Archive for March, 2007

Land Day in Bil In

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Today Palestinians commemorated Land Day, the anniversary of the murder of six nonviolent protesters, on strike against massive land confiscations, by Israeli troops in the Gallilee in 1976.

Since then Land Day has been marked by protests reasserting Palestinian rights over their land. Thirty years on the expropriation of land in Gallilee and the Naqab continues while Gaza has been transformed into an open prison and the West Bank divided into a series of bantustans by the Apartheid wall and the the Israeli apartheid system of restrictions on movement. (more…)

Back in Palestine

Friday, March 30th, 2007

I arrived in Palestine yesterday after travelling overland through Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

I will be here for the next month making links with grassroots groups in the Tubas/Jordan Valley Region with other activist from the Brighton Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group (tubas.brightonpalestine.org) and working with the International Solidarity Movement (www.palsolidarity.org).

I will be sending short reports about the effect of the Israeli occupation on everyday life and Palestinian resistance to the occupation…

THE WALL MUST FALL

Kavlaoved on the Conditions of Workers in the Jordan Valley

Monday, March 12th, 2007
Interviews over the past few weeks with several Palestinian workers revealed that hundreds of Palestinian workers are being seriously exploited by their Israeli settler employers.
The agricultural area in the Jordan Valley is home to about 20 settlements, each of which has its own farms. Labor conditions differ from one farm to the next; the employers do not comply with Israeli labor laws and completely ignore Palestinian labor laws. In order to work in one of the settlements, Palestinians workers must obtain entry permits from the Civil Administration. Thus, if the Civil Administration wanted to, it could easily monitor labor conditions and wages. As stated previously, labor laws are not enforced, and in fact no laws of any kind are enforced.
Daily wages are far below the legal minimum wage in Israel, ranging between NIS50-60 for an eight-hour workday in any of the settlements. For one hour of overtime, workers receive an additional NIS10, and they do not receive a pay stub for their wages. Employers believe that Palestinian workers do not deserve rights like compensation, vacations, and sick leave, which violates rulings issued by the Israeli labor courts regarding Palestinian workers in settlements.
Most of these Palestinians work with grapes, date palms, or flowers, and a few of them work in vegetable farming. Much of the produce is earmarked for export. Shoppers in England or Belgium who go to the market to buy “Israeli” agricultural products know nothing about the flagrant exploitation of Palestinians workers, and they are unaware that the produce is not of Israeli origin, but produced in the occupied territories. Grapes are marketed in Western countries by the Arba and Agrexco companies, and flowers are marketed especially in the Netherlands.
One Palestinian worker we spoke to said that he has been working in agriculture in one settlement for 15 years, and he says his salary has not changed in all those years. He receives NIS50 a day, and works from 6 am until 2 pm. He is one of six full-time workers who work throughout the year for his employer. There are other seasonal workers who only work for short periods of time. Palestinians are also employed to spray insecticides and do not wear appropriate attire or masks when doing so. One worker said that he was fired after he was injured in the eye on the job. As we have said before, in the occupied Jordan Valley region is workers are exploited like they were in the areas established in Gaza before Israel’s withdrawal.

Tree Planting in Aqaba

Monday, March 12th, 2007
It is surely a celebration. Everyone is bustling about, preparing for the
day's activities. But it is different than a typical celebration. Instead of
carrying brightly colored drinks and holding plates of food, people are
carrying shovels and pick-axes to plant seedlings as part of a plan to grow
trees throughout the Jordan Valley. Palestinians consider trees as one of
the most effective weapons against the Israeli occupation.
In the eastern heights area overlooking the isolated Jordan Valley,
residents of several villages began this past Tuesday to plant different
kinds of trees as part of the campaign "For a Green Palestine," sponsored by
a local foundation.
The "celebration" was in full swing in the village of al-Aqaba, located at
the head of the eastern heights of the Jordan Valley, and designated for
demolition as part of settlement expansion. The residents are saying that
they are planting trees as part of an ongoing popular resistance campaign.
It is expected that more than 3,000 olive and evergreen trees, delivered by
the Palestinian Organization for Development, Dialogue and Democracy
"Wa'ad," will be planted in different areas around Tubas and the Valley.
The coordinator of the organization, Mahmoud Issa, said, "Planting one tree
in an area threatened by settlements is the most effective weapon to face
the Israelis." He added that several areas targeted by the Israelis will be
planted with olive trees.
Rashid al-Debik, a local villager, was busy putting twenty seedlings in a
cart, which he will be planting in front of one of the Israeli army's camps
adjacent to his village. He said that there is another forty dunums that he
will try to plant if the Israeli army allows him to do so.
Standing at the edge of al-Debik's land, near a large hole dug by the
Israeli army, one can see the vast area of the eastern heights. One man
helping with the project said that one of the biggest problems he and others
face is the shortage of water in the area.
Mohammad Hussein Jaber and other men from his family are busy moving olive
seedlings and evergreen trees. In an area nearby, a bucket-shovel begins
working, easily breaking through the moist soil.
In less than ten years, the village of al-Aqaba, which had been occupied by
Israeli soldiers and military camps, became a village bustling with people
and replete with trees.
The head of the village council, Sami Sadeq, said that the residents took
the responsibility to plant trees as a popular means of resistance. Sadeq is
responsible for organizing the process of distributing the trees and
planting them throughout the village.
Al-Debik is determined to plant his land that overlooks a military camp "I
will plant and they [the Israelis] will uproot it, but I will win in the
end."
However, soldiers denied access to seedlings in a number of other villages
nearby without offering a reason. Residents of al-Maleh village in the
Jordan Valley reported that soldiers on duty at al-Tayaseer checkpoint at
the entrance of the Valley barred them from transferring 200 olive tree
seedlings to their village.
In that area, residents suffer from a shortage of water resources to
cultivated land. The area is under Israeli control in accordance with the
Oslo accords.
Since 2000, Israeli forces have uprooted thousands of olive trees as part of
its military policy. The construction of the wall has greatly damaged
agricultural life in the West Bank, since wide areas have been confiscated
or compromised by its construction. Reports indicate that the Israeli army
has bulldozed more than one million trees in the past few years.

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