Tag Archives: Israel

Khirbet Khamis – living in an open air prison

This is the ninth of ten blog posts focused on the stories compiled by OCHA of 50 Palestinians living under 50 years of Occupation.  The entire 50 stories can be found at OCHA’s website here.  Each story tells of a personal hardship which exemplifies life under Israeli occupation.  The story about Khirbet Khamis in this batch strikes me especially hard. I can’t imagine the degrading and dehumanizing existence that these families have been forced to live under. The Occupation must end, with or without Israel’s consent.

FAT-HALLAH ABU RIDAH

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Fat-Hallah abu Ridah from QARYUT, NABLUS

Since the early 1980s the village has lost much of its land for the construction of an Israeli settlement.

The residents have suffered from regular attacks by Israeli settlers. These incidents have severely undermined their physical security and livelihoods.

Between January and September 2011, OCHA recorded a total of 16 incidents resulting in casualties or property damage, perpetrated in the village by Israeli settlers.

Fat-hallah is a farmer who sustained damages in a settler attack on 6 October 2011. When we met him shortly after, he told us:

❝I consider these 80 damaged trees to be like my children. My wife and I planted them 15 years ago, and have been raising them together with our children.

❝My wife and my daughter used to carry the water on their heads and walk over 300 metres in order to irrigate these trees, while myself and the children spent over three years collecting stones from the land to build these small stone walls all around in order to protect the land.

❝We have always tried to protect our land and our trees, but this time they came at night.

“The Israeli forces restrict our movements in the village in order to protect the settlers while they damage our land.

❝This is the fifth time this has happened; around twenty days ago, the settlers shot me in my leg with live ammunition, and also hit my two sons.❞

 

MUFEED SHARABATI

Mufeed

Mufeed Sharabati from H2 | HEBRON

We met Mufeed, then 47 years old, father of five, in 2013. He lives in an old three story house located in Ash Shuhada Street, with his brother, also father of five, and his mother.

This street was once the main commercial artery of Hebron city, and a densely populated residential area.

In 1994, following the killing of 29 Palestinians by an Israeli settler, the Israeli authorities closed it for Palestinian traffic; later, following the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, most of the street was closed for Palestinian pedestrian movement as well, and hundreds of shops were shut down.

The Israeli authorities justified these restrictions as a means of protecting Israelis living in settlements along the street, which contravene international law.

❝Our life in Shuhada Street is almost like living in a prison,❞ Mufeed told us. ❝Every time we enter or exit the street we have to pass through a checkpoint, and have our belongings checked.

❝Our children are deprived of all aspects of childhood. They are not free to play down the street with a ball or ride a bike because most times they get harassed by settlers.

❝Israeli forces invade our house anytime they want; each time something wrong happens down the street near the house, our children are accused of it, and they get interrogated.

❝When there is a health emergency, for the ambulance to get here it needs prior coordination. We feel so isolated, our friends and relatives don’t visit us because it’s difficult for them to get here.

❝Nothing is normal here, but at the end of the day this is my home, I inherited from my father, it means so much to me, I was born here, all my life and memories are here, and I will not leave here except when I die.❞

 

SABRIN NASASRA

Sabrin

Sabrin Nasasra from KHIRBET TANA | NABLUS (Sabrin is seen on the left, with her sister, Farah)

On 23 March 2016, Sabrin and her family became homeless. 

It happened when Israeli authorities destroyed 53 structures in the Palestinian community of Khirbet Tana, in one of the largest incidents since OCHA began systematically tracking demolitions in 2009.

The targeted structures included 22 homes, resulting in the displacement of 87 people, among them 35 children and 22 women. The picture above was taken after that demolition incident.

On 3 January 2017, Sabrin and her family lost their home again, a tent that was erected as a shelter following the previous demolition.

The picture below was taken following that demolition, where Israeli authorities demolished 49 structures including 30 structures that had been donated to the families.

This second incident displaced eight families of fifty members, including 22 children, and otherwise affected ten families of 72 members, including 35 children.

Khirbet Tana is located in an Israeli-declared firing zone. All the families there have faced demolition at least once during 2016, when the Israeli authorities carried out a series of four demolitions between February and April.

All in all, OCHA has documented 13 demolition incidents between 2010 and January 2017 in Khirbet Tana.

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Khirbet Tana, following a demolition incident, 3 January 2017

 

MOHAMMAD AL QUNBAR

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Mohammad al Qunbar from SURKHI QUNBAR | EAST JERUSALEM

Surkhi Qunbar is a small neighborhood, located on the ‘Jerusalem’ side of the West Bank Barrier.

It takes its name from two families that were cut off by the Barrier from the remainder of the neighborhood of As Sawahira Ash Sharqiya.

While it is located in an area which was unilaterally annexed to Israel, not all of its residents have been given Jerusalem ID cards.

Some carry West Bank ID cards and can only ‘legally’ reside in their own homes if they have special Israeli-issued staying permits.

 

Community members cannot freely access the rest of East Jerusalem, and are also severely restricted from accessing the rest of the West Bank.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUAD JABO

Fuad
Fuad Jabo from KHIRBET KHAMIS | BETHLEHEM

❝Our lives have become so complicated, and we are under enormous pressure, psychological, financial and social.❞

Now home to a few dozens, Khirbet Khamis was among several communities that were incorporated into the Jerusalem municipal boundary and unilaterally annexed to Israel.

However, unlike the vast majority of Palestinians in the annexed areas, Khirbet Khamis’ residents were issued West Bank, instead of Jerusalem, ID cards. As a result, under Israeli law, they are considered “illegal residents” in their own homes.

Khirbet Khamis has become an ❝open air prison❞ for its residents, says Fuad Jado, a 55-year-old father of five.

Our lives have become so complicated, and we are under enormous pressure… We are not allowed to work in Israel although our community has been illegally annexed and we are now cut off from the rest of the West Bank on the Jerusalem side of the Wall.

❝This has changed all our lives. Our children, for example, have to cross checkpoints daily to get to their school.
❝While there are no shops in the community we are limited in the quantity of food we can bring in from Bethlehem, especially dairy products.

Sometimes the soldiers throw them away if they think the quantities exceed our daily consumption; other times we do it ourselves to avoid waiting for permission to enter.

❝What are we supposed to do? They don’t allow us to shop in Jerusalem, so we sometimes have no choice but to rely on friends from Jerusalem to buy things for us or risk going to Jerusalem markets ourselves.❞

khirbet-khamis-map-1400x986

Based on a publication on dislocated communities focusing on the case of Khirbet Khamis | November 2013.

 

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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 

masaad

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 

Abeer

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

Salem

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 

um-ahed-al-ajla

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 

ala-zawahri

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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The impact of the 50-year occupation today, with US support.

This is the third in a series of posts that share the stories of Palestinians who have lived under occupation for 50 years. The stories were compiled by OCHA and all of them are available here.

I’m reposting these stories (five at a time) because I am alarmed that members of Congress and most Americans don’t understand the impact of Israel’s 50-year brutal occupation, largely financed and supported by American taxpayers.  We bear a lion’s share of the responsibility for the conditions in the occupied territories because the U.S. government shields Israel from any accountability. Maintaining the status quo and the horrid conditions is easier for the government of Israel than ending the occupation.

Fatma Saudi

Fatma Saudi

Fatma Saudi from ASH SHUJA’IYEH, GAZA CITY

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.

Fatma Saudi, 58, a widow and mother of eight, is from one of the worst affected areas in the 2014 hostilities. Her home was severely damaged and the family was displaced for more than six months.

After the ceasefire, she stayed with her three unmarried sons in two pre-fabricated housing units. Living conditions were crowded and extremely cold, so they spend most of their time outside.

One of Fatma’s sons, Nour Din, now 15 years old, has Downs’ Syndrome and attends a special school.

When we met them in 2015, he was still searching through the rubble every day for his laptop, which he lost when their home was hit.

Fatma was afraid that Nour would be exposed to explosive remnants of war as the area was still full of rubble from the hostilities.

During the winter storm in January 2015, it was unbearable to stay in the pre-fabricated housing unit.

Fatma suffered from severe back pains and was badly in need of an operation. She and her children relocated temporarily to her mother’s house.

❝We really need materials to cover the outside area between the two rooms of the caravan, to keep the children safe and offer a little privacy. The situation here is very, very difficult,❞ she said.

❝They told us to evacuate the home as it is uninhabitable and potentially dangerous, but we have nowhere else to go and no money to rent so what can we do?❞ said her brother Abdallah, who was still living in the damaged home.

Fatma points to the skeleton of a building 50 metres away: ❝That was our home,❞ she says quietly.

Khadra

Khadra

Khadra from AL FAWWAR, HEBRON

At times, the Israeli authorities increase their access restrictions inside the West Bank by erecting additional closures and checkpoints.

For example, following a decision adopted on 14 October 2015 by the Israeli Security Cabinet to address a wave of Palestinian violence, Israeli forces installed nearly a hundred new obstacles across the West Bank.

Most of these obstacles (57 per cent as of the end of 2015) were installed in the Hebron governorate, where many of the violent incidents took place.

Al Fawwar refugee camp, to the south of Hebron city and home to over 8,300 people, was severely hit by access restrictions following the installation of a gate closing the main route leading to Hebron city.

Hebron map closures

Hebron closures

This junction was the scene of a number of stabbing and ramming attacks or alleged attacks.

Khadra, a mother of seven, suffers from kidney failure which impairs her mobility.

The closure restricted her ability to attend Hebron hospital, where she receives dialysis three times a week.

When these restrictions were imposed, she had to travel via Yatta, which takes about one hour longer than the regular route, in a special taxi that costs about NIS 240 ($60) per day.

The precarious state of the alternative route was a concern: ❝on one of the trips back from a dialysis session, I began bleeding due to bumps in the road and had to be treated at the camp clinic,❞ Khadra recalls. However, she pointed out that ❝despite the occupation and the closures, I still love life.❞

The gate on the main entrance to al Fawwar camp has since then been opened.

Imad Abu Shamsiyeh

Imad

Imad Abu Shamsiyeh from H2 | HEBRON CITY

Imad is a Palestinian resident of Tel Rumeida, near the settlements of Hebron city, and an activist with Human Rights Defenders, documenting human rights violations with his video camera. His home is located between two Israeli checkpoints, each a two-minute walk from his house.

On 24 March 2016, he filmed an Israeli soldier killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant who had already been shot and injured after stabbing another soldier at one of these checkpoints, following which a trial was held and the second shooter was convicted of manslaughter.

Turnstiles

Turnstiles at Bab az Zawiya checkpoint

Reaching Imad’s house is like entering a cage. The main entrance to the house is blocked by a concrete wall, slabs, erected during the second intifada and running for about 50 metres with only one opening that is less than a metre wide.

A military watch tower and a CCTV camera facing his home were put in place nearby after the incident. The house itself is surrounded by metal net fences and the outdoor patio has a net ceiling that was introduced following intense settler attacks, including the throwing of firebombs and large stones.

❝Since filming the extra-judicial killing … life has been unsafe and the family has been torn apart. We’ve been subject to settler violence and threats, as well as harassment from the army.

❝For four months, the army, citing safety reasons, prevented us from using the main entrance to enter or exit the house. Molotov firebombs were thrown at my house and we had to sleep outside of the city for a few nights. Fearing for my older sons’ lives, I had to send them to Al ‘Eizariyia. They’re only 15 and 17 years old.

  Taha al Ju’beh 

Taha

Taha al Ju’beh from AL ISSAWIYA, EAST JERUSALEM

At times, the Israeli authorities increase their access restrictions inside the West Bank by erecting additional closures and checkpoints.

For example, following a decision adopted on 14 October 2015 by the Israeli Security Cabinet to address a wave of Palestinian violence, Israeli forces began to block some of the main routes to and from Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

Within a week, a total of 41 obstacles had been deployed, comprising 23 cement blocks, one earth mound and 17 checkpoints.

Isawiya

‘Isawiya, photo by JC Tordai, 2010

Taha Al Ju’beh, then eight-year-old, suffers from muscle atrophy and depends on an electric wheelchair and a respirator; the latter is powered by a battery that lasts for slightly more than an hour.

As a result of the closures, the travel time to the school in West Jerusalem, where he receives treatment on a daily basis, nearly doubled: from one to two hours.

This required him to rely on an extra-battery to be changed during the journey.

The restrictions imposed in October 2015 affected the freedom of movement of nine Palestinian neighbourhoods, with an estimated population of 138,000, or over 40 per cent of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population.

This figure does not include residents of municipal areas located behind the Barrier who must cross pre-existing checkpoints to access other parts of Jerusalem.

Issa Ash Shatleh  

Issa

Issa Ash Shatleh from BEIT JALA | BETHLEHEM

On the morning of 17 August 2015, Issa Ash Shatleh was informed by a neighbour that the Israeli authorities were uprooting his olive trees.

Some 30 olive trees, the majority of them hundreds of years old, were uprooted to make way for the route of the Barrier in the Cremisan area.

❝Each of these olive trees can yield 16 kilograms of good olive oil, enough for me and my four brothers. But it is more than the monetary value. These trees are hundreds of years old, planted by my ancestors. I have so many memories of both good and bad times associated with them since I was a boy.❞

Although the trees were replanted by the Israeli authorities, Issa complains, ❝Look how close together they are. Some of them have been replanted on my neighbour’s land.

Asked if they will survive and bear fruit in the forthcoming olive harvest, he shrugs.

Issa’s land lies under the bridge that forms part of the rerouting of Road 60 in 1994 to enable settlers to travel between Jerusalem and Hebron and bypass Bethlehem. Part of his land was used by the excavators and bulldozers and trees were damaged. He also lost some trees in 2008 when another section of the Barrier was built in the area.

Issa says that he did not receive official notification from the Israeli authorities to inform him that his land was being requisitioned to build the Barrier.

He also expressed concern about the proposed gate system that the Israeli authorities claim will guarantee him access to land soon to be isolated by the Barrier, given the experience of farmers in the rest of the West Bank.

❝This Wall is contrary to international law,❞ he insists, citing the International Court of Justice advisory opinion. He points to the nearby Gilo and Har Gilo settlements. ❝It’s all about the settlements.❞

Beit Jala Barrier

Beit Jala Barrier

Statement by the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, Robert Piper, on the 50th Anniversary of Israel’s Occupation available here.

This week marks 50 years since the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. For humanitarians this is the most long-standing protection crisis in the UN’s history.

It should be obvious, but it bears repeating, that Occupation is ugly. Living under foreign military rule for years on end, generates despair, suffocates initiative and leaves generations in a kind of political and economic limbo.

Israel’s occupation is backed by force. Accompanying that ever-present security apparatus have been deliberate policies that have isolated Palestinian communities from each other, ruptured social cohesion, profoundly limited economic activity and deprived many of their basic rights – of movement, of expression, of access to health and much more. In too many cases, these policies have violated international humanitarian law as well as the human rights instruments to which Israel is a party.

One direct result of these policies has been the creation of chronic humanitarian needs among Palestinians. In 2017, nearly half of the 4.8 million Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) will need humanitarian aid of one kind or another.

Many of them require food assistance to compensate for lost livelihoods, others legal aid, and others still, will need water, healthcare or shelter. In a ‘normal’ year – ie. one without a conflict in Gaza – around US$1 billion is allocated from scarce global resources to support the various humanitarian operations underway in the oPt.

Neither the occupation, nor its impact, is static of course. Coping mechanisms are increasingly depleted. The worst impacts are felt by those most vulnerable – children, single mothers, the elderly and disabled. And humanitarians themselves face increasing obstacles in their efforts to mitigate the impacts of occupation, whether it be in increased movement restrictions, the exhaustion of legal processes, the confiscation of our aid, or understandable donor fatigue. As each year passes, the situation deteriorates inexorably, with profound consequences for Palestinians and potentially Israelis as well.

From a humanitarian perspective, 50 years of occupation represents a gross failure of leadership by many – local and international, Israeli and Palestinian. Too many innocent civilians – Palestinian and Israeli alike – are paying for this abject failure to address the underlying causes of the world’s longest-running protection crisis.

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Meet 5 Palestinians struggling under Israel’s occupation

This is the second post sharing the stories compiled by OCHA. The first post is available here. The next 8 will follow in the days to come. All of the stories are available on OCHA’s website here.

Jamila Ash Shaladeh

Jamila

Jamila Ash Shaladeh from H2 | HEBRON CITY

Jamila’s home is sandwiched between two checkpoints, Bab Az Zawiya and “55”, in close vicinity to Israeli settlements.

Its once open-aired and naturally-lit patio is covered with a metal safety net ceiling, installed to protect the family from settlers throwing stones and rubbish at them.

The  patio borders a kindergarten that is a site of regular settler harassment.

Before the kindergarten was opened, Jamila said settlers used to come and sit on the wall to harass her and her family, forcing them to extend the wall vertically to stop this activity.

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Hebron in the West Bank. Gray area is Access-restricted and Closed Military Zone

Aged 55, she has been living in Ash Shuhada Street for thirty years and has been detained in Israeli jails 25 times for confronting settlers and soldiers.

She spoke of her experience of settler harassment and violence, and military closures.

❝I have not left the house for over a month now. I am a sick woman with asthma and can no longer take the humiliation of soldiers or checkpoints: the scanning, the searches and the delays. I’ve even stopped going to see the doctor. I’ve stopped taking medication and only use the inhaler which my son bought for me.

❝Since October 2015, none of my family members, who all live outside the old city, can visit me. During the Eid Muslim holiday, we made cookies and prepared ourselves, but no one was allowed in. I only get to see my neighbour and recently some internationals came to show their solidarity.

❝I often stay at home for days without seeing anyone but walls. I cannot even look upwards to see the sky without being reminded of settler harassment…

❝Life in Al Shuhada Street is a nightmare. There is no humanity. There is no accountability. We’re at the whim of the settlers and soldiers.❞

Jamila with card

Jamila Ash Shaladeh with her numbered ID, without which she is not allowed to stay in her neighbourhood

Salah Majjad

Salah Majjad

Salah Majjad from AN NABI ELIYAS | QALQILIYA

Salah is a 45-year-old farmer, father of six. Recently, he has been affected by the construction of a road that would  bypass a section of the existing Road 55 running through An Nabi Elyas village.

Road 55 connects the cities of Nablus and Qaliqiliya, and also connects several settlements with Israel.

According to the Israeli authorities, the large volume of traffic on Road 55 generated a range of safety concerns.

Nabi map

New Road in An Nabi Elyas – May 2017

An Israeli media report indicated that although the original plan for this road was approved over 20 years ago, the decision to implement it came in a 2015 agreement between the Israeli Prime Minister and an Israeli settler body (the Yesha Council).

❝The four and half dunums of land I own, where I stand now, has been confiscated for the construction of the bypass road,❞ Salah told us.

❝The plot of land was my sole source of income. It had about one hundred olive trees, a few almond and fig trees, and vines.

❝The type of olive trees I had was not large and this allowed us to make use of the land between the trees to grow other fodder crops for animals and chickens. We even grew lentils and chickpeas sometimes.

❝My wife and I used to go to the land and tend it almost every day. The money we made from our produce was just about enough for the whole year.❞ 

Siham at Tatari

Siham

Siham at Tatari from Gaza

❝The repeated closure of Erez and Rafah [crossings] sentences cancer patients to death. It’s a slow death…❞

Siham, a 53-year-old refugee from Gaza, mother of ten, has cancer, and is being treated in an East Jerusalem hospital.

❝In 2013 I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This was the beginning of a long, painful and expensive journey…

❝Last May (2016), I was put on chemotherapy as new cancerous tumors were found in my stomach and hips. The course of treatment ran for seven sessions that had to be completed without interruption every 21 days. I only managed two because the drugs were not sent from Ramallah to Gaza.

❝I waited more than two months and then my doctor referred me to the Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem. Twice I missed my appointment because I lacked a permit. All I heard from the [Israeli] authorities was that the permit application was being processed.

❝About five months after I first applied, and only after referring my case to human rights organizations and protesting, did I finally get a permit to leave Gaza. A day before coming to Jerusalem, I learned that the cancer has spread to the thyroid.

Ismael Anees

Ismael Anees

Ismael Anees from DEIR AL HATAB, NABLUS

❝My family owns 224 dunums of land close to the settlement [of Elon Moreh], which we can only access during the olive harvest for one or two days a year.

❝We cannot plough the land or pick the olives properly. The few days we’re allowed are also nerve-racking because of army and settler presence.

Sometimes, they [the settlers] pick the good olives before we are allowed to reach our land…

❝One of the settlers set up a sheep farm on part of my land and fenced it around. To get to it I need his permission and need him to open the gate. He controls the land, which he ruined with his sheep.

❝I’m not the only one who suffers. About 8,000 dunums that belong to Deir al Hatab are inaccessible to their owners because of the settlement, the closed military zone, the bypass road, etc.

❝I was born in this land and spent my childhood on it. The land is our life and we’ve been deprived of it.❞

Amal

Amal

Amal from HALAWEH | MASAFER YATTA | HEBRON

In December 2016, the Israeli authorities seized a donated caravan, serving as a primary health centre, in the Al Mirkez community in the Masafer Yatta (Hebron), on the grounds of lack of a building permit.

The designation of this area as a firing zone for Israeli military training makes it very difficult for the residents of the 12 herding communities (1,300 people) located within it to access basic services, including healthcare.

When OCHA visited the al Mirkez community on 11 January 2017, the day the medical team provides its weekly visit, the room serving as a substitute clinic was packed with about 15 women and children seeking treatment.

Two women who were waiting in the room with four children, including a 7-month-old baby, were from the neighbouring community of Halaweh.

The women and their children, accompanied by their father-in-law, had had to walk for more than one hour to reach the clinic.

Amal, a mother of two, was diagnosed two years ago with systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic auto-immune disease with symptoms that include swelling and damage to the joints, blood, kidneys, heart and lungs.

❝The journey was tiring for me and the children. We had to stop and rest on the way. Getting here is not easy for us,❞ said Amal.

❝I wish we could have access to healthcare more than once a week and have it available also in Halaweh.❞

❝On rainy days the road takes more than two hours; sometimes we simply don’t come,❞ said Jameel, Amal’s father-in-law.

❝We don’t have a car and the clinic is far away. Amal has multiple illnesses: kidney problems and low platelet count, and needs her medication regularly.❞

There is much more information about each of these stories on OCHA’s website here.

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50 Stories of Palestinian Life Under Occupation

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.

OCHA writes:

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 

rifqa

Rifqa Al Kurd from SHEIKH JARRAH | EAST JERUSALEM

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.

A.S.

A.S. from SILWAN | EAST JERUSALEM

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…

Silwan

Silwan 2010 – photo by JC-Tordai

❝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.❞

Mohammad Muhaeisen

mohammad-asad-muhaeisen

Mohammad Muhaeisen from ASH SHUJA’IYEH | GAZA

❝I am 31 years old, from Ash Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood in Gaza city.

❝During the war last summer [2014], 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. 

Dalia

THE WINNING PICTURE featuring Dalia Khalifa. Also the cover of the book “Gaza Unsilenced” http://justworldbooks.com/books-by-title/gaza-unsilenced/

❝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.❞

(August 2015)

Zeinab

Zeinab

Zeinab from TEL ADASSA | JERUSALEM. Zeinab is seen in this picture standing next to her little sister (photo by JC Tordai, 2010)

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.❞

Nasser Sammour

Nasser

Nasser Sammour from AL QARARA | GAZA

❝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❞

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Enough is more than enough

coresistance

From the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship website.

— A reflection from Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Activist Council member Jessie Light on June 5, 2017, the 50th anniversary of the Occupation of Palestine.

When fences become walls become concrete prisons
When tents become houses become tear gas test-sites
When days become years become decades and
the oppression swelters, endlessly.

When a stone is met with a bullet,
When righteous anger is met with murder,
When protest is met with a militarized Caterpillar and
the tears shed could fill the Dead Sea.

What do we call this period of time? This suffocating, asphyxiating fifty years of
Bombs tear gas violence repression checkpoints surveillance microaggressions machine guns
racial profiling settlements innocent deaths cultural appropriation bulldozing brutality

We name it apartheid,
We name it injustice,
We name it occupation.

Fifty years of making an occupation out of violence,
Fifty years of preoccupation with “security,”
Fifty years of military occupation of Palestine.

When will it end? When will life begin anew? When will children walk safely to school?

This holy land,
this wholly divided, wholly splintered, wholly oppressed land
needs our voices, our hands, our righteous anger, our protests, our boycotts, our endless
objection-rejection-opposition-confrontation
of a fifty-year oppressive occupation
of a so-called holy land.

Enough is more than enough.loss-of-landThe Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) has a long history of activism in Israel/Palestine. PPF regularly sends delegations to Israel/Palestine. The next delegation is set to travel July 22 – August 4, 2017.  Check it out here.  Although the application to join the delegation is now closed, follow their journey online.

 

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How do I talk with you?

 

Four years …. its been four years since I left Gaza and returned home to friends and family. Little did they know that I was a changed woman.

After nine months in Gaza, my eyes and heart were open. I cannot unsee what I’ve seen. I certainly will not close my heart to the realities I learned about the occupation. And I’m not going to forget.

IMG_4249Although returning to Gaza is my first choice today, it appears that Egypt, Israel and even the U.S. government have their own ideas about travel to the Gaza Strip, so I’ve wondered if there’s perhaps another path I’m suppose to follow.

There’s certainly much I can learn about the occupation from books and others more knowledgeable. Maybe I’m suppose to share what I’ve learned with Americans, add my voice to the parade beating the drums for the U.S. government to change its obsequience and blind loyalty to Israel.

I’ve spent the past four years walking a tight rope, teetering from side to side, not wishing to offend anyone with my words about Israel and the occupation, but to speak the truth when the opportunities arise. My options for speaking out have been self-imposed and narrowly-constrained to carefully account for the “sensibilities” of those around me.

  • A friend told me bluntly, “don’t talk about politics. I want to keep things peaceful around here.” I suspect others feel the same way but don’t want to tell me to my face.
  • A family member called me an anti-Semite while another said my words about Israel hurt her to the core because Israel is like a brother.
  • Another family member said my conversation about Israel was the same as asking Jews who support Israel to “commit psychological suicide.”
  • Some have looked at me like I’m a broken record. “Get a life, there’s more than the occupation to worry about.” One friend recommended that I channel my “do gooder” nature into the issue of female trafficking!

I’ve “unfriended” family members on social media to avoid bursting their protective bubbles. I’ve bitten my tongue and kept quiet in the company of some who might be offended. I’ve rationalized to myself that it’s better to be strategic and use my words wisely. If my goal is to change public opinion, and ultimately U.S. foreign policy, then beating someone over the head with the hammer for peace and justice is counter-productive.

Today, however, I turned the corner. Something snapped.

I’m not the same woman-mother-sister-aunt you thought you knew in 2012.  Back then, I knew about oppression, occupation, inhumanity, and all the rest of the human condition from an intellectual point of view.  I was very well informed, better than the average American, or so I thought.

Today, I’m connected with the Palestinians at the cellular level. I feel the occupation in a way that words cannot begin to describe. This isn’t to say that my experience can replace the life experiences of Isra, Samir, Motasem, Mohammed, and the generations of Palestinians who have grown up and lived under occupation. Never!  Their shoes can never be my shoes, and vice versa.

But I cannot ignore and turn my back on them either. I can’t pull the wool over my eyes. I can’t fill my remaining days with other “do gooder” projects in an attempt to forget the truth I know in Palestine. And your ability to do just that really burns me.

How do I talk with you?

Your well-being is just as important to me as the well-being of the Palestinians. This isn’t a zero-sum game where my attention in one direction should harm or distract from another direction.

My personal growth and the love I found in Palestine should help me be a better person in every way, not just a better advocate on behalf of Palestinians’ rights.

But I feel you shut me down and disrespect me when you ignore me and prefer to remain in a cocoon of complacency with the status quo. The status quo is not OK!  Our government’s direct and obscene support of Israel is just as responsible for the Palestinians’ suffering and injustices as are the laws enacted in the Knesset and the orders given to the Israeli Defense Forces.

How do I talk with you?

Silence is no longer an option. But I’m willing to listen to you as deeply as I hope you will listen to me.

10682305_10205074594490415_7766625559446625498_o (1)

 

 

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