Over the next 10 days, I will be posting stories of Palestinians living under occupation from the project by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
All fifty stories can be found here. I’m dividing them up and sharing 5 each day. Why?
Reading each moved me to tears. I want Americans to know these Palestinians, but I fear that few will take the time to read all fifty stories on OCHA’s website.
I also am disgusted with my government’s demonization of the United Nations and the threats made by Congress to withhold funding because of the UN’s criticism of Israel’s occupation. The work of the United Nations is extremely important to the lives of Palestinians, and OCHA’s project is just one example.
June 2017 marks 50 years since Israel began its military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s occupation is a key cause of humanitarian needs, to which the international community responds.
Occupation denies Palestinians control over basic aspects of daily life. Their ability to move unimpeded within their own country, to exit and return, to develop large parts of their territory, build on their own land, access natural resources or develop their economy is largely determined by the Israeli military.
Occupation-related policies have isolated communities, ruptured social cohesion, deprived Palestinians of their human rights, affected economic activity, and undermined their right to self-determination.
The prolonged occupation, with no end in sight, cultivates a sense of hopelessness and frustration that drives continued violence and impacts both Palestinians and Israelis.
At the 50 year mark OCHA has compiled a broad spectrum of case studies featured in recent years. These stories exemplify the Palestinian experience of occupation and its humanitarian impacts.
Ending the occupation is the single most important priority to enable Palestinians to
✓ advance development goals,
✓ reduce humanitarian needs, and
✓ ensure respect for human rights.
Rifqa Al Kurd
On 1 December 2009, a group of Israeli settlers, accompanied by armed guards, entered and took control of a part of the home of the Rifka Al Kurd family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
The group proceeded to empty the home of its contents, throwing furniture and personal belongings of the family out on the street.
❝The settlers are not living in my house permanently. They come in groups, dance, pray and swear against us. Then they leave again, and others come after a while.
❝I can’t see what is going on inside the house because they covered all the windows with cardboard and Plexiglas. I can’t go close to the house because there are cameras all around and the police would come if I tried to.
❝We often are physically attacked: they sent my daughter, who is aged 50, to the hospital four times.
❝They know she has heart problems and they always hit her close to her heart.
❝Once, if it had not been for a neighbouring doctor who rushed and helped her, she would have died.❞
OCHA’s full report about East Jerusalem is here.
In December 2010, we met A. S., then a 13-year-old boy, and heard from him about his arrest and mistreatment by the Israeli Police.
❝At 4 am, we heard a loud knock at the door. We didn’t think they were coming to arrest anyone, we thought they were coming to demolish our house, as we have a pending demolition order.
❝My father called out, asking who it was. The soldiers identified themselves and said they were coming to arrest ‘Hamada’.
❝Without opening the door, my father replied, that they had the wrong house; there was no Hamada here.
❝They told him to open the door, and also told him [to] name his sons… and if he didn’t do it, they would throw tear gas into the house.
❝My father began naming us one by one, and when he came to my name, the soldiers told him to stop. They said that I had been throwing stones, and they wanted to take me away.
❝I don’t know exactly how many… but there must have been at least six jeeps, maybe eight… and it seemed like there were hundreds of them: police, undercover police and special forces.
❝They came in and I was pulled from my bed, they didn’t even let me put my clothes or shoes on… they cuffed my hands, and took me away barefoot, wearing only pajamas.
❝Altogether, we were six kids arrested that morning. They did not let my parents ride with me; by father followed after us…
❝When we got to the police station, they took me to Room number 4, and someone questioned me… he wanted me to admit that I had thrown stones that day.
❝At first, I wouldn’t admit to anything. Whenever I looked away, he slapped me. He kept asking me, and I kept denying.
❝He kept blowing cigarette smoke into my eyes. He grabbed my shoulder and squeezed hard, then threw me hard against a wall; my nose began to bleed.
❝I asked for tissue paper to wipe my nose, but he didn’t give me any. Afterwards, someone else did.
❝Then he told me to kneel down; I replied that I only kneel to The Creator. He kicked my right inner thigh.
❝As I sat there, they toasted bread and cheese. They asked if I was hungry, and threw some of the hot cheese on my arm. All along they told me that I had only to admit that I had thrown stones, and they would let me go.
❝In the end, I just wanted to go home, so I admitted to throwing only one stone.
❝“One stone, or more?” they asked, I replied, “no, only one stone.” They asked again, “not even a second stone?” I insisted that it was only one stone.
❝They wanted to know if others had thrown stones with me; I told them I was alone.
Finally they took my fingerprints and had me sign some papers — I don’t know what was written there as they were in Hebrew. Afterwards, they let my father take me home.❞
❝I am 31 years old, from Ash Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood in Gaza city.
❝During the war last summer , I was documenting the war through my camera lens.
Despite being in constant danger, I felt it was my duty to show the world how my people were suffering.
❝My house was totally destroyed, and I am now an internally displaced person.
❝I work at a local news agency in the Gaza Strip and volunteer with number of news sites, but originally studied Medical Technology. I changed to photojournalism when I discovered I had a talent for it, and have won six awards to date despite the absence of photography courses in Gaza.
❝Recently, I won a World Humanitarian Summit photo contest arranged by the OCHA Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa with a picture from the 2014 hostilities of an injured Palestinian child, Dalia Khalifa. The prize for the winning photo was a camera.
❝I first saw Dalia in the hospital. I was inspired by the picture of the Afghan girl which won the World Press Photo Award some years ago, and I was contemplating how I can best express the feeling of the war through the prism of this little girl’s face.
❝The girl was only nine years old. Like many other children in Gaza, she was injured while sleeping, when a shell hit her home.❞
When the Barrier was constructed around East Jerusalem, it left the Bedouin community of Tel al ‘Adassa physically separated from the rest of the West Bank. However, residents there hold West Bank ID cards and are not allowed to stay in East Jerusalem.
Zeinab was twelve years old when this picture was taken, in 2010, and her sister Zeina was nine.
Their aunt, Um Ibrahim, told us then that since 2006, the children’s access to school in Bir Nabala, on the other side of the Barrier, had changed from a ten minute walk into a one hour journey, or longer, depending on the waiting time at the checkpoint.
❝Because of the Wall and the lack of permits,❞ she said, ❝my daughter Amna’ dropped out of school when she was ﬁfteen and another two children quit school at the age of eleven and thirteen.❞
❝Girls are more likely to miss school and to drop out,❞ she explained, ❝because, unlike boys, they are less likely to climb the Wall.❞
Zeinab and Zeina used to attend school in Bir Nabala, but also dropped out. Their father decided to enroll them, together with their younger brother, in a private school in Beit Hanina, Abu Ibrahim added.
❝This was to make sure they receive an appropriate education, although they’re not allowed to live in Jerusalem.
❝However, the costs are high. The enrollment fee is NIS1,000 [US$277] per child, in addition to another NIS1,000 for their uniforms and books.❞
❝Ahead of the 2016 winter season, I leased 150 dunums from a landowner in the Al Qarara area, some 700 metres from the fence, and planted them with 13 types of leafy and rain-fed crops.
❝A third of the land, 50 dunums, I planted with spinach, which is in demand in winter.
Everything went well. I managed to find a wholesaler who paid me $11,100 in advance for the produce.
❝In January 2017, just three days before the harvest, an Israeli airplane sprayed the crops with herbicides and all the spinach crop was destroyed.
❝I had already used the money I received from the wholesaler to cover the cost of inputs and for paying the landlord.
❝I estimate my losses at $43,000. I have no money to pay the wholesaler back.
❝I replanted the land again with other seasonal crops to recover some of the big losses I experienced.
❝Luckily, this time I covered some of the crops with nylon, in advance of the April spraying, and minimized the damage❞