30 April 2007

State banditry, thuggery and vandalism

“What we are presently witnessing in the West Bank is a visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of security.”

UN Special Raporteur John Dugard

Rasim lives in Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem. He looks old for 52. He inherited 300 dunums (75 acres) of olive groves and grazing and used to own 100 sheep. He now has less than one dunum of land on which his house stands with a narrow strip to one side with his six remaining sheep. He will not be able to keep them for long. Now that his land has been stolen for building the Wall and for expansion of the huge settlement of Ma’ale Adummim, he has to buy in feed for them. But without his olive trees and most of his sheep, he has no income. Compensation? There was compensation for Israeli settlers removed from Gaza, but not for Palestinians who lose their land, their houses, or their livelihood as a result of Israel’s repressive policies. Impoverishment is one of the brutal weapons Zionism uses to try to destroy the Palestinians. Poverty has been exacerbated by the suspension of international aid and the withholding of Palestinian tax revenues by Israel since April 2006. The number of people living in deep poverty, defined as those living on less than 50 US cents a day, nearly doubled during 2006 to over 1 million i.e. more than a quarter of the population of the occupied Palestinian territories.*


Rasim with the remnant of his flock

At the top of the hill on which Rasim lives is the Cliff Hotel, owned by one of his relatives but commandeered and occupied by the Israeli army. Rasim and his cousin told me that in February a young Palestinian was savagely beaten with sticks behind the hotel. One and a half years ago a street cleaner was so badly beaten up by soldiers based in the hotel that they left him for dead. People living nearby cared for him and he revived. Last year soldiers made some youths drink their own urine, and a youth was pushed out of an upstairs window.

The owner asked the military to vacate the hotel so that it could be used as a hospital but they refused. The Wall cuts off people living in Abu Dis/Bethany and the surrounding area of the West Bank from the two hospitals which used to serve them but are now on the Jerusalem side. Since 2004 when the Wall was built through Abu Dis, six members of Rasim’s extended family have died because the army have prevented or delayed them getting to hospital. A woman died after being refused permission to go to hospital to give birth. This March his 25-year-old cousin became ill during a game of football. He died of a heart problem while held up at a checkpoint on his way to hospital. A 42-year-old relative died after being prevented from going to hospital. A man of over 60 felt ill and tried to go to hospital. He was turned back at the checkpoint and died on the road. Two years ago, a woman with a stomach problem was refused permission to go to hospital and died without treatment. An old man who had lost his sight was not allowed to go to hospital for treatment of diabetes and died as a result.

Route of the extending Wall

Abu Dis runs into Bethany. To the east of Bethany a huge gash weaves a sinuous course, defacing what used to be beautiful hillsides. This gash is the foundation of an extension of the Wall which will isolate more Palestinian land from its owners and allow further expansion of Ma’ale Adummim settlement.

Two miles further from Bethany there were a number of olive groves. A year ago the Israeli army invaded the farmers’ land and cut through the trunks of all their olive trees about a foot from the ground. To judge by what has happened elsewhere in the occupied territories, the former olive groves will soon be declared a closed military training area. Some months later, the farmers’ land will be declared to be the property of the Jewish Israeli state and will be made available for settlement building, in this case yet another extension of Ma’ale Adummim.

Olive trees are the most important economic resource of the Palestinians. Since the start of the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, more than 1.2 million olive trees have been uprooted or cut down by Israeli soldiers and settlers.** Half of these trees have been destroyed since the start of the second intifada in the year 2000. This destruction of olive trees contravenes international law as laid out in the Hague Convention, the Geneva Conventions and the Paris Protocols. It is essential that international pressure is now brought to bear on Israel to make it observe international law and stop its ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Stumps of olive trees destroyed by the Israeli army

* Poverty in Palestine : the human cost of the financial boycott, Oxfam, April 2007  (www.oxfam.org.uk)

** Applied Research Institute, Jerusalem , September 2006 (www.poica.org)

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