OCHA is a Truth Teller

This is the last in a series of blog posts sharing the stories of Palestinians who are living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. OCHA compiled 50 stories which can all be found here.

I divided them and shared five stories at a time because I hoped more Americans would take the time to read them if they were highlighted in smaller doses. (And honestly, I wanted to read each story more closely which this resharing allowed me to do.)

Congress and President Trump have been threatening to reduce funding to the United Nations in recent weeks because they claim the UN is biased against Israel. Telling the truth may not win popularity contests, but the work and the words of the UN need to continue.  These stories published by OCHA are the truth.

I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is … to tell the truth.

HOWARD ZINN, Marx in Soho

THE TARKYAKI FAMILY 

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THE Tarkyaki Family from EAST JERUSALEM (Photos by JC-Tordai, 2010)

 

The family home of Amjad and Asma’ Taryaki and their three children was demolished in 2009.

Shortly after, Amjad told us: ❝On 12 October 2009, at 7:30 in the morning, while my wife was taking the children to school and I was still sleeping, the Border Police woke me up and ordered me to get out.

❝When my wife came back and saw all the police and the bulldozer she knew what was happening.

❝The police wouldn’t let her enter the yard and she started panicking, thinking that I was sleeping while our house was being demolished.

❝She knew that the pills I take for my heart condition make me fall into a very deep sleep. She tried to call me but the police had confiscated my mobile phone…

❝[W]e had an emotional breakdown. The hardest thing was to protect our children. The youngest of them, Tasneem, wet her pants while watching the demolition.

❝Our son, when he came back from school, was asking about his chocolate which was buried in the rubble. He is having a very hard time recovering from the shock and I’m afraid he’ll lose this school year…

❝[W]e put up a tent in the yard and spent a month and a half there, but as winter was approaching it got very cold.❞

Amjad added: ❝One night we decided we couldn’t go on like this any longer and took the children to my brother. Since then, we’ve been going from relative to relative, and sometimes we split the family up as we can’t all fit into one house.

❝My wife was suffering from the lack of privacy and, as there were constantly a lot of people around her, she always had to wear her hijab.

❝The rubble from the demolition is still here, but getting a bulldozer to remove it requires a permit, and is very costly. Next to our house there is a little wooden stable where my brother keeps his horse. The police didn’t demolish that. I feel that animals are treated better than human beings.

❝Three months ago, we decided to build a small wooden room on the site where our house was located. We’ve put some mattresses and a little TV there.

❝This Saturday we’ll bring some of the furniture that survived the demolition from my wife’s sister’s house. We’re also building a little bathroom next to the room. Our cooking stove is outside but mostly our families provide us with food.

❝If our new shelter is demolished, we will build it again. We have nowhere else to go and no money to rent anywhere else.❞

KAREEM

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Kareem from NABI SALEH | RAMALLAH

In Febriary 2011, we met Kareem, then an 11-year-old boy, and heard from him about his arrest by the Israeli Police.

I was standing with a group of children near the gas station at the entrance to An Nabi Saleh. An Israeli police vehicle drove by and I threw a stone at it.

❝The vehicle stopped and several special police jumped out, chased us and took me into custody. A woman from our village tried to protect me, but the police shoved her to the ground. 

❝I was taken first to the military tower at the entrance of An Nabi Saleh, where the police forces kicked me in my leg and arm and my hands were bound behind my back with plastic ties.

❝Next, I was taken to Hallamish settlement and then transported to an interrogation centre about 45 minutes from my house, at Geva Binyamin settlement. There, I was taken to an interrogation room.

❝The interrogator asked me if I threw stones and I said ‘yes,’ and I told them why; ‘you arrested my 14-year-old brother in the middle of the night this week and now I have no one to play with. I was angry, so I threw a stone,’

❝Next, they showed me pictures of boys and asked me to identify them. I told them I don’t know these boys; they aren’t from our village.

❝The whole interrogation lasted around 15 minutes, but I spent another two hours waiting after the interrogation until my father came and picked me up. No one from my family was with me during the process.❞

AMNEH 

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Amneh from BIR NABALA / TEL AL ‘ADASSA | JERUSALEM

Bir Nabala / Tel al ‘Adassa is a small Bedouin community whose members have lived between Ramallah and Jerusalem for decades, after being displaced from what became Israel and then within the West Bank.

Since the mid-1990s, they have been settled just inside the Israeli-declared municipal boundary of Jerusalem.

Notwithstanding the proximity, since they hold West Bank ID cards, Israel considers their presence within the Jerusalem municipal boundary illegal, unless they obtain special permits.

By 2007, the Israeli authorities completed the construction of a Barrier in the area, with the stated aim of preventing attacks on Israelis. This has left the community on the “Jerusalem” side of the Barrier, physically separated from their service centre of Bir Nabala and the rest of the West Bank, and unable to legally enter East Jerusalem.

We met Amneh, then a 45-year-old member of the community, in 2013. ❝After the Barrier was completed in 2007,❞ she told us, ❝our living conditions deteriorated and our life turned upside down. We were isolated, stuck between two places, Ramallah and Jerusalem, able to go to neither.

❝The separation was difficult on everyone. All the while, we suffered harassment and intimidation from the Israeli authorities to leave our community.❞

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Forced displacement of the Tel al ‘Adassa Bedouin community (August 2013)

On top of the access restrictions, the community has also faced multiple incident of demolitions, due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits.

By 2013, all families left and went to live on the ‘West Bank’ side.

The community dispersed into two separate locations. Amneh described the events that led to their departure:

❝We had demolition orders for our structures and fines as well. After finally demolishing all of our structures, the Israelis threatened that if we do not move to the other side of the Barrier in the West Bank, we will be fined huge amounts of money and risk arrest.

❝To be honest, we just are not able to pay any fines. We have no money. I have two sons in the university and I still have not been able to cover their tuition. Any money I have, should go to them first, and not to the Israeli authorities.

❝So we decided to move, in hopes that we will find better living conditions and no longer be faced with the Israeli authorities’ intimidation.❞

❝Is this our destiny?❞ she asked. ❝Is it my fate to live in uncertainty, without even a hope of living in dignity and with respect?

AHMAD DIWAN

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Ahmad Diwan from BEIT IJZA | BIDDU ENCLAVE | JERUSALEM

We met Ahmad Jubran Diwan, also known by the name of Abu Al ‘Abed, in 2012, to hear from him – as head of Beit Ijza village council – about the farmers in his community, who own agricultural lands that are isolated following the construction of the Barrier.

❝The Barrier on Beit Ijza lands was erected in 2004, […] buried 340 dunums (85 akres) under its route, and isolated 860 dunums (215 akres) behind it,❞ Ahmad said, adding that the land was planted with many kinds of fruits and vegetables, including olives, grapes, almonds and tomatos.

❝This area was the ‘food basket’ of the region❞, he said, ❝feeding Jerusalem and its suburbs. This is a sample of grapes planted behind the Barrier, where the farmers cannot access. They cannot harvest these crops and they are eaten by boars, animals and birds.

❝Grape, olive and fig trees – the harvest season of which is now – demand daily visits, just like a spoiled baby in his mother’s bossom, who needs to be fed every hour or when she cries. We need to access our land every day, without any hindrance.❞

MUHAMMAD ABDEL AZIZ  
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Muhammad Abdel Aziz from QARYUT | NABLUS

A rough, winding uphill road leads to Palestinian olive grove in a remote and isolated area of Qaryut village, close to Eli settlement.

In this grove, dozens of ancient olive trees were cut down on 9 October 2012.

 Shortly after, we visited Muhammad, on his land, to hear from him on how this affected his family.

❝These trees are centuries old. I inherited them from my father who inherited them from my grandfather. It is the only source of livelihood. We have no more fallow fields to plant with wheat and barley etc. This tree is our sole source of livelihood.

❝A few days before the harvest some days ago, settlers came and, as you can see, cut down the trees; and those behind as well, which are hundreds of years old.

❝It is the settlers who came down from that settlement, close to us, a few hundred metres from here. They cut down no less than 140 trees.

❝Two days after they had cut down the trees, they came and poured gasoline on the trees, and also burned down trees in an area a little further down, nearby.

This naturally affects the farmers, their lives, their livelihoods, as these trees are their only source of subsistence.❞

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