A Letter to Tony Blair from a community with pending demolitions

The following post was written by my friend and colleague, Marthie Momberg.  Marthie was a member of the EAPPI Yanoun Team 41.  Living in Yanoun from early September to early December, they served the surrounding area and the Jordan Valley.  Canadian Thom Davies is a member of EAPPI Yanoun team 42 and will be there until February.  Marthie’s post serves to further illustrate the grave injustices imposed upon the Palestinian people and the pain of intentional demolitions at the hands of the Israelis.  Please access Marthie’s blog directly at http://marthiemombergblog.wordpress.com/ for updates on this story and to learn more about the situation in the Jordan Valley.

On Thursday November 10 2011, the Israeli authorities handed over demolition orders that target 17 structures and will affect 72 people, including women and children, in Al Hadidiya, in the Jordan Valley.

These orders were not handed over personally, but simply left in a shelter on Abu Saker’s farm.  None of the orders contain ID numbers. The community is assisted by a lawyer.  They have papers from the Ottoman period (thus before the Jordanian and the British reigns) to show that they live on their own land.

Al Hadidiya comprises 112 permanent inhabitants plus some 130 further inhabitants who left the area during the winter season as Israeli forces have destroyed their homes already.

Many of the families have already suffered several home and property demolition in clear violation of international law and human rights, all the while settlements in the same area are state subsidized and their mainly agricultural produce – a result of a war crime – is still allowed into European markets.

While the international community discusses Palestinian statehood, on the ground Israel is continuing the ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine with a further displacement push in the Jordan Valley.

A double message: a warning of a firing zone (i.e. Palestinians who enter may be shot) and on the side, a trail marker (if you’re an Israeli, go ahead and enjoy nature). There are many of these in the Jordan Valley.

Al Hadidiya is a Bedouin community of some 112 permanent inhabitants and some 130 further inhabitants that during the two cold winter months return back to villages near Tubas as Israeli forces have destroyed their homes already and they have not found the necessary means to build shelters that can protect them from the winter cold.

On Thursday November 10, the Israeli authorities served the community nine new demolition orders that target 17 structures and will affect 72 people , including women and children.

The new Yanoun team (Group 42) discussing the demolition orders with Abu Saker on his farm.

Since 1998, the Israeli occupation authorities have implemented a systematic and continuous drive to permanently expel the Palestinians residents of the Jordan Valley from their lands. Most of the people in Al Hadidiya have had already their homes destroyed more than five times. Animal shelters and other property is regularly destroyed.

As the Palestinian residents are not allowed access the water from the pipes the Israeli water company Mekorot manages for the use of the settlements, and the digging of wells is prohibited, water has to be brought from a natural spring in the area. Especially in the summer months, Israeli authorities confiscate the water tanks in which the water is transported and stored.

Long, high earth banks created by Israelis prohibit Palestinians to reach their own land in the Jordan Valley.

The people in Al Hadidiya are entirely dependent on rearing animals as they do not have sufficient water for agriculture. In the nearby Jewish-only settlements of Ro’i and Beqa’ot, agricultural produce is farmed using hi-tech methods and with an abundance of water. Much of this agricultural produce is exported to European supermarkets by Israeli agricultural export companies including Bickel, Mehadrin and Arava.

The Occupation authorities justify their demolition and expulsion order with the fact that the area has been designated a military zone since the 1970s. The 600 people of the communities of Mak’oul, Samra, Hadidiye and Humsa that have been living and grazing their cattle in the 300 000 dunums of the northern Jordan Valley for generations state that the area is not even used as a military zone.

The entrance to Abu Saker’s farm has been blocked by inhabitants from the illegal settlement Roi, and he now has to use a 15 minute detour through the veldt to reach his home.

Abu Saker (60) on his farm in Al Hadidiya

We will not leave (again)

(Afrikaans hieronder)

Rialb-Abu Saker (60) greeted us energetically, his wiry figure in black against the pastel shades of the untilled land like a pen on a pale page.  It was around noon and blisteringly hot in Al Hadidya in the Jordan Valley, Palestine.

Rialb-Abu Saker’s demolished house
Rialb-Abu Saker’s current house

Abu Saker farms with sheep and plants oats and wheat in the winter when it rains. We climbed the rocky hill behind the house. On the other side of the hill, beyond the dry dust beneath our feet, lay a lush green strip of land with permanent structures – Roi, an Israeli settlement.

Water is precious and scarce in the Jordan Valley. Illegal Israeli settlers are allocated by far the greater portion of the water (45 million cubic metres per annum for 64,000 people at subsided rates, compared to the unsubsidised 31 million cubic metres allocated to the 56,000 Palestinians in the valley in 2008).

We silently looked at the green stretch.  As we made our way back down to the home built of canvas and reeds and other portable materials, the Israeli military base on the opposite hill caught my eye. Abu Saker’s previous home was demolished by the Israeli Defence Force while he had taken his wife to hospital for the birth of their youngest child.

Abu Saker’s farm in the foreground, with the illegal Israeli settlement Roi in the background.

We asked about the green strip on the other side of the hill:

“They are stealing our water.  They plant flowers in the settlement and we don’t have water to drink.  The Israeli politics is to move us – should I then live in the air?

Our message to the world is to look at us as human beings.  I am not a political person or a negotiator, but I need to feed my family. My message is for them to look at us as people who want our children to be educated.  I now need to drive a 35-40 km detour each day when I take my children to school because they closed my gate.  This means that our children are in the village while we are here and we cannot take care of our children and their school work.

My message to Great Britain is to stop helping the Israelis.  They have helped them since 1916 until now and this is why the Israelis continue to break the law.  My second message is for the United States of America.  The tax payers in the USA should know that they support the Israelis to fight us. My message for the Israelis is you cannot take our land. We will not leave our homes like those who left their properties in 1948. Not all Israelis are the same and our aims are supported by many organisations and individuals in Israel and in other parts of the world.

We hope that this awareness of our humanity will grow. We want to live in peace with the Jews and Christians. Peace and love is the essence of all three our religious traditions. The current Israeli politics cannot last forever. We hope the situation will change because people all over the world appreciate us.  We want a peaceful solution.  If things are not changed in a peaceful way, then I have no solution for our children.

But we need a true state and freedom.  It should be democratic and by election.  Then we should have a school building here and not just a tent which is too cold in winter and too hot in summer. Then a letter to Tony Blair will not be necessary. But if we are a state and we still have no water, and if the soldiers continue to demolish water wells without permits as in An Nassariya, it will mean nothing.  We need to have a proper infrastructure.

Abu Sakr wrote a letter to Tony Blair to ask for a proper school building and us, the Yanoun EAPPI team 41, will deliver this letter to the Office of the Quartet in Jerusalem, as well as a copy to the British Consulate in Jerusalem.

Tuesday 29 November 2011: Abu Saker signs his letter for Tony Blair.
Marthie receiving the signed letter.
The letter was delivered by Team 41 in early December.

(For more, see Marthie’s post on water issues in the  Jordan Valley)

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