Category Archives: Uncategorized

Military & Settler Vandalism Escalates as Court Battle over South Hebron Hills Heats Up

We continue to follow, report and support the struggle of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank’s southernmost region, to continue living on their ancestral lands which they legally own.

One would think that in an enlightened society such a simple request would be guaranteed beyond doubt. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. For an entire generation, the Occupation regime, aided and egged on by the settlers that regime has introduced into the region, has been trying to uproot a few thousand indigenous residents. The mechanisms have ranged from military edicts, bad-faith legalistic arguments in court, pressure on the ground, and naked violence and vandalism.

On the court front, residents have last week achieved what seems like a minor victory. The Occupation regime now insists that “only” 8 Massafer-Yatta villages be evacuated and destroyed, instead of the 12 that the original 1999 edict declared to be part of an IDF “firing range”. According to lawyers who represent the residents, during the court battle the regime offered this reduction from 12 to 8 in exchange for stopping the struggle. Now the regime has been (apparently) forced to do so in exchange for nothing. The regime probably sees now that its flimsy – no, outrageous – arguments that it can declare a “firing range” over an entire stretch of populated land and pretend the people there have never existed, has very little chance of winning the day, even in the skewed playing field of Israel’s own courts. Therefore, it perhaps tries to appear more “rational” and “reasonable” by excluding 4 villages from the count. The High Court has responded by erasing the original 12-village petition, and inviting plaintiffs to resubmit an adjusted one for the 8 villages within several months, without any impact on their petition rights.

That victory noted, the IDF still controls the region very tightly, and has continued to try and inflict misery and intimidation upon residents, in the hope that they leave of their own accord. This summer’s campaign has started, as reported here, with sweeping evacuation and demolition decrees, in apparent violation of the pending court case. Now, during the first week of August the IDF raided two of the 4 villages removed from its evacuation edict! Then, on August 7 it raided Jinba village, which is among the 8 still included in the court case. Images of this “heroic” use of military might and resources against defenseless civilians, are below.

The pictures were taken in Jinba by Btselem activists, and transmitted to us by Guy Butavia. The raids were implemented using helicopters, which landed and took off in the village 6 times.

The cave dwellers’ hamlet of Jinba is one of the largest and oldest of this type of locality in the cave region of the South Hebron Hills\Massafer Yatta region. This being summer, many children who normally stay in Yatta during the school year (because no adequate secondary school exists in the cave-dwelling region) were in the village. The residents’ sheep, as usual, were also around, receiving the military’s attention as well:

Intimidation alone was not enough for the brave soldiers, so they also tossed out the contents of some closets, and spilled large jugs of milk and cream.

Amira Hass reported this raid on Haaretz, but apparently that newspaper’s English mirror is now attempting again to charge a premium for reading the only somewhat-independent mainstream Israeli source for news on the Occupation.

Then, on August 16, the region’s settlers once again pitched in. As Operation Dove reports:

In the afternoon of August 16th some Palestinians discovered that an olive grove situated in Humra valley had been recently destroyed during the night, according to a Palestinian. Thirty olive trees were broken or severely damaged. The olive grove belongs to a Palestinian family that lives in Yatta, a Palestinian town close to At-Tuwani. The area in which the olives trees were cut is located in front of Havat Ma’on, an illegal outpost.

The amount of Palestinian trees tore down and damaged [in the region] since January 2012 rises to 97: a largest number is located in Humra valley. The olive grove’s destruction represents several problems of subsistence for Palestinians. Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and South Hebron Hills since 2004.

Once again, the settlers and the military Occupation prove in action that they are two arms of the same beast: the beast of nationalist supremacy, dispossession and violence. In addition, over the past few days the military has confiscated private Palestinian vehicles in the region, under the pretext of “unauthorized driving inside a firing range.” The Occupation makes a joke of the concept “issue pending court decision”, and uses its power on the ground to intimidate and forcibly drive people off their land.

So far, the residents, aided by concerned citizens of Israel and around the world, have remained determined to stand up for their rights.

More images from the two vandalism incidents can be found below (credit for both sets goes to Guy Butavia).

A New Bio-Gas System in Palestinian Susya

in May 2010, the Bio-Gas project was launched to install systems for producing gas from sheep and goat dung for the domestic energy needs of the Palestinian hamlet of Susya (Susiya). This project was the initiative of Yair Teller, together with The Villages Group and Arava Institute. The first sytem was installed in the dwelling compound of the Hajj Ismail Nawaj’ah family, in Susya. Subsequently, two similar systems were installed in the dwelling compounds of another two families of the same clan in Susya. These are small systems of 4 cubic meters, each providing one family’s cooking needs.

In the two years since, Yair Teller continued developing his expertise in bio-gas. He joined three partners – Erez Lantzer, Oshik Efrati and Danny Dunayevsky, who together formed the Ecogas company. Ecogas and the Arava Institute are now pursuing the development of additional bio-gas systems in Palestinian Susya. Currently, together with the villagers, they are working to install a new 16-cubic-meter system in the area of the Hasan Shinran family in the western part of Susya.

The eastern part of Susya is inhabited mostly by families of the Nawaj’ah clan and is in Area C (in which permission for construction has been temporarily left in the hands of the Israeli Occupation authorities according to the Oslo Accords).

Last month, the Occupation regime’s “civil administration” issued demolition orders for most of the dwellings in that part of Susya. The residents, with the help of the Village Group and many other Paletinian, Israeli and international partners, are fighting these unjust orders in court and in the public sphere.

The western part, inhabited mostly by families of the Shinran clan is in Area B (where construction is authorized mostly by the Palestinian Authority). The new bio-gas system is constructed in this part of Susya, and is relatively safe. Unlike its predecessors, this system is meant to supply not only gas for family needs, but also for winter heating of the local schoolhouse – is also under threat of demolition by the “civil administration”, who claims it lies about 150 meters inside Area C.

According to plan, as soon as the bio-gas system itself will be completed, the second phase will begin, whereby two green-houses will be created at this site: one for educational purposes, in the area of the school. The schoolchildren of Susya will cultivate this greehouse under guidance from Arava Institute instructors. Thus they will learn to apply ecological principles in farming. The second green-house will be built in the Hasan Shinran compound, and to grow vegetables for both local consumption and marketing. Crops of both planned green-houses will be fertilized by compost produced from the surplus production processes of the gas system.

In conclusion, to the best of our understanding, when the heart listens, other hearts are heard, and fertile cooperation ensues. Even if the demolishing hand carries out its threats, the hearts will go on beating. Hearts are not to be demolished.

Ehud and Erella, on behalf of The Villages Group

“Civil Administration” and Settlers Join Forces to Destroy Palestinian Susya. Did the Court Wink and Nod?

In March, we reported here about an unusual Israel High Court petition by Israeli settler-run groups, demanding that the (fraudulently named) “Civil Administration” carry out demolition orders in Palestinian Susya (also transliterated “Susiya”). Settler pressure upon the government to make Palestinian life more difficult, and to drive Palestinians out of their homes, is nothing new. The two main innovations in that petition spearheaded by the NGO “Regavim”, were 1. Turning the reality and the human-rights terminology on its head, calling the Palestinian residents, whose presence predates the Israeli arrival in 1967, “illegal outpost settlers” and casting the settlers themselves as the indigenous, oppressed and discriminated party – and all that in a formal legal document!
and 2. For some reason that I still cannot understand, the settler plaintiffs had dug up a wealth of “Civil Administration” documents, and proved beyond reasonable doubt that its demolition policy in Palestinian villages has nothing to do with security.

Since the “Civil Administration” is a military body, unaccountable to the Palestinian residents and for all practical purposes inaccessible to them, and since “Security” is the only pretext under which such a pretense at governance can justify itself – one can only wonder why the settlers thought that exposing the fraud of the “Security” charade hiding the oppression, outright robbery and destruction meted out by the “Civil Administration” would help their case and not the Palestinians’. Regardless, in view of the very harsh words against the “Civil Administration” in that settler petition, one might think that settlers and “Administration” are bitter rivals.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the extremely worrisome events of the past two weeks suggest that the entire court petition itself is being used as a charade, in order to provide the “Civil Administration” with a pretext to destroy Palestinian villages such as Susya, once and for all.

It should be emphasized, that Susya’s immediate neighbors, the Israeli residents of its namesake settlement Sussya built on Susya’s lands, are not passive bystanders by any means. The “Sussya Co-operative Association” is co-plaintiff in the Regavim appeal, and ostensibly it is the settlers themselves who called Regavim in, to help them clear their surroundings of those pesky Arabs for good. More details about this settler “lawfare” action, are in the first post.

According to recent events, Israel’s High Court of Justice has been cast in the role of an (unwitting?) accomplice. Here is how and why.

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On June 7, the Court issued an injunction (Hebrew original, pdf) on “Regavim”s frivolous, anti-Palestinian petition. Rather than be laughed out of court for filing a petition full of distortions, racist statements, guilt-by-association accusations and outright lies, “Regavim” has been treated as a respectable plaintiff. However, the injunction in itself sould not necessarily spell doom for the Palestinian residents. Here are the main excerpts from the court’s interim decision:

2. From the material and the discussion, it turns out that there are other petitions pending at this same Court, by [Palestinian] people who have built structures around Susya, petitions that among other things attack the demolition orders. In other words, petitions diametrically opposite to this one. …This matter should be discussed as a single one, with the participation of all sides [to the various cases]. We expect a joint statement [presumably by Palestinian plaintiffs]….within 45 days…

Another statement should be submitted by respondents 1-3 ["Civil Administration", minister of security and IDF central-command general], with an update regarding treatment of [Palestinian] permit requests, approval of development plans, and so forth.

3. Another matter…. we accept the plaintiffs’ request. We hereby grant an injunction, forbidding respondents 4-34 [Palestinian residents] to carry out any construction without permit in the two areas discussed in the appeal. The injunction will stand until our verdict.”

At face value, despite (again) the disheartening respect with which a mendacious assortment of lies and incitement has been treated by Israel’s highest legal authority, there is nothing particularly alarming in this interim decision; arguably the opposite.

The Court did not ask the “Civil Administration” to go ahead and destroy Palestinian property. On the contrary, it mentions “permit requests” and “development plans” – hinting the justices know full well, that these are categorically denied from Palestinians by the fraudulent “Administration”. Even the stop-work injunction itself is a moot point. The “Administration” which scarcely hides its view of South Hebron hills Palestinian residents as illegitimate squatting pests, takes care to issue a demolition order on practically every two stones put together by a Palestinian in the region. By definition, any action by local Palestinians, except leaving the area for good, is deemed “illegal” by the “Civil Administration”.

In other words, in view of the injunction and the Court’s declared intention to shine a light and put some order into the sordid business of Susya’s construction permits or lack thereof, perhaps the “Civil Administration” might start to want to clean up its act, before it is publicly shamed?

Well, of course, the opposite has happened. The “Administration” is now in an all-out a rush to destroy as many Palestinian structures as possible before the Court weighs in – possibly, all of Palestinian Susya. These intentions were hand-delivered to residents a few days ago, together with high-resolution photographs delineating the areas in which all structures are to be destroyed. Residents were given only a few days (first 3 days, then 14, and now back down to 7) to submit an appeal.

Below is some more background from Rabbis for Human Rights, who together with many other groups are organizing a demonstration at Susya this Friday, June 22. The “Administration”, meanwhile, seems determined to start the destruction even before that. Will Israel’s High Court of Justice intervene to remind the “Civil Administration”, that cases pending in court should not be pre-empted by violence on the ground – or will the honorable justices sit on their hands and become part and parcel of the ongoing land-robbery charade? Please stay tuned.

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Following “Regavim”s petition, which requires the state to destroy the village of Susya, yesterday the “civil administration” issued six immediate demolition orders. These are based on old orders from the 90s and from 2001. Orders that Israel chose not to implement so far. Although original orders applied to individual structures, these new orders are applied to continuous, thousands of square meters, includes dozens of buildings in some of them. The orders apply to most of the village of Susya. Among the expected to be demolished, kindergarten, clinic and renewable solar systems, the only electricity source in the village.

In those six compounds live about 200 persons and hundreds of animals. They are expected to become homeless.

While Palestinians residents worry about the coming of bulldozers to destroy their lives, a few hundred meters away in Sussya – the namesake Israeli settlement built and funded by the government — bulldozers continue to prepare and build (image below).

Some background on the village of Susya and “Regavim” petition:

The Palestinian village of Susya has existed for centuries, long before the modern Jewish settlement of Sussya was built in 1983. In 1986 the Israeli authorities expropriated part of the village’s residential land in order to establish an “archeological site”. Several villagers from Susya were evicted from their land and homes and suffered incalculable anguish.
Immediately after the eviction, having no alternative, the villagers moved to nearby agricultural areas that they owned in an attempt to rehabilitate their lives.

However, in 2001 several families from the village (the Nawaja’a, Halis, Sharitach, Abu Sabha, and other families) became the victims of a second eviction. This time it was exceptionally violent: tents, caves, and cisterns were destroyed and blocked. Agricultural fields were dug up and farm animals put to death.
At the same time, the settlers established their own outposts. In 2001 the “Dahlia Farm” was set up and in 2002 an outpost was put up in the “Sussya Archeological Site” where the Palestinians had been evicted on the pretext that the land was intended for public use.
On September 26, 2001 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the structures torn down and the land returned to the villagers. Despite this, the army and settlers continued to attack the Palestinian villagers and prevent them from reclaiming the 3000 dunam (750 acres) around the Jewish Sussya settlement.

The prevention of this reclamation was the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court (5825/10) in 2010. The aim of the appeal was two-fold: to allow the villagers to reclaim their land and to stop the settlers from attacking the villagers.
In October 2011 the military commander announced that large tracts of the appellants’ land were “off-limits to Israelis”, hoping in this way to end the flagrant trespassing and the takeover of the land.

A few months after this appeal was submitted, the settlers submitted a counter-appeal in return.
The upshot of the counter-appeal was a third eviction of the Nawaja’a family that had managed to return to its own land in 2001.
Susya today: At least 42 orders to halt work and 36 requests for building permits have been submitted. At least 19 cases are still in the courts.
The “Regavim” plea was submitted against anyone who joined the Supreme Court appeal on Susya, and in revenge for that appeal. Evidence of this is that the plea was submitted automatically without examination, it was aimed at anyone who cooperated with the Palestinian appeal (land owners) even though only a few of them live in the village and/or have buildings in the village.
In this appeal, the settler appellants are trying to paint a false picture of symmetry between homes in the Palestinian village of Susya and the Jewish outposts. The transfer of a civilian population, the settlers, to the occupied territories runs counter to international law. The Palestinian villagers did not “take over” their land. This has been their private land for generations.

In the appeal, the charge was raised regarding the villagers as a “security risk.” Reality challenges the logic of this claim.
The Sussya settlement purposely doesn’t have a fence. Closing the area to Israelis illustrates the Palestinians’ need for protection from the settlers. Within the framework of the original Susya appeal, 93 events were presented as cases of violence perpetrated by the settlers, some of them as masked vigilantes. Since then many more incidents have occurred.

There is a basic failure by the authorities responsible for the planning in the region. This is especially obvious in Area C. The authorities are pursuing a policy whose goal is to transfer the Palestinian population to areas outside of Area C. This is apparent in the number of building permits, number of building demolition orders, and lack of planning for the protected population. At the same time, Jewish settlements and outposts are expanding, and more are on the way.
Since the 1970s there has been a drastic reduction in the number of building permits given to the Palestinians. In 1972, 97% of the 2134 requests submitted were approved. In 2005 only 6.9% were approved (13 out of the 189 requests submitted). The sharp reduction in permits parallels the dramatic decrease in the number of requests. In the same period 18,472 homes were built in the Jewish settlements!
This trend has continues and has even intensified. In 2009 only 6 permits were granted to Palestinians; and 7 in 2010.
In 2000-2007 one-third of the demolition orders in the Palestinian sector were eventually carried out, compared to 7% in the Jewish settlements. In recent years there has been a disturbing growth in the number of building demolitions. In 2008-2011 the Civil Administration pulled down 1101 buildings in the Palestinian sector and rejected every single building plan that the Palestinians submitted! The settlements have their plans approved and development made possible.

If the figures for building permits were reasonable and compatible with the population growth and natural growth rate of the village, as was done in the 1970s and 1980s, this would solve the lack of housing for Palestinians. In addition, it would eliminate the perpetual fear of expected demolitions.


The planning failure is also reflected in the lack of basic infrastructures for the Palestinian population, such as electricity, water, education, and health services. The settlers, on the other hand, are recipients of exemplary urban planning.
These facts show that this is not a case of legal constraints, but of intentional government policy. It is nothing short of the hushed-up transfer of Palestinians out of Area C.

As noted, these days, residents of Susya are fighting for their right to continue living on their lands. Please help them.

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The political elephant in the room in this case, is of course the “Ulpana Hill” affair rocking Israeli’s political and government circles. At the Uplana Hill expansion of the Bet El settlement, the developers built some of the homes in full knowledge that this is private land that had not even been bought from its Palestinian owners. The owners went to the High Court of Justice, winning decision after decision ordering the government to stop construction and hand back the land. The “Civil Administration”, whose headquarters sit at the same Bet El settlement, issued demolition orders, but apparently with no intention to carry them out. And so construction was completed, settlers populated the buildings, all the while with crystal-clear court decisions that the land is outright robbed. Finally in 2012 the Court found the government in contempt.

Now “creative” solutions are being debated: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s idea is to saw off the entire buildings, and transplant them whole into another location in the settlement, to the tune of some 100 million shekels. And he has publicly declared that “we will not allow the courts to be used as an axe to grind the settlement movement.”

The suspicion among Palestinian and Israeli activists, is that the High Court, feeling threatened, might want to score some easy political grace points with Israel’s government and the settlers, at the expense of Susya and other Palestinian towns and villages. With two new right-wing appointees sitting in the Court, including its chair who heads the Susya case, there are reasons to be suspicious.

“Law Enforcement” Destroys Prayer House, Homes, School – Just Because They’re for Arabs

Last Thursday, November 24, employees of the Israeli company “E.T. Legal Services”, hired by the deceptively named “Civil Administration” arm of Israel’s military Occupation regime in the West Bank, demolished a mosque. Among other things.

To add insult to injury, Occupation forces arrested two young women for passive nonviolent resistance (see the video below). This is not your vanilla American “Occupy” arrest-and-release, get lawyer-and-defendant-rights arrest. The girls were entered into a sealed military vehicle and carted off to an unknown location (which eventually turned out to be an Israeli jail some 3 hours drive away), without any means – or rights – to defend their obvious innocence.

On that very auspicious day, the Occupation goons also handed out demolition orders to an impoverished village’s schoolhouse. Yes, that is the very same, one-year-old school whose pictures we brought to you in the last Villages Group blog post.

Now look.

Many people are unnerved, confused, even offended, hearing the terms “apartheid” or “ethnic cleansing” with regards to Israel, or even only with regards to the Occupation dictatorship Israel insists to continue running in its backyard.

I understand.

But I also know that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. This is beyond disgusting. This is beyond apartheid and ethnic cleansing and squabbling over terminology.

In its actions, especially in “Area C” that comprises 60% of the West Bank, Israel’s government is trying to murder the soul of a people and wipe it out as a nation – leaving only “human dust” that can be blown hither and thither and molded into whatever shape its rulers feel like.

And you know what I, personally as an Israeli, find MOST insulting? Two things.

1. That all this outrage is carried out mainly in order to safeguard the petty thievery of some scraps of land and property belonging to people far poorer and less privileged than ourselves. While we have more than enough to live on, and enough places to live. A “luxury robbery”, if you will. And
2. That all the while, two generations and counting, mainstream Israel pretends that this kind of stuff is not happening on a daily basis, brushes it off, explains it away, lies about it with a straight face – and continues to maintain the ridiculous charade of cultural and moral “superiority” over the Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.

If you are Jewish, and/or hold Israel dear, and/or don’t like reading this, WAKE UP. This is not about a specific politician, and certainly not about me or my choice of words. The actions described below are those of a fine-tuned machinery in operation for decades. It is ruthless, it is reckless, it is remorseless and it is soulless – and unless it is stopped, it will eventually leave nothing worth saving in Israel-Palestine, on all sides of whatever lines you choose to draw on that suffering land. So if you read this, you can say many things – but don’t say you haven’t been warned. Multiple times.

We will try and engage larger organizations for action on these matters. Meanwhile, you can start protesting this outrage with an email to Israel’s defense minister, sar@mod.gov.il or pniot@mod.gov.il, fax +972 3 6976711 (they are said to hate faxes), or the ministry’s US outlet (info@goimod.com, fax 212-551-0264). Besides the demolitions that already took place, don’t forget to mention the school that was just served with a demolition order.

The pretext for demolishing the school (“without permit”, of course – see above and below for the non-permit regime in Area C), is that it is claimed to be some 100 meters, maybe less, inside Area C, bordering on Area B. In Area B, the deceptively named “Civil Administration” has zero formal jurisdiction (don’t worry, then the Occupation’s other arms can come and carry out “security” demolitions if push comes to shove). In Area C, Israel is carrying out its newest social experiment and innovative contribution to the region in its role as “The Only Democracy”(TM): full control with zero accountability, with a generous helping of taxation-and-demolition without representation to the local Arabs. And of course, forget about building permits in Area C. Those are for Jews only.

I end my personal rant, and here is the report from Ehud, followed by some more background information for those interested and/or those in deep-freeze denial, who for some indecipherable reason still bother themselves with reading this.

Some of the events of the day have been filmed and uploaded to Youtube by Israeli activist Guy Batavia. Please watch it. There are more segments on his Youtube channel.


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The demolitions that the Israeli Occupation forces carried out in the the same day in South Hebron Hills (Thursday, 24.11.11) show that the duration of the bureaucracy leading up to the demolition itself changes from case to case: in the instance of Muhammad Mussa Mu’ghanem from Susya it was over within a few weeks. Without legal defense , no more than two months passed from the date the orders were issued to stop the works until Thursday, 24.11 when the bulldozer, escorted by army and police forces, arrived and demolished the two temporary structures that had served the Mughanem family in the past months.

On the other hand, in the case of the cave-dweller hamlet of Umm Fakra (sometimes spelled “Umm Faghara”), the same bureaucratic process leading up to the demolition has lasted much longer: in spring 2000, the inhabitants returned to their hamlet from which they had been expelled in winter 1999. According to a High Court of Justice ruling enabling their return, they were prevented from any construction work until the final ruling in their case. The years went by and the final ruling was not given. The freeze preventing any possible development at Umm Fakra (including the forbidden connection to the power grid) became a permanent fact.

About 4 years ago, the inhabitants of Umm Fakra began to breach this freezing order and dared build a small stone mosque for their own use. At the same time, the village elder, Mahmoud Hamamde, put up a structure with two dwelling rooms on top of his cave, for the use of his growing family. The following years saw some more structures built in Umm Fakra.

The Occupation’s deceptively named “Civil Administration” has issued work cessation orders against all of these additions, shortly after their construction. The lawyers hired by the owners managed to delay the Occupation bureaucracy’s inevitable action for several years, until last Thursday (24.11.11): two bulldozers arrived at the hamlet, escorted by Occupation agents, soldiers and policemen, and completely demolished the village mosque and the living structure of the Hamamde family that served as a rabbit pen. Only one of the two rabbits at the time survived, the other died in the process. While demolishing at Umm Fakra, the Occupation forces arrested two young women of the hamlet – the mukhtar’s daughter, Sausan Hamamda, a 21-year old student, and her 17-year old relative, Amal Hamamda. The two were taken to Tel Mond prison inside Israel.

From the little information we have at this point, apparently the Israeli police intends to accuse these two young women (whose professional and academic studies we have been supporting) of serious offenses, as might cause their relatively long incarceration.

Ehud Krinis
The Villages Group

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International scholar and Taayush activist David Shulman also posted a piece earlier this month – not on these specific actions, but on the South Hebron Hills regime in general:

The senior commander from the [deceptively named] Civil Administration turned up to inspect us, together with thirteen bored, awkward soldiers. He’s the same guy I met at [Israeli outpost] Avigayil last month– easy-going, fluent in Arabic, all charm and good nature; the one who put an end to the Jibrin family’s plowing that day. He’s done it again this morning, when the Jibrin farmers attempted once more to plow near the ugly outpost.

In fact, this pattern is now well established. They manage to plow for a few minutes, the settlers come out, then the army arrives, and the cheerful man from the [deceptively named] Civil Administration plays his inevitable role. The courts have confirmed that the land belongs to the Jibrin, but they only manage to plow it bit by bit, stolen moments before the machine stirs, an ungainly beast, and drives them away.

…I suppose we should be grateful. You get used to the whole lunatic business. It even begins to seem normal, the normalcy of the Pax Israelica in the territories. That is: you become habituated to a world dominated by outright theft and all that derives from this single, organizing principle.

…One can dither about whether the term “apartheid” is appropriate for the reality of the Occupation… But can Palestinians get on an Israeli bus passing their homes in the West Bank? Can Palestinian drivers use the roads built for settlers and settlers only? Can Palestinians get a permit to add a room to their house if it’s in Area C, or even to put up a tent or an outhouse? Can they graze their sheep on their own lands without being driven off at gunpoint by settlers or soldiers or both? Can they put down a gravel road that traverses their fields without the [deceptively named] Civil Administration stopping the work and impounding their tractors? Do they enjoy even the most minimal of civil liberties? Do they have legal recourse in the not uncommon event that they are suddenly stripped of their land, their possessions, and their freedom?

Regarding Area C in general, earlier this year Amira Hass reported that in 2010, demolitions of Palestinian structures in this region had tripled.

The UN OCHA wrote about the Area C no-permit-for-Palestinians regime,

In area C, a building permit from the Israeli Civil Administration is required for all types of construction including rudimentary dwellings, pit-latrines and even fences. According to OCHA, Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in 70% of area C, while in the remaining 30% there is a range of restrictions and administrative requisites that greatly reduce the possibility of obtaining a permit. Given the difficulties in obtaining construction permits, many Palestinians living in area C take the risk to build without a permit, therefore facing the threat of administrative demolition by the Israeli Authorities.

There’s a wealth of information all over the Web – for example, a recent Btselem report about disposession in the predominantly-Area-C Jordan Valley.

Keep in mind that Area C was conceived under Oslo as a temporary staging ground, to be rather quickly transfered to Palestinian control – pending final outline of borders on the ground (those famous elusive few-percent “land swaps”). As such, the jurisdiction of any Israeli body to tell any Palestinian what to build in Area C, where and how, is extremely questionable.

Instead, when the process faltered, Israel started behaving as if the area was its own to keep. Except, well, the democracy, basic decency and rule-of-law parts of governing. Among other things.

The thick irony is that the knee-jerk reaction in Israel to any story of such demolitions is “What do you want? The Law must be upheld!” This stupid response would have been funny, if the reality they help hide wasn’t so sad and revolting.

Please help us stop this ugly, corrupt-to-the-core madness. Thank you.

PS: In case this is the first time you read of such illegal demolitions by the deceptively named “Civil Administration”, or have a short memory –

then just here on the Villages Group, just with respect to South Hebron Hills, we reported about such vandalism (demolitions, road blockages, and other “contributions” to culture and society)
here (2008 road blockage) and
here (2008 demolition orders to the mosque that was eventually destroyed last week) and
here (home demolitions, 2008) and
here (blocking roads again, preventing water supply) and
here (building settler-only roads that blocks and damages wells and shepherding) and
here (soldier idly watch as settlers attack people and vandalizes property) and
here (another demolition order, Umm Al-Kheir 2009) and
here (Palestinians finally return under court-order to a village that was ethnically cleansed, to see the scale of destruction there) and
here (student from A-Tuwani arrested, tortured, released) and
here (play-by-play description from Prof. Shulman, of how soldiers issue an illegal “Closed Military Zone” order to drive sheperds off their legally-owned land) and
here (soldiers try to halt public work that did have a permit; fortunately Israeli activists were present and prevented the stoppage) and
here (another Shulman description of the military harrassment sheperds undergo, after a new illegal settler outpost had been set up on their land) and
here (2010 demolition of water cisterns, some of them ancient) and
here (home demolitions, Umm Al-Kheir, 2 months ago) and
here (destruction of line connecting village to Palestinian power grid, see pic).

These reports come only from a tiny sparsely-inhabited piece of land. There are many, many more such “cultural activities” carried by the Israel government, showering freedom, democracy and progress on the Palestinian residents under its total control, all across Area C.

Also, I found some more phone and fax numbers for the Ministry of Defense. Phone: +972 3 6975349 Fax: +972 3 6976218 /691 6940 / 696 2757 / 691 7915/

Susya Elementary School – Second Year Opens

The local school of Palestinian Susya, founded last year, has opened its second year of activity this month.

On Thursday, September 22nd, we visited and met the school staff: Principal Muhammed, and the four teachers – Amjad, Nizar, Ahmad and Hima. Our expectations and hopes that the Susya school will be growing vigorously and that the number of classes will increase from year to year, have been put aside as of yet: this year, too, there are only four classes (1st through 4th grades). The limited budget allotted to the school by the Palestinian Authority does not enable it to recruit new teachers. Hence, adding classes and expanding the school’s framework are still impossible. The number of pupils remains small – 32 in all.

Parent involvement in the school is highly visible. The school infrastructure has developed greatly with their help: walls were built with doors and windows, replacing the initial tents that collapsed during last winter’s storms. Still, the material circumstances of the school remain very challenging: it is not connected to water and electrical power supply, and lacks toilets and a playground.

The Susya local school’s potential is strong: the teaching staff is dedicated and serious, and the pupils’ achievements have improved considerably, compared with their own progress at previous schools they attended.

We of the Villages Group are very interested in helping the Susya School progress further. Danny, one of our members, has contacted the Al Zahara Elementary School in Tira (Palestinian town inside Israel, 20 km NE of Tel Aviv). This bond has already led to donations of books and study materials in Arabic and English. Moti, another member, contacted several Israelis willing to help the school with donations and equipment for several years. Jessica, a British volunteer, is at present giving the school teachers an English workshop. At the principal’s request, we are now trying to find a volunteer Hebrew teacher for the school’s teachers themselves.

We wish the pupils and teachers of the Susya local school a calm and fruitful school year, and hope to tighten our cooperation with them.

Ehud Krinis
The Villages Group

Another Round of Israeli Military Vandalism at Umm-Al-Kheir

Yesterday morning, Thursday September 8 2011, around 7 AM, the IDF military regime’s “Civil Administration” officials arrived at Umm-Al-Kheir, accompanied by a bulldozer and military forces, to destroy homes.

The residents of Umm-Al-Kheir – situated in the West Bank, roughly 8km north of its southernmost border – are Bedouins, originally living on land that became part of Israel. They were driven out following the 1948 war (see more details here), and in the 1950s purchased the land on which they live, which was then under Jordanian rule.

the 1980s the nearby Karmel settlement was established and subsidized by the Israeli government. Like all settlements, Karmel continues to expand and encroach on more and more Umm-Al-Kheir lands. The “Civil Administration” – which, on land matters, is little more than the executive arm of the settler movement despite being formally part of the IDF – always does the settlers’ bidding. Controlling the vast “Area C”, about half of the West Bank, it issues virtually no building permits to any Palestinian. And for Umm-Al-Kheir, like in other places, this “Administration” has done nothing except to inflict repeated rounds of destruction – in 2007, in 2008, and a demolition order the residents have been fighting since 2009 – which is apparently the legalistic pretext for the current destruction.

The damage done this time around: an outhouse

(see the linked story, for a poignant description of what happens after Karmel settlers succeed in depriving their neighbors of their sanitation infrastructure)

A family’s living tent (note the Karmel settlement’s houses in the background)

And a tin shack that was home to ten souls.

The state-employed vandals notified residents that they will be back in two weeks to destroy some more. Following yesterday’s demolition, the same crew attempted to destroy a nearby power line installed by a Palestinian company. In the process, one of the vandals fell off the electric pole and he is now fighting for his life at the Beersheva hospital.

Please write to the Israeli Ministry of Defense – either directly (pniot@mod.gov.il, fax +972 3 6976711) or to its Mission office in the US (info@goimod.com, fax 212-551-0264).

Ask them to stop these criminal, indefensible demolitions, and to compensate the victims.

Thank you.

Report on Summer Camps at Susya and Umm-Al-Kheir

The summer camps at Susya and Umm-Al-Kheir have just ended. Both camps are organized locally, and funded with the help of outside donors. Villages Group activists help arrange these funds, work with organizers to help meet their needs, and – most rewardingly – visit the camps to interact with the kids.

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At Palestinian Susya, this has been the third consecutive year for the camp. As mentioned above, this has been a homegrown local initiative from the start. This year has seen an impressive increase in the number of participating children: more than 100 children took part each and every day for two weeks. They were divided into several groups, all led by local counselors. Many other Susya residents pitched in to help when needed, and contributed much to the camp’s success.

From our perspective, having accompanied the camp for three years, we at the Villages Group are especially impressed and encouraged this year by the widespread local mobilization, by the range of activities, by the strong organizational skills and by the spirit of participation and enjoyment prevailing among both children and grownups during the camp.

It was a time of pleasant respite for the residents of Susya, who face daily struggles with the Israeli Occupation forces, and especially with the settlers of Israel-established Sussya – who are doing all they can to embitter the lives of their Palestinian neighbors and drive them off their ancestral lands.

Funding for the camp was obtained from many individual donors, most of them Israelis, whose soul has been attached – from anear and afar – to the fate of Palestinian Susya.

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group

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In mid-July, for the first time, a two-week-long summer camp was launched for children at Umm al Kheir, a Bedouin hamlet in the South Hebron Hills. The camp is organized and directed by the younger adults of this community.

Several families at Umm al Kheir have suffered extreme hardships due to their proximity to the settlement Carmel that was built on their lands thirty years ago. Heavily subsidized by the Israeli government, Carmel has continued to expand in recent years, including its chicken coops and new neighborhoods (one already constructed and populated, the other in its planning stages). The settlement has been closing in on the Bedouin families from all sides, threatening to strangle them – a process backed up by intense house demolition actions carried out by the Civil Administration and the Israeli Occupation authorities.

In view of these aggressive dispossession processes, the young educated generation at Umm al Kheir, supported by groups, organizations and individuals from the outside, has been taking measures such as founding a community center and organizing this summer camp. They hope to give the local residents, especially the children, a sense of creativity and vivaciousness facing the brutal pressures constantly exerted upon them by the Occupation apparatus.

The activities of the Umm al Kheir community center in general and the summer camp in particular are supported by the
British-Jewish fund ‘British Shalom-Salaam Trust.’

Here are a few photos from the closing day of this new summer camp. The potential here is great. Indeed, the five-women team of Umm al-Kheir’s summer-camp: Naama, Sara, Ikhlas, Thaghrid and Dalal, did their best and proved once again that by working together they are capable of doing many wonderful things for their community. We hope that the next years will show that Umm al-Kheir’s summer camp will grow to become as successful and enduring as the one at Susiya.

Yours

Ehud Krinis, Erella Dunayevsky (on the right in the last image) and Efrat Nakash (who took all the pictures featured here)
Villages Group

More from the Salem Music Center: Q&A with the Kids

The Villages Group continues to work closely with Salem’s Music Center, leading to ever-expanding relationships between the Center and the music-education community in Israel.

Below (in reverse chronological order) are descriptions of two visits from Tel Aviv to Salem that took place over the past few weeks. The opposite type of visit is far harder to arrange, although we did manage to pull one such visit off earlier this year.

The June 24 visit (scroll down to the 2nd part of the post) was especially illuminating, since at the suggestion of a Center teacher the visitors asked the students about their feelings and opinions regarding their music lessons and the broader context of childhood under Occupation.

——————– July 7:

Dear All,

On Wednesday, 7 July was a beautiful day to visit the new friends of the center: Ms Nellie who specializes in music and the conflict, Ehud and And Teacher Ruti. We talked about many topics related to the Center at Jubier’s house.

After that we went to the place of training and Ruti has worked to give a great music lesson for kids. We gained a lot of information from the lesson.

These are some pictures of the visit:

With warm regards,

Fadi Eshtayeh

Coordinator of Salem Music Centre.
fadi.ishteh@gmail.com

——————– June 24:

On Friday June 24 we paid another visit to the Salem Music Center. The visit was initiated by music teachers Dr. Ruti Katz of Tel Aviv Municipal Arts High School A, and Dr. Dochy Lichtenstein of Levinsky College of Education, joined by Ram – the high school’s principal, Galit and Orit – lecturers at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Tamar and her son Daniel, Mali and her son Noam, Itamar, and Tal (teacher at the School of Visual Theater, Jerusalem), Erella, Danny, and Ehud of Kibbutz Shoval (members of the Villages Group). Itamar, Noam and Daniel are about to start 10th grade. Itamar and Noam study music at the Arts High School.

The encounter began as Amid (a teacher at the Music Center) led a fun warm-up for all present – pupils and guests. Later, all the music students played a song together – “Katyushka” – chosen by the Salem teachers. Then the song “Kol Dodi” was taught.

Both were performed instrumentally.

After the children of the Music Center played some of their own repertoire, we sat in a large circle and a conversation ensued. Amid suggested that we ask questions, and then Salem children would have their turn.

Here are some of the questions and answers that were heard:

Ruti: How do you feel about our visits?

A student responded that they feel better with the present visit. Other children agreed, nodding.

Ruti: Why did you decide to study music?

  • Because I love music.
  • Because I can express myself through music.
  • I love music but also, beside the Music Center there are no activities for us in the village.
  • At the Music Center we can meet other people.
  • I heard the kids playing instruments so I wanted to as well.
  • Because of the company of other kids.
  • Because it fills up my free time.

Ruti: I understand that some of you study music because it’s the only option. Imagine you could also have theater classes. What would you choose?

Various children answer simultaneously – we would still choose music.

Question: What about sports? Do you have any sports activity?

  • There’s nowhere to practice.
  • No playgrounds.
  • We play on the roads.

Question: And if you could play sports?

Unanimous answer – We would still come to the Music Center.

Question: How many of you have ever been to the beach?

Most of the children never have.

Question: Would you like to visit Israel?

Unanimous answer – yes.

Dochy promised to take steps to organize a trip for them that would include attending an “East West” concert of the Philharmonic and Ensemble “Shesh Besh”, a visit to the beach and a tour of Tel Aviv.

Ruti: How many times a week do you come to the Music Center?

Three times a week.

Ruti: Isn’t it too much? Doesn’t it affect your homework?

  • It’s really not difficult.
  • I like coming here.
  • When you do something you like, it’s fun.
  • It doesn’t affect homework at all.

Ruti: Do you practice your instruments at home?

Yes.

Amid (the teacher): Just this past week, the second year students began to take their instruments home.

Ruti: Do you feel changed at all because of your music studies?

  • I feel smarter.
  • I meet more people.
  • Music studies bring order and system into our lives.

Ruti: Would you like us to come again and that our students would also come and join your studies?

  • Yes.
  • We would like you to teach us, too.
  • We would like to study other types of music, too.

Amid asks: Are you happy in the village?

Nearly a unanimous “yes”, except for a girl who murmured quietly, smiling:

“I’m not”…

Fadi arrives with lunch. The conversation draws to an end, Tal sings Saul Tchernichowsky’s “Credo” in Arabic and Hebrew, and Amid plays two songs.

Recorded by Dr. Ruti Katz

Premiere of a Film Documenting Relationships between Israelis and the People of Palestinian Susiya

Tuesday, September 28th, brought us great satisfaction. On that day, we and many of our friends in Susiya had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of the film “The Human Turbine” at the Haifa International Film Festival.

Over a period of two years from 2008 to 2010, a film crew headed by director Danny Verete and producer Yehuda Bitton documented the evolving ties between the people of Susiya and the Israelis who visit them regularly activists in the Villages Group and the Comet-ME NGOs. The resulting hour-long film follows the various projects made possible by the cooperation between the locals and the Israelis, projects that include the production of sun- and wind-generated electricity for the Susiya families, plans for aid to local students and for professional training for young women, school transportation for the Susiya children, help and consultation in expanding water wells, and more.

The film was well received and viewers described it as deeply moving. Particularly effective is the film’s close attention to personal aspects of the work being done in Susiya. The filmmakers understood that the success of the projects described above is tied inexorably to the personal relations that have developed over the past several years between local residents and the Israelis.

We were fortunate to be able to invite almost twenty of our Susiya friends to join us for the premiere in Haifa—in spite of a general closure which totally prevented Palestinians from crossing the checkpoints to Israel for 10 days during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This was made possible by an invitation from the filmmakers and by our friend Buma Inbar, who obtained the special crossing permits. Following a lunch at the Haifa beach, we took in the panoramic view from atop Mount Carmel, and then watched the film together with our family members, the filmmakers, and other friends and guests.

At the final event of the Haifa Film Festival, the film “The Human Turbines” received an award on behalf of the Other Israel Film Festival in New York. As the Jury of this competition stated: “The film provides a rare glimpse in a world where humanity, compassion and cooperation provide hope for a different life in the complicated reality of the Middle East.” The film “The Human Turbine” is expected to be shown soon on Israeli TV’s Channel 8 and in other venues. We will keep you informed regarding opportunities to view the film, and we also hope to be able to send copies of the film, especially to our friends abroad.

Ehud Krinis (on the left in the beach picture, top right)

UPDATE: The film will be screened at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Saturday night October 30, at 7:30 PM. Also, copies are available for purchase; please email cara@ruthfilms.com.

Songs by Ikhlas-Yasmin Jebara from Salem: Part II

This continues the previous post, showing for the first time songs by our friend Ikhlas.

The picture above was taken a few weeks ago, when Ikhlas visited the Mediterranean Sea for the second time in her life. The sea is only 47km from her home (measured via Google Maps), but the Occupation regime – especially its prisonlike nature during the past decade – prevents most West Bank Palestinians from visiting it. Both of Ikhlas’ beach visits were initiated by the Villages Group. On the first time, Ikhlas and her brother Mohammed were taken to Tel Aviv to meet an Israeli eye specialist, who unfortunately confirmed that their blindness is incurable.

The second time came about after repeated appeals to military authorities, to allow the Jebara family a visit to Israel in order to breath some fresh air of freedom. The family was automatically blacklisted by the Shin Bet after the father Sa’el was murdered by a settler in fall 2004.

The cruelty of the Occupation regime is perhaps most directly illustrated via this story. The settler, a German convert with troubled history, was nonetheless given – like most settlers – an M16 automatic assault rifle by the military for his “self defense”. He then used it to murder an innocent civilian, who happened to be Ikhlas’ dad, in broad daylight. The lengthy legal proceedings end with his conviction of manslaughter. But the judge inexplicably allows the murderer a home leave before his sentence is set. He disappears without a trace, and to this day no one has found him (has anyone even looked for him?). If you find this hard to believe, here’s an account from the Israeli mainstream news site Ynet.

Meanwhile, the victim’s family having lost its father and provider without recourse to justice, is automatically labeled as a “security threat” because now they have a reason to revenge! Therefore, they are placed under even tighter confinement than other Occupied Palestinians.

This year Villages Group activists petitioned the authorities, arguing that 6 years after the murder perhaps the victims should be allowed a one-time reprieve from their punishment, due to their good behavior, and be allowed to visit their friends in Israel. The plea was rejected. Knowing how mindless and arbitrary the Occupation system is, the activists did not give up and submitted the exact same petition again. This time it was accepted. The Jebara family was treated to a day of fun, visiting the homes of their Villages Group friends for the first time ever, and seeing the Mediterranean Sea – second time for Ikhlas and Mohammed, first time ever for their siblings.

This fall, Ikhlas will begin her M.A. studies in English literature at the Nablus University.

———————————

It is perhaps appropriate that unlike the personal tone of Ikhlas’ first offering of songs posted last week, the songs below carry a more political message.

Ikhlas will be happy to communicate with any of the readers. Being in touch with people from faraway places does a great deal to alleviate the depression and suffocation of living under the Occupation regime. Ikhlas’s email address is ikhlas_soh@hotmail.com.

—————————

Believe me we can not dare

Believe me we can not dare
to say that occupation is something that we can not bear
But even if we said it
they will our bodies like pieces of cloth tear
Not by human butchers
rather it has become the machine butcher’s career
Be silent my friend
and do not say whether it is cruel or fair
Because if you said this
you will be thrown in fire

—————————

If you tried to turn your face

If you tried to turn your face
In a moment you will be in the hospital as a critical case
Occupation is willing to chase
Every person who is from the Arabic race
And the steps of history trace
Occupation has no conscience

when it the bodies of Gazan children dismember
in the last December
I am torn by pain when I remember

the bodies of children trampled under the feet
of an unworthy Israeli soldier member

Dying words on their tomb door
saying war is every where

On the heads of the poor
Palestinian life will become sore
You will live in pain more and more
Let it be forever let it be forever

When will facts chant?
When will Justice on her feet stand?
When will we together
in the face of cruelty stand?
When will we our rights defend?
When will we like a bomb explode?
When will we our rights defend ?
Or shall we wait for someone to rescue us?

—————————

Do you know

Do you know what your life is like?
Your life is a play
if you wonder I will say
what role in this life I play

a good person I may be
as a fruitful tree
slave people I can free
if they appreciate they will agree

a source of evil I contribute to life
by carrying my sharp sword and knife
I can steal a husband from his wife
And deprive a person of his life

To me you can describe
What type you want your self to ascribe
No matter you are from this or that tribe
But what really matters is you are mature and ripe

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