Getting a bit behind on these posts so Ill write a bit about Firoush Beit Dejan and Al Aqaba, continue from where the rest of the delegation left and occasionally write about stuff I did in the first few days.
Al Aqaba is a village that is often referred to as the first Palestinian settlement inside an Israeli military camp. (Take this as a joke, many of their homes are pre-48). This place is a model village, it feels like a haven from the occupation. (Appearances can be deceptive, the Israeli army uses the local farmers for target practice, they train in the Jordan Valley because it is similar terrain to South Lebanon and this, even more than the fertility of the area, is the reason they are desperate to take it all. Guess people forgot to tell them the Lebanese shoot back.)
Haj Sameh (c) the director of the project who started the nursery from his own house, (wheelchair bound thanks to the kindly Israeli sniper who shot him), explained that “This area has three Israeli military camps, after 1967 the whole area was declared a closed military zone”. There used to be a fourth right at the entrance to the village which made life nearly impossible for for them but they successfully challenged it’s location in the Israeli high court. After the base was closed down the IOF, magnanimous in defeat, placed 35 demolition orders on this village. Effectively wiping it off the face of the earth. (This is area C, Palestinians have no rights to building, electricity, water or freedom of movement)
The clinic was built with British Council money so the timely intervention of Jack Straw means there will be a clinic left standing, but no houses, nursery, mosque, school or even streets. No way was he going to try to save a building made with non-British aid.
Today there was a preliminary hearing where the Israeli Offence Force offered an area that would be allowed to remain intact in return for not making a fuss about the homes outside the area that would be demolished.(Area C remember, once these homes are demolished they would not be allowed to rebuild inside the standing area.) This was refused and the case is postponed. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions are now appealing for donations so the villagers can commission an architect to draw up a map that takes in to account the outlying houses. Incidentally the High Court ruled that the IOF was not to enter the village without permission from the village Council. Guess they lied.
Firoush Beit Dejan, a place where most families live in shanty style dwellings made of corrugated metal sheets and plastic because the Israeli Army constantly demolish their homes. Currently all homes have a demolition order on them. They have also had one of their wells destroyed and the other two are not likely to be standing for much longer. There are electricity pylons running through their land to the nearby settlements but they are not allowed electricity themselves, in an area that gets to 50 degrees centigrade in summer they are not allowed refrigeration or air conditioning. Due to the restrictions on travel and trade their farming economy is shackled to whatever Israel will buy off them at rock bottom prices. They are also not allowed to buy fertiliser on the spurious grounds that fertiliser can be used to make weapons. (It can also be used to fertilise crops but the IOF don’t understand such concepts.)
The Bedouin communities in these areas are also hard hit. In areas like Al Hadidya the Bedouin are the only reason that this land is still Palestinian. Denied water (which has to be brought in tanks from distant towns and this is not a guarantee because the army block roads to these towns whenever they feel like it). Denied right to housing, their homes are constantly being demolished. No electricity, so forced to live in the 9th century and restricted from being able to trade their livestock and support their families by Israels petty laws one wonders how much longer they will be able to stay.
If an area of land remains uncultivated for three years then it can be claimed by someone else and put in to use. This is the reason for the misery being inflicted on the Palestinians in their own country. Policy of transference. So that, in three years time, after they are forced to leave settler scum can say ‘oh look, a land without a people for a bunch of zealots from Brooklyn’.
There isn’t the kind of resistance here you would get in Nablus or Balata, it tends to be fairly passive in nature. On the level of simply refusing to go, rebuilding your tent after it gets knocked down, putting up with the charities that give food, strip your dignity and ignore the root cause of your suffering. I now fully understand the meaning of the term ‘to exist is to resist.’