Monday, March 26, 2012

Afforestation and BDS

One element of our recent trip to the Negev was learning about problems that hadn't come up on our radar while writing the preliminary report.  The topic raised most often was afforestation and it's use in displacing Bedouin villages, as well as it's use of water resources in the desert (eucalyptus forests—once used in Palestine to dry swamps and displace natives—use up a lot of water).

While we're putting together our final report, as well as coordinating video posts and photo albums, read a quick blog on the JNF from late February posted here.

The site, is a one-stop for everything BDS related. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement was also a topic that was brought up frequently. I'm in the process of tracking down a list of the companies and products targeted, but in the meantime read up here.

Now that International Water Day is over, get ready for the BDS Global Day of Action on March 30, 2012.

Here are a few photos: the first is a small forestation project underway through the work of the JNF, and the second is of the two most adorable Bedouin protestors, who gather every Friday across from fresh trees, not far from their demolished homes.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

World Water Day

Today is World Water Day and the Bedouin are getting a lot of press. Here is a video posted by Adalah, our host in Israel, and a few links below:

Here is Adalah's website with a few links to water rights reports and press releases.

And here is a post by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

UN-OCHAOPT Report on the Takeover of Palestinian Water Springs by Israeli Settlers

[ An IDF soldier naps in Ein Al-Qaws Spring in Nabi Saleh.  Photo by Alison A. Ramer ]
This month, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Occupied Palestinian Territory (UN-OCHAOPT) published a report on the widespread problem of water-spring takeovers by settlers in the West Bank.  The report ties this widespread and troubling practice to attempts to control vital water resources in the West Bank, and the development of a "settlement tourism" infrastructure.

The report calls on the Israeli authorities to:

  1. stop facilitating the transfer of Israeli civilians into the oPt, including by allowing the expansion of settlements;
  2. Restore Palestinian access to the water springs taken over by settlers, and ensure their safety; 
  3. Conduct effective investigations into cases of settler violence and trespass and prosecute those responsible; and
  4. Adopt measures to prevent ongoing settler “tours” to springs located on private Palestinian property. 

The full report is here:

There is specific coverage of An-Nabi Saleh on pages 15 - 18.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bethlehem and Bedouins

A lighter touch:

Bethlehem and Bedouins from Right2Water on Vimeo.

Nabi Saleh Protest

As our trip has ebbed onward, it's almost hard to believe just four days ago a few of us were in Nabi Saleh outside Ramallah observing (and, sometimes to our detriment, becoming part of) the weekly water protest hosted by the village. You can learn and see more at

For now, we're uploading a quick teaser of a longer video that will include interviews with the family. There's so much work to do here, and we've rarely had a moment to sit down. Please enjoy the video and pass on the Tamimi's website.

Nabi Saleh 3/9/2012 from Right2Water on Vimeo.


Breakfast at Hashem Zane

March 13, 2012

Hashem Zane

We spent last night in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Hashem Zane, about 15 kilometers east of Be'ersheva in the middle of the Siyaj, the triangular region between the towns of Be'ersheva, Arad, and Dimona that marks the area in which Israel permits the Bedouin to live in the Negev. But although Hashem Zane falls within this area, the government refuses to recognize its existence. This has many effects, which will be further explored in our research paper.

But on a personal level, staying at Hashem Zane last night was a very, very interesting experience. For one thing, there was the fact that we stayed in a traditional Bedouin experience, meaning that we slept on floor mats in a house with minimal insulation in the middle of the desert. In other words, it was cold. But this was fine, as the blankets we used were unbelievably warm. More importantly, the hospitality of the Bedouin at Hashem Zane, as everywhere we have visited so far, was incredible. Attiyah, the leader of the settlement, has been so gracious in making sure that we have comfortable places to sleep and delicious food to eat. It is hard to understand how these people are so strong and gracious in the midst of massive inequality, but their passion (and their coffee!) has fueled us in our efforts.

Al-Araqib land recognition protest

Upon arrival in Be'er Saba, we went with a representative from Adalah to a protest beside the highway near Rahat.  Rahat is a government-planned Bedouin town, but the protest is about an unrecognized village nearby called Al-Araqib.

There have been over 30 home demolitions there in the last 6 months.  Every time, they rebuild, and the homes are torn down again.  Adding insult to injury, the villagers are billed for the cost of these demolitions, usually around 50,000 to 60,000 shekels for the equipment, employees, police, police animals, and even the portable toilets for the demolition employees.

As a means of peaceful demonstration against these demolitions, the villagers have arranged with local police to protest beside the highway each week.  We went to one protest, and talked with the villagers about the challenges they face.

- F.B.J.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Water Waste in Tel Aviv

Next to where we stayed in downtown Tel Aviv was a giant water fountain.  It was leaking gallons upon gallons of fresh water onto the street.

- F.B.J.
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Rockets in Be'ersheva

We arrived in Be'ersheva yesterday and almost immediately heard sirens. Tensions between Israel and Gaza have spiked of late, and being within the range of Grad rockets, Be'ersheva has found itself under attack. As jarring as it may be to hear rockets exploding overhead, life here continues after such events, and though we ran to the bomb shelter several times, all was, as the Israelis say, kol beseder. Of course, one can't help but think of the folks in Gaza who have no sophisticated defense mechanism like the American-made Iron Dome, which protects the Israeli home front from incoming rocket fire, or no Red Alert system, which gives residents of Be'ersheva seventy seconds to scurry to safety. Over fifteen have died in Gaza since the escalation began, and though none have died in Israel, many residents are in danger's way. It is our sincere hope that the two sides can come to some kind of reconciliation soon so that the people of this region may find some peace, even if it is merely a temporary one.

We now head east to conduct research in Bedouin villages, outside of rocket range.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

"We want our children to have normal lives."

In November 2011, a Palestinian woman named Manal Tamimi visited us in New York City to give a presentation about the non-violent Intifada that members of her village, Nabi Saleh in West Bank, have been organizing for the past two years.

Five months later, we were able to visit her at her home in Nabi Saleh where she lives with her husband Bilal and her four children. The entire population of the village consists of members of the same extended family, the Tamimis, who have been organizing peaceful protests to obtain their right to water.

The two hours we spent at her home were very emotional for our team members. Bilal and Manal told us about the death of their cousin, Mustafa Tamimi, who during a Friday protest in December 2011 was shot with a tear gas canister in the head from short range and died one day later in the hospital. We learned that since the month of Ramadan, the Israeli army stopped blocking the entrance to the village on Fridays, the day of the protest. However, the response by the Israeli Defense Forces to the weekly protests continues to be excessive, as evidenced in the photos taken by our team members last Friday.

During our interview we asked the Tamimis what they want from life. Their response was simple: “We want our children to have normal lives.” The children of Nabi Saleh live under constant fear of their homes being demolished, their parents and family members being arrested or even killed, as in the case of Mustafa Tamimi and many others. When we asked them how we could help, they told us that the best way to support the people of Nabi Saleh would be by telling their stories to others we know when we get back to the US. By posting our daily experiences on this blog, we hope to do exactly what the Tamimi family asked us to do: share the stories of the brave Palestinians that we will encounter throughout our fact-finding mission.


Nabi Saleh

Two of us went to Nabi Saleh for the Friday protest -- the protest is about an ancient water spring near the village that has been claimed by nearby settlers.  Every Friday, the villagers of Nabi Saleh and others from nearby towns come to demonstrate, and try to march to the spring.  They are met by armored jeeps and soldiers carrying tear gas.

Press and medical personnel show up every week, as do many international supporters.

- F.B.J.

The mission thus fas has been an eye opening experience.  From the Holy Cities of Al Quds to Bethlehem, the disparate economic conditions and vast discrimination is highly disturbing. - S.B.H.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Arrival in Israel

We have finally arrived in Israel! After a long flight we landed in the Tel Aviv area, where we were greeted by a wonderfully hospitable Palestinian-Israeli law professor who is hosting us for part of our time here. His wife cooked us an absolutely delicious dinner, which you can see below.

We went for a walk around the ancient city of Jaffa, where we learned of the significantly changed demographics of the community here.  Jaffa has traditionally been a mixed city, home to large communities of both Arabs and Jews, but now has mainly Jews living there.  We learned that in 1948, any Arab who fled Jaffa, as in other any other community in Israel, during the Israeli War of Independence, was made subject to the Absentee Property Law, which had the effect of expropriating their property to the state.  Even those who resided in their homes, but were absent during the census were subject to this law.  The state then could then sell the property on its own terms.

This is a house that was taken by the State of Israel under the Absentee Property Law; it is now being resold for an exorbitant sum due to the high property values in Jaffa, as high as in Manhattan.

Today, Jaffa is further losing its Arab community as a result of rising property values of once "absentee" Palestinian properties, having the effect of displacing Arabs who have lived here for generations with Jews escaping nearby Tel Aviv for lower house prices. While there is no facial discrimination against Arabs in acquiring or holding onto housing in Jaffa, we learned of many examples in which certain policies or developments have a disparate impact resulting in the exclusion of Arabs from the community. For example, we learned about a newly constructed gated community that advertised its complex to potential buyers as being Arab-free.

Today we head to Jerusalem to explore the ancient city and take in its complicated geopolitical landscape.