A Beautiful Occupation

The fence between Jayyus and Jayyus' land (click for larger image) On Tuesday the 4th of January about 30 ISM activists went up to Jayyus to join a local informational meeting and olive tree planting action against the devastating effects that the Apartheid Wall is having on the people there. Jayyus is a poor rural village of about 3200 Palestinians in the West of the Qalqilya region of the occupied West Bank. What is happening there is terrible. The State of Israel is building a so-called “security barrier” throughout the West Bank, supposedly to keep out suicide bombers. If you wanted to put up a fence between your garden and your neighbor’s you would have to put it on your side, right? Apparently the state of Israel thinks differently. Here, as in most of the West Bank, the so called “security barrier” (actually a fence in this section) was built well within the 1967 Green Line, so that yet more Palestinian land is confiscated and effectively annexed to Israel.

At the meeting there were many ‘respectable’ types. The mayor of Jayyus spoke of 74% of their land being confiscated. He also said that 90% of the population in this province depends on agriculture for their living. The land was confiscated to allow expansion of the existing Zufin settlement (built on land confiscated in 1993) into a new settlement called “Nofei Zufim” (“North Zufin”). He described how the village used to be self-sufficient. Now, with the land they depend on being stolen by the Israeli government, they are not sure how they will support the students and newly unemployed in the village. He wanted the democracy of the first world nations brought to Palestine, so that they could live like the other sovereign nations. He said that no peace negotiations can take place while the Wall is being built, and asked why the Wall is not being built on the 1967 Green Line if the Israeli Government truly wants peace.

Israeli Border Police use US equipment to keep Palesinians from their land (click for larger image) The Governor of the region said similar things, thanking all the international supporters present (there were many), and mentioned several individuals and groups (including the ISM) by name. He stated that Israel’s intention was to siege the Palestinians and push them into ghettos. The statistic he gave was that 58% out of the whole West Bank would be annexed to Israel after the wall was complete, which would increase poverty since Palestinians are so dependant on their land. Uprooting olive trees with bulldozers will not bring peace, which must be based on justice. He also brought up legal decisions, asking for the usual UN resolutions to be implemented and mentioning Israeli court decisions that have declared the wall around Jayyus illegal. He also made the point that they have proven the Western media wrong when they were going on about how the Palestinians would tear themselves apart in civil war after Arafat’s death – showing they were a people of democracy. He ended by saying that victory for the Palestinian people is a victory for world peace, and that this Wall will fall “as the Berlin wall fell”.

Restriction of movement - these times are not even strictly observed (click for larger image) There were then some European speakers, including the Chair of Stop the Occupation in Holland and an Italian MEP. The most interesting, though was Chris from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. He gave a moving account of what happened on the 9th of December when he and some Israeli activist had passed through a gate in the fence to go olive picking in the confiscated olive tree groves. They saw something there that I had not heard of until that meeting – whole olive trees being uprooted and taken away to be sold in Tel Aviv and other places, including to settlers. A Danish member of the EAPPI called Hele had said the same thing to me and described how on some of the newest settlements, you can see extremely old trees. Before this meeting, I had assumed the Israeli government just destroyed them, but it seems they steal them too. On that day in December, two armed settlers accompanied the truck that took the trees away – they said they were from the Jordan valley. After the settlers and the truck left, Jameel Saleem and his brother Tariq came down to assess the damage (they could not do this on a whim, by the way – all Palestinians from the village need a permit to go through the gate to their own source of income). IDF soldiers and more settlers soon turned up and Tariq presented their documents of ownership to the soldiers who then ordered the uprooting and expansion to stop immediately. Counting, the Palestinians found that 117 trees had been uprooted on that day alone. Jameel planted these trees himself 35 years ago; “now what can I do?” was his expression of frustration to the world.

Since that day in December, it seems that uprooting of their trees has continued regardless, with 700 trees destroyed or stolen up until the 17th of December alone.

After the meeting we went up to a gate to the groves, which was guarded by lots of soldiers. The more official international types (EU and the like) tried unsuccessfully to negotiate us passage through to the fields to plant new olive trees. The end result was that we ended up going to another section of the fence and planted them on the village side of the fence.

On the way back to Jerusalem I was talking to a Palestinian named Mohammed in the taxi. He said he would like to visit London, and asked whether I preferred there or Palestine. I was just commenting on the evident friendliness of the Palestinian people and was describing it as a beautiful place when something interesting happened.

We were pulled over by Israeli soldiers – a flying checkpoint. Checkpoints are not just fixed features of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – two soldiers, a Humvee and some concrete blocks can make a checkpoint. It was not too bad this time, with a delay of only 15 minutes or so (the Israeli authorities are relatively calm at the moment with all the internationals here because of the PA elections). Still, having an M16 lazily waved at your windshield to pull over the taxi you’re in is not exactly a beautiful experience.

“Palestine is not so beautiful”, Mohammed sadly commented afterwards.

Click here to see more photos that I took in Jayyus.

22 thoughts on “A Beautiful Occupation”

  1. An informative, detailed piece of writing. And a very poignant conclusion. I’m not sure if I would have been able to keep my cool.
    Have you got any more photos yet? I’d be interested to see them.

  2. Cheers Helen :)

    When the people you are angry with have guns, controling your temper suddenley becomes very easy! I have lots of photos and will put them up here as soon as my Gallery software is working. In any case I will able to show them to you on my laptop when I get back.

    And cheers for the media work Ana :)

  3. Correction: I only just noticed that in the original version of this article I typed December 4th when I meant January 4th – how embarrassing (I wasn’t even in the country dec 4th)! It’s corrected now, sorry about that folks. Also, I think it’s spelt Jayyus, not Jayyous (though some local signs say Jayyous).

  4. if you want to go on your little vacation into our war then by all means go for it. Its not as if you make any sort of difference either way, you and people like you are like a fly on Israel’s ass. I’m just glad that we have the best army in the world to protect us from terrorists. Come and visit again some time, our dogs like eating hippies. Shalom!

  5. Aw bless. My first Zionist fan. I was going to delete your nonsense, but hey: you show yourself up anyway, so no need!

  6. Easy for you to call my words nonsense, you where in israel for a week and I have relatives who have died in this war. You have no idea what is going on in my country besides what you see in the news and what you saw on one side of a conflict. You are rather quick to dismiss someone who actually has something at stake in this, not some idiot who thinks he knows everything about my country. Your actions won’t affect Israel, rather they will simply encourage ignorance and hate directed at jews and Israelis outside of Israel, and that is what motivated me to write. Go ahead and delete my post if you feel that you words cannot stand up to mine, if you read this thats enough for me. Shalom!

  7. Comments like “a fly on Israel’s ass” are clearly nonsense. If you want to make an actual point, or take issue with anything I’ve written, then please do so. Get specific. Have I been unfair in anything I’ve written? Are their any factual errors?

    > Your actions… will simply encourage ignorance and hate
    > directed at jews and Israelis outside of Israel

    … nope. You’ve lost me there. You’re going to have to explain that one. Acting against the military occupation of another people which is the root cause of terrorism within Israel encourages hatred of Jews? Hmmm… I guess there are a lot of self-hating Jews out there then (including Jewish friends I’ve worked with in ISM).

    It is not an unusual tactic for aggressive states to justify their actions by claiming that their ideological opponents are motivated by an irrational hatred of the people living in that state. Hence, Russia’s external critics and internal dissidents were called “anti-Soviet” and so forth.

  8. my “fly on Israel’s ass” comment was nonsense eh? Even if you object to my choice in semantics, you must acnowledge the substance of that comment; that your actions do not really affect what happens on the ground in Israel, the West bank and Gaza. maybe you see yourself and ISM as having acchived something, but it seems you only gain media attention from sympathetic news outlets. And even that detracts from your cause. By constantly invoking media attention to minor events you are in effect crying wolf, and no one exept the choir you preach to takes you seriously. But you ask if I take issue with anything you’ve written, or if there are any factual errors in what you’ve written. I could go through what you’ve written and find errors (for instance you write that “It is currently the longest military occupation in the world, dating back to 1967”. A short list of longer “occupations”: Puerto Rico, Chiapas, Western Sahara (Morocco), Chechnya, Jammu and Kashmir, Tibet, Banda Aceh, etc…., not to mention the other nations that have occupied the Palestinians: Jordan and Egypt pre 1967, Britain before that, the ottoman empire before that……..). But I really take issue with statements like when you call the situation in Hebron “Ethnic cleansing”. Whatever your take on the whole issue, nothing that has happened in this intifada on either side even comes close to ethnic cleansing or genocide. Cambodia and Rwanda are ethnic cleansing. You should not cheapen the term by throwing it around so casually. If you really care about ethnic cleansing, put your money where your mouth is and go to Darfur next time to protest.
    But about anti-semitism. Your response, in a nutshell, places all the responsibility for your statements on Israel. Easy to let yourself off the hook that way, buy you can’t tell me that comparing Israel’s policies with the Holocaust (complete with swastikas) isn’t anti-semitism. But you go on to simply blame all acts of Palestinian terrorism on Israel! aside from the most obvious response to that (it’s a double edged sword; If the “occupation” is responsible for terror than terror is responsible for the “occupation”) . But you have to acnowledge some Palestinian culpability. Neither Ghandi, Martin Luther King or the Tibetian people turned to terrorism, in the face of much greater adversity. You also claim that because your movement contains Jews and Israelis, it couldn’t possibly be anti-semitic. I didn’t say that they are anti-semitic, i said their actions encourage anti-semitism. But I’ve really got something to say to the Israelis that are part of your movement: They can say whatever they want, but they have just as much of a chance as any other Israeli of dying in a suicide bombing. And thats not just some abstract thought. Look up Kibbutz Metzer on google. I’m sure there isn’t a single person there that doesn’t support our wall now. As for the wall: compare the number of suicide bombings before its construction to the number of suicide bombings now. ‘Nuff said. I don’t really understand your last comment; the Israeli people voted for the Israeli government, it’s the same thing. And what the hell is an “aggressive state”? must have slept through the “aggressive states” part of political science 101. Whats a non aggressive state, Costa Rica? which brings me to one of my main questions for you: Why us? why, of all the countries in the world, does Israel get so much attention of its every action? Even if you see Israel’s actions as completly wrong, aren’t there other wars and conflicts that are worse? why aren’t you in Chechnya? or Serbia? or Darfur? Hell, why aren’t you in Syria protesting the occupation of Lebanon and the slaughter at Hama? Hama was worse than anything either the Israelis or Palestinians had ever done, but you’ll probably have to look it up…..
    But whatever you say, it will just be words on a website. That is how you and I are different. You have a point of view, but my life and that of my relatives is on the line. You where originally going to delete my post, why is it so shocking that an ISRAELI should disagree with you? Our world is a lot more complicated than you think, and you can only see one side. But then again, I don’t think you really make a difference. You’re just a fly………..

  9. Your reply puts a lot of words into my mouth that I did not say. Before you reply to this comment, I suggest you read it closer than you did the last one. Much of the following is concerned with correcting false readings of my words.

    I find it interesting what you consider to be “minor incidents”. “Minor incidents” such as the dispossession and killing of Palestinians at the hands of the state of Israel. Would you find such incidents “minor” if they involved Israelis? I doubt it.

    Concerning the history of occupations, I think you miss-read what I said. In my post “Elections under occupation” I referred to it as “currently the longest military occupation in the world” not ‘the longest military occupation in history’ – hence the Egyptian and Jordanian occupations are irrelevant to the point I made because they are in the past. Furthermore, I was talking specifically about international law. Otherwise the list could probably include almost every state in the world, depending on your definition of occupation. Puerto Rico is not occupied, it is annexed. It’s people have full US citizenship. It’s interesting you make this comparison, considering that in 1967 Israel consciously denied the inhabitants of the West bank and Gaza strip Israeli citizenship because of “the demographic problem” – i.e. there would have been too many Arabs in the “Jewish state”. Chiapas is a state of Mexico and no-one, including the Zapatistas claims otherwise. Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco in 1976. Chechnya and Aceh (Banda Aceh is a city, not the province) concern secessionist movements, which started in 1990 and 1976 respectively. Kashmir (for all it’s complexities) also concerns a secessionist movement. Whatever we may think of the fact, Tibet has never been recognised internationally as anything but a region of China. This status has been accepted by India as well as Communist and Nationalist China, and to my knowledge, has never been officially questioned by the United States. Do I really need to run through the status of Palestine in international law, and the reams of UN resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from the West bank and Gaza?

    Ethnic cleansing refers to “policies of forcibly removing people of another ethnic group”. I mentioned neither genocide nor the Holocaust. The situation in Hebron does no warrant those terms, which is why I didn’t use them (not sure why you’re bringing them up). I have not even used the word Holocaust, let alone compared it to Israel’s policies so I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I did not blame any acts of Palestinian terrorism on Israel. Rather, I sought to contextualise them as a response to the brutal oppression and state terrorism Palestinians are at the mercy of (the terrorist acts themselves are the responsibility of the actors – hence my words “root cause”). Does this justify terrorism against Israeli citizens? Of course not. If we are concerned with stopping terrorism, we have two options. We can bury our heads in the sand and say that the perpetrators are simply motivated by mindless, unthinking evil which we have no effect on whatsoever. Or we can seek to address the injustices that cause give rise to support for fanatics, combined with police work against the perpetrators.

    Concerning anti-semitism; again, you put words in my mouth. I did not say that anti-occupation activists “couldn’t possibly be anti-semitic”, as you claim. Furthermore, I understand the difference between anti-semitism and encouraging it elsewhere. What I did do was ask exactly how “acting against the military occupation of another people which is the root cause of terrorism within Israel encourages hatred of Jews”, which you still have not explained. You are right to say that Israelis who act against the occupation have “just as much of a chance as any other Israeli of dying in a suicide bombing”. Which is exactly why they act the way they do when they see what the occupation does to both peoples.

    I don’t think you are going back far enough in your estimation of suicide bombings. Why not compare the number of suicide bombings before the occupation to now? Find out for yourself when the first Palestinian suicide bombing happened (clue: long after 1967). As for your claims about the wall stopping suicide bombings, do you have credible figures to back this up? I would genuinely like to see some. Furthermore, if the main concern of the Wall is security, why is it not built on the Green line, or within Israeli territory, as would be permitted under international law?

    Aggression was defined at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. Simple enough. My point was that states engaged in violence against other states or nations almost always seek to discredit opposition to their actions by claiming it is motivated by hatred of the people within that country, rather than disagreement with the policies of the government. Hence, opponents of Israel’s policies are slandered as “anti-semites”, regardless of the facts. Aside from the sheer dishonesty of this tactic, it has the effect of drawing the attention away from real anti-semites, who do of course still exist (mainly in Europe, as has been the case historically). If you’re making the point that all states are violent, I actually agree that the nation state is an inherently violent institution. The difference, though is that militarily weak states, such as Luxembourg (or Costa Rica) aren’t going to be able to get away with it.

    You assume that I’m not involved in action against other injustices in the world, which I am to the extent that I am able – a single person is not Amnesty International. As to my prioritising the occupation of Palestine, it is based on a simple principle. I believe we are primarily responsible for the predictable consequences of our own actions. In other words we should pay attention to the crimes of our own states first. The British state has a long history of imperialism in the whole region and bears a large burden of responsibility for the problems there, especially in Israel and Palestine. Furthermore, the British state continues to supply military aid and equipment to Israel, as well as diplomatic support (though not to the same extent as the US government). I’m not in Chechnya or Darfur because I don’t see any specific call or indigenous movement (such as the ISM for example) for westerners to go and help on the ground. Also, it’s because Israel perpetrates ongoing crimes against the Palestinians – as bad as the massacre in Hama was, can you point to ongoing crimes of the Syrian occupation comparable to that of Israel’s in the West bank and Gaza? Finally, it just comes down to personal feeling as to where I feel comfortable that I can play my small part in making a difference.

    The comment that it crossed my mind to delete was your first one which, you have to admit, was a bit silly and didn’t make any real points. In the end I decided that it was best to leave it there. Once you started making actual arguments, there was no way I was ever going to delete them, as engagement is preferable to censorship.

    As to the article you posted, despite the headline there is nothing in the body of the article to suggest that any international or Israeli threw stones. Palestinians are all too aware of the practise of the IDF of using live ammunition to injure or even kill Palestinian demonstrators, so while I do not agree with the throwing of stones in this way, it is understandable in the context of the situation. I suggest that readers of these comments check both the article you posted and this Haaretz article for a more balanced view:

    Gandhi Redux
    17:17 09/06/2005, Haaretz

  10. Thank you – we are.

    Along with such dangerous radicals as the British and American intelligence services, we in the anti-war movement warned Tony Blair for a long time that invading Iraq would increase the risk of a terrorist attack by Islamists here in Britain.

    Sadly, last week we were proved right.

  11. hehehe, man I needed the laugh, yer crackin me up here. Believe it or not I was against the Iraq war (of course what do you know about Iraq, have you had scuds shot at you while those darling Palestinians cheered from their rooftops?). But your point is somewhat odd. Look at the qoute directly above this. Keyword is “motivation”. Who gives a fuck what their motivation was? doesn’t affect their ability. They where kinda trying to kill you there, Iraq or no Iraq. Yes you, senor anti-war movement. But I like the new tack in this discourse. Remember, that was one attack, and one failed attack. We have had a few more than that in our time. But hey, apparently it was your country’s own fault. Al Qaeda are apparently just pawns in British politics. I’ll have to remember that. Why can’t I stop laughing?

  12. I find it interesting that you can be so one sided. None of your “facts” pan out and you constantly fail to mention the truth that Hamas and the people of the Palestinian occupied areas are from other arab states.

    You also fail to mention that the word “Palestine” was coined by a Roman Emporer to replace the name of Israel. So in a way you continously say the arabs are the Jews of the Diaspora which is not true.

    You fail to mention how many Jewish children, women and men have been murdered in the name of Allah as though their lives count for nothing.

    The fact is, the land was purchased from arabs and turks, taken over by arabs again, won in war and now must be given back? I find it strange that you and your ilk don’t challenge every nation on earth to give back land it has taken in war including the United States and Britain.

    But, I can see it is obvious you are a hater of the jewish people and can’t bother yourself with such trivial matters as this.



  13. Whats up Will. Nah, this guy doesn’t live here and supporting the palestinians is in fashion these days, not that original and easy to do if you are safe and in another country. But now that subways are blowing up in his country, lets sit back and let him explain why his country is responsible. Sa baba

  14. Poor Will,

    He lives in a lovely little Zionist fantasy land where the Palestinians all came from other Arab states, yes that’s right Will, Palestine was completely empty when the first Jewish settlers arrived. All the accounts to the contrary are just anti-semitic lies aren’t they? Jaffa was deserted wasn’t Will, the Zionists had to operate the port by themselves when they first landed. As for Jerusalem, it was completely deserted, home only to a few goats.

    “Palestina” was indeed the Roman name for the country which was later called Palestine. But the name stuck, rather like “Britannia,” which became the name of a country called Britain.

    Israeli lives do not count for nothing, Will. In fact an analysis of the New York Times newspaper seems to indicate that roughly 28 Israeli lives is about equal to 100 Palestinian lives. No doubt those nice kind settlers would dispute that figure, regarding it as way too generous.

    Despite Palestine being, as you say, completely deserted, some land was indeed purchased by the Zionists prior to 1947, the figure generally agreed upon is a massive six percent of the country, mainly close to the coast. Israel currently occupies well over 72% of Palestine, which has to be one of the most succesful thefts of all time.

    Britain, France, and other colonial powers gave up their empires in the second half of the twentith century, Will. It’s high time Israel gave up it’s empire too.

    – Steve.

  15. Steve

    Of course Palestine was not deserted. Arabs lived there. So did my grandfather. The Israelis did not just show up and conquer, Palestine was to be divided between Jews and Arabs, but than Israel was attacked by every one of it’s neighbors, though such things happen. Of course both Israelis and Palestinians both die, but the difference is that Palestinians intentionally only kill civilians, while the Israelis target Militants (yes, civilians do die in wars, unfurtunately). As for your comments about Israeli empire, they are the height of stupidity. Perhaps you should go look up “empire” in the dictionary before throwing around those big words. Empire involves controling OTHER countries. Israel just wants it’s corner of the sandbox, and it is perfectly willing to live alongside the arabs as long as they don’t blow up our buses or fire Katyushas at us. But have you ever even been to Israel?

  16. Hmmm, amigo running this site seems to have suffered a slight case of apathy. Taking his keffiyeh to the cleaners, perhaps?

  17. Muslim Arabs had lived in Palestine as the majority for about 900 years, before the racist idea of creating a Jewish state was even conceived. Under the post-WWII UN plan, the land of Palestine was to be divided roughly 50/50 to create Jewish and Arab states. This at a time when the Jewish population was about a third of the population of the whole, even after decades of aggressive immigration and settlement with the expressly stated purpose of creating an exclusively Jewish state. Don’t pretend otherwise – go and look in a history book.

    Your assertion about the respective targets of Israeli and Palestinian violence is so ridiculous and Orientalist that it doesn’t even deserve a detailed rebuttal. Suffice it to say, even IDF officers don’t claim that they never target civilians.

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