Friday, 22 March 2013

"We refuse to be enemies"

At the risk of repeating myself I decided to publish this post that was half finished in Palestine because it has additional information.

Despite having been to many of the places we have visited on this CPT delegation in the past, I have found myself deeply shocked on a number of occasions. I have done many presentations about the situation in the West Bank. I knew that the Israeli settlers could be vicious and that the IDF could be violent, cruel and abusive, but I had not realised before how planned  the occupation and systematic reduction in Palestinian land was.  If you look at the map that was given to us by ARIJ you will see that there are what are called seam zones and corridors where most of the Israeli settlements and even outposts are located. You can see that the Palestinian areas are reduced to ghettos that are totally separated from each other by not just the settlements but by the Israeli only roads and, of course, the separation barrier which itself takes up around 13% of West Bank land. What is worse is that there are Palestinian communities that are being cut off by Israel into a sort of no-man's land. These communities are denied both Israeli or Palestinian citizenship because although they are cut off from Israel by the barrier Israel will not allow them to be taken under the PA wing either. Some of these communities have the barrier almost completely surrounding them with no access to any amenities or resources.

Many of the stories we have heard have been heartbreaking and most of them have been backed up with facts and figures from the many organisations we have had the privilege to visit. I include in this blog a list of links so that you can see the information for yourselves. In Jerusalem we visited the Sabeel Office where we heard a Palestinian Christian tell us of her experiences. We went to the office of ICHAD - The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions where we heard from Israelis who shared the facts and figures of the Israeli demographic policies that refuse both Israeli Palestinians and West Bank Palestinians permits for almost anything from house extensions to water cisterns to animal sheds and even to working on their own land so that Palestinians have to do almost everything 'illegally' and Israel can claim legal reasons for their actions.

We have seen the workings of such policies in the Negev, East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, The Tent of Nations, Jericho, Hebron and The South Hebron Hills. I have personal stories and even videos to back this up as well as so many photos.

In Hebron we heard from a Palestinian called Atta Jabber.  Atta lived with his parents, but when he got married, wanted a home of his own. There were 60 houses in the area, with around 144 people living in them. An Israeli settlement had already been built and the Israeli authorities wanted the land in his neighbourhood to build more. The families started to receive demolition orders on their houses and in 1995 the Israel High Court decided to bulldoze all 60 houses in one day! This was just the start of a nightmare that is still going on today.

The very first round of action won the Jabber family a reprieve, but in 1996 he received a new demolition order with just 48 days to appeal and their lawyer was not informed. When Atta continued to work on his home he was arrested for doing so and was fined $500. In 1997, while he was away from his home the Israeli army forced his wife and 2 daughters out of their house into the winter cold and rain and then damaged everything surrounding it. His wife and daughters fell ill and had to spend a couple of nights in hospital. That March the family received another order giving them just 2 hours to move all their belongings from the house - again into the rain. They did so and the bulldozer did not arrive.

In 1998 the army came again with bulldozers and threatened his family so he removed them himself and watched his home destroyed. He immediately rebuilt it with the help of internationals and CPT. An organisation called Peace Now arranged for Atta to meet the Knesset to request a permit for this second house and they refused. On 19th Sept that year bulldozers came again with many soldiers. When the family were out of the house, his wife remembered their 4 month old baby was still inside and went to get him. Atta in despair told an officer to take his baby and care for him as they could not do so himself without a home. He was arrested and beaten up, taken to a police station where he was tortured. The handcuffs held his wrists behind him so tightly there was blood, his neck was cut badly so that he could hardly speak and he had wounds all over his body. He was taken to a clinic where the doctor said there was nothing wrong with him and was then accused of being dangerous because he had tried to defend his home. He was moved to a prison where he received no medical attention for 8 days and became so ill that he was in danger of dying. When he was finally taken to hospital he spent 4 hours in the emergency room and was then released the next day. However he was then charged for attacking the army with his baby!

Rabbis for Human Rights came to court with the baby and presented the child to the Judge who was so moved by it all that she released him without charge! Atta and his family then spent the next 5 months living in a tent and finally moved into the Old City of Hebron in 1999. In 2000 Atta finally gained a permit for his house. As it was near completion around 100 Israeli settlers attacked him and occupied it. He took them to the Israeli court who instructed them to leave, so they set the house on fire causing considerable damage. The settlers were not punished and the courts refused to allow Atta to return to his home for a further 3 months. A member of CPT then stayed in his home with his family to protect them until he could return.

200 settlers then took the land surrounding his home and attacked his wife who was pregnant. She lsst her baby as a result of the attack. In fact she lost 4 babies over the years as a result of attacks. In 2009 Atta received an Israeli order to demolish everything surrounding his home forcing his family to live in just the house and a very small area, so he took the case to yet court again. In 2011 it cost another $15 - 20,000 in legal fees.

Despite winning case after expensive case, the settlers have continued to harass his family and so it goes on to this day. One constant battle and the loss of most of his land.

"If we were animals an organsation would step in and rescue us, but because we are just Palestinians no one comes to our aid." he said.
The stone that lies at the entrance to the Tent of nations, which says in 3 languages

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