Monthly Archives: October 2012

Land Grab

How one settlement evolved

One of my fellow olive pickers from a French solidarity group asked me why we call settlements settlements, ‘Zaire colonies’ he said. How true, common parlance has diluted the true essence of the land grab in the West Bank. This was bought to mind an earlier occasion when we were supporting, by olive picking, the deputy mayor of Kafr Qaddom. He gazed over the colony of Qedomim that has appropriated half of his village’s land. He and his brother had been attacked the previous day by around 100 settlers and the army were called. They told him to return the next day and they would offer protection. He asked for assistance from the international solidarity volunteers. As we picked olives I wondered why the soldiers their eyes fixed on us and not the settlement where the potential aggression might come from!

Looking over the settlement

I have been increasingly interested in how the West Bank land grab has happened. Below is a profile of Qedumim.

Overview
Qedumim, also spelt Kedomim, was first ‘settled’ in 1975 by 12 families. It is south west of Nablus. The name in Hebrew means ‘Ancient’ but is also remarkably similar to the Qaddom in Kafr Qaddom, the original Palestinian village. This follows the Israeli pattern of calling settlements with like sounding names. The slogan on their website is: ‘The Vanguard of Jewish Resettlement in Samaria’. Kafr Qaddom (the Palestinian community) has lost 58% of its land to Qedumim

Gush Emumim and the Origins of Qedumim
Gush Emunin was an Israeli messianic and political movements committed to establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. It sprang out of the 1967 War, and was formally organised in the 1974 in the wake of the Yom Kippur war.

Gush Emunim’s platform defined the movement’s mission in the following way: “To bring about a major spiritual reawakening in the Jewish people for the sake of the full realization of the Zionist vision, in the knowledge that this vision’s source and goal in the Jewish heritage and in Judaism’s roots are the total redemption of both the Jewish people and the whole world.”

In 1975 part of Gush Emunim tried to establish itself in Sebastia, north of Nablus. Eventually this was unsuccessful and they were evicted by the IDF and given temporary housing in Kadum a former Jordanian military base. In 1977, under the protection of Shimon Peres, the then Minister of Defence, Qedumim was given official recognition.

Municipalities, ‘Neighbourhoods’
and the Growth of Settlements

Har Hemed is an example of an outpost that has been incorporated into a municipality. After Oslo Accords, it was agreed that settlements should not be expanded except by natural growth (although this was not exactly defined and whether it could include immigrants was never made clear). Outposts were not exactly legal either officially but received funds from governments ministries. By a process of naming them ‘neighbourhoods’ and zoning the area into a regional council the settlement could grow by stealth. All municipal areas are off limits to Palestinians unless issued with a permit and are virtually enclaves.
As the map indicates, if the proposed barrier is built (black dotted line) Qedumim could become parter of a much larger enclave together with the settlements around Wadi Qana, which is already categorised as a ‘natural reserve’. Closed military zones and nature reserves are tools used by the occupation to evict Palestinians and/or curtail agricultural activity.

Map of settlement

Impacts on Kafr Qaddum

Apart from losing more than 50% of their land, this village is cut off from areas of their agricultural land by the settlement. Also, since 2003, access to their land and to Nablus has been affected by the closure of the linking road that passes by the settlement. This makes travel much longer: for a farmer with land the other side of route 60, it means a 10K journey via Al Funduk, it takes double the time to travel to Nablus.

Farmers have suffered multiple incidents of aggression from the settlers. On the edge of the deputy mayor’s land is a house that used to be used by his father when he grazed his animals. He said it was frequently occupied by settlers who left trash and daubed the walls with Hebrew slogans. For more details of settler aggression see http://www.btselem.org, land confiscation and access links.

Present Day Ideology of Qedomim

Gush Emunim has declined as an organisation. However, its influence lives on and its raison d’être made more acceptable. This is encapsulated by one time mayor, Daniella Weiss, a right wing activist instrumental in the settlement’s expansion, who claims the settlement was built on a barren hilltop and is of strategic importance to Israel’s security and ‘must out pace the rapid, often illegal, building by Palestinian Arabs’.

Map of settlements and ‘Area C’

Although land grab can never be condoned, violent Palestine resistance can give the settler movement reason to feel threatened. In 2006, a suicide bomber who had hitched a lift, blew himself up at the gates of Qedomin killing 4 people 3 of whom lived in the settlement. The Al Asqa brigade claimed responsibility.

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, International volunteers, Israeli occupation forces, Land seizures, Olive Harvest

Boycott – a key part of the Palestinian Resistance

On Monday I went along with the IWPS (International Women’s Peace Service) as it joined in a PARC (Palestine Agricultural Relief Committee) ‘solidarity action’, picking olives with a farmer who had been attacked two days ago by settlers from Bracha. Khaled Mansour, Nablus PARC director and a leader in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, gave a clear message that boycott should include all Israeli goods, following the model of the boycott of South Africa. A larger-than-life figure, he lead us in many songs whilst we picked olives, including a rousing ‘We will overcome’! He lives in Al Faraa refugee camp, as his family were ethnically cleansed in 1948 from a village south of Haifa. (for more of his story read www.badil.org/en/al-majal/item/924)

Mansour arrested during olive picking

Non violent BDS demonstration in an Israeli Supermarket

Two days later approximately 100 Palestinians and a small group of internationals demonstrated in a supermarket just outside the Shaar Binayamin settlement, near Ramallah. They left voluntarily when asked but were attacked in the car park by over 40 army and police using sound bombs.

Demonstration in a supermarket

Two Palestinians, including our friend Bassem from Nabi Saleh Popular Committee, one international supporter from Michigan Peace Team, and one from International Solidarity Movement were arrested. All are still being held; the internationals are threatened with deportation by the Ministry of Interior although they have not been charged with anything.

Another arrest of non violent protester

MY OPINION

I am enthused to do more boycott solidarity work on my return…..the EU has legitimised Israel by the recent EU-Israel AACA vote.(Europe agreed to recognise Israeli standards, in effect making trade between Israel and European Union members much easier). 

The Palestinians continue to struggle against the stranglehold of the occupation, we need to do anything we can to support them.

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Filed under Arrests, Hastings Friends of Yatma, Israeli occupation forces, Olive Harvest, Yatma

Gill visits the village of ‘Izbat at Tabib’

Occupying the Occupation at ‘IZBAT at TABIB

Working with the IWPS (International Women’s Peace Service) we visit many villages in the South Nablus area. All are affected by the occupation in direct and indirect ways.

Mohammed, a peace activist, drove us to the village of ‘Izbat at Tabib. He and Mousa, who lives here, gave us a profile of the village and its current problems with the Israeli government. The village is in Area C (Israeli controlled military zone), as is 60% of the West Bank. Villagers are always denied permission for new build, forcing the Palestinians into cramped living conditions and denying them the opportunity to improve facilities.

The village was founded in 1922 and the present population is 250 people, comprising two extended families living in 45 households. There are also about 10 Bedouin families settled there.The Israeli settlement of Alfe Menashe can been seen from ‘Izbat and from the adjacent Palestinian village of Isla. Within the Israeli settlement there is private Palestinian land, planted with olives belonging to these villages, and to the villagers of nearby Azzoun. Last year IWPS supported Mousa and his family in his olive harvest, as his trees are situated on land which forks between the old road and and a settler road. He has lost 50 dunams of family land and 5 dunams of personally owned land to the Israeli settlement. Mohammed, like other villagers, has private land within Alfe Menashe and he will have to acquire 3 military permits to enable him to see his trees. He will also have to hire a Jewish security guard and a jeep to gain entry.

School under threat of demolition

Current Problems

‘Izbat built a school and clinic two years ago and on the 3rd September a demolition order was served on the building by Israeli military commanders. A house at the entry to the village has already been demolished, on the 1st May. Villagers have been given one month to get appeal documents together to bring to court. They have erected a protest tent in front of the school. Every day the army enters the village on patrol, but villagers do not have any current conflict with settlers.

The second problem is a proposed road bypass construction between An Nabi Elyas and a road gate near Azzoun. The purpose of this is to join the settler road so that it will avoid going through An Nabi Elyas. This Israeli-only road will take land from the adjacent villages. Also planned are two barrier gates on a road between Azzoun and Kafr Thulth. This will take more land from both towns and also isolate them from each other.

Resistance

The village has set up a large tent in front of the school and villagers gather there for meetings and to watch for any IOF activity.

Mousa, whose house was built by his grandfather, fears that the Israelis want the Palestinians to evacuate ‘Izbat at Tabib. As Mohammed says ‘they want to make life so hard for us that we will want to leave – they are trying to boil us.’

Izbat’s protest tent

 

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, Home demolitions

THE OLIVE HARVEST – A POLITICAL ACT

Salfit farmers cross the ‘wall’ through GATE 408 to farm their land

Harvesting, the time old activity of gathering in crops, can turn into a political act when you are a farmer in Palestine!

This is because, in 1995, the Oslo Accord designated 60% of the West Bank as Area C, and placed it under full Israeli military control. This area is largely the most fertile part of Palestine and for the Palestinians it meant that some or all of their agricultural land was cut of from their villages, which are in Areas A & B. This is compounded by the Security Fence (read Apartheid Wall) which restricts access for many farmers to their land. In Salfit, much Palestinian private land is behind this ‘Security Fence’ surrounding the (illegal) settlement of Ari’el.

 

CO-ORDINATION

A seemingly innocuous sounding word, in reality here it means asking for permission from the Israeli DCO (the District Coordination Office) so you can farm your own land. Usually the village mayor seeks permission, sometimes the Rabbis for Human Rights. Salfit farmers are given permission twice a year to farm in their olive groves once, in February or March and again for the olive harvest. This is not enough to ensure a good crop and the curtailment of agricultural practice has impacted their livelihoods.

CROSSING the SECURITY BARRIER

This day of solidarity with the farmers has been arranged by the NGO PARC (Palestinian Agricultural Development Association).

The UNOCHA map illustrates the annexation of West Bank land by Ari’el. The maroon and pink shadings are its build up and ‘outer limits’. Blue shadings are Area C, red lines show the ‘security barrier’ and the black dotted line the shows its planned route. The green crosses indicate the 3 agricultural gates.

We gathered with the farmers at 6am in front of gate 408 which is in fact two gates in the barrier fence separated by a security road and heavily laced with barbed wire. The army only allows 10 mins for their opening so lateness is not on option! The atmosphere is jovial, families with their children milling around with the donkeys, all chatting and laughing. There is a slight apprehension in the air, as the question is, will the army turn up on time?…a full day is needed to get as many of the olives in as possible.

At 6.15 an army jeep turns up and the gates are opened. Contrastingly, the soldiers are not in a festive mood, armed and with pointed guns they sternly collect the Palestinians’ IDs before letting them through. There is a slight delay for us 5 internationals, as we only have copies of our passports but this is a minor harassment and we join our allotted family to troop through the dirt tracks and start the day’s picking. The day is hard (for me that is!) but the farmers joke and sing, brew up ‘chay’ and share some delicious food for lunch. The picking has to finish at 3.30pm so that we are back in time to get through the gates that are, again, only open for 10 mins. The army calls out the names on the ID cards and I notice that the bags of olives are off loaded from the donkeys and carried across the security road the farmers – they are no light weight and I wonder if this is a further humiliation.

I ask the PARC co-ordinator, ‘Beka’ what we in the UK could do to help support the Palestinians, his reply was ‘ pressurise for a political solution and buy Zaytoun olive oil… this will encourage farmers to hold on to their land’. I am convinced that I must start buying Zaytoun again – especially as I might have picked some of the olives……!!

Useful References

UNOCHA fact sheet on 2012 olive harvest on http://www.ochaopt.org

http://www.ocha_opt_movement_access_2010_06_16

www.pal-arc.org

http://www.palestinianfairtrade.ps

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Land seizures

Weekly demonstrations continue at Nabi Saleh

Hastings Friends of Yatma member Gill Knight was part of the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh last week. See video Residents of Nabi Saleh have conducted peaceful demonstrations against the occupation following the seizure of a spring and land by settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli colony of Halamish. These are normally family affairs, involving children and much of the community. The demonstrators walk to the settlers-only road near the village, where they are met by the army, which blocks their progress. Typically the demonstration is broken up by the Israeli army, using tear gas, and sound grenades, in a pattern described in an article Normalising Violence-a Report from Nabi Saleh. The army also often sprays the demonstrators with a vile smelling liquid called ‘skunk’. (There are many videos of the Nabi Saleh demonstrations on YouTube, which can be accessed by entering ‘nabi saleh’ )

Demonstrations end with teenagers throwing stones at the army, and the army firing tear gas and rubber bullets (steel balls covered in rubber) at the stone throwers. Recently a young Palestinians was killed at Nabi Saleh when an soldier fired a tear gas canister at his face at close range. Occupation forces have conducted night raids in Nabi Saleh to capture and imprison the teenage stone throwers, many of whom languish in Israeli jails. See Wikipedia entry

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Filed under International volunteers, Israeli occupation forces, Land seizures, Prisoners

HFOY member helps in the West Bank olive harvest

Hastings Friends of Yatma member Gill Knight is in the West Bank, and one of her activities is picking olives. International volunteers are essential to the annual olive harvest in many parts of the West Bank because Israeli settlers harass  Palestinians picking their olives, especially if the olive trees are located close to the illegal West Bank settlements. Knowing that international volunteers are with the local people as they harvest their olives lets the settlers know that harassment will be witnessed by the outside world. And when incidents happen, local Palestinians are treated more fairly by the Israeli occupation forces when international volunteers are present. Moreover, Palestinian farmers and their families are often buoyed by the  feeling of solidarity of having international volunteers work beside them.

Picking olives at Askar

Olive trees are a point of conflict between Palestinians and militant West Bank settlers all year round. Olive trees are often uprooted by settlers, or burned. Sometimes they are enclosed by illegal settlement fences. Yatma farmers have experienced attacks on their olive trees by settlers from the nearby Israeli towns. Frequently farmers are prohibited from accessing trees that are close to settlement boundaries by harassment from armed settlers or by the occupation army.

Olive trees are beside heavily guarded Israeli settlements

On occasion olives are stolen by settlers. Here. It isn’t clear whether this is an act of simple theft, or a political act to harass Palestinian farmers. Here is an example of a recent attempt to steal olives by settlers. The thieves were sent on their way by the occupation army, but weren’t charged.

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Filed under International volunteers, Olive Tree Campaign, Yatma

Gill’s blog from the West Bank

Living Under Occupation – West Bank, Palestine

A Visit to the Askar Refugee Camp Nablus

It’s my 3rd time in Palestine and for 3 weeks my emotions were on an even keel. I tune in and connect with the Palestinians, whether they chose to live out the occupation with a degree of acceptance or continue to resist; no more feelings of me being overwhelmed in the face of their oppression.

But then I visit the Askar Refugee Camp kindergarten and the juxtaposition of the political graffiti and the kids, kids just behaving like kids anywhere in the world – playing and learning – brings on the tears! These are 3rd generation refugees, 60 children including 7 that are disabled.

ASKAR Camp Background

The ‘old camp’ was founded in 1948, the core families coming from the villages destroyed by the Zionist forces in 1947/8, Haifa, Jaffa and Lydd. The camp has grown exponentially and a ‘new camp’ was built as an extension in 1965 (this is not recognised by UNWRA – United Nations Works and Relief Agency). Influxes have come from, for example, the 1967 war aftermath and displaced Bedouins from the Negev.

The camps suffer from overcrowding, unemployment and poverty – 30% in extreme poverty.

SOME STATISTICS

Out of the 11.2 million Palestinians worldwide, 1 in 4 are refugees – 4.7 million living in camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In 2011 UNWRA recorded 848,494 registered refugees living in the 19 West Bank camps. There are an unknown number of unregistered refugees. On average the Palestinian population is young – 40% being under 14.

THE RIGHT TO RETURN

The right of Palestinian return to their land is enshrined in international law and historical precedent, and affirmed repeatedly by the UN. Resolution 194 was passed by the UN general assembly in December 1948 and called on Israel to repatriate those “displaced by the recent conflict” with compensation for their losses. The 1948 universal declaration of human rights states that those who leave their homes for whatever reason have the absolute right to return to them.

Quote from UNCHR 2006 ”one of the most protracted cases of forced displacement in the world today”.

Useful References:

Ilan Pappe The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

www.palestineremembered.org

www.prc.org

www.unrwa.org

www.imeu.net

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/Jan/24/palestinians-refugees-right-return

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