Tuesday, November 24, 2020

50 years of occupation: the story of a village trapped at the seams

By Zann H. - June 05, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Occupation] [seam zone] [settlement construction]

Since the 1967 Six-Day War which saw the Israeli army defeat the joint Arab army in a mere six days, Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have been living under the shadow of Israeli occupation.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the war, as well as half a century of Israeli occupation. From land confiscation to home demolitions to the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians have faced fifty years of dispossession.

The village of Jab’a is only one example of how Palestinian villages in the West Bank face isolation and fragmentation while the Israeli government continues to endorse the construction of illegal Israeli settlements.

Jab’a is located in the “seam zone”, which refers to the areas between the Green Line and the separation wall. The village lies 17 km north of Hebron and 15 km southwest of Bethlehem.

Meaning “hill” in Arabic, Jab’a offers a vantage point over a long distance. It is possible to see the outline of the Mediterranean sea in the horizon and steep valleys dotted with olive and almond trees.

With four Israeli settlements - Beitar Illit, Bat Ayin, Gush Etzion and Jab’a - facing the Palestinian village of Jab’a, Diab Marshalleh, the Mayor of Jab’a village says: “First, our village is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements from all four directions. There are 2 entrances to our village. The first one leads to Hebron but it has been closed since 2000. Another one leads to Bethlehem but it has been closed since the last Intifada (2000-2005).” As a result, travel time to these two cities has significantly extended for residents of Jab'a.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlements are encroaching on Jab'a, while land is progressively confiscated from the Palestinian village.

“The Israelis want to cut our village off from the rest of the West Bank and turn it into a big prison,” said Abdallah, a school teacher from the village.
According to B'Tselem, there are approximately 588,000 settlers living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in contravention of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory.

In fact, friction between settlers and Palestinians living in close proximity are not unheard of.

“The road to Hebron runs through the village of Surif in the Hebron governorate,” Marshalleh explains. “Since the Israeli authorities closed this road, we have to travel through the Etzion settlement. Many times, the settlers attacked us with stones and burnt our cars,” he said.

This curtailment of movement for Palestinians is clearly evident from the building of bypass roads meant for settlers only. The setting up of checkpoints, road blocks and most notably the infamous separation wall further restrict the movement of Palestinians.

Life in the seam zone is fraught with difficulties and inconveniences. One such example is the access to farmlands belonging to Palestinians, for which permits have to be granted by the Israeli authorities.

Marshalleh reveals that, “we can’t even go to our farms even if we have permits. Sometimes they (the Israeli authorities) agree to give us permits, sometimes not. Last year, we went to our olive farms near Bat Ayin and a lot of settlers attacked us by throwing rocks and fire. The settlers have guns. The Israeli soldiers told us that they could not stop the settlers and asked us to leave quickly.”

Even children are not spared from the harsh realities of living under occupation. Space for Palestinian children to play is also delineated by the Israeli authorities. “At the outskirts of our village which is near the Israeli settlements, our children cannot play near there,” Marshalleh adds. “When our kids played football close to the settlements, the Israeli soldiers will sometimes come and the kids will be frightened and ran away.”

Living under Israeli occupation also means that Palestinians do not have the liberty to expand their properties outside of designated areas.

“We are not allowed to construct outside of our village. The Israeli soldiers will demolish our houses if we build outside the boundary of our village,” Marshalleh says.

The establishment of separation barriers and restrictions on movement means that families are separated especially those who are trapped in the seam zone.

“Our village was occupied [during] the war in 1967. It was occupied by the Israeli soldiers, so the villagers were afraid and left their houses. Many of them these are now living in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Many of the houses are empty now which is the result of the occupation. Many families are separated as a result,” Marshalleh said.


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