Tours in the villages Azzun, Izbet eltabib, Huwwara, 22/12/2013 morning
9:20 – Izbat Tabib at M.’s house
M. and family have moved into their new house which they have been building for several years. It isn’t completely finished as yet since there is no money for doors, kitchen cupboards in the large kitchen, and heating. But the family enjoys it anyway. The lovely garden has fruit trees, herbs and plants, and a vegetable garden. We sat in the warm sunshine on the entrance porch and enjoyed sweet tea and pomegranate juice that M. had made.
M. reported that every day for the last month in the afternoon, soldiers have entered the village. They take youths out of their homes, handcuff them and take them for interrogation. The reason for arrest is always for throwing stones on Road 55. Ten days earlier S., 20 years old, had been arrested and was stabbed. The Palestinians claim that it was done by a religious soldier. He was released after 48 hours. Daily, 4 soldiers walk around the village and at the entrance and harass the youths. The village has put up a tent especially for the young people in order to keep them away from the road. On Friday a demonstration is planned to protest the stabbing of S.
At the entrance to the village there is a gas station owned by someone who lives in Azzoun. According to M. he is a collaborator with the Shabak. With his help, 2 other collaborators from Qalqilia and Gaza took over the area of an empty packing house next to the gas station. They have turned it into spaces for small workshops and industries for Jewish settlers from nearby. Security officers from among the settlers guard the businesses which are actually within the village. M. says that there is now an attempt to register the area of the packing house in the land registry in the name of one of the collaborators. From him it will go to the settlers. Here is another method of expropriating Palestinian land, bit by bit, in a sure and open way. The owner of the gas station in the past was the head of a union of villages. He (having a blue ID card) took part in the sale of Palestinian land, and was also discovered to have stolen water over a number of years from the allocation to the village. He was taken to court and was fined a large sum of money.
Another threat which M. foresees is the building of a new road which will start by Maaleh Shomron. The road will skirt Nebi Elias, will go through the circle at the entrance to Izbat Tabib and will end at the Eliyahu Gate. The road will take away more than 1200 dunams of land in the villages in the area. It will cause the demolition of 5 homes at the entrance to Izbat Tabib, and will completely change the path of the main entrance to the village which will cause difficulties entering and exiting.
We said our warm farewells to M. and his wife and 2 lovely small children.
This was an arranged meeting with H., the administrator of the local council, at the council building in Azzoun. He speaks fluent Hebrew.
“We here are like in Guantanamo! like in a prison. Soldiers walk around here all the time; there are cameras surrounding the village, watchtowers, and arrests of youths and children. Azzoun is at a strategic point; it overlooks Tul Karem, Qalqilia, Salfit and more. The village is choked; there is 47% unemployment. Young people are not allowed to go to work in Israel; they have nothing to do and are bitter. Spiritual damage is caused to these young people who are incited to become collaborators through pressure on their sensitive position. There is hunger in the village, and violence is increasing. Young men, without work permits, try to get into Israel to work and get caught. What was once a partial solution to this problem, working in one of the Arab states, is no longer viable due to the high cost of living in those countries.
The arrest of youths, especially children under the age of 16, changes their personality. After being in prison they refuse to return to school or to any other framework, and cause much stress within their families. In November alone 33 youths were arrested, most of them under the age of 16. To this date 23 of them are still incarcerated. Long periods of detention are given them in Megiddo Prison. They can have only one visit each month. In the last storm they suffered severely from the cold, but the prison authorities refused to allow them to receive warm clothing and covers from their families.
H. told us the story of N. who was arrested 7 years ago at the age of 23. In Nafcha prison he refused to wear the prison garb and was beaten so severely that today he doesn’t even recognize his own family; he is denied medicines and is kept isolated in the prison. His situation is terrible. We gave his father’s telephone number to Physicians for Human Rights.
We also met the father of 2 sons. One, 17.5 years old, who has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for throwing stones, and the second, 15.5 years old, is being kept without a trial.
The question of permits to work their lands, and the gates to their lands was not a big difficulty this year because of the small size of the olive crop.
11:40 – Huwarra – A meeting with R. who is responsible for the settler’s portfolio in the northern West Bank.
After a ride through the both snowy and green pastoral landscape we sat in a falafel eatery in Huwarra for an arranged meeting with a representative of the Palestinian Authority.
He is responsible for the area of Nablus and all the towns and villages around it. There is a process of sporadically renewing the checkpoints that had been closed; as of now temporarily, but the future is unknown. He is referring to ‘on the spot checkpoints’ like in Za’atra, Shavei Shomron, Huwarra and Jit junction. Settler’s visits to Joseph’s Grave cause ‘on the spot checkpoints’ being closed to the passage of Palestinians.
The incident of the youth who was shot because he was playing with a toy gun, as it was claimed, is strange. R. says that the young man was a lecturer at the university, and how could it be that he was playing with a toy gun!?
R. claims that settlers are helped by soldiers to create provocations; they themselves create instances of stone throwing, but are not punished for it. It’s a daily occurrence.
Rather surprisingly, this man encourages the presence of Machsom Watch women at the checkpoints as a means to bring moderation and calm. He says that all the appeals to the Israeli functionaries that deal with these matters have not helped. He receives the complaints and appeals of the villagers who have been attacked and tries to get help. In the event that he receives no answer from the Israeli authorities, he activates a group of Palestinians whose role is to protect the Palestinian farmers from attacks and harassment of the settlers, and also from the grazing of the settler’s sheep and cattle on Palestinian’s fields. The protection is that of stones, and not more than that. He suggests that we see the information pool of OCHA which records the day to day events in the West Bank.
During the olive harvest the Palestinians received one day for each village to harvest their crop and work their plot of land while guarded by the army. The Palestinians “luck” was that the olive crop this year was very small so no harm befell them.