Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My rant: An @$$hole settler depriving a village of water

I have a difficult time writing coherently and informatively about people and things that enrage me.  I just want to write something like, "that is evil and that guy is a f*cking douchebag."  But alas, I am here to cohere and to inform.  

Backstory to the enraging story: A small victory was won last November in the South Hebron Hills hamlet called Bir al 'Idd.  Palestinians residents had been expelled in the year 2000 but returned in November 2009 after an Israeli court ruled they had the right to return.

Here's the story from the Israeli paper Ynet
For 10 years, residents of the Palestinian village of Khirbet Bir al-'Idd in the Hebron area have been living with relatives for fear of being harassed by settlers. Last week, after receiving approval from the Israel Defense Forces, they returned to their homes, but say the attacks were renewed shortly afterwards.

Between the years 1999 and 2000, some 20 families living in the village were forced to evacuate themselves gradually due to repeated cases of harassment by settlers from the Mitzpe Yair outpost, who according to the Palestinians and their representatives in the Rabbis for Human Rights organization harassed them on a regular basis and prevented them from using the road leading to Khirbet Bir al-'Idd.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the problems have continued since the residents moved back one year ago.  Taayush, an Israeli human rights organization that focuses on action and civil disobedience against the occupation, has an extensive series of press releases on the ongoing settler violence in Bir al 'Idd.

One of the ongoing issues has been the difficulty Bir al 'Idd residents have had in obtaining water for the village.  The most consistent water source, located firmly on Palestinian privately-owned land, is located between Bir al 'Idd and the the Israeli outpost, Mitzpe Yair.  Yes, Mitzpe Yair is in fact home to the same settlers that chased away Bir al 'Idd residents in 1999/2000 -- or it's possible that this is the new generation of violent colonizers who have learned the ways of their criminal and hateful parents.  (Again, go check out that Taayush sight for documentation of numerous instances when Bir al 'Idd residents have faced settlers and soldiers routinely prohibiting them from accessing their own water).  

The latest incident happened on Saturday.  From +972 blog
On Saturday, a lone settler from the illegal outpost of Mitzpeh Yair prevented water access to Palestinians living in Bir el Eid.  This is not the first time this has happened. The specific water cistern – dug by Palestinians from Bir el Eid and situated on their privately owned land – has been impossible to pump water out of for months because the settlers from this tiny neighboring outpost of about 10 families are adamant about annexing it (even though the state provides them with their own system of running water).

The summer heat has still not broken in the South Hebron Hills. The sun beat down on us as we were pulled into a violent tug-of-war with Avidan over the hose directing water out of the cistern into a small tank to be taken back to the village. We were five or six people trying to keep the hose in place and he was just one, pulling it violently away from us and trying every which way to stop the water from flowing.

Ok, back to my rage -- I did a got job cohering and informing, didn't I?  The settler is this video is an absolute piece of work.  His name is Avidan and he is notorious in the area for harrassing Palestinians without any provocation.  I was once accompanying a farmer who was plowing his land while sowing wheat.  Avidan drove down from his house, stood in front of the tractor to stop it, walked around and removed the key from the ignition, and threw it off into the distance.  He then called the army, who came and closed the entire area, which in turn prevented the farmer from plowing his land.

I was also in the area when he walked into a herd of sheep, and stole one of them.  Check of the video here.  

So anyway, this guy is an asshole.  He really is, and if you are reading this outloud to your kids, you shouldn't censor my language, because they should learn that there are true, bonafide assholes in this world.  

Without further ado, see the video of Avidan, the asshole, trying to wrestle away the water pipe from these Israeli activists who are trying to help a Palestinian farmer obtain water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  Oh  and also, this asshole has piped water coming into his house from the Israeli government.  But this man from Bir al 'Idd, who LEGALLY lives on the land has to deal with this asshole trying to prevent him from putting water into a tanker which he would then have to drive to his village.  


The settlers always win these battles because the system is designed to privilege settlers at every turn.  Notice how activists weren't calling the police, like my inclination would be in the United States.  The reason is simple, the Israeli army/police is in the West Bank to protect settlers, and thus, to deeper entrench the occupation.  When the army or police arrive, they 'avoid' conflict by declaring a closed military and forcing the Palestinians and Israeli activists to leave the area.  So 'avoiding' conflict, or deescalating a situation by separating people groups, is really a euphemism for 'disappearing Palestinians.'  If Palestinians are made invisible, or disappeared, by policies and structures enforced by the occupying forces, then conflict will in fact be avoided because settlers won't have to see Palestinians.  The other outcome is that an entire nationality of people are deumanized, dispossed of their life and livelihood, and international law and human rights are trampled.  

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