Hamra (Beqaot), Tayasir
Visit to Khalat Makhoul
· The army confiscated two water tanks from a local family, cutting them off from their only water source.
· Dud ammunition and mines take the lives of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.
· How the settlers exploit their Palestinian employees.
09:50 Tapuach junction/Za’tara checkpoint
Open, when we returned. A Transportation Ministry vehicle inspection unit is parked in the plaza, inspecting trucks. The only truck currently under inspection is Israeli. A welcome innovation, because we usually see only Palestinian vehicles being inspected. As usual, the Israeli police lie in wait for Palestinian vehicles.
10:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
No soldiers, no inspections.
10:20 Hamra checkpoint
One lane is blocked for some reason, so all traffic goes through the other lane, which slows inspection. Traffic is sparse at this hour so lines don’t form. Nor were there lines when we returned, perhaps because it’s early (14:30) and there’s still no congestion due to people returning from work.
Confiscation of water wagons in Farsya.
When we visited the D. family we were told that last Friday, 20.3.15, the Civil Administration has confiscated two large water tanks from a family in Farsya. That’s the only water source for them and their flocks. The Bedouin don’t receive water from Mekorot, which pumps most of the Jordan Valley's abundant groundwater, and transfers most of it to the settlements, even though they’re only 10 percent of the Jordan Valley’s population. The Beduin are forced to buy water from distant locations and bring it in tanks to where they live. It increases the cost of water by a factor of five compared to what the settlers pay. Each water tank must cost many hundreds of shekels. It’s a heavy economic blow to the Bedouin, who are struggling to survive in the difficult climatic conditions, under occupation.
The excuse for the confiscation, like for the other endless abuses of the Palestinian population by the occupation, is that the Bedouin live on a firing range. All the areas where Bedouin live in the northern Jordan Valley have been designated firing ranges, which makes living there illegal, even if they’d been there before Israel was established, since Ottoman times or the period of the British Mandate. So it’s possible to expropriate, destroy and expel whomever the Israeli army wants to remove, and it’s all legal. Water tanks are usually confiscated during the summer, in the burning heat, when the damage is much more severe. We referred them to Yesh Din.
Labor conditions in the settlements
B. has worked in settlements in the Jordan Valley for about five years and earned NIS 70-80/day: hard work in the fields and greenhouses in the Jordan Valley’s extreme heat. Now they have fired him, from one day to the next, with no severance pay. Unfortunately, during the entire period of his employment he never received any document to prove he has worked and had been paid. He was always paid cash. Hundreds or more Palestinian laborers are employed under such arrangements. That’s how the settlers break labor laws and avoid Israeli tax authorities. To the best of my knowledge, such payment arrangements are illegal. I can’t imagine there’s any Israeli government body which will bother to alter these arrangements, not to mention make sure B. receives severance pay.
Unexploded ordinance the army leaves on grazing land, and the result
The army leaves behind unexploded ordinance on firing ranges that endangers the lives of the inhabitants, particularly those of the shepherds grazing their flocks. Each year shepherds in the northern Jordan Valley are wounded and killed. Last year (2014) four died and three were injured. Last summer two people from Tamun were injured, one of them died. The same summer an 18-year-old youth from Hamam el Malih was wounded in the chest. He bled for three hours before his father found him, dead. Last month a resident of Bardala was killed and a 15-year old-boy from Hamam el Malih was injured. An international organization is involved in locating and marking the unexploded ordinance and mines in the Jordan Valley and the army is responsible for neutralizing them. But the army doesn’t hurry to do its part (shortage of money and manpower), so hundreds of marked unexploded pieces of ordinance remain on the ground, but until they’ve been neutralized they are dangerous and cost lives. What would have happened if this negligence were costing settlers' lives.
11:50 Khalat Makhoul
We visited the families whose homes and sheepfolds were demolished last Wednesday, March 18. We found heaps of metal sheets and wooden boards. It’s clear these people are resourceful and hardworking. They piled up the rubble, cleaned the area so it would be more comfortable to live there, despite the disaster that had befallen them. They continued with their lives. Meanwhile each family received a small tent from the Red Cross. We also saw a tent donated by Salam Fayyad (who fills no position in the Palestinian Authority). Their attorney is trying to obtain a temporary injunction to prevent these tents from being demolished.
Two old women sat talking outside, on plastic chairs which they’d saved from destruction. R., in the seventh month of her pregnancy, sat on the ground alongside them and prepared squash for lunch. A pastoral scene amid the destruction.
A demonstration of volunteers from abroad came toward us from a distance, members of Jordan Valley Solidarity, walking along the locality’s “main street” (a narrow dirt path) carrying a Palestinian flag.
13:15 Tayasir checkpoint. Like at the Hamra checkpoint, here too one lane is closed but it’s possible to detour around it so cars can go through in both directions at the same time. Traffic is sparse at this hour and there are no lines.
We visited Bisan, the girl who’s to undergo a difficult operation at the end of the month, and then a long hospitalization, all organized by two of our colleagues, and wished her success.