Category Archives: United Nations

Day #3 – July 9, 2014 – Why should Americans care?

Source: Day #3 – July 9, 2014 – Why should Americans care?

Palestinian women hold night prayers in front of the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem in support of Palestinians in Gaza. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli AFP/Getty Images

Why should Americans care about the Palestinian side of the equation in the Middle East? That’s the MILLION $$ question. And why should members of Congress care specifically?

The U.S. gives Israel ALOT of money every year under very favorable terms. By one estimate, American taxpayers have given more than $130 Billion in U.S. aid to Israel. Our subsidy appears to be growing. Can the U.S. afford to be so generous with Israel while ignoring basic needs at home (infrastructure and education to name a couple) and in other less-developed countries?

Riyad H Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, holds up a picture from the Israeli operation in Gaza during a Security Council meeting at the UN. Photograph: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

In the international arena, the U.S. routinely stands alone, or with the small minority, when voting on Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The U.S. cast the only NO vote at the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva against a resolution calling for parties to be held accountable for potential war crimes committed in Operation Protective Edge. The U.S. knee-jerk support for anything and everything that Israel wants, endangers U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in the volatile Middle East.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush told the world that the terrorists hate American values. He was wrong. Extremists hate our foreign policies, not our values. We continue down this path of genuflecting before the State of Israel at our peril, and Israel’s peril too. America’s unwavering support for the State of Israel, even when the cold, hard facts show that Israel likely committed war crimes last summer in Gaza, only fuels the extremists. President Obama hit the nail on the head when he said that “extreme ideologies are not defeated by guns but by better ideas.”

Our basic common decency and humanity calls us to empathize with our fellow human beings — all of them — not just the Israelis running for cover under the Iron Dome. We lose our humanity when we ignore the tremendous lopsided death tolls, the assymetric battles, and the root causes of the conflict.

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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

Kareem 2

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 

Amneh

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.❞

bir-nabala-tel-al-adassa-map

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

ahmad-jubran

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  
muhammad-abdel

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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The best documented occupation … Palestine

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.

MAHMOUD KA’ABNEH

Mahmoud

Mahmoud Ka’abneh from EIN AL HILWA | JORDAN VALLEY

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.

ein-al-hilwa

YUSEF ALI KADOS

Yusef

YUSEF ALI KADOS from Burin with his grandson

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…

Burin

Burin (Photo by Patrick Zoll, 2010)

❝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.❞

MANAL SUBAIR 

Manal 2

Manal Subair from AL ATTATRA TENT CAMP | GAZA

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.

destroyed-school

School in Beit Lahia destroyed during the “Cast Lead” offensive (Photo by JCTordai, April 2009)

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 AS’AD 

Saeed
Sa’eed As’ad from KHALLET SAKARIYA | BETHLEHEM

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

Zakia

Zakia abu Alya from AL MUGHAYYIR | RAMALLAH

❝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.

 

 

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Stuck on the wrong side of the Wall

I’ve been sharing the stories of Palestinians from OCHA’s 50 Years of Occupation project. All of the stories are available online here.

I decided to divide them into 5 stories each day spread over a couple of weeks because I hope Americans will spend the time to read each and really feel what life is like under military occupation. OCHA has done an excellent job of compiling all of these stories. Please share them.

ABBAS YOUSEF 

Abbas

Abbas Yousef from AL JANIYA | RAMALLAH

Abbas owns land located inside the perimeter fence of an Israeli settlement, with two plots of olive trees.

An understanding with the Israeli authorities that allowed him to continue accessing his land was suspended between 2000 and 2006, during which time most of the trees were reportedly vandalized or uprooted.

Since 2011, farmers from Al Janiya have been allocated 3-4 days during the olive harvest season, and 1-2 days during the ploughing season, to access their land, following prior coordination with Israeli officials.

The authorities prevent some farmers from using tractors to plough their land, citing potential damage to the settlement’s sewage network.

In 2016, Abbas reported that the 50 olive trees that remained in this area had yield an average of ten gallons of olive oil per season, generating an income of approximately US$1,000, down from 30 gallons generating US$3,000 prior to 2000.

Map

REMAS AL GHOFARY

Remas

Remas al Ghofary and her sister from AT TUFAH | GAZA CITY (photo by UNDP)

Remas was three years old when the 2014 escalation broke.

Back then, she lived with her family in an apartment building, but it was destroyed in the hostilities.

Her mother, Afnan, told UNDP: ❝It has been almost three years now since we lost our home, our memories and my children’s first moments. Every day I wake up thinking it is a dream, but it is not. It is no longer my home.

Remas’ parents have no steady income. It has been difficult for the family to cover their basic living costs, especially now that they also have to pay for the house they are renting.

❝Our rent was covered by UNDP support for two years,❞ said Afnan. ❝Now we need NIS700 [US$190] every month to cover our rent. This has been going on since June 2016 when the funding stopped,❞ she added.

❝I am aware of the political situation and delays in funding, but it is becoming much more difficult to meet the needs of my children and my family. We did not get a grant to reconstruct our home, even though my husband’s family did. So, we are here with no cash assistance or hope to rebuild our home.

❝I do not envy anyone, but I am jealous of families like my husband’s who have the opportunity to go back to their homes.

I know one thing: unless my home is rebuilt, I am just counting the days with no purpose. I really miss my home!❞

Displaced girl

Displaced Palestinian girl in Gaza. (Photo by OCHA in February 2015)

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.

RIMAZ KASABREH 

Rimaz

Rimaz Kasabreh in BEIT HANINA | EAST JERUSALEM (Portrait photo by JC Tordai, 2010)

❝My name is Rimaz Kasabreh, I am 33 years old, and I’m from the northern West Bank. In 1996, I married my husband who is a resident of Jerusalem and moved to Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem.

❝We have three children. My husband and I were aware that family unification application was not going to be easy, which is why we didn’t submit an application for a few years. When we did, it took years for the Israeli authorities to process our application.

❝At the time I was working at a private school in the centre of the city although I didn’t have a Jerusalem ID card or a permit.

❝I needed to cross the Ar Ram checkpoint, located in Beit Hanina, to get to work and over the years, this became more difficult with my West Bank ID card: it happened many times that the soldiers at the checkpoint turned me back.

❝The school issued me a card to show I was employed by them but it didn’t help much. To avoid the checkpoint I used dirt roads and climbed over hills. I rarely made it to school in time. In winter I would arrive completely wet and cold, in the summer hot and sweaty.

❝In 2003, with the new (Nationality and Entry into Israel) law it became more difficult. It’s illegal for taxi and bus drivers from Jerusalem to take passengers from the West Bank. Taxi and minibus drivers would ask every passenger about their ID card. It became more and more difficult for me to go to work or anywhere in Jerusalem.

I couldn’t go shopping, I couldn’t visit my friends, I couldn’t take the children to school, or to a doctor or to summer camps where other children their age went. This affected my children. They were too young to understand why their friends’ mothers did things with them while I couldn’t…

❝Very often I took risks. One day, when I was nine months pregnant, the police stopped the mini bus I was on and when they found out my status they took the driver’s name and license number and warned him next time he was caught with someone from the West Bank they would confiscate his vehicle. I was released after they checked my records and found out I was married to a person from Jerusalem. They made me sign a piece of paper pledging I will not move or work within the State of Israel, which of course according to their definition includes East Jerusalem.

❝In October 2003, I was caught again in a taxi. It was the third time the driver was caught driving a West Banker so the police confiscated his taxi for three months and took away his driving license. The taxi driver blamed me and demanded compensation.

❝He used to wait for me outside the school gate and shout at me that if I didn’t pay him the money I would be in trouble. In the end, my husband paid him money. After this incident I quit my job. Most taxi drivers in Jerusalem recognized me and refused to take me. I was confined to the house and hardly ever left except to go to the neighbours’ house. It was very hard for me. I was not used to staying at home. My family could not visit me because they’re from the West Bank. They only come at Christmas and Easter, when Christians are given special permits to celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem.

❝About three-and-a-half years ago the Ministry of Interior finally accepted my application for family unification. They gave me a paper valid for one year, with which I could apply for a permit to stay in Jerusalem.

❝Although this didn’t mean I was a resident yet, at least it meant I could take a taxi and go places.

❝I’ve renewed this paper four times now. Each time my husband and I have to provide evidence that we’re living together in Jerusalem. We have to show that we pay water and electricity bills, the municipal tax and that our children go to schools in Jerusalem. It takes weeks, even months, just to get through to the Ministry of Interior for an appointment. They don’t pick up the phone. When delays in the permit renewal occur I

live in Jerusalem illegally all over again. I often took the risk and ask my husband to drive me around. I wouldn’t ask for rides from friends and relatives, as I know the consequences if they’re caught with me in their car

❝The third permit expired in December 2008. Although I requested an appointment in time and submitted all the evidence they requested, it took them months to get back to me. During this time I was confined to the house once again. They told me they were checking my security record and that of my family, including my parents, my brothers and sisters and their families, as well as my husband’s family.

❝The same happened in May 2009, when I applied to renew my permit, which I didn’t get until August. My husband and I employed a lawyer to speed up the family unification process.

❝After we paid him a large amount of money he told us the Ministry of Interior is not approving applications any more. I have no idea how long this situation will go on for.

❝My husband and I have been married for over 13 years now and I’m still unable to live a normal life with him and the children. When we enter Jerusalem from the West Bank my husband is allowed to cross by car, while I have to cross on foot. I can’t benefit from Israeli health care, so I go to Ramallah whenever I need health services. Luckily I have never been in an emergency while I was living in Jerusalem ‘illegally’.

❝I still cannot apply for a job. Nobody will employ me knowing that I am in Jerusalem on short-term permits which I have to renew every year.

❝Everybody knows that renewal is not guaranteed. It could happen again that I will spend months without a permit before the authorities process my request. I feel I am losing the best years of my life sitting at home. Many of my friends are in the same situation.❞

MANAL ‘AYYAD 

Manal

Manal ‘Ayyad from ABU DIS | JERUSALEM Western side of the Barrier

❝The Separation Wall has had a negative effect on our lives, impacting all the residents here. Prior to the Wall, we were one community, but the Wall has cut our community in two.

❝After the construction of the Wall, I don’t like to go to Abu Dis anymore (e.g. the eastern side). It takes more than one hour, and if the checkpoint is closed, ❝I need two or maybe three hours. I need to use two cars: one from our house to the checkpoint, then walk through the checkpoint, and finally take another car from the checkpoint to Abu Dis on the other side.

❝Once we were going to a wedding in Abu Dis, one of our relatives was getting married. But the Israelis closed the checkpoint. We were all ready for the wedding, but they prevented us from going to Abu Dis.

❝We stayed for one hour at the checkpoint, talked to them, to convince them to allow us through. In the end, we all became stressed and returned home. We did not attend the wedding.

❝Our location is very difficult. No one can visit us. Really, it’s very difficult for us. My hope is to wake up one morning to find that there is no Separation Wall.❞

 

SAMI AS SURKHI

AS SAWAHIRA ASH SHARQIYA | JERUSALEM

Sami’s neighbourhood of East Jerusalem was cut in two by Israel’s construction of the Barrier in the early 2000s.

His home remained on the eastern side while his daughter’s is located on the western side.

Recorded in 2014, this video was part of OCHA’s interactive map project, which marked the tenth anniversary to the West Bank Barrier by illustrating its impact on Palestinian communities in and around East Jerusalem.

Today,❞ he told us, ❝we find ourselves surrounded by a wall, which can best be described as a continuously bleeding wound.❞

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West Bank barrier separates families

The stories of five Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation are shared below. OCHA has compiled 50 stories here. I hope these stories reach the hearts of many Americans. Enough is enough. Fifty years of occupation is enough.

AMMAR MASAMIR

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Ammar Masamir from QUSRA | NABLUS

On 10 January 2013, armed settlers raided fields next to the village of Qusra, and clashed with local residents. Some settlers opened fire and Palestinians threw stones.

Israeli forces at the scene fired tear gas, rubber coated bullets and live ammunition towards Palestinians.

Some Palestinians were injured, and many trees were vandalized and damaged.

Ammar was 19 years old back then.

He was shot with live ammunition in his leg, and sustained three fractured bones.

❝I run a barber shop in Qusra and my father used to work in a settlement,❞ he told us shortly after the incident.

❝These were the only sources of income for my family, which includes eight people.

❝After the attack, my leg was operated on, and since then I can’t move. The doctors said that I need at least three months before I can start physiotherapy.

❝My father had to quit his job to keep the shop running. The incident directly worsened our economic situation.

KHADER RADAD

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Khader Radad from AZ ZAWIYA | SALFIT

About 35 per cent (8,000 dunums) of the agricultural land of Az Zawiya (population 5,768), all planted with olive trees, is located in the seam zone behind the Barrier and within Elkana settlement boundaries.

To access land in this area, Palestinian farmers must obtain a permit to cross the Barrier through the agricultural gate controlled by the Israeli army. They also need prior coordination to cross the fences surrounding the settlement.

Khader Raddad and his family own six dunums of land (20 olive trees) behind the Barrier, and 15 dunums (250 olive trees) on the Palestinian side of the Barrier. In September 2013, at least 320 olive trees belonging to Az Zawiya were completely burned in the seam zone.

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Az Zawiya village & Salfit governorate

❝The land is not ploughed and the grass is dry… throw a match and boom! All the trees are burnt,❞ said Khader.

OCHA has monitored the productivity of Khader’s olive trees since 2013 by testing 10 trees on each side of the Barrier.

In 2016, the 10 trees on the Palestinian side produced 150 kg of olives, while the ones on other side of the Barrier produced only 50 kg.

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Prior to the completion of the Barrier in 2004, Khader’s family was self-sufficient, but they now have to buy olive oil from the market to meet their needs.

AMAL AS SAMOUNI

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Amal as Samouni from AZ ZEITUN | GAZA

We met Amal  in 2012, in Gaza, when she was 11-years-old.

Three years earlier, during Israel’s offensive in 2009, soldiers ordered over 100 members her extended family into one house. A day later, the residence was hit by Israeli artillery shells and live ammunition. Twenty-seven family members were killed, including 11 children and six women, and 35 others were injured.

Amal was left with permanent sharpnel injuries and trauma.

❝I remember my brother and father and how they were killed in every moment… we were a happy family. Now I don’t feel happy anymore,❞ she told us.

❝For one year we lived with the parents of my mother… Then we lived in a storage room for a year and a half. It didn’t have a floor. For the last six months, we have been living where our old house used to be…

❝I want to have another doctor look at my situation, and to try everything possible to end my pain. I wish to travel not for amusement, but for medical treatment.

❝When I have a lot of pain I become nervous and angry. When I am sad I go to my aunt’s house to see my cousins, or I prepare my books for school

❝Before the war I excelled in school. Now my scores are not so good anymore.❞

AHMAD AYYAD

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Ahmad Ayyad from ABU DIS | JERUSALEM
Ahmad Ayyad, born in 1929, is a resident of Abu Dis, who in 2013 suffered from renal failure and is in need of regular kidney dialysis. The Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem would have been the most suitable medical centre for this treatment, as it is located only 3.4 km (2 miles) away from his home.
However, because of the West Bank Barrier separating his home from East Jerusalem, his family had take him to a medical centre in Beit Jala (Bethlehem governorate), which is located 40 minutes drive away, three times a week.
This journey is more difficult and costly for the patient and his family.
Recorded in 2014, this video was part of OCHA’s interactive map project, which marked the tenth anniversary to the West Bank Barrier by illustrating its impact on Palestinian communities in and around East Jerusalem.
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RAZAN 

We met Razan and her family in 2011 in their home, in a neighbourhood of Abu Dis which is separated from the rest of the community by the West Bank Barrier and can be freely accessed only through East Jerusalem.

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Razan from ABU DIS | EAST JERUSALEM SIDE OF THE BARRIER — In this picture, Razan is seen next to her twin brother, Anan (photo by JC Tordai, 2010)

❝In our neighbourhood,❞ her mother Salam told us, ❝there are four families of West Bank ID holders who, after the Wall was built, are stuck on the Jerusalem side without Jerusalem ID cards or permits to stay in Jerusalem.

Razan’s father is one of those ‘West-Bankers’ whom Israel does not recognize as Jerusalem residents and therefore need permits to stay in Jerusalem.

In the absence of such a permit, in 2010, he had to leave and reside on the other side of the Barrier.

Razan and her siblings lived without their father for more than six months.

The children have a hard time separated from their father. Every time they say a prayer, they ask God to give their father a permit to bring him back to them.

❝However, I can’t risk my or the children’s status [Jerusalem residents] by moving to the [other side] to live with him.❞

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Studying law is a security threat to Israel?

I know the father of one of these young people, Loujain az Zaeem, and so these stories have become more personal than I first imagined they might. OCHA has posted the stories of 50 Palestinians who are living under Israel’s occupation which has lasted 50 years. All of the stories can be found here. How much longer will this occupation last?

MOHAMMAD JAWABREH

On 11 November 2014, an Israeli soldier shot and killed 21-year-old Mohammad Jawabreh, in Al Arrub refugee camp, north of Hebron.

The incident took place during clashes lasting for several hours that erupted following a demonstration held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

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Mohammad Jawabreh from AL ARRUB REFUGEE CAMP | HEBRON

The following are the initial findings of an investigation into this incident conducted by the Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights.

Jawabreh took part in the initial clashes and was struck in the leg by a rubber-coated metal bullet.

He was treated on the spot and left the scene with a friend.

The two continued to Jawabreh’s house and watched the clashes from a window on the second floor of the house.

Shortly after, an Israeli soldier positioned on an adjacent roof ordered the two to leave the window, subsequently firing a teargas canister in their direction.

The two left the window for some time, but returned later with a family member and continued watching the clashes.

A few minutes later, Jawabreh suddenly shouted and collapsed on the floor. He had been shot with live ammunition on the left side of his back.

The two men accompanying him carried him down, put him in a car and drove towards Beit Ummar, where he was transferred to an ambulance.

He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

SA’ED AL ASAKREH

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Sa’ed al-Asakreh from AL ‘ASAKIRA, BETHLEHEM

❝We are optimistic that the legal aid will help us regain our land despite settler attacks and intimidation.❞

These were the words of Sa’ed Salameh al Asakreh, now 63 years old, when we visited him in 2014, after the olive harvest season.

Like other farmers from Al ‘Asakira village and the neighbouring communities, he was permitted in 2014 to reach his olive groves, near an Israeli settlement, for the first time in over a decade.

Land belonging to these communities was cultivated in the past with olive trees and seasonal crops such as wheat and barley and constituted the main source of income for the owners’ families.

However, since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, these farmers were subjected to systematic violence and intimidation by Israeli settlers that reduced, and then prevented, them from accessing these areas.

Following a legal intervention in 2014 by the Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Civil Administration declared a number of the affected plots as closed military areas.

This prohibited access by Israeli settlers to the area and required landowners to obtain a special authorization (known as ‘prior coordination’) to enter it.

Subsequently, two periods were allocated to the farmers for coordinated access under the protection of Israeli forces.

AFAF ABU AJWA

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Afaf abu Ajwa from ASH SHUJA’IYEH, GAZA CITY

In mid-July 2014, during the escalated hostilities with Israel, Afaf was forced – along with her husband and their nine children – to evacuate their home in Ash Shuja’iyeh, Gaza city, which was severely damaged. They took refuge at an UNRWA shelter.

The terrifying ordeal was made worse when the family realized that their son, Imad, was missing.

❝I could not eat or sleep; I realized that we had left our son behind in the demolished house,❞ said Afaf, who was then 42 years old.

❝My husband and I took advantage of the first humanitarian truce and approached the home to look for him. We found him alive under the rubble, scared but unharmed.❞

After the ceasefire, the family had no home to return to, so they moved to an UNRWA Collective Centre.

❝Life here is difficult despite the support and aid we receive…❞ she told us then. ❝We really hope to move out and rebuild our home. It is difficult to locate an apartment for rent for 11 people,❞ said Afaf.

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.

LOUJAIN  AZ ZAEEM

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Loujain Az Zaeem from Gaza

We met Loujain in 2012, in Gaza, when she was a 19-years-old student.

❝I was always strongly inspired by my mother and tried to follow her in everything,❞ she told us.

❝She has a degree in English literature from Bir Zeit University. I grew up hearing great stories about this university and I decided to study there too.

However, Bir Zeit Univeristy is located in Ramallah, the West Bank, which ment that she could not get there unless Israel issued a special permit for that purpose.

❝In 2011, I finished my secondary school with very high marks and immediately applied to the Law Faculty at Bir Zeit. I applied for an exit permit through a human rights organization and was very disappointed to learn that my application was rejected by the Israeli security authorities.

I cannot see any legitimate reason why Israel would stop me from going to the university I want in my country. Israeli students can choose to study at any university they like in Israel.

❝Although I’ve started to study law at Al Azhar University in Gaza and already completed the first year, I would be happy to start again at Bir Zeit.❞

FAYYADH AS SUMEIRI 

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Fayyadh as Sumeiri from KHAN YOUNIS, GAZA (Photos by WFP, 2010)

Fayyadh was 47 years old when we met him in 2010, and headed a farming household of 10 people in the Qarara area of Khan Yunis, Gaza.

He owns a plot of land of 12 dunums located 150 metres from the fence with Israel, which in the past was planted with almonds, olives and cactus.

In 2003, the area was levelled by the Israeli military and has since remained inaccessible due to warning fire opened from a nearby watch tower at any person attempting to reach the area.

A second plot of six dunums, located 1.5 kilometres west of the fence, was cultivated with olive trees and levelled in late 2008. This plot has subsequently been replanted with wheat, which was consumed by the family, or bartered with two day labourers.

To help offset financial losses, the family rented a 3-dunum plot of land in the area of Suq Mazen, which it planted with zucchini.

However, the Israeli military bulldozed both areas during the 2008/9 escalation. An irrigation network that Fayyadh installed in the rented plot, with the assistance of the European Union, was also totally destroyed.

The loss of income pushed the family into a state of dire poverty and 14,000 NIS in debt.

❝Every day, I pass by shops and see people that I owe money to, and I lower my head,❞ He said. ❝I don’t know what to do because I have no income.

Everything we earned was from the land, and every metre we planted was destroyed… Every day I pray that I will be able to return to my land and bring it back to the state it was in.

More information about each of these stories is available here.

 

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The occupation must end NOW!

Fifty years, 2 or 3 generations of Palestinians have lived under Israeli military occupation. I fear that the children grow up thinking “this life is normal.” Below are the stories of 5 Palestinians shared from the 50 stories that OCHA compiled here. We must end this occupation. Now!

MASA’AD ABU GADDAIEEN 

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Masa’ad abu Gaddaieen from BEIT LAHIA, GAZA

We met Masa’ad in 2015, a few months after the 2014 escalation in Gaza. He was 46 years old, unemployed, but years of hard work in the agricultural sector had enabled him to save some money that he invested in the construction of his home.

In Gaza you are not safe at home. My family and I have been displaced twice in two years. The first time was during the Israeli military operation in November 2012, and the second time as a result of the recent conflict.❞

When the Israeli military ground operation began, the family left their home and took shelter in one of the UNRWA schools, where the situation was very difficult.

❝We managed to visit our home during the temporary ceasefire 25 days into the hostilities. We found our home and around 95 other homes in the area completely destroyed by Israeli bulldozers.

❝We were shocked and helpless; it was all gone, everything we had struggled to build. I have worked all my life to have a house of my own, and then the Israeli bulldozers came and destroyed it in seconds.❞

After the end of the hostilities, Masa’ad and his family had to relocate to another UNRWA shelter in Ar Remal area, where they stayed for 15 days before moving to a shelter in Beach camp, where some of the family still live.

❝The long stay and situation inside the shelter has become a great strain on my family and I have no money to rent an apartment. The economic situation is very difficult. We erected a makeshift shelter from plastic and fabric near our destroyed home.❞

When we met him, some members of his family felt more comfortable staying in the makeshift shelter despite the winter season and the exposure to harsh weather conditions.

❝We are waiting for UNRWA assistance to be able to rent an apartment temporarily, but we have heard that UNRWA has no money to help us. All I hope for is that our home will be reconstructed very soon so we can return to a life of dignity.❞

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.

ABEER AN NEMNEM 

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Abeer an Nemnem from SHATA REFUGEE CAMP | GAZA

❝We live a very miserable life in Gaza. My husband is unemployed due to health problems and I work in a kindergarten for NIS300 [US$83] a month.

❝We are a family with 10 children, most of whom go to school except the youngest. We struggle every day to meet our children’s growing needs and to put food on their plates.

❝In addition, we have to cope with problems beyond our control, such as electricity cuts, water shortages and lack of cooking gas.

❝The shortage of cooking gas is every mother’s nightmare. If we run out of gas, we have to wait for more than three weeks to get our gas cylinder refilled.

❝We cannot afford a backup cylinder as we are too poor. During these three weeks, I sometimes use a small gas cylinder to light the house for food preparation during electricity cuts.

❝When the small cylinder runs out, I try to time preparing the food with the electricity cuts schedule, using an unsafe electric cooking stove to prepare simple meals such as fried potatoes or eggs or boiling milk for the children.

❝The stove is not safe because of the poor electricity supply and because it is low on the ground and I’m always afraid one of the children will knock it over and burn themselves.

❝It often happens that the children wake up at night during electricity cuts and I cannot even prepare milk for them.

It’s even worse when my children have to go to school without breakfast or even a cup of milk or tea. The same thing happens when they come back from school – no food if there is no gas or electricity.

❝Our house is small; I cannot build a wood stove to prepare food for the children to reduce the risks from the electric stove. My children are exposed to danger every time we run out of gas, but what can I do?❞    (Her testimony was collected in April 2014.)

SALEM

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Salem from UMM AL KHAIR | HEBRON

Five-year-old Salem became homeless on 6  April 2016. 

It happened when Israeli authorities destroyed six homes in his community.

The demolitions that day displaced a total of 34 Palestinians, among them 12 children.

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Between 2011 and 2016, structures in Umm al Khair were demolished on nine occasions.

Demolitions like these occur on the grounds that the structures lack Israeli-issued building permits, but these are almost impossible to obtain.

UM ‘AHED AL AJLA 

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Um ‘Ahed al Ajla from GAZA

During the 2014 escalation of hostilities in Gaza, Um ‘Ahed Al Ajla sought shelter with her extended family on the top floor of a construction site.

However, the neighbourhood they settled in was also hit in Israeli attacks and her family had to take refuge again in another area, before having to relocate for a third time after their shelter was hit.

❝Our life is all running and flight,❞ she said.

After the ceasefire, the family stayed in buildings that lacked the most basic facilities or sanitation and hygiene facilities, relying on makeshift washrooms. The female members of the family lacked privacy.

Drinking water (desalinated) was not available in the building and had to be bought from private vendors at distribution points in the neighbourhood.

Her family had no choice but to make daily trips to fetch fresh water from 300 metres away in jerry cans.

❝Sometimes we stay the whole day long without a drop to drink. Water is the basis for everything and we don’t have it,❞ she said.

For most of their domestic needs such as cooking, cleaning and bathing, the family used saline water from the municipality, which was available sporadically and only for a few hours per day.

The dire sanitation and hygiene conditions and the lack of clean water had caused several health problems and the youngest family members suffered from skin problems.

ALA’ ZAWAHRI 

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Ala’ Zawahri from UM AL ASAFIR, JERUSALEM (Photos by Patrick Zoll, 2012)

The construction of the West Bank Barrier has left about 1,500 West Bank ID card holders on the ‘Jerusalem’ side.

One such community is Um Al Asafir, where residents face access restrictions to their health and other services which are located on the ‘West Bank’ side of the Barrier.

We met Ala’ Zawahri, who has mental and physical disabilities, in 2010, when she was eight years old.

Living in a house trapped between Har Homa settlement and the Barrier, her parents have to make an arduous journey to Bethlehem or to Beit Sahur to obtain medical services for their daughter.

❝Just last week, ❞ her mother told us, ❝we needed to bring Ala’ to the doctor. She cannot speak, but when she cries, we know something is wrong, because usually she is very quiet.

When she was little, we could drive to Bethlehem or Beit Sahur in less than 15 minutes. That was before the Barrier was built just outside our home. Now we have to find a taxi driver who actually comes here, to drive us to Gilo checkpoint.

❝We then cross on foot carrying Ala’ in our arms. Then we take another taxi to the clinic or hospital. All together 45 shekels one way. Most of the time, this takes one to one-and-a half hours.

❝Ala’ cannot eat by herself, she cannot even sit up. Most of the time she just lies quietly on her couch. She needs constant care and the doctor says that she will need it all her life.

❝Here, where we live, there is no care for Ala’ at all, no doctor, no mobile clinic. Nobody supports us in taking care of her. About 100 metres from here, in the Israeli settlement, there is everything. But we are not allowed to go there. We have West Bank ID cards, although we live on the Jerusalem side of the Barrier.

❝We have repeatedly tried to register Ala’ for health insurance, but without success. Fifty-three members of our family live here in Um Al Asafir – nobody has health insurance…

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Ala’ with her mother, 2010

❝A friendly doctor in Bethlehem used to treat Ala’ for free❞ her mother added. ❝But he died. Now we not only have to pay for transport and medicine, but for doctors’ visits too. All in all, over 500 shekels since last year.

❝We have six other children. They are older and live with relatives in Beit Sahur on the other side of the Barrier in order to go to school and university easily.

❝From the hill outside our house we can see where they stay – but in order to visit their handicapped sister Ala’, they need to make the long journey through the checkpoint.

 

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