Today, April 22 was another day of surprises.
We were fortunate to have a guided tour by peace activist Angela Godfrey-Goldstein (visit her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/AngelaJerusalem). She took us to East Jerusalem and the contentious E-1 area that Israel is continuing to develop for settlers despite opposition from international diplomats. We traveled through part of the huge Ma’aleh Adumim settlement that is situated in a central location between Jerusalem and Jericho. It covers an area of 50 square kilometres and has a population of almost 50,000 people living in what appears to be suburban luxury in the Judean Desert. Lands belonging to Palestinians are being taken by the military and residents are being moved elsewhere. Plans call for additional construction of thousands of housing units. This will increase the need for water, with Israelis using 8 times the quantity of water as Palestinians pay twice the price. It is inconceivable to see green suburbs with swimming pools, a cultural centre, shopping malls and an industrial complex when Palestinians are not allowed to build on their increasingly smaller areas of land or get permits to renovate or repair their infrastructure.
We next visited the Bedouin refugee camp Al Khan al Ahmar, a Jahalin Bedouin community of 20 families, numbering 170 individuals including 95 school children. These Bedouin were forcibly removed from their Negev Desert lands in 1951 and moved to an area east of Jerusalem. As settler outposts were established nearby, the military began restricting their use of surrounding lands. The numbers of sheep that they can graze are now fewer in numbers and they no longer have any camels. According to community spokesperson Eid Abu Khamis Swelm Jahalin, nearby illegal Israeli settlements harass community herders, physically attack school children walking to school kilometres away, and make life difficult for the Bedouins. The military have limited their land use to within 500 metres of their camp. A new Israeli road was built recently, cutting the community in half and blocking access, thus cutting off these families from access to school and to Jerusalem. The military has issued a demolition order for the camp and plans to move these families, registered with the UN Refugee and Housing Authority to Jericho, an area where they do not want to go. They do not have direct access to water; rather they have to journey several kilometres to a metered valve in an area accessible to settlers who vandalize the valve rendering the source inaccessible for days.
To contact this community and see a video entitled Nowhere to Go, visit their website: http://jahalin.org/.
Although the United States and countries of the European Union have pressed Israel to stop expansions in East Jerusalem, particularly in the E-1 Bloc, Israel is rapidly infilling this desert landscape.
What can you do to better understand and bring your voice to bear on these human rights and humanitarian law violations?
Over and out from Jerusalem