Tag Archives: Palestine

The Path of Peace – the End of Israel

There is no way to peace.

Peace is the way.

A.J. Muste

I need to reconcile the hot, burning anger inside with this statement that a friend sent to me this morning.

I don’t know anything about A.J. Muste, but his words resonate with me. Put another way, peace is not the destination with easy way markers to lead us there, but a journey we are living which requires intentional thought and hard work.

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My hiking companions on the Camino de Santiago in April 2016

However, I feel anything but peaceful. My anger is visceral. My heart muscles are twitching. I’m laser-focused on the source of my anger (COGAT) and the injustices perpetrated daily, but now that injustice is screwing my good friend in Gaza.

Today Mohammed Awad (age 28) is sitting on a precipice. The State of Israel appears determined to throw him over the edge.

Three smiling men

Mohammed Awad on the left

Mohammed is the first Palestinian I met in Gaza; actually we met via Facebook many months before I traveled to Gaza. His intellectual curiosity about the world beyond his borders struck me as unusual. I’d never met any young Americans with that same fervor for exploring ideas and challenging their own ideas and perceptions.

Even though Mohammed has never traveled outside of Gaza, his mind has touched many new horizons thanks to his university studies, his reading, his questioning and his desire to learn.

Goldsmiths 2

Goldsmiths

Recognizing Mohammed’s special gift for learning, the Goldsmiths program at the University of London awarded him a fully-funded scholarship to pursue his Masters Degree in Multilingualism, Linguistics, & Education beginning October 1, 2017.

Mohammed followed all the required steps — getting a UK visa, notifying the Palestinian authorities, requesting permission to exit Gaza from Israel’s COGAT, asking the Israeli human rights organization (Gisha) for assistance — and yet he’s caught in Israel’s red tape and there’s a serious risk he may lose his scholarship as a result.  The State of Israel is pushing him over the cliff.  Read the Independent’s story here.

 

Thus, my red hot anger. My voice inside my head wishing bodily harm to the Israeli officials sitting at their COGAT desks. My frustration at my personal impotence — unable to kick down the walls that separate Mohammed from his future studies in the UK.

How do I reconcile my feelings this morning with the journey I feel committed to follow?  The answer came when I found another quote by A.J. Muste.

A J Muste

Substitute “Occupation” for “war” and I think I’ve found the answer.

The State of Israel has existed for 70 years (1948-2018), and has occupied the Palestinian territories and Gaza for 50 years (1968-2018). Throughout its existence, the State has acted and reacted from a place of profound fear, viewing the world and its neighbors as hostile forces requiring a strong defense.

When the Zionists decided to create their new state on top of the lands, towns and villages of the Palestinians, the Arab world was certainly hostile. But time has proven two things: (1) the State of Israel is not a good neighbor and doesn’t know how to treat “others” with dignity or respect, and (2) the State of Israel has no regard for the international rule of law when it views the law as an impediment to its objectives.  In both cases, the Palestinians be damned!

Therefore, I’ve found the answer to my conundrum.  How can I maintain my personal journey or path focused on peace, while feeling this profound anger?  Does peace require the absence of anger?  Does peace require passivity in the face of injustice?  — NO! —

The State of Israel has lost its legitimacy to exist as the State of Israel, it has proven it’s incapable of reform or changing its way.  By its own calculation and design, the State of Israel is the embodiment of war. It must fail.

I want to use whatever power and influence I may have to end the State of Israel. It’s no longer an issue of two states, side-by-side. It’s no longer an issue of remaining neutral or on the fence between the two. The State of Israel must end, and a new state must rise in its place where everyone (Jew, Christian, Muslim) share equal rights.

You may call me foolish, naive, a warmonger and an anti-Semite. I’m none of those. I want Jews to live in peace and security with their neighbors. I want Palestinians to enjoy the same. Based on the many, many Palestinians that I’ve met in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan … I know they want peace, security and dignity too, side-by-side with all religions.

I have not met many Jews who will make the same declaration. Perhaps their fear is too great. Or perhaps their sense of entitlement to a piece of land prevents them from securing long-term peace for themselves and their neighbors.

However, I will no longer be an enabler for their dysfunctional State.

Mohammed Awad is exactly the kind of person that Israelis and Jews worldwide need as a good neighbor. They should be bending over backwards to ensure his success. It’s in their best interest to make sure Mohammed and every Palestinian fulfills his or her dreams.

Now I understand, my journey for peace is consistent with ending the State of Israel for everyone’s sake.

 

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Who by bulldozer, and who at gunpoint?

Rabbi Arik Ascherman originally presented these remarks at a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.  They were subsequently published in The Times of Israel on Sept. 20, here. I share them on my blog to find an audience that might not have seen or read his plea earlier.  Shana Tova to my Jewish friends and family.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Presentation for Senate Briefing – September 19th, 2017

My name is Rabbi Arik Ascherman, and I am here to plead for the life of Aysar’s village. After 21 years leading Rabbis For Human Rights, I recently founded “Torat Tzedek Torah of Justice,” dedicated to the human rights of Israeli single parent moms and Palestinians alike, because the Torah teaches us that every human being is created in God’s Image. I come before you without a political agenda. Defending human rights does take place in a political context. What I mean is that, while we believe that the Occupation must end because it inevitably leads to human rights violations, it is beyond our mandate as a human rights organization to take a position on a one state versus two state versus ten state solution, or where borders should be.

This year, September 21st is both International Peace Day, and Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year. Also known as Yom Hadin, the day of judgment, in two days we will pray, “On Rosh HaShanah it is written. On Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who will live, and who will die… Who will be content, and who will suffer.” Many of you know this prayer because the late Leonard Cohen put some of the words to music, “Who by fire, who by water” In Susya’s case, “Who by bulldozer, and who at gunpoint? Who by direct force, and who by slow strangulation? Who by Jerusalem, and who by Washington?”

Arik at US capitol

I’m here, rather than home in Israel preparing for Rosh HaShanah, because the fate of Susya will in all likelihood be determined in Washington. I will explain, but first a bit of background:

The Palestinian residents of Susya lived on both sides of what became the 1948 border. They fled or were expelled, depending on your narrative, from their lands on the Israeli side. Their village on the side under Jordanian control was Susya. In 1967 they again came under Israeli control. In this age of alternative facts, some say that Susya never existed. The truth is that there are pictures of a visit by representatives of the U.S. Consulate, it appears in British records, and there are signs in the archeological site that used to be Susya pointing out the caves that were once homes. There is a 1982 report from the Israeli government lawyer, Plia Albeck. She is known as the “mother of the settlements.” She certainly did not accept the idea that most experts on international law who are not over the top pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian adopt, that the Fourth Geneva convention applies in the West Bank, and forbids the creation of settlements even on so called State Land. She proudly explained in her memoirs that she did everything she could to find lands to establish settlements. In her 1982 report, she is trying very hard to establish a settlement in the area. However, she writes that she has a problem. There is a Palestinian village called Susya, surrounded by 3,000 dunam (750 acres) of privately owned and registered land. It would take me all day to explain the ins and outs of determining land ownership. Suffice it to say that it is highly unusual for Israeli officials to acknowledge Palestinian lands as privately registered, certainly in the South Hebron Hills.

Albeck indicated that there was one hill where a settlement could be set up, and the settlement also called Susya was established in 1983. Several years later the settlers asked Albeck for help, and she wrote to them that they had so clearly built beyond the area she said could be built upon that any attempt on her part to help them would only get them in more legal trouble. More recently, a report by the pro-Settlement NGO “Regavim” noted that there were some 23 homes in the settlement of Susya built on private Palestinian land. Nevertheless, Israel maintains that there is no issue of eifa v’eifa (discriminatory double standards), but simply maintaining law and order.

In 1986, the residents of Palestinian Susya were expelled from their homes in order to make an archaeological site out of an ancient synagogue located there. Make no mistake, we Jews do have ancient roots in our homeland. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians should try to establish their root in our shared land by denying the roots of the other. However, rather than make the synagogue alone an archaeological site, the residents were forced to abandon their entire village. Some of them moved on to their nearby agricultural lands, living again in simple caves. Harassment began in the mid-90s. The villagers were again expelled after a settler was murdered in 2001 (Not by somebody from Palestinian Susya, and no actions have been taken against the settlements where settlers who murdered Palestinians live.) Settlers accompanied the soldiers, who demolished the caves and filled in water cisterns.

The Israeli High Court ruled that this was an illegal expulsion, and returned the Palestinians to their lands. However, they were left “Nisht aher, un nisht aher,” (Yiddish-neither here nor there), because the Court neglected to address how they could replace their demolished homes. In 1971 the Israeli army, in contradiction to the Hague Convention that requires leaving civilian affairs in the hands of the civilian population unless there is an overriding military necessity, abolished Palestinian local and regional planning and zoning committees. The army assumed all planning responsibilities. For the most part, they either inadequately plan for Palestinian building, or don’t plan at all. All of Susya’s applications to build legally were rejected. In the most recent attempt, the army committee ruled in 2013 that it would be “unfair” to force the Palestinians to live in an isolated area without infrastructure. There are of course many isolated settlements. Electrical lines and water mains actually run right by Susya from settlement to settlement, but Palestinian Susya isn’t given access to this infrastructure. The real reason, as a representative of the U.S. Consulate who attended the meeting of the army planning commission with us heard, was expressed by a representative of the local settlement council, “We all know that this hearing is a joke. You would never approve a Palestinian village so close to our settlement.”

In 2011, the local settlement council and Regavim initiated a Court appeal to have Palestinian Susya wiped off the face of the earth. They demanded that all the structures that Palestinians were forced to build “illegally” be demolished.

Here Washington comes in. Contrary to what Israel tells many foreign governments, the Israeli High Court has never ruled that Susya must be destroyed. In fact, the case is still in court. However, neither has the Court prevented the demolitions. Currently, the decision to demolish or not demolish is a government prerogative. The court is interested in an agreement, and will not order the destruction of Susya if the Israeli government objects. It’s therefore legitimate and crucial for the international community to express an opinion. Given the settlement movement’s intense pressure on the government to demolish, the only reason that Susya is still standing today is because of international concern led by the U.S. As a result of that concern, Israel budged in 2015. They agreed to meet with the residents of Susya.

I was present at those meetings. The army offered to recognize and help build Palestinian Susya on their lands. The only disagreement was over which part of their lands the village would be built. Defense Defense Minister Lieberman then replaced Defense Minister Ya’alon. In August 2016, Lieberman asked the Court for more time to study the issue. He requested a postponement until just after the U.S. elections. He has continued to ask for postponements.

Frankly, the common wisdom in both Washington and Jerusalem, was that the current U.S. administration would quickly give the green light for Susya’s demolition. Apparently, that hasn’t happened until now. It seems that in Washington there was an understanding that there will be no chance for a renewed peace process if the U.S. backs down on elementary issues of fairness and justice.

Susya’s residents must be allowed to live on their lands, whether or not there will ever be peace, and no matter who will eventually be sovereign over this area. If we take our Prime Minister seriously when he declares that there will not be a Palestinian state on his watch that only increases our responsibility towards the Palestinians who will remain under our control for the foreseeable future. However, let’s be clear. The obstacle to peace is a lack of hope. Polls show that both Israelis and Palestinians want peace, but neither believe that the other side wants peace. If you allow Susya to be destroyed, hope will be diminished. The Palestinian trust in the ability of the U.S. to be an honest broker will be further compromised.

We are extremely concerned that Washington’s position has now changed, or that Israel believes that Washington has no intent continuing to vigorously engage Israel on behalf of Susya. While we are waiting for the next scheduled court deadline in late October, Minister Lieberman recently declared that the Ministry is working on plans to destroy Susya and the community of Khan Al Akhmar in the coming months. (Khan Al Akhmar is one of the West Bank communities of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, intimidated into leaving Israel in the early 1950s. Along with Susya, Khan Al Ahmar is a very symbolic test case, because all the sides have drawn lines in the sand. Up until now, the international community has protected the school Rabbis For Human Rights helped build there.)

My questions to you are, “What can each of you do to ensure that the U.S. continues to vigorously lead international support for Susya. How many members of Congress will make personal phone calls to the President, his advisors, and the State Department?” I would prefer that human beings do not play God, deciding “Who shall live and who shall die.” But, that’s the reality. In two days I will stand before God to plead for a sweet and good year for myself, for my loved ones, for my people, for my country and for our world. I will pray for Susya, for Khan Al Akhmar, for Israelis in need of public housing and also for Israeli Bedouin communities such as Umm Al Hiran and Al Araqib. They too won’t exist in another year if Israeli government policy doesn’t change, or if there isn’t salvation from another quarter. However, our tradition teaches us that we cannot ask for God’s forgiveness and blessing before making every effort to make amends with our fellow human beings. In the same vein, I cannot come cleanly before the heavenly tribunal without standing first before you. You in this room and in this city are the tribunal with the ability to determine whether Aysar’s village will live or die. With power, comes responsibility. Please do not shirk your responsibility. If you do, this boy will not have a home. It is really that simple.

Some say that Israel’s democracy should make these decisions. That is disingenuous. Palestinians cannot vote for the Knesset. They cannot sit as judges on the courts that determine their fate, nor serve on the planning committee for their communities. Israelis cannot claim a democratic right to determine the fate of those not part of their democracy. Because Israel doesn’t have a constitution or a Bill of Rights, even Israeli Bedouin villages such as Umm Al Hiran or Al Araqib don’t have the protections that democracy is supposed to provide. Although Al Araqib existed before the State of Israel, and Umm Al Hiran exists where Israel placed its residents in 1956, they are a minority. The majority has “democratically” decided to destroy them. Al Araqib has been demolished nearly 120 times since 2010. Israel is currently seeking to complete the expulsion of the non-Jewish residents of Umm Al Hiran, in order to continue the building of Jewish “Hiran” on the rubble of Umm Al Hiran. As a Jew, an Israeli, a rabbi and a Zionist, it pains me to share with you these truths, but they are the truth.

Finally, it is not popular in Israel today to be a human rights defender. If you google, “Ascherman, knife,” you can watch me being attacked by a young knife wielding settler in October 2015. It wasn’t the first time I was physically attacked, nor the last. At the recent sentencing hearing, I said I was not interested in punishment, but rehabilitation. Every young person, whether or not I agree with him or her, and whether they are Jewish or not, should have their entire life ahead of them to fulfill dreams and contribute to society. Having expressed that to an Israeli court on behalf of my attacker, I certainly feel qualified to make the plea in the court before which I now stand -You. “Do not take from Aysar his dreams and his future.” The power is in your hands. Not to make a decision is to make a decision.

Thank you. Shana Tova. I wish you a good and sweet new year. Gmar Khatima Tova-May the final seal for Susya, Umm Al Hiran, Khan Al Akhmar, Al Araqib and for all of us, be the seal of life.

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

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA

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.

UCC

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.

 

UCC 1

 

 

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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

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Kareem from NABI SALEH | RAMALLAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMNEH 

Amneh

Amneh from BIR NABALA / TEL AL ‘ADASSA | JERUSALEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

bir-nabala-tel-al-adassa-map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AHMAD DIWAN

ahmad-jubran

Ahmad Diwan from BEIT IJZA | BIDDU ENCLAVE | JERUSALEM

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

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

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

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

MUHAMMAD ABDEL AZIZ  
muhammad-abdel

Muhammad Abdel Aziz from QARYUT | NABLUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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.

Mohammad

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

Saed

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

Afaf

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

loujain-sharhabeel-al-zaeem

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 

fayyadh

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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