Palestine marks 50 years of occupation

Stories gathered in the run-up to the anniversary of the six-day war show the realities of daily life for Palestinians

Fifty years after the Israeli seizure of Palestinian territories following the six-day war in 1967, the world’s longest continuing military occupation remains in place.

While the war uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Syrians from their homes, thousands more continue to live under the weight of military control.

“Both Palestinian and Israeli children are denied a future in peace and security”This week, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres led calls for a quick end to the occupation and the reestablishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The occupation “has fuelled recurring cycles of violence and retribution,” Guterres said. “Generation after generation of Palestinians have been compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.”

“This 50-year old festering wound is a reflection of the capitulation of Israeli, Palestinian and international leadership in the search for peace and reconciliation,” said Jan Egeland, a former UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs who now leads the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Both Palestinian and Israeli children are denied a future in peace and security.”

Last year saw the destruction of more than 1,000 Palestinian houses in the West Bank, according to NRC, nearly one third of which were build by donor funding. Close to 9,000 men, women and children were made homeless. Some 67 communities in the West Bank are currently at risk of forcible transfer, affecting 350,000 people.

The following stories, collected by NRC, show the impact of the occupation on those whose land, homes, livelihoods and futures remain fragile and uncertain.

Rezq Ahmed, 10, from Al Mugragha, saw his family house destroyed in the 2014 Gaza conflict. He is the oldest of three sisters and two brothers

We live in a tragic situation. We only get electricity for three hours a day, so I can’t watch TV, and when we want to study at night, we can’t. I mainly study in the afternoon and a little bit in the evening.

I like going to school because I receive education and see my friends, who live far from me. I also play there. My friends and I buy snacks from the school’s shop and sit together. I come to school to learn because if I learn, I can find a job. I hope I can become an engineer so we can build houses for all the people.

"What scares me the most is the shooting and the war"I hope the blockade will end and the environment remains clean and beautiful. What scares me the most is the shooting and the war. People become displaced and houses get razed to the ground.In the last war, the shooting began in Ramadan, when we were having our breakfast meal. Our house was bombed at night and we remained huddled in one place.

We stayed away from our home for one month. When we returned home after the war, we found that the water tanks got destroyed and the third and fourth floors were demolished. So we stayed on the ground floor. After that, we removed the rocks on the upper floors and asked for construction workers to rebuild them. I clearly remember the rockets as they hit the houses. I used to watch that on TV.

When the war was going on, I would try to calm down my two siblings down, read stories to them and play with them. I would tell them that there was nothing serious; it was just a man who was launching fireworks.

I dream of the blockade on the Gaza strip ending and the Israelis not demolishing our homes just like during the war. I dream of living in peace and in good health.

 

Intisar Al Sheesh, 53, lives with her son and his family in a tent. Their house was destroyed three years ago, during the 2014 Gaza conflict.

I got married at the age of 18 and I gave birth to nine children. Our family consists of 11 members. My husband first started working in Israel, then lost his job when Israel imposed a blockade and stopped Palestinians from Gaza from entering Israel.

"For three years, we’ve waited for construction to start but it still hasn’t begun"In the last war, we were displaced and stayed in schools. We couldn’t find food, water or anything. We took refuge in schools for fear of the planes and the shooting. After that, we searched for a place to stay in and ended up renting one. My children stayed with their cousins. Later, we couldn’t pay the rent so we had to build the tents that you see now. We live in fear because of the dogs, ants and snakes that come to us.

For three years, we’ve waited for construction to start but it still hasn’t begun. The Israelis imposed a blockade on us and we are not receiving any assistance. They cut off the electricity and there is no work for us. As you can see, everyone is sitting down doing nothing. There is no income. We hope a house will be built for us so we live inside like normal people and own things like everybody else. We hope the blockade is ended and peace prevails, so these children can grow up and work too.

Moussa Al Sayayleh is part of a community of Palestinian Bedouin refugees, living in Wadi Al Jimel. The community is located in Area C, under Israeli security and administrative control, and remains at risk of forcible transfer. In 2002, the community was divided from Jerusalem by the security wall.

We’ve been living here in Wadi Al Jimel since 1983. We started with a small group and we grew to the numbers you see now - 28 or 30 families.

The life of Bedouins here is not different from that of Bedouins in Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Palestine. Bedouins rely on livestock and they move with them in order to raise them and to find water. Wherever it is convenient for them and their livestock, they remain there. Traveling and moving doesn’t bother them. But we have been suffering from expulsion, confiscation and settlements since Israel came into being.

Bedouins in Palestine now do not dare leave the place they’ve been staying in for 10 or 50 years, because if they do so, they will not be able to return to it. So their life has become a sedentary one. Israel turned the lands into military areas or a natural reserve or they banned Bedouins from passing by or living there. Life has changed drastically.

A good part of us depends on livestock; we have around 700 sheep. Others, the youth work in the settlements, and others work in agriculture. They plant wheat and barley, in addition to vegetables in winter and summer. Our life is not perfect, but here we are standing and enduring, as there is no alternative.

"If they come and raze my house, I am ready to set up a tent, but I will not go"
We face the problem of forced evictions and expulsion from our land. If they remove us from here, that’s our death sentence. They gave us two options to move, and both are not suitable. It would be like living in a prison, with no place to raise our livestock. They want this land to add it to their settlement. They want to pass a street through here. They want to place us in one corner and build a wall around us.

I will not leave here even if there was an agreement. We want the land to live and plant on, not to build a villa. Let us keep the land without court trials, expulsion and demolition. If they come and raze my house, I am ready to set up a tent, but I will not go where they want to force me to go. I would rather die here than go there. We are not afraid.

 

Ibrahim Mustafa Al Shalaldeh is part of a small community in farmers, living in Jourat Al Khiel, whicih falls in Area C. Displaced once, from their land nearby, last August their homes, water wells and livestock sheds were bulldozed to the ground by Israeli soldiers. NRC is assisting the community with legal aid.

We used to live in Sarara, which they call Asfar. We had water wells, caves and shelter for summer and winter. The Israelis came in the ‘80s and kicked us out, so we moved here. We didn’t have water, shelter or anything here. We began building, digging water wells, planting trees, and made the land a productive one.

One day, we received and order to stop building. We hired a lawyer, but in August 2016, they razed our houses to the ground. Six weeks later, they came to destroy the water wells. I told them: “Birds and dogs drink from them. Every living creature drinks from them. Why do you want to destroy the water wells?” They replied: “We have an order to demolish them.”

"We can’t build a thing because they’ll demolish everything"I used to have shelter for the livestock of 270 metres. We had a pigeon shed that was razed. We had a small room for rabbits and they razed it too, with the rabbits and pigeons inside them. We used to have olive trees here, but they too got destroyed by the bulldozer.

We don’t have any other land except this one. Where shall we go now? If we had another piece of land, we would have moved to it, but we don’t. A month ago they came to give us a warning letter telling us not to build anything. We can’t build a thing because they’ll demolish everything. But we are going to stay here and God will help us survive.