2011


The Last Family in Izbat Abu Adam

“My heart is aching,” said SA to the IWPS team this afternoon (10/12/11), looking out over land that had been in his family for generations, until it was seized by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Their home is overlooked by the settlement of Burqan, as well as the Burqan and Ariel industrial zones. SA, along with his children and wife, are the lone remaining occupants of the village of Izbat Abu Adam.

Although the family have faced a sustained campaign of land seizure, denial of rights, harassment and mistreatment by the IOF and Israeli settlers for many years, they have consistently refused to leave their ancestral land. SA showed the team a spacious cave dating from Roman times, now used to house chickens, which is situated beneath the family home. Before the house was built, SA’s father and family lived in this cave, and SA himself was born in it.

The IWPS team were then shown the surrounding land, which the IOF took from the family, and other local families without warning or offer of compensation. The hills were bulldozed of their olive trees – of their original 600, only around 250 of their family trees now remain. The appropriated land was used to build the Israeli Burqan and Ariel industrial zones, which now manufacture a variety of products, including plastics, metals and textiles, reportedly creating vast chemical and environmental damage to the land and water supplies of the area.

The little remaining wheat grown by the family that survives the chemicals and destruction by wild boar – allegedly introduced by settlers to the area – is also under threat by sewage pumped there from settlements and the industrial zones. This is a health hazard and we were also told that the smell nearby the sewage filled areas is sickening. SA also pointed out a rubbish dump under the Burqan industrial zone and visible from his house, for which 3 dunums (one dunum = 1000m squared) of his land was taken. Rubbish from settlements all around the area is dumped here, adding insult to injury for the family.

Running directly through the middle of their land is a motorway, built in 1998 so that settlers could have easy access to Israel. 10 dunums of the family’s land was taken for this, but SA told us that the issues the road causes are even greater than just a reduction in their land ownership – rather than being able to travel directly to his land across the motorway, which is easily visible at less than half a kilometre away, he must travel 15 kilometres to get there. The IWPS team experienced firsthand what day-to-day travel is like for the family on our journey to the house, and saw that they are forced to travel on dangerously steep, rocky mud roads, which cause great difficulty for cars. SA joked “it would be quicker for me to travel to America than it would for me to get to my land.”

Another of the family’s problems is that all of their land is designated as “Zone C” meaning that it is entirely under Israeli control. Permission is rarely granted for Palestinians to increase the size of their homes, which is necessary as their children marry and start their own families. (Conversely Israel consistently encourages Zionists from all over the world to come and build new homes in the surrounding settlements– yet another example of the second-class citizenship of the Palestinian people.) In 1998, SA built an extension on the family’s home, to accommodate its increasing size. The IOF immediately issued a demolition order. SA told us how he dismantled the house himself, knowing that if the army were to do it, they would consequently provide him with a bill for their “services”. The remaining family now live in three rooms, two of which were the original structure and one of which SA built from wood, which makes it a temporary structure and therefore permissible. There are 250 people in his extended family, all of whom ideally in Palestinian culture would live very closely together. This is impossible for the family.

As well as all of this, they have faced discrimination and harassment from Israeli settlers. They told IWPS that shots have been fired at them from the road, that a donkey was taken and that olives from their remaining trees had been picked and stolen by Israelis from nearby settlements. SA’s wish for the future was “peace for all and to be able to live in safety with my family.”

SA’s wife, noticeably upset by talking about her family’s situation, left us with the words: “the life of every Palestinian is full of pain.”


House Report :

5 December 2011

Kifl Haris accompaniment: olive harvest delayed due to threats of settler violence

Today IWPS was requested to pick olives with a family from the village of Kifl Haris near Deir Istiya. The olive harvesting season in Palestine is practically finished , but for several reasons this particular family have been delayed and needed assistance. Their land is located on the side of the hill underneath Ariel settlement, continuing up the other side of the valley. This means that their trees are split by a very busy motorway, used by settlers for easy access to Israel. Some of the family’s olives are actually within Ariel’s fenced area and others are not far from it. Because of the history of violence, the family was very worried about harvesting inside the Ariel fence, but thankfully, this year the olive picking passed without significant troubles. Unfortunately, the same was not the case when the family moved to pick near the motorway. Kifl Haris farmers reported threats by settlers and intimidation by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) in this area, as well as violent incidents including a young man picking near the motorway having his jaw broken by an Israeli driver who exited the car to carry out the attack. Understandably, the family therefore was very concerned about the heavily pregnant mother and her young children picking alone, as the father needed to go to work and could not be there at all times. IWPS picked with the family while they were harvesting in the areas considered the most dangerous, and the family continued on their own when they moved to the area on the other side of the motorway, where they thought they were safer. However, yesterday (4th December) , they were stopped by members of the IOF who demanded their papers and told them that they must complete their picking within the next 3 days, justifying this by the claim that there was a military road nearby. The IWPS team was therefore invited to pick olives with the family today (5th December), in case there was further interference by the IOF. On arrival, we had to cross the motorway, which was particularly busy and made crossing and transporting olive picking equipment a dangerous exercise. We then saw a fenced-off electrical equipment tower, which was covered by CCTV cameras. We could also see a new road under construction from Ariel to the motorway – which required and will require further destruction of hundreds of olive trees belonging to the village of Marda, situated directly under Ariel and completely encircled by metal fences and barbed wire. Due to the lateness of the season, the olives were now overripe, and the majority were actually already on the ground, meaning we spent most of the day picking them up, which was much more time-consuming than the usual methods. However, we successfully harvested all of the family’s trees, before making a swift departure as the light failed, as the IOF have been known to react harshly to families picking anytime after around 4pm. The remaining trees belonging to this family are not in the area of the Ariel settlement and we will leave them to pick the fruit alone, unless they have further incident, in which case they will contact us.
(You can find this report with the pictures at our International Women’s Peace Service Facebook page)




House Report: Dec. 12, 2011

Jordon Valley Solidarity Campaign

The IWPS house team visited the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign (JVSC). The ‘Friends meeting house’ is the main hub of the campaign and houses all of its international volunteers. Based in a traditional mud brick building with a thatched roof, it is the oldest building in the Jordan Valley. It’s situated in the centre of the Jordan Valley, in the village of Al-Jiftlik which, together with the historical significance of the building, seems to be an ideal place for the campaign to be based.

We met the permanent director of the campaign, who gave us a basic introduction to the work that they do and the challenges facing the residents of the Jordan Valley. According to the Occupation authorities, 95% of the land is Area C, meaning that the Palestinian residents of the land have no right to build. The JVSC make a stand by being one of the very few organisations that will build in Area C, as they believe that to comply with these Israeli laws would be to passively support the occupation. The JVSC focus is “trying to help Palestinians exist on their land”, which they do by opposing house demolitions and rebuilding demolished homes. They have also been successful in building over 7 schools in the seven years that they have been operating.

Whilst the IWPS team were present, two eviction notices were served – one for a home which the JVSC was assisting in the building of, which was not even yet completed, and another for a family with three young children.

The problem of illegal settlements in the Jordan valley is critical. More than 25 settlements have encroached on around 50% of the land of the valley. The settlers have also appropriated 98% of the water of the valley, using it to grow crops out of season, leaving Palestinian farmers and residents of the valley struggling to get decent drinking water.

Further, although it is illegal for Palestinians to work on the settlements, poverty caused by the occupation has driven many to seek work there. The JSCV has also noted cases of child labour – as young as 9-10 year olds working on the settlement farms.

Settler violence is apparently also endemic – there are a variety of settlements in the area, from religious to secular to French and Russian immigrant groups. One of the most radical of these is the Maskiot Settlement, the settlers of which often stage attacks on Palestinians.

Reporting on and combating environmental damage is another essential part of the JVSC’s work . The director explained that there was no water left in the Palestinian springs and wells because settlers have been permitted to dig their wells deeper, depleting the groundwater sources. He also explained that part of the Jordan river had been polluted with sewage water from settlements. The Dead Sea is dying from the rise in extensive farming in the area. Further, settlers have free water in abundance, whereas Palestinians have to buy their own land’s water back – both expensive and unjust – the water pumps are fenced off, giving only Israelis access to them.

The director then went on to describe the Jordan valley as an “open sky prison’. The valley has five checkpoints, one for each route into the valley, making it impossible to enter or leave without going through one – often Palestinians cannot get the required Israeli permits to enter the valley.

Despite the difficulties, the JVSC have adopted the slogan “Existence is resistance” and truly, as long as Palestinians exist in an area so strategically and economically important to Israel, under such great pressure, they continue to resist.



IWPS House Report Dec. 30, 2011

New weekly demonstration at Kafr ad Dik

As the year draws to a close, there is a new start for the resistance in the village of Kafr ad Dik. On the 30th December 2011 the villagers staged their first weekly Friday demonstration against the occupation. The village is in the Salfit region, and is home to around 6,000 Palestinian villagers, who have all been hit by the impact of the Israeli occupation in one way or another. Land appropriation by settlers is a major problem – there are five illegal settlements on Kafr ad Dik land, housing around 2,000 Israeli settlers, with more ever arriving. Although they are fewer in number, the settlers have better facilities, easier access to water and more space to expand– especially as with land-grabs they are taking more and more of the village land.

The majority of the land of Kafr ad Dik has been designated Zone C, meaning that it is under full Israeli administrative control – the villagers can only build within the limits of the built up area of the town, which is swiftly becoming too small. Homes of Kafr ad Dik residents have been demolished and many olive trees were uprooted over the summer of 2011. Settlers have also attacked Palestinians in the town and surrounding areas.

The mayor of the town said that the settlers and Israeli government are doing everything they can to make the people of Kafr ad Dik suffer – with the ultimate intent of driving them from their land. In opposition to these violent and illegal tactics of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), the village’s new weekly demonstration – the only one in the Salfit region – aims to be nonviolent and peaceful.

However, the IOF were out in large numbers – already blocking the bridge from the village, when the demonstrators arrived at around 10am. There were at least a dozen soldiers, with several army jeeps. There was also a car on the road above, from which someone was taking pictures of the demonstrators – this is a concern as images of villagers attending protests have been used as an excuse to arrest many Palestinians.

Present were many of the villagers of Kafr ad Dik and the surrounding area – for example, the mayor of nearby Deir Istiya was present. There were also a group of Israeli and international activists in attendance, including representatives of IWPS, Anarchists Against the Wall, Machsom Watch and EAPPI. From where the demonstrators were assembled on the bridge, one of the nearby settlements on Kafr ad Dik land was visible, and several settlers even jogged nonchalantly past on the road above.

Initially, speeches were made, explaining the context of the new demonstration. Then at around 11 as the mosque sounded the call to prayer, the religious demonstrators assembled in lines, facing Mecca and prayed. This peaceful display of freedom of expression was very effective and the Israeli soldiers seemed unsure of how to act at this point.

At 12, the demonstration was officially disbanded by the mayor, and everyone was encouraged to go home. However, some shabab remained behind, and stones were thrown at the IOF, despite some villagers urging them to remain non-violent. The IOF had clearly been waiting for the opportunity to use their tear gas, as several volleys immediately hit around the shabab and internationals who had remained to monitor the situation. Three IOF soldiers had moved to the hill above the road, so tear gas came from both directions. One demonstrator passed out from tear-gas inhalation and had to be removed from the scene by private car.

As a new demonstration, the atmosphere and reaction from IOF felt slightly unpredictable, but the defiance of the villagers of Kafr ad Dik is clear and they already have plans for their upcoming demonstrations. The village welcome the presence of any activists on the ground in Palestine. Their message to the Israeli government and the nearby settlers is clear –the village will neither be forced from their land nor give up their rights.


IWPS meet with prisoner released in Shalit deal
December 26, 2011

The 18th of December was a day of reunion and celebration for many in Palestine. Following a tense wait, several delays and tear-gas attacks by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on their waiting families, 550 Palestinian prisoners were released from Israeli jails to be reunited with their families and friends. SH was one of these lucky few exchanged for the IOF soldier Gilad Shalit – many thousands of Palestinian political prisoners remain imprisoned.

Eight years previously, during the Second Intifada, SH – a 27 year old villager of Kifl Haris – had been imprisoned for his political activities against the occupation. He was a member of the Fateh political party and was involved in organising resistance. We spoke to him on 26th December, 8 days after his release, in a room full of his family and friends, who were still gathering to celebrate. The house was festooned in flags, bunting and the celebratory poster published by Fateh on his release.

He told us that in 2002, a warrant was put out for his arrest. Whilst he managed to evade the Israeli authorities for a year and a half by moving around regularly, in November 2003 they caught up with him, arresting him at the house of a friend. He told us how he was taken to an Israeli interrogation centre and held for questioning for two months – here he said that the physical and psychological torture began from the first moment he arrived.

For the first seventeen days, SH said that he was held in solitary confinement – seeing only one policeman and his interrogator. He only found out how long he had been held afterwards, as his cell had no windows, meaning he had no concept of night and day. The disorientation was compounded by enforced sleep deprivation – he would be woken by the guard every time he managed to fall asleep, or he would be tied to a chair, the discomfort making sleep almost impossible. He recalled occasions when he had not been allowed to sleep for 5 days or more and how he came to consider one or two hours hours of sleep a luxury. These tactics are internationally considered as torture, and are a well known method of exhausting and confusing prisoners to extract confessions.

He then told us how he was also beaten during his interrogations – hit, kicked and beaten with sticks. SH was unwilling to go a lot of detail, the memories must be painful, and his elderly mother was present. During this time he was asked many questions about his involvement with the Fateh movement, his friends and co-party members and his actions against the occupation. He was regularly asked to sign a document in Hebrew which he was told was a confirmation of the statements he had made under interrogation. Each time he refused – requesting a translation into Arabic – the mistreatment would continue. On the 18th day, he was removed from solitary confinement and allowed to socialise with some other prisoners. However, he told us that Palestinian collaborators with the Israeli forces are common in these interrogation centres and – unsure who was friend and who foe – this was the time when he felt most at risk. He said that he had known other prisoners to be killed by collaborators.

On the 20th day, the Red Cross were allowed to visit – although as SH was aware of the presence of so many collaborators, this made him suspect that they may not truly have been Red Cross representatives, but he cannot be sure. What he does know is that a letter to his family did not arrive for a further three months, during which time they had no idea whether he was in hiding and unable to contact them, or whether he had been arrested. When the Red Cross letter eventually arrived, they were naturally devastated- “it was catastrophic – nothing is more sad than this” said SH’s brother.

After the two months of interrogation, SH signed a document which had finally been translated into Arabic. Although the information written on the form was true, he alleged that this information was not in fact what he was eventually charged on in court. However, he had a long wait until he was to find this out – the 23rd of January 2004 was his initial court hearing date. This was delayed for three months, and then delayed a further 7 times – It was over two years later that his hearing actually went ahead.

When the trial eventually occurred, SH says it was a farce. When we asked whether he considered his trial to have been fair, the whole room laughed – “everyone knows they are not fair trials” he said, still laughing. His lawyer was assigned by the Israeli government and he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, for attempted murder and organising resistance to the occupation – “they didn’t listen to the evidence, they just decided from what was in their heads” claims SH. Palestinians are sentenced in Israeli military courts rather than civilian, which have been found to rarely comply with international standards of fair trials.

During his sentence he was moved regularly – he remembers maybe four or five different prisons and life was difficult. The fact that he was held in prisons within Israel proper is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that “Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein” – SH was both detained and served his sentence outside of Occupied Palestine.

When asked about living conditions, SH commented darkly that if we wished to know what conditions were like in Israeli prisons, we need only spend a week there. He and his family stated that if he needed five new items of clothing, one would be permitted, and parcels of clothes from his family regularly did not arrive. The food was apparently neither healthy nor sufficient, and was not allowed to be supplemented by offerings from his family. The living space was shared with 10-12 men, all political prisoners. Because of this, SH says that the reputation that Israeli prisons have for being like a university for Palestinian prisoners is true – having not completed high school previously, SH did so during his time in prison, as well as completing two years of a Political Science degree. Without their freedom, the prisoners turned to books and political debate.

Communication with the outside world was very limited – whilst in theory, family visits were permitted every two weeks, they would regularly be delayed, cancelled or permission would not be granted – when they did go ahead, only one member of the family, SH’s mother, was allowed to visit, and even this was only once every two months at the most.

Tragically, SH’s older brother died whilst he was in prison, in a car accident with an Israeli settler. He told us he was permitted a five minute telephone call – making it impossible to speak to all of his thirteen brothers, four sisters, his parents and many other family members that he desperately wished to have contact with at such a hard time. Letters would take five months to reach his family, if at all, and then a return letter from them would take just as long. Eventually they gave up writing.

Life was also not easy for those who were left behind. Three of his brothers had previously found work within Israel. After SH’s arrest, they were denied the permits that they needed to do so, leaving them without work. This was apparently “for security reasons”, but is a clear form of collective punishment – illegal under international law.

His fiance, to whom he had been engaged before he was arrested, was left in limbo, unsure whether they would ever be able to start their lives together as they had planned. But she waited for his release, and happily their wedding is now planned for this summer.

His mother said that her son’s release was more than the joy of many, many weddings (although naturally she is still looking forward to his!). She and the whole family were relieved and overjoyed when they saw his name on the list of prisoners to be released – published online 4 days before the fact. They had been disappointed in the first half of the Gilad Shalit deal, but had held onto hope. SH himself only discovered that he was to be released 3 days before he was taken to Ramallah and met by his family.

He says that he will continue to be involved in politics and the fight against Palestinian oppression and occupation by Israel.


Friday December 16, 2011

IWPS HOUSE TEAM REPORT

The IWPS house team today attended the first Nabi Saleh Friday demonstration since Mustafa Tamimi’s death. Five international volunteers, including one from IWPS, were asked to travel by car into the illegal Halamish settlement, wearing Mustafa Tamimi t-shirts, in order to impress upon the residents the effect that they have had on the village of Nabi Saleh. This group left at around 1200, and we were later notified that they were detained and arrested shortly after this. They are currently still in detention (at 2330 in Palestine), apparently for interrogation. We are awaiting further information at this time, so the remainder of this report is from the other members of the house team who attended the demonstration.
The team noted that the international presence was greater than usual – there were also representatives from the British and Spanish consulates, as well as reportedly a journalist from Fox News. The initial speeches emphasised that the village wished to have an entirely non-violent protest, and that stones were not to be thrown. However, we were anticipating a heightened Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) presence, and a continuation of the high levels of violence and arrests experienced by demonstrators on Friday 9/12/11 and at Mustafa’s funeral on 11/12/11.
This proved to be the case, as within around a minute or two, the large group of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals walking down the road were shot with several volleys of tear-gas, both from jeep-mounted firing devices and hand held launchers. The group was heading towards the point where Mustafa was shot last week, holding large banners of his image, chanting and singing. As the tear-gassing and sound bomb attacks continued, the group scattered and re-joined several times, but continued a steady walk towards the soldiers, most with hands in the air. Eventually, many of the group sat down and continued chanting, but were continually pelted with more tear-gas. Following this, the IWPS team witnessed a large group of activists suffering from the extreme effects that tear-gas inhalation can have, unable to move from the side of the road, but being continually hit with more gas. Medical attention from the Red Crescent was required by several individuals. Shortly afterwards, a “skunk-water” cannon approached and shot foul-smelling liquid at the demonstrators, prompting most people to retreat up the road, leaving a few brave individuals who appeared not to mind the smell. The cannon continued along the road, approaching the village proper, but was halted by a roadblock made of rocks and stones.
After the skunk-water cannon had retreated, the demonstration group were alerted that arrests were occurring on the hill overlooking the spring appropriated by the Halamish settlers, which sparked the weekly Nabi Saleh protests just over two years ago. The IWPS team therefore moved from the road, as the majority of the IOF soldiers were also relocating to the bottom of the hill.
On arrival at the base of the hill, the group were confronted with a line of around 20 soldiers and border police. Five detained demonstrators were visible, hands bound and sitting on the floor next to army jeeps on the other side of the road. A line of demonstrators formed, facing the soldiers, chanting and waving flags. This continued for around 10 minutes, until a group of Palestinian women and girls approached the soldiers, asking them who killed Mustafa, holding images of him. Vast quantities of tear gas were immediately fired and one Palestinian woman was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, requiring medical attention. The border police made several arrests, witnessed by the IWPS team, appearing to generally target male internationals. The whole line of border police would make a dash into the group of demonstrators and grab the individual they were targeting. Unfortunately, none of these arrests could be prevented.
The team and others were then told by the army that the officer had established a “closed-military-zone” and we were ordered to take two steps back or we would be arrested. Our requests for further information about why we could not remain where we were, and what we were allegedly doing wrong were met with the threat of pepper spray. The group retreated, and then withdrew further up the hill as the Border Police made more arrest attempts.
At the time of writing, the IWPS team member, and all other arrested individuals are still in detention. Updates will be issued when we have further information.


IWPS HOUSE TEAM REPORT

The IWPS house team today attended the first Nabi Saleh Friday demonstration since Mustafa Tamimi’s death. Five international volunteers, including one from IWPS, were asked to travel by car into the illegal Halamish settlement, wearing Mustafa Tamimi t-shirts, in order to impress upon the residents the effect that they have had on the village of Nabi Saleh. This group left at around 1200, and we were later notified that they were detained and arrested shortly after this. They are currently still in detention (at 2330 in Palestine), apparently for interrogation. We are awaiting further information at this time, so the remainder of this report is from the other members of the house team who attended the demonstration.
The team noted that the international presence was greater than usual – there were also representatives from the British and Spanish consulates, as well as reportedly a journalist from Fox News. The initial speeches emphasised that the village wished to have an entirely non-violent protest, and that stones were not to be thrown. However, we were anticipating a heightened Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) presence, and a continuation of the high levels of violence and arrests experienced by demonstrators on Friday 9/12/11 and at Mustafa’s funeral on 11/12/11.
This proved to be the case, as within around a minute or two, the large group of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals walking down the road were shot with several volleys of tear-gas, both from jeep-mounted firing devices and hand held launchers. The group was heading towards the point where Mustafa was shot last week, holding large banners of his image, chanting and singing. As the tear-gassing and sound bomb attacks continued, the group scattered and re-joined several times, but continued a steady walk towards the soldiers, most with hands in the air. Eventually, many of the group sat down and continued chanting, but were continually pelted with more tear-gas. Following this, the IWPS team witnessed a large group of activists suffering from the extreme effects that tear-gas inhalation can have, unable to move from the side of the road, but being continually hit with more gas. Medical attention from the Red Crescent was required by several individuals. Shortly afterwards, a “skunk-water” cannon approached and shot foul-smelling liquid at the demonstrators, prompting most people to retreat up the road, leaving a few brave individuals who appeared not to mind the smell. The cannon continued along the road, approaching the village proper, but was halted by a roadblock made of rocks and stones.
After the skunk-water cannon had retreated, the demonstration group were alerted that arrests were occurring on the hill overlooking the spring appropriated by the Halamish settlers, which sparked the weekly Nabi Saleh protests just over two years ago. The IWPS team therefore moved from the road, as the majority of the IOF soldiers were also relocating to the bottom of the hill.
On arrival at the base of the hill, the group were confronted with a line of around 20 soldiers and border police. Five detained demonstrators were visible, hands bound and sitting on the floor next to army jeeps on the other side of the road. A line of demonstrators formed, facing the soldiers, chanting and waving flags. This continued for around 10 minutes, until a group of Palestinian women and girls approached the soldiers, asking them who killed Mustafa, holding images of him. Vast quantities of tear gas were immediately fired and one Palestinian woman was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, requiring medical attention. The border police made several arrests, witnessed by the IWPS team, appearing to generally target male internationals. The whole line of border police would make a dash into the group of demonstrators and grab the individual they were targeting. Unfortunately, none of these arrests could be prevented.
The team and others were then told by the army that the officer had established a “closed-military-zone” and we were ordered to take two steps back or we would be arrested. Our requests for further information about why we could not remain where we were, and what we were allegedly doing wrong were met with the threat of pepper spray. The group retreated, and then withdrew further up the hill as the Border Police made more arrest attempts.
At the time of writing, the IWPS team member, and all other arrested individuals are still in detention. Updates will be issued when we have further information.


House Report: Dec. 12, 2011

Jordon Valley Solidarity Campaign

The IWPS house team visited the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign (JVSC). The ‘Friends meeting house’ is the main hub of the campaign and houses all of its international volunteers. Based in a traditional mud brick building with a thatched roof, it is the oldest building in the Jordan Valley. It’s situated in the centre of the Jordan Valley, in the village of Al-Jiftlik which, together with the historical significance of the building, seems to be an ideal place for the campaign to be based.

We met the permanent director of the campaign, who gave us a basic introduction to the work that they do and the challenges facing the residents of the Jordan Valley. According to the Occupation authorities, 95% of the land is Area C, meaning that the Palestinian residents of the land have no right to build. The JVSC make a stand by being one of the very few organisations that will build in Area C, as they believe that to comply with these Israeli laws would be to passively support the occupation. The JVSC focus is “trying to help Palestinians exist on their land”, which they do by opposing house demolitions and rebuilding demolished homes. They have also been successful in building over 7 schools in the seven years that they have been operating.

Whilst the IWPS team were present, two eviction notices were served – one for a home which the JVSC was assisting in the building of, which was not even yet completed, and another for a family with three young children.

The problem of illegal settlements in the Jordan valley is critical. More than 25 settlements have encroached on around 50% of the land of the valley. The settlers have also appropriated 98% of the water of the valley, using it to grow crops out of season, leaving Palestinian farmers and residents of the valley struggling to get decent drinking water.

Further, although it is illegal for Palestinians to work on the settlements, poverty caused by the occupation has driven many to seek work there. The JSCV has also noted cases of child labour – as young as 9-10 year olds working on the settlement farms.

Settler violence is apparently also endemic – there are a variety of settlements in the area, from religious to secular to French and Russian immigrant groups. One of the most radical of these is the Maskiot Settlement, the settlers of which often stage attacks on Palestinians.

Reporting on and combating environmental damage is another essential part of the JVSC’s work . The director explained that there was no water left in the Palestinian springs and wells because settlers have been permitted to dig their wells deeper, depleting the groundwater sources. He also explained that part of the Jordan river had been polluted with sewage water from settlements. The Dead Sea is dying from the rise in extensive farming in the area. Further, settlers have free water in abundance, whereas Palestinians have to buy their own land’s water back – both expensive and unjust – the water pumps are fenced off, giving only Israelis access to them.

The director then went on to describe the Jordan valley as an “open sky prison’. The valley has five checkpoints, one for each route into the valley, making it impossible to enter or leave without going through one – often Palestinians cannot get the required Israeli permits to enter the valley.

Despite the difficulties, the JVSC have adopted the slogan “Existence is resistance” and truly, as long as Palestinians exist in an area so strategically and economically important to Israel, under such great pressure, they continue to resist.


House Report :

5 December 2011

Kifl Haris accompaniment: olive harvest delayed due to threats of settler violence

Today IWPS was requested to pick olives with a family from the village of Kifl Haris near Deir Istiya. The olive harvesting season in Palestine is practically finished , but for several reasons this particular family have been delayed and needed assistance. Their land is located on the side of the hill underneath Ariel settlement, continuing up the other side of the valley. This means that their trees are split by a very busy motorway, used by settlers for easy access to Israel. Some of the family’s olives are actually within Ariel’s fenced area and others are not far from it. Because of the history of violence, the family was very worried about harvesting inside the Ariel fence, but thankfully, this year the olive picking passed without significant troubles. Unfortunately, the same was not the case when the family moved to pick near the motorway. Kifl Haris farmers reported threats by settlers and intimidation by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) in this area, as well as violent incidents including a young man picking near the motorway having his jaw broken by an Israeli driver who exited the car to carry out the attack. Understandably, the family therefore was very concerned about the heavily pregnant mother and her young children picking alone, as the father needed to go to work and could not be there at all times. IWPS picked with the family while they were harvesting in the areas considered the most dangerous, and the family continued on their own when they moved to the area on the other side of the motorway, where they thought they were safer. However, yesterday (4th December) , they were stopped by members of the IOF who demanded their papers and told them that they must complete their picking within the next 3 days, justifying this by the claim that there was a military road nearby. The IWPS team was therefore invited to pick olives with the family today (5th December), in case there was further interference by the IOF. On arrival, we had to cross the motorway, which was particularly busy and made crossing and transporting olive picking equipment a dangerous exercise. We then saw a fenced-off electrical equipment tower, which was covered by CCTV cameras. We could also see a new road under construction from Ariel to the motorway – which required and will require further destruction of hundreds of olive trees belonging to the village of Marda, situated directly under Ariel and completely encircled by metal fences and barbed wire. Due to the lateness of the season, the olives were now overripe, and the majority were actually already on the ground, meaning we spent most of the day picking them up, which was much more time-consuming than the usual methods. However, we successfully harvested all of the family’s trees, before making a swift departure as the light failed, as the IOF have been known to react harshly to families picking anytime after around 4pm. The remaining trees belonging to this family are not in the area of the Ariel settlement and we will leave them to pick the fruit alone, unless they have further incident, in which case they will contact us.
(You can find this report with the pictures at our International Women’s Peace Service Facebook page)


House Report: 4 December 2011

Army violence at Nabi Saleh protests is on the rise

We arrived early in the village of Nabi Saleh this Friday (3 December), because the last couple of Fridays the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) declared the village a ‘closed military zone’ and prevented international activists from entering.

We visited couple of friends and talked about the recent night raids when three villagers were taken, two of them witnesses at the ongoing trial of Nabi Saleh activist Naji Tamimi. It was good to hear that all of them have now been released.

Just after midday we started marching with a group of villagers as they came out of the Mosque. Internationals – and Israeli activists in particular – were present in large numbers.

As we reached the main village junction, the demo turned to the right up the hill, not going the usual way down the street, where army jeeps were ready and waiting just around the curve.

We walked near the top of the hill and could see in the far distance a group of people frantically running from the Nabi Saleh spring towards the main street leading to the Halamish illegal settlement. Two years ago this spring was taken over by the Halamish colonisers, triggering the Friday protests by the residents of Nabi Saleh.
The people running were settlers who happened to be at the stolen spring and obviously felt they were in mortal danger when they saw Palestinians far away on the top of the hill.

There were cheers as the settlers ran towards the army jeep. The sight of a car which stopped and then moved at ‘walking’ pace, shielding the fleeing settlers from the ‘danger’ coming from us, was quite comical. The distance was such that the demonstrators could not have looked to the settlers much larger than dots on the landscape, and all that the protesters were doing at this point was waving flags and chanting anti-occupation slogans.

This reaction from the settlers really illustrated the extent that Palestinians have been demonised amongst the people who continue to steal their land and have been oppressing them for decades.

Our attention was then diverted from the settlers by a group of soldiers who appeared to the right, some pointing their guns at the marchers.

It was an amazing sight to see the demonstrators continuing to walk peacefully towards the soldiers who backed away from them.

As this was happening, two jeeps appeared on the top of the hill, one belonging to the IOF and another to the infamous Border police. The policemen and the soldiers came out of the jeeps and started firing teargas in all directions. Some of them approached a group of journalists and asked for their press passes. Soon after, they arrested two TV journalists. We were later told that they were Majd Mohammed from the AP and Mohammed Razi from Palestinian Television.

Other journalist tried to film the arrests and were intimidated by the soldiers who minutes later declared the area a ‘closed military zone’. Everybody was given five minutes to leave or be arrested.

While this was going on the villagers placed stones across the road that the jeeps had to take and while soldiers were removing them, the youth started throwing stones and for a moment the soldiers looked so panicked that I worried about what they would do next. Thankfully they fought their way out of the village by firing loads of teargas, some straight at demonstrators and I saw several people collapsing on the ground temporarily blinded and with breathing problems.

The jeeps left and the demonstration continued down the exit road from the village. The marchers blocked the road with large rocks and set car tyres alight to prevent the soldiers and the police from entering the village again.

Teargas rained as demonstrators moved towards the soldiers and back. I saw the soldiers allowing the Palestinian passenger car to proceed towards the village where the demonstration was taking place and when the car stopped in front of the barrier of rocks, they fired a teargas right at it.

Soon after, no cars were allowed in and cars leaving were stopped and searched. Also the deafening sound called ‘scream’ was used for a prolonged time. A villager woman was very worried about the ‘scream’ because she said that the noise was very harmful for the hearing of the small children and caused them much pain.



House Report 8

Yasouf Village Terrorised by Tapuah Illegal Settlers

The illegal Israeli Tapuah settlement has been causing endless problems for the Palestinian village of Yasouf, located east of the town of Salfit. In Hebrew, I am told, ‘Tapuah’ means an ‘apple’, a benign name for the place which has been creating so much misery. The settlement is built on Yasouf land just above the massive junction which colonisers call Tapuah Junction and Palestinians Zatara.

Yasouf village of 2,000 people is about three kilometres away from Zatara and less than that from the illegal colony. In fact, the distance between the Tapuah illegal settlement and Yasouf village is getting smaller, as the settlers continue to grab more and more of Yasouf’s land and expand towards it. This is done by the so called ‘outposts’ made up of temporary caravan homes brought in from Israel, which are soon replaced by the permanent brick and mortar houses. The plunder of Yasouf land started with the building of Tapauh Junction and the settlement in the 70s when vast chunks of land were taken without permission from the village. The land was ‘cleared’ of hundreds of olive trees and villagers never fail to mention that.

Up until a year or so ago, Zatara was one of the largest Israeli checkpoints north of Ramallah. This is where for years many Palestinians travelling to work were held, denied passage or humiliated, by the occupying soldiers.
Last time I was in the West Bank two and a half years ago, I got into a community taxi (Palestinians call servees) at night with three of my IWPS colleagues. The servees was full of tired Palestinian labourers on their way home from the north of the West Bank. The soldier stopped us at Zatara and asked all Palestinians to get out of the servees and then asked us if we were kidnapped by them! We were all allowed through, in spite of what we replied to the soldier. Palestinians told us that many times they were turned back from Zatara and were unable to get the night’s rest in their homes. They were sure that that was exactly what would have happened that night if we, the foreigners, had not been in the servees.

Now Zatara checkpoint has been mostly dismantled, but temporary checkpoints appear frequently. Star of David flags are still high on the masts and the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) jeeps are always parked in what looks like a small army base. There are settlers to be protected, hundreds of thousands of them. This is where they wait for their settler only busses and hitchhike to the almost completely occupied Jordan Valley.

We visited the Mayor of Yasouf Abu Noor last Monday and he summarised the problems they have in a few sentences. Tapuah settlement with the newer extension Tapuah B, are in the middle of Yasouf land. Village land now encircles the settlement and there is hardly anybody in the village who does not have to farm dangerously near the settlement barbed wire.

Also, Tapuah settlers ‘are like no others’, said the Mayor. ‘They are members of Kahan Chai’, he said. This organisation, together with the Katch party, was banned in Israel in the 80s for its racism and then declared a terrorist organisation in 1994. Infamous mass murderer Dr Baruch Goldstein who shot 29 worshippers in the Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, was a Kach supporter. ‘They hate Arabs and they want to kill us all’, said Abu Noor. The history of settler violence against Yasouf indicates that his fears are not exaggerated. Only a few months ago, at the end of September occupation soldiers entered the village and made sure the Yasouf inhabitants were inside their homes, while dozens of settlers descended to the village firing from their automatic guns. Three Palestinians ended up needing a hospital treatment for tear gas inhalation.

The Mayor showed us the picture of the burned village mosque which settlers torched two years ago. The worst damaged was the library and many religious books went up in flames, but the most ominous were the graffiti messages which intruders left. ‘We will retaliate with fire’, said one. And they did exactly that, both before the burning of the mosque and many times after. ‘We have big problems with the settlers all the time’, said Abu Noor. ‘They come to the village as often as they like and throw stones at the houses, attack people and burn cars’.

In Yasouf there is an area called Janein, which is fertile and rich in springs and underground waters. The place is covered with citrus and other fruit threes which, when we visited, were laden with fruits. Sadly, this is where settlers like to come frequently, unannounced, and their visits are never peaceful.

Mahmoud, who also works in the Yasouf Town Hall, told us that recently settlers uprooted and stole 26 olive trees from his father’s land. He reported it to the Israelis. He even had the registration number of the settlers’ car. But the thieves suffered no consequences. ‘We often report crimes but there has never once been a case that anything was done about it. More than 500 trees and many goats and sheep were stolen from us like this in the last few years’, he said.

Mahmoud showed us another nearby illegal settlement called Rahil, which also has a history of settler violence. A few years ago a 15 years old Palestinian boy was shot in the arm by a settler.

We asked Mahmoud about this year’s olive harvest and he told us that access to the land is a major problem for the farmers. The IOF and the settlers erected a barrier and blocked the road villagers used to reach their olive groves and they have to use a significantly longer roundabout route just to get to their trees. ‘Many Yasouf farmers have land near the settlement and they can only pick olives with IOF permission.’ said Mahmoud. Because nothing can be easy for the occupied Palestinians, the IOF usually issues permissions for five day periods, while many people need two weeks or more to complete the harvest. Even more upsetting for the Yasouf villagers is the fact that hundreds of olive threes belonging to them were cut to build the Junction and the settlement and the trees that survived the Junction cull, villagers are banned from harvesting.

Written by Rada
Edited by Gwen
29.11.11

A day with nice occupation soldiers very near Revava settlement

On Tuesday I had the most amazing experiences while picking olives with one of my IWPS colleagues with an older man form the village of Haris near Deir Istiya. First of all Abu S. had olive trees right next to the perimeter of the illegal Revava settlement, to the extent that we could hear the hammers banging in the ever expanding number of houses which have made Revava reach to the edge of a busy… road leading to Ramallah and Qalqilia in the opposite direction. In the afternoon the settlement children played on the playground which was probably less than 20 metres away from where we picked. We were suspended in the midair trying to reach from the rocks the branches of a large tree overtaken by thorny ivy, when a jogger run by. A skinny guy with the kippa, turned around and said ‘sabah alhair’ smiling and sped off. I could not believe it! Couple of years ago some friends from Haris told me that once a settler jogged into Haris, which was raided at the time daily by the Israeli Occupying Army, without a worry in the wold saying hellos to the bemused villagers. Our jogger looked exactly as if he was just turning the corner in some remote part of the NYC’s Central Park in the early morning, before he would take a shower and take a metro to his Wall Street office. Except that this was no NYC and he was an unwanted coloniser in the occupied West Bank. What was his jogging route? To another settlement? Are joggers connecting the colonies on the stolen tops of the West Bank hills, like the maze of ‘settlers only’ roads do, making the West Bank look like New Yersy? Is there a group of soldiers with their evil looking skinny machine guns jogging at his tail making sure that the settler joggers, like all other illegal Jewish colonisers can do what their hearth desires in this place? Abu S. was a sweet man. he replied ‘sabah anur’ and smiled. Abu S. wanted things to be good. He talked about the need for the peace in the World and his respect and good feelings for all the people. ‘If I would see a lost Jewish child I would put them in my car and take them to their parents’, he said. ‘Wallahi I would’ , he stressed. He told me that in that location he had 500 olive trees which were cut as the settlement expanded over the last 20 years, first slowly and than with particular vigour and ruthlessness form about six years ago. Now he has only 70 trees and majority of them are young trees which he planted to replace some of the old ones settlers destroyed. And when Abu S. said ‘destroyed’ he always added ‘pulled out with their roots’ because he said that the cut olive tree would grow back, and that is not what the intruders wanted. Abu S. was a very gentle and nice man but he was not surrendering and giving up easily. They destroy and he rebuilds what he is allowed to rebuild. Soon after the jogger episode a four wheel drive arrived with 2 soldiers carrying machine guns and an unarmed civilian. They stopped a few metres away from where we were picking and politely called good morning. Abu S. responded and than informed us that these were ‘very good soldiers’ who were there to protect him form the settlers. Abu S. harvests alone because his wife is ill and his children live in Jordan and near Jerusalem. His army escort was arranged via the Israeli organisation Rabbis for Human Rights who, I am told, have particularly good relationship and regular meetings with the Israeli occupation forces. There is no doubt that if Abu S. had a large family to help him harvest they would never be allowed on their land that near to the illegal colony. Soldiers parked under the massive pine tree nearby where they had plastic chairs ready for a whole day shift. At mid-morning we had our breakfast under the same tree where soldiers sat with their guns. Abu S. planted it as a teenager 50 years ago. He told us that there were many more pine trees nearby, but they were also uprooted by the settlers. In fact the massive dent was visible in the red earth where the large pine was standing not so long ago, it seemed. ‘This was a place were people form Haris used to come and sit when the weather was hot. The temperature here was at least 10 degrees lower than in Haris’, Abu S. reminisced. He spent many nights sleeping in those fields as a child with his parents, brothers and sisters during the olive harvest which lasted for couple of months. Harvesting 500 trees is a massive job and the whole family would move into the field house, whose remains were still there, very near one of the settlement houses. Abu S’s tone with the soldiers was conciliatory and it was obvious that he surrendered to what he thought was inevitable. But he felt that he needed to tell us this: ‘Don’t think that I forgot that settlers took my land, but there is nothing that I can do because America and Britain want it to happen, and they support Israel’. We had our breakfast of cans of fizzy orange drink and traditional Palestinian breakfast of houmus, yogurt, pitta bread etc. and soldiers and the civilian, who was probably a settlement security, started having theirs. Abu S. invited the soldiers to eat with us and they politely refused. I could not believe it! We are picking olives right next to the expanding settlement with, friendly joggers and soldiers protecting us who we are exchanging pleasantries with. When we finished our breakfast and started walking back to our half harvested large tree, one of those which Abu S. said settlers forgot to destroy, the soldiers asked us where we were from and I asked them why they were there. ‘To protect you and the settlers’, one of them said. ‘What threat are we – one elderly man and two elderly women with a bucket and a stick for tapping the olives off the branches’, I asked. The soldier smiled in agreement. He looked like he did not feel good being there and like he knew very well who the baddies and who the victims were. ‘I am a religious man and I have two kids and I do not wish any harm on anybody’, he said. He spoke perfect Arabic and when my colleague asked him where he leaned it he said that his grandparents moved to Israel from Yemen. His grandmother spoke Arabic at home so he leaned it. My friend than said: ‘Do you know that you should not be here’? ‘It is all in the Bible…’, the Yemeni soldier started to say. ‘That was very long time ago’, interrupted my colleague. ‘I don’t decide about these things. If I refused to be here I would go to prison. This is what politicians choose to do’, said the Yemeni soldier. ‘ You are participating in an occupation which is illegal under international laws and very few countries in the world do not condemn it’ , continued my colleague. The Yemeni soldier repeated that he would be in prison if he refused to be there and the other soldier who spoke very little gave us a disapproving look. The Yemeni guy practically nodded as my friend continued to explain why they should not be there and Abu S. became fidgety fearing an escalation with an uncertain outcome and we went back to our olive tree. Before we finished the large olive three ‘the settlers forgot to destroy’, the civilian companion of the solders approached us calling ‘ya zalame’, which is how local Palestinians say ‘hey man’ to each other, carrying 3 hot coffees. I was so surprised that I took them and than as he left I thought that I should have refused them. It as not just a boycottable Israeli coffee but it was also served by an Israeli settler and I took it and said ‘thank you’! We moved to the next olive tree which was even nearer to the settlement buildings, with a wide dirt road leading into the settlement. Abu S. was worried because the soldiers could not see us and we left a half finished tree to move to the one which was more visible. ‘ These soldiers are good’, insisted Abu S. ‘What can they do? This has all been decided by Obama and Britain’. And than the last shock of the day came in a shape of a tall and big soldier who jumped out of an army car and approached Abu S. as if he was his long lost father. ‘Job well done my ya zalame’, he said’ with a wide grin. Me and my colleague were picking and I was not sure again how I was supposed to be reacting. Do I say ‘hi’ or give this friendly occupation soldier a nasty look? I picked olives thinking ‘what the bloody hell is going on here today’? ‘Is that your tree’, asked the big friendly soldier. ‘Yes it is’, answered Abu S. ‘and not only this tree but that over there too’, said Abu S. smiling and pointing at the settlement. ‘ OK than, keep u a good work, my man’, said the noisy soldier and jumped into a jeep. ‘He is a good man’, said Abu S. ‘He is Druze and I did tell him what is mine’.


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