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Moving Stories: 203 Responding to the crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory: April 2017

May 20th, 2013 · No Comments

Update on the current political situation in IOPT


The Middle East is experiencing protracted and violent conflict; poverty, vulnerability and uncertain futures now define millions of lives. Much of the region is affected by the huge numbers of people fleeing war, deprivation and discrimination. In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory bitterness and violence have become more entrenched between Israelis and Palestinians and there is currently no peace process with which to encourage hope. Since 2007, Gaza has experienced three military offensives putting ever greater strain on a crumbling infrastructure. Israeli policies continue to control nearly all aspects of Palestinian lives and abuse their most basic rights throughout OPT. Israel’s ongoing occupation continues to be characterised by its expanding settlement programme with approximately 600,000 Israelis now living in illegal settlements on appropriated Palestinian land.


Furthermore, civil society is seriously under threat in IOPT. In Israel, on 11 July 2016, the Israeli Knesset voted to approve a NGO Bill which will require NGOs to publicly declare if they receive more than 50 percent of their annual budget from foreign governments in the name of transparency. The law will mainly apply to human rights organisations and to anti-occupation organizations, which are critical of Israeli Government policies in the OPT.  The Law requires organisations to publicly declare that they are reliant on foreign funding in any dealings with officials, in the media, on billboard advertising and online. Without such funding, many organisations would struggle to exist and human rights protection work would be critically threatened. In Egypt, all projects receiving foreign funding must be approved by the Ministry of Social Solidarity in order to be implemented. This process results in long delays in work, and is rendering human rights work almost impossible with organisations and activists under threat. A proposed new NGO law is expected to improve the process but not remove the need for permissions, severely restricting the ability of civil society to operate effectively and freely.

Jabal al Baba demolition


26 January 2017, the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by the army, demolished six structures belonging to two households in Jabal al Baba, one of the 18 communities within the area allocated for the E1 plan. The demolition targeted three residential structures, two animal shelters and one outdoor toilet, on the grounds of lack of building permits.

On 15 February 2017, The UN’s Office for the Communication of Human Affairs (OCHA) visited one of the two displaced families whose property and belongings were reduced to rubble. The demolition had targeted two residential units made of corrugated iron and wood, and a pen where they kept chicken, turkeys and ducks. According to the owner, Salem, the demolition took the family by surprise as they had a court injunction against it and had received no prior warning.

Salem, his wife, Umm Muhammed, and four children are now homeless. Umm Muhammed, her two sons (aged 17 and 18) and two unmarried daughters (aged 23 and 24) are staying with Salem’s married brother in the neighbouring town of Al Eizariya. Salem is living close to his demolished house in an old Ford transit van converted into a makeshift home and covered with a tarpaulin to shelter from the rain and cold wind. The van’s back seats are the bedroom and sofa, and the side mirror is a peg for hanging clothes. The area outside the van’s side door serves as the living room and kitchen. It is small, muddy and chaotic, and can barely fit two chairs.

The family received basic humanitarian relief items, including two tents, but reported that they have not been able to put them up because of the wet ground, the wintery, windy conditions, and fear of demolition by the ICA and the army. This was the second time the family experienced a demolition since 2014. Salem said that after the first time around he was in a much better financial position and was able to rebuild his house. This time, he tried to make a temporary shelter out of car tyres but was unsuccessful.

Umm Muhammed, Salem’s wife, described the psychological and physical difficulties faced by the family. “The demolition has been devastating and our situation is miserable. We’re homeless. It’s been psychologically tiring for all of us. I personally feel powerless and unwell. Where shall we go? And how shall we live here? Our stuff is under the rubble. I have had to borrow clothes and shoes from my sister. The girls are very sad; they lost everything: the clothes they like and things they need. They do not feel comfortable or free at their uncle’s house, which is already crowded with his kids (over 13 of them) and two wives. They do not even feel comfortable to make a cup of tea there. Before the demolition, I loved keeping our house clean and tidy. Now look around. No one can live like this.  I cannot understand how my husband can live in such conditions… I come to see him here (in the van) for a few hours every day.

My daughters also come but cannot stay for long. There is nowhere to stay and nowhere to cook. There is no toilet or bath… Where we stay is not our home. I don’t feel comfortable and relaxed to cook. To demolish someone’s house is to wreck their life…,” said Umm Muhammed.

© www.ochaopt.org   Can be reproduced for non-commercial use

New Technology

B’Tselem have recently released a new interactive documentary entitled “The Invisible Walls of Occupation”. Viewers are invited on a virtual tour of the Palestinian village of Burqah, a rural suburb of the city of Ramallah that has become cut off from its urban centre through various restrictions imposed by Israel. The documentary has Burqah residents leading viewers on a virtual tour of their village. The project depicts the story of the village and illustrates various aspects of Palestinians’ daily life under occupation. The project was co-produced by B’Tselem and Canadian digital studio Folklore, and is based on a B’Tselem report by the same name.

Background on the village of Burqah, from B’Tselem’s report The Invisible Walls of Occupation:

The Palestinian village of Burqah in the West Bank is rather unremarkable. It has never taken centre stage in the fight against the occupation, and has not been subjected to extreme punitive measures. In fact, Burqah was chosen precisely because it is unexceptional but demonstrating what life under the occupation is like for residents of Palestinian villages. It is a small, picturesque village, surrounded by fields. Like many other villages, it endures severe travel restrictions which isolate it from its surroundings. It is also subject to massive land-grabs and stifling planning, all of which have turned it into a derelict, crowded and backward village with half its population living at or below the poverty line.

Burqah residents may live in Area B, but despite the illusion created when powers were transferred to the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s full control of Area C means it has the power to influence many aspects of life in Areas A and B, even allowing it to freeze the day-to-day routine of Palestinians living in those areas. The closure of roads leading into the village has greatly limited residents’ access to employment, medical services, shopping centres, medical services, institutions of higher education, and leisure facilities. They are forbidden from accessing about a third of their farmland. Area C includes not only farmland, but also almost all the land reserves for future development of the village. Barring Palestinians access to this land has created a severe housing shortage. These issues affect every aspect of life in the village. Burqah is a case in point, demonstrating how the settlements and their interests play a central role in Israel’s policy planning in the West Bank, even at the cost of grave harm to the Palestinian residents, and how a legal-administrative web stifles a village, life and development. The Israeli authorities always put the interests of the settlers and the settlements before those of the Palestinian population. Although the settlements are unlawful in themselves, Israel allocates a great deal of resources to developing them and protecting their residents, while doing everything in its power to block Palestinian development.



Moving Stories is produced by Commitment for Life, the programme of the United Reformed Church that seeks to raise issues around justice and development. To receive Moving Stories email . Views expressed are not necessarily those of the URC



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