Resisting Dispossession in Hebron

     On 17 April a young man invited me into his small house in Hebron Old City near the Ibrahimi Mosque. Israeli settlers are trying to buy this house from the Awewi family. Two of my host’s brothers have been killed in attempts, he believes, to terrorize the family into selling. 

Room torched by settlers in Awewi house

On 4 December 2008, armed settlers and soldiers came into the house and set fire to the contents of a room. The day before my visit, settlers supported by soldiers wrecked the water tanks on the roof, flooding the house and a shop below it. The tanks were holed and overturned, depriving the family of their water supply. The settlers also vandalized a chicken coop on the roof and stole the chickens. 

Holed and overturned water tanks and wrecked chicken coop on roof

The family had a garden at the side of the house where they kept cows and camels. Settlers killed the animals with poison and now prevent the family from using the garden. The young man said that the family will not sell their house, no matter what the settlers and soldiers do to them.

I have just heard that 10 soldiers raided the Awewi house from midnight to 3 am on 26 April. They photographed the children and examined all the family’s possessions which they left on the floor, finding nothing of note.

Hebron has been occupied by the Israeli military and settlers since 1967. Strongly anti-Palestinian radical Jewish fundamentalists have settled in the middle of the Old City. They are trying to turn this part of Hebron into a Jews only area. Of course all Israeli settlements in Hebron and the rest of the West Bank and in East (Palestinian) Jerusalem are illegal according to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice, and United Nations resolutions. 

Because the state of Israel supports the extremist settlers, the Israeli army usually fails to protect Palestinians or their property against criminal acts by the settlers. The perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. As a result of Israel’s inhumane occupation, the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Old City are getting worse and worse. 


The following day, with three other internationals, I visited Umm Al-Khair village a few miles from Hebron. The Bedouin managing to exist here face the same problem as Palestinians in Old Hebron: dispossession by Israeli settlers. 

Umm Al Khair with Karmel settlement (right) and outpost settlement extension onto village land (left)

A shepherd welcomed us with coffee. With irony he said that the Israelis are very democratic: they themselves have running water and electricity and extend these facilities to the large sheds of chickens which the settlement runs. But the Israelis do not permit the people, the Bedouin, living between the settlement and the chicken sheds to have running water and electricity. They have to get water from a stand pipe. Settlers have holed the water tank for the village.

      Fundamental to the Bedouins’ pastoral way of life is the ability to travel. During the British mandate they could move to where the grazing was good, perhaps as far as the Jordan valley, in a year when the rains were poor in the Hebron area. Movement has now been made impossible by the need for rarely-issued permits, checkpoints, and the wall. There are demolition orders on all the shelters and tents which house the people of the village and their animals.

      The shepherd said that the older people are able to look back on good times when they could move freely to graze their sheep. “But our young people only know what it is like to be imprisoned in this small area, which does not provide adequate grazing for our sheep, and to be harassed by settlers and soldiers.”

The price of fodder is increasing and more has been needed this year because of lack of rain, and these people cannot survive their present predicament without outside help. The settlement of Karmel is gradually being extended onto village land. The previous week settlers attacked Bedouin women grazing their animals and one woman had to be hospitalised. The Israeli Army demolished Bedouin homes and sheep pens in the village on two occasions last year and on one incursion in 2007. 

Israeli soldiers arrive and order us to leave the village

On 26 April, the villagers and Christian Peacemaker Team internationals nonviolently prevented settlers from constructing a settlement road on village land. It was fitting that after visiting the Bedouin we went to the nearby village of At Tuwani to attend the opening of a museum documenting non-violent resistance to the occupation.

Zionism’s Toll on Palestinian Life, Limb, Liberty and Property

48 hours to 8am 18 April 2009


1 air strike – 4 dead – 18 injured -- 17 taken prisoner

Israeli troops kill 16-year-old and wound another youngster 'for throwing stones'

Israeli Army kills defenceless protester

Occupation troops shoot 17-year-old dead

Many merciless beatings

Israeli troops unleash dog – man hospitalised

Israeli navy and army target Palestinian fishing and farming

Baby dies from Israeli Operation 'Cast Lead' injury

Israeli air strike destroys house in Gaza

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