As I’ve read through the 50 stories of Palestinians who have lived under military occupation for 50 years (each carefully compiled by OCHA), I’ve come to the conclusion that this must be the best documented Occupation in the history of international law. The evidence is meticulously preserved.
Why haven’t the politicians and world leaders been able to force an end to this occupation? (Books have been written in response to that question.) The short answer, the status quo benefits the State of Israel, and the U.S. helps Israel maintain the status quo.
All 50 stories can be found on OCHA’s website here along with the reports and additional documentation. I’ve divided the 50 stories into groups of 5 to share them over time, hoping that Americans will spend the time to read each story if they’re presented in smaller bits.
When the Israeli authorities appeared at the Um al Jamal area of Ein al Hilwa (Jordan Valley) on 30 January 2014, they told residents to evacuate their homes as they were slated for demolition, said 43-year-old resident, Mahmoud Ka’abneh.
However, he added, little time was given to them to collect their belongings from inside the structures.
Mahmoud, a father of 10 children, said he pleaded with the authorities to leave at least one animal pen for the newborn sheep standing, to no avail.
That day, 36 structures belonging to a dozen Palestinian families were demolished, displacing 66 people.
When the community rebuilt one structure, Israeli forces returned and destroyed it.
Mahmoud told us that the authorities kept monitoring the area to ensure that no one rebuilds.
YUSEF ALI KADOS
In July 2011, an EAPPI team met Yusef, to hear from him about multiple incidents where his trees had been set on fire, reportedly by settlers.
Yusef’s family has lived in Burin for generations. For thirty years he worked as a primary school teacher, and raised ten children.
Between 2000 and 2010, his olive trees were set on fire on three occasions, following which he was left with only the 45-50 trees that are planted in front of his house.
❝For ten years now,❞ he said, ❝we have been suffering from settlers burning the trees. We have also been attacked when we try to harvest the olives.
❝When the trouble started ten years ago, we went to harvest the olives and we were told by the settlement security not to come there anymore.
❝When the olive trees were burned this last time [a few days before the meeting took place], I sent my son to see because I am too old. He told me afterwards that everything was gone, destroyed…
❝The army supports and provides cover for the settlers. We want them to arrest the settlers. They see the settlers and know what they are doing. If one of us hits a settler then we will be arrested, if a settler hits one of us nothing is done. To defend yourself you must stay silent.
❝I have not made any official complaints. The village council has taken the names of all of those who lost trees and report this to the agricultural ministry in Nablus in the hope of compensation.
❝These trees provided extra income for the family. We could produce 40-50 jerry cans (18L each) of oil, which we could then sell.
❝Every year, there is less oil produced as more and more trees are burnt. These trees took 60 years to grow, if we plant new ones it would take 10 to 15 years to have them mature enough for harvesting. But we cannot plant again because the land is so near the private settlement road.
❝Trees for me are life. I am 77 years old. I planted these trees myself in 1952. After school, I would go straight to the olive trees before I would go home.
❝It pains us in our hearts to see the trees destroyed. The earth is the life of the farmer. My blood is boiling with anger because I see my land burning and I can do nothing.❞
We met Manal in a tent camp, in 2009, a few months after the “Cast Lead” offensive. She was 35 years old back then.
A year before, she still lived in a large house with many rooms and modern conveniences.
During the hostilities, she left her home after leaflets were dropped by the Israeli military warning people to leave the area.
The family took no possessions from their home except white flags that they waved as they walked to an UNWRA school to seek refuge. At the time, the family expected to return home shortly.
Once at the school, she had to use flip chart paper that she found in a classroom as makeshift blankets to cover her children: ❝I had nothing for my daughter, who was five months at the time,❞ she told us, ❝and I could not keep her warm.❞ The following day, food and blankets were distributed.
She heard stories of widespread damage to houses in her community, and she gradually gave up hope of returning to a house that was still standing: ❝We are grateful to UNWRA for providing us with food and water, but the conditions were very cramped and it was not home. We just yearned for home.❞
As soon as military forces had left the area, the family returned to their home to find that it had been flattened to the ground by rubble from a neighbouring apartment building that had been directly hit by an Israeli military strike. The blacksmith business of Manal’s husband was completely destroyed.
She then took her children to stay at her sister’s house. She registered with the local authorities and, two weeks after the ceasefire agreement, was told that she had been allocated a tent in the new tent camp in Al Attatra, several kilometres from her home.
Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.
In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.
The family received financial assistance from UNWRA and the local authorities, and continued to reside in the tent camp, in very difficult conditions:
❝The first tent leaked and it was very cold, it was later replaced with a better tent, but it gets very hot and is full of flies.❞
The camp had temporary, pre-fabricated bathrooms, one for women and one for men, and water supply was sporadic.
For a while, her nine-year-old son continued attending the same school, but the distance proved a challenge. Manal told us that he also suffered from bedwetting and exhibited other psychological problems. His school work suffered, his grades were lower and he was disconnected from his friends.
When we talked to Manal, she no longer saw her friends and neighbours. Her social network and support system had broken down and she believed that she no longer had an existence.
❝My day starts with me hoping it will finish. I am worried and I don’t know what the future will bring.❞
She and her family were on the UNRWA shelter caseload list to have their house rebuilt. However, due to the ongoing blockade of construction materials, there had been no reconstruction by the time we met.
Sa’eed is the owner of a plant nursery near Bethlehem, in Area C.
On 8 September 2015, Israeli authorities demolished his business and confiscated most of the saplings and flowers.
The nursery lacked Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
About a year before the incident the Israeli autorities handed to him a ‘stop work’ order for the nursery.
As a consequence of the incident, 17 people, including nine children, from Sa’eed’s family and his sons’ families, suffered great financial losses.
This was their main source of income.
ZAKIA ABU ALYA
❝This land was our only source of income. We worked hard on it, my husband, our sons, and I. We planted olive trees, almonds, figs. After 20 years of hard work, when it was time for our investment to pay off, the outpost was established and we began to suffer from recurrent losses.❞
These were the words of Zakia, when we met her in 2013.
Her village, Al Mughayyir, has faced humanitarian impacts as a result of the establishment of a nearby settelement outpost in 1998.
Palestinian families whose agricultural land is in the vicinity of the outpost have been subject to violent attacks by Israeli settlers when accessing their plots.
Attacks have included physical assault and the damage to trees and property.
The Israeli army has also imposed restrictions on the access of Palestinians to some of the agricultural and grazing lands in the vicinity of the outpost.