Fathi Khdirat chairs the Jordan Valley Solidarity Group which defies occupation regulations through illegal reconstruction, through traditional building methods, of buildings demolished by the Israeli army such as the school they are building in the village of Jiftlik, which will serve children from the Bedouin camps.
Fathi Khdirat says that Area C Palestinians have been abandoned by Palestinian Authority politicians and some international aid groups who talk a good game, but take little action.
Area C as designated by the Oslo accords comprises many pieces of land forming altogether 60% of the WestBank. 90% of the the Jordan Valley consists of Area C lands, much of which has been declared military training and firing zones, so shepherds and their flocks were forced to leave.
According to Jordanian census records, on the eve of the 1967 war, the valley’s population exceeded 200,000 but now only 56,000 Palestinians and 9,400 Israeli settlers live there. (The Israeli census after the war counted just 12,082 Palestinians as residents of the valley.) With a population of 5,000 Jiftlik is the largest Palestinian community in Area C, but in the past several years around 180 families have left it for areas A and B because of the bans on construction. But the dilapidated road in Jiftlik was restored by the volunteer labor of the Jordan Valley Solidarity Group
The Jordan Valley Solidarity Group receives no support from the Palestinian Authority and Khdirat is scathing on Oxfam’s contribution, “in two years they couldn’t build a water tank”. The JVS is entirely dependent on volunteer work. Khdirat believes these projects will only succeed if they can raise the profile of his people’s struggle abroad, in order to secure funding and public sympathy.
This non-violent popular resistance committee, led by Fathi Khdirat, represents another extraordinary experience of Palestinian steadfastness: a movement focused on non-violent actions to defend the community’s presence and strengthen its skills and abilities. In mobilizing local communities through volunteering their time and energy, the committee represents a constructive response to the Israeli occupation.
The Israeli Army and the Civil Administration have already ordered the demolition of the school in Jiftlik that the Jordan Valley Solidarity Group are building for Bedouin children. As the army demolishes, the communities plan to rebuild. It is a non-violent act of resistance against the occupation, which should be recognized and supported by movements of international solidarity.
Amnesty International UK has a yearly update page about the trials of people in the villages of Jiftlik, Al Hadidiya, and Khirbet Humsa at http://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions_details.asp?ActionID=367
The demolitions in Hadidiya and other villages were witnessed by an Amnesty International observer, who wrote:
“I saw lots of children running around, in all the places most of the people are children. These homes mostly have three generations, the grandparents, parents and children, in Hadidiya there were four families, in Furush Beit Dajan five families, all the people had homes demolished before but this time they had no warning, the people were very very upset, they were running to get their things out of their homes but the bulldozer just went on demolishing.
In Jiftlik they are destroying a farm – this is particularly distressing as it’s one of the few farms here and there is not much livelihood for the people. They first bulldozed the vegetable area a couple of months ago, then they bulldozed the home. The family of Mahmud Mat’ab Da’ish, his wife and seven children were given a tent by the Red Cross and they started planting vegetables again, so today they have been bulldozing the green plants. In all three locations the soldiers haven’t been allowing us to get near, I don’t even know if they have a military order to destroy everything – we asked them but they didn’t show us anything.”
Amnesty International asks supporters to continue to send appeals to the Israeli authorities about home and farm demolitions in the Jordan Valley. The inhabitants of Hadidiya were forced to move to Humsa, about one kilometre away, in April 2007, when the Israeli army issued a demolition order against their homes. On 29 May the army issued a new military order calling for all residents to leave both hamlets ‘with immediate effect’. Some of the people have moved to Jiftlik but most have moved to areas A and B which are under Palestinian Authority administration.
On 13 August 2007 the Israeli army destroyed two family homes in Humsa, which had housed some 40 people, mostly children. On 23 August 2007 the Israeli army again demolished three homes and confiscated the last water tank and tractor making it even harder for the villagers to survive.
The residents of Humsa and Hadidiya welcome international pressure, which has brought several high-level delegations to visit them. However, if international attention diminishes the threat to the hamlets increases. Further sustained action is crucial.
Read Amnesty’s report Enduring Occupation: Palestinians Living under Siege
Find out more about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories Watch a YouTube clip of Palestinians from al Hadidiya