Tag Archives: Yanoun

On Israeli settlers: “They come down from the hills and get us with dogs and guns”

I have just stumbled across this article that the wonderful Kate Hardie-Buckley wrote after visiting me and my former colleague Emmet Sheerin in Yanoun in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

I don’t think I shared the article on Hynd’s Blog at the time.

The title, “They come down from the hills and get us with dogs and guns“, might read to some as being as slightly over the top. The fact that I can promise it isn’t says a lot about life in Yanoun.

Anyway, have a read of the article and let me know what you think.

PS – you can also watch Emmet’s video about life in Yanoun.

 

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Watch: Yanoun – by Emmet Sheerin

This is a video by a friend and former colleague Emmet Sheerin. We lived together for a  few months in the village of Yanoun in the West Bank as part of the EAPPI programme. This is his short video which was made while we were there.

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Children’s Rights under Occupation

This is a guest post by Jane Harries, a friend and a colleague living in Yanoun where I spent the last few months. An unedited version of this article can be found here.

How do children fare under occupation?  From the children in Yanoun and the surrounding villages we can see there are restrictions here which children in the UK don’t face – lack of facilities such as play areas and swimming pools which we take for granted. Children’s drawings portray guns and tanks, showing the underlying fear and trauma which comes from witnessing armed settlers and army incursions.  One of the testimonies to the success of EAPPI’s protective presence in the village is the fact that the children feel safe to play in front of the International House.

What about the treatment of minors by the occupying power?  We had a glimpse of what this can mean when we visited Bassam Nadar and his son Muhammed in the village of Madama, west of Yanoun, and listened to their story.  Recently, as the villagers’ wheat was getting ready for harvest, settlers came down from the mountain and set fire to the fields.  The villagers went to try to extinguish the flames, including Bassam’s two sons, Mohammed (17 years) and Ahmed (15 years).  They had succeeded in doing so when an army jeep turned up and arrested the two boys, accusing them of starting the fire.  They were taken to Huwara military camp, then to the settlement of Ariel’s police station, then back to Huwara and eventually to Majidu prison in Israel.

Bassam heard of the boys’ arrest through a journalist from Nablus, who had been with them, had photographs to prove their innocence, and intervened on their behalf.  After numerous phone calls, Bassam found out where his sons were and eventually – on the third day – they were released – but on the condition that he went to Ariel police station and paid 2,500 Shekels for each son.  He was advised by a lawyer not to pay, so Bassam went to Ariel police station and told the Israeli police he was unable to do so.  His phone number was taken but – up until the present time, nothing further has happened.

In quiet measured tones Bassam’s eldest son, Mohammed, told us his story in his own words.  He and his brother had been blindfolded and handcuffed whilst being transported between the different sites for interrogation, and nobody informed them – or their family – where they were.  The soldiers had put their feet on his head and joked as he lay on the floor of the jeep.  In Ariel police station his picture and finger prints were taken.  Only on the third day was he able to speak to his father.  When the two brothers were eventually released, this was at the border miles away from their village.  It was with the help of a taxi driver that they were eventually able to make their way home.

This story illustrates a disregard by the Israeli army and police for human rights, even in the case of minors.  Palestinian minors are dealt with under military rather than civilian law. This two-track system of justice which supports discrimination and undermines any rule of law illustrates to the Palestinians that they are second-class citizens and that there is no system of redress.

We can only imagine how children are affected by the fear and violence they experience, either directly or indirectly.  Bassam told us that his younger son is still suffering psychological problems from his experience of being arrested by the Israeli army.  As an occupying power Israel has an obligation to treat civilians humanely and never to discriminate against them. (Article 27, Fourth Geneva Convention). Israel is also a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  For Palestinian children on the ground these obligations may seem far from the reality.

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Yanoun – the first village in Palestine to be forcibly displaced since 1967

I am sat in the hamlet of Yanoun, 15 kilometres to the south-east of Nablus reading the words of Rashed Murrar – the mayor of Yanoun – describing how the village almost ceased to exist, “They came with dogs and guns, every Saturday night. They beat men in front of their children. One Saturday they said they didn’t want to see anyone here next Saturday and that we should move to Aqraba. The whole village left that week”.

On a good day it is hard to imagine that Yanoun was nearly wiped off the map or even that it is facing any problems. I am currently on the hillside overlooking a stunning landscape with interweaving rolling green hills. It is the most beautiful place I have visited in Palestine. It feels so incredibly peaceful and remote. Just as I am writing this article however a military jeep comes up the valley and drives up to every house in the hamlet. Looking across the valley there are further clues that everything is not quite right here. On the horizon there sits a handful of buildings that make up one of many illegal settler outposts in the area.

The Israeli peace group Ta’ayush describe the events leading up to the 2002 dispersion as, “years of unrelenting harassment, destruction of infrastructure, armed patrols and threats of shooting” (from the EAPPI publication ‘Living with Settlers’). An entire Palestinian village, the first since 1967, was up-rooted and displaced.

As a result, at the invitation of the mayor, there has been an international presence in the hamlet since 2003. Sadly however, attacks and harassment are still part of life here.

In addition to the attacks, Yanoun has lost hundreds of acres of land. This is either because the settlers have claimed it for their own or because it is deemed a ‘closed military zone’ by the Israeli military. The term ‘closed military zone’ is used with derision throughout Yanoun. Most people here understands the IDF to be on “the side of the  settlers” as one resident commented to me. One former EA in Yanoun commented that they saw “soldiers sitting down and having a picnic with settlers on Palestinian land”.

The settlements remain illegal under international humanitarian law; Article 49, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. For this reason, the settlements are condemned by every major nation in the world (except Israel). The Israeli NGO Peace Now describes these illegal settlements as, “the biggest obstacle to a two state solution”.

The three main settlements that surround Yanoun are Itamar, Yizhar and Bracha. Yizhar was the home of the infamous Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the author of “The Kings Torah”. The Kings Torah offers a theological basis for the killing of non-Jews.  According to the Rabbi, non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks on them “curb their evil inclination,” while babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us”. The Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv described it as the stuff of “Jewish terror”.

Although not all as extreme as Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, many of the residents are extremely hostile to both Palestinians and internationals. They see the fields and valleys as “their land” – some believing it is literally their God given right to be there.

Attacks from people living in these settlements are common place in Yanoun and  the surrounding villages.  As a result of the settlement, there are a series of de facto invisible boundaries surrounding Yanoun that cannot safely be crossed by either Palestinians or internationals. All the hilltops and fields out of the valley bottom are no go areas for fear of violence or provoking ‘revenge attacks’ on Palestinian villages.

It is equally inspiring and terrifying to be here, to see how a community live their lives perched perilously close to having their homes and livelihoods eradicated. Already though I felt a resilience here – a living embodiment of the phrase “to exist is to resist”.

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