South Susiya: before and after the demolition

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by EA Siphiwe, South Hebron Hills team.

Three weeks ago, EAs visited a village called Wadi J’Hesh which is also know as south Susiya, in the Hebron governorate. This village is located between the Palestinian village of Susiya and the illegal Israeli settlement Susya. During the visit we learned that, thanks to the intervention of local and international humanitarian NGOs, living conditions have been improving for residents. Wadi J’Hesh now has access to clean, safe drinking water and electricity. Despite these small improvements in living standards, the Israeli authorities have not yet recognised their village and the community still lives with the constant threat of demolition. At the time of our visit forty three structures in the village had pending demolition orders. Although they await a major court case on the 1st of August that will decide the fate of these structures, they know that demolitions can happen at any time. Continue reading

A success story: against all the odds

by the Jordan Valley team

Nai’me shows us the water pool her family has built with the aid from a local organisation. She explains to us how this pool has enabled her family to harvest rainwater and use it to irrigate their farms. She smiles shyly and adds:

“Our produce has increased so much that we now can afford to send our eldest daughter to university in Jericho”  Nai’me 2015

Nai'mes agricultural water pool, Jordan Valley Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

Nai’mes agricultural water pool, Jordan Valley Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

Nai’me and her family live in a small village north of Jericho, situated in Area C. In Area C, Israeli authorities control everything pertaining to building and development. If you want to build a house, drill a well or pave a road, you need a permit; something that Nai’me and her family do not have. In fact, they did not even try to ask for one, since Israeli authorities are not in the habit of granting permits to Palestinians. Nai’me and her family decided to build anyway as a way of resisting the occupation.

Between 2000 and 2007, 94% of all Palestinian applications for building permits were denied, according to UN OCHA.

EAs Peter and Pia overlooking the Palestinian village of Marj e-Ghazal in the Jordan Valley.Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

EAs Peter and Pia visit Palestinian villages in Area C Jordan Valley Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

In the Jordan Valley Israel’s military occupation is characterised by bureaucratic and physical restrictions for Palestinians. Nai’me and her family are not the only ones whose buildings are deemed illegal. While she and her family lack permission from the Israeli authorities, the Israeli settlements are expanding, in violation of International Humanitarian Law.

Settlements are heavily subsidised by the Israeli authorities and land is allocated to them through a complex and overlapping system of zoning.

Argaman settlement, established in 1968 in the Jordan Valley. Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

Argaman settlement, established in 1968 in the Jordan Valley. Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

The zoning of the occupied West Bank into Areas A, B and C determine which authority, Palestinian or Israeli, is responsible for the inhabitants. Area C is divided into several sub-categories which have severely hindered the natural growth and development of Palestinian towns and cities. In the Jordan Valley for example the Israeli authorities have re-zoned most of the land as either state land, closed firing zones or nature reserve.

Significantly, while only 6% of the Jordan Valley is available for Palestinian development a total of 86 % falls under the jurisdiction of the municipal and regional councils of the settlements. This facilitates the development of settlements well beyond the 12 % of land they cultivate today.

A success story: against all odds? Nai’me knows they run the risk of having their water pool demolished by Israeli authorities. If this happens, her husband might have to go back to working in the settlement farm bordering their village. But Nai’me hopes that they will get to keep their water pool for a couple of years and that her eldest daughter will have time to finish her degree.

Read more eye witness accounts from the Jordan Valley; Area Cdemolitions, water 

Learn more about this issues from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions  ICHAD 

 

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for Shuhada Street

This is part 3 in a 3-part series on the closure of Shuhada street and its impact on the community of Hebron.

by Sarah, Hebron team Group 50

Open Shuhada Street demonstrations from 2011. This year's week of solidarity will be February 21-25. Photo EAPPI/L. Tuominen.

Open Shuhada Street demonstrations from 2011. This year’s week of solidarity will be February 21-25. Photo EAPPI/L. Tuominen.

For years Palestinian residents of Hebron have been prohibited from walking on the majority of the city’s main road, Shuhada Street. Even those who live in the houses lining the street are denied access. An entire generation of Palestinians have never set foot on the main street of their city. Instead they are required to search for detours to access the mosque, the market, and several schools. As Hebron resident Jawad explains:

“Shuhada Street is the lifeblood to Hebron. Shutting down the street is like someone who has a sick heart. So he needs to have open-heart surgery.”

According to the “Agreed Minute” in the Hebron Protocol of January 1997, the process of reopening Shuhada Street “would begin immediately, and would be completed within four months.” It is now January 2014, 17 years since the agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation was agreed upon, signed, and ratified, and yet Shuhada Street remains closed, empty, and useless. There appears to be no plans by Israel authorities to follow through on the internationally recognized agreement.

There are several organisations committed to realising the reopening of Shuhada Street most notably the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) initiated Open Shuhada Street Campaign (OSC). The aim of the campaign is simple: put pressure on the Israeli government through non-violent means to allow access to Shuhada Street for all people regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. The campaign “protests the segregationist nature of the closure of the area and of the division that has been created in Hebron”, says Irene Nasser, a Palestinian activist.

The South African based organization Open Shuhada Street “aims (to) raise awareness about the lack of freedom of movement in Hebron in the West Bank, and how this reflects some of the worst manifestations of the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories.” Like YAS and OSC, Open Shuhada Street is committed to bringing about change using non-violent means such as advocacy and protest.

You may wonder why such a fuss is being made about a single street when there must be multiple other streets available in Hebron.

For Jawad, born and raised in Hebron:

the “reopening of Shuhada is equivalent to a return of Hebron and life returning to the body.”

He explains that today he is required to walk 5km to a destination that he previously only had to walk 1km to reach. The simple inconvenience of a closed street not only interrupts daily activities but also reiterates the separation and access control policies of the Israeli occupation. The restrictions in force on Shuhada Street exemplify the imposed inequalities in Hebron and across the West Bank.

What can you do to help the struggle for freedom to Shuhada Street? Join the Open Shuhada Street Campaign (OSC) from 21 to 25 February 2014. Activists and organisations across the world will stand in solidarity with the residents of Hebron and all Palestinians through protest and other non-violent actions. The initiative began in 2010 to “demand the opening of Shuhada Street to Palestinians and an end to the Israeli occupation.” Connect with your local OSC or create one in your area. Use the hashtag #OpenShuhadaSt to spread the word and join the resistance. For more information contact media.yas@gmail.com

In the occupation every action, regardless of how small it is, has an eventful impact. Nothing is insignificant. Nothing is unimportant. One street in Hebron represents so much suffering, so much discrimination, and so much hope. Let’s struggle to open Shuhada Street together!

Tuqu’ – a village under siege

by Alison, Bethlehem team 

An Israeli soldier cries as a Palestinian woman pleas for her olive trees not to be destroyed. Photo EAPPI/A. Morgan.

An Israeli soldier cries as a Palestinian woman pleas for her olive trees not to be destroyed. Photo EAPPI/A. Morgan.

It will be like killing our mothers…

A loud buzz of chainsaws greets our arrival following a call from Tuqu’ – a Palestinian village of about 12,000 people, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. We find Israeli soldiers overseeing the destruction of row after row of mature olive trees.

The Palestinian farmers remonstrate with the army. They have land ownership documents dating back generations from the Jordanian, British and Ottoman administrations, but soldiers ignore their arguments and hold them back at gunpoint. I notice a woman pleading with soldiers who order her away, but she will not let up. An Israeli Border Guard, a young woman who speaks Arabic, is called to deal with her. I watch as the young soldier stands listening and silently drops her head, turning her face to wipe away tears.

Finally, the buzzing stops, but it is a temporary reprieve. The Israelis have declared this ‘state land’ and the farmers are given four days to cut down hundreds more trees themselves, or the world’s fourth largest army will return to defend Israel from the olive trees.

‘How can we do this?’ asks one farmer ‘It will be like killing our mothers!’

Emotional harassment in Area C

About three quarters of Tuqu’s land is in Area C, under full Israeli military control, although Israel was supposed to give the Palestinian Authority full control of this area within 5 years of the Oslo Agreement. Tuqu’ has already lost hundreds of hectares to the illegal Israeli settlements of Teqoa, Noqedim and Ma’ale Amos that surround it to the north, south and east. 

Our team comes regularly to Tuqu’. It is one of four Bethlehem villages where we accompany children to school as part of a UNICEF ‘Access to Education’ programme. Every day, children of 6 to 18 must run the gauntlet of armed Israeli soldiers and we have been present when the army shot tear-gas at the schools. The soldiers obstruct the school entrances with jeeps, and patrol the footpaths with guns, forcing the children to walk across rough fields or along the busy road.

‘It is emotional harassment’ says the mayor.

Recently we met a 16 year old boy who showed us the X- ray of a bullet still lodged in his back since a recent military incursion into Tuqu’. The mayor also tells us that over 20 children have been arrested in the last three months.

Quickly a new settlement is born

The Israeli forces set up concrete blocks and new warning signs. Photo EAPPI/A. Morgan.

The Israeli forces set up concrete blocks and new warning signs. Photo EAPPI/A. Morgan.

Two weeks before the trees were cut down, Tuqu’s mayor called us because Israeli settlers, accompanied by soldiers, began putting up Israeli flags and tents on Tuqu’ land each afternoon. Following this we saw the army erecting a series of concrete pillars along the roadside, with two red signs warning Israelis that this was a dangerous Palestinian village. Soon after this, settlers erected a large marquee and put up provocative posters with a picture of a car being fire-bombed. The Palestinian landowner protested, but the military commander told him the settlers would have  the land for two days for a party.  There was nothing the farmer could do to stop this, but the village held a peaceful protest, whilst a large Israeli military force guarded the settlers.

The people of Tuqu’ know that this is how it starts; a few tents, some flags, then some caravans – an illegal settlement outpost is born. With Israeli state protection and financial inducements it will soon grow to thousands of settlers. More land theft, house demolitions, movement restrictions and violence against local Palestinians will follow.

Two days after the party, the settlers are back. They include a vigilante group called Women in Green* led by a Belgian-born woman called Nadia Matar. We ask what she thinks about the 16 year old Tuqu’ boy who was shot it the back whilst going to visit his grandfather.

‘ He was probably throwing stones.’ She replies ‘Kids who throw stones should be shot in the head. ’

Children at non-violent protest in Tuqu'. Photo EAPPI/A. Morgan.

Children at non-violent protest in Tuqu’. Photo EAPPI/A. Morgan.

During a visit to Tuqu’ a week after the tree cutting, we see scores of settlers coming towards the village, many bringing young children. A large number of Israeli soldiers position themselves across the road and fields, aiming their rifles and teargas cannons at Palestinian children coming out with their parents for another peaceful protest. The settlers hold a ceremony and light candles. It is Hanukkah, and they tell us they are giving this area a new Hebrew name.

International Law and Israeli settlements

Under international law it is illegal for Israel, as an occupying force, to transfer its own population into the occupied Palestinian territories. Despite this, Israel’s massive settlement programme has continued unabated for decades, with thousands more homes being planned during the current Peace talks. With many settlements to the east of Bethlehem and other Palestinian centres, the Israeli strategy seems clear: to expand the eastern settlements westward to join up with Jerusalem, bisecting the West Bank and corralling the Palestinian population into a series of isolated areas.

EAPPI is keeping international agencies informed about these developments in Tuqu’ and a legal challenge is underway, supported by UNOCHA and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Watch video documentation of Tuqu’:

Tuqu’ Village Olive Trees Cut Down & Women in Green settler action

Israeli Settlers and Israeil army harass Tuqu’ Village in the West Bank


*Women in Green (WiG) is a right wing group that opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and supports Israeli settlement of the West Bank, which it proposes Israel should annex. WiG also opposed Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.  Nadia Matar, the Belgian-born leader of WiG claims that the ‘Arabs’ in the ‘Holy Land’ are descended from relatively recent immigrants, and should be ‘transferred’ to neighbouring Arab countries.