The Latest From Palestine: Community Voices

***image2***October is the month of the olive harvest for Palestinians, and it is an extremely important time culturally, socially, and economically. The harvest has gained political significance, since it has become a symbol of strength and solidarity in the face of rising settler attacks, increasing land confiscation, and destruction of farmland. This year, 106 villages across the West Bank have been identified as being under threat from the Occupation, but farmers still refuse to be forced off of their lands, and they continue the harvest despite the violence and abuse that they face.

40-year-old Sameera Surour was sitting on a wooden chair across from the intensive care unit on the first floor of the Ramallah Public Hospital, waiting in silence for word on her husband’s condition. I had not previously met Sameera, but I distinguished her from the other women sitting on those wooden chairs.

We, the people of Jayyous in occupied Palestine, denounce the Israeli businessman Mr. Lev Leviev and his criminal and colonial destruction of our lands and livelihoods.

***image2***Leviev's money and investments are destroying the olive groves that have sustained our village for centuries. Many of our families are barred by the occupation forces from working our own lands that have been stolen by the Apartheid Wall for the "Zufim" settlement. Mr. Leviev has heavily invested in this settlement and as such is funding the continuing dispossession of our people in Jayyous.

Osama ‘Amad Suleiman Hazahaza is seven years old and lives in the village of Far’un, south of Tulkarm. What is happening today to Osama’s family is sadly similar to the experiences of his grandfather, Hajj Suleiman, who was forcefully expelled from his home in the village of Qalansuwa in 1948 by armed Zionist gangs. Now, 60 years on, Osama too faces the threat of expulsion from his home. The Occupation has called for the demolition of his family home, ostensibly because it lacks the proper permit.

***image2***Ahmad Muwafaq Saleh Qabaha

Ahmad, 17, of West Toura, to the west of Jenin, is disabled. He has motor problems affecting half of his body and severe learning difficulties. He relies on his parents for most of his personal needs.

In May 2004 at around midnight, Ahmad and his family were woken by a heavy banging at the door and loud voices shouting,

“Open the door – it’s soldiers”

Bir Nabala is one of Jerusalem’s many Palestinian neighborhoods isolated from the rest of the city by massive sections of the eight-meter high concrete Wall. Bir Nabala was once a bustling commercial center, linking the people of northern West Bank cities such and Jenin and Tulkarm with the greater Jerusalem metropolis. Because of the neighborhood’s strategic location, many Palestinians depended on more than 600 businesses and shops as well as six tire factories to maintain their livelihoods. The shops now number less than 180 and only two tire factories remain.

Zakariya is located south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank and is now completely surrounded by the Gush Ezion settlement bloc. There are only 58 buildings in Khirbet Zakariyya, 18 of which were built after the Occupation extended its grip to the West Bank in ’67. Since then, the Occupation forbids the villagers to construct any new buildings but as the population grew they built simple constructions of rough cement and zinc roofs to house families and basic services. All of those 18 buildings are now under demolition order, including one school and the clinic inside it.

***image3***Twelve year-old Hamaam Ismael sits down leaning against a massive tree that died after it was uprooted by an Israeli bulldozer to prepare the land for the footprint of the Apartheid Wall. The young boy wonders about his and his family’s future.

***image2***My name is Omar Deriah. I am studying business administration at Bir Zeit University. I am originally from Aqraba in Nablus district but I am now living in Bir Zeit. It is a three year course, but I have been studying here for four years, for reasons that I will explain.

***image2***Jamal Darawi, 40, from Nu’man village, is part of the popular committee to defend the land in the Bethlehem district. He tells how the Occupation is forcing the villagers to leave Nu’man. The Zionist drive to expel the people from their lands and homes has a concrete target — 21 villages all along the path of the Wall. The land which was used to provide the villagers with the means of independence now is used to provide the means of their imprisonment.

In Rafat, as throughout Palestine, the spirit of resistance against the Occupation has passed through generation to generation. The land on which people have lived and toiled throughout these years has provided livelihoods and dignity with which people have endured continued suffering and oppression. But now the Apartheid Wall will leave Rafat and its farmers without their land. Yet, their daily struggle for justice and freedom from occupation continues.

Here, two generations of farmers tell of their lives on their land, and their unceasing struggle against the Occupation.

***image2***“I waited for my turn at Tayaseer checkpoint. A soldier made a sign for me to come. When I reached him, he asked me: ‘Who told you to come?’ I said: ‘You told me to come.’ Then he took my ID.”

“Let’s do it Saturday!”

Saturday has become a strange day of rest for the families from Anata, East Jerusalem. Parents go about their work without the anxiety of going to the secondary school gates where children are collected on weekdays. On Saturdays, the Soldiers do not attack the school.

***image2***Karmen Salim Khalil Nassar is 60 years old and from Bethlehem. Standing outside her restaurant, in the shadows of the Apartheid Wall, Karmen reveals the suffocation of Palestinian life in the city.

“We constructed this building back in 1984. It was in a good area of the city. We opened a restaurant on the ground floor and it was always full. People had to make reservation to find a place to sit.”

***image2***I am Amar al Wahsh, from Jeeb el Theeb. My wife and I have three children. I was living in Jordan until 1996, when I returned back to my family village, to be with my relatives, my brothers. The situation was very difficult and complicated for me when I came back. I was working as a laborer but this was interrupted. In 1999, I married and lived in a room at my brother’s house until I built a house and moved. This took me five years; only 4 months ago I finished the house and moved with my wife and children. All the money I have made in the past five years I put in the house.

The vast and imposing terminal built by Occupation Forces at Qalandiya serves as one of the key checkpoints in the control of Palestinian movement. It opened in December 2005 causing misery, frustration, and most of all humiliation, for the thousands of Palestinians who pass it every day for work, education, basic services and visiting family. A cross section of Palestinians forced to use the terminal, recounted their experiences and explained how the intensifying Occupation is making life unbearable.

My name is Muhamed Khaled Abdallah Tari Qandeel from Beit Surik. I’m 42 years old and my family comprises 14 people, the eldest of my children being 22 years old and the youngest 5 years.

When we met Ibrahim Rabaya, 45, from Irtas, he insisted that first of all we had to mention in his testimony that he would never give up his land, which has been stolen by the Occupation`s confiscation policies. “They have seized my land by force!" – he repeated throughout the entire meeting to assure us that he and his family never gave up the land despite all the temptations and threats they received from the Occupation.

***image2***Aisha is an old woman in her 70’s. Her sharp face bears out the history of Palestine and Palestinians, from disaster to resistance. When you see her you are reminded of a Roman olive tree tied to the land with its roots deep into the soil. She talks with determination and conviction, recounting her community’s struggle against the Apartheid Wall and Occupation.

Fakhri abid al-aziz Kadeeh: “The Wall has destroyed my life”

Fakhri, from Shuqba, is a Palestinian Farmer. As every farmer following years of tradition in this region, he depends on two seasons of production. Planting and harvesting during the winter and summer ensures enough produce and income to live. In winter, Fakhri depends largely on figs, and in the summer olives. The Apartheid Wall has devastated this cycle and jeopardized Fakhri’s - as well as his community’s - very existence on their own land. Here he tells his story …

"My name is Mohammed Abed El- Hafeth Samarra. I am 27 years old and live in Brukim, a small village to the west of Salfit district. I have two children; Abed El-Hafeth and Salma. I left school when I was 13 because of the bad situation that my family faced. I became an apprentice in construction with a professional builder in the village. I worked from the morning in to the evening for 20 Shekels a day. I persevered with the work wishing that my children would not have to work under such condition. After 6 months I was able to work alone and I worked in the 1948 areas.

The Apartheid Wall is threatening to make Hussein Diab a refugee for the second time in his life. In 1948 his family was forced to flee their home and become refugees, ending up in the village of Al Burj in the southwestern tip of the Hebron district. Today, this village of 2,500 Palestinians is being devastated by the Wall as the Occupation enforces its overall project of expulsion of the Palestinian people. Hussein speaks openly about how the Wall has stolen his land and seeks to turn his village into a prison.

Sheikh Nawaf Sarhan, school director in Arab Ramadin village, speaks candidly about the impact of the Apartheid Wall project in his village. Arab Ramadin, in South Hebron is the home of 3200 people who know that the Occupation is planning to destroy their lives and future. The full devastation will become unraveled as the Occupation’s final path of the Wall becomes apparent.

***image2***At the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa in the 1980s the call of the song “Senzeni Na – What Have We Done” was a common expression of exasperation at the cruelty and brutality of the apartheid regime. Across Palestine, the same words are uttered once again as the Occupation seeks to impose a final solution of apartheid, ghettoization and imprisonment upon the Palestinian people.


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