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Land Theft near Jenin

by www.soundslikefreedom.org Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at 6:58 AM
sounds_like_freedom@yahoo.co.uk

* www.SoundsLikeFreedom.org is the website of a group of people working In Jenin, Occupied Palestine. On the website are written articles and reports, and radio and real-media video files for download, made both by Palestinians and Internationals, some available in both English and Arabic. We aim to provide a direct voice from the residents of Jenin to the world, and also provide on the spot, witness based news from the town.*



Update from Kharba Ghanam.



The harassment of the 36 people living in the hamlet of Kharba Ghanam, on the outskirts of Jenin has continued since our last report. (See previous reports, film, radio and pictures from Kharba Ghanem on www.soundslikefreedom.org). The Israeli government still wishes to expand the settlement of Kadim, and the tiny hamlet at Kharba Ghanam is on the land the government would prefer to build on. If the Israeli authorities get their way 36 more people will lose their homes and the land which provides them with their livelihood, and all because they have committed the heinous crime of living in homes deemed too near to an Israeli settlement which did not exist at the time their homes were built.

Since the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza strip in the 1967 war, the government of Israel has pursued a policy of building settlements on the land that they captured. This practice is illegal under international law but none the less the Israeli state continues to build new settlements and expand existing ones on land that previously belonged to the Palestinian residents of the territories now under Israeli military control.

Since the outbreak of the current intifada (the uprising of the Palestinians living in these occupied lands against their Israeli occupiers) there has been little demand among Israelis for homes in the settlements, which many regard as being on the front lines of the conflict. The Sharon administration like its predecessors has resorted to the use of increasingly generous financial incentives to entice people, often from South Asia or the former Soviet Union that are too poor to buy a home elsewhere in Israel/Palestine to move into the settlements.

Despite this policy many settlement houses remain uninhabited and many more residents would move out of the settlements were it not for financial constraints (a recent survey commissioned by the Israeli group Peace Now found that most settlers would be wiling to move inside the green line if the government provided them with suitable financial aid to do so). Even though many existing settlement homes are empty, the government of Israel persists with its efforts to build more and extend existing settlements, and in the already densely populated Occupied Territories this policy often means that inhabited Palestinian homes must be demolished to make way for new Israeli homes for which there is not actually any demand. Needless to say unlike the incentives used to entice Israelis to move into the settlements, the means used to evict Palestinians living in homes in the way of settlement construction do not take the form of financial incentives but rather the threat of violence or arrest (the most basic threat being that homes will be demolished whether their inhabitants are in them or not).

This process, which fits the definition of ethnic cleansing, is known in most of the Israeli and Western media as the "natural growth of the settlements". The frontline victims of this policy are ordinary Palestinians like the ones living in Kharba Ghanam. They stand to be driven from their homes because the state of Israel has now designated their land as land that only Israelis have the right to inhabit.

Two of the five houses in Kharba Ghanam were demolished without warning on the 15th of September, but at the time of writing, the others have not been demolished. Possibly due to the attention bought to this case by international activists, the Israeli authorities are pursuing legal proceedings through the courts before demolishing the remaining homes. While the Israeli army waits for formal legal sanction to destroy the remaining homes and evict the family from their land, it has stepped up its harassment of the families, perhaps hoping that if they make life difficult enough the residents of Kharba Ghanam will leave voluntarily.

On the 15th of October some of the inhabitants of Kharba Ghanam were grazing the families five cows and 100 sheep on their land, in full view of Kadim settlement as well as an Israeli military outpost, a part of the families ongoing struggle not just to feed 36 mouths but also to find the funds to rebuild their two demolished homes so they can move out of the tents that some family members are currently forced to live in. Israeli soldiers came and abducted two young men from the family while they tended to their animals.

The men’s relatives attempted to find out about the men’s condition and try to help them if they could. Four women from the family set out towards the nearby Israeli outpost, carrying with them a large, hastily assembled white flag (a sheet tied to a branch) and accompanied by a small child (the abducted men’s little brother) and an international activist. The group walked through fields of knee high grass, and next to the outpost a field of thistles, all the while in full view of an Israeli sniper tower. As the group approached they could see the soldiers working on their tanks and the international activist was calling "hello" to them but they seemed to not to have noticed five people in a field next to their base with a big white flag.

When the group moved round to the entrance to the base the soldiers finally noticed them and motioned angrily for them to leave before rushing inside their barracks. A few soldiers then came out of the barracks wearing their body armour and aimed their rifles at the frightened women. At this point the group attempted to leave with their hands raised in the air.

But it was too late, a number of soldiers, some not wearing all of their uniform, and perhaps angered at having been caught unawares, ran towards the group and demanded that the international activist drop his bag and step away from it before lifting up his shirt and turning around. They then angrily surrounded the group and demanded that they explain what they were doing there. The women tried to plead with the soldiers to release the two men that they had taken that morning, but the soldiers acted as though they did not understand Arabic and tried to speak only to the international activist in English, even though they had been screaming at him in Arabic just a minute before.

The soldiers said that they were not holding the men there, and said that they would be released the next day. The men’s mother asked if they could expect her sons home tomorrow at seven, and the soldiers taunted her that it would be seven in the evening, at the earliest. One guilty looking soldier, possibly embarrassed by his colleagues behaviour added that it usually took 24 hours to check up on "suspects" in custody.

The soldiers made it clear to the women, who by this stage were in tears at the news that their sons would not be home today combined with having so many guns aimed at them, that they never wanted to see any of them near the base again, or else...

The soldiers then expected the group to leave promptly, but not before they had searched the international accompanying the women. The group left dejected and walked back across the fields to their homes. Half an hour later the two sons turned up, having been held in Salem prison for the day, and actually having been released before the women reached the outpost where they believed them to be held. The soldiers had been lying the whole time when they acted as though they knew, if not controlled when the boys would be released, perhaps they gained some enjoyment from taunting the women distressed over their loved ones well being.

The sons said that they were ok, physically at least, and their uncle vowed that the family was not afraid of the Israelis and would not be intimidated off of their land. Although the daily humiliations and harassment can be withstood with determination and strength, in the end the force of the Israeli army can overwhelm physically the attempts of the families at Kharba Ghanam to continue living in their homes.

TAKE ACTION!

Please pressure the Israelis: find your local embassy at www.embassyworld.com/embassy/israel.htm

Call the Israeli Offensive Forces spokesman-

00972 3608339 or the press office 00972 256245789

Or call the Major responsible and tell him what you think, Major Shkera - 00972 (0) 56 234 182

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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 5 posted about this article.
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
But you don't understand Meyer London Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at 7:36 AM
Jenin Historian Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at 8:54 AM
Historian Meyer London Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at 9:45 AM
Jenin mb Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at 11:39 AM
Ah, yes. Meyer London Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003 at 11:44 AM

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