Diplomats tour Palestinian communities Israel is expelling from the South Hebron Hills

The diplomats tour today. Photo by: B'Tselem\Breaking the SilenceThe diplomats tour today. (Photo: B’Tselem – Breaking the Silence)

B’Tselem, 19 October 2020

The representatives of 17 countries, including EU members as well as other countries, are currently visiting Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, whose residents Israel is seeking to expel. Since 2000 the residents have been waging a legal struggle in Israel’s High Court of Justice. Last August, before the last hearing in the case, the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research revealed a document that proved what was already clear: Israel had declared the area a firing zone to facilitate the expulsion of its residents. The judges ignored that information and the residents are currently awaiting their ruling.

Heads of delegations and other diplomats are currently visiting Palestinian communities in the Masafer Yatta area in the South Hebron Hills, whose home Israel has declared as “Firing Zone 918”, in an effort to drive them out. Around 1,000 residents are awaiting a forthcoming ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice in the latest petition in their
decades-long struggle against Israel’s attempts.

On the tour are representatives of the EU and of member states Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Ireland, as well as the UK, Norway, Switzerland and Canada, which concur with the EU’s position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are unlawful and that Israel’s policy of forcible transfer of Palestinians is unacceptable. At the village of Khirbet al-Majaz, the participants are visiting the local school, built with EU funding, and meeting community leaders along with Nidal Younis, head of the Masafer Yatta local council, and Nasser Nawaj’ah, a resident of Susiya and Field Researcher for B’Tselem. The tour, which is adhering the most up-to-date Covid-19 safety guidelines, was organized by Israeli NGOs Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

Breaking the Silence Executive Director Avner Gvaryahu said: “We have come here today to announce that we will not stand by while the State of Israel declares hundreds of people illegal residents in their own homes. We will not stay silent when soldiers are sent to expel people from their homes, in which they lived long before the first Israeli soldier set foot in the West Bank. We invite everyone to come here with us and look these people in the eye. That is more than the policymakers, who are forcing entire families to live in constant fear of being driven out of their homes, have ever done. This is expulsion. This is occupation.”

B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad added that “Israel has coveted Masafer Yatta for decades, viewing it as an area ready for exploitation were it not for what it perceives as the fly in the ointment – Palestinians who live in the area. The state wishes to expel all these families, demolish their homes and destroy their livelihoods, on one pretext or another. Declaring the area a firing zone was the excuse; cleansing the territory of Palestinians is the goal. This criminal plan must be stopped.”

The Khirbet al-Majaz community in Masafer Yatta. (Photo: B’Tselem – Breaking the Silence)

Background:
In the early 1980s, the Israeli military declared an area of about 3,000 hectares in the South Hebron Hills known as Masafer Yatta a restricted military zone, dubbed ‘Firing Zone 918’. At the time, dozens of Palestinian families had been living in the area for years, since before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. They lived in 12 small villages and earned a living as farmers and shepherds.

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Tell General Mills: Stop manufacturing Pillsbury products on stolen Palestinian land!


Did you know that food giant General Mills is manufacturing Pillsbury products on stolen Palestinian land?

That is not OK.

The Pillsbury factory is located in Atarot Industrial Zone, an illegal settlement near the infamous Qalandia Checkpoint that separates East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Stand up for Palestinian rights! Join AFSC in telling General Mills: Stop profiting from the occupation.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights listed General Mills as one of the companies supporting illegal Israeli settlements. AFSC’s own research shows that the land the factory was built on was confiscated by force. The factory is located on land that used to be part of Beit Hanina, a Palestinian town which was dissected by Israel’s separation wall. Israel annexed this area into Jerusalem.

We wrote a letter to General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening, urging him to stop doing business in an illegal settlement—and received no response.

Please join us in taking action today:

1. Write your own letter to Jeff Harmening and tell him: “No dough for the occupation!”

2. Boycott Pillsbury products until General Mills stops manufacturing on stolen land.

3. Help us spread the word. Share more information about the campaign with your networks as well as our campaign website: BoycottPillsbury.org. Support our call for justice for Palestinians and join us in boycotting Pillsbury today.

In peace,

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What Comes First, an Israeli Army Firing Zone or Palestinian Villages?


Palestinians in the southern Hebron mountains Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Amira Hass, Haaretz, 03/08/2020

Next Monday the justices of the High Court of Justice will discuss the State of Israel’s demand to destroy eight Palestinian hamlets in the southern West Bank. I should say: will once again discuss, because the government’s demand is not new.

For about 40 years the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration did everything in their power to make these communities disappear, while they, in their heroic and prolonged battle against the order to become extinct, also turned to legal channels and to petitions. In military Hebrew, the area designated for demolition and the eviction of its Palestinian residents is known as Firing Zone 918. In ordinary Arabic and Hebrew it is Masafer Yatta.

Now the High Court justices are being asked to decide once and for all what comes first: an area for military training exercises, or an ancient fabric of life and relations between a city and the villages that grew up around it.

The “what comes first” is a question of chronology, principle and ethics. Israel claims that the firing zone was declared as such in 1980 and the residents are “illegal squatters” who settled there afterwards. The geo-historical facts, which are not subject to dates, maps and the overt and covert intentions of the occupying power, indicate otherwise.

The rural roots of the city of Yatta, already in the Ottoman period, are not in doubt. Sheep herding and agriculture were the basis of its existence and the cultural heritage of its families. Its expansion and the urbanization process it has undergone are natural phenomena. In the second half of the 19th century there were about 2,000 residents. Today there are almost 70,000. The overall area of its land, which was recognized and determined long before 1967, is 170,000 dunams.

The constant increase in the number of residents and the size of the flocks led to the creation of rural offshoots, by people searching for more available land for grazing and planting, and additional sources of water or a place to dig a new cistern to collect rainwater.

In Yatta, like everywhere in the country, they remained in the distant location for several days and weeks, depending on the season, the calving and the sheep shearing. Natural caves were sometimes adapted for residential purposes. Gradually the seasonal offshoot became permanent.

The familial, economic and social links to the village of origin – now town – have been maintained. But over time every community also develops its own characteristics independently. How much beauty is contained in this geo-human continuum, and in the universal nature of the process, which can be identified all over the globe.

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Israel issues demolition notice for Palestinian cave home

‘I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,’ says Ahmed Amarneh from West Bank village of Farasin

Ahmed Amarneh and a neighbor chat outside his home, built in a cave in the village of Farasin, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank on August 4, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)Ahmed Amarneh and a neighbor chat outside his home, built in a cave in the village of Farasin, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank on August 4, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Times of Israel, 10 August 2020

Ahmed Amarneh’s home, with a wooden door opening onto cushion-lined rooms, is not the first Palestinian residence in the West Bank to receive a demolition notice from Israel.

But it may be the first built inside a cave that the Jewish state threatened to destroy.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer, lives with his family in the northern West Bank village of Farasin, where Israel requires permits for any new residential construction and can tear down homes built without approval.

“I tried twice to build (a house), but the occupation authorities told me it was forbidden to build in the area,” Amarneh told AFP, using a term for Israel used by some Palestinians.

The Oslo peace accords of the 1990s gave the Palestinians self-rule in parts of the West Bank. Continue reading

Israel demolishes Palestinian coronavirus testing centre

Israeli soldiers watched construction on desperately needed facility for two months before sending in the bulldozers


Palestinian engineer Raed Maswade inspects the rubble of the testing centre after it was demolished by Israeli authorities in Hebron (AFP)

Akram Al-Waara and Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Middle East Eye, 21 July 2020

Israeli authorities have demolished a Palestinian drive-through coronavirus testing centre in the city of Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank.

The West Bank is struggling to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections, after appearing to successfully ward off the pandemic with a strict weeks-long lockdown implemented in March.

Hebron, the territory’s largest city and powerhouse of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) economy, has been hit particularly hard. The PA recorded 65 coronavirus-related deaths in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Hebron municipality has set up a coronavirus crisis centre, but social stigma and the difficulties caused by the Israeli occupation have hindered its response.

Raed Maswadeh, a 35-year-old engineer whose family owns the land in which the drive-through test service was being built, told Middle East Eye that three months ago the municipality had appealed to Palestinians to raise funds to build the facility.

“My family decided to donate our land at the northern entrance of Hebron for the purpose of constructing a Covid-19 test clinic,” Maswadeh said.

It was built in the memory of his grandfather, who died recently due to coronavirus, and Maswadeh said the project cost his family around $250,000.

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If Not Now Rallies Against Annexation


American Jews playing klezmer in front of House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco to demand she take action against annexation.

Over the past few weeks, IfNotNow has organized a series of coordinated, powerful actions to tell our elected officials at both the local and national levels that words alone cannot stop annexation. We are tired of the blank check that the US gives to the Israeli government every year and we are ready to ramp up the fight.

IfNotNow members gathered together and held rallies in front of the homes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Congressman Brad Sherman. We showed the Jewish community’s support for bold action on annexation, like the letter put forward on June 30th by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal and nearly a dozen others that advocates for conditioning military funding should the Israeli government move forward with annexation. We did so with shofars, homemade instruments; with stirring, emotional speeches, and with, of course, lots of singing and chutzpah.

See below for some of our favorite photos from these actions!


Young Jews rallying in front of Jared Kushner’s home in Washington, DC to hold him accountable for giving a green light to Netanyahu to move forward with annexation without regard for Palestinian rights.


Jewish IfNotNow leaders marching towards Rep. Brad Sherman’s home in Los Angeles to demand that he support conditioning US military funding to the Israeli government.


American Jews in Detroit making their way to their local Jewish Federation to demand that it stop upholding the occupation and support real action against annexation.

This is just the beginning. We know that getting our government to take real political action to end the occupation will require a movement of American Jews raising our voices for the freedom of both Palestinians and Israelis. In order to do that, we need your help so that we can give more support to the volunteers who made these protests happen and pay for all the materials we use at these rallies.

I am so proud of these actions. I am so proud of our community. I’m so hopeful about what we can do together. Please consider joining me in sustaining our push for justice.

L’chaim,
Naftali
IfNotNow