Monday, August 10, 2020

Nonviolent Resistance in the South Hebron Hills

By Tadas Blinda - July 09, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [South Hebron Hills] [settlements] [settler violence] [nonviolent resistance] [House Demolition] [Firing Zone 918]

Palestinians gather in South Hebron Hills for 6th annual Popular Resistance Festival.  All photos by Eugene Peress.

Villages in the South Hebron Hills experienced three days of continuous Israeli army and settler violence between the 4th and 6th of July. The escalation of violence occurred just days after the sixth annual Popular Resistance Festival was held in the village of Khalett Athaba, located in Israeli Firing Zone 918 in the hills south of Hebron.

On Thursday, July 4th the Israeli army invaded the village of Jinba in the South Hebron Hills wrecking numerous homes in the small village. In the middle of the night thirty Israeli soldiers invaded Jinba village, throwing stun grenades, beating four boys with their guns and arresting three men.

The following day some fifty settlers accompanied by eight armed soldiers went on a “sightseeing tour” of Israeli ruins through the South Hebron Hills villages of At Tuwani, Ar Rakeez and Al Birkeh. Hours later the Israeli army conducted military training in Humra valley in the South Hebron Hills. The training was held adjacent to At Tuwani village and the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on. 

On the evening of Friday, July 5th Settlers attacked and injured a mentally disabled Palestinian shepherd in the village of Tuba in the South Hebron Hills. Four settlers assaulted Meher Isa Aliawad while the Palestinian man was grazing his flock. Settlers threw stones at him as he was trying to run back home, seriously injuring Aliawad’s left arm. 

On Saturday morning, July 6th Palestinian shepherd Heir Suliman was arrested near the Bedouin village of Umm Al Kheer while returning home with his flock. According to the international group Operation Dove Israeli soldiers provided no reason for the man’s arrest. The same day four Israeli activists were arrested and taken to the police station of Kiryat Arba settlement after they started protesting against the arrest of the Palestinian shepherd.

A Palestinian home in the village of Khalett Athaba, South Hebron Hills

Hafez Huraini, coordinator for the Popular Resistance Committee in the South Hebron Hills spoke to Palestine Monitor about these actions. “This is the kind of strategy of the occupation to evict Palestinians out of this area. It is done by using these different aggressive policies by the military administration as well as settler violence.  There is full coordination on how to make Palestinian life harder and harder and push them to leave.”

Violence and subsequent arrests broke out just days after South Hebron Hills residents, together with international and Israeli activists, celebrated their continued non-violent struggle on Saturday, June 29th in the village of Khalett Athaba. The Festival, organized by the South Hebron Hills Popular Resistance Committee, commemorated the resident’s choice of non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation, settler violence, army harassment and continuous attempts to evict the villagers.

“This festival is a really important activity because we can send a message to everyone about the most important issue. This festival is the fifth one and as you see we talk about the firing zone 918. We all are pushing to stop the eviction of the Palestinians from this area,” – Hafez Huraini told Palestine Monitor.

South Hebron Hills residents began their peaceful struggle against occupation after approximately 700 people from twelve small villages were forcefully evicted from their land by the Israeli military in 1999.  Orders for eviction were given on the grounds that villagers “illegally” lived in a live-fire zone. 

The area of this live fire zone is nearly 30,000 dunums (3,000 hectares), and was declared a restricted military zone in the 1970s.  According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs approximately 18% of the West Bank has been designated as a closed military or “firing zone”.  This is roughly the same percentage of the West Bank designated Area A (17.7 %), the only portion of the territory that is under full Palestinian Authority control. 

Attendees gather outside a tent at the popular resistence festival 

“We [popular committees] started our work in 1999 after the first eviction. They [Israeli authorities] tried to evict fifteen villages. After that time we started organizing ourselves by creating local committees in each village and started to use this coordination in an effective way. After long discussions and meetings we decided on this choice – non-violent resistance as an effective way to put an end to the occupation. This is the main principle for us,” – said Hafez Huraini. 

Twelve Palestinian villages are located in the area of Firing Zone 918, the residents under constant threat of forced expulsion from their lands. In July 2012 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the demolition of eight of the villages located in the military firing zone that, if carried out, would result in expulsion of over 1,000 people, more than half of them children. On January, 16th 2013 the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a new petition to the High Court of Justice on behalf of the villagers after previous petitions were dismissed. The court hearing for the new petition is set for July 15.

Despite the threats of imminent demolition, displacement , and settler and Israeli army violence South Hebron Hills residents are committed to non-violent resistance against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

As Hafez Huraini said “We are quite aware of the policy of the occupation - the goal is to evict the Palestinians. At the same moment they are pushing the Palestinians forcefully to respond in a violent way, to lose hope and just go to the violent way. If we respond violently they [Israeli authorities] will find excuse to implement their policy. We are aware of that policy and we are committed to the choice of non-violent resistance. You need to organize for that and work to organize demonstrations, activities, to resist the occupation and settlement expansion.”   



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