Monday, 18 April 2011

Imminent House Demolitions in Fasayal

The cluster of Jordan Valley villages located around Fasayil offer a twisted microcosm of the fickle barbarity of Israel's illegal occupation. Families who seemingly share land, live side by side with no separation except the invisible borders enshrined in Israel's military law. Yet, as you tread amongst the stones between the close lying villages it is clear where the limited rights afforded to Palestinians ends and the increased terror of the occupation begins. 

To the south lies Fasayil, which is classified as Area B under the misleadingly named Oslo Peace Accords. Because of the status afforded to it by the 1994 treaty, villagers are entitled to build schools and houses, as well as run water and electricity to their homes. Life is by no means perfect, and the Palestinians who live there are still deeply affected by Israel's occupation. Yet, being in Area B does afford them a limited right to education and healthcare.

Just under five kilometres to the north is the village of Fasayil al-Fauqa, classified as Area C under Oslo. In 2009, after a project by Jordan Valley Solidarity to build a school, Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair negotiated a special status for Palestinians living there. All solid structures built since the signing of the 1994 Oslo agreement were allowed to stand, despite being 'illegal' under Israel's punishing military law. Yet Fasayil al-Fauqa is still Area C, and these small gains can be cruelly taken away at any time the occupation decides.

Nestled between the two, Fasayal Al Wusta is home to a small community of Bedouin, many of whom travelled to the area from Bethlehem during the late 1980s and 90s following harassment by the army. Fasayal Al Wusta lies in Area C, and it's inhabitants are thus denied the basic necessities afforded to their neighbours in Area B. This includes water, and electricity from the power lines that criss cross above their homes to Area B and the surrounding agricultural colonies (settlements) of Tomer and El'Fasail.

As a further affront to their human rights, the Bedouin must watch as families a few hundred metres away in Area B receive rice and cooking oil from USAID, and American boxes litter the bumpy road that connects the villages. The only benefit for one family is a cardboard box serving as a makeshift toy box, emblazoned with a 'gift from the American people'. Now the little these families have is under threat from demolition orders served by the Israeli Occupational Force (IOF).

At any time these men, women and children - some as young as 2 months - could be woken, perhaps at 5am, to the sound of confrontational soldiers barking orders that they leave their home. Then, without even a minutes respite to collect their belongings, they may have to watch as a bulldozer and it's emotionless driver proceed to destroy what has taken years to build. Over the weekend of 15th-17th April the army came to the village, taking photographs of the condemned tents and their occupants. It is feared the bulldozers will come when the weekend passes.

The demolition orders were served at the beginning of March by a court in Bet El military base, just outside Ramallah. As the Bedouin carry a Jordan Valley identity card they are all but denied the right to defend their homes, as entry into other areas of the West Bank can be a lengthy process. Whilst a lawyer represented the families, he could only gleam a one month stay of execution. That brief period expired on the 9th and 10th of April.

It is difficult for the Bedouin to leave Fasayal Al Wusta because the men have jobs in the area, the majority earning 50 shekels (£10) a day picking fruit and vegetables in the fields of Tomer settlement. The produce, ranging from bananas to aubergines and dates, are then packaged and shipped to Europe, Israel and the Middle East. Whilst grown on Palestinian land, stolen in 1948 and approved by the international community under Oslo, profits are for Israeli's only.

Now the families fall to sleep at night uncertain of what the next twenty four hours may bring. In a show of strength and resilience, they sit and watch TV amongst belongings that could lie flattened and unrepairable come morning. Maybe the bulldozers will arrive by daylight, maybe they will never come. It is an agonising wait, and an integral element of the psychological war being waged against Palestinians across the West Bank. And on this stretch of land spanning the eastern part of the Occupied Territories the suffering is rapidly intensifying.

In the Israeli state's drive to ethnically cleanse the fertile land of all Palestinians, the Bedouin of the Jordan Valley suffer constant harassment that extends beyond house demolitions. In February, the Israeli Boarder Police descended upon Fasayal Al Wusta at 1am with megaphones and aggression. They demanded that every man in the village over the age of 15 years had five minutes to make their way to the playground a short walk away in Fasayil. The men were detained for an hour, and it was claimed that the Police chief had a problem with the amount of stones in the road.

A month earlier, two brothers were arrested and taken to Ofar prison near Ramallah again on a spurious charge that the Police chief had taken a dislike to large stones in the street. They were released after two days, but without their identity cards - meaning they couldn't travel or work. Yet, they had to make the trip back to Fayasal Al Wusta. In order to return home it was essential they avoided Israeli checkpoints, as they would be arrested again. So they took a treacherous trip across mountainous back roads in a private taxi. The cost of the journey was 300 shekels, and each brother had to pay a further 1,000 shekels for a new identity card from the Palestinian Authority. In the three week period it took to receive the cards neither brother was able to earn even a shekel.

These payments are part of a wider economic squeeze on the already poverty stricken Bedouin, which include bail payments for arrested animals and fines if sheep or cattle wander over to the wrong side of a road. It seems the Israeli's are becoming tired with the capacity of Bedouin families to restart their lives following each demolition. With one tent destroyed, they move a little further across the land and rebuild again. If Israel can bankrupt them, perhaps they will get the Zionist message they are not welcome on their own land. Or, if the international community can get it's act together, maybe Israel can be told it has to end it's apartheid laws and hand the Jordan Valley back to the Palestinians.

Monday, 11 April 2011

What we're doing now


No posts for a while as things have been very busy. We are focussing on writing for the website. Now there are ten of us here from Brighton and Sheffield we have been splitting up.

Last Thursday there was a wave of destruction by the Army in the Jordan Valley, starting with Aqaba, moving on to Samra, then a small community north of Jericho.

Since then we have been to Bil'in, Ramallah, Nablus, Asira, Iraq Burin and Hebron. We are now back in the Jordan Valley for our last couple of days.

Today some of us will visit the bedouin community between Lower and Upper Fasayil. who are facing iminent demolitions, and the bedouin community in Al Auja to start making mud bricks with them for their new school.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Demolitions in Samra

After noon on 7th April the army demolished three large animal shelters and a kitchen in the farming community of Al Samra in the northern Jordan Valley.
 We arrived just after the demolitions to find the families devastated, and the grandparents visibly upset.They received demolition orders for the third time on Tuesday 29th March, and were given just 3 days to destroy their own buildings, making it virtually impossible for the to make an appeal through the courts. When the army did not demolish their buildings straight away they became hopeful that they would be able to get a freeze on the demolition order, but their hopes were destroyed today. The grandmother was crying at the sight of the destruction, and that the sheep and goats were now out in the afternoon sun without any shade.

The animals were all crowding under the tractors and water tanks to try to find their own shade.
As well as the animal shelters, the army also destroyed the small kitchen of a family with a young baby, aged just 20 days old.

You can more information about the demolition orders received at Al Samra at www.jordanvallysolidarity.org

The right to education – Jordan Valley style

(Photos to follow)
We have not had a chance yet to write about the schools yet, but last week, after a morning making mud bricks we got our first look at two of the tent schools which operate in the valley. We have since visited the schools several times, usually equipped with lollies and always of course spending lots of time taking photos of beautiful children. Both are in the northern pa rt of the valley, north of the Hamra checkpoint.

Ein El Hilwe is a small community of about 70 – 80 people, situated near the roadsideand directly below the Maskyott settlement. We arrived just as school had finished and two of the teachers were walking the children back to their homes. Fifteen 5-6 year olds attend the school, coming here from the homes beside the school and other families who live in the surounding hills and valleys. The school itself is a tent constructed of tarpaulin, and even in March it seemed to me to be unbearably hot inside. Outside the boundary of the school is designated by brightly coloured tyres, although there is no play equipment.

Our second school is at Mak-hul, a tiny community of a few tent homes, which is situated on the road which goes up to the army base near Hemdat settlement. The tent school here has been sewn using old hessian bags (humanitarian aid bags) which are stretched over a simple metal structure, and is tiny, currently serving about 5 to 6 children.

Jordan Valley Solidarity has supported the building of 7 schools up to now, and last week was the first time for the teachers from the schools have been brought together to discuss their work and plans at the Jordan Valley Friends Meeting House. The teachers, all female, are all volunteers and this is their individual and collective act of resistance – asserting the right of their communities and the children in the valley to an education.

So far we have only had limited time to talk to the teachers, but two of them wrote a short piece for us about themselves, which we’ve included here:

My name is Ghadeer Fuqha and I’m studying nursing in Ramallah and my home is in Ein El Beida. I love to travel all over the world – it is my favourite thing, and I love the children in this country. I am 23 years old and my family is two brothers and six sisters and my father work as a farmer and there is a supermarket there. My home is three storeys and my mother is very good and I love her. I hope to work in my job in future and I hope to visit your city. Good bye.
Yours sincerely,

My name is Lena and I study marketing in Tubas and I hope to work in my job and I like writing. I live in Ein El Beida and my brother study IT in university, my sister study Arabic (teacher). I come to the school every day except Friday and Saturday and there are fifteen children in this school.
Yours sincerely,

Next week, we plan to have an education day, when the Jordan Valley Solidarity volunteers will go to each of the schools to organise some activities with the children, interview the teachers, and find out about the local area. We hope to visit the schools in Ein El Hilwe, Mak-hul, Koursilyya, Al Auja, and Ka'abne.

The other two schools that Jordan Valley Soldarity helped to establish, in Al Jiftlik and Fasayil Fouqa are now well established and thriving.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Young man arrested in Al Hadidiya

We have just heard that a young man from Al Hadidiya has been arrested whilst walking from Al Hadidiya, near the land that Roi settlement has stolen from the community. He is just 19 years ols and the son of Abu Saqr. His family saw the army take him, but have been given no information about why he's been arrested, where he is, how long he'll be held, or what he's been arrested for.

This harrassment is not new, in fact we have been told that it is commonplace, but that doesn't relieve a parent's fears for what might happen to their child.

Demolition orders in Khirbet Samra

Three family homes in Khirbet Samra received demolition orders from the Israeli army this week. The families were given the orders on Tuesday and given three days to appeal or the demolitions would go ahead.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Israeli army continue to harrass local Palestinian farmers.

Yassir and his family (including 8 children) have been living during the spring time in Khirbet Samra,  Jordan Valley, since 2006. At 8.30 pm yesterday evening the Israeli army came to his home claiming to be looking for terrorists from Nablus who they said they knew were staying with him.  Despite his insistence that only his family were there they made everyone leave the tents and requested to see the ID papers of all of the family, including his terrifed young children.