ما في غرفة

farming in al sheyukh
farming in al sheyukh
i think i have been in a food coma all week from all the sugar i’ve been given during eid. it is clouding my thinking. today i was fed an amazing feast of mansaf in the lovely village of al sheuykh near khalil. i was given enough mansaf to feed at least four people, however. plus salad. plus sweets. plus fruit. plus drinks. plus i had already eaten a felafel sandwich in khalil not long before this. as more food was pushed my way–i was invited to eat fish on top of the mansaf meal as well–i could not think of how to say i’m no longer hungry in arabic. so i said “ma fi ghorfa” because i was thinking in english and translating that somehow into arabic; i was trying to say there is no more room in my stomach, but the word i used for room here is literally a room in a house. it is not used in arabic to mean space as we use it in english. of course, everyone, including me as soon as it hit me, burst out laughing.

downtown khalil
downtown khalil
khalil pottery & glass
khalil pottery & glass

i went to sheuykh today for lunch at my friend’s friend’s home because she had a meeting there. during the meeting i went to khalil to buy some of the famous glass made there as a wedding gift for friends in beirut. i did not go into the old city where the recent clashes took place as a result of the illegal israeli settlers who were removed. and where remaining settlers attacked palestinians with stones and guns. but such intentional, premeditated behavior does not get harsh punishment when zionists control the courtroom (think “justice” under jim crow in the u.s.):

The decision Wednesday by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge, Malka Aviv, to order the release of Ze’ev Braude, the settler suspected of shooting a Palestinian following the evacuation of the House of Contention in Hebron, did not come as a surprise to either the State Prosecutor’s Office or human rights groups.

A brief search on the judiciary’s Web site reveals that Aviv, according to her CV, is herself is a long-term settler. She was one of the first settlers of Gigit, a moshav which was established in the Jordan Valley in 1975.

During 41 years of occupation, many settlers and supporters of Jewish settlements in the West Bank have risen to senior posts in the Israel Defense Forces and hold key offices in the Civil Administration as well.

the economist has a piece this week on the pogroms in khalil in the context of the upcoming israeli elections:

The established settlement leadership purported to condemn, or at least not to condone, the militants’ behaviour. But it is unclear who leads whom among the settlers. Several right-wing members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, visited the building in Hebron before the police moved in. And the heads of the Settlement Council of Judea and Samaria, the settlers’ preferred name for the West Bank, tried to negotiate a compromise with the defence minister, Ehud Barak, that would have left the Jewish squatters in the building.

This vagueness on the far right threatens to embarrass Mr Netanyahu, whose Likud says it generally opposes the withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the West Bank. In his party’s primaries on December 9th, an ultra-hardliner, Moshe Feiglin, was voted into the 20th spot on the Likud’s list of candidates, despite Mr Netanyahu’s vigorous efforts to block him. Thanks to disciplined block-voting by Mr Feiglin’s supporters among party members, the list was notable for its far-right ideological hue. Moderates whom Mr Netanyahu publicly backed were pushed down or out. Mr Feiglin’s website, in which he denies the right of Palestinians to nationhood and urges Israel to annex the West Bank, was off the air next morning for “upgrading”.

a bit of context on feiglin–here are comments on the ethnic cleansing he advocates in ha’aretz yesterday:

In an interview Wednesday with the Israel’s Knesset TV channel, controversial Likud figure Moshe Feiglin said Israel should formally annex the West Bank and pay each Palestinian family $250,000 to move away.

“They want to emigrate,” he said. “There are certainly countries who want to take them in,” he said.

and there is also testimony on electronic intifada from one of the palestinians living under siege in khalil. here is an excerpt from it:

Suddenly, two settlers came up and tried to assault my brother-in-law Husni. One of them was holding a pistol. My father-in-law, Abd al-Hai al-Matariyeh, told him to leave because we didn’t want any problems. The settler fired a shot that hit Husni in the chest. When my father-in-law tried to overcome the shooter, the same settler shot him in his left arm. Then dozens of settlers attacked our house with stones and tried to burn the houses of our neighbors. There were also settlers who fired into the air. We threw stones at them to protect our house, and some of them fired in our direction.

After about 15 minutes passed, four soldiers arrived and ordered us to go into the house. We went inside and could no longer defend ourselves. The soldiers didn’t try to stop the settlers’ attack.

The settlers continued their attack for about two hours. My children and I stayed in one room. They children were terrified and we were all crying. We heard the sound of the windows breaking and of the water tanks being punctured. Flames spread into the house and we had to put them out with blankets, because the settlers had damaged our water system.

All this time, there were about four soldiers next to the house, but they didn’t help. The settlers tried to burn the house of our neighbors, the al-Razem family. I told the soldiers what they were doing, but they didn’t stop the settlers. After about half an hour passed, one of the soldiers went there and brought the woman and children to our house.

The attack didn’t stop until journalists arrived at our house. An Israeli journalist called the police and then the police arrived, but the settlers had already destroyed most of the property of the houses in our area. They had punctured a dozen or so water tanks, destroyed two electric boilers, a solar water tank and about five satellite dishes. Part of our house was burned, the electricity, telephone and water lines were completely destroyed, and most of our windows were shattered.

We’ve lost our faith that the Israeli police would protect us. Now we don’t have running water or a telephone line, our windows are broken, and the TV doesn’t work. We feel isolated from the outside world.

all of this is a bit of context in relation to my trip to khalil today. after an amazing lunch in al sheuykh my friend and i drove back towards beit lahem, but we took a bit of a detour. the other night her aunt was at her home and told us about a school she taught in in a nearby palestinian village called beit zakariya. she was talking about the poor condition of the school–there is only one school for the entire village–but also the village itself. it exists inside the illegal israeli settlement gush etzyon.

entrance to gush etzyon
entrance to gush etzyon
beit zakariya house with gush etzyon in background
beit zakariya house with gush etzyon in background

we drove down the jewish only settler road into the settlement that was built on the lands of the palestinian village of beit zakariya. when we first entered there was a winery (likely made with grapes from the original villagers when they had access to their lands).

gush etzyon winery
gush etzyon winery
beit zakariya's farm land imprisoned
beit zakariya's farm land imprisoned

we first drove down a street that looked like the village. the first house–seen above against the backdrop of the illegal and fancy looking settlement of gush etzyon–was made entirely out of zinc with a few plastic bags and pieces of cloth in between. it reminded me of some of the houses on the edge of shatila refugee camp in beirut. the people in this village have severely strict building codes. they are not allowed to build up at all and they are supposed to have zinc roofs. the illegal settlers don’t want the families to expand. there are 20 such families living here, although on this particular road there were only two families. we had to get in the car and drive further down the road to see where the remaining villagers live. the rest of the villagers became refugees in 1948 and live in refugee camps in the area.

home in beit zakariya
home in beit zakariya
gush etzyon encroaching on palestinian land
gush etzyon encroaching on palestinian land

the plight of the people from this village was shocking and horrifying. the conditions are worse than many refugee camps here. yes, they are still on their land, but the families are separated amidst gun toting illegal israeli settlers who shoot to kill and who get away with murder. literally. the flimsy nature of many of these homes on a hill top that has extremely turbulent and freezing winds bustling across the land made me wonder about how the families keep warm inside. the wind was particularly brisk today.

i started thinking again about having room. not in my stomach this time, but making room or having room–having space. everywhere you look palestinians are pushed out of their space. the israelis make no room for palestinians. every act, every day israelis act to push out palestinians rhetorically, actually. they do this by jailing, exiling, murdering, ethnically cleansing, bulldozing. and yet there is room. there is room here on this land, this palestinian land for every refugee who wants to return and for every palestinian who wants to return to their lands to farm. of this i am certain. but i was also thinking about room, about living room and not the space in one’s home where people live. i was thinking about this in relation to june jordan’s amazingly beautiful, powerful, awe-inspiring poem “moving towards home” in which she thinks about palestinian refugees who were massacred by israelis in cahoots with kat’aeb in lebanon in 1982 and writes these words:

I need to speak about living room
where the land is not bullied and beaten into
a tombstone
I need to speak about living room
where the talk will take place in my language
I need to speak about living room
where my children will grow without horror
I need to speak about living room where the men
of my family between the ages of six and sixty-five
are not
marched into a roundup that leads to the grave
I need to talk about living room
where I can sit without grief without wailing aloud
for my loved ones
where I must not ask where is Abu Fadi
because he will be there beside me
I need to talk about living room
because I need to talk about home

and i need to talk about return. about the right of return. and we need to do this now. it is getting worse. this week these illegal, violent settlers are expanding their space and scope of operation into 1948 palestine, and into a palestinian village as jonathan cook warns:

Extremist settler groups currently involved in violent confrontations with Palestinians in the center of Hebron have chosen their next battleground, this time outside the West Bank.

A far-right group know as the Jewish National Front, closely associated with the Hebron settlers, is preparing to march through one of the main Arab towns in northern Israel. The march, approved by the Israeli high court back in October, is scheduled to take place on 15 December, the group announced this week.

The police are expecting to deploy thousands of officers to prevent trouble, and have limited the number of Front members participating to 100. The march will not enter the heart of the city, say police, though it is not yet clear whether Front members will be allowed to carry the guns most have been issued as settlers.

The Front says it will wave Israeli flags in what the group has dubbed a demonstration of “Jewish Pride” through Umm al-Fahm, home to nearly 45,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Front’s main platform is the expulsion of all Palestinians from what it calls “Greater Israel,” which also includes the West Bank and Gaza. It skates close to illegality with veiled suggestions that Palestinian citizens of Israel should also be ethnically cleansed.

“We will march through Umm al-Fahm with flags to send everyone a message that the Land of Israel belongs to us,” Baruch Marzel, the Front’s leader, declared.

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