Word and Picture Diary: South Hebron Hills Weekly Visit, April 5 2012

As we do every week, last Thursday April 5 2012 we went to visit several Palestinian localities in the South Hebron Hills, with whom we have been in contact for some years now. Two members of our little group – Hamed and Erella – just got back that day from a Britain tour as representatives of the Villages Group. So this week’s small visitor team consisted of Ehud and Danny.

We began with a short visit to the preschool (nursery school) in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir. This preschool, opened nearly a year ago, is located in an old building with several rooms renovated with the aid of UNRWA, close to the Saraya of Umm al-Kheir (a term that during the Ottoman Empire days designated a government structure). Two local teachers run the preschool with about twenty children, and receive their salary through the Villages Group. The preschool has undergone a significant change lately – one teacher is now in charge of the younger children (two-three year olds) in the room used as the ‘bustan’ (pre-preschool), while her colleague is in charge of the older children (four-six years old), in the other room that serves as ‘rauda’, preschool.

From the hill where the Umm al Kheir preschool is located, the young children can see the present and future prospects arranged for them by the Israeli Occupation regime. Heavy equipment is busy developing and expanding the new neighborhood at the nearby Jewish settlement Karmel (Carmel) – a development doubtlessly paid for by the Israeli and American taxpayer. Together with an additional neighborhood planned to emerge soon, the settlement will eventually surround the dwellings in this part of Umm al Kheir from three directions (north, west and south).

This stranglehold is an integral part of the Occupation’s policy. The “Civil Administration”, that regime’s arm supposedly entrusted with providing services to Palestinians, has issued demolition orders on nearly all structures belonging to the Bedouin families living in this part of Umm Al Kheir – including outhouses, sheds etc. Many of these orders have already been carried out. We have written extensively here, both about Umm Al Kheir’s demolitions and about the vicious, discriminatory and fraudulent nature of the “Civil Administration” itself. Well-known literary translator and humanist Ilana Hammerman wrote a feature article about Umm Al Kheir and Karmel, with interviews of both Bedouin and settlers. The article was published a few months ago in Ha’aretz.

From the relatively new preschool at Umm al Kheir, we drove down the road and dirt track winding into the Judean desert for a short visit to the oldest operating preschool in the area. This preschool opened its doors about six years ago, at the Bedouin locality of Hashem al Daraj.

About 30 children crowd into the rickety one-room structure of this preschool together with their teacher, Huda, a native of Umm al Kheir who lives at Hasham al Daraj. Huda has been devotedly running the preschool since its founding, determined to overcome its harsh physical conditions. We first became acquainted with this preschool over two years ago . Since that first visit we took it upon ourselves to raise funds that would ensure Huda of a regular, decent salary, compared to the irregularly-paid pittance she had earned until then. We also connected Huda and her preschool with volunteers from the MachsomWatch organization. They have been coming to the preschool ever since. Jointly with Huda and the artist Eid from Umm al Kheir, The MachsomWatch volunteers hold an arts and creativity workshop for the preschool children every two weeks. Danny’s gesture in the picture show our reluctance to leave Huda’s place where we were so warmly greeted by the children – as we needed to fit visits to other localities into our tight schedule.

In the picture above, the children of Huda’s preschool look out towards the new and much larger building that UNRWA has been erecting for them nearby. Although it is already in an advanced stage of construction, completion is delayed. It is unlikely that the children and their teacher would move in before the end of the summer vacation, when the next school year opens. Much of the credit for the recent progress in constructing pre-school facilities at the region’s Bedouin localities goes to Hamed.

After visiting Huda’s preschool at Hasham Al Daraj, we left the Bedouin part of the South Hebron Hills (the eastern-most part of the region), and headed towards the small cave-dweller hamlet of Tuba. Jewish settlements Maon and Havat Maon had disconnected Tuba years ago from the road to nearby Yatta town. Nowadays access to Tuba is only possible via a much longer roundabout dirt track that leaves the Bedouin area and winds its way over the rocky hills. As we climbed this track in Danny’s jeep, the magnificent sight of the cave-dwelling hamlet area, locally called ‘massafer Yatta’/ ‘massfarat Yatta’ (Yatta’s hinterland) came into view.

After several drought years, the current winter has been relatively wet and the short spring that is about to end has yielded especially beautiful wild-flower expanses and a healthy growth of crops in the small fields scattered along the central track of the cave region. See previous posts describing the general conditions in this region and its hardships.

Tuba is a typical cave-dwellers’ hamlet – in its small population that hardly exceeds a few dozen, the affiliation of its families to larger clans whose life-center is Yatta, the main town of the South Hebron Hills, and in the ongoing, perpetual threat of the Israeli Occupation rule and its agents – soldiers and settlers – over the inhabitants’ lifestyle. Talk of the day in Tuba was the wandering tank that startled the residents out of their night sleep as it lost its way among the wadis of the region, designated by the Occupation authorities as military maneuver zone.

Life in the cave-dwellers area has many typical characteristics. Here we describe two of them: First, the custom of parents and brothers to build toys for the little children by recycling various objects. On our current visit, our camera caught the toy that Ali Awad of Tuba built for his young son, Ism’ail.

Residents of the cave dwelling region, Tuba among them, had lived without electricity or any refrigeration until recently. The local goat-milk cheese is known for its high salinity, a means of preservation for a lengthy period of time without refrigeration. On our visit, we saw blocks of this traditional salty cheese placed to dry near the solar plates installed in Tuba two years ago by the Israeli-Palestinian team of COMET-ME.

COMET-ME is our sister organization. In 2008, renewable-energy experts among Villages Group activists started installing stand-alone solar and wind electricity generators in South Hebron hills communities. A year later, the initiative began to operate independently as COMET-ME, and quickly attained worldwide recognition and support.

Among other benefits, the renewable power units installed by COMET-ME enable residents to increase production and improve the preservation of their dairy products. Unfortunately, the “Civil Administration” has recently threatened to demolish many renewable power installations placed by COMET-ME. About the international struggle now taking place against this travesty, see the organization’s website.

At the end of our Tuba visit, we returned from the caves dwellers area to the Bedouin part and to Umm al Kheir. Unlike the local rural population that has evolved its cave-dwelling lifestyle for centuries, the Bedouins of the region are originally tent-dwellers and do not live in caves. In view of the consistent house demolition policy applied in the part of Umm al Kheir nearest to the Jewish settlement Karmel, a large number of the local residents are forced to continue living in tents. Among others, we visited the tent of the family elder, Hajj Shueib (photographed alongside his youngest daughter Rana and Ehud).

Later we also visited widow Miyaser, whose straw and stones house has been recently demolished by official thugs of our time. Some of you, especially those who support the Villages Group in Durham, Britain, have already had the opportunity to help Miyaser and her seven children by purchasing her embroidery work (in the photograph, Khulud, Miyaser’s daughter, displays her mother’s new embroidery).

Additional pictures from our visit can be viewed by clicking on the thumbnails below.

Erella and Hamed, Villages Group Organizers, on a UK tour.

Hamed Qawasmeh (Palestinian) and Erella Dunayevsky (Israeli) are have just started a joint two-week tour of the UK. They will speak at the venues and on the dates below.

Erella and Hamed represent ” The Villages Group” – a group encouraging cooperation between Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israelis, working jointly on local, small-scale programs and projects involving personal cooperation.

It is our hope that this kind of small steps form nuclei from which a new reality in Israel-Palestine will eventually grow. On the personal level, we are weaving a lasting net of friendship and cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli individuals. For more about the Group’s vision, see here.

Here is a list of talk dates, times and locations:

London: Tuesday 20 March, 7pm
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EP (Hamed only)

Canterbury: Wednesday 21 March, 7.30pm
Dominican Priory, St Peters Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT2 8BD
Organised by the East Kent Justice for Palestinians Group (Hamed only)

London (South): Thursday 22 March, 7pm
The Community Hall, Peabody Estate, Strath Terrace, off St John’s Hill
Clapham SW11 1UZ (very close to Clapham Junction Station)

London (North): Friday 23 March, 7.30pm
Finfuture, 225-229 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, London N4.

Bath: Monday 26 March, 7.30pm
Bath Quaker Meeting House, York Street, Bath BA1 1NG

Barnstaple, North Devon: Tuesday 27 March, 7pm
The Castle Centre, 25 Castle street, Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DR.

Dunbar, East Lothian: Thursday 29 March, 2.30pm, Stenton Bowling Club, Stenton, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland, EH42 1TE. Organised by the Stenton Palestine Group

Edinburgh: Thursday 29 March, 7pm
Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2JL

Glasgow: Saturday, 31 March, 3.30pm
Renfield St. Stephens Church, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4JP

Hexham: Sunday, 1 April, 3:00 pm
Allendale Quaker Meeting, Wooley Burnfoot , Allendale, Hexham NE47 9NE

Durham: Monday, 2 April, 7.30 pm. For further information call Shlomit at 0191 3864320

We hope to meet all our of old friends as well as many new ones.

Erella and Hamed, Villages Group

Settler Front-Group Presses Government to Accelerate Demolition Frenzy, Tripping Itself Up in the Process

We previously reported here on the worrisome escalation in demolition of Palestinian structures in South Hebron Hills. The body issuing the demolition orders is the deceptively-named “Civil Administration”. Contrary to its name (invented in the 1980′s by Ariel Sharon to mislead the outside world), this “Administration” is in fact a military body (its former name was simply “military government”), and its head is a general serving full-time in the Israeli military. It claims authority to run Palestinian civilian life in the less-densely populated West Bank “Area C”, which accounts for some 60% of the territory and about 150,000 Palestinian residents.

We will continue to shine a light upon the ways in which this “Administration” misgoverns Palestinian life. A future post will discuss the demolition orders on solar-wind energy systems installed at rural Palestinian communities by our friends, the Israeli NGO COMET-ME; systems funded with the help of donors and governments across the world.

Meanwhile, enter another player, stage right. In late February, an Israeli NGO called “Regavim” submitted a High Court appeal, together with the Sussya settlement, against the military – claiming that it should demolish more Palestinian homes in the region, and faster! We kid you not. Here is the original appeal (Hebrew, pdf).

The mysterious-sounding Regavim NGO presents itself in the appeal as “an a-political movement… to prevent illegal takeover of national lands by certain bodies”. However, its own publicized record reveals that its main business is 1. To force the government’s hand to destroy Palestinian structures, whether in the West Bank or in Israel itself, 2. To identify and suggest to the government new opportunities for such demolitions, and 3. To try and stop demolitions and evictions of unauthorized Israeli-settler structures in the West Bank. “A-political”, indeed. To cap the irony, Regavim’s head Rabbi Yehuda Eliyahu himself lives in an unauthorized settlement-outpost in northern West Bank. Their main field worker, Ovadia Arad named as a co-plaintiff, is a settler as well.

Regavim is emblematic of a trend in Israeli far-right circles. Since they recognize the power and appeal of basic human rights and justice, they have been setting up phony and mendacious imitations of respected human-rights organizations working on Palestinian human rights issues. These imitations turn the human-rights terminology on its head, in order to leverage the moral authority associated with it, while confusing and misleading the general public.

In the appeal, Regavim and the Sussya settlers refer to themselves as “residents of the area” and “farmers”. That is, they – who settled in the 1980′s as part of a heavily-subsidized takeover of Palestinian lands – pretend to be the indigenous, original residents. The A-Nawwajeh family of Palestinian Susiya (named as defendants 4 through 34), having lived in the area for generations, suddenly become – in Regavim’s upside-down terminology – the squatters who had set up “illegal outposts” arround the “poor settlers”; trouble-makers who should be evicted to the town of Yatta.

Of course, this is a bald-faced lie, one of dozens of distortions and outright lies in this frivolous Regavim appeal. Even the Israeli authorities have already conceded that the A-Nawwajeh, like other Palestinian South Hebron Hills residents, are the legal owners of their land. Unlike the settlers of Sussya, they have to live on the land with no government assistance, and against the continued restrictions from the military and physical harassment from the settlers. Here are a couple of pictures from our recent visit to the A-Nawwajeh hamlet.

Apparently, truth or justice are not a goal of Regavim, or of the Sussya settlers who have unfortunately joined this appeal, and possibly even pushed Regavim to submit it. As far as these ideological settlers are concerned, all of life in Israel-Palestine is a negative-sum game, in which the overarching goal is to retain exclusive control of the entire country, while squeezing more and more Palestinians into smaller and smaller enclaves – and if possible push them out of the country altogether. It is a sad and immoral world-view, but unfortunately its holders are very close to the corridors of power nowadays.

At other places and times, many settlers at Sussya and elsewhere have extolled their “good neighborly relations” with local Palestinians, and complained that only the media, or human-rights activists, are seeing and brewing trouble where there isn’t any. Many settlers also repeatedly claim that they only wish to live peacefully on these sacred hills, not to lord over others.

However, this court appeal on which the entire settlement of Sussya is signed as a co-plaintiff, reveals a very different perspective. The plaintiffs view their neighbors who have lived in the area long before them, as illegitimate and criminal. They accuse their neighbors of guilt-by-association, in completely unrelated terror attacks that took place at other parts of the West Bank 20-30 km away from Susiya (clause 10), and in thefts of livestock from Sussya settlement, even though these were admittedly carried out by persons from Yatta (clause 11: “…it can be assumed that the thefts were aided and abetted by accurate information… collected by the A-Nawajeh, living in illegal structures and making observations into the settlement”).

What is more disturbing to us, is that the Sussya settlement leadership has no qualms about exploiting the settlers’ structurally privileged citizenship status and the Palestinians’ discriminated status as subjects of a military regime. In this appeal, the settlers explicitly attempt to leverage that regime to punish and evict their neighbors in ways that would have been impossible, had the two population groups enjoyed equal legal and political status.

The future vision of settlers and Palestinians living together as equals, is plausible in principle both for us and for many Palestinians. Unfortunately, the Sussya settlers in submitting this appeal, and in this appeal’s foul language, reject this vision outright.

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Frivolous lawsuits like this one can actually help the “Civil Administration”. The differences between the “Administration” and ideological-settler bodies like Regavim are only of style and nuance. Both the settlers and the “Administration” are determined to reduce and, if possible, eradicate Palestinian life in “Area C”, in the apparent hope of making permanent the Israeli control of this vast region. Unlike settlers, the “Administration” is bound by the need to maintain a facade of respectability and legalistic pretexts. Thus, the Regavim appeal can present the “Civil Administration” in the public mind as even-handed or pro-Palestinian, and exaggerate its disagreement with ideological settlers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But amazingly, the court appeal itself presents concrete evidence that exposes this charade for what it is.

Clauses 40-49 deal with Regavim’s attempts to obtain information about Palestinian structures already destroyed by the “Civil Administration” for “security reasons.” The “Administration” refused to release detailed data, saying laconically that “all demolitions are due to security reasons”. Data were obtained by Regavim indirectly via other government arms. Here’s what they found (translation, emphasis and comments by Assaf):

44. In parallel, the plaintiff has obtained via a separate FOIA request the GIS layer containing all illegal-construction cases in the Palestinian sector. Combining the two sources brings to light the reality of “structures” destroyed by the Civil Administration in 2008-2011, allegedly for being a “security risk.”

[45. Data table ]

….46. These data show, that while the defendants claim all structures destroyed in the Palestinian sector in 2008-2011 were destroyed for being a security risk – out of 195 such structures, only 28 were actual buildings, while 51 “security risk structures” were cisterns, 68 “security risk structures” were sheds, chicken coops and livestock pens, and 12 “security risk structures” were improved agricultural fields.

47. This clearly indicates, that despite clear instructions from the government to focus on security-related demolitions, the Civil Administration avoids destroying such structures, and instead focuses on destroying cisterns, sheds, chicken coops, livestock pens and agricultural fields – in order to present a statistical balance with destruction in the Jewish [settler] sector.

48. It should be noted that from a separate FOIA request by the plaintiff about construction permits awarded in the Palestinian sector it turned out that in 2008, 74 such permits were issued, in 2009 six permits, and in 2010 only 7 permits were approved for the entire Palestinian sector of “Area C”. It is well-known that every year, thousands of structures are built in that sector… the message internalized by the Palestinian public is that there is no need to apply for permits…

It is rare to see far-right settlers, in an open legal document, confirm word-for-word what Palestinians and the human-right community have been arguing for years:

- That “security” is usually a ruse by Occupation authorities, used to mask the true motives,
- That recently Palestinians have been virtually blocked from obtaining building permits,
- and that these policies undermine any remaining semblance of legitimacy that the “Civil Administration” might have had a right to claim.

One might wonder how Regavim still thinks that this is somehow evidence for discrimination against what they call “the Jewish sector” – the state-funded, state-built settlements whose residents wield immense power and occupy several seats in the Israeli cabinet. One might also wonder, whether Regavim thinks that 150,000 Palestinians should be allowed to construct buildings to live in at all (the answer seems to be “no”) – or whether Regavim feels fine with the “Civil Administration” refusing to issue any permits to Palestinians whatsoever (the answer seems to be “yes, as long as they also make sure to destroy all those thousands of unapproved Palestinian structures”). The permit numbers in the appeal also confirm the escalation in anti-Palestinian “Area C” policies since the establishment of Netanyahu’s current government in early 2009. We have reported and analyzed this escalation from the start.

The Regavim appeal is a clumsy attempt to shift the debate towards how stringent or lax “Civil Administration” policies should be. However, the information presented, and the reality of unequal treatment as known to anyone with even a basic knowledge, turn their appeal into valuable supporting evidence for the following conclusions:

1. This outdated Israeli military body, the so-called “Civil Administration”, should not be allowed to run Palestinian life anymore, and

2. The situation of fully-privileged citizens living side-by-side with rightless subjects of military rule, is unacceptable and must stop.

We welcome the sudden interest of settler groups in fairness and government accountability. They should be forewarned, though, that the quest for the truth, fairness, transparency and good governance – if carried out properly to its logical conclusion – will most likely lead to outcomes diametrically opposed to their political goals.

Assaf Oron and Ehud Krinis

A Plea to the World from the Principal of a Palestinian School about to be Demolished

In November we reported with joy about the new school structure at Susiya (Susya). (see also an earlier report here).

Only a few weeks later, the Occupation regime’s fraudulently named “Civil Administration” handed down demolition orders to the school.

In a rare direct expression of an Occupied Palestinian voice in the Israeli printed press, the school’s prinicipal Muhammad A-Nawwajeh published an editorial in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper about the demolition order on his school. Unlike most of Haaretz op-eds, this article was apparently not translated to the newspaper’s English site. We provide the translation below.

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What Will You Tell My Students?

Muhammad Jaber Hamed A-Nawwajeh


Our elementary school at Susiya is small. It has two classrooms, in which a total of 35 pupils – girls and boys – study. The staff includes four teachers and the principal, who is also the English teacher. The school opened in late 2010. Before we established our school, local children had to walk 4 km each way, every day, to reach the nearest school. To avoid this, many had stayed with relatives during the school week, without seeing their parents, causing severe psychological problems. No doubt, it is far better for young children to live with their families and attend a school near home.

Our school has no electricity, no running water and no schoolyard. Still, students arrive each day with excitement. When they grow up, they want to be doctors, police officers, teachers. Even though the school is in an area under Israeli control, it is not the government of Israel that built it. We, the residents of Susiya, have built it ourselves, with the help of the Spanish organization ACF and the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

Our elementary school, whose area is 100 square meters, is the only structure of this size around Palestinian Susiya. All students live in caves. Before the school structure was erected, we had used five tents. We live in a hilly high-altitude region with cold winters. First water leaked into the tents, then a strong storm blew them away.

Our new school might be demolished at any moment now, without any justifiable cause. The “Civil Administration” has issued a demolition order against it. Among the pretexts for the demolition order, the “Administration” cites the presence of “portable bathrooms” and a cistern that we had dug with our own hands, so that the children will have water to drink.

If the Israeli government demolishes the school, it will deny education to our children. More than half the students will stay at home and not go to school anymore. All the world’s children are entitled to education. It is a basic right enshrined in the United Nation’s Human Rights Charter. I am trying to comprehend: what would Israel accomplish by demolishing our school? What is the position of Israel’s Education Minister? What do Israeli teachers think? How will they explain to their own students the destruction of our little school at Susiya?

Mr. A-Nawwajeh is the principal of Susiya’s elementary school.

(Translated from Hebrew by Assaf Oron)

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At the Villages Group, helping Massafar Yatta (South Hebron Hills) residents in their efforts to realize the right to education for their children has been one of our central missions over the years. Until 2010 when the Susiya school opened, we helped arrange student transportation from Susiya to Tuwani. In 2010 we brought a report about a tent school in a neighboring village, where teachers tried to educate under conditions much like the ones described above by Mr. Nawwajeh. Here are a few pictures from that visit, illustrating the learning conditions which we then described as “the worst in the Middle East”.

Please do not let the Occupation force these disgraceful conditions upon the children of Susiya. Please don’t let them rob these children of their dreams, and rob teachers, volunteers, and donors of the fruit of their hard labor.

The formal authority presiding over the deceptively-named “Civil Administration”, that pretends to be “the legal authority” in the area – is Israel’s Defense Ministry. Here are a few contact details:

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).

Israel’s Education Minister whom Mr. Nawwajeh mentions in his article, is quite likely deny any responsibility. Personally, I (Assaf) think that the fraudulent “Civil Administration”, and all other arms of Israel’s government, should just keep out of West Bank Palestinian civil affairs, on which they have no genuine jurisdiction – only a fraudulent one.

But Mr. Nawwajeh has a point. Israel’s Education Ministry, after all, constructs and heavily subsidizes schools in the Jewish settlements all around Susiya, and pays for teacher salaries. The minister himself, a politician named Gideon Sa’ar, is a rather vocal proponent of the ideology that all of Israel-Palestine belongs to the Jews. Well, with ownership comes responsibility. Since the government behaves in the West Bank’s “Area C” (where Susiya is located) as if it is Israel’s to keep, it should provide the same level of education infrastructure to that area’s Palestinians, as it lavishes upon the Jewish settlers.

In short, here’s a link to the Education Ministry’s main contact. The Minister’s email addresses are sar@education.gov.il, dover@education.gov.il and info@education.gov.il. Phones – 072-2-5602330/856/584, 972-3-6935523/4/5. Faxes: 972-2-5602246, 972-3-6951769. And finally, here’s an online comment form.

Feel free to let Mr. Sa’ar know what you think about this blatant discrimination, and about the criminal neglect of, and the atrocious assault upon, right to education of children in what he calls “The Land of Israel”.

And please help spread Mr. A-Nawwajeh’s words far and wide.

Thank you.

Israeli Occupation Builds Villas for Carmel Settlers, Destroys the Hut of their Widow Neighbor. YOU Can Do Something about it.

Miyaser Al-Hatheleen is a 45-year-old woman living in Umm al-Kheir, South Hebron Hills. Her house was first demolished by the Israeli Occupation authorities in October 2008, together with other dwellings belonging to her relatives (see our original 2008 report about these demolitions). In July 2009, Miyaser’s husband Salem passed away, leaving behind him his widowed wife and their seven children: Manal (now age 18), Tareq (17), Husam (15), Ahmad (13), Khulood (11), Maysoon (8) and Gamila (6).

No, this is not the home the Occupation authorities is building for Miyaser in compensation for the 2008 demolitions. These are villas being built only a few minutes walk away, expanding the Carmel (Karmel) settlement, on land confiscated and/or denied from the local Bedouins and Palestinians. This construction is underway with heavy subsidies from the Israeli government, whose political pretext for the expansion is “natural growth of the settlements.”

After the 2008 demolitions, Miyaser’s extended family at Umm al-Kheir built for her and her children a small house – or rather, a hut – made of mud and stones:

Yet, even this extremely poor dwelling place was too much in the eyes of the Occupation regime. Last week, on January 25 2012, while the heavy machinery keeps swallowing the hill near Carmel settlement in order to make room for the building of spacious new houses for Umm al-Kheir’s Israeli neighbors, a “fellow bulldozer” made its way to the indigenous village – not for construction, but for demolition work that left once again Miyaser’s home in ruins. It should be noted that the past few weeks in Israel-Palestine have been very cold and wet. Umm-Al-Kheir sits some 800m above sea level, with nightly temperature near freezing.

Over the last weekend, the Hatheleen family of Umm al-Kheir and activists of the Taayush movement erected together a small tin home for Miyaser and her children.

A different, yet effective way of helping Miyaser, even by those of you who live far way, is suggested by us here: Miyaser is a skillful embroider. She is willing to sell her embroidery art, such as table maps and runners.

During the last year we have been able to sell several of Miyaser’s embroidery pieces here in Israel, and also in Durham, United Kingdom (by the help of our friends there, Shlomit and Alison). Anyone who wants to help Miyaser and her family by buying her embroidery works (or in another creative way), is invited to contact us at our Villages Group’s address: villagesgroup1@gmail.com. We will ship Miyaser’s art to you. If you live in the UK, Villages Group activists are due to visit Shlomit and Alison soon and bring them a new collection of Miyaser’s embroidery.

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group (with additions from Assaf)

PS: this recent demolition is part of a broader pattern, that has been continuing for years but escalating recently. For more background about the current wave of Occupation vandalism in South Hebron Hills, and in West Bank Area C in general, see this post from November, and this one from 2009.

Winter at Salem: Music Center Annual Concert – and Military Raid on Center Director’s Home

The first part of this post, an account of Salem’s music center 2011 end-of-year concert held recently in the village municipality building, was written by Ikhlas (Yasmin) Gebara, the young poet from Salem (a village just outside of Nablus). Ikhlas is sitting to the left of Erella and Ehud in the picture below.

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Music is a gift for our minds and our hearts. It is a jewel that we lost and we feel happy when we find. It is the motivation that encourages us to live. It is a tool by means of which our minds and spirits operate.

By the effort of the Villages Group and members of the village, the idea of the music center materialized, converted from imagination to reality. Despite the short period since it was established, it has achieved great success and has become one of the popular centers in the village. The idea of the center started from the point of teaching children in village how to strengthen their role in society through music. In fact, the center aimed at providing a sense of pleasure since children felt that there is something they lack. So from the founders’ point of view, this lack is filled by music.

The center has been working for two years, and it was able to achieve popularity in the children’s as well as their parents’ minds. So the parents started to send their children to the center to learn how to use various musical instruments. During the last two years two groups of children graduated, and the center ended its second activity year with a concert. A big number of people attended and saw how children became creative in using musical instruments.

The event started with the coordinator of the center greeting the attendants and thanking the funders as well as the founders. Then the Palestinian national anthem was presented by the children. Then followed a series of songs which were played and sung by the pupils of the center. At the end of the concert there was a big ceremony in which the children were given certificates and the founders (who are really peace makers) were given thank-you gifts by a representative of the village council, the head of the center and a representative from the Villages Group.

Eventually, although the center is still modest it seeks for more development in order to increase the number of children and to have a crucial role in developing the village as well as empowering its children. Among our aspirations, we would like to have an independent house for the music center, so the center can grow.

Ikhlas Gebara, Salem

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We would have loved to end the Villages Group update from Salem here. Unfortunately, on the night between January 1 and 2 – a couple of days after the concert – the Israeli Occupation’s military forces raided the house of the Center’s founder and director, Jubeir Ishtayya.

The pretext was a search for weapons. As you can see in the pictures, the soldiers caused much damage to the new home, and deeply upset Jubeir and his wife and terrified his three little children. On the following Friday, Villages Group activists paid a solidarity visit to the Ishtayya family.

Military Trial of 17-year old Amal Hamamdeh from Mufakarah. Charge: Spilling Water on Soldier

As reported here, during home demolitions in the cave-dweller village of Mufakarah, two young women who resisted nonviolently were arrested and charged with “assaulting soldiers” under the Israeli Occupation’s draconian martial law. The older of the two, Sausan Hamamdeh, reached a plea bargain in December resulting in a fine. When reporting on that development, we were fairly confident that her 17-year-old cousin Amal Hamamdeh would see her charges dropped. After all, she just tried to hand Sausan a water bottle to wash her pepper-sprayed eyes, and when soldiers interfered some water were spilled on them. We were wrong.

The first court session in Amal’s trial took place Sunday, Jabuary 15th 2012, at the military court and prison base of Ofer, in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. Charges pressed by the military prosecution against Amal include throwing water and spitting at a soldier, and swearing at the security forces. The defense, by Amal’s attorney Neri Ramati (a Jewish Israeli lawyer, partner at the Gabi Lasky law firm), decided to admit pouring water on the soldier, and reject the allegations of spitting and swearing.

On the day of the arrest, while in transit to the Kiryat Arba police station, Amal was sexually harassed by one of the soldiers sitting with her in the army jeep. At the police station, the interrogators took advantage of her inexperience and lack of access to counsel (martial law is *very* convenient for interrogators and prosecutors), and managed to make her confess to throwing water at a soldier during the demolition. The next court session in Amal’s trial has been scheduled for February 5th, 2012.

It should be noted that in our experience, it is very rare to arrest and charge women in this context of protesting or resisting demolition of their homes (such protesting commonly occurs, it is a natural reaction when seeing one’s home demolished). At first we had thought these arrests were a random local initiative by the IDF officers at the site. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that now the military prosecution has stepped up and decided to throw the book, or rather, invent a book from thin air in order to intimidate these young women. This might be related to the intesification of the Occupation’s general campaign to intimidate West Bank “Area C” residents in the hope of driving many of them out and eventually annexing their land to Israel. This campaign has finally caught some mainstream attention due to a recent European Union report. We have been witnessing it and trying to stop it on the ground for years.

Below are two photos of Amal and her family, taken by Efrat Nakash during our visit at the family cave in Mufakarah, last Thursday.

On Wednesday, December 28th 2011, at Beit Ha’am on Rothshild Blvd. in Tel Aviv, an evening program of solidarity with Amal and Sausan was held, attended by about 150 people. This event was initiated by a group of activists in Israel’s massive social-justice movement, that uses Beit Ha’am as one of its activity centers. Among the evening’s organizers were Galia Tanai, Shelly Ben Shahar and Shani Solomon (who also visited Amal and Sausan in Mufakarah). The program, held in cooperation with Rabbis for Human Rights and the Villages Group, included a video interview with Sausan (at that time we still thought Amal’s charges would be dropped).

Activists of both organizations spoke and reviewed several aspects of reality in the South Hebron Hills in general, and Mufakarah in particular. Musicians Rona Kenan and Ruth Dolores Weiss gave a voluntary performance, one song of which is shown in the video below. The proceeds will go to help cover Amal and Sausan’s legal defense.

Ehud Krinis and Assaf Oron
The Villages Group

Update about Sausan and Amal, 2 Palestinian Girls Arrested as their Home was Demolished

Our last Villages Group post reported the demolition of structures, including homes and a mosque, in the Palestinian village of Al-Mufaqara (also known as Umm-Faqra) in southern West Bank.

The destruction was perpetrated on November 24 by Israeli civilian contractors (see here for a brief report in Ha’aretz). They were hired by the deceptively named “Civil Administration” – an arm of Israel’s military Occupation apparatus which poses as a legitimate governing body. The name “Civil Administration” was invented deliberately in the 1980′s by then-defense minister Ariel Sharon, in order to confuse and confound people about this body’s true nature. Its main business these days seems to be to harass, refuse permits, and eventually destroy property belonging to Palestinians, in order to “clear” them out of West Bank areas that Israel wants to eventually annex.

The civilian contractors and deceptively-named “Civil Administration” thugs were accompanied by ordinary IDF soldiers. As can be seen in the video below, throughout the demolition neither contractors, nor CA thugs, nor IDF soldiers, acted or looked like people under any form of threat or duress.

That did not stop them from arresting and carting off two female Palestinian youth: 21-year-old Sausan Hamamdeh and her 17-year-old cousin Amal. Some of the events around and immediately after their arrest are in the video, around minutes 1:30-3:00. The video was filmed by Guy Batavia, activist with Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights.

Amal and Rasha (Sausan’s sister) gave us a detailed account of the arrest: during the demolition Sausan was stressed, realizing her home was about to be demolished without the women of the family having a chance to remove its contents. According to the present Israeli procedure of house demolitions, the removal of the house contents is carried out only by a contractor’s firm hired for this purpose. Sausan’s attempt to force her way into her home to clear out belongings led to her being pepper-sprayed in the eyes by one of the soldiers, and to her arrest.

Amal was arrested as she tried to provide Sausan a water bottle to relieve the stinging in her eyes. Water from the bottle squirted out and wet the soldier who was preventing Amal from giving Sausan the bottle, and that was the reason for Amal’s arrest.

Sausan (image on right) and Amal were then taken by army jeep to the police station at Kiryat Arba settlement. During the ride one of the soldiers in the jeep tried to sexually harass Amal and also kicked her in the belly.

After the interrogation at the Kiryat Arba police station, Sausan and Amal were driven to Jerusalem where they were placed in detention at the infamous “Russian Compound” detention center. Conditions at the facility (which they shared with another inmate) were very severe – it was a very cold week in Jerusalem and the room had an air conditioner that was cooling rather than heating the place.

Repeated requests by the women to turn it off were refused by their jailers. Amal’s stay in this room lasted five days, whereas Sausan spent a whole week there (she said it felt like a year).

On November 28th the two youngsters appeared at the Occupation’s kangaroo military court in the Ofer base. We have a full account of the proceedings, thanks to a Machsom Watch volunteer being present. Here are a few excerpts:

…the charge [for both girls] is: attacking a soldier. While the representatives of the Civil Administration, together with soldiers and Border Police came to demolish her house, Sausan picked up a stone [later described as a ‘rock’] and hit a BP officer on the hand. Sausan was arrested. Then Amal came on the scene and poured water on the officer.

This is the prosecution’s version. A CPT observer who was on the scene issued quite a different report (.doc file):

The second family’s [whose home was destroyed] 21-year-old daughter confronted the Israeli soldiers when they marched into their home and began throwing the bedding outside. When she asked what they were doing, one soldier said, “Get out of my sight.” The daughter refused; in response, the soldier threatened, “If you don’t move, we will do even more,” and sprayed her in the face with tear gas. The other solders began kicking her as she fell to the ground.

…The 21-year-old’s cousin, who is 17, tried to bring her water to soothe her eyes. The soldiers arrested them both…

The Machsom Watch account continues:

The prosecution agreed to Amal’s release that day (perhaps because she is a minor, or because squirting a soldier with water is not such a serious violation) in return for a 4000 shekel deposit. The defense explained that Amal cannot afford to pay such a sum: she is the daughter of a destitute shepherd, and besides, her house has been destroyed.

The judge’s decision: He’s willing to consider reduced bail, plus third person Israeli guarantor (me) to insure that the defendant shows up for a hearing, should one take place on 21.12.11. …The judge also ordered the Prison Authorities to provide Sausan with a coat, after seeing the girls shiver, since they were wearing the same clothes they were arrested in 4 days earlier.

I wondered how the released underage girl was going to get home that day, with no money and no proper clothes. My concern proved well founded: She was released from the Russian Compound detention center in the evening. An Israeli friend of the family who inquired where he could pick her up was told to wait for her at Qalandiya Checkpoint [north of Jerusalem]. The man waited for 5 hours only to learn later that the girl had been released at Bethlehem Checkpoint [south of Jerusalem]. Amal reached home at 10 PM.

In the end, Sausan was released on Thursday evening [Dec. 1]. This time two activists waited for her at Bethlehem Checkpoint to drive her home. But they waited in vain, because she was released at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem (thus turning her into an “Illegal infiltrator” into Israel). A taxi driver took her home.

Today, Monday December 19, Sausan’s case reached a verdict. As usual in the Occupation’s kangaroo-court system, it is based on a plea bargain, whose terms are negotiated based on whatever confessions or negative testimonies the interrogators managed to get out of the defendant, vs. the level of success by the defense to demonstrate how ridiculous the original charges were (Occupation charge-sheets are invariably inflated). In Sausan’s case, the overall balance yielded a relatively mild outcome. Ehud just emailed me the verdict (pdf file, Hebrew).

I sentence the defendant to:

A. 8 days arrest, as many as she had already spent imprisoned.
B. One month arrest in the event she repeats the offense within two years.
C. A monetary fine of NIS 3,000, to be taken out of the bail posted on behalf of the defendant…

So Sausan is back home. A proper court would have thrown out the case, based on abuse in custody, lack of access to legal counsel when a (partially retracted) confession was elicited from the defendant, conflicting testimonies of the event, and several other reasons. The heavy-handedness in treating Sausan and Amal stands in glaring contradiction to the numerous assaults on soldiers by the Israeli settlers whose interests these soldiers serve – assaults that usually go unpunished. We should also call out the routine dirty trick of over-arresting and over-charging Palestinians, which then helps the judges of these kangaroo courts appear enlightened when they encourage more lenient plea bargains – when in fact, the judges have not lifted a finger towards carrying out their duties of overseeing true justice and guiding a search for the truth about events.

The fine, and the lawyer’s fees, are a very steep sum for the Hamamdeh family to pay. But at least Sausan is home and facing a relatively benign fine. Moreover, the charges against her 17-year old Amal are now almost certain to be dropped.

Finally: this story has struck a chord among people in Israel’s social-justice activism community, shinining a light upon the woeful injustice in Occupation in general and South Hebron Hills in particular, and inspiring solidarity action among female activists. Last week, after reading Ehud’s account of Sausan and Amal’s arrest on the Rabbis for Human Rights website, several organizers of this summer’s mass rallies in Israel for social justice visited the region with Villages Group activists. They filmed an interview with Sausan, and decided to take further action.

These activists are organizing a fundraising concert on Sausan’s behalf, on December 28 2011 at Beit Ha’am, 8:30 PM, in Rotschild Avenue Tel Aviv – the epicenter of the summer’s protests and the resulting movement. Top-notch Israeli Singer-songwriter Rona Keinan, a consistently brave and outspoken voice for justice and human rights in Israel-Palestine, has already pledged to appear. Emerging musician Ruth Dolores-Weiss will also appear. We will post an update about the event within a few days.

“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/

South Hebron Hills Update

Dear friends and supporters,

About one month ago we reported to you on the state of the local schoolhouse in Palestinian Susiya as its second school year opened. Visiting the school on Thursday November 2nd, 2011, we witnessed an impressive development in the construction of the school’s permanent building. These works are undertaken as a joint initiative of the NGO Action Against Hunger/ ACF International, and the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees.


For our modest part, we brought the school a laptop computer that will serve the teachers from now on (we would be grateful to receive and bring the teaching staff additional laptops). We hope that soon we shall be able to meet the teachers’ request to receive Hebrew language lessons – Erella, of our group, is considering taking this task upon herself and we hope that within a few weeks we can report to you that a weekly Hebrew course for the school teachers is already under way.

A little while before arriving at the Susiya school, we learned of yet another act of destruction inflicted by the Israeli Military Occupation’s “Civil Administration” arm. A bulldozer destroyed the power pylons that have lately been installed between the village of Al-Tuwani and the cave hamlet of Umm Faqara, as part of the infrastructure that was to connect Umm Faqara with the regional power grid. This act of destruction by the “Civil Administration” is perfectly consistent with the long-term policy exerted by the Israeli Occupation authorities, in order to prevent the connection of the cave hamlets in the South Hebron Hills to infrastructure such as water and power. The motivation underlying this policy is to deny the legitimacy of these Palestinian communities and to eventually eliminate their existence.

Ehud Krinis

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