ISM Alert: Demolitions in Jenin and other reports
ISM Alert: Demolitions in Jenin and other reports
1) ALERT: Israeli Army Demolishes Two Family Homes in Jenin 2) Stealing Everything and the Kitchen Sink_ Alex in Qalqilya 3) The Normality of Evil_ Susanne in Qalqilya
1) ALERT Israeli Army Demolishes Two Family Homes with Ten Minutes Warning, Threatens 3 Others September 16, 2003 Jenin
At 10am Monday, the Israeli Army demolished two family homes in Suatate, Palestine, a suburb of Jenin near Kadim settlement. The two families were given 10 minutes warning before their houses were demolished, leaving 12 people homeless. Afterward, the army informed families in three neighboring houses that their homes would also be demolished, claiming the houses are "too near the settlement", which is about half a kilometer away. The homes, and approximately 200 dunams (50 acres) of adjacent farmland are far from any Israeli controlled roads or areas, and the families believe that the demolitions may be occurring to make room for illegal expansion of Kadim settlement. Demolishing these three remaining homes would leave a total of 35 people homeless.
At the request of the threatened families - who fear of losing their 3 remaining homes and 200 dunams of farmland - the International Solidarity Movement in Jenin has established a presence in the homes, to show solidarity with and to ensure the safety of the occupants.
Demolition of homes is a violation of international law, and specifically banned in the proposed Israel-Palestine 'Road Map to Peace'.
For more information or to help support the five affected families, contact :
International Solidarity Movement Media Office 02-277-4602
In Arabic: Youseff - ISM Jenin 057-836-527
In English: Mostafa - ISM Jenin 055-894-262
To protest the proposed demolitions, contact:
Major Shakira - Israeli District Command Office, Jenin
04-640-7312 or 04-250-1555 (daytime), 04-250-1565 (evening)
2) Stealing Everything and the Kitchen Sink The Effects Of The Israeli Apartheid Wall On Palestinian Life By: Alex F. Qalqilya September 14, 2003
Authors note: The following article is prepared by myself Alexander F. and is based on my own experiences and observations travelling in the occupied West Bank.
Maa'rouf Zahran is a busy man. As the major of Qalqilia, a ghetto town in the West Bank with a population of 39000, he has the unenviable task of trying to keep the civil administration running in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
Mr Zahran made time for us in his busy morning schedule inviting us to a meeting in the town hall where we sat in a pleasant air conditioned room and were served delicious sweet Arabic coffee. At the head of the room stood a collection of framed technical drawings of the problem facing Qalqilia and its people.
Since August 15th 2003 Qalqilia has been completely encircled and enclosed as part of what Israel calls a 'security barrier', a project which aims quite literally to wall-in the Palestinian population. Originally envisaged by the Israeli Labour Party as a security zone running along the 'Green Line' marking the 1967 Israeli-Palestinian border, the project has taken a cynical new turn under the Israeli premier Ariel Sharon. Sharon's project has been internationally condemned and is described by the Israeli peace organisation Gush Shalom as a new Apartheid.
Apartheid is the name given to a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination in which one racial group dominates another systematically oppressing them. Apartheid is recognised by international treaties as a crime against humanity. Several acts used for the purposes of control and oppression are identified in the 1973 International Convention on Apartheid including the creation of ghettos, land confiscation, denial of freedom of movement and any means preventing the development of the oppressed group.
Listening to Mr Zahran one got a clear image of Apartheid in action. A framed map showed the eight meter high wall running tight down the western side of the town and the three meter high security fence and patrol road which complete the encirclement. The wall and fence have been built on land confiscated without compensation from the towns population. Mr Zahran told us that 45% of local farmers land has been lost to the wall infrastructure or now lies on the wrong side of the fence.
Originally the Israeli occupation administration said gates would be opened in the fence to the north and south of town morning and evening for fifteen minutes allowing farmers access to their land. In practice this has not been the case. As the mayor explained fifteen minutes is not long enough to check the identities of the 250 or so farmers wanting to pass through each gate anyway.
The only official way in and out of Qalqilia is through a single Israeli checkpoint to the east of the town connecting it to the rest of the West Bank. The checkpoint is subject to the whims of the Israeli military who staff it and decide who may pass, who may not and how long someone must wait in the process.
The checkpoint has been catastrophic for Qalqilia's economy. Before the wall an abundance of specialist businesses and low prices made the town into the local trade hub attracting both Israelis and Palestinians from the surrounding district. Since enclosure 600 of the towns 1800 shops have gone out of business. Local producers, including many joint Palestinian -Israeli ventures have relocated to Israel or Jordan unable to count on a reliable supply of materials and with no guarantee of being able to export finished products. The weariness is clear in Mr Zahran's voice as he tells us unemployment now stands at a staggering 67% with 64%of the population living below the poverty line with an income less than fifty dollars a month for an average family of 6 to 8 persons. The dire economic situation means that the town now receives almost 10000 food parcels from the UN and NGOs.
In an otherwise empty cafe we met members of a European Union funded employment project who were optimistic about their chances of tackling the problem although they did not tell us how. It is difficult to imagine any solution to the problem which does not start with the demolition of the wall.
The social impact has been equally devastating with the divorce rate rising sharply, an increase in crime and the inevitable psychological effect on people living in this huge prison complex. The air of helplessness is in turn encouraging support for the political right and religious parties. Perhaps ominously for Israel it is also increasing the determination of some to fight back in the knowledge that they no longer have anything left to loose by doing so.
Finally Mr Zahran turned to the issue of water which lies at the heart of Sharon's 'security barrier'. As in the Middle East generally water is a key strategic issue for Israel. Qalqilia stands on one of the West Bank's three main aquifers, and as such it also contains some of the best arable land which helps to explain the presence in the district of 23 illegal Israeli settlements housing some 54,000 settlers. The route of the wall penetrates deep into the West Bank around Qalqilia annexing both land and water resources to Israel. The Qalqilia municipality is not allowed to supply cheap water to its own people, rather the people have to buy their own water back at an inflated price from an Israeli company with sole rights to extraction at a price double that Mr Zahran says it could be supplied for.
In conclusion the mayor condemned the path of the wall but made the following point. While he finds the wall immoral he suggests that had it been built along the Green Line it would not have been such a big issue. If Israel wanted to construct a 'security barrier' behind which it could feel safe then it could have done so on Israeli land without disenfranchising Palestinians. The reality is different. As Mr Zahran stated it would be unacceptable for him to build a wall through his neighbours kitchen or garden, no one could accept such an invasion of their own home.
However, this is effectively what Israel is doing in the West Bank. Israel is annexing the Palestinians kitchen sink and vegetable patch. The Israeli actions are illegal under international law, yet the international community is allowing Israel to get away with their crimes against humanity with barely any comment. The future for Mr Zahran's administration and Qalqilia is bleak. The town is being slowly strangled and drained, normal life is impossible under such conditions and that is exactly how the cynical minds behind the creation of Israeli Apartheid want it.
The Normality Of Evil Susanne K. Qalqilya September 14, 2003
" What can we do?
"There is nothing we can do!"
" We are at their mercy."
When asked about their daily lives under Israeli occupation, this is the reply most of the Palestinians gave. I have been here in Palestine for not much more than one week now, but the humiliation and discrimination that the Palestinians have to suffer every day is obvious.
The Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) procedures of oppression monitor and register every movement of Palestinians. The perception we have in Europe is that controls of identities by the IOF particularly and Israeli interference into the Palestinian society generally only a takes place at the border between Israel and Palestine. Nothing could be further away from the reality on the ground. There is not a single place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that is not controlled by Israeli authorities in some form. Military posts at which Palestinian's identity is checked and day today harassment and discrimination takes place are everywhere within the Occupied Territories.
I was on a bus in East Jerusalem (which for the Palestinians is their capital) and we had to pass a checkpoint. An officer of the Israeli Border Police - that is known for its random brutality and humiliation - entered the bus wearing an M16, while in a very casual way playing with its trigger. They took the blue identity cards from all Palestinians on the bus, but only had a cursory look at my and other international passports. Just because I am white and my passport purple I am not asked any questions, do not get humiliated, and can consider myself safe. This is racism in action.
At a normal police check in Europe the officers would study the passports, hand them back and that is it. But not so in Palestine where the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) has the fate of Palestinians in their hands and play with it in horrific and deadly games.
The Border Police left the bus and ordered everybody to wait for over an hour in unbearable heat. The personal details of all the Palestinians got written down, registered and checked via phone with higher military authorities. A couple of random names got shouted into the direction of the bus and some Palestinians left to be interrogated. Everyday they have to justify their existence, their movement from A to B in their own land to a foreign occupying power. A whole people gets controlled, monitored and suppressed on a daily basis. After the interrogation, the Border Police officers threw the belongings and identity cards of the Palestinians on the ground. They had to stoop and pick them up; a dog-like treatment that they also have to endure everyday. There is no logic or pattern behind that discrimination; it can happen to anybody randomly.
I got to know a
Palestinian farmer who owns some aubergine fields deep in
the West Bank. He told me, in despair, that these are
situated on the other side of an Israeli Army checkpoint.
Sometimes he is lucky, the checkpoint is open. But more
often than not, the checkpoint is closed
he cannot pass through, cannot access his land and harvest his aubergines which are rotting in the heat.
The Palestinians are a people being deprived of the right to their land. They do not enjoy any form of citizenship, neither of Israel nor of Palestine which is so far not been recognised before international law. Citizenship, which we in Europe can build upon to give us civil and political rights is refused to the Palestinians. They only have temporarily residential status in a land that they have lived in for hundreds of years. In addition to this lack of political and civil rights, basic human rights such as freedom of movement, assembly and expression as granted to every human being by the UN charter are denied to them.
Israeli interference and penetration into Palestinian land and life has many faces. One of the most serious threats to both the establishment of a coherent and proper Palestinian state -and the normal life of Palestinian communities- are the illegal Israeli settlements which reach deep into Palestinian land. Again, the European perception is that these are only located on the Israeli-Palestinian border and the expansion of the settlements was stopped with the Oslo Agreement (1993) as well as the Road Map (2003). But again, as countless Palestinian experiences testify, this impression is wrong. Palestinian land which is the foundation of survival for most of the people in this agriculture based society gets confiscated by the state of Israel, without warning, legal order or even compensation. Palestinians are deprived of their farm land, water resources and infrastructure.
The Israeli settlements are connected to each other and the Israeli 'mother land' by exclusive highways which are surrounded by walls, fences and protected by Israeli military as well as checkpoints. Palestinians are not allowed to use these roads unless they can provide a special permit. They often have to use minor roads and travel long distances to other Palestinian towns.
I was able to meet with the local director of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC). He pointed out that it is a daily struggle to bring people in need for primary medical care to hospitals. He was telling me about this village which is 2 km away from Qalqilya (the town in the West Bank were I am staying at the moment) which is lucky enough to have a hospital. The doctor said that the ambulances have major problems passing checkpoints and driving long distances, and are forced to drive around Israeli settlements and settler roads. For a distance of 2 km the doctors consider themselves lucky if they manage to reach the hospital in 50 minutes.
Illustrating the daily difficulties caused by the Israeli settlers, the president of a local Palestinian Farmers Union told me that the settlers, which confess themselves to be pioneers and defenders of Israel, and are heavily armed, attack Palestinian farmers whilst harvesting their fields, stealing their olives and crops, killing their sheep and goats. Contrary to much European belief, media coverage and the Israeli government's lies, the expansion of these settlements has not stopped; on the contrary, new settlements are planned, built, and occupied.
Most of the Israeli settlements are situated on top of mountains and hills overlooking, in 'big brother' style, Palestinian villages. Last night I was walking through the rural outskirts of Qalqilya. It was a very mild night. I stood still, just taking in what I saw in front of my eyes. It stays with me like a still photograph in my mind. In front of me was barbed wire surrounding Palestinian land. I saw three Israeli settlements on the horizon, sitting on hilltops, brightly lit. They are easy to identify as they do not have minarets and mosques, and contain very modern houses. There were palm trees were to my right, and the 'Palestinian' moon shining to my left in the night sky. For me this image mirrors the tragic reality of daily Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. A beautiful country, a lovely and hospitable people are being encircled, caged in, controlled and overpowered by a distant foreign power which brings so much misery to their lives everyday.
The occupation, everyday discrimination and strangulation of the entire Palestinian people have psychological effects on the a society as a whole, as well as its individuals, which can hardly be overestimated. Most of the Palestinians I have spoken to feel deprived of their historical homeland and constantly threatened in the land -or more correctly put, the ghettos,- that they are left with. The wars of 1948 and 1967 ensured the illegal displacement of the Palestinian people. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their land which still -after all these years-holds a sacred place in the collective memory of the society. Three generations have been suffering from the uprooting of their people, communities and culture.
Communication and linguistic understanding with Palestinians is sometimes not easy, but this does not matter. Their faces and gestures express more than words, the sadness, depression and frustration they live with daily. I spoke to a Palestinian man in Qalqilia about my life in Germany and Britain. I showed him postcards from Wales and Aberystwyth.
His eyes lit up when he saw the sea. He said proudly but sad at the same time, "We also have a sea! We have beautiful beaches and a wonderful ocean. But I can not go there and see it, feel the wind and the waves, smell the breeze. It is only 10 km away from here. But I have not seen it for over a decade."
Israeli 'security system' - the 8 meters high concrete
apartheid wall and complex fence and trench system
that entirely surround, encircle and strangulate Qalqilya I can see Tel Aviv on the horizon which lies by the Mediterranean Sea; land which had once been Palestine.
All these impressions of the strangulation of the Oalilians by the apartheid wall, daily occupation, discrimination and humiliation, and misery of the entire Palestinian people, my own witnessing and experiencing of military curfew, army invasions and 'special forces treatment' - have an impact on me. I am constantly nervous and stressed, I cannot find sleep, the consumption of cigarettes has increased dramatically.
It is difficult for me to end on a positive note. For me my stay here in the West Bank generally, and in Qalqilya particularly was depressing, but eye-opening to what the reality of daily Palestinian life is like. Amazingly, the Palestinians that I was lucky to meet here still try to mantain some sense of normality in their lives. Although they cannot ban the misery of occupation out of their minds they cherish their little islands of peace whenever the can.
A couple of nights ago, I was sitting with a crowd of Palestinians on a roof top of a house in Qalqilya, the illegal Israeli settlements surrounding the town where clearly visible on the hills. One of the men was a singer and was playing traditional Palestinian songs on his Arabic guitar the other men joining him and singing about their love for their beautiful land and, especially, women. Looking into the night sky, one Palestinian man said to me:
"Sharon can steal our land. But he cannot steal our laughter. He cannot steal the smile from our faces."
There is nothing more to add.