THE ISRAELI AUTHORITIES HAVE RAZED AGAIN THE FARM OF ATTA JABER
On Wednesday, 21 st February 2018, the bulldozers of Israel’s “Civil” Administration (which it calls its military government over 7 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza) destroyed the farm of the Jaber family in the Baka Valley, near Hebron. Normally this would not be a notable event. Every day dozens of actions are taking against Palestinians, from demolishing their homes (52,000 homes and structures demolished in the Occupied Palestine Territory since 1967, the Jabar family’s home itself demolished twice and rebuilt by ICAHD) to uprooting olive orchards and fields to cutting irrigation and destroying wells to detaining children and, virtually every day, shooting a young person who dares to protest.
But Atta’s case is special. He and his family represent every level of resistance to Israeli occupation, from just trying to eke out a living from a tiny farm whose land Israel claims, to having a roof over their heads, to having to defend their home from nearby settlers (who once occupied and burned it), to being beaten and imprisoned by the Israeli army, to testifying before the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The Civil Administration claims the Jaber land is “state land,” although the family has lived on it for generations and has an Ottoman period deed. So, on Wednesday, by surprise, the bulldozers arrived, accompanied by soldiers, and destroyed all the crops in the family’s tiny fields, the terracing Atta had painstakingly done stone by stone for years and the cistern he had dug to collect rainwater (which Israeli authorities stated also belongs to the State). One hundred and fifty fruit trees were uprooted, including olives, figs, grapes and almonds, along with grape vines. Atta estimates the damage at $50,000.
Atta is ruined; his family, which barely eked out a living from its small plot of land, is destitute. I asked Atta what he’s going to do now. “Just keep on struggling,” he said.
“Rebuild what I can until they come the next time, try to plant a bit.” But then, sensing my
distress over the phone, he said to me: “But we have to be strong, Jeff. We have to keep
ICAHD’s association with the Jaber family began in 1998 when the Jaber home was demolished by the Israeli authorities for the first time for lack of a building permit, which Israel’s Civil Administration refuses to issue to Palestinians. Atta had spent five years trying to obtain a permit through applications to the authorities to construct the home on land that they own. Out of desperation, he proceeded to build his home without a permit.
Following the demolition, Atta’s home was rebuilt with help from ICAHD and CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) but was demolished a second time the next month. In that violent demolition Atta was severely injured and arrested. Having nowhere else to go, Atta insisted on rebuilding, and their home still stands.
In January 2000, hundreds of settlers invaded the Jaber home on a Friday night, staying there under police protection over the Sabbath. In the evening, after prayers and before leaving the home, they smashed and burned it. Although Israeli police and Civil Administration officials were present the whole time and prevented the family from
approaching their home – as well as Israeli peace activists who came in solidarity – the settlers were allowed to return to their homes peacefully; none were ever arrested, despite video documentation of the attack.
In 2002 the home of Atta’s brother Jawdi was also demolished. Today 17 people are crammed in Atta and Jawdi’s parents’ home, located just across the road from Atta. (Their elderly father died after suffering multiple fractures in a fall as he rushed out to protect his grandchildren who were being stoned by the settlers.) In 2007 the family attempted to build a modest reservoir for catching rainwater; it too was demolished.
The family, Atta, his wife Rudina, their three daughters and one son, has suffered from many acts of terrorism from the extreme religious settlers of Kiryat Arba, 90% of which was built on Jaber family land. Both Atta and Rudina have been beaten several times and on three occasions Rudina suffered a miscarriage due to the beatings and the stress.
Over the years, the family has captured harrowing film footage of settler violence against them that depicts settlers throwing stones at the family, trampling on their land, uprooting their crops and planting replacement trees and other plants. Footage includes Israeli settlers coming to Atta’s property carrying machine guns and with their young children in hand beside them whilst they were calmly escorted by Israeli authorities. A segment shows a man who shouted to Atta and his family, “you are not human beings” therefore highlighting the utter hatred evident from these settlers. (This is just a brief sample of the many harassments the family has experienced.)
Over the years Jeff Halper and others from ICAHD have participated in acts of non-violent resistance as they have faced Israeli bulldozers on the site. A BBC film “Reservoir
Raiders” captured Jeff Halper being arrested when resisting the demolition of Atta’s cistern.
A short segment from the film can be found here:
ICAHD has helped to highlight the family’s story and has brought many delegations to meet the Jaber
family, especially during ICAHD’s extended study tours and on field trips as part of its rebuilding camps for internationals.
In August 2009, Atta Jaber sought the assistance of the Norwegian Refugee Council and its legal aid partner, the Society of St. Yves, to challenge the confiscation of his land. Before Israel’s occupation began, his family had 400 dunams (100 acres). Most of it was confiscated in violation of international law, and Atta fought to retain the property deeds for the last remaining 10.5 dunams.
Atta Jaber gave testimony at the UN’s Human Rights Council in March 2013 therefore his story has been noted in its records of Israeli violations. Since then Atta has received written confirmation from the Israeli court that his home is secure and will not be demolished in the future. However, it was made clear that his land is state land and Israel plans to extend Kiryat Arba to construct a new neighbourhood on Atta’s land. It will be called Nofei Hebron, “Vista of Hebron”.
Please take action to demonstrate your solidarity with the Atta Jaber family by:
- Telling their story. Watch this five-minute film of Atta and then send it to your network. https://icahd.org/2016/04/04/atta-jabers- story/
- Lobbying your MP. This story puts a human face on the Occupation. Continue to urge your MP to write to the FCO demanding that Israel be called to account for its violations of the 4 th Geneva Convention.
- Donating to the Atta Jaber family. Help them to continue resisting Israeli displacement of Palestinians from their land. Your donation will allow Atta to continue living in his home and farming his land. Donations collection will be starting ASAP.