Her father was shot dead by Israeli soldiers, June 6, 2007, in occupied Hebron.
by Stuart Hill
NORTHERN ECHO (U.K.)
June 7, 2007
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This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, in which Israel defeated the Arab armies and occupied Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, but even today, there's little prospect of stability.
As part of a study tour, Stuart Hill, of the Durham Palestine Solidarity Campaign, recently visited Israel and the West Bank. He gives his views on what he saw.
VISITING Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron was emotional and shocking for us. We are still coming to terms with the experience. We travelled on a road system built especially for Israeli Jews to travel to Jewish-only cities built deep inside the Occupied Territory we know as Palestine. These high-quality roads are funded through the European Union and, therefore, our own taxes.
The Israeli and Palestinian roads often run alongside one another but never, ever, meet. Walls and barbed wire separate them. Any Palestinian attempting to drive on these roads is quickly apprehended and faces either a heavy fine or imprisonment. It is a crime for Israeli Jews to carry Palestinian passengers or to visit places in the West Bank. All contact is discouraged.
These Israeli cities are very modern with manicured lawns and lovely flowerbeds. The water is taken from the Palestinians, who often have their water cut off altogether. Israelis we spoke with were quite open with us that they would never give up these conquered territories. They wanted to ethnically cleanse the entire land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean.
Even within the supposedly "Palestinian" areas, checkpoints were everywhere. They range from mobile units set up at random, to a collection of prefabs, to the high tech "terminals" made of concrete and glass. These checkpoints disrupt everyday life, consume time and, most of all, humiliate.
Children have to queue up every day to have their bags searched on the way to school. Women returning from shopping in the market may have to pass through several checkpoints just to get home.
People have died at checkpoints as they have tried to get through for medical treatment. Women and babies have died because the soldiers kept them waiting endlessly. It is a completely dehumanising process controlled by very young conscripts. It must be a brutalising experience for all concerned.
Most of the checkpoints are not between Israel and Palestine but are within Palestine itself. They are about exercising total domination on the people of Palestine with the purpose of making life intolerable. Israel controls the electricity, water, currency and even the air itself. Everything.
We met a Palestinian woman who has residency rights to live in occupied East Jerusalem. She was born and has lived only here but has been granted "temporary" permission to stay by Israel. If she were to leave for some reason, there is no guarantee she would ever be allowed back. Unfortunately, her husband comes from the West Bank, a village five miles away, so he is not ever allowed to come into any part of Jerusalem.
If she goes to live with him she will not only lose her right to live in Jerusalem but she will also lose her identity and become a stateless person. They have a baby who they are reluctant to register because it will expose their relationship.
Most Christians and Muslims living in Bethlehem have not been allowed into Jerusalem for the last nine years, even though it is less than half an hour's drive away. They are denied the opportunity to visit friends and relatives or to visit their places of worship. This applies just as much to Palestinian Christians as Muslims.
We met a number of young Palestinians who are studying at Bethlehem University despite all the problems in terms of travel and funding. They are bright young people with so much to offer yet they know that the chances of them getting a decent job in their own country once they have graduated are limited. Unemployment amongst Palestinians runs at about 65 per cent. The Catholic Church runs the university. The Pope has had to intervene because the Israeli army started to target Catholic priests who were teaching there.
Most shocking of all is the Israeli policy on house demolitions. There is an acute Palestinian housing shortage but even where Palestinians own land and are willing to build their own house they are not given planning permission. They have no option but to build without permission in order to provide homes for their families. The Israeli state then places a demolition order on the property but often may not action it immediately.
Families then live under the constant fear that the bulldozers will arrive. There are hundreds of such houses under threat of demolition. When the armed soldiers arrive with the bulldozers the family will be given less than one hour to remove their personal belongings. The bulldozers then demolish everything, including the foundations. To add insult to injury, the families are then sent the bill for the cost of the demolition.
Even more obscene is the 26ft high concrete wall. The Berlin Wall was only ten feet high. The Israelis have constructed it to create a border, defined by them, but built on Palestinian land. The wall runs through and between villages, cutting off farmers from their grazing animals or cultivated crops. This makes it extremely difficult to continue farming but otherwise the people would face starvation. They would not find alternative work.
The wall also isolates water sources, which previously supplied a number of Palestinian villages. By controlling the water supply, Israel controls the quality of life faced by many Palestinians.
We visited rebuilt kindergartens and health clinics that had been destroyed by the Israeli army. These had been paid for, more than once, by the United Nations, European Union and Japan. The young children we saw have seen so much violence that many are disturbed as well as malnourished.
Even Palestinians we met who are Israeli citizens do not have equal rights on where to live, who they can marry or what jobs they can apply for.
Visiting the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem brought tears to our eyes. It shows graphically how the German Nazis methodically destroyed Jewish legal, property and citizenship rights at first. They then moved on to destroy livelihoods and culture as well as preventing marriage or any other contacts between Jews and non-Jews. Without de-humanising Jewish people such horrors would not have been possible.
The museum is built on the site of a demolished Palestinian village.