Thursday, December 28, 2006
Al Khadir faces the wall
posted by: [jimiffondu] at 6:40 PM
Thanks to Whirling McDervish for this report...

Al Khadar community, right in the centre of the Bethlehem district, stands to lose the vast majority of its farmland if construction of the separation wall continues unheeded. Here the proposed route of the wall’s construction serves as a perfect example of Israeli policy in commandeering as much West Bank land and resources as possible. In brief, the wall, as a whole, does not stick to the pre-1967 borders but fully violates this UN recognised ‘green line’ between Israel and the West Bank. Snaking into the West Bank up to 11Km in places and all but severing the West Bank between Bethlehem and the Dead Sea, the wall is now outwardly a tool to segregate Palestinian communities and surround established, as well as new, internationally illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In the not too distant past Al Khadar would have been home to a predominantly self-sufficient community of small holders and pastoralists, even an important centre for produce saleable to the rest of Bethlehem, but the present day situation has put many farmers off even tending to their lands, jeopardising not only the quality of the land but claims to inherited ownership as regards Israeli bureaucracy. The traditional unwritten way of handing land down from father to son is sadly working in Israel’s favour. Without paperwork to prove ownership, Israeli bureaucracy will absorb these lands with little struggle.

Arable land is effectively cut off from Al Khadar by a busy Israeli highway. While a single tunnel beneath the road does exist and will continue to remain open for farmers after completion of the wall, access to land will be severely hindered in comparison to past freedom of movement. This raises justified anxieties about increased costs of farming hence loss of already low profits. Not only, it seems, is the infrastructure intent on impairing Palestinians from farming their land but, as we learnt, farmers have, allegedly, been party to severe harassment from Israeli settlers. We spoke to one farmer who told us he had been shot at from the relatively new static caravan settlement at the top of the valley, the bullet narrowly missing him, ricocheting off the tractor he was driving at the time. The ‘outpost’ settlement in question “Sde Baz”, a crude encampment of static caravans sits mockingly atop the hills of Al Khadar. The settler inhabitants claim to own an area of land equivalent to 7,000 square metres, bought from a local Arab for close to US$ 1million. The local Palestinians dispute this citing that it is in fact illegal for such a transaction without the consent of the community at large. However, as I was told by another local, this story is probably true, the former owner likely escaping treatment as a collaborator by fleeing the country. Whatever the truth, the outcome will be the same if the situation remains unchallenged. A settler from the encampment, pickaxe in hand, that we unwittingly bumped into as we walked across disputed farmland, told us there were ten families living at “Ste Baz” and expected there to be perhaps 50 within the next ten years. When a Palestinian friend remarked on how he could understand why settlers would want to come a live amidst such beautiful lands the settler replied “Yes, but you are not welcome”. Without even an attempt to hide intentions for this settler community to expand, he laid bare the fact that they will inevitably outgrow the originally purchased 7000 square metres, and with construction of the wall just months away these people cannot fail to see the chance for further land acquisition; land which they know full well, in all likelihood, will end up theirs or at least their communities. With the already fully established colony of Neve Daniyyel – part of the Gush Etzion block – expanding northwards towards Sde Baz, it seems that this caravanned ‘outpost’ settlement is acting as nothing more than, on the one hand an institutional land grab, on the other a private land reclamation enterprise. In addition, as the settler community itself does not seem a wealthy one, questions are raised as to where $1 million, to purchase such a relatively small piece of land, came from. Considering that this settlement is supposedly illegal yet served by a well maintained, drivable track, electricity poles to one side adorned with CCTV cameras, it begs the question, does this money come from the state?; and if not, at least from the vested interests of developers, endorsed by the authorities?

Israel, in its virtuosity (sic), supposedly offers compensation to affected Palestinian farmers but the culture divide is so massive, and suspicion so justifiably rife that even if Israeli officials were to approach these farmers with the necessary dubious paperwork Palestinians would not, rightly, sign a thing. I met one such farmer, at his family smallholding, who had such a visit after notification that 6000 square metres of his land was to be confiscated and levelled to make way for the separation wall. Days later a bulldozer turned up and ripped through his land uprooting every last single olive tree. He watched to entire ‘operation’, two hundred years of love and sweat destroyed in less than an hour and he was powerless to do anything.

These fields, he told us, had been in his family for at least two hundred years. His grandfather was buried on this land. On taking us out to the fields to show us the destruction it was hard to know what to say. Attempts at consolation would be pointless and I could not help but feel ashamed of being part of a country, an economy that is endorsing this behaviour. A savage, twenty metre wide scar, bulldozer tracks still clearly visible parted his land. He felt, he told us, like his heart had been ripped out, that he was up against a machine and powerless to do anything. As we drove away and left him on his family land, he took to his knees, and in full Muslim prostration put his forehead to the earth that would soon be lost behind the wall, accessible only through a military checkpoint.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Checkpoint 300
posted by: [jimiffondu] at 1:58 PM
Apologies for not having posted anything here for a while... It's been a pretty busy period for us, I'm sure you'll appreciate... But we'll endeavour to keep you updated with all the events as they unfold over the Christmas period in the little town of Bethlehem...

Thanks to mic. for the production of this video...

In Bethlehem over Christmas? Fancy blogging for us? Let us know!
much love,

Friday, December 08, 2006
posted by Odog
House Demolitions are nothing new in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestinian villages are routinely subjected to Israeli demolition orders for the purposes of contructing settlements, by-pass roads, the segregation barrier as well as building military installations required to protect Isreali infrastructure and police the local arab population.

Al Walaja village in Bethlehem Governorate is one such example where people's homes have been destroyed not for any "security" purpose other than to ensure Settlement expansion and construction of the Wall may continue unchallanged.

The policy of Israeli house demolitions however, goes further in explaining the psychology of Zionism which seeks to deny or deligitimise any concept of Arab existence and ownership of land prior to the State of Israel. Such a concept directly challages its narrow ideology which considers the Jewish people to be the sole and legitimate owners of the land know as Israel/Palestine.

The following report comes from the Negev.

Israeli police level 17 Arab homes in the Negev

Officials from the Interior Ministry and Israel Land Authority demolished 17 homes in the unrecognized Negev village of Twayyil, local sources in the village reported.

This is the fourth demolition in this village since the beginning of the year.

According to the source, on Monday, the Interior Minister warned that 42,000 homes in the unrecognized villages will be demolished. The Israeli Land Authority says these houses were built without proper licenses.

Forty years ago the State of Israel moved the families of this village from their original land (8000 dunums) to the current location (400 meters squared per family) after the 1965 Planning and Construction law, yet the State of Israel never recognized the village, and to this day has not supplied it with the proper services even though the residents are Israeli citizens and pay taxes to the Israeli government.

Moreover, the families found out that the land they were forced to move to is not government land- it is private property.

“The minister forgot to mention that most of these villages predated the State and that all of them predated the 1965 Planning and Construction Law they use as a pretext for demolishing Arabs homes in the unrecognized villages, evacuating them and taking over their ancestral lands,” said Faisal Sawalha of the Regional Council for the Arab Unrecognized Villages in the Negev (RCUV).

The RCUV described this new wave of demolition as a “grave violation of citizen and human rights” and “an attempt to demolish and evacuate whole villages.” This is the first time that the authorities demolish such a large number of homes in one village at the same time, Sawalha said.

To protest the demolition, the RCUV erected a tent at the village, where supporters from other villages and international volunteers gather in solidarity with the villagers.