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They came, they razed, they left: A visit to a destroyed Palestinian village

They came, they razed, they left: A visit to a destroyed Palestinian village

Originally published in Ha’aretz – April 14, 2014

By  and 

Israel is continuing to destroy systematically the villages of shepherds who live in the Jordan Rift. Last week, the Civil Administration demolished Homsa, another tiny Palestinian village. In January, 160 residents of the valley were made homeless; last year, twice as many were left homeless as in the year before…

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Israel ‘demolishes’ EU-funded West Bank housing shelters

Israel ‘demolishes’ EU-funded West Bank housing shelters

Photo by Rami Allaria

Originally published by Ynet News (with reporting from AFP) – Saturday, April 12, 2014

Israel has demolished several European Union-funded humanitarian housing shelters in a highly sensitive strip of West Bank land near Jerusalem, which led European diplomats to demand financial compensation.

“On April 9, three of some 18 residential structures were demolished… in Jabal al-Baba,” an area outside the sprawling settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, a spokesman for the EU’s delegation to the Palestinian territories told AFP.

The tin huts, used to house Palestinians made homeless by severe winter weather at the beginning of the year, were “partially funded by EU member states,” the official said.

The shelters were funded by the EU’s humanitarian aid wing, DG ECHO, as well as the French development agency Action Contre la Faim.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein from the Jahalin Association representing Palestinian Bedouin told Palestinian news agency Ma’an that the demolitions were “presumably revenge” for the Palestinian move to join 15 international treaties and conventions.

Israel issued demolition orders on all 18 structures in February, the official said, and EU delegates “raised this with the Israeli authorities” both at that time of and after the demolitions.

The EU official said simply that there were ongoing discussions with Israeli authorities over the demolitions, but a report by EurActiv, a Brussels-based news service, said diplomats were demanding financial compensation.

“We should ask for compensation from Israel whenever EU-funded humanitarian aid projects are destroyed,” EurActiv quoted an anonymous diplomat as saying.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat called the Israeli move “more than a provocation, it is a crime,” and told EurActiv the Palestinians have asked the EU “to apply their laws in relation to Israel.”

Israel’s military administration of the West Bank could not immediately comment on the demolitions.

An Israeli spokesman contacted by EurActiv for comment issued a statement saying the shelters had been “assembled illegally.”

“At least two of the buildings (were) located on state land and within the jurisdiction of the city of Ma’aleh Adumim,” the statement went on to say.

The structures were located in E1, a highly contentious area in the West Bank east of Jerusalem.

Israel has been planning construction in E1 since the early 1990s but nothing has ever been built there due to heavy international pressure. Plans for building 1,200 units unveiled in December 2012 were quickly put on the back burner after the announcement triggered a major diplomatic backlash.

The Palestinians say construction in E1 would effectively cut the West Bank in two and prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

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A Stranger in my Homeland

A Stranger in my Homeland

Rawia Aburabia, 33, says that even though the situation of Bedouin women is bad, a trend of ‘groundbreaking women’ is taking hold. (Originally published by Ha’aretz – Friday, March 28, 2014)

By Ayelett Shani

You started out as a social worker. What made you decide to go into law?

As a social worker I encountered many wrongs, but I had the feeling there was nothing I could do about them, that I was limited. In my third year I started to deal with “unrecognized” villages [of Bedouin in the Negev]. That just crushed me. What can you possibly offer someone whose life has been trampled by political policy? People are in distress and you can’t help. They have no electricity or water, they are in a dreadful situation. So I decided to study something that would allow me to help on a larger scale, and I chose law, with an emphasis on human rights.

And you work for the Association for Civil Rights.

I head the unit that deals with the Arab and Bedouin population in the Negev, and am a member of the executive committee for equality of personal rights. I deal with all the well-known issues – from home demolitions to forced marriages of underage girls. It’s very complex even for me. On the one hand, I feel committed to people who are fighting for their homes, but on the other hand, as a feminist, I am very critical of what is happening in Bedouin society. It’s something of a duality.

Especially given your background. You are a Bedouin, but you did not grow up in an unrecognized village – rather, in a villa in Be’er Sheva. Your father is the first Bedouin physician in the country, your mother is a teacher and your siblings are academics.

Yes. People tend to imagine Bedouin in tents, but I grew up in Be’er Sheva in a completely secular home, and my parents are educated.

Did you attend an Arab school?

Until fourth grade, when I switched to a Jewish school. My whole starting point is very different from that of the traditional Bedouin girl, and different possibilities were available to me. There was a very strong emphasis on education at home, even over-achievement. While my girlfriends were having children, I collected degrees. I got married only three years ago, and have a six-month-old daughter, so I really don’t fit the stereotype. But the truth is that changes are occurring in the Bedouin society — the rate of educated women is rising.

Really? According to a report I read, 90 percent of Bedouin women in Israel are unemployed, and 60 percent drop out of high school.

That’s true, but significant changes are taking place. In general, the situation of Bedouin women is bad, but we are also seeing a trend of groundbreaking women.

You are now writing a doctoral dissertation on polygamy, which is still prevalent among the Bedouin.

It was also the subject of my master’s thesis. I obtained my M.A. in America and majored in human rights. Polygamy was an urgent issue for me, especially in light of its prevalence among Bedouin. In the eyes of the law, the Bedouin woman is both excluded and transparent. The police take no interest in polygamy.

Israel law forbids polygamy, but there is no enforcement. What kind of numbers are we talking about?

Between 30 and 40 percent of all families. The average is two-three wives per man, and what is especially distressing is that it exists in all classes, in the city and in unrecognized villages, and among the educated as well.

If I understood correctly, the model is that a man marries one woman, and a few years later marries a second, and they all share a household.

That is the most common form. They live in separate homes but are part of the same household. The first wife is the traditional one; the second, the supposedly more modern one. Regrettably, many educated women take part in this repressive practice by agreeing to be the second wife.

Why do the first wives agree to it?

Many of them cooperate with the practice so as not to undergo a divorce. The status of women in Bedouin society is so low that it’s enough for the husband just to threaten divorce. I asked many women why they do not get a divorce, and the answer is that they are simply afraid. The attitude toward a divorcee is atrocious. The woman is dependent on her husband economically, so leaving is not a viable option. She is a prisoner. Even an educated woman. Her hands are tied.

Technically, one can file a complaint about polygamy with the police, but it’s useless.

Indeed. The policy of the state prosecution is not to file charges in such cases. Criminal law in this regard is useless; there is no enforcement and no deterrence.

What do you hope to achieve through your study?

I hope I will be able to propose a mechanism of some sort for coping with this phenomenon; I don’t want it to remain only an academic study. And I also want to place the subject on the public agenda. The law is enforced only in cases when the man marries a Palestinian woman from the territories as his second wife and she wants to live here [in Israel proper]. But in Bedouin society in general, the situation persists uninterruptedly.

How well do you know the traditional Bedouin woman and her way of life?

My father’s family is originally from an unrecognized village. My cousins are the very woman you’re describing. I don’t pretend to represent the traditional Bedouin woman, but I know that life to a certain extent. Both as a social worker and as a lawyer, I constantly come into contact with these women. Still, I am fully aware that my life is different – in terms of the opportunities I got, the places I reached.

Most Bedouin woman are unemployed, because the urbanization forced on their society dislocated them from their traditional roles. When the state decided it would not help these uneducated women with their social-cultural adjustment, but would simply move them, as they were, to one of seven towns built here beginning at the end of the 1970s, it sealed their fate.

It’s ironic to recall that the Jews who immigrated here in the 1950s – from an urban background – had farming communities built for them in the Negev on land taken from the Bedouin. There are more than 100 Jewish communities in the Be’er Sheva district, with an average population of 300, and they enjoy all the infrastructures. In contrast, there are 35 old historical [Bedouin] villages without water or electricity, where homes are demolished every day; the authorities are continuing the policy of suppression and dispossession.

What options are available to a girl who grows up in a traditional Bedouin family?

Let’s take a girl born in an unrecognized village, for example. There are no preschools, so it’s likely she will be at home at least until kindergarten, and it’s impossible to know what will happen after primary school. Any high school there is will be far away. If the parents understand the importance of education, they will see to it that she remains in school. But many times it doesn’t work, because of other factors, such as the fact that the buses that go to the school are coed, and the parents don’t want their daughter to travel with boys.

Does she have to help provide for the family? Will she work outside the village?

No, only at home. And very often, if she drops out of school early, her fate will be to marry at a very young age. The marriage rate for underage girls is very high. There is absolutely no doubt that the Bedouin locales that were built — Tel Sheva, Lakiya, Rahat and the others — are a failed model. The state admits it, too. My feeling is the state wants to keep it like that, so that the Bedouin will remain weakened — hewers of wood and drawers of water, as it were — and not pose a threat.

The Israeli policy of rule involves concentrating the minority in one place so as to strengthen political control over it. All studies show that, by all indices, coerced urbanization bore very deep and had severe consequences. The economic and social situation was aggravated, because Bedouin were uprooted from an agricultural environment to one that is supposedly urban, but does not really offer urban services. There is no infrastructure, no organized industrial zone, the education standard is very inferior. A farce of a whole fabric of life.

How does that affect the status of women?

Catastrophically. They are a minority within a minority, in a repressive patriarchal society in which the men also suffer from weakened masculinity; their homes are demolished and no one takes them into account. The Israeli side now thinks it is going to “rescue” the women. Doron Almog [head of the task force for the settlement and economic development of the Bedouin in the Negev] says that they want to eradicate polygamy and catapult the women into the 21st century. But how, exactly, will that be done, when along the way you are destroying their whole fabric of life, and from your point of view they are just a tool?

What is your feeling when you come into contact with these women? Do you feel guilty due to your different life circumstances?

I can’t speak in their name, because neither I nor anyone in my immediate milieu lives their life. I can only talk about my experience in the face of these women, and I admit that a certain distance exists in my encounter with them. I was fortunate, I received an opportunity which is truly not to be taken for granted. I do not feel guilty but committed to helping them make their voice heard.

How do you define yourself?

As a Palestinian. It really is very complex. One time in court, a judge asked me if I am from the Aburabia tribe. I said I was, and he said, “Really? I know that tribe, I’m proud to say.” He was proud of me, he patronized me, do you understand? Or, one time a radio interviewer said to me, “Well done, achieving what you did in spite of where you started from.” All kinds of remarks like that.

It makes me angry that my identity is belittled like this: I am a Palestinian, even though the Bedouin element is very meaningful in my life. And I get angry at the “We took you out of the tent and brought you to this point” approach. It’s exactly the infuriating Orientalist approach, but my identity is far richer and more complex. One time, when I was a member of a delegation in the United States, we were to give a talk to a Muslim community in a mosque. I was told to wear a head covering. I objected. Why am I being placed in a mold? Why am I not asked whether I am secular or religious, what meaning the head covering has for me?

One of the organizers said, “You know, Hillary Clinton wore a head covering when she spoke to us, what’s the big deal?” I said, “For Hillary Clinton it’s just a kerchief she puts on her head, but for me it has a multitude of meanings and it is an affront.” I refused. [Wearing it] is to ignore who and what I am. That’s why I also got angry when you asked me about the way of life of the Bedouin woman.

I noticed.

I don’t have a clue. I didn’t grow up like that.

What do you think about Israel? What do you feel toward Israelis?

It’s not easy growing up here as a national minority. I think Israel is becoming more and more right-wing, violent and racist. I have never felt such a poisonous atmosphere toward the Palestinians as today.

It’s hard, but you mustn’t let it debase you. I constantly tell myself that this is where I live, and that I must not allow racism and arrogance and paternalism to debase me as a human being, to make me lose my humanity. After every humiliating experience I take a deep breath, write an opinion piece and let it go.

I have undergone profiling with El Al. In the airport here all my luggage was taken and checked, without my being present. They interrogated me. It was insulting and awful; I boarded the plane crying. I mean, I am going to speak about the Bedouin population to human rights committees at the United Nations and I feel good, and then at the airport they say: Just a minute, we will strip you of the person you think you are, we will remind you what your place is and that you are the enemy. It’s harassment. It’s hard for every Palestinian who lives here. There’s a messed-up mentality of a minority, which is the Israeli mentality.

You mean Israeli Jews are a majority who still think, feel and behave like a persecuted minority?

Yes. Even though the majority of Israelis should feel safe, right? Those are moments that almost break me, and I have to remind myself that I, my parents and my grandparents were all born here, and that I should not take to heart a security checker whose parents immigrated here a minute and a half ago from who knows where, and treats me like a security threat. You have to breathe deeply. I have to work on myself very hard when that happens, and also inculcate certain things in my daughter. She will have to be critical and activist, but also look out for herself, so she won’t feel discriminated against. I was taught that everything is possible, so am I going to let a few racists destroy and debase me? No way. On the day I stop believing in that, I will no longer be here. But yes, absolutely: I feel like a stranger in my homeland.

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Israel demolishes blind man’s home in Jerusalem-area village

Israel demolishes blind man’s home in Jerusalem-area village

Originally published by Ma’an News Agency - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers early Wednesday demolished a residential building, a car wash, and a shop in an East Jerusalem village, a popular committee spokesman said.

Hani Halabiyya, a spokesman for East Jerusalem’s popular resistance committees, told Ma’an that a large number of Israeli troops and military vehicles raided the Jabal al-Baba area of al-Eizariya village early Wednesday.

Bulldozers then proceeded to demolish a house owned by Suleiman Jahalin, a blind man who says he has been living in the Jabal al-Baba area since 1967.

Before starting the demolition, Israeli troops forcefully removed Jahalin and ten of his family members from their home, he told Ma’an.

After the 65-square-meter house was demolished, Jahalin expressed his intention to remain in the village.

“The last thing I saw before I became blind was the land of al-Eizariya,” Jahalin said. “I will never leave this land.”

He said he had recently received a demolition warrant from Israeli authorities.

Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers demolished a car wash and a grocery shop near the entrance of the neighborhood. The two structures were built on one dunam (1,000 square meters) of land owned by Sami Abu Ghaliya.

Abu Ghaliya told Ma’an he was surprised to see Israeli forces surrounding the structures early Wednesday.

They demolished the car wash and the shop without prior notice, he said.

The same structures were demolished by the Israeli Civil Administration about a month ago, and Abu Ghaliya says he rebuilt them shortly after the demolition.

Halabiyya said 40 Bedouin families could be displaced from Jabal al-Baba in the coming days, as all the families there had been issued demolition warrants.

Additionally, he said, all the homes built in Jabal al-Baba — which sits around 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of land — are slated for demolition.

About 350 people living in steel structures and tents in the area could find themselves homeless, Halabiyya said.

‘Demolishing possibilities for peace’

Angela Godfrey Goldstein, an advocacy officer of the Jahalin Association representing Palestinian Bedouin, condemned the demolitions.

“As an Israeli I’m horrified that my country is demolishing possibilities for peace by displacing people continuously,” Godfrey Goldstein said.

“This home was on E1,” she said. “One of Obama’s red lines.”

She added that with peace talks ongoing, “this is hardly conducive to trust-building and reveals Israel’s true colors.”

E1 is an area northeast of Jerusalem and west of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim. Israeli plans for settlement construction in the area have been strongly opposed by the international community, including the US.

Critics say Israeli settlement construction in E1 would divide the West Bank in two and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state — as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — virtually impossible.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It has demolished at least 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures since occupying the West Bank in 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.


Photo by MaanImages/Rami Illariya

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State confiscates Bedouin playground equipment donated by Italy

State confiscates Bedouin playground equipment donated by Italy

Originally published by Ha’aretz, Friday, February 28, 2014

By Amira Hass

The Civil Administration on Thursday confiscated playground equipment that the Italian government had donated to a school at the Khan al-Amar Bedouin encampment east of Jerusalem.

A representative of the Italian Consulate accompanied the delivery, which came in two trucks, one carrying cement and the other a three-seat swing set and a slide with a tunnel and two ladders. The children barely had a chance to get excited about the equipment when Civil Administration inspectors appeared and announced they were seizing the two trucks and their contents, on the grounds that the installation was illegal. The consular representative drove off with the inspectors in an effort to overturn the decision.

The encampment’s school, built in 2009, is an ecological structure made of mud and old tires that maintains an even temperature in the classrooms during both winter and summer. It was built by the residents themselves with European financial aid, and inspired by an architectural approach that uses recycled materials easily obtainable by the poor.

The Khan al-Amar encampment, which is along the road leading to Jericho, is home to the Jahalin tribe that Israel expelled from the Negev in the 1950s. Around 250 people have lived in for decades in the camp, which is situated on land belonging to the village of Anata. The settlement of Kfar Adumim is only two kilometers from the site, but (as with all the other Bedouin communities between East Jerusalem and Jericho), the Civil Administration refuses to let Khan al-Amar residents build, connect to the infrastructure, or put up as much as a tin shack, animal pen or tent, on the grounds that the area does not have an approved master plan.

Thus the school, which has 128 pupils, mostly girls ages 6-13, was built without a permit. The Civil Administration has issued demolition orders against it and against dozens of other structures in the encampment.

In recent years Kfar Adumim has petitioned the High Court of Justice three times, demanding that the demolition orders be carried out. The first two petitions were denied, and last November the settlement (and two of its neighborhoods, Alon and Nofei Prat) filed another petition.

A report by the Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights organization shows some 300 structures in the settlement were built illegally.

The Civil Administration did not respond to a request for comment.

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Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam, Torn Apart by Israeli Company Deal

Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam, Torn Apart by Israeli Company Deal

Originally published by the New York Times - January 30, 2014

 By Isabel Kershner

JERUSALEM — “Start with plain water and bubbles. Mix in the perfect flavor,” suggests Scarlett Johansson in the ad that is part of her new endorsement deal with SodaStream, the Israeli company that manufactures home carbonation systems.

But instead of a fizzy drink, Ms. Johansson, a Hollywood actress, stirred up an international political storm this week because SodaStream’s largest factory is in a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, an area the Palestinians envision as part of a future independent state.

Her deal with SodaStream has led to a parting of ways between Ms. Johansson and Oxfam International, the confederation of aid groups. Oxfam issued a statement on Thursday saying it had accepted Ms. Johansson’s decision to step down after eight years as a global ambassador.

“Oxfam believes that businesses such as SodaStream that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support,” the group said, adding that it was “opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

The factory is in Mishor Adumim, an industrial zone attached to the large, urban settlement of Maale Adumim in the beige hills east of Jerusalem. Israel views the territory that it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war as disputed and says it intends to keep Maale Adumim under any peace deal with the Palestinians.

The dispute over the ad, scheduled to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday, has pitted pro-Palestinian activists against people and groups who support Israel unreservedly. Accusations of Israeli exploitation of Palestinian resources have been met with arguments that SodaStream encourages coexistence by providing employment for hundreds of West Bank Palestinians alongside Israeli Jews and Arab citizens of Israel.

Predictably, reactions to Ms. Johansson’s split from Oxfam were divided along similar lines. “Just like the few artists who played Sun City during South African apartheid, Johansson will be remembered for having stood on the wrong side of history,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee, in a statement. The committee is a coalition of Palestinian organizations that advocate boycotts, divestment and sanctions in their campaign against Israel.

In contrast, Robert Singer, the chief executive of the World Jewish Congress, an organization representing Jewish communities globally, said in a statement, “We applaud Miss Johansson for her forthright defense of economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and for standing up to the international bullies.”

The fuss comes to the fore just as concern is growing in Israel about a potential increase in foreign boycotts of its companies if current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail. Some European supermarket chains are already shunning agricultural produce from the settlements. PGGM, a large Dutch pension fund management company, recently decided to withdraw all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they maintain branches in West Bank settlements or are involved in financing settlement construction.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s centrist finance minister, warned this week, “If the negotiations with the Palestinians get stuck or break down and we enter a reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one, Israel’s economy will retreat.” Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, he said that “every resident of Israel will get hit straight in the pocket.”

Scarlett Johansson

Credit: Tiziana Fabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last month, members of the American Studies Association, an organization of professors, voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, giving a small but symbolic victory to the pro-Palestinian B.D.S. movement in the United States.

But the dispute over SodaStream has taken the boycott debate way beyond its usual, relatively limited audiences, and it is likely to simmer on.

SodaStream announced its collaboration with Ms. Johansson on Jan. 12, calling her its “first-ever global brand ambassador.” Ms. Johansson released a statement in which she said she remained “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

SodaStream, she continued, “is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”

Palestinians and their supporters who have been campaigning for Palestinian rights to settle in the area around Maale Adumim do not see it that way.

Grass-roots activists known as the Bab al Shams Village Council, in coalition with the Jahalin Association, representing the Bedouin tribe that has been encamped in the area for decades, also issued a statement. “For Palestinians to enjoy genuine and lasting economic prosperity,” it said, “they require freedom from Israeli domination.”

Daniel Birnbaum, the chief executive of SodaStream, joined the company in 2007, years after its establishment. He said this week in an interview that while he would not have chosen Mishor Adumim as the site for a factory, it was by now a reality. He said that out of loyalty to the roughly 500 Palestinians employed there, he would not bow to political pressure to close the factory.

“I could leave there tomorrow,” he said. “For me it would be easier, but what about the employees?”

Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting.

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Mondoweiss: Israel demolishes Bedouin village in E1 — that Obama declared was key to two-state solution

 on September 23, 2013

Video: A tour of a demolished Bedouin village in E1 in the Occupied West Bank

A week ago today I visited E1, a mountainous patch of land east of Jerusalem that is famous because the Israelis have designated it for more settlements that will further fragment the West Bank and limit Palestinians’ movements, as the State Department has repeatedly stated.

In E1, I witnessed the results of the recent Israeli bulldozing of a Bedouin village in which 47 people lost their homes. You can see Mohamed Odeh S’eedi in the video above, showing me through portions of the devastated village, Az Za’ayyem.

Scores of Israeli soldiers arrived in the village with three bulldozers at 8 AM on Sept. 11. Then Israeli civilian officials in plain clothes went through the homes, removing personal belongings. After that the bulldozers and soldiers moved in, smashing one home and animal shelter after another, 18 in all, folding and warping roofs of corrugated steel. Thirty-two children lost their beds.

In March President Obama went to Ramallah and was asked specifically about E1.He was emphatic:

You mentioned E1, in particular. I think that is an example of at least a public statement by the Israeli government that would be very difficult to square with a two-state solution. And I’ve said that to Prime Minister Netanyahu. I don’t think that’s a secret.

But Obama and the State Department have had nothing to say about this demolition — nor about Israel’s demolition of Mak-hul, a Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley that European diplomats sought to relieve last week.

A week ago in the arid, panoramic terrain of E1, Mohamed Odeh S’eedi took me around his smashed-up village. He pointed out an Israeli police station overseeing the occupied territory from a northern hill. He showed me the reservoir that Israelis are building to bring water to settlers. He pointed out the rocky hillside where the children of the Bedouin village sat, watching their houses being torn down. “They will never forget this.” Three tents had been set up, with bedding for 47 people.

Three camels sat in the sun near us. Az Za’ayyem is a herding community. It depends on goats and camels to produce milk. The Israelis had targeted the heart of the community’s agricultural operation: a 1200-square-meter barn for farm equipment and goats.

We sat under a tree drinking tea, and Odeh S’eedi said he had only one request of me: To bring the demolition of Az Za’ayyem to the attention of the world. He didn’t want money or aid; he seeks fair treatment. In this second video, you can see him showing me documents proving that the S’eedi family owns the lands on which their property was destroyed.

Video: Mohamad Odeh S’eedi offers proof that demolished Bedouin community owns its land

Angela Godfrey Goldstein of the Jahalin Association also accompanied me. The NGO works for thousands of members of a Bedouin tribe, the Jahalin, who were forced out of the Negev during the creation of Israel. More than 2000 of these refugees live in the hills east of Jerusalem.

Chris Gunness of the UN refugee organization UNRWA says his agency witnessed and documented the demolition of Az Za’ayyem. He wrote to me to explain the larger issue:

“There is ongoing pressure being applied by the Israeli authorities to Bedouin communities in the Jerusalem periphery, both in and around the area earmarked for the E1 settlement construction project. As we know, these communities are targeted for transfer to locations outside the so called ‘Ma’ale Adumim bubble’. Administrative demolition has a severe psychological and economic impact on Palestine refugees throughout Area C, and in the case of the periphery where communities face the additional threat of full transfer, stress levels are now high as administrative demolition increases in the area.

Godfrey-Goldstein and I also visited the Israeli settlement city of Ma’ale Adumim. It is thriving. You walk through an air-conditioned shopping mall past fountains, grassy median strips and date palms being tended by gardeners. Religious families push double-wide strollers alongside late-waking hipsters in flipflops. Ma’ale Adumim has the feeling of a suburban subdivision in the southwest in the U.S.

And day by day it is choking off the Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, as the settlement builds stronger connections to the city.

It is of course a violation of the Geneva conventions to transfer civilian population into occupied territories. But Israel has been massing Jews into East Jerusalem for more than 40 years, surrounding the Mount of Olives. The indigenous Palestinian communities are separated by high walls topped with barbed wire, and Godfrey-Goldstein pointed out to me a tunnel that was being excavated, connecting the East Jerusalem neighborhoods to a road going north and west to Ramallah. This is the architecture of apartheid.

And the demolition of Az Za’ayyem is the latest fruit of a policy of Judaization and colonization, in defiance of American foreign policy.

The State Department is keeping its head in the sand in the face of provocations. Spokesperson Marie Harf’s briefing last week:

QUESTION: Are you aware of the new Israeli settlement activities that are taking place, in fact, today near Hebron?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports, no.

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on – the Israelis are taking some agricultural land that has been for hundreds of years and so on.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look into it, and if we – obviously, our position on settlements hasn’t changed. But I’m happy to look into it, and if we have additional comment, to get it to you.

Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats, seize West Bank aid

Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats, seize West Bank aid

Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats, seize West Bank aid

Source: Reuters – Fri, 20 Sep 2013 01:40 PM

Author: Reuters

* EU diplomats try to help Palestinians in demolished hamlet

* Soldiers throw sound grenades, grapple with diplomats

* Drive away truck with emergency aid and tents

By Noah Browning

KHIRBET AL-MAKHUL, West Bank, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.

“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing said.

“This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust.

The Israeli army and police declined to comment.

Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel’s high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.

Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

“It’s shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments,” said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorisation to talk to the media.

“(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren’t being protected,” he said.

In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.

“What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they’re obligated to respect international law,” the unnamed EU diplomat said. (Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Khan al-Ahmar: The human rights impact of Israel’s settlement expansion (Amnesty International) Posted on 13 August 2013 by Livewire Team

Khan al-Ahmar: The human rights impact of Israel’s settlement expansion (Amnesty International) Posted on 13 August 2013 by Livewire Team

By Deborah Hyams, Israel/OPT/PA researcher at Amnesty International

For more than 60 years, the Jahalin Bedouin tribe has been struggling to maintain their way of life. Forced from their tribal lands in the Negev/Naqab desert in the1950s, they have been continually harassed, pressured and resettled by successive Israeli governments, seemingly intent on squeezing them out of existence. And the latest Israeli decisions to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank will mean further hardships for these communities.

Just yesterday, plans were approved for about 900 new apartments in Gilo, a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

On Sunday, the Israeli Ministry of Housing announced tenders for the construction of 1,200 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The announcement includes the Israeli settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Pisgat Ze’ev, which surround the area where several Jahalin communities have lived for decades. Several other plans for settlement construction have been pushed forward recently.

All this brought to mind my latest visit to the Jahalin community in Khan al-Ahmar two months ago.

Entering the village in a vehicle was impossible. As we approached on the main highway, built to connect illegal Israeli settlements in the rest of the West Bank with those in East Jerusalem, we could clearly see the village on the hillside next to the road. But there was no route in.

The village of Khan al-Ahmar is home to one of the 20 Jahalin Bedouin communities who have been threatened by Israeli settlement expansion in the area east of Jerusalem, also known as “E1”, for years. The communities are made up of 2,300 refugees who were originally displaced by Israel in the 1950s.

The Israeli authorities have blocked the old road leading to the village, and failed to provide safe alternative access. It’s as if Khan al-Ahmar has been wiped off Israeli maps. The Israeli authorities are still seeking to forcibly transfer its residents.

To reach the village I, together with other delegates from Amnesty International, had to get off our bus on the busy highway and climb down into the dirt track beneath the main road and then climb up the hill to Khan al-Ahmar on foot. While the cars and trucks hurtled by behind us, we realized that school children take this path every day.

Traditionally, the Jahalin earned their living from a pastoral economy which depends on access to grazing lands. For decades their ability to maintain their way of life has been squeezed by the building of Jewish-only settlements, military bases, and nature reserves that encroached on the lands they use.

The relentless wave of illegal settlements continues. The announcements yesterday and on Sunday are in addition to Israeli proposals mooted last year to expand settlements in the E1 area. At the time the plans attracted widespread condemnation from governments around the world.

Such announcements are far more than just another “obstacle” to the renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israel’s continuing settlement construction directly affects the rights of Palestinians living under military occupation in communities like Khan al-Ahmar. It compounds the litany of human rights violations they face on a daily basis, including the denial of their rights to adequate housing and water.

Many homes in the Jahalin communities have been destroyed by the Israeli military, and most others, as well as two primary schools, have demolition orders. The communities also suffer from recurring Israeli settler attacks on residents, including children, as well as on homes and water supplies. Those who commit these acts benefit from near-total impunity.

During our visit to Khan al-Ahmar, residents told us of their struggle to continue daily activities like herding their sheep and educating their children in the face of the settlements and the Israeli army. They stressed that the current Israeli plan to transfer the Jahalin communities represents the biggest threat to their existence yet.

For nearly two years, these communities have been fighting Israeli plans to forcibly transfer them from their homes. Initially the Israeli military proposed moving the Jahalin to a site very close to a municipal garbage dump, without consulting the communities. It was only following pressure from local NGOs and the international community that the Israeli authorities agreed to look at alternative sites. However, no genuine consultations have taken place yet.

Israel’s policies of settling Israeli civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and forcibly transferring Palestinians living under occupation violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and are considered war crimes, according to the statute of the International Criminal Court.

The USA, which is sponsoring the renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as well as the EU and all concerned countries, must ensure that Israel complies with international law.

Israel must immediately scrap plans to forcibly transfer the Jahalin from their land, and cancel all demolition orders against their homes. It must also immediately halt the construction or expansion of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as a first step towards removing Israeli civilians living in such settlements.

Driving away and looking back, we could see Khan al-Ahmar and the other Bedouin hamlets scattered in the midst of one of Israel’s biggest settlements projects. These refugee shepherds are isolated, standing in the face of this human rights crisis. They should not be left to stand alone.

Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

June 26, 2013
San Jose, CA 95124

Secretary John F. Kerry
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

You have offered $4 billion to the Palestinians in investment to boost their economy. I was in Israel early this month, and Palestinians say that while the money might be nice, more important is to ease regulations and restrictions. Here is one example of an issue that needs your understanding and immediate intervention.

In 2009, a school was built of mud and tires in Al Khan Al-Ahmar, a Jahalin Bedouin encampment less than 10 miles from Jerusalem on the way to Jericho. The community received threats of demolition even while the school was being built, and a demolition order issued is still outstanding, while the Israeli military plan to forcibly move the entire encampment against their will. You must insist that there be no demolition or forced displacement at all. Israel has an obligation under international law to protect occupied populations and provide them with services and this is one instance of their not doing so.

Why was the primary school necessary? These Palestinian Bedouins are not Jerusalem residents, but refugees living under occupation. The closest school (for Palestinians – they are surrounded by Israeli settlements with many schools!) was in Jericho, 22 kilometers away. School bus service was non-existent and walking that distance each day is almost impossible, especially for little girls. Residents learned of an inexpensive way to build, out of mud clay and old tires, and received help from local organizations and European NGOs. I visited the encampment: the school buildings are bright and attractive, and Palestinian Authority teachers teach the 95 Bedouin children who attend school there.

Why would a demolition order be issued for a school? A permit had not been issued for the buildings – permits in Area C are virtually impossible for any Palestinian, but particularly for these Bedouin refugees who were displaced from the Negev desert in 1951 and live as UNRWA-registered refugees on Palestinian land not registered in their name – land claimed by the nearby settlers as “state land” but actually owned by Palestinians.

This community, and school, are part of the eastern Jerusalem periphery that has become strategically significant to the Israelis as part of the Greater Jerusalem/E1 Plan which targets this and other communities as “transfer sites” to allow major expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and its linkage to Jerusalem. This expansion would disrupt the territorial contiguity of the West Bank so that Palestinians on either side would need to travel impossibly long distances to reach each other, Jerusalem would be totally closed off on all sides for West Bank Palestinians, and, by being denied access to Jerusalem, the Palestinian economy would suffer a loss of 35% [NSU]. Thus my simple request to prevent demolition of a school serving 95 students escalates into the forefront of current Israeli policy.

I urge you to consider my request and make it a part of your plans for your next imminent trip to Israel.


Martha B