On Friday the ICAHD rebuilding camp participants embarked on a study tour of the southern West Bank. Our first stop was Susya, where 40 or more homes are threatened with demolition by the Israeli authorities. A moving account of what is happening there was published in the New York Times by Nasser Nawaja, who spoke to our group.
We then proceeded to the besieged city of Hebron, where 120 settler families hold tens of thousands of Palestinian residents hostage, the latter’s movement extremely restricted and their lives threatened constantly by both the Israeli soldiers and the settlers. Climbing the stairs behind Shuhada Street, a main commercial market street in Hebron closed by Israel in 1994, after the massacre of 29 Muslim worshippers by an Israeli gunman, we arrived at the house of the Youth Against Settlements, and had briefing by Issa Amro, their charismatic and courageous leader.
We had lunch (maklubeh) with Atta and Rudeina Jaber and the children. We were shown a harrowing video of settler violence on the family that was filmed from their front window – where we could clearly see people throwing stones, trampling on their land, uprooting their plants and planting replacement trees. At one point a man shouted to Atta and his family “you are not human beings” highlighting the utter hatred evident from these settlers, who carried both machine guns and young children, whilst they were calmly escorted by Israeli authorities.
The group then travelled to Bethlehem where they toured the Dheisheh refugee camp and met with the staff of Badil, a Palestinian organization working towards the return of refugees to Palestine and equal national rights for Palestinians in the entire country.
In the evening we heard from three Israeli activists who came to the camp, Eran Efrati, the new Director of ICAHD USA and a vocal opponent of Israeli militarism, Maya Wind, a doctoral student at NYU, a member of ICAHD UYSA’s Board and a prominent critical voice in her own regard, and Lior Vol, an Israeli activist doing his Ph.D. on Israeli securitization. The mixture of critical Palestinian and Israeli voices, “on the ground” and in organized encounters, provides crucial information and analysis about the Occupation – though today (Saturday) they are back at work on the house.