Written by Urvashi Sarkar; Photos by Bryan MacCormack with Left In Focus
Large parts of the day were spent in Area C in which Palestinians have very few rights. We spent a significant part of the morning in Tubas, where members of Jordan Valley Solidarity such as Rashid Sawafta explained the various ways in which Israel controls water resources and prevents Palestinians from accessing water. The control of water resources happens in many ways: by confiscating/destroying Palestinian tanks and wells, and controlling access to the Jordan River. People have to travel many kilometers to buy water, which can cost up to 7 or 8 USD per cubic meter. For many Palestinians, accessing water can be an everyday struggle, often resulting in violence and even death.
The Israelis have designated large parts of the Jordan Valley as closed military zones. The irony, however, is that the Jordan Valley is part of the West Bank which is Palestinian territory under the Oslo Accords. By giving military labels to these areas, Israel forces Palestinians off their own land, preventing them from building, farming or living on the land. Even if they try to build as much as chicken coops, the Israeli army will demolishes them.
The designation of an area as closed military zone is arbitrary. Therefore, Palestinians living in such areas will not know when the area they live in will be declared a military zone. Many areas designated as closed military zones are then given to Israeli colonists to farm. Later, Rashid told us that in 2011 alone settlers made approximately $125 million in profits from exporting produce grown in the Jordan Valley. In addition, the Israeli military leaves explosives on the land which have caused loss of limbs and life.
In Yerza village, we heard from farmer Naeem Hafez who was shot at by Israelis. His wife was shot at as well. He also lost a 12-year-old son to shooting by the Israelis. Whether being shot at, losing someone to death, or having a family member in prison—each of these elements is present in varying degrees in many Palestinian families.
Five checkpoints control entry and exit from the Jordan Valley; the worst of them, Al-Hamra, is known as “the checkpoint of death” because young people have been shot by Israeli occupation forces. Long lines of vehicles form as the Israeli Occupation Forces interrogates people and searches vehicles, often causing produce to go bad while being transported.
In the evening, the Freedom Bus took us to Fasayel village where Rashid gave a detailed account of the activities of Jordan Valley Solidarity including solidarity building, working with communities in education and sustainable building, and organising resistance. Fasayel is a small village with little infrastructure and limited supplies. However, next to Fasayel is a colony with Israeli settlers with greenery and swimming pools—this was shown to us on a map.
The day concluded with initial discussions for organizing solidarity around the BDS movement. Organisation wide solidarity in countries like the UK and unity between international trade unions could help in building resistance and pressure to boycott Israeli made products, especially those manufactured in the West Bank.