Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hashem and his settler neighbours

Hashem, who is one of the people who helps run the Ibrahim Al Khaleil Society, like many other Palestinians, has personal experience with settlers.

Hashem lives on Tel Rumeida, in a neighbourhood where settlers have moved into in 1984. One of his next door neigbours is one of the leaders of the Jewish Defence League, an extremist group that has and continues to perpetrate violence against Palestinians.

Hashem and other Palestinians face and have faced harrassment for decades from their neighbours. Between 2000 and 2010, he remembers it being exceptionally bad. Hashem says that the settlers are doing their best to get Palestinians to move out, so their homes can be taken.

In 2003, Hashem's settler neighbours made him an offer- if he would leave his home, they would give him two million dollars... in cash. He claims an Israeli woman also offered to go away with him, somewhere to Europe or America. He refused, saying that if they wanted him to sell his property to them, he would require the national budgets of the USA and Israel. If they provided that, he would sell them a branch from his olive tree. Then he told them where to go.

The response was vicious. Soon afterwards, settlers came and cut down his olive trees. His water pipe also was destroyed, and he spent three years having to buy bottled water. It was after Amnesty International and other human rights groups managed to apply enough pressure on the Israeli government, that he had water again.

Things got even worse.

In 2006, settlers beat up his wife, who was then pregnant. The assault ended with a micarriage.
Four months later, his wife again was pregnant, and the same thing happened.

Hashem and his family's home has been invaded and shot at at. One time, the settlers got inside and smashed tables, closets, other furniture.

Hashem is currently under "home detention", meaning he cannot leave Tel Rumeida. He was accused of giving "anti-semitic tours" to people who come to the area.

Many of Hashem's friends are Jewish, including Israeli professors Ilan Pappe and Uri Davis. He also is friends with Neta from ISM and Jeremy Canley, from JVP (Jewish Voices for Peace). There are four Jewish women in his family, three who passed away and one who lives in Haifa and is 112 years old.

In his words, "we have no problems with Jews. We have no problem with religion, only occupation".

Unlike many Palestinians who I met, Hashem is open to both a one state and a two state solution. He says he would be happy with a one state where there there are equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians- if it was this way, he would have no problem with the settlers, since they would be his neighbours and would live in equality. He would also be OK with a 2 state solution, if Israeli withdrew to land it ruled prior to 1967 and either shared Jerusalem, or the city be ruled by an international body and be open to everyone- while Israelis would have a capital in Tel Aviv and Palestinians one in Ramallah.

In 2006, he and his Israeli professor friends tried to put together a conference in Haifa to have a forum about these issues. Israeli police broke it up. Pappe and Davis temporarily lost their jobs.

While there are Israelis who work with Hashem and other Palestinians in their struggle for justice, unfortunately many other Israeli activists have stopped doing this. To some, Hashem's ideas for a solution are too "radical".

Hashem and I and another ISMer who came to visit his home that night had some more great discussion about religion, history, politics, education. On some things we agreed, on others we didn't. It was an awesome five hours.

I pray for Hashem, and every other Palestinian who is affected by this violence and occupation, which doesn't seem to end. I believe one day it will end, and there will be justice and peace for everyone who lives here- Palestinian and Israeli. May it come sooner than later, inshAllah*.

* InshAllah is one of the most common phrases you are likely to hear if you go to Palestine, or any other Arabic speaking or Muslim majority country. It means "God willing".

The road up to a part of Tel Rumeida, which is inhabited by mostly settlers, and a few Palestinians. 
The Israeli Army told Palestinians who live there that they need permits to walk up their own street. While some have done this in an attempt to avoid more problems, Hashem refused. As consequence, he cannot walk up the street in the neighbourhood he lives, and to get home he must take a pathway.

How Hashem must get to his house.

Walking to Hashem's house.

Poisoned grapes (1).
Like many other Palestinians in the West Bank, Hashem has grapes. His Israeli neighbours unfortunately have also targeted them, and they have been sprayed with poison. Giving off a strong and toxic odor, they cannot be eaten.

Poisoned grapes (2)

The home of Hashem's neighbours. They are trying to drive him from his land, but for the last few decades, he and his family had been holding on.

Destroyed furniture from the attack in 2006.

Hashem's front door. Notice the little hole in the wall...

... it is caused by a bullet the settlers fired at Hashem's house. It is still embedded therein.

The car of a settler, parked in a way that almost blocks Hashem's entrance and exit from his own house. As we were leaving, another car drove by and the settler in it yelled at Hashem to "go home". Hashem had been living here long before the settlers moved in.

Ironically, things now are much better than they were 4 years ago and before. 
The situation that Hashem and his family face has at times been much worse.

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