Tuesday 14 February 2017

My Month In Abu Dis: Settlements and the Bedouin

In spite of international law, the state of Israel continues to pursue it's policy of both confiscating land belonging to the Palestinian State, and accommodating increasingly radical settlers in place of those who once lived there. There is no greater illustration of this often tragic practice than the plight of the Bedouin community living near Abu Dis, who build their makeshift homes on pieces of land desired by the Israeli authorities. A proud, nomadic and traditionally conservative people, the Bedouin are now embracing the modern world, and are resisting the demands of the occupying Israeli authorities by clinging to their land, so that expansion of some already huge and luxurious settlements in the area is postponed. 

Living in the lap of luxury, whilst most of the Bedouin and Palestinians struggle
(Photo courtesy of Al-Quds press).

On a surprisingly cold day, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bedouin school, situated right in the middle of a valley that is dominated by two Israeli settlements on either side; Ma'ale Adumim and Keidar. Aside from violently cleansing the previous occupants of the valley peaks in 90's, the Israeli's that have built there now have their eyes firmly set on eradicating the remaining Bedouin from the valley. This ethnically and politically motivated desire sadly takes the form of many human rights abuses against those who attend the school. Children who take the perilously steep paths, to and from their homes, along the slopes of the valley are allegedly targeted by settlers with guns. As well as this, the IDF have made it a priority to use a piece of land very close to the school as a firing range; leaving many un-exploded shells, dangerously and possibly deliberately uncleared. It is nearly impossible to watch the Children climb the valley, and not feel an overwhelming sense of admiration, as I was told that along with facing many dangers by scaling the slopes of the valley, the Bedouin children do so for at least ten kilometres, there and back every school day.

To the left, you can see just the beginning of the long journey the children take to attend school. Slightly in view are the  watchtowers. It was too dangerous for me get to close to the boundaries of the settlement.

However, overt violence is not the only tactic used by the settlers and IDF in order to force the Bedouin to move from their increasingly shrinking land. Deprivation of basic amenities, such as electricity, have made the cleverly built school (re-built many times since 1997) solely reliant upon solar power. This is coupled with a refusal to provide an adequate supply of water, whilst settlers dump their chlorine ridden swimming pool water and household waste into the valley.

From the top of this steep incline, garbage, waste and sometimes bullets are sent down into the school.

It is not surprising that this issue can sometimes go unnoticed to some, as much of the mainstream news regarding Palestine focuses on the many other elements of the expanding Israeli settlements within the Occupied Territories. Despite this though, the children and teachers of the Bedouin school near Abu Dis continue to strive towards a better life, and fight a continued resistance through non violent means against the Israeli Occupation and the policy of settlement expansion.

Long may this school carry on its vital and important work.

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