Massafer Yatta is dying… Save our Masafer!

Written by a local student

Masafer Yatta is in its death throes, trying to catch its last breath. Its story is about to end in face of an indifferent Arab and international world. Ever since the Nakba it has held onto its land, bearing tragedy and hardship. Its people have guarded its land, taken it upon themselves to loyally hold on at the price of making do with as little as possible. Thus, they showed themselves to be daring and honorable people, who persevered, lived and died, entrusting the land in the hands of their children.

Their sons bore this entrusted land, fulfilling their fathers’ will and testament, holding on to the land as well. In so doing, they added their own lines to the most wonderous stories of resistance and resilience. They lived in caves and grew up among the hills and valleys of the Masafer. They asked for nothing but to live safely like other people in the world. With the years, they added tents, hoping to be sheltered from the heat of the summers and the cold of the winters, but their hopes were shattered. The powers of injustice were lying in wait. They demolished these tents on their residents but did not break their determination, as they went back to living in caves. In view of this determination, the occupiers wished to tempt them with offers of financial restitution, but they refused these offers and insisted on staying. The occupiers’ harassment of the Masafer people did not cease. In the light of day, they expelled them far away, but the people, determined and persistent, came back at night to the caves that embraced them. 

Harassment continued. The occupiers confiscated their flocks and fined them exorbitantly. This did not make them despair – they collected the required sums and won back their livestock. The occupiers did not rest but rather employed methods of harassment and suffocation. At times they conducted night searches and arrested people, at other times they confiscated tractors used for agriculture. But the residents stood fast. They ran schools in unstable tents that do not protect anyone from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. This proved how important knowledge and schooling is for them, and showed that the pupil’s pen is no less important than the fighter’s gun. After a while, the school tents were replaced by poor concrete classrooms. Before long their haters’ bulldozers arrived and demolished these classrooms. Their spirits did not fall, and again and again, at night, they rebuilt the classrooms. But the damned bulldozers always returned and destroyed their basic aspirations for education, aspirations that have been their refuge. Finally, after years of failed efforts, what the occupiers could not do with their battalions, tanks and planes, they decided to do through the Supreme Court. We are all aware that this court’s proceedings were meant to legitimize the execution of military orders under the umbrella of “the law”.

But what kind of law gives one the right to rob land and expel its inhabitants? This court required the Palestinians to provide proof of ownership of their land. As far as this court is concerned, no documents means no ownership. The Masafer’s people, their ownership of their lands etched in their hearts, could also show documents proving it. Presented with such evidence, the judges stalled and drew out their sessions uselessly. For they know who the true owners of the lands are. When you walk in the Masafer, you realize it belongs to its Arab owners just by looking at its bright sky, its tall hills and its steep valleys. Finally, the judges decided that a verdict must be reached. As for the Masafer’s people, they held on to a sliver of hope, knowing full well that this is a ‘Supreme Court of Justice’ in name only, that in fact it does not wish to do any kind of justice. The area’s people came to court hoping that the judges’ conscience and reason would free them of their hardships and suffering. The representatives of the army, though, counted on the court to blindly rule in their favor. Within moments, an elderly judge read a ruling declaring ‘the area is a closed military zone’. The implications of this ruling are demolitions, of homes, schools, mosques, the entire way of life. Smiling with satisfaction, the army’s representatives left the court. With their hearts filled with sorrow and pain, the owners of the land went back home, vowing that for them holding on to their land is a matter of life or death.

If you go to Masafer Yatta these days, you will see movement that has come to a halt, soldiers on the hilltops, army jeeps raiding villages and tightening the grip on their inhabitants. All this has been going on for so long, that the Masafer cannot withstand it anymore. After decades of independent resistance, this sad home-land seeks respite. But how can it rest, when it is filled with soldiers and army?! Occupation’s yoke is heavy. Masafer Yatta is dying… Save our Masafer!

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