Friday, September 25, 2020

Mounting pressure in Jerusalemís controversial E1 area

By Hannah B. - March 03, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [E1] [Jerusalem]

Children of the Jahalin tribe. Israel plans to expel the area’s Bedouin villagers to expand the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim (background). Photo: 'Ammar 'Awad, Reuters, 16 June 2012

The Israeli army issued demolition orders to 40 Palestinian Bedouin families living on the outskirts of Al-Ezereya in East Jerusalem on Sunday 23 February. The community, about 300 Palestinians from the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, live in mostly steel structures in the controversial E1 area of East Jerusalem.

The Israeli military set a court date for 2 March to make a decision on the demolition orders. Jamil Barghouti, mayor of what was once the Bab Al Shams protest village set up in the same area, is certain the demolitions orders will be approved.

“Israeli courts are nothing more than mute courts, they simply legitimize the demolitions,” Barghouti said in an interview with the Palestine Monitor.   

The Jahalin community in the area has little infrastructure: running water was only just recently installed in some parts of the community, and there is no electricity. The Jahalin, originally from the Negev, are considered refugees by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. They receive no medical or infrastructural benefits from either the Israeli authorities or the Palestinian Authority. 

Four houses in the community have already been demolished once before and were immediately rebuilt. Once the demolition orders are approved, the army can arrive at any time, but residents remain steadfast and determined to stay.

“There is no place to go, so we will rebuild,” explained Ata Allah Mazavah, a resident of the area and father of five children.

The Jahalin tribe live in Area C, the 60% or so of the West Bank that falls under Israeli civil and military control.

Sami Abu Galeh, a spokesperson for the Jahalin tribe, spoke to the Palestine Monitor. After becoming frustrated with the continued demolitions in his community, he consulted with a lawyer to see what could be done to obtain legal access to the land. He was told there was no possible way, because the Israeli army controls all land access in Area C, “they want no Bedouin on this land,” he said.

According to Abu Galeh, Bedouins make up about 5,000 of the 90,000 Palestinian population of the area around Al-Ezereya and East Jerusalem.  

Israel looking to expand settlement in E1 area

Israel is trying to evict the community to make way for the expansion of nearby settlement Ma’ale Adumim. There are plans to make the area into a public park for settlers in the E1 area. Israel also wants to make the road that runs alongside Ma’ale Adumim, connecting Al-Ezereya to Ramallah, an Israeli only road.

Ma’ale Adumim is the largest Jewish-only settlement in the West Bank, according to the israeli human rights group Peace Now.

The threat of further displacement looms large on the horizon, as the majority of land now inhabited by the Jahalin is part of the E1 area. Israel’s E1 development plan is meant to ensure that Jerusalem has a Jewish majority.  Part of this plan entails expanding Ma’ale Adumim and rebuilding the separation wall to include it within Jerusalem proper.

Israel doesn’t want to see Bedouins in the area of E1, and the reason for that is because they want to make connections between settlements. They have an integrated plan aimed at forcing Bedouins to leave and gathering them in an area,” said Abdullah Siam, Deputy Governor of Jerusalem, in an interview with the Palestine Monitor.

Approximately 90% of the Bedouin in the hills around East Jerusalem have a pending demolition order for their homes, according to The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem.

“With full control of E1, the West Bank will be a lot of little boxes, there will be no connection between Palestinian societies,” explained Barghouti.

Samir Amir, a resident of Ezereya, supports his view. “They are trying to connect settlements together and isolate Palestinians,” said Amir in an interview with the Palestine Monitor.  

Recent Demolitions

Five structures belonging to the Jahalin tribe in the same area were demolished in February. One of the structures destroyed was a carwash that provided economic support for 10 families.

Approximately 200 soldiers arrived at 2:00 am with bulldozers and backhoes to tear down structures. They also reportedly destroyed cars, seized property and cut electric lines. 

The community has begun to rebuild the demolished carwash, in order to start working again as soon as possible.

"This is our land, we have to live here.  Even if they destroy everything 100 times we will rebuild.  We won’t leave,” explained Jahalin spokesperson, Abu Galeh.

Looking out at the sun setting behind the ever-expanding settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, he recounted the history of the continued displacement of his people and the dire conditions they endure.  The Jahalin tribe, originally lived a semi-nomadic life in the Negev around Beer Sheva.  After the establishment of Israel in 1948, the tribe was forcibly removed by the Israeli military to the East Jerusalem.  However, after the 1967 war, they were once again forcibly removed to the area upon which the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim sits today.  When the settlement was established in 1994, it pushed the Bedouins further and further out until, in 1997, they were again removed to the neighbouring hills. The Jahalin tribe is now forced to live in an area only 300 meters from the Jerusalem garbage dump.

 “Israel offered us an alternative, to gather our community and put us in a building, but this is completely against our lifestyle,” explains Allah Mazavah, who believes that such an offer is just another effort by Israeli authorities to force the Jahalin to leave the area.

“I reject this plan in principle,” said Isleman Abu Ghassan, one of the oldest members of the community. “There is no space, no privacy and we cannot continue our farming lifestyle.”

Abu Galeh speculates that the Israeli military has moved away from forcible evictions, and instead, has decided to focus on creating an environment that is so impossible to live in that the Jahalin are forced elsewhere.  It is starting to feel increasingly unbearable, according to Abu Galah. “If I look north I see walls, if I look east I see walls… the whole city is a jail,” he said.

As Israel continues expanding settlements and looks for further ways to prevent a continuous Palestinian state, it is unlikely this community will be able to remain here for much longer. Abu Gassan knows this well: “We will struggle and keep fighting to stay here, but sooner or later we will be evicted.”


Claire Matsunami contributed to the reporting of this article.

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