Senseless Destruction of Homes and Belongings in Kafir Qalal

It is now time to return to the brutal reality of life here in Palestine.

Kafir Qalal is a small village perched on the side of Mount Gerizem, one of the two mountains that create the valley in which the city of Nablus is found.

Mr. Nadir Sulieman, his wife and four son, three daughters-in-law and two granddaughters live in a multi-story home that Mr. Sulieman has poured his soul and energy into.  In Palestine, families build homes for their married sons so that the new families get off to a good start in life.  Mr. and Mrs. Sulieman have lived in their original home for more than 25 years.  Their sons Nidar, Khalid and Tarik and their wives live in the apartments of this four-storey house.  Things seemed to be going well, and Tarik and his new wife of two weeks had just moved in.

However, …

… in the early hours of Monday, May 20, 1:30 a.m. to be precise, approximately 100 Israeli soldiers arrived at the home and stormed it.  The soldiers did not enter or damage Mr. Sulieman’s portion of the home.

Firstly, they broke into the apartment of Nidar at the back of the first level of the house, tossed all the furniture, clothes and belongings, destroyed furniture, broke dishes, mirrors and keepsakes, slashed cushions and mattresses and dumped everything into the middle of the rooms.

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The soldiers did not knock, did not identify themselves, did not ask permission to enter.  Instead, they forced Nidar, his wife and two daughters into one room while they ransacked the rest of the apartment. They took the keys to his home and car and locked one of the access doors.

If that wasn’t bad enough …

They next affixed an explosive charge to the door leading into the newer floors of the house.  The charge tore the door open and propelled it into the entry and stairwell, carrying with it part of the door frame, the door glass. Image

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The charge then blew open the door to the apartment of Khalid, who was sleeping on a couch several metres from the door.  The force of the blast shattered a floor-to-ceiling mirror.  Glass from the exterior door was also blown into Khalid’s part of the house.

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Twenty soldiers then entered the room and stood by the couch on which he was sleeping. And that was all that happened on the second level.

But it gets worse …

… The soldiers continued up the stairs to the home of the newly-weds Tarik and his wife. They broke open the door, tossed all the furniture and belongings, damaged the new bed and dressers in the master bedroom, tore cushions and clothes, and made a huge mess of everything.

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They searched the water reservoirs of the toilets, opened fridges and tossed food on the floor, went up to the water tanks on top of the house and searched inside.

When they left at 5 a.m., the soldiers broke the windshield on one of the son’s cars and then demolished a wall in an outbuilding that housed the family’s pigeons, from which most of the flock escaped.

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The soldiers gave no reason for their actions. They did not question anyone.  They did not arrest any member of the family.

Our team was shocked. We were speechless.  We were angered at the senseless destruction.

Two questions came to mind and linger:  WHY??  HOW could human beings carry out such senseless, wanton destruction without any provocation.

What took over 20 years to build was significantly damaged in a mere 4 hours.  It will takes years for the families to repair the damage and replace their furniture and belongings.

How long will the memories of that night stay with the two granddaughters aged 3 and 4?  How will the lives of these families return to normal?

One of us was interviewed on Palestinian Broadcasting TV.  We filed the incident report early this morning so that it can be shared with international organizations and our national coordinators.  And each of us has taken the time to blog about this.

Nadir Sulieman is a strong man, a loving family man.  His wife made us tea and then coffee.  He and his neighbours took the time to know our names and to share of themselves.  He wept.  And then he thanked us for coming to witness and report on this incident and wished us a good life. As he shook my hand warmly and hugged me, he said: “You are my brother.  I thank you for coming here and seeing this with your eyes.  Let those at home in your country know about this.  This is life in Palestine. Yes, you may use my name.”

What more can we do, you and I?

Our government supports Israel. Canada is said to be Israel’s strongest ally.

One of our Cabinet ministers, the Honourable Jason Kenney, recently congratulated Israel on its independence: (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/statements/2013/2013-04-15.asp?utm_source=media-centre-email&utm_medium=email-eng&utm_campaign=generic)

“Canada was one of 33 countries that voted in favour of the United Nations resolution calling for the creation of a Jewish state. Canada was also one of the first countries to formally recognize the State of Israel upon its founding.

“We are proud to celebrate not only Israel’s independence, but also warm Canada-Israel relations based on fundamental, common values. The strong ties between our two countries continue to flourish and are enhanced by our shared commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

“Israel is a pluralistic democracy that celebrates freedom of religion, equality of the sexes, and minority rights.

These are among Canadian’s most cherished values.  But they simply do not exist in the occupied Palestian territory. Why is Canada turning a blind eye to the illegal occupation of the West Bank, to the human rights abuses that we here report on daily, to the illegal creation of Israeli settlements that appropriate lands owned by Palestinians with no compensation, to the wanton and gratuitous violence and destruction against Palestinians by ideological, radical settlers and the Israeli military?

I don’t understand.  It’s not rational, it’s not humane, it’s not just, it’s not fair.

So, I return to my question above — what is it that you and I must do to change this?

May you sleep through the night.  May strangers announce themselves at your door.  May your children not have nightmares about soldiers.  May your home be your refuge.

Blessings and grace, shalom and salaam to you and your loved ones. From the West Bank of Palestine, near the Jordan Valley.

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13 Responses to Senseless Destruction of Homes and Belongings in Kafir Qalal

  1. Phyllis MacRae says:

    HI Norman
    This story is shocking beyond belief. I guess the why is:1) because they can, 2) to show people who is in charge, and 3) to encourage the Palestinians to leave.

    So discouraging. Is there any effective recourse in the courts, or is the Rule of Law completely absent in the West Bank?

    Keeping you in our thoughts always.
    Phyllis, Richard and Andrew

    • Thanks for your questions Phyllis.

      Much of what we observe here is beyond belief, beyond our lived experiences in a country that claims “peace, order and good government.”
      With respect to the courts, it gets a bit complicated. The Oslo agreements 2004 created three areas in the West Bank:
      Area A – under complete Palestinian administration and control
      Area B – under shared Israeli and Palestinian administration and control
      Area C – under complete Israeli military administration and control.

      That having been said, the Israeli military goes wherever they are sent, regardless of the area. A Military Commander is responsible for both administration and military control in Area C, and has issued thousands of military orders, some seemingly at a whim. Our village Yanoun exists in two parts, Lower Yanoun in Area B, Upper Yanoun in Area C where we live. The military just issued a stop work order for a water system that would connect Upper Yanoun to water piped into Lower Yanoun. This means that water must now be bought and trucked in at a high cost because the Upper Yanoun spring has just dried up. A lawyer from the Norwegian Refugee Council has taken the case which will be heard in military court on June 17. The head of the village is not sure there will be a positive outcome.

      So, is there rule of law in the West Bank. It’s more like the wild west, with the settlers in charge, even though they live in illegal settlements and outposts. Many of the military staff live in settlements. There are settlement members in the Knessit, and some are cabinet members. The military exists in the West Bank to protect the settler population. If a settler throws stones at passing cars, there are no arrests. If a Palestinian does the same thing, or throws stones at settlers or the military, they are arrested, their ID number is called in, they are cuffed and sometimes blindfolded or bagged, sometimes beaten, and hauled off to confinement to await a prolonged court process that mets out prison terms for one or more years. Most Palestinian men that I have talked with have spent time in prison. Sadly, it’s almost like an imposed right of passage.

      So, two laws for two different groups in the same territory …

      Again, thanks for asking.

  2. Peter Short says:

    Norman, At the end of a horrifying message, your expressed wishes for a sound sleep, a home that is a refuge and children who live free from living nightmares is a powerful reminder to one who takes these things too often for granted. Thank you for your witness and your teaching. May you be held beneath the raging surface in the peace of Christ.
    Peter Short

    • Hi Peter, thank you for your words of encouragement. However, as you know only too well, I would prefer to keep my head above the raging surface, be it a series of river rapids, or life in Palestine.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I have no words for this…

    • And I, too, Jennifer, am often at a loss for words. The training that we took together provides some strategies for keeping our heads up and eyes focused on what is important. Some of what I see is hard to take. Other things make me happy to be alive. This is the land of olives and honey with a beautiful landscape and generous people who making it through life the best they can. They are an inspiration.

  4. thomask2 says:

    Thank you Norman for being our eyes, ears and heart in this beautiful but often troubling part of the world. Peace is so often an elusive state but one that we must all strive for.

    God be with you.
    Tom Kannemann

    • We strive for it at home, Thomas, and we strive for it for others away from home. Our creed says it so well for me, and it keeps me afloat in these turbulent waters. Thank you for following, and please share with others so that they can start thinking about what they might be able to do.

  5. Margo Ford says:

    Norman,

    Thank you for sharing the realities of this part of the world. Our perceptions are often shaped by politics and opinions, and have little to do with the ongoing human tragedy.

    It seems like an impossible situation. I pray you are surrounded by God’s peace.
    “Peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives give I unto you” John 14.
    Perhaps your greatest gift is to bring some light and hope to the lives of the people you meet.

    Take care of yourself. Eat and sleep as well as you can.

    I will share your blog with some friends here to extend in some way the work of your group.
    I look forward to your safe return and hearing more.

    Thank you.

    Margo Ford.

    • Hi Margo, thanks for commenting and sending God’s peace to help me in these times. I would appreciate having the opportunity to meet with your group and share more information on the situation here and what they can do to contribute to the pursuit of a just peace. Peace, Shalom, Salam.

  6. Rob Short says:

    Hi Norman,
    I visited my parents in Ottawa last weekend and they told me about the work you’re doing and shared your blog with me. I’ve read a couple of the posts and am struck by how real and vivid it is compared to what we see on the news. I can’t relate to your circumstances having never been there myself, however can imagine that some of your days are quite challenging. This is important work and a good example of how we can develop a deeper understanding of parts of the world many of us never get to experience.
    Hopefully we can catch up one of these days. Until then, safe travels and take care.
    Rob

    • Hi Rob,

      What a pleasant surprise to get your message and have your wishes for safe travels and taking care. Congratulations on your recent graduation.

      Yes, many days here are very challenging with the human rights and humanitarian rights violations that happen so often that they seem routine, almost normal. Then reality kicks in. These are human beings harming other human beings through the actions of a government with no sanctions from other nations. Willful blindness is hard to defend and harder to explain. So, I guess that’s why 30 of us from different countries are here witnessing, protecting, writing, advocating, and learning. And I would be remiss if I did not point out that I am seeing so many beautiful places, people and acts of kindness and respect. The land is stunning, the history is long, the culture ranges from very open to conservative. And, yet, hospitality is the rule.

      Best of luck in this next phase of your life. I look forward to seeing you and catching up.

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