Posted on 31 August 2014 | No responses
Saturday August 30th
After lunch, which is usually at around 4pm, we decided to go to Wadi Fukin to visit family. I’ve written before about the village which sits directly east of the 1949 armistice line, more commonly referred to as the Green Line. Each time we visit, I am always shocked. This time was worse than I expected. The lush, fertile valley is being closed in by colonies, which will result in Wadi Fukin being surrounded.
Beitar Illit is an illegal colony inhabited by particularly aggressive right-wing nationalist Jews. The colony was first established as an outpost in 1984 on land belonging to the neighbouring village of Husan. Today it is home to around 50,000 colonists. I’ve witnessed its expansion for more than a decade, and it never fails to make me so angry when I am confronted with it. The housing units were first built along the ridge of the hill. Then construction crept down the side of the hill at one end, into the valley of Wadi Fukin (wadi is Arabic for valley).
Today the side of the hill is almost entirely populated by the colonists. Because they are ultra religious, they believe the water source within Wadi Fukin is holy water, and the whole area is a special place for them alone, given by God. Armed colonists often invade the valley to come and swim in the irrigation pools that have been there for generations, the land tended by Palestinians for hundreds of years. Other intimidation of the Palestinians of the valley includes setting fire to trees and poisoning the water wells.
Perversely, Beitar Illit has been awarded the Israel Ministry of Interior’s gold prize, recognizing “responsible management and sustainable urban planning”. It has also received the same ministry’s prize for water conservation in public gardens, urban public institutions, and urban water administration in 2002. Daily life here is Kafkaesque in the extreme.
But there was worse. On the other hill, Tsur Hadasa, which is technically in Israel, ie, on the other side of the armistice line, is now encroaching into Wadi Fukin from the west. The cranes loom menacingly and piles of earth punctuate the ridge as construction continues. I wanted to take some photos so one of my nieces took me up the hill.
The land here is very rocky, with prickly gorse and olive trees planted on terraces. It was quite a climb but within minutes I could see the absolute destruction and disregard for the land of Wadi Fukin. Trees had been uprooted, stones gauged out. It was a mess. Farther in the distance, in what is Israel, the hill remains untouched and flora and fauna is flourishing. I’m not entirely sure where the armistice line is, but the new construction is clearly a very deliberate action to take land within the West Bank at some point to expand the colony. After all, they could easily have built to the west, well within Israel.
Wadi Fukin is entirely Area C, as denoted by the Oslo Accords, the appalling agreement that has given Palestinians the Palestinian Authority and Israel carte blanche to do as it pleases. This means that the homes in Wadi Fukin are under constant threat. I asked my brother in law if the homes closest to the newly built units of Beitar Illit are at risk of being issued demolition orders. He said no, those homes were built quite a few years ago. But the owners have recently planted the land around the building and he is sure that at some point the Israelis will demand the trees are removed.
Back to the western hill, the villagers have rescued what they can and the uprooted trees will be used for fire wood. The construction on both sides of the valley, with colonies and colonists encroaching ever deeper into Wadi Fukin, means that the space for the village and its inhabitants is getting smaller and smaller. Natural growth means that the population is increasing. So while Palestinian land is taken to increase the colonies, the Palestinians are being hemmed in. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Posted on 31 August 2014 | 10 responses
Below are five points that campaigning organisations and individuals should be using in all discussions and correspondence with their political representatives. This is UK-specific as DFID wants to play the leading role in co-ordinating the reconstruction of Gaza. The five point action plan relies on international law and the UK’s responsibility as a signatory of the IV Geneva Convention.
Next month there is a donors’ conference in Cairo and it is vital that British voters start pressuring their MPs as soon as possible. An online petition issued by a coalition of civil society organisations (such as Oxfam, War on Want, PSC, JFJFP, etc) which individuals can sign is also a powerful tool to exert political pressure.
I would like to ask all civil society organisations and individuals in the UK to read this, share it and help implement it as a campaign. There is a general election in the UK next year, let’s work now to make Palestine a key issue for MPs, especially the issue of the Blockade.
- The perpetrator must be held accountable, meaning, that UK taxpayers should not pay for Israel’s destruction of Gaza—Israel should. Taxpayers financially support the UK’s international development work through DFID and any UK assistance in the rebuilding efforts would be doen through this channel. We should therefore demand that Israel reimburses all of DFID’s costs. The UK government should send an itemised assessment, in effect a bill, to the Israeli government. The bill should clearly state that the UK government is issuing it as part of third-state responsibility to ensure accountability and prevent impunity for international law violations. Third party states must also take all measures to prevent (and deter) further violations, meaning, by making Israel pay for its violations, may deter Israel from bombing these UK-funded structures again. The UK is obligated as a third state party to the IV Geneva Convention to demand from the violator to pay compensation.
- Government funding of overseas projects must be transparent, meaning UK taxpayers have the right to know what the UK funds in Palestine. And part of the fulfillment of that right, is the obligation of the UK government to make public the complete list of all UK-funded projects destroyed and/or damaged and/or setback and/or delayed by Israel’s war on Gaza. This should also apply to the West Bank and East Jerusalem demolitions. This includes DFID funding of INGO’s who partner with local NGO’s, not just direct DFID funding.
- Accountability includes also guarantees of reparation for the victims by the perpetrator- meaning that if Israel refuses to pay for the damages or for DFID’s reconstruction projects, then the UK and EU should not step in and use our tax money. Instead, they should impose a Gaza reconstruction tax, assessment or a fee on all Israeli imports . The fees collected will go towards a Gaza Reconstruction Fund. Further research into UK and EU trade laws is needed to develop this further.
- Assistance must be geared at local economic empowerment, meaning that DFID projects should be aimed at empowering the local Palestinian economy (local means all of Palestine). Israel should not profit from its violations, ie, its markets should be excluded from or be of last resort for providing materials for reconstruction projects.
- Third parties are obligated not to render assistance that accommodates an illegal action, meaning that the Gaza reconstruction materials should not be imported solely through the Israeli controlled crossing that sustains the blockade. For the last seven years, UK has demanded that its assistance projects effectively “abide” by Israel’s blockade- obligating projects to import their materials solely by Israel’s crossing and its restricted rates of imports. This has just perpetuated the blockade. Ending the blockade means ending Israeli control of all imports and exports. The current paradigm needs to be changed through international political action: Gaza needs an autonomous crossing not controlled by Israel, for example, an international seaport. The EU proposal for a Cyprus corridor is a good first start and should be supported by the UK and EU.
Posted on 28 August 2014 | 2 responses
Thursday August 28th
This evening I went to the BBC…that is, the Bethlehem Book Club. It’s been formed by a group of women living in the Bethlehem area, most of whom are married to Palestinians. They meet monthly, at one of the member’s homes which is large enough to accommodate everyone. Tonight I was an honorary member as I do not live in Palestine full-time at present, but one of my best friends is always trying to persuade me to come back now, rather than when R has finished her secondary education. So she took me along as part of her campaign to ‘Bring George Home‘! Read more
Posted on 27 August 2014 | 1 response
Wednesday August 27th
Yesterday I drove to Birzeit University near Ramallah.We decided to hire a car rather than use the service (‘servees’ which are mini vans that drive from one place to another when full) as it takes so long, with at least three changes between vans, and it gets costly. Also, depending on the situation at any of the checkpoints, fixed or ‘flying’, being in your own car can give some semblance of ‘choice’. (Of course, living under an illegal military occupation actually ensures that you have no choice.) Read more
Posted on 26 August 2014 | 2 responses
Tuesday August 26th
We’ve been home a few days and life in Palestine has been largely uneventful, by West Bank standards at least.
Tonight we went to an event hosted at the Alternative Information Centre in Beit Sahour. It’s an organisation that was established 30 years ago, and does some great work, especially around the theme of normalisation. Ilan Pappe, eminent Israeli historian and academic was speaking about the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. Read more
Posted on 8 January 2014 | No responses
Also published by Palestine Chronicle here
Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction – Nadia Abu-Zahra Adah Kay, Pluto Press, 2013
The opening lines of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem Bitaqat Hawiyyah (identity card) are a poignant reminder of reality for Palestinians throughout the world:
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand”
And it is most fitting that Nadia Abu-Zahra and Adah Kay quote these powerful words within the first few pages of their book, Unfree in Palestine: Registration, Documentation and Movement Restriction. Read more
Posted on 19 December 2012 | No responses
This article is also published on Palestine Chronicle
Over the past few days, the talk of a third Intifada breaking out in the occupied Palestinian territories has increased. But it isn’t Palestinians living under the occupation who are talking up the chances of a third uprising against Israel’s continued oppression in the territories. Read more
Posted on 5 August 2012 | No responses
In his latest piece written for the New York Times, Avraham Burg asks: “Where is the good old Israel?” Assuming he is not being tongue-in-cheek, and there is no suggestion in the rest of the article that he is, he continues to peddle the same old clichés that liberal Zionists are so fond of. Propaganda is a powerful tool, but so is the truth. Read more
Posted on 21 July 2012 | No responses
The drive from Bethlehem to Ramallah, or from pretty much anywhere to anywhere in the West Bank now, takes you along many roads recently established courtesy of USAID. At intersections there’s big signs, telling Palestinian travellers that this road is a gift from the American people. The signs omit to mention the other gifts from America, including military and financial support used to prop up and maintain the racist government of Israel and its policies that discriminate against the indigenous population. Read more
Posted on 21 July 2012 | No responses
Water is always an issue here. Not because there isn’t enough—there is—but because the access to water, for Palestinians, is strictly controlled: firstly by Mekerot, the Israeli water company, then secondly by the Palestinian water authority. According to figures quoted by Sam Bahour, settlers have up to seven times the amount of water that Palestinians do. Read more