Tag Archives: Palestine

Day #20 – The Children of Gaza in Operation Protective Edge

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A Palestinian medic carries the body of a child, killed in an explosion in a public playground on the beachfront of Shati refugee camp, in the morgue of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza (Photo credit: Juliana Jiménez)

Source: Day #20 – July 26, 2014 – Palestinian Lives Matter!

Three years ago, British journalist Jon Snow returned back from a reporting trip to the Gaza Strip, a war zone during Operation Protective Edge. Watch his brief report carefully. His observations should be held up to journalism students worldwide as an exemplary model for how to cover the realities of life and death in a war zone. Americans don’t see this type of reporting from Gaza, Mosul or Yemen. Why?

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UCC Synod and Palestinian children

 

Leaders of the United Church of Christ (representing nearly a million people) are convening in Baltimore June 30 – July 2. The UCC Synod will be considering resolutions to guide their actions, everything from becoming an immigrant welcoming church, to studying gun violence as a public health emergency, to a more just economy with living wages and job creation, enacting $15/hr minimum wage laws, and working toward disability justice.

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Two resolutions have especially caught my attention.

A Call for the United Church of Christ to Advocate for the Rights of Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation and The Earth Is the Lord’s-Not Ours to Wreck; Imperatives for a New Era. 

I’m not a member of UCC but I’ve been invited to attend the Synod and share my thoughts about Palestine.  I’ll be joining others outside Friday evening holding signs at a vigil in front of the Convention Center.

Sunday, I’ll go inside and talk with delegates about Palestinian children who have been detained by Israel. I’ll bring my copy of Dreaming of Freedom.  dreaming-of-freedomrecently learned that Israel is the only country that has a juvenile military court, for Palestinian minors, certainly not Israeli minors. The imprisonment of Palestinian minors is so pervasive, there’s even an international campaign to end this abhorrent practice.

I’ve read the UCC resolution on the rights of children living under Israeli military occupation. Someone certainly did their homework. The facts are irrefutable, and they’re all here, along with a slew of footnotes and references.

However, the resolution is more than just exhortations to the State of Israel and the US government to do the right thing.

In addition to a call to action for the UCC members to educate themselves about the plight of Palestinian children prisoners, this resolution provides very detailed guidance to the U.S. Congress and to Israel about what is expected of them. The actions include: (1) withhold military assistance to Israel consistent with the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, (2) lists specific changes that Israel must make in their process of arrests and detention of children, (3) the U.S. Senate must join 194 countries who have signed onto the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and more.

This military occupation is going to end, and the Palestinians will be free. The wave of public opinion from many different faiths supporting Palestinians is unstoppable. Whether the State of Israel can survive in the future as a neighbor rather than an occupier is yet to be determined.

 

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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 

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Amneh from BIR NABALA / TEL AL ‘ADASSA | JERUSALEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHMAD DIWAN

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Ahmad Diwan from BEIT IJZA | BIDDU ENCLAVE | JERUSALEM

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

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

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

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

MUHAMMAD ABDEL AZIZ  
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Muhammad Abdel Aziz from QARYUT | NABLUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.❞

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

 

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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 

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.

salem2

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…

ala-and-her-mother

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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