At Tuwani – On September 14th, two Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian shepherd and two international near the Israeli outpost of Mitzpe Yair, in the South Hebron Hills area. During the aggression, the settlers stole video cameras from the internationals and broke one of their phones. Israeli police detained the Palestinian shepherd and one of the internationals for six hours. There were no consequences for the settlers.
At about 9:00 a.m. four Palestinian shepherds from the South Hebron Hills village of Qawawis were grazing their flocks accompanied by two internationals, on Palestinian owned land nearby the Israeli outpost. Two settlers from Mitzpe Yair crossed a closed area (where the access is forbidden to everyone else) in order to attack one Palestinian shepherd, starting to chase away his flock. The two internationals present taped the scene.
Afterwards the settlers assaulted the internationals: at first they grabbed one by the neck and knocked him down, they snatched his camera and broke his phone; subsequently the settlers attacked the other one twisting her arm and also seizing her camera. The settlers ran back to the outpost holding the stolen cameras, and the Palestinian and the internationals went to Qawawis village.
The Israeli police came to the Palestinian village and asked the shepherd and internationals to follow them to the Israeli Police station in Kiryat Arba settlement, due to one settler claiming that they threw stones at him. The Police officers detained both of them for six hours and questioned them about the incident. Israeli police released them at 5:00 p.m. without consequences.
The South Hebron hills area has suffered from the presence of Israeli settlers’ since the 70′s. Eight Israeli settlements and outposts (among which Mitzpe Yair is one) almost completely isolate 16 Palestinian villages from the rest of West Bank. The settlers’ violence includes overt violent attacks on Palestinians and their animals, damages to private properties, and limitations to freedom of movement with many consequences on their daily life. Since the beginning of 2014, Operation Dove registered the arrests of 15 Palestinians, including minors, because they were on lands near the settlements. During the same period there were no consequences for Israeli settlers involved in the incidents occurring in the area.
In spite of the violence suffered by the Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills area, they keep on grazing and farming on their lands, resisting in a non-violent way to the Israeli occupation.
Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.
[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma'on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]
Israeli forces took at least 127 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank into custody, during the first week of September alone, according to recent statements by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).
PPS said, according to Ma’an news, that most detainees came from the Hebron district, where 28 Palestinians were taken by Israeli forces.
PPS further stated that 23 of the detainees were from the Jenin district, in the northern West Bank, 21 from Ramallah, 20 from Jerusalem, 12 from Bethlehem, eight from Tulkarem, six from Nablus, three from Qalqiliya, and six from the Tubas/Salfit district.
Israeli forces abducted 10 Palestinians overnight, on Saturday, seven of whom were taken from Hebron, with one from Bethlehem, and two from Beit Sira village, western Ramallah district.
More than 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, including some 2,000 detained during the massive arrest campaigns which have taken place over the last three months.
See also — 08/31/14 PPS: 597 Palestinians Arrested During August
Once the surveillance cameras of Palestinian shopkeepers in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood revealed the images of the Israeli abductors of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, the fabricated Israeli propaganda that the 16-year-old Palestinian boy had been gay and the victim of an honor killing perpetrated by his own people became completely unsustainable. Soon after, hoping to contain the resulting clashes that erupted in Shuafat and extended to many nearby neighborhoods, Israeli police announced that they had captured six suspects involved in the crime.
Just days later, however, it was announced that three of them already had been freed. The others were described as two minors and a mentally unstable adult with a dominating personality who is on psychiatric medication, according to Yediot Ahronot.
That has a familiar ring to it! In 1969 Dennis Michael Rohan, an evangelical Protestant from Australia, set fire to the al-Aqsa mosque in order to hasten the second coming of the Messiah and create an opportunity to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Rohan was later declared mentally ill and exonerated for his actions.
In 2007 Julian Soufir confessed to having murdered Palestinian taxi driver Taysir Karaki, saying he did not feel guilty because he considered Arabs the equivalent of cattle and he was simply slaughtering one. Soufir had entered the victim’s taxi in Jerusalem and asked to be driven to Tel Aviv. He then persuaded Karaki to come to his brother’s apartment with an offer of coffee and the use of the bathroom, and attacked the Palestinian with a knife he had obtained ahead of time. At his 2008 trial, the court accepted the testimonies of two defense witnesses who claimed that Soufir was not fully “conscious” at the time of the murder—despite the fact that he had explained his motive for murdering Karaki—and Soufir was acquitted.
A few years ago, I testified as an expert witness at the Jerusalem district court regarding the case of one of my psychiatric patients who, while suffering an acute psychotic episode, stabbed an Israeli soldier. My patient was 30 years old; after sustaining severe injuries during his arrest, which required 12 surgeries and left him handicapped, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison! The insanity defense certainly did not do my patient much good.
It is one of many pretexts used to avoid the prosecution, imprisonment or punishment of Jewish Israelis who murder Palestinians—but not the other way around. When a Palestinian minor attacks an Israeli, the youngster appears in court with bruises and fractures. Nor are charges dropped because he is a minor. We shall see what happens to the minors who tortured Abu Khdeir and burned him alive.
For many years—in Hebron, especially—radical Jewish settlers have been attacking Palestinians under the very noses of Israeli soldiers, who only intervene to defend the settlers from Palestinians responding to their attacks. In 1994 American-born Dr. Baruch Goldstein massacred 30 Palestinians praying at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque, which he entered under the eyes of Israeli soldiers who—instead of acting to stop the massacre—fired live ammunition into the fleeing crowd, killing even more Palestinians!
In 2008 Ze’ev Braude, a settler from nearby Kiryat Arba, was caught on camera as he shot at close range two Palestinians from the Matariya family during the evacuation of a Palestinian house in Hebron. The film was provided to Israeli police as evidence, but the indictment against Braude was dropped. In his ruling, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein held that “in this instance, the right of the accused to a fair trial outweighed the harm to national security!”
These and similar actions are the consequences of ideologies held by Gush Emunim and other radical movements that encourage the building of settlements in the belief that the coming of the Messiah can be hastened through Jewish settlement of occupied Palestinian land that God promised the Jews. Rather than working to eradicate these beliefs, the Israeli government instead has endorsed them through such vehicles as the Sebastia agreement, which encourages Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Israeli intelligence, so effective in hunting down every Palestinian boy who so much as throws a stone, remains inept at imposing limits on the actions of Jewish Israelis—from the fanning of anti-Arab sentiment and racist slogans by the Beitar football team, to attacks on Arab employees of Israeli restaurants, to settler “Price Tag” vandalism and assaults, with graffiti boasting “Price tag blood vengeance.” The official Israeli response to these and other outrages is one of indulgence, and actions to counteract them are minimal. But these groups are inspired by the undercurrent of hatred and dehumanization of Palestinians—a sentiment expressed by Israeli politicians, rabbis and the arbiters of public opinion. Israel’s consistent unwillingness to bring settlers to justice for their violent actions against Palestinians only encourages and incites further settler violence.
Impunity for Israeli Soldiers
In 1984, during what became known as the Bus 300 affair, Shin Bet officers first allowed Israeli Jews to beat up two Palestinians who had hijacked a bus, then executed the two men on the spot—after the hostages had been freed and the hijackers captured and handcuffed. The Shin Bet initially claimed that the hijackers had died when the hostages were being rescued. But these lies were exposed when photos were released showing the hijackers alive after their capture. Nevertheless, Shin Bet head Avraham Shalom and all the officers involved received a presidential pardon for unspecified crimes—before any charges were even brought against them.
In 2004, Iman al-Hams, a 13-year-old Gaza student, lay injured on the ground after having been shot by Israeli soldiers when she entered a “closed military zone” on her way to school. Captain “R,” a Givati Brigade soldier, approached her and shot her at point-blank range. (See Jan./Feb. 2005 Washington Report, p. 9.) According to transcripts of radio exchanges between the soldiers during the incident, Captain “R” said he did this “to confirm the kill.” In court he later claimed that he believed the young girl posed a serious threat and that he had opened fire, not directly aiming at Iman, as a deterrent. Haaretz later reported that Israel would award Captain “R” 80,000 NIS in compensation, after he was acquitted of a charge related to the shooting.
In 2005, Israeli soldier Eden Natan-Zada opened fire on Palestinian citizens of Israel at the border of Shafa Amre, killing 4 and wounding 21. When he paused to reload his rifle, those who survived the massacre overpowered and killed him. The state of Israel, however, chose to indict 12 of the town’s residents! Many were charged with attempted murder for “taking the law into their own hands.”
Last year, Arafat Jaradat, a young student from Hebron, died five days after being detained for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli forces during a protest. An autopsy revealed three broken ribs, severe contusions on his legs and forehead, and blood in his mouth and nose. A Turkish forensic specialist found the injuries consistent with torture. The Israeli medical examiner described the same wounds on Jaradat’s body but was unable to determine a cause of death. The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that Jaradat died of a heart ailment—even though none of the medical specialists, including the Israeli medical examiner, had noted any evidence of a heart condition!
Just a few months ago, on March 10, Israeli troops at Allenby Bridge killed unarmed Palestinian-Jordanian Judge Raed Zeiter, 38, who was on his way to the West Bank to collect rent money to pay for the treatment of his ill son. The Israelis alleged that he tried to snatch a weapon from a soldier, but eyewitnesses told a different story: When the judge lit a cigarette while waiting to be searched; a soldier pushed him, yelling that he couldn’t smoke; Judge Zeiter pushed back, shouting, “Don’t insult me!” The soldier then shot the judge, who was left bleeding for half an hour at the feet of a crowd of Palestinians who waited in line, paralyzed by fear. Judge Zeiter finally died of his wounds. Israeli officials claim surveillance cameras were not functioning on that particular day, and the investigation is now closed, leaving the Israeli officials’ version unchallenged.
Palestinians who kill or even attempt to kill Israelis invariably receive heavy sentences. By contrast, Israelis who kill Palestinians get away with their crimes or receive very minimal sentences, suspended sentences, or fines—if they are not given medals and awards! We have seen soldiers who film themselves while they abuse Palestinians. Many of my own patients who have been tortured under interrogation describe appalling events that took place within four closed walls. Who pays for that? Who is held accountable? Israel makes it impossible to document or track these cases, destroying the evidence and hiding the truth.
The Israeli army, Israeli institutions and individual Israelis violate Palestinians’ human rights with complete impunity. International laws have been created to provide an effective remedy to victims of human rights abuses, but Israeli laws are carefully designed and amended to make Jewish Israelis immune from them. For example, Law 5712 of 1952 was amended to make it impossible for a Palestinian who has sustained damages at the hands of a state agent in any area of the West Bank or Gaza Strip to claim compensation. While “national security” is invoked to drop all charges against Israeli Jews, “secret evidence” is used to prosecute and detain Palestinians through administrative detention without disclosing the charges against them, thus depriving them of the right to due process.
Julian Soufir did not consider himself a murderer because he believed Arabs were like cattle and he was just slaughtering one; Captain “R” felt threatened by an injured 13-year-old schoolgirl and shot her at point-blank range. Not only does the Israeli government and public opinion share these delusions, but the international community supports Israel’s paranoia by endorsing its “right to defend itself.”
After “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-09 and “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012, in July Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge.” We have witnessed three wars in less than six years, all on the pretext of weakening resistance groups. The failure of the international community to set limits and hold Israel accountable for its actions and the inertia of the official Palestinian leadership in going to the International Court of Justice will only invite young people like the friends of Muhammed Abu Khdeir to overcome their fear and act on behalf of the victims of Israel’s insane policies. ❑
Samah Jabr is a Jerusalemite psychiatrist and psychotherapist who cares about the wellbeing of her community—beyond issues of mental health.
Another incident of nationalist crime in the village of Yasuf, but the media only paid attention to the unimportant part: the graffiti
Atallah Yassin Muhammad Gouda lives in the village of Yasuf, which has known quite a few attacks by Jewish felons; perhaps the most notorious being the torching of its mosque in 2009, which introduced the phenomenon of the price tag attacks into Israeli consciousness. Gouda lives in a neighborhood that is adjacent to the outpost Tapuach Maarav, and according to the testimonies of its residents, they suffer from frequent attacks by Israeli civilians. The residents attribute the burning of several vehicles, as well as stone attacks on the houses in the neighborhood to their Israeli neighbors.
At the beginning of August, Gouda was woken by noise, and when he hurried to see what happened, he saw the family car, which was in the courtyard, on fire. He alerted the rest of the household, and together, they managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the house, which was only two meters away from the vehicle. After dousing the flames, which had caused severe damage – estimated at several thousand NIS – to the car, they discovered a gasoline can and several rags soaked in gasoline there also. The police were called and arrived at the scene, collecting evidence and taking fingerprints. Given the record of the SJPD, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an indictment.
The torching of the car caused the family significant damage: not only would they have to pay for fixing it, but as the only provider, the father, is a taxi driver, and as the car (bought 18 months ago) was his work vehicle, there would also be time in which they would have no income.
So, the attack by the unknown felons achieved three goals: significant damage to the car, and damaging the Gouda family income. The third goal is the wider goal of settler violence: spreading fear and despair among the Palestinian residents, in an attempt to convince them by violent methods to abandon their lands, so that Israeli civilians can take them over. A fourth, collateral, goal – the spreading of the fire to the house and its sleeping residents – was not achieved. We note this isn’t the first time that Israeli civilians are suspected of torching a vehicle in dangerous proximity to a house, as its residents are sleeping.
And, oh, yes: there was also some graffiti. When the bedlam ended, after the fire was extinguished, and the smoke and panic settled, the residents found that someone had sprayed the wall of the house with a “price tag” graffiti. Anyone following the issue through the Israeli press, might have mistakenly concluded that the graffiti is the main issue. Here is a Ynet newsflash (Hebrew): “A price tag slogan was sprayed on a house in the Palestinian village of Yasif (error in the original – Yesh Din). A Palestinian vehicle nearby was set ablaze.” And then you have Mako (Hebrew): “The residents of the Palestinian village of Yasuf in Shomron woke up this morning to a new-old troubling sight – slogans sprayed on the walls of a house and significant damage caused to a vehicle.”
Which is weird. Every journalist learns that you open your piece with the most important part, and go on to the less important. In any reasonable measure, the setting of a vehicle on fire – especially one which is close to a house – is significantly more serious than any graffiti daubed on a nearby wall. The slogan cannot kill anyone or destroy anything: a few brushes of paint, and it is gone. So why is the media obsessed with the graffiti?
Because to a certain extent, the media has swallowed the myth spread by the settlers: that their crimes are not severe, it’s merely spray paint. Nothing to write home about. When the Israeli media puts the slogans in the spotlight, it puts the fire in the background. But as we’ve already shown, the great majority of nationalist crimes in the West Bank do not include slogans – and when these are present, there is a clear correlation between them and cases of arson. That is, the slogans accompany arson, and not vice versa. And arson is the spreading of terror par excellence.
It’s time we remembered that.
RAMALLAH – A Palestinian prisoner has been moved to a hospital ward after undergoing torture at Israel’s Russian Compound detention center, a Palestinian Authority prisoners committee said Wednesday.
Muhammad Hussein Rabee, 33, from Beit Anan village near Ramallah, suffered health complications as a result of being tortured while being held at the Jerusalem detention center for 40 days, the committee said.
He was first moved to Hadassa hospital last week, and is now in the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
Rabee was detained on July 27 and his family did not find out his whereabouts until 30 days later.
“We did not know where Muhammad was until after a month of his detention, and his lawyer was not allowed to visit him until after 35 days of being at the Russian compound,” his brother Usama told Ma’an.
Rabee’s lawyer said he had been “harshly tortured.”
Former prisoner Khaldun Jumhur, who was being held in the Russian Compound with Rabee, said that interrogators used a method of putting pressure on the victim’s neck, as well as beating him on his hands, legs and head.
A doctor at the detention center requested an x-ray for Rabee, but was refused by the Shin Bet agency.
The Prisoner Affairs Committee demanded human rights organizations to hold Israel accountable for torturing Palestinian prisoners.
Some 4,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launched hunger-strike action in 2013 to protest the death of Arafat Jaradat, who died in Israel’s Megido jail after being tortured by Israeli interrogators.
Around 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, more than 2,000 of whom were arrested over summer alone.
A Palestinian school damaged during Operation Protective Edge. 7 August, Gaza City. [Jordi Bernabeu Farrús/Flickr]
A row is brewing over claims that Israel is earning millions of euros from a de facto policy of preventing non-Israeli reconstruction aid from entering the Gaza Strip.
At least 65,000 people in the Gaza Strip are homeless after the recent seven-week conflict. Infrastructure ranging from water desalination centres to power plants lies in ruins.
No formal Israeli ban prevents the import of reconstruction materials that were not made in Israel, but EU sources speaking on condition of anonymity say that in practice, Israeli security demands present them with a fait accompli.
“If you want aid materials to be permitted to enter, they will almost inevitably come from Israeli sources,” an EU official said. “I don’t think you’ll find it written down anywhere in official policy, but when you get to negotiate with the Israelis, this is what happens. It increases construction and transaction costs, and is a political problem that has to be dealt with.”
As well as Israel’s security restrictions on aid, “it can be very difficult to export materials to Gaza,” the official said. “A lot of goods for a Gaza private sector reconstruction project we had, ended up being held in Ashdod port for very lengthy periods of time – months if not years – so there was de facto no alternative but to use Israeli sources.”
The source added that the policy had benefited Israel’s economy to the tune of millions of euros and was, in his view, deliberate.
The European Commission donates some €300 million in development aid to Gaza and the West Bank every year, and around €200 million in humanitarian aid.
The EU official’s allegation received backing from international agencies canvassed by EurActiv and is broadly in line with findings in a UN report due to be published later today (3 September).
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study will say that half of all donor assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza – who the UN body say constitute a captive market – is spent on servicing a trade deficit to Israel.
‘Dual use items’
Tel Aviv imposed a full blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007 after the ascent to power of the Islamist Hamas movement, which has used suicide bombing and rocket attack tactics against Israel’s occupation, that have claimed hundreds of civilian lives.
But the UN and international NGOs have protested the blockade’s prevention of free movement and trade for the vast majority of Gazans as a collective punishment.
Building materials such as steel and cement, necessary for the reconstruction of Gaza, have been designated by Israel as ‘dual use’ items – adaptable for munitions – that may only be imported to Gaza by the UN and aid agencies under Israeli supervision.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime ministers’ office, denied claims that Israel’s entry policy to Gaza prevented non-Israeli-made reconstruction materials from entering the Strip.
“I know that policy, and it is not true,” he told EurActiv over the phone from Jerusalem. He was unable though to give examples of non-Israeli reconstruction materials allowed into Gaza, referring inquiries on to Cogat.
The Israeli body, Cogat, which coordinates the entry of aid into Gaza, did not respond to requests for comment.
But “there are not many choices,” Amir Rotem, the public affairs director for Gisha, an Israeli NGO, told EurActiv. “The Israeli market has a monopoly of cement in just one company, and I don’t know of any Palestinian-made cement in the West Bank, so there’s not much to choose from.”
‘Chutzpah writ large’
International reactions to the EU official’s claims were strong.
“It is outrageous that a country which has just demolished 25,000 houses is demanding that their construction industry benefit from rebuilding them at the expense of the international community,” one Western diplomat told EurActiv.
“Talk about chutzpah writ large!” he said.
Mahmoud el-Khafif, UNCTAD’s special coordinator for assistance to the Palestinian people, told EurActiv that he believed the EU official’s claims were correct.
“If you look at steel or cement, I think the only source for it would be Israel,” he said. “It is a serious problem in my opinion as an economist. What happened in Gaza and what is happening in the West Bank in terms of controlling Area C is an ongoing process to reduce the ability of the Palestinian economy to produce, and the only alternative is to import from Israel.”
Later today, a new UNCTAD report will say that economic growth (measured by GDP) in the economy of the occupied Palestinian Territories declined from 11% in 2011 to just 1.5% last year, far below the rate of population growth.
‘An unliveable place before 2020’
Even before the recent fighting, unemployment in Gaza was running at 36% and people were poorer than in the 1990s, when the Oslo peace process began.
Rebuilding the battered Strip now will take 20 years under the current regime of restrictions, according to a report published earlier this week by Shelter Cluster, an NGO chaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council, with the participation of the UNHCR and the International Red Cross.
That could be too late for many Gazans. The UN’s relief and works agency (UNRWA) has previously estimated that Gaza will not be “a liveable place” by 2020 because of population increase and a depletion of fresh water sources by 2016.
“lf Gaza was going to be an unlivable place by 2020 – before the latest fighting – it will now be an unlivable place considerably before then,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA told EurActiv, from the Gaza Strip.
“With at least 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed, with miles of water infrastructure devastated, with millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the sea every day, and the corrosive impacts of blockade, the sustainability of Gaza will be even more short lived,” he said.
More than 2,100 Palestinians – mostly civilians – were killed in Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge, as were 73 Israelis – mostly soldiers.
The international reconstruction effort in Gaza could cost more than $6 billion, according to the Palestinian deputy prime minister.
There’s something profoundly depressing about the start of this little video clip filmed, by the sound of it, by two young boys, possibly from their bedroom window. As they chatter away, on the other side of an East Jerusalem valley an Israeli “skunk” truck fires high-powered jets of intensely foul-smelling liquid at older youths protesting Israel’s mass arrests policy, carried out under cover of its attack on Gaza.
The truck indiscriminately sprays a wide arc of liquid at homes and cars, a kind of petty collective punishment meant to pollute the Palestinian neighbourhood with the disgusting odour for days.
All of this is just another day in these boys’ experience of occupation. They film the truck like other children might video a cat chasing a ball of wool. Interesting to them, but nothing out of the ordinary.
And then, suddenly, something exceptional happens. The truck falls off the edge of the road, into a ravine. The screams of delight from the boys, and the whoops that seem to echo from the other side of the valley, they are so loud, register a small triumph – a momentary loss of control from the seemingly all-powerful machine that is the occupation.
It is easy, when the headlines have been filled with death and destruction in Gaza, to forget that the occupation is far more relentless and insidious than such spasms of Israeli death-wreaking. It is the monotonous drone of a mechanical, faceless monster seeking to sap all hope from young minds. In that brief interruption, before normal service was resumed, another world was revealed to these boys.
HEBRON – Israeli bulldozers demolished a dairy factory in Hebron and Bedouin homes east of Jerusalem early Tuesday, witnesses told Ma’an.
Locals said Israeli troops escorted two bulldozers and two excavators to the al-Rama neighborhood in northern Hebron and began demolishing the factory, which is owned by Hebron’s Islamic Charitable Society.
Journalists and bystanders were not allowed to approach the area which the Israeli army declared a closed military zone during the demolition, witnesses said.
Hatim al-Bakri, who chairs the board of directors of the Islamic Charitable Society, said the damages inflicted a loss of “about 2 million US dollars.”
“Services the Charitable Society offers to orphans in the Hebron district will be badly affected,” al-Bakri said.
He said Israeli forces had confiscated the factory’s belongings during the month of Ramadan.
Israel accuses the organization of being tied to Hamas, he added.
Separately, a Ma’an reporter said Israeli forces demolished Bedouin homes and structures near Jabaa village east of Jerusalem.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s civil administration told Ma’an via email that Israeli forces on Tuesday “carried out the demolition of an illegal building which was built without the necessary permits in the Hebron area.”
“The building was demolished after the appropriate enforcement procedure was completed and a demolition order was delivered.”
The spokeswoman also confirmed the demolitions in Jabaa. She said five buildings were destroyed by Israeli bulldozers.
“The buildings were demolished after 45 days were given to the residents to apply for a building permit. After this wasn’t completed, it was decided to enforce the existing demolition orders on these buildings.”
Israel rarely grants construction permits to Palestinians in the West Bank, and regularly demolishes structures built without permits.
In May, the EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah urged Israel to halt home demolitions in Area C of the West Bank, describing such actions as “forced transfer of population and demolitions of Palestinian housing and infrastructure.”
Israel has demolished 359 Palestinian structures in the West Bank so far in 2014, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Some 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished by Israel since it occupied the West Bank in 1967.
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 over 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.
Israel on Thursday approved a further stage in plans to build a nine-story Jewish seminary in the heart of a densely-populated Palestinian neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Old City.
According to the Peace Now settlement watchdog, the committee threw out an appeal tabled by a left-wing council member and approved a new stage in plans for a tower block in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied east Jerusalem.
Should the plans be approved by the district planning committee, construction could begin within the coming year, Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran told AFP.
“It might take six months to a year until it gets final approval for them to start building,” she said of the plan which was tabled in February.
The building will be used as a yeshiva, or Jewish seminary, for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Sheikh Jarrah is a Palestinian residential neighborhood located to the north of the Old City.
Located on the road which links the Old City to Mount Scopus, the area is considered a strategic location and illegal settlement groups have made persistent efforts to take control of its land.
Israel captured east Jerusalem during the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
It considers all of Jerusalem its “eternal, indivisible” capital and does not see construction in the eastern sector as settlement building.
Both the Palestinians and the international community consider all Israeli construction on land seized in 1967 to be a violation of international law.
This has not stopped Israel from continuing its policy of illegal settlement in east Jerusalem and the West Bank over the years.
DOHA – The Hamas Movement said it had had no idea at first who kidnapped and killed three Jewish settlers in the West Bank last June, but it described what happened to them as a natural and legitimate act against the illegitimate Israeli occupation.
This came in an explanatory statement released by the Movement on Saturday evening to clarify inaccurate and incomplete media and press interpretations of remarks made on Friday by head of its political bureau Khaled Mishaal in an interview conducted by Yahoo News.
“We did not have prior knowledge of this act which was done by a group of Hamas members, but we do know that any distressed people living under occupation and oppression could do anything to defend themselves,” the Hamas Movement explained.
“The soldiers and settlers in the West Bank are considered ‘assailants’ and live illegally on usurped and occupied Palestinian land, so the Palestinians have the right to resist them,” the Movement reiterated some of what Mishaal said in the interview.
The Movement also included in its statement some of the remarks that were made by Mishaal during the interview in Arabic. The Palestinian Information Center translated these remarks as follows:
“This group of Hamas members are in Al-Khalil and the Israeli investigations have unveiled lately that they had carried out this operation against those armed settlers who practiced, as thousands of other settlers do, their violence in all Palestinian areas. However, we, as the leadership of Hamas, did not know about that. This was known later on.”
“This is part of the [Palestinian] reaction to the occupation and settlement, because as you know the West Bank is an occupied territory according to the international law and the American standards, and the right to self-defense is guaranteed for all.”
“I am talking about something that has been announced as a result of the recent Israeli investigations. We in the political leadership of Hamas are not sure about that, but if that was true, it would be in the context of self-defense against Israeli occupiers whether they are soldiers or settlers. They are not civilians living in other places; they are living in Jerusalem and the West Bank which are occupied territories in accordance with the international law and the American standards.”
In a related context, member of Hamas’s political bureau Saleh Al-Aruri said that what he had previously stated about the kidnapping of three settlers in the West Bank was not a declaration of responsibility for the operation.
Aruri stated in a press release on Saturday that he had made his remarks in this regard based on the results of the recent Israeli investigations.
“The leadership of the Movement had no idea at the time about the group or the operation, but later it turned out that they were a group of Hamas fighters, and about this context was my talk,” the Hamas official explained.