Amrad.

Checkpoint 300. Photo EAPPI/S. Amrad.

Between 4,000 to 6,000 Palestinian workers cross the Bethlehem Checkpoint everyday on their way to work inside Israel. The overcrowding at this checkpoint is dangerous and raises serious humanitarian concerns. In May 2014, the situation deteriorated severely. Check out the fact sheet we created about it.  Although it’s from May 2014, it is not far off from the everyday reality of Checkpoint 300 and is still relevant today.

7. Archaeological excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron expand and destroy more Palestinian land

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

In February 2014, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) significantly expanded excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. We gave an update in June 2014 and showed how individual Palestinian families and their land are being affected. Excavations continue today.

6. Palestinian Christians find hope in Pope Francis’ visit

C. Holtan Pope Francis by the Wall in Bethlehem 250514

Pope Francis visited the Holy Land in May 2014.  With his stop at the Separation Wall he did not just leave an iconic photo for the media, but also gave a feeling of hope for Palestinian Christians that worldwide Christians recognized the injustices in the Holy Land.

5. The tribulations of Khaled Al Najar

EAs inspect the damage to Khaled's wheat harvest. Photo EAPPI/H. Tyssen.

EAs inspect the damage to Khaled’s wheat harvest. Photo EAPPI/H. Tyssen.

Khaled Al Najar from the South Hebron Hills has faced numerous trials and tribulations over the years due to the Israeli occupation and settler violence.  From burned crops and livelihood to being shot in his stomach to long drawn out court cases, an EA captured his heart wrenching story.

4. “I teach all the children at the school to keep their dignity.” ~Samia, Teacher, Cordoba School

T.FJeldmann_TeacherSamiaAlJaberi_CP56_Hebron010914_2

As part of our 2014 Back to School series, we interviewed students & teachers about their challenges of going to school under military occupation and also their hopes & dreams that persist despite these obstacles.  Samia, a teacher in Hebron, shared some inspiring words.

3.Access to water in the Jordan Valley

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.

In 2014, we started a new placement in the Jordan Valley.  Our first team of EAs there took on the big task of raising awareness and advocating for issues in this contentious valley. In this article, they shed light on the injustices of water distribution. Although water is an issue all over Palestine, inequality is the worst in the Dead Sea area of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli settlers receive 10 times more water than West Bank Palestinians.

2. Houses, oranges, checkpoints, guns – kids draw life in Palestine

Sadee's drawing

When I saw Sadee’s drawing I asked her if the person inside the house was holding a plate of food. She told me that it wasn’t a house, it was a checkpoint, and that the person was a soldier holding a gun. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

Art is a powerful tool for self expression.  Two EAs asked kids in Azzun Atma to draw their life in Palestine. What they got were powerful reflections from 7 and 8 year olds of living and going to school under military occupation.

1. The Tent of Nations – a nonviolent conviction to resist injustice and build hope for peace

Esther Goebel - Daher Nassar - Tent of Nations - Nassar on his farm, Jewish settlements in the background

The Tent of Nations, located just outside, faces constant threat of harrassment land confiscation from Israeli authorities and Israeli settlers. Yet, Daher Nassar refuses to give and is an inspiring example of peace and nonviolence. We wrote this article about him in February before 800 of the family’s trees were uprooted in May. This calamity did not deter him, however, and he continues to plant trees as a sign of hope.

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.”

European-Funded Structures demolished in Tawayel in the Jordan Valley

by Becky, Yanoun Team

“We condemn such a demolition and I have asked the Israeli ambassador in Brussels to meet me at my department. First of all to convey my condemnation to the ambassador, but also to request compensation for the damage caused.”

Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, 2 October 2014

In October this year, the tiny village of Tawayel in the West Bank became national news in Belgium. On 29 September, the Israeli Military destroyed a power network which provides the small shepherding community in Tawayel (Tell al Khashaba) with electricity. The network was funded by the Belgian government and implemented by the Belgian Technical Company (BTC). The deliberate Israeli military demolition of 70 electric pylons and 4.5 kilometres of cables caught on camera by the EAPPI team from Yanoun sparked outrage in Brussels.

Demolition of Belgian-funded electric pylon in Tawayel on September 29. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjøllesdal.

Israeli authorities demolish an electric pylon in Tawayel which was funded by the Belgian government, 29 September 2014. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjøllesdal.

The destruction of the Belgian electricity network in Tawayel itself is not unique. Last week, the EAPPI team based in Yanoun arrived in Tawayel to witness the Israeli military in the process of destroying several water pipes funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). However, the strong condemnation of the demolitions expressed by the Belgian government is a positive step forward, as many demolitions go unchallenged by European funders.

An EA, Ghassan, our driver/interpreter and a villager from Tawayel walk away from a water pipe damaged by the Israeli military on 2 November 2014. Photo EAPPI/A. Tesche.

An EA, Ghassan, our driver/interpreter and a villager from Tawayel walk away from a water pipe damaged by the Israeli military on 2 November 2014. Photo EAPPI/A. Tesche.

The financial and human cost of demolitions

The European Union (EU) is amongst the largest donors in the Palestinian water and agricultural sectors. The EU and its member states help to fund water and sanitation infrastructure, electricity networks and roads in the West Bank, particularly in Area C. From 2002 to 2012, the Israeli military destroyed 82 projects with a total financial loss of €49.15 million. Since 2012, many more projects have been damaged by the Israeli military. Despite the financial cost to the European Union and its member states, few funders have objected to the demolitions or demanded compensation.

In addition to the financial losses, every demolition has a human cost for the Palestinians living in affected areas. Tawayel is a shepherding community, dependent on electricity to store their milk, cheese and yoghurt products. Although the electrical network has been partially restored, the damage to the electricity pylons could have a negative impact on the livelihood of shepherds such as Osama Beni Fadil, who has nine children to support. Living with the reality of demolition can be extremely demoralising.

“Nobody cares about us here, because we are not in Jerusalem,” Osama told EAPPI on 2 November after the demolitions of the water pipes, roads and one of his buildings.

The daughter of shepherd Osama Beni Fadil sitting with the family flock. Villagers in Tawayel are dependent on livestock produce for their income, which requires electricity for refrigeration. Photo EAPPI/ A. Tesche.

The daughter of shepherd Osama Beni Fadil sitting with the family flock. Villagers in Tawayel are dependent on livestock produce for their income, which requires electricity for refrigeration. Photo EAPPI/ A. Tesche.

Are the demolitions legal?

International Humanitarian Law applies to the whole of the West Bank, including villages such as Tawayel which are in Area C. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that destruction of personal property belonging to ‘public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations’ is prohibited unless ‘absolutely necessary by military operations’. The destruction of water projects violates the human right to access clean and adequate water which is enshrined in multiple international laws. The demolition of water pipes and roads in Tawayel are also illegal under Israeli law, as according to locals they had not been issued with demolition orders.

Israeli Military illegally demolish European Commission funded water pipes in Tawayel, West Bank. Video EAPPI/R. Viney-Wood.

Ongoing demolitions: Time for Europe to act

The destruction of the electrical network in Tawayel is not the first demolition of a European funded structure in the West Bank, and it is unlikely to be the last. In the case of Belgium, the electricity network is the first project they have funded to be demolished in the West Bank. Although the project had an outstanding demolition order on it from 2008 which was re-issued in March this year, the Belgian government had made the ‘utmost diplomatic efforts’ to prevent the destruction. The disregard of these efforts by the Israeli military combined with public pressure following images of the destruction in Belgian media led the government to condemn the destruction.

The Belgian Foreign Minister Reynders stated:

“We need to have an EU initiative, because this not only concerns Belgian projects, but also projects of several other countries, I believe, and definitely European Commission projects.”

Reynders added that Belgium intends to discuss the matter of compensation with other European states at the EU level. Since the Belgian condemnation of the demolitions the Israeli military have not touched the electric pylons in Tawayel, which have been partially restored. It is imperative that European funders object to Israeli military demolitions of their projects, on legal and financial grounds. It is also important for European funders to condemn the human costs of demolitions which affect every day life in villages such as Tawayel.

*Read more about the multiple demolitions Tawayel has faced in the past year.

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 only thing we have is education.” ~Nawal, headmistress of Al Jiftlik Secondary School

IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW.  BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION.  WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS.

Nawal Kanori, headmistress of the Coed secondary school in Al Jiftlik, Jordan Valley.  Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Nawal Kanori, headmistress of the Coed secondary school in Al Jiftlik, Jordan Valley. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I am looking forward to working hard with new graduate students to give them opportunities. 3 days ago I met with 36 girls and asked them, what do you want, how can we improve the situation with education. I am committed to improving the education here, you see the only thing we have is education. It is the most important thing to lead us to a better future. I am looking for good chances for the graduates. I want scholarships for my excellent students. I want to connect them to the outside world.

What are your biggest challenges in the children going to school?

The main road in Jiftlik is always full of soldiers, we have Israeli settlements all around. Jiftlik is a very wide area, many students come by foot or by bicycle. I always feel afraid about them. There are often road accidents because the army and settler cars drive really fast. The soldiers sometimes stop the children, on the road and on the bus. They have tried to take children off the bus because they say that they throw stones. But I am the first one here every morning, I see everything, and none of the children at my school throw stones. We are peaceful in Jiftlik. Once we were coming back from a school trip through Hamra checkpoint, the soldiers stopped the bus for 3 hours because they said to the children ‘why are you laughing at me?’ I told him they were not laughing at him, they were joking and singing because they were happy at going on a school trip. But he held us for a long time and it made me nervous. Even children are expected to suppress their feelings under the occupation.

What is needed for education in Palestine to thrive?

I have three graduates studying science and engineering at university abroad, it was before we had a building and the school was in a tent. Their classmates in Canada, Norway and the US ask them, ‘how do you get better grades than me when you went to a tent school?’ They work very hard, it makes me proud. However, many schools suffer from students who are clever and want to travel to study abroad, but the Israelis have forbidden them from travelling. We want the outside world to be open to us, to share experiences and ideas. We don’t have planes and bombs, we are peaceful people. The only thing we have is education. We want to walk side by side with this changing world, not to be cut off. Everything will be easier if the occupation will end.

As teachers we want to give our students the best. For example the primary school here has 900 students and there are many duties on the teachers and headmaster. If I want to build a school so that there are fewer children in the classes, say 450 for each school, in order to give a better education. If I want to do this, I will have a block: the occupation. I have to consider renting our own village’s land from the Israelis who took it from us, just imagine! And then I will have 5 or 6 years of struggle to try get permission from the Israelis to let me build. It was back in 2005 when I started thinking about building a secondary school for Al Jiftlik, I thought man has gone to the moon yet we have no school. I have been a teacher since 1999. It is not complicated to run a school if there is no occupation.

*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
*Share the series on facebook with your friends.
*Check out last year’s photo essay: Visualizing Back to School in Palestine.

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 territoriesthe Israeli settlers in the northern Dead Sea area of the Jordan Valley are allocated 10 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 previous version of this post stated that Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area are allocated 75 times more water than the average West Bank Palestinian.  Israeli settlers in the northern Dead Sea area are allocated 727 litres per day and the average West Bank Palestinian consumes 73 litres per day.  We have now changed the statistic to 10 times more water, which is a more accurate reflection of the statistics.

 

The Jordan Valley – The Strategy behind Demolitions and Displacement

Two villages were almost completely demolished.  These are only two of many villages facing demolition and a strategy of forced displacement in the Jordan Valley.

by Sarah, Yanoun team

Fadia demonstrating outside of the UNOCHA building in Ramallah. Photo EAPPI/S. Spiller.

Fadia addresses the protesters and journalists to tell her story of displacement. Photo EAPPI/S. Spiller.

Fadia is angry. Today, she came from Fasayel to Ramallah with many other villagers from the Jordan Valley to protest in front of the UNOCHA building to say. The Jordan Valley needs international attention. The Jordan Valley needs international support.

Since the failure of the peace negotiations and the decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice to include the Palestinians in the planning procedures in Area C, we have recorded an increased number of house demolitions all across the West Bank. We witnessed the ongoing harassment of two villages after they were almost completely demolished.

At-Tawayel: where to learn Sumud

140429_At-Twayel_ongoing house demolitions

Bulldozers pull down dwellings in At-Tawayel. Photo EAPPI/S. Spiller.

Sumud is the Arabic word meaning steadfastness or perseverance. The inhabitants of At-Tawayel / Tell Al-Khashaba embody Sumud.

In this village, five dwellings, a mosque and four animal shelters were demolished on the 29 April 2014. 300 troops and four bulldozers were deployed in order to leave 27 people, including 19 children under 17, without shelter. The tents the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) provided on the same day were confiscated less than 2 weeks later on the 12 May 2014, when Israeli forces destroyed the three new built houses. The PRCS provided new tents, but the Israeli Civil Administration sent some representatives on the 18 May in order to take the tents away again, as well as the concrete mixer the villagers used for the renovation of the old buildings.

The people in At-Tawayel tell us that they have lived here for generations, and collapsed stone walls show a long history in this village.

A villager tells the EAs:

“We will die here in our right” emphasizing their determination not to abandon their land.

“We breed sheep, this is our main income.” he continues, “we cannot breed sheep in Aqraba [the nearby town]; there is no land for this there. All people here want to stay.”

Another essential aspect contributing to this Sumud is the solidarity At-Tawayel experiences from the inhabitants of the region. The people in Aqraba managed to raise about 320,000 Shekel to support the village and rebuild dwellings.

Abu Al-Ajaj: will despair finally get the upper hand?

On 21 May 2014, we received an emergency call came from Al-Jiftlik Abu Al-Ajaj, where Israeli authorities demolished 36 structures, leaving 52 people, of which 28 children, homeless as well as 4000 sheep and 15 calves without shelter. Another 12 people, including 3 children, where affected.

The farmers explain to the team that they had come from Hebron to live here in the 1970s.

We are peaceful people”, they say, “we breed sheep, this is our income.” Facing the disaster, Usama, one of the displaced people exclaims: “This area is not demolished; it is an earthquake of the democratic state [of Israel]!”.

Unlike in At-Twayel, the villagers in Abu Al-Ajaj still seem under shock when the team visits them some days later. They seem not to find the energy to stand up to the violence anymore. An old man continues to ask what to do: leave or stay?

On call for UNOCHA, the EAs visit Abu Al-Ajaj on a daily basis for a week and witness great fear of further demolitions among the villagers. This fear also prevents them even to set up some improvised shelter. In May, the temperatures rise already much in the Jordan Valley, and neighbouring villages provide water tanks. Unfortunately, the water is not enough to cover also the animals’ needs; lambs and goatkids die under the burning sun and the eyes of helpless locals and internationals.

Eviction Strategy in Area C

The affected and threatened villages are all situated in Area C, which is under complete control of the Israeli authorities and covers about 60% of the West Bank. The demolitions are often justified because they affect so called “illegal constructions”, though, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli authorities rejected the vast majority of applications for building permits in Area C submitted by Palestinians: “From 2009 through 2012, a total of 1,640 applications were submitted. Only 37 – a mere 2.3% – were approved”; which means that the Palestinians living in Area C have almost no possibilities to build housing and animal shelters legally.

An emergency tent shelter provided by PRCS. Even these are being destroyed and confiscated by Israeli authorities. Photo EAPPI/S. Spiller.

An emergency tent shelter provided by PRCS. Even these are being destroyed and confiscated by Israeli authorities. Photo EAPPI/S. Spiller.

In his article published on the 20 May 2014 in the Wall Street Journal, the Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennet reveals the strategy behind this intended impediment of expansion of the Palestinian population:

Annexing Area C would limit conflict by reducing the size of the territory in dispute, which would make it easier to one day reach a long-term peace agreement.

Col. Einav Shalev, operations officer of Central Command and a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reportedly explained how this was to be done:

Military training in live-fire zones in the West Bank is used as a way of reducing the number of Palestinians living nearby, and serves as an important part of the campaign against Palestinian illegal construction.

Thus it becomes obvious that the recorded demolitions are part of a whole strategy aiming at the eviction of the Palestinian population from Area C.

A System Working Against International Humanitarian Law

At-Twayel and Abu Al-Ajaj are only 2 examples among many communities which have faced repeated demolitions in the Jordan Valley. But Palestinians do not surrender quite easily. The farmers and shepherds of the region have decided to join forces in order to organise their peaceful resistance.

This is why Fadia and the others have come to Ramallah today. They want international attention. They want their story to be spread in the hope that this will help to prevent further displacements. They hope that international political pressure will help push the Israeli government to change its politics and to respect international law.

Article 49 of the Geneva Convention states “(…) 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.” And requires that “The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition (…).”

Fadia, Abu Sakr, Usama and the other villagers are obviously victims of abusive transfers. The “illegality” of the buildings can hardly been considered as a security threat and there is no identifiable imperative military reason for the demolitions. Further, not only the authorities fail to provide the inhabitants of the demolished buildings proper accommodation, but they even confiscate the emergency shelters provided by the Red Crescent. Fadia has quite enough reasons to be angry.