FARISIYA, August 16 (JMCC) – Israeli officials on Sunday told residents of Farisiya
village in the Jordan Valley that their homes were slated for demolition
in 24 hours. This will be the third time that bulldozers have flattened the Bedouin village.
Farisiya village, home to 170 people, is now a ramshackle collection of tents. Household items lie trapped in rubble left from past demolitions.
“In the last three weeks, Israel
has twice destroyed 26 homes, displacing 120 people,” tells Mike Moszczynski, who is putting together a report on the Jordan Valley evictions for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
Bedouin communities have for centuries herded their livestock and grown produce on this land. “The village has existed since before Israel occupied the territory in 1967,” says Moszczynski .
But now this poetic setting of rolling hills, desert terrain and mounted herdsman is a closed military zone. Dotted across the tranquil landscape are large cubic concrete blocks. Emblazoned on them in red paint are the words “Danger, live firing range.”
When the blocks appear in your village, you know it will be demolished, says Fathi Khadarat from the Jordan Solidarity Movement.
“All across here,” says Khadarat, pointing to hills steeped in the golden pink glow of the sunset, “is mine area.” In every way, the land has become a hostile environment.
Locals say the mines, scattered across the valley, have been in place since the last war in 1973. Many know of a friend or relative who has been maimed or killed
“Across the road are heavy military training areas,” says Khadarat. “Netanyahu has been here twice to see the training.”
Pointing in the opposite direction he says, “On this side, nine kilometers from here, is the largest military installation in the Jordan Valley.”
LIVING ON THE EDGE
Following the signing of peace agreements between Israelis and Palestinians in 1993, the Jordan Valley was designated as Area C, meaning it falls under complete Israeli control. Without Palestinian government services, and under the thumb of Israeli military regulations, residents of these areas are an easy target for forced displacement.
The Bedouins who live here were once semi-nomadic, using various villages as resting points as they herded sheep.
“Do so now and you risk having your home destroyed on the account that it has been abandoned,” says Moszczynski.
When homes are destroyed, no compensation is given, says Moszczynski. ICAHD and other left-wing groups of internationals and Israelis have set about helping the villagers rebuild.
“I think the solidarity element is important. These people live out here with nothing. Perhaps having an international presence affords them a little security. The area is so remote, no one would know,” says an ICAHD activist who asked not to be named.
Farisiya residents are determined not to leave. “No, no, this is our land,” says Bedouin Mohammed, on horseback, “We will stay and we will live here.”
But legal recourse, says Moszczynski, is largely unavailable. “The Palestinian Authority
gives pro-bono lawyers. However, they have to appeal to Israeli courts, the case falls under military jurisdiction, and [ultimately] is never taken up.”
And while Bedouin communities are being forced to leave, settlement
communities in the area are allowed and even encouraged to stay.
Nahal Ramat, once an outpost that was been repeatedly abandoned, has now developed into an ecological settlement, attracting both religious and secular Jews.
“No one really wants to live there. The settlements keep getting abandoned,” says Moszczynski. The harsh, hot, conditions of the Jordan Valley have made its settlement unpopular. “They are economic settlers; they are being paid by the government to stay there.”
Most recently, the Jordan Valley is being promoted as a resettlement location for settlers who were removed from Gaza in 2005. As a religious Jew I also have a duty to settle here, Yossi tells the BBC. This land was promised to us by God and that promise is now being fulfilled.
Like the settlements, the real purpose of the evacuation orders, say many, is to retain control of the Jordan Valley.
These recent demolitions intensify concerns that this is part of a government strategy to remove the Palestinian population from the parts of the West Bank known as Area C, over which Israel has complete control in terms of planning and construction, says Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
has said that the Jordan Valley's strategic importance along the eastern border of the West Bank
makes it impossible for Israel
The Allon plan, proposed in the 1960’s, left the West Bank as an enclave, surrounded by Israeli territory except for a corridor at the town of Jericho
-- a future Palestinian state’s only connection with Jordan.
Control of the Jordan Valley, say some, is the de facto implementation of the Allon Plan. “I don’t think they care if there are Jews there,” says Moszczynski.
“It is a buffer zone between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinians will only have one connection with another state at Jericho and this [passageway] is controlled by Israel. “
The drive back to Jerusalem takes on past a deserted piece of land, on which sits a cluster of cement blocks ominously waiting to be distributed.
“Israel will be the only country with two eastern borders,” says activist Inbal.