One of the soldiers guarding the entrance told us that Palestinians could apply for a special permit to enter and exit within the curfew hours. When he was asked how medical emergencies were handled for Palestinians, he said that a Palestinian would have to go to another location to acquire a permit and return before an ill person could be transported through the gate during curfew hours. We also talked with two Palestinians outside the gate. They stated that they were aware of babies being born and deaths occurring behind the gate because the special permit had not been granted or obtained in time by the Israeli military.
Palestinian Village of ‘Azzun ‘Atma Surrounded by Israeli Settlements
Guarded Gate to Azzun ‘Atma and Sha’arei Tibva
1. Twenty-one illegal Israeli colonial settlements have been established on Palestinian land in the Salfit area. The Israeli settlers can be seen bearing high-powered automatic weapons and have been known to threaten Palestinians. However, the Palestinians are forbidden by military decree to bear weapons and are virtually defenseless. When the settlers prompt conflict, the Israeli military and police have repeatedly taken the side of the settlers or ignore the problem.
2. At least 12 Palestinian houses and 5 Palestinian public buildings have been demolished between September 2002 and May 2004. In one small village containing just over 40 homes, Israel has given notice of 21 buildings scheduled for demolition. The villagers are all refugees that were displaced in 1948 by the establishment of Israel and would again be displaced if their homes were destroyed due to Israeli expansionist plans. We were told of over 80 other home demolition orders that have been issued by Israel in the Salfit area.
3. On any given day, an average of 24 Israeli constructed rock, concrete, and metal gate roadblocks exist in the area and can vary because of random roadblocks set-up by the Israeli military. One person stated that some roadblocks have been distroyed for media events coordinated by the Israeli government and reestablished soon after, even in the same day, or else created one morning simply to be removed later in the day when the media are present.
Main Highway Entrance to Palestinian Village of Azzun Blocked by Israelis
4. On the morning we met with one Palestinian village official, the Israeli military had just arrested a Palestinian bulldozer operator that worked for the village. Based on an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli army authorities, one of the critical roadblocks put in place by the Israeli military in February 2008 preventing highway traffic into the village was authorized to be removed by the bulldozer operator. Its removal would have ended the 10 kilometer detour that currently exists because of this road closure. However, for some reason, shortly after the roadblock was dismantled, the Israeli military stepped-in and arrested the operator. The day of our visit, village officials were attempting to determine the reason for the sudden change in the Israeli position.
5. It was reported that 1,000 newly planted Palestinian olive trees were uprooted and removed. It was suspected this was done by Israeli settlers. The field was in view of an Israeli watchtower equipped with video equipment, but the Israeli military refused to allow Palestinians human rights workers to view the video for the evening the olive tree theft occurred.
6. The illegal Israeli settlements have at times decided to dump raw sewage into valley village farms and population areas. Although action has been taken to stop the disposal, sewage has still been dumped in the winter season and blamed on rain water runoff. The overbuilding of Israeli settlements together with inadequate sewage treatment poses a significant health hazard for the Palestinians.
7. One village reported curfews being imposed by the Israeli military four times the week prior to our visit over stone throwing incidents at a school. However, on a daily basis the Israeli military drive their vehicles into the school area with their lights flashing and sirens blaring. The school rescheduled the break time to avoid the confrontation, but the Israeli military rescheduled their visits to coincide with the break time. The village believes the military is inciting stone throwing by schoolchildren with their overt actions. The Israeli army has a history of entering six schools in the Salfit region with tanks and shooting and breaking gates and windows. It appears that Israeli institutional military violence is being used against stone throwing cihldren responding to the army’s harrassment and frustrated over the Israeli destruction of their homes and security.
8. The Israeli Apartheid Wall continues to move towards this area, threatening to make one of the deepest cuts into Palestinian land. A village showed where 50% (500 dunams, i.e. 125 acres) of its farmland would be cut off from the village. The farmers will be required to obtain permits to access their farms and travel 11 kilometers (6.84 miles) to reach the farms through Israeli checkpoints.
Another View of the Israeli Apartheid Wall on Palestinian Land
9. Another village of 155 houses is threatened with demolition for the benefit of the Israeli Apartheid Wall and Israeli expansionist plans to benefit colonizing Israeli settlers.
10. On a peak overlooking the area is the luxurious home of Moshe Zurer, an Israeli proponent of Israeli colonization of the Palestinian country. His strong influence encouraged the Israeli government with its plan to deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land. He has been highly influential in encouraging the Israeli government.
11. Approximately 400 factories have been located in some of the settlements with limited environmental controls, thereby further endangering the Palestinian homes and farms due to run off and toxic waste disposal. Israeli labor laws protective of workers are not applied in these factories where Palestinians workers are hired.
12. A women advocacy organization is dealing with the spillover social services aspect of the Israeli colonization. The Palestinian children are constantly under attack from the military and settlers, creating new challenges for assuring their mental health. The Israeli government has been an instigator of problems by its protectionist stance on settlers and allowing settler violence against Palestinians to continue. This could have long-lasting negative impacts on the next generation of Palestinians.
13. Since the Aparthaid Wall was built, many Palestinians are no longer able to travel and work where they once did, creating a large problem of unemployment. Many new jobs in the Israeli factories being built in illegal settlements go to the new Israeli settlers. With Palestinian farms being taken-over by the Israeli government and restrictions being put on Palestinians, the Israelis are making the Palestinians a destitute people. It appears the Israelis are pressuring the Palestinians to seek their future outside Palestine so that Israel will have all the land.
The International Womens Peace Services (IWPS) currently works in the Salfit region and is, like MPT, a non-governmental organization promoting nonviolence activities to support peace with justice. Because of the impending impact of the Israeli Apartheid Wall, related home demolitions, and potential loss of access to family farmlands, there will be a greater demand for international support in this region.
As seen in other areas of Palestine, the Israeli Apartheid Wall and expansion of illegal settlements continue to be an effort by the Israeli government to take more Palestinian land with no compensation or consideration for the generations of Palestinians that own and have developed these lands for years. The Palestinians are left defenseless within the Israeli court system. The Israeli military can declare an area to be critical for security and thereby divert the Palestinian land to Israeli ownership. The future looks bleak without action by the international community.
The United States of America was a leader in international actions to force South Africa to abandon apartheid. Is it time for the USA to again step forward and lead the international community in forcing Israel to abandon its apartheid policies against Palestinians?