Although we saw settlements before in the Jordan Valley it was a visit to Hebron that illustrated to us a real face of this issue. In the Valley we never got into the settlement, whereas in Hebron we couldn’t avoid them, because they occupy the city from within. Protected by the army they are consequently pushing out original Hebron’s inhabitants. But before we tell today’s story let us have a brief look on the history:
After 1967 war Israel established settlements on newly captured territories, including West Bank. One could say that it was a natural continuation of Zionistic politics, according to which Jews should establish a country in the Holy Land, a country which would be meant for Jews only. Zionists were the ones who starting from the end of 19th century were encouraging Jews from all around the world to populate Palestine – inhabited by the Arabs at that time – and they lobbed worldwide for the establishment of Israel. It is also them who on the ground of nationalistic and religious ideology discriminated Palestinians in many ways creating de facto an apartheid. As we have already mentioned on this blog there is loads of discrimination forms: confiscation of land and water resources, house demolitions and evictions, harassment and violence, vandalism and incitement or movement restrictions.
Settlements are guarded Israeli residences which are subsidized by the state. Settlers are given housing for free, as well as long term loans (20.000$), 75% discount for water and electricity and guaranteed jobs in the farms. Israeli government’s objective is to keep Jewish population on occupied territories. Even for a price of subsidies which overload the state budget and require high taxes what taken together causes public opinion disagreement expressed recently on demonstrations in Tel Aviv.
Central market in Hebron used to be a crowdy and vivid place full of trading Arabs, shops and cafes. Although this city should be administrated by the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis closed all the streets leading to the market and forbid the Palestinians to trade there. Movement in the city is obstructed by military checkpoints that often don’t let the Palestinians pass. We were walking around the city with our Palestinian friend Motasem and at one of the checkpoints he was stopped and held by the soldiers. How can one live in such conditions, when even way to work becomes the challenge? Of course he wouldn’t be let to Jerusalem either.
As a result of these obstacles the market became completely empty. Although access to it has been recently restored it is far from its former splendor. Moreover, Israeli settlers who were transferred to the neighborhood started to harass Palestinians making their life even more difficult.
In the JordanValley religious extremists, who are especially violent, are being settled close to Bedouins to harass them and force to leave. Just before our arrival in one of the villages a Bedouin horse was beaten and dragged behind the car to death by Israeli settlers, in front of its 11 years old owner…
Two young settlers met by us in the valley had completely no clue about the price that Palestinians pay for they presence there. They admitted having plenty of water and were totally confused when we asked them about water restrictions, etc. It seems like Israeli propaganda carefully protects the information.
According to the Oslo Accords from 1993 settlement process should not be continued, but Israel didn’t respect the agreement and continued to populate occupied territories. Quoting EAPPI brochure: “Israeli settlements are in direct contradiction of the two-state solution, which makes a peaceful end to the occupation unachievable.” .
Settlement expansion process violates Hague Convention and Geneva Convention and has been condemned by UN resolutions and International Court of Justice.