Demolished Hope

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By the Yanoun team. 

This is not an earthquake, it’s an apartment demolished at night by the Israeli military. Note the demolition markings in spray paint on the remaining walls.

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02.05.16. Nablus, home demolition in Area A. Photo EAPPI/B. Hellstrom

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‘Where do I go now’? Questions asked in the wake of demolitions

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By the Yanoun team.

March 2nd, 2016: At 6:30 in the morning, fifteen Israeli soldiers and three bulldozers entered THE VILLAGE OF KHIRBET TANA in the east of Palestine. When they left two and a half hours later, most of the village, including the internationally funded school, was left in ruins.

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‘Nowhere else to go’: Bedouin homes demolished in Ein ar Rashash

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TWO WEEKS AGO WE WROTE ABOUT THE  THREAT OF IMMINENT DEMOLITION FACING THE BEDOUIN COMMUNITY LIVING IN EIN AR RASHASH IN SOUTH NABLUS AND CALLED FOR INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY TO PREVENT FORCED DISPLACEMENT OF 112 RESIDENTS. TODAY WE REPORT ON DEMOLITIONS AND THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL’S  DISCRIMINATORY PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION POLICIES IN AREA C.  

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Settler violence and impunity in the West Bank

by the Yanoun team.

On the 31st of July, 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh was burned to death in a fatal arson attack on his family home in the Northern West Bank village of Duma. Israelis from a nearby settlement are believed to be behind the attack which saw two Palestinian homes torched by petrol bombs.  Ali’s parents and 4-year-old brother survived the attack but were taken to the hospital in a critical condition. Sadly on the 8th of August Saad, Ali’s father, died from third degree burns just one week after his son. Two members of the family are still in a critical condition. The family living in the second house were not at home when the attack happened.

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Leaflet dedicated to Ali distributed during funeral ceremony, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Leaflet dedicated to Ali distributed during funeral ceremony, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

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The girl who climbed to the top of the world

The situation at Burin secondary school in the Nablus district is escalating, adversely affecting the students access to education. The presence of Israeli soldiers and settlers often result in clashes with the school boys. Despite all, one girl stands out as an inspiring model with hope for the future.

In Burin, the school begins with the national anthem as in all Palestinian schools. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

In Burin, the school begins with the national anthem as in all Palestinian schools. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

by Taika, Yanoun team

One of the most rewarding and important tasks for Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) is to do “school runs” that enable Palestinian children to arrive safely at school each morning. School runs are a part of an Access to Education initiative supported by UNICEF which aims to guarantee children’s access to education despite the hardships of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. One of the schools we visit weekly is the Burin secondary school. 285 students study here, 25 of them are female.

A provocative presence

In recent weeks the situation between the students and the soldiers outside the school grounds, only some 50 metres away, escalated several times. Israeli soldiers park their jeeps behind the school each day claiming to protect the Israeli settlers using Road 60, about 200 metres away from the school. Settlers from the Yizhar settlement, located on a hill top behind the school, and soldiers often accuse students from Burin of throwing stones at their cars. At times the soldiers get out of their jeep and walk very close to the school yard during the lunch break. Sometimes the head of security of the Yizhar settlement accompanies them.

The Israeli soldiers are often accompanied by the security staff of the close by Yizhar settlement in their white jeeps. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

The Israeli soldiers are often accompanied by the security staff of the close by Yizhar settlement in their white jeeps. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

The presence of the settlers particuarly provokes the students who start shouting and gather at the school fence. Sometimes the boys throw stones, which causes the soldiers to respond with tear gas and sound bombs. Sometimes the soldiers also enter the school yard to intimidate the students, or set up a flying checkpoint just outside the school gate when it’s time for the students to go home. They detain the boys and check their hands in order to find out if they have thrown rocks. They also search their school bags and keep them waiting for long time before they can go home.

“The best way to fight the occupation is to get an education.”

Incidents like this have a huge effect on the education of the students in Burin secondary school. Hyped-up by their encounters with the soldiers, the students are not able to concentrate on their studies in the classroom. Teachers at Burin secondary school tell us it has become increasingly difficult to control the students or to get them to pay attention during the lessons. This particularly affects the boys.

“The boys want to fight the occupation, they want to fight the soldiers”, says Ghassan, a local activist, who graduated from the Burin secondary school some years ago. “They don’t understand that the best way to fight the occupation is to get an education,” he sighs.

She climbed Kilimanjaro

Yasmeen al Najjar is one of the first palestinian women to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. "I can't climb to the hills here in Burin because of the soldiers and the settlers, but I can climb a mountain in Africa," she explains. "It shouldn't be like this." Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

Yasmeen al Najjar is one of the first palestinian women to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. “I can’t climb to the hills here in Burin because of the soldiers and the settlers, but I can climb a mountain in Africa,” she explains. “It shouldn’t be like this.” Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

In the midst of the chaotic everyday life of Burin school, we meet one of the most inspiring people that we have met during our time in Yanoun. 17-year-old Yasmeen Al Najjar, a student, just returned from a trip in Africa. This bright young woman climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in just eight days. A remarkable achievement for anyone, let alone for a young woman who wears a prosthesis on her left leg. Yasmeen took part in an expedition as a member of Palestinian Child Relief, an organization focusing on helping handicapped children in Palestine. Now the whole school looks up to her. We meet her on a morning when she received an award for her remarkable achievement.

When we ask her, what does she think of the soldiers parked outside of her school every day, she emphasizes that all children have the right to study in peace. She feels that the Palestinian students are not in an equal position with their peers in Israel or in other countries.

Israel signed and ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which expects all signatories to “take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict” (Article 38/4). As an occupying power, Israel must guarantee equal educational rights to Palestinian children. 

Despite the harsh reality in Burin school and the students’s deteriorating chances to focus on their studies, Yasmeen is confident when we ask what she aspires to do in the future. She wants to study abroad and become a medical engineer who develops better prosthesis for children who are born without a limb or have lost one in an accident. When we tell her how much we admire her courage to climb to Kilimanjaro, she responds with a warm smile and reassurance: “You can also do it.”

How will children grow up when violence is an ever-present reality?

An EA reflects on the affect on children from the non-violent protest of Kafr Qaddum, which frequently becomes violent – the Israeli army shoots tear gas and sound bombs at the protestors; protestors throw stones and burn tires.

by Julia, Tulkarm team

Tear gas surrounds the houses of Kafr Qaddum as the Israeli army often shoots towards the houses. Photo EAPPI/M. Soderstrom.

Tear gas surrounds the houses of Kafr Qaddum as the Israeli army often shoots towards the houses. Photo EAPPI/M. Soderstrom.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine affects Palestinian society on many levels. In the village of Kafr Qaddum, it is impossible not to be involved in some way. The village is known for hosting Palestine’s largest weekly demonstration and the whole village seems to be involved in the protest, in one way or another.

Why do the people of Kafr Qaddum demonstrate?

To understand why the demonstration takes place one has to know what lies in the surrounding area. Kafr Qaddum is located 15 km from the city of Nablus, where many of the inhabitants from the village work or study. Walking distance from the village lies the Israeli settlement Kedumin. On the webpage of Kedumin, one can read that the settlement hosts a high school specialized in boys with ADHD problems, a music academy and several women’s clubs. The settlement is expanding and currently there are 700 housing units under construction.

Kedumin’s homepage, however, does not mention that the Israeli military has blocked the road between Kafr Qaddum and Nablus in order to protect the settlers.  The roadblock forces Kafr Qaddum residents to take a detour and drive an additional 15 km in order to get to Nablus. Moreover, it does not mention that the settlement, through its mere existence, violates international humanitarian law, as the settlement is built on occupied Palestinian territory.

The role of children

The Israeli military is waiting as the residents of Kafr Qaddum approach the road block non-violently. Photo EAPPI/I. Lindwall.

The Israeli military is waiting as the residents of Kafr Qaddum approach the road block non-violently. Photo EAPPI/I. Lindwall.

The Kafr Qaddum demonstration takes place every Friday, after prayers. According to its organizer, Murad, it aims to lift the road block to Nablus and prevent the settlement from expanding. The demonstration strives to be nonviolent. “That’s why we let our children participate,” states Murad. Despite this, the demonstration tends to become very violent – tear gas and sound bombs are shot at the protestors, stones are thrown by the protesters, tires are burnt, and people are arrested.

“Last Friday was like a war,” says Buker, one of the sons in the family whose house is the closest to the settlement. He tells us that the feathers of the family’s geese have turned black because of the smoke resulting from the protests every Friday.  Sometimes his family is too afraid to stay in the house when the demonstration is about to take place. They fear not only the tear gas, but that their house will be occupied by the Israeli army (which has happened on several occasions in the past). I asked Murad if the purpose of the demonstration can get lost amidst the tear gas. He answers that this is not the case: “The whole village is proud of our resistance”.

“I wasn’t afraid when the Israeli army detained me”

On Friday, 16 November 2013, four boys aged 8-10 years-old were playing outside one of the houses closest to the settlement. It was around 9.30 am, three hours before the demonstration would start. Different people have different versions about what happened that day, but it seems clear that the children were detained and handcuffed for one hour by the Israeli military and asked whether they would be participating in the demonstration.  During this detention, a neighbour heard the children cry and tried unsuccessfully to convince the soldiers to release the children. The neighbour then called the Palestinian authorities, and after negotiations with Israeli authorities the children were released.

The demonstration that followed was very violent, even by Kafr Qaddum standards. About 14 people were injured and arrested.The Mayor of Kafr Qaddum stated that hundreds of tear gas canisters were found on the ground after everything ended. Several people from the village speculated that the demonstration was unusually violent since it coincided with Palestine’s national day.

In June 2013, the Israeli army shot a tear gas canistar into a Palestinian house in Kafr Qaddum with 6 children. Photo EAPPI/B. Myszkowski.

In June 2013, the Israeli army shot a tear gas canistar into a Palestinian house in Kafr Qaddum with 6 children. Photo EAPPI/B. Myszkowski.

A few days after the demonstration took place I had the chance to speak with one of the boys that was detained. Hussam, 8 years-old, said that he wasn’t afraid during the detention. He did not have any problems sleeping afterwards, so why would he be afraid? Yes, he and his friends discussed the detention in school but none of the boys admitted that they were scared. He then showed the bruises on his arm that he claimed was a result of one of the soldiers grabbing him. When I asked how it felt to talk about what happened, he replied, “I am proud”. As a response to this, one of the men in the room gave him a manly pat on the back and laughed. I felt that I had to look away, close my eyes and take a deep breath to try and have a neutral reaction.

Resistance, but a what cost?

I reflect on the negative aspects this culture of masculinity fostered by the occupation, where violence is constantly present. I think about how this eight year old boy is being introduced into a romance of violence that he may be too young to fully understand. How Hussam, despite his young age, is now ‘one of the guys’ and what he has been through might be the first of many detentions and violations of human rights that he will experience. I think about the attention this boy received as a consequence of being detained, attention received even from people like myself. This may have been the first time he has spoken to a foreigner. Probably is.

I also consider the alternatives that the people of Kafr Qaddum have. They want to express their discontent; they want to prevent further expansion of the settlement, they want to change their situation. As the settlements are already considered legal by the occupying power, the legal system seems to offer little help. Every Friday the people of Kafr Qaddum show their resistance. But at what cost? Alternatively, what is the price of refraining from demonstrating? If you live in Kafr Qaddum you cannot choose to ignore the politics surrounding you. Most Palestinians do not have that luxury: they are drenched in the politics of the occupation.