Category Archives: Land seizures

UK cabinet minister visits Nabi Saleh, Hastings Friends of Yatma was there

Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Undersecretary for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, visited the beseiged West Bank Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh this week. Nabi Saleh has been the site of weekly peaceful demonstrations, as villagers march to the spring that was stolen from them in 2009 by colonists from the nearby settlement of Halamish. Each week they are ritually and violently met by the Israeli occupation forces with tear gas, skunk water, and rubber bullets. Two Nabi Saleh residents have died recently in separate incidents.

Alistair Burt said “I recognise the suffering of Nabi Saleh”

Gill Knight, an activist from Hastings Friends of Yatma, met with the Nabi Saleh village leaders, Alistair Burt and Sir Vincent Fean, UK consul in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, Palestine yesterday. Burt said his visit was to convey his condolences the mothers of Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi who were killed by the Israeli army while peacefully demonstrating against the Israeli occupation and the settlement of Halamish, which has appropriated their land and the village spring. Also Burt said he wanted to get an update on events in the village and to see if the army were using less violent tactics. Gill Palestine Alistair Burt

This is Alistair Burt’s third visit to the village and he said that he would keep coming to Nabi Saleh to maintain the relationship and to show the families of Mustafa and Rushdi that they were not forgotten and their suffering was not in vain.

The visit included a visit to the local school where the UK government have just made a £5000 donation for additions to the library and scientific equipment. Alistair said that ‘he realised that the occupation caused a lot of suffering to Palestinian children and that “every child deserved a decent life”.

His next stop was Ramallah, to meet with Mohammed Abbas and he stressed that Senator Kerry was committed to get the peace talks started again and that this was the only solution for the people of Palestine. He stated that Nabi Saleh was a symbol to many both in Palestine and internationally.

Although many Palestinians think the two state solution is dead and prefer the idea of a one state democracy, his visit and support were greatly appreciated by the village.

Hastings Friends of Yatma is a solidarity and friendship group supporting Yatma, a village south of Nablus.

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Filed under Gill's blog, Land seizures, Water supply

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

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

Letter to MP on land confiscation at Yatma

4th November 2012

Dear Amber Rudd, MP Hastings and Rye

Confiscation of Farmer’s Land in Yatma

As you know, Hastings Friends of Yatma, HFOY, supports a small village in the West Bank of Palestine where I am currently staying.

The Mayor of Yatma called me on 1st November to let the HFOY group know that two farmers were notified, by Military Order 208/5, that approximately three dunums of their land was being appropriated. The reason for the appropriation was for ‘security reasons’. I went to the actual land: it is by the roadside, the surrounding land is all olive groves and approximately 7 kilometres from the nearest settlement Kafr Tappuah (land around settlements is frequently zoned as a security area and forbidden to Palestinians except with a work permit).

So, there is no apparent reason why this small area could present a security threat and the result will be the loss of several of their olive trees, essential for the farmers’ livelihoods. Moreover, the Mayor and council feel it is the start of more land acquisition – if the farmers lose their appeal against the Military Order then more land will be under threat of appropriation.

The history of this system of land appropriation by Military Orders dates back to 1945 when Palestine was still under the British Mandate. These Military Orders were initiated by the British government because of the then ‘state of emergency’. The system was never meant to be permanent. However, the Israeli Civil Administration absorbed it into its ‘legal’ system and it continues to issue orders to this day to control many aspects of Palestinian life.

A key issue for Palestine now is its economy and, as David Cameron stated in his latest United Jewish Israel Appeal speech, that the growth of the economy should be supported. During my time here I have seen countless examples of the Israeli authorities circumventing the achievement of this goal and the land seizure in Yatma is a small illustration.

Lastly, the humanitarian rights of the Palestinians should surely get more attention; for instance, in his speech, David Cameron lauds the UJIA’s funding of a Safad medical school but avoids any reference to the 18 schools in Palestine that are under threat of demolition.

When you are here in the West Bank, rhetoric about the security for Israel sounds very empty when it does not address the security of Palestine as well.

Best regards

Gill Knight

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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

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