Category Archives: Israeli occupation forces

Be inspired! Palestine Twinning Conference January 12th 2013

Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian

Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian

And inspired the conference attendees were, by the talk of the Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian. I find it remarkable how varied Palestinians are, considering the small population ( about 4 million according to the World Bank). From skilled, but often uneducated, farmers to urbane academics; from powerful women protesters to those following more traditional roles, there is no ‘one size that fits all’.

Super articulate and upbeat, Ambassador Hassassian’s talk was peppered with good humour.

His key themes were

  • The importance of the Twinning Initiative. Our world is a world of images. Twinning circumvents the stereotypes and enriches the bonding of people.
  • Palestinians have their own sense of pluralism and democracy – universities are a shining example of what Palestinians can achieve.
  • Education is the Palestinian ticket out of the ghetto. Palestine has great universities and this achievement illustrates what it can do.
  • Israel is only interested in the West Bank to fulfil a messianic dream, it is not interested in occupying Gaza. It’s a democracy occupying another country: settlements are snaking their way over the West Bank.
  • Israel is a genius in crisis management but not in conflict resolution, it is virtually the 51st state of the US. They only want occupied Palestine as a market – Palestine is the second highest consumer of Israeli goods, US is the first.
  • The US has failed as an honest broker in the peace process; there is great disappointment in Obama
  • He considers Islamic fundamentalism a challenge. Religion is a zero sum activity.
  • There is no immediate solution to the situation – the next 5 years are going to be difficult

His resounding message:

“The process of history is made by people not governments”

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What price Palestinian Statehood? – West Bank Under Increased Threat

The jubilant celebrations that I witnessed in Palestine when the UN General Assembly voted for an observer state status are in direct conflict with the grim reality on the ground. All non-violent demonstrations that resist the occupation of Palestine are deemed illegal and suppressed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) – relabelled to reflect its real role as the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF). Any place where a demonstration takes place – village, street or field can be decreed a Closed Military Zone and demonstrators attacked using an array of deterrents: skunk water, tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition and arrests. In Nabi Saleh when I was there my friend’s brother, sitting on the hill overlooking the village spring ‘stolen’ by the settlement Halamish, was shot and subsequently died of his wounds.

Collective Punishment

The day after the after the Palestinians obtained a limited statehood at the United Nations General Assembly, the Israeli government decided “to punish” them by tripling its illegal settlement building. Plans for building in E1 zone (see below) is a ‘game-changer’, destroying any chances of a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

HFOY map for blog 15 Jan 2013

A New Form of Resistance

Last Friday, Facebook and Twitter were on fire with news of a tent village, optimistically called Bab AlShams, the Gate of the Sun, secretly erected in E1 but on private, Palestine land next to a Bedouin encampment.HFOY Photo of E1 occupation

Carefully planned with about 250 demonstrators coming from all over the West Bank, braving the bitter cold, the village was equipped with a medical tent, wifi hotspot, embedded international news outlets, kitchen, library and rubbish collection. One leader called it ‘constructive resistance’..

The village lasted two days, Eviction was temporarily halted when lawyers obtained an injunction from the High Court of Justice. Netanyahu demanded that this should be overturned, the Ministry of Justice claiming: “There is an urgent security need to evacuate the area of the people and tents,” suggesting without evidence that a few hundred unarmed activists presented a grave threat to public safety. This action illustrates Israeli racist policies: there are 120 illegal outposts (embryonic settlements) in the West Bank, which are never dismantled but are allowed to gradually expand before being eventually declared ‘legal’ by the Israeli state.

A New Model for Non-Violent Protest?

The camp was evicted by about 500 occupation soldiers. Protesters refusing to leave were assaulted, six needing hospitalization. Mohammed Khatib of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said: ‘ We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land. Bab Al Shams is no more, but during its short two days it gave new life and energy to all who passed through it. In establishing Bal Al Shams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves’.

As the USA and the EU sit idly by, it is up to the Palestinian grass roots movement to stand up for justice again – is this the start of the 3rd Intifada?

 

 

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Filed under Israeli occupation forces, Occupation, Yatma

Israeli Occupation Army plans to demolish 21 Yatma houses

We have received news that the Israeli army plans to demolish 21 homes in Yatma, after they were ordered to by Israeli courts. Residents of the homes had until Thursday (yesterday) to appeal, but to date we have not heard the outcome.

The mayor of the village, Abdulmunem Jibril, said the demolitions would leave 150-200 people homeless and expressed surprise at the move because there were no settlements in the immediate area. He said the move by the Israeli government was likely to please settlers in the run up to Israeli elections.

Once the appeal process has been exhausted, houses could be demolished at any time, without warning. Typically residents find the demolition crew and army on their doorstep, are given a few minutes to remove their possessions, and the house is razed.

Since the successful recognition bid by Palestininans at the UN in November, the Israeli government has accelerated the replacement of Palestinians by Jewish settlers, by initiating large housing projects on Palestinian land in the Jerusalem area, and now by expanding the rate of demolition of Palestinian homes.

For background on the house demolition threat in Yatma, please see these previous articles. Yatma home demolitions threatened again 13 Homes Face Demolition in Yatma Also, see this account of a home demolition in a nearby village, witnessed by HFOY member Gill Knight in November 2012.

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, Home demolitions, Israeli occupation forces

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

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

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