The Jordan Valley – The Strategy behind Demolitions and Displacements

Fadia is angry. Today, she came from Fasayel to Ramallah with many other villagers from the Jordan Valley to protest in front of the UN OCHA building. The Jordan Valley needs international attention. The Jordan Valley needs international support.

 Fadia is angry

Fadia adresses the protesters and medias to tell her story of displacement. (Ramallah 28/05/2014)

Since the failure of the peace negotiations and the decision of the Israeli High Court of Justice to include the Palestinians in the planning procedures in Area C, we have been recording an increased number of house demolitions all across the West Bank.

The case of At-Twayel has been described in detail on this blog, but it is only one case among many. Our team has been monitoring also Al-Jiftlik Abu Al-Ajaj, but Al-Hadidiya, Fasayel, Humsa, Mak Hul and many other villages have faced repeated demolitions and harassments too.

Bulldozers in At-Twayel

Bulldozers pulling down dwellings. (At-Twayel 29/04/2014)

At-Twayel: where to learn Sumud

In At-Twayel, five dwellings, a mosque and four animal shelters have been pulled down on the 29. April 2014. 300 troops and four bulldozers were deployed in order to leave 27 people, of which 19 children under 17, without shelter. The tents the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) provided on the same day were confiscated on the 12. May 2014, when 250 troops entered the village again with three bulldozers and destroyed the three new built houses. The PRCS provided new tents, but the Israeli Civil Administration sent some representatives on the 18. May in order to take the tents away again, as well as the concrete mixer the villagers used for the renovation of the old buildings. On the 11. June, the villagers called us to inform us about the presence of the Israeli Civil Administration nearby. By the time we arrived in At-Twayel, we could only see three jeeps leaving the village. They just had brought a further demolition order for two old buildings, which in the document were described as "newly built whith local stones".

Under the Stars

If there is no roof left, then let’s sleep under the stars! (At-Twayel 22/05/2014)

The people in At-Twayel tell us that they have lived there for generations, and collapsed stone walls show a long history in this village. A villager tells us “we will die here in our right” emphasising their determination not to abandon their land. “We breed sheep, this is our main income.” he continues, “we cannot breed sheep in Aqraba [the nearby town]; there is no land for this there. All people here want to stay.”

Another essential aspect contributing to this Sumud is the solidarity At-Twayel experiences from the inhabitants of the region. The people in Aqraba managed to raise about 320’000 Shekel to support the village and rebuild dwellings.

Al-Hadidiya: Abu Sakr’s story

Abu Sakr

Abu Sakr tells us his story in his tent while we drink tea. (Al-Hadidiya 24/05/2014)

In Al-Hadidiya, only Abu Sakr’s family remains after the village has been demolished no less than 14 times between 2004 and 2011. As we visit them in their tents, Abu Sakr tells us “our situation is determined by the Israeli politicians”. As we talk about the demolitions, he exclaims “Every day, the Israeli make earthquakes for us!”, he also explains that “we are not against the Jews, we respect their religion and their prophets (…) but we are against the occupation. I don’t have any problems to live with the Jews here, in my tent, but they have to come as my guests, not as my occupiers. This is the only way I can respect them.” We ask him if Peace is possible, and he answers “Peace is only possible if there is Peace between the people, not only between the governments. Peace is only possible in a democracy that gives us our rights: the right to live here, the right to water and the right to return.” As we leave him after countless cups of tea and coffee, Abu Sakr gives us a last advice: “it is your job to wake up your people at home and to show them what is happening here; to show them the crimes of the occupation.”

Abu Sakr named his youngest daughter Sumud.


The village of Al-Hadidiya in front of the settlement Roi. (Al-Hadidiya 24/05/2014)

Abu Al-Ajaj: will despair finally get the upper hand?

On the 21. May 2014, the emergency call came from Al-Jiftlik Abu Al-Ajaj, where the Israeli authorities demolished 36 structures, leaving 52 people homeless, 28 of them children, as well as 4000 sheep and 15 calves without shelter. Further 12 people, including 3 children, where affected otherwise.

Every Day Life in the Ruins

Every day life goes on in the ruins of Abu Al-Ajaj. (Al-Jiftlik Abu Al-Ajaj 24/05/2014)

The farmers explain to the team that they had come from Hebron to live here in the 1970s. “We are peaceful people”, they say, “we breed sheep, this is our income.” Facing the disaster, Usama, one of the displaced people exclaims: “This area is not demolished; it is an earthquake of the democratic state [of Israel]!”. Unlike in At-Twayel, the villagers in Abu Al-Ajaj still seem under shock when the team visits them some days later. They seem not to find the energy to stand up to the violence anymore. An old man continues to ask what to do: leave or stay. On call of UN OCHA, the EAs visit Abu Al-Ajaj on a daily basis for a week and witness great fear of further demolitions among the villagers. This fear also prevents them even to set up some improvised shelter. In May, the temperatures rise already much in the Jordan Valley, and neighbouring villages provide water tanks. Unfortunately, the water is not enough to cover also the animals’ needs; lambs and goatkids die under the burning sun and the eyes of helpless locals and internationals.

Goatkids Dying in the Sun

The lambs and goatkids are dying under the burning sun. (Al-Jiftlik Abu Al-Ajaj 27/05/2014; photo by my colleague Ingar)

The Eviction Strategy in Area C

The affected and threatened villages are all situated in Area C, which is under complete control of the Israeli authorities and covers about 60% of the West Bank. The demolitions are often justified because they affect so called “illegal constructions”, though, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli authorities rejected the vast majority of applications for building permits in Area C submitted by Palestinians: “from 2009 through 2012, a total of 1,640 applications were submitted. Only 37 – a mere 2.3% – were approved” (see report Acting the Landlord: Israel’s Policy in Area C, the West Bank; June 2013, p. 19); which means that the Palestinians living in Area C have almost no possibilities to build housings and animal shelters legally.

Outdoor Emergency Household

Outdoor emergency household. (Al-Jiftlik Abu Al-Ajaj 24/05/2014)

In his article published on the 20. May 2014 by the Wall Street Journal, the Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennet reveals the strategy behind this intended impediment of expansion of the Palestinian population: "Annexing Area C would limit conflict by reducing the size of the territory in dispute, which would make it easier to one day reach a long-term peace agreement." And Col. Einav Shalev, operations officer of Central Command and a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reportedly explained how this was to be done: “Military training in live-fire zones in the West Bank is used as a way of reducing the number of Palestinians living nearby, and serves as an important part of the campaign against Palestinian illegal construction.” Thus it becomes obvious that the recorded demolitions are part of a whole strategy aiming at the eviction of the Palestinian population from Area C.

Protesting Hadj

There is no age to require the respect of your rights. (Ramallah 28/05/2014)

A System Working Against International Humanitarian Law

At-Twayel and Abu Al-Ajaj are only two examples among many communities which have faced sometimes repeated demolitions in the Jordan Valley. But Palestinians do not surrender quite easily. The farmers and shepherds of the region have decided to join forces in order to organise their peaceful resistance. This is why Fadia and the others have come to Ramallah today. They want international attention. They want their story to be spread in the hope that this will help to prevent further displacements. They hope that international political pressure will help push the Israeli government to change its politics and to respect international law. Article 49 of the Geneva Convention states: “(…) the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.” And requires that “The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition (…).”

Children protesting at OCHA

Children holding up the names of the demolished villages in the Jordan Valley. (Ramallah 28/05/2014)

Fadia, Abu Sakr, Usama and the other villagers are obviously victims of abusive transfers. The “illegality” of the buildings can hardly been considered as security threat and there is no identifiable imperative military reason for the demolitions. Further, not only the authorities fail to provide the inhabitants of the demolished buildings proper accommodation, but they even confiscate the emergency shelters provided by the Red Crescent. Fadia has quite enough reasons to be angry.

=> A slightly modified version of this article was posted on the EAPPI Blog.

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I have been sent to Palestine and Israel by HEKS-EPER and Peace Watch Switzerland as Human Rights Observer in the frame of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the sending organizations. If you like to publish the information contained in this article or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communication Officer or Peace Watch Switzerland More information about our program can be found on and

The world is now a cruel

The world is now a cruel world where people are being killed by some cruel people. I just pray to Almighty for help.

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