Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nabi Saleh, Non-violent Demonstration

23rd November 2012, ‘Remembering the Martyrs’

The weather has changed, winter has finally come to the West Bank, it’s pouring cats and dogs. The protesters gather and the mood is warm and welcoming as usual, but there is a more sombre atmosphere today as the demonstration is commemorating the deaths of Rusdhi Tamimi, shot by an Israeli soldier at last Friday’s demonstration, and from the same family Mustafa Tamimi, killed in Nabi Saleh on December 10 2011 when a tear gas canister was shot at his face.

The Israeli activists have come in force this week, defying the Military Orders recently served at 3am at their homes in Israel, forbidding them to come to ‘closed military zones’ in the West Bank. This is what the village becomes on a Friday…..totally disallowing the villagers their human right to peacefully protest against the Occupation, and the theft of their land and water.

We set off on what is always a very short march, The Palestinian flags wave, pictures of Rushdi and Mustafa carried with front, chanting and singing nationalist songs.

Demonstration at Nabi Saleh

Rusdhi Tamimi, shot by Israeli forces at Nabi Saleh

I say short because as usual, it will be stopped with tear gas, skunk water and, later rubber bullets. Of course the live ammunition that killed Rushdi is used as well, but normally only after the shabab have replied to the onslaught of the Israeli Occupation Forces  with stones from their slingshots.

And that is exactly what happened today. The terrain is hilly, we march down the Main Street and turn the corner knowing round the next bend, hidden by a hill,  the Israeli Occupation Forces are ready with the ‘skunk tank’ and armoured jeeps. There are fewer soldiers today, perhaps they are still hanging out on the Gaza border. They soldiers spray skunk water at the protesters, they fire tear gas, and then most people run back up the hill.  All except the shabab, for the Israeli attack is their signal to start using their slingshots.

It is almost ritualistic.  Observers have a grandstand view of the shabab running up and down the hills, dodging the plumes of tear gas and occasionally lobbing the odd canister that’s come their way, back towards the IOF. As usual, the soldiers don’t seem to move much, rarely giving chase. But they move their jeeps around, and when they do come forward we move again to minimise the effects of the tear gas. The shabab are always regrouping and coming from different angles. Their sling shot accuracy is very poor and seldom does a stone actually hit anyone!

After about an hour of this cat and mouse game, we return to Nargi and Boshra Tamimi’s house for coffee, soft drinks and solidarity chat. The sling shot shebabs turn up and behave just like teenagers normally do, having jokes and mucking around. The Tamimi youngsters, who always attend the demos, are clearing up the rain sodden patio areas, before finishing their homework ready for school or college on Monday.

The whole scenario is so domestic, the demos being slotted into a normal routine, (or as normal as it can be living under occupation). The highly trained Israeli army have returned for Shabbat, having proved, once again, they are really good at suppressing the village’s non violent demos but not their spirit.

Peaceful marcher walk toward the Israeli occupation roadblock

Israeli soldiers break up the peaceful demonstration

The funeral for Rusdhi Tamimi as held in Ramallah last week.

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, International volunteers

Gill Attended a Vigil for Gaza, in Ramallah

Gill writes from Ramallah:

“…..tonight  there was an impromptu gathering for Gaza In Manara square. I was the only foreigner there, but a candle was passed to me….

Vigil for Gaza in Manara Square, Ramallah

Candlelight Vigil for Gaza, Manara Square, Ramallah

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Filed under Gaza, Other communities

Using Water as a Weapon

(A short journey through the ethically cleansed landscape of the Jordan Valley)

16th November, 2012

The one day trip was organised by the Jenin Freedom Theatre Bus Tour and is a snapshot of what happens in the Jordan Valley. It focusses on water rather than land confiscation. Full reports can be found in the references below.

A brief overview of the area

The Jordan Valley comprises 30% of Palestinian territory and approximately 87% of it is in Area C – meaning that Israel has full administrative control. In 1967, 360,000 Palestinians, mainly Bedouin, lived in the Jordan Valley now less than 60,000 live here, the majority in Jericho, a large urban area.

How has this happened?by the stealth of creeping ethnic cleansing.

The Jordan Valley is considered to be Palestine’s bread basket. Since 1967, Israel has implemented: the confiscation of its fertile land; closed military and firing zones; movement and building restrictions; demolition of farms and dwellings; control of Palestinian access to local, Arab and world markets. At the same time Israeli governments have encouraged, with subsidies, Jewish couples to colonise the area and there are now 35 settlements and 7 outposts on confiscated Palestinian land – a total 97% of the valley is off limits for the Palestinians for cultivation.

As we travel along the highway 90 there is plenty to see of intensive settler farming and the packaging units that will distribute fruit, especially bananas, directly to Europe. The profits accrued from this intensive farming and the profits from it are sourced from stolen water, a $114 million industry in 2010. The Veolia controlled land fill site is also spotted! – for settlement waste only! The Palestinians are forbidden to develop solid waste dumps or sewage treatment of their own.

Veolia landfill- for settlers only!

Water Control

This has been a key factor in the ethnic cleansing in the Valley. By depriving the indigenous population the means to cultivate crops and provide water for their livestock communities have been economically squeezed out of the region.

Since 1995, as the Oslo Accord was not clear about water allocation, Mekorot, the government controlled Israeli water company, have been in charge of water distribution. (The situation is more complex than this explanation, please use a reference!)

Needless to say the water is pumped to the settlements, for intensive irrigation use and Palestinians are forced to buy their rationed supply at inflated prices. The herders store water in tanks that are frequently confiscated by the army. Permits to dig news wells or renovate old ones are never issued.

According to a 2009 Save the Children factsheet 9,400 Israeli settlers consume 6.6 times more water than the 56,000 Palestinian residents in the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli army have destroyed 162 water projects along highway 90

Stopping at Al ‘Auja spring, Israeli water theft is clearly depicted in the photo….side by side there is the heavily secured Israeli pumping system and the original, destroyed water pump, existing from Ottoman times.

Settler water pumping station

Also spotted as we speed past, is the land fill site operated by Veolia – only for settler rubbish!!! Also the settlements do not control sewage leakage and so cause pollution in springs and underground water.

We visit Al Hadidya – a community completely surrounded by the Roi settlement and settlement agriculture/industry. Al Sharat, community spokesman, gave us a vivid account; out of the original 35 communities In Al Hadidya only 14 survive. He said ‘We will not leave our land’. But how long can they hold out? They suffer army harassment:

– damage to their property

– aggressive attacks and detention of the shepherds

– restricted access to their land for grazing

-being in a firing zone, now Austere Challenge (US/IOF combined military exercises) have tank manoeuvres taking place in front of their fragile settlements. We saw extensive track marks in numerous places.

(In the map, the dark maroon is the built up settlement, the maroon dots indicate settlement agriculture/industrial units, the dark grey is a Military Base, the blue is Area C and the dotted blue closed military zones)

Map of Al Hadidya in the Jordan Valley

The Jenin Freedom Theatre hold a Plackback Session where villagers tell their stories and these are reenacted by the performers, mainly using mime and with some musical effects. They are really moving and the gathered crowd is engrossed. But before this happens the Army visit us, demanding to know what we are doing and stating that the settlers have to give permission for us to have lunch! Al Sharat says that we will eat with or without it and we do. The army jeeps eventually leave – did they get the permission?

Jenin Community Theatre playback session

Jenin Community Theatre playback

It was a informative, moving day and as we leave a herd of sheep are shepherded over the hills – an almost biblical scene …. surely more appropriate to the Holy Land than intensive farming and depletion of the natural resources!

Lastly, we visit the mud brick house and workshop of the Jordan Valley Solidarity – a project aimed at providing more substantial housing for the Valley inhabitants ….run by Palestinians but anyone can volunteer to make the bricks!

Water is a human right

In a 2010 resolution, the UN General Assembly recognised “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.” Also in 2010, the UN Human Rights Council recognised the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation as “derived from the right to an adequate standard of living” and “inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity.”

References

www.ochaopt.org

jordanvalleysolidaritycampaign.org

unispal.un.org

www.amnesty.org – Troubled Waters

www.oxfam.org – On the Brink – well worth a read.

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Filed under Home demolitions, Israeli occupation forces, Land seizures, Water supply

Beautiful Resistance – found in a Bethlehem refugee camp!

Bethlehem is a grim experience, as the tourists pile out of luxury to visit the religious sites whilst the Wall and the three refugee camps nearby continue to portray the reality of the Occupation.

Apartheid wall watchtower at Bethlehem

*Aida Camp – Alrowwad Centre

60% of Aida Camp’s 4,000 inhabitants are under 18, an extra growing pressure on the camp’s facilities. They suffer from lack of water and sewage networks, unemployment and overcrowding.

BUT in the midst of narrow cramped streets, with the omnipresent Wall, a Beautiful Non-violent Resistance can be found in the organisation of Al Rowwad – meaning ‘Pioneers for Life’.

“We do not have the luxury of despair, but the steadfast hope that we can make a beautiful change for our children and the generations to come”.

Alrowwad, is an independent, dynamic, community-based not-for-profit organization which strives to empower children and women by targeting behaviour, knowledge, concepts and practices through beautiful and non-violent means.

The centre provides art, drama, film and animation; arabic, maths and english lessons and women’s groups. They reach out to other communities with a Play Bus, hold summer camps and international cultural tours.

Lajee Centre

Another gem is the Lajee (meaning refugee) Centre focussing on training young people in arts and media skills and human rights workshops. They too have travelled abroad with their cultural shows and hope to go to Canada next year! At present they have a brilliant photography exhibition, the photos taken by teenagers, the youngest aged 11.

Anasta’s Guest House

We stayed in Anasta’s, slap bang in front of the Wall. The Christian Palestinian owners Johnny and Clare are determined to make the best of it.

Clare has harrowing experiences to tell especially from the 2nd Intifada. The guest house was going to be completely surrounded by the Wall with an electronic gate entrance, but when the diggers turned up (totally unannounced) they discovered a sewage pipe …..so the Wall had to be re-routed and the guest house is only surrounded on three sides!!

Her well-stocked shop includes traditional embroidery produced by women in the refugee camps – including one aged 80!

A vibrant fighter (non-violent!), she says that her faith keeps her going. Her children are still harassed by the army and the threat of eviction hangs over the whole extended family in apartments in the rest of the building.

Claire, opposite the guesthouse/shop

The Shop

*The Aida Refugee Camp was established in 1950 on 16 acres of land between Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Its name originates from a popular coffee shop of the same name located nearby. The camp’s 4,000 residents came from 17 destroyed Palestinian villages, largely from the western Jerusalem (Beit Natif, Deiraban, Ras Abu Ammar, Allar, Malha) and western Hebron (Beit Jibrin, Ajjour) regions. After the 1967 occupation, virtually all the camp’s residents were within a half-hour’s drive of their former homes, but none were permitted to return.

Entrance to Aida Refugee Camp, at Bethlehem

For More Information

www.alrowwad.org, www.lajee.org, www.anastas-bethlehem.com

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Filed under Aida Refugee Camp, Al Rowwad, Lajee, Other communities, Refugee camps

Olive Trees Near Yatma Destroyed by Rechelim Settlers

On the 7th November settlers from Rechelim uprooted over 100 olive trees and sprayed racist graffiti in al-Asawiya near Yatma.

The graffiti on the village mosque said “Death to Arabs” and “Price Tag” in Hebrew.

The olive trees were planted on land belonging to Hamad Salih Mahmoud Hijazi, Salih Naser Gazi and Mustafa Ali.

It was only the previous week we, International Women’s Peace Service, had been picking olives with two families from al-Asawiya. Pleasant times (if a bit arduous in the beating sun!), sharing our limited language, drinking chay made on open fires and eating delicious picnics on the ground under the olive trees.

Picking olives

OLIVE INDUSTRY

The olive crop is the main source of income for famers in the West Bank. Nearly half (48%) of the agricultural land in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) is planted with 8 million olive trees; the vast majority are in the West Bank.The olive oil industry makes up 14% of the agricultural income for the oPt and supports the livelihoods of approximately 80,000 families.

OTHER WEST BANK INCIDENTS

870 trees were uprooted or destroyed in the first week of the olive harvest, which starts around 5th October – see www.guardian.co.uk/2012/oct15/israel-olive-trees-settler-attacks.

Destroyed olive tree

I will send complete details of the destruction when OCHA have finished collating the data.

For a fact sheet on the olive harvest see http://www.ochaopt.org

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, Olive Harvest, Price Tag, Tree destruction, Yatma

Olive trees destroyed by settlers at Yatma

Settlers, probably from the Rechalim settlement,  have destroyed olive trees belonging to farmers from Yatma, in the West Bank, near Nablus. The attacks on trees are part of an escalation of attacks on Palestinian property throughout the West Bank this year. Some of the attacks have been part of the ‘Price Tag’ programme, some are unattributed.

(more to come)

Olive tree destroyed by settlers at Yatma

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, Land seizures, Olive Tree Campaign, Tree destruction

As Safe as Houses (A Report from Gill from Hares, West Bank)

You might have read yesterday’s Guardian article:

Israel says it is pushing forward with the construction of more than 1,200 new homes in Jewish settlements, in an apparent warning to the Palestinians to rethink their plan to ask the United Nations to recognise an independent state of Palestine.”

So it is safe to build if you are an Israeli, but not so for the Palestinians.

Our group of the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS)were called to our neighbouring village of Hares yesterday because the Israeli army and two bulldozers had appeared,  to knock down three homes. The families had built houses on land they owned and needed to build for their growing families. (Traditionally village families are large and live in extended homes).

Palestinian house being demolished by Israeli forces

The whole village was distraught, large crowds protested and were met with tear gas, sound bombs and eventually live ammunition.

A gathers at the site of the house demolition

Tear gas and shell casings

I will write more about this situation – just off to meet with lawyers, families and another demonstration.

The rubble from a house demolished by Israeli forces

A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”

Other reports:

http://www.imemc.org/article/64526

http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/westbankunderattack-clashes-take-place-in-hares-village-near-salfit-army-demolishes-homes/

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Filed under Home demolitions