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December 6, 2017

An Open Letter Demanding Human Rights

Sunday, November 12 2017


This urgent appeal is addressed to you by human rights activists Guy Hircefeld, Daphne Banai (Machsom Watch) and Itamar Feigenbaum (Combatants for Peace).

  1. We have accompanied the Palestinian farmer-communities in the Jordan Valley for years. Most of them reside in makeshift structures, with no schools or health clinics, no running water, electricity or minimal utilities. Most residents hardly earn a living, and their livelihood is based on sheep and goat herding and traditional agriculture.
  2. For various reasons, the Jordan Valley is an area which elicits less interest among the international community, in comparison to the Jerusalem and Hebron area. Meanwhile, the State of Israel, the Military Commander in the Area and Israeli security forces are carrying out a creeping forcible transfer of the Palestinian population.
  3. The State of Israel knows full-well that for political reasons it is unable to expel tens of thousands of Palestinians in one day. That is why it takes slow action, such as: House demolitions; the denial of water supply; restricting access to farming land and health and education services; repeated confiscation of farming machinery, residential tents, water tanks and livestock; isolating and disconnecting Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank; and allowing entry and exit to residents, workers and goods only via a few restricted checkpoints. The Palestinians who still live in the Jordan Valley live in extremely narrow enclaves of sorts, surrounded on all sides by IDF firing zones, nature reserves and lands seized for Israeli settlements. Palestinians are not allowed to enter all the aforementioned areas, which comprise most of the Jordan Valley, unless they hold personal permits from the military authorities.
  4. In fact, the State of Israel gives the Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley two options to “choose” from – leave or live under inhumane conditions.
  5. In the past year, two additional Israeli outposts were established – in Um Zukka and near the settlement of Mehola. Every new outpost causes “peripheral” damage to the Palestinian population in the area – beyond the seizing of their grazing and farming land – since every outpost with even a single settler creates ex-nihilo new security arrangements and new restrictions of the Palestinian communities’ freedom of movement and employment. These two new outposts have become new centers of violence towards the Palestinian population. Thus for example, last February, settlers from the Um Zuka outpost accosted Palestinian shepherds and handcuffed them for a while.
  6. Although the State of Israel does not lift a finger as to violence by Israelis settlers, it pursues collective punishment towards the Palestinian population. Thus for example, in the middle of last October IDF soldiers prevented entry to Palestinian businesses in Ouja, claiming that stones had previously been thrown at the scene, and that if Palestinians would have no livelihood, they would prevent the children from throwing stones.
  7. In the hot summer months of the Jordan Valley, Israel confiscated water tanks belonging to Palestinian communities in Um Zuka and Haima, in the northern Jordan Valley. This amounts not just to cruelty but to a sheer threat to human lives.
  8. Repeated letters by us to the Attorney General of the Judea and Samaria Command, the Attorney General of the Israeli Government, the Military Commander of the Area and the Civil Administration, have been ignored and disrespected. Among other things, construction in the outposts continues, Settler takeover of grazing and farming lands is expanding, violent incidents which we report in real time are not dealt with, and the confiscation of residential tents, water tanks and livestock belonging to Palestinian continues.
  9. Furthermore, we are witnessing on the ground how settlers from the outposts are giving instructions to IDF soldiers and even embarking on operational activity with the military forces. Thus for example, last August, soldiers and a settler from the Einot Kedem outpost entered a Palestinian residential area in Ouja (Area A), and we also found out that soldiers had spent the weekend in this outpost. An appeal to the IDF Chief of Staff last August, as to the improper relations between IDF soldiers and settlers in the outposts has not been answered. Last April, human rights activists found out that the Israeli outpost of Um Zuka was receiving its water supply from a pipeline connected to the nearby IDF base.
  10. IDF soldiers themselves are assaulting human rights activists who are trying to protect the rights of the Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley. Thus for example, in November 2016, IDF soldiers fired rubber bullets and threw gas canisters and stun grenades at Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists who organized a non-violent protest against Israel’s failure to evacuate the outpost near Mehola. Last June, a military vehicle coming out of the Israeli outpost in Um Zuka, deliberately tried to run over a human rights activist, who had to jump aside in order to avoid being hurt. Last July, an IDF soldier cocked his weapon and aimed it at one of the human rights activists. Last August, IDF soldiers threw a spike under one of the cars belonging to the human rights activists, and jeopardized the lives of the activists who had come to escort Palestinian shepherds in the Ouja area.
  11. Palestinians and human rights activists are also being harassed and threatened by security coordinators of the settlements and outposts. For example, this summer, a security coordinator of the Mevo’ot Yericho outpost threatened Palestinian Shepherds and was responsible for setting fire to grazing lands. The security coordinator of the Mehola settlement often arrives with an attack dog to threaten human rights activists and Palestinian residents.
  12. Reality on the ground has proven that without International intervention, the State of Israel will continue to blatantly violate international law. We as human rights activists who suffer from harassment and threats from settlers as well as from IDF soldiers are unable to stop by ourselves the crimes which the State of Israel is committing in the Jordan Valley, and are unable to stop the escalation.
  13. In the past few days, the State of Israel has issued an order for the evacuation of hundreds of residents from the Palestinian communities of Ein Hilweh and Um Jammal, and at the same time, Israeli Minister of Housing, Yoav Gallant, has announced he would initiate a plan for the doubling of the number of Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley.
  14. Therefore, before it is too late and before the international community wakes up one morning to find out most of the Palestinian population has already left the Jordan Valley, we call for an urgent intervention, as follows:
  1. Demanding that the Israeli government immediately cease all demolitions of Palestinian homes.
  2. Demanding that the Israeli government immediately cease the confiscation of residential tents, farming machinery, water tanks and livestock.
  3. Demanding that the Israeli government prevent the establishment of new Israeli outposts in the Jordan Valley, and dismantle the existent unauthorized outposts, especially the ones established in Um Zuka and near the settlement of Mehola in the past year.
  4. DemandingthattheIsraeligovernmentallowthePalestinianpopulation free access to health and education services, water and food.
  5. Demanding that the Israeli government allow the Palestinian population free access to grazing lands, including areas designated as nature reserves or firing areas (which is currently permitted to settlers)
  6. Demanding that the Israeli government open the el-Hadidiya gate, which blocks the quickest and easiest path between Palestinian communities of the central Jordan Valley area and the rest of the West Bank, especially the Palestinian communities of Hirbet-Atouf and Tamoun.
  7. Demanding that the Israeli government protect Palestinians and human rights activists from violence by settlers and soldiers, and bring to justice settlers and soldiers who are involved in assaults
  8. Demanding that the Israeli government declare the immediate cessation of the creeping forcible transfer, and commit to refraining from taking any measures which may cause the Palestinian population and communities in the Jordan Valley to leave the area.

Daphne Banai, , +972-52-2575938 Guy Hircefeld, , +972-52-7025743 Itamar Feigenbaum, , +972-54-7331520