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Haaretz: Transfer's real nightmare

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    http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=230842 w w w . h a a r e t z d a i l y . c o m Transfer s real nightmare As these words are being
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2002
      w w w . h a a r e t z d a i l y . c o m

      Transfer's real nightmare

      As these words are being written, Khirbet Yanun still exists. Or
      maybe not: 15 of the 25 families that lived in the village are still
      there. This is not an insignificant number: If the reader recalls,
      on October 18 only two old men remained there, having refused to
      leave even after the last families departed, holding on by their
      fingertips to the village despite the abuse of settlers. The others
      had decided to take their possessions and move to the nearby town of

      However, Khirbet Yanun's existence is still frail and incomplete.
      There is still no electricity or running water, the houses are
      without furniture, the presence of residents sparse, their security
      unassured. At the beginning of last week, volunteers from Israel and
      abroad - Jews and Arabs who belong to the Ta'ayush movement - were
      still on site, but their presence there was transitory. Come the
      next attack by settlers, which will happen sooner or later, Khirbet
      Yanun may be emptied of its residents for good.

      Many Israelis who are committed to a life of peace and justice in
      this country are convinced, it seems, that despite all the horrors
      of the occupation and the violent conflict, there are still certain
      red lines that they will not allow Ariel Sharon and his government
      to cross: Transfer will not be permitted to happen. When the
      critical moment arrives, they will stand up and stop it.

      But transfer isn't necessarily a dramatic moment, a moment when
      people are expelled and flee their towns or villages. It is not
      necessarily a planned and well-organized move with buses and trucks
      loaded with people, such as happened in Qalqilyah in 1967. Transfer
      is a deeper process, a creeping process that is hidden from view. It
      is not captured on film, is hardly documented, and it is going on
      right in front of our eyes. Anyone who is waiting for a dramatic
      moment is liable to miss it as it happens.

      The main component of the process is the gradual undermining of the
      infrastructure of the civilian Palestinian population's lives in the
      territories: its continuing strangulation under closures and sieges
      that prevent people from getting to work or school, from receiving
      medical services, and from allowing the passage of water trucks and
      ambulances, which sends the Palestinians back to the age of donkey
      and cart. Taken together, these measures undermine the hold of the
      Palestinian population on its land.

      When the water trucks don't make it to the villages, when every trip
      to work becomes an adventure with an unforeseeable end, when schools
      are closed and hospitals in the nearby urban center begin to grow
      further away - the local fabric of life begins to disintegrate. Some
      of the young people, who used to work outside the village and then
      return home every night, remain outside, choosing not to attempt to
      pass through the succession of roadblocks each morning. Families
      that are able to do so move to safer places, closer to their sources
      of income, inside the population centers.

      And the number of instances are mounting up: the butcher from
      Jerusalem, who despairs at the attempt to cross the Qalandiyah
      roadblock and who has closed his shop that is situated north of it;
      the taxi driver who moved out of his home in northern Jerusalem to
      live, crowded with the rest of the family, in his parents' home in
      the Old City, in order to have a chance to get to work; residents of
      a West Bank village whose son was about to begin studies in the
      nearby city of Nablus, but because it is no longer so accessible
      even by public transit, are poised to leave their village and move
      to the city. All of these cases signal how the hold of the
      Palestinian population on the land is being weakened.

      Not an isolated case

      What the army's closures and sieges don't achieve, the settlers do:
      Every new settlement and outpost requires security, of course, and
      the meaning of security to settlers is eviction of Palestinians from
      the surrounding area, and transformation of the agricultural lands
      to death zones, for whoever enters them to pick olives or work the
      land may end up paying for the act with his life. In order for a
      handful of settlers to dominate almost half of the land of the
      occupied territories, an organized action, a conquest of the land, a
      tower-and-stockade thrust is required. Armed, subsidized and
      organized, hey systematically rough up residents of the villages,
      very much like the paramilitary units employed by hacienda owners in
      Latin America to inflict a reign of terror on the peasantry. They
      are above the law.

      The campaign against the olive harvesters was therefore an important
      component of the settlers' attempt to pull out from under the legs
      of the villagers the little that they still have. It is also
      intended to show them that the settlers are the real masters, that
      they can pick the olives of the villagers with impunity, and drive
      off with gunfire anyone who tries to stand in their way.

      Khirbet Yanun is not an isolated case. Dozens of villages in the
      area of Tul Karm and Qalqilyah, Salfit and Nablus have been
      subjected to intense existential pressure for several months. This
      is not necessarily marked by dramatic incidents causing death and
      casualties, but by organized abuse, constant deterioration of living
      conditions, tightening of the stranglehold, and increased isolation
      from the economic, cultural and political centers of Palestinian

      All of these long-term structural processes, which gradually
      undermine the population's hold on its land, are clearly expressed
      at Khirbet Yanun. It is a small and isolated settlement that lies
      only a few hundred meters from the outposts established by the
      settlers of Itamar. The outposts were established in the hills above
      Yanun in the late 1990s, under the auspices of the "peace process."
      Akrabeh is situated a 15-minute drive way, via a poorly maintained
      dirt road that is easy to block off.

      Venture out at night into the streets of Yanun. The little village
      is dark, the landscape pastoral. But even in the village itself,
      residents are not alone: On the hill opposite, the settlers'
      watchtowers can be seen, and from the hill on the other side, the
      caravans and cars are visible. The lights of the patrol vehicles can
      be seen from far away. Here in their homeland, the people of Yanun
      sit surrounded, as in a sort of reserve whose days are numbered. The
      settlers may appear at any moment, and they do: The children hide
      whenever they hear the sound of their all-terrain vehicles. The
      residents freeze in place in the olive grove whenever the settlers

      This, too, is not an isolated case: If you find yourself in the
      southern Hebron hills along the edge of the desert, along with
      Palestinian residents living in their tents in Susya, here too you
      will find that there is no room for the local residents. Look up and
      you will see a star-studded sky, but all it takes is a glance around
      you and you will understand that you are surrounded - army vehicles
      patrol the road, which the Palestinians are not allowed to approach.
      On the other side are the settlers of Susya: Woe to anyone who gets
      too close to the fields adjacent to the settlement. And Susya
      continues to expand. An illuminated security road passes behind you,
      in the wadi, and if you take a look northward, you will see the
      lights of the nearby army base and hear the announcements crackling
      from the loudspeakers.

      This reality conveys an unambiguous message: Residents of the
      reserve - you are surrounded; it would be best if you surrendered.
      And these are also the explicit words uttered by the settlers to the
      people of Khirbet Yanun during recent attacks on the village, when
      they broke into homes, when they beat Abd al-Latif Bani Jaber in
      front of his family: Get out of here, go to Akrabeh.

      Complaints lodged by Yanun residents to the police provide a
      documentation of the process by which their village has turned into
      a ghost town. The village is situated in Area C, which is under the
      full security and administrative responsibility of Israel, but in
      the opinion of local residents, there is a tacit agreement between
      the army and the settlers. All development in the village is
      blocked. Indeed, since 1992, the Israeli Civil Administration has
      forbidden any construction there. The fields have become unsafe. The
      settlers used to come down the hill and treat the village as if it
      were their own. Local residents quote one of the settlers from
      Itamar, who told them that he and he alone ruled the area. I will
      remain here, he said, when the police and the press have gone.
      According to residents, it was he who led the raids on the village.

      And so, long before they burned the electrical generator in April
      2002, the infrastructure of daily life was increasingly being
      undermined. The children of Khirbet Yanun used to go to the
      elementary school in Yanun a-Tahta, which is near Akrabeh. When the
      raids grew worse and the road became unsafe, a small school was
      opened in the village, less than two years ago. This school was
      closed when the last families left the village. The walls were
      closing in on the daily lives of the villagers. The nearest high
      school is in Akrabeh, which has become so much more distant. So
      anyone who wants his children to stay in school is compelled to
      leave Yanun and move to the town. But even without this
      consideration - who is going to decide to stay in a village where
      settlers come and go as they please, day and night, marching on the
      roofs of the houses and breaking into the homes?

      On Thursday, October 17, the principal of the small school in
      Khirbet Yanun bade farewell to his last students. The next day, the
      last six families left town. Two days later, Ta'ayush volunteers
      arrived in order to enable residents to return to their village.
      Most of the residents are still there.

      Danger signal

      Khirbet Yanun sends a danger signal that should not be disregarded:
      Tens of thousands of people are liable to become displaced persons
      and refugees. In addition, Israeli "security sources" repeatedly
      leak reports that in time of war or escalation of the conflict, the
      Sharon government may try to displace many others, on an organized
      basis. The pain of displacement will not be soothed by time. For
      years to come, Israeli society will have to contend with the violent
      cost of this displacement, which is added to previous rounds of it.

      Yanun is a warning sign not only to Israelis but also to
      Palestinians. The danger of transfer is tangible. In order to
      eliminate it, there is a need for serious work in the field and a
      strengthening of the local economy. First and foremost, there should
      be a focus on rejuvenating the social fabric and strengthening the
      internal solidarity within Palestinian society. Without these, a new
      wave of refugees is liable to be added to the old camps or join
      existing urban centers.

      The foundation that is required for tsumud (the stubborn clinging to
      the land, the determination to hold on in spite of the occupation)
      will not be found in symbolic actions, in focusing on international
      public opinion at the expense of dealing with the distress at home,
      or in armed demonstrations of power. In order to contend with the
      creeping process of transfer, Palestinian society must enlist its
      human resources in order to struggle over every meter of land and
      every goat. Will this effort find loyal Israeli allies in the civil
      struggle against dispossession?

      Ta'ayush volunteers came to Khirbet Yanun for two weeks to fend for
      the residents, to facilitate their return home and to roust public
      opinion out of its state of apathy. Fifteen families have returned
      to their homes, albeit hesitantly and fearfully, and their return is
      not complete.

      During our stay here, the army has been compelled to demonstrate its
      presence. But past experience teaches the residents that despite
      their calls for help, the maltreatment will not end. During our stay
      here, the Itamar settlers succeeded in swooping down on the village
      and severely beating two residents and four volunteers. None of the
      rioters was arrested. A sign of things to come.

      Our presence in Khirbet Yanun was temporary. It is impossible and it
      is wrong for the presence of Israeli citizens to be the only
      guarantee to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian
      village. Unless people in Israel stand up to the injustice and
      support the people of the village, they will remain at the mercy of
      the settlers. When will the next attack come? Will it be after the
      residents leave? Will they blow up the houses of the village? Or
      move into the houses? And where will they stop?

      The sights from three weeks ago remain with us. On the moonlit night
      when we arrived in Yanun, we walked through the abandoned Arab
      village. The residents had time to prepare themselves, to take their
      belongings, gather light fixtures and pull out the electrical
      wiring. There wasn't even the sound of a single dog barking in the
      village. Still, wherever you turn, you see open homes, broken-down
      doors, yawning black voids. And on the surrounding hillsides, the
      watchtowers of the settlers of Itamar. More or less, this is how the
      Palestinian villages looked after 1948. Fifty-odd years later, we
      are here again, Israelis and Palestinians, captives of a history
      whose bitter lessons we have forgotten.

      The writers are members of the Ta'ayush - Arab Jewish Partnership

      By Gadi Algazi and Azmi BdeirBy Gadi Algazi and Azmi Bdeir


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