We finally toured the devastated village of Awarta Wednesday and were stunned at what we saw and heard. On the way, we stopped by a tiny village called Izbet Al-tabib, a village of 350 people was served with a new order by the Israeli military to take over a significant portion of their land. The wall that will be built and isolate this land behind it is supposed to "protect" the illegal highway 55, an Israeli road built already on Palestinian lands to serve the Jewish colonies built on the rich Western water aquifer of the Palestinian West Bank. Yet, instead of building the wall on the colonial road 55, it is to be built a long distance from that to the north side near the village houses with the idea of capturing the rich agricultural land between. The villagers do not know what to do beyond going to the biased Israeli courts run by Israeli judges that obviously favor Israeli colonial interests. The work on the wall is slated to start Sunday and the villagers asked if we could all go there then. Leaving this small devastated village near Qalqilia, we headed east towards Nablus and Awarta.
After a quick lunch in Nablus hosted generously by our friend Dr. Saed Abuhijleh, we drove the short distance to Awarta. We enter the rich valley from the Western side and past the Israeli military camp and notice the colonial Jewish settlements dotting the hilltops around the valley. The native village of 6000 brave souls is on the slope to north side of the valley and villagers have to face this scene of growing colonial settlements on their lands. The main colonial settlement built on stolen village lands is called by Jewish settlers Itamar. Over 12,000 dunums (4000 acres) of Awarta's lands were already taken by this colony inhabited by the most rabid and fanatical of Jewish settlers. Two Palestinians from Awarta were killed for coming within 500 meters of the fortified fencing of this colony. This is one of the many reasons why we are very convinced that the whole story about the killing of a settler family by two teenagers from the village of Awarta is a lie. But the killing of these settlers set stage for a ransacking of the village by the colonizing army of the state of Israel. Beating people, massive destruction, torture and more was inflicted on the village of 6000 people as collective punishment. It is hard to describe what we saw and heard. The video just reveals a glimpse of it.
The village has already suffered repeated attacks from settlers in the past. Just last year, settlers and soldiers executed (shot at close range) two youths (18 and 19 year old cousins Salah and Muhamad Qawariq) who were working their agricultural field. Villagers asked us why there was no outrage and no one held accountable in any of these atrocities. We are all 100% convinced that that the settler family was not killed by the Palestinian teenagers that are claimed as culprits by the Israeli authorities. The story the colonial army gave is so full of holes that it is simply not plausible. Things that do not make sense:
-Why would two young teenagers not involved in politics, one of them a straight A student in his last year of high school and the other a westernized rapper enjoying his life decide to do such a thing? Killing children is especially not tolerated in our culture no matter what?
-How could such a pair manage to bypass one of the most heavily guarded and secured colonies in the WB. How would they cut through the electrified security fence and its other barriers in a settlement that brags that it is the most secure of Jewish colonies in the West bank. How could two strangers manage to stay in the settlement for two hours and even go back to the same house supposedly after leaving to get an M-16 gun that happened to be just sitting there in a bedroom (army story)?
-Why would two people who committed such a crime go back to studying and enjoying their lives for days even after one of them was arrested, questioned for 10 hours and released? Why not run away?
-There were reports in Israeli papers that a Thai worker who has not been paid thousands of shekels as being involved but then this suddenly disappeared from print. Why?
-What of the villagers' contention that this whole incident is calculated to acquire 1000 more dunums of their lands?
-Why did Israeli authorities not allow media scrutiny of what was really happening?
-Why did Israeli authorities not allow independent investigation or International protection or presence to witness what was really going on?
-Why would the two young people be denied access to lawyers and family visits?
These and hundreds of other questions poured out from the villagers. I was particularly shocked to hear from Um Adam, a 77 year old grandmother (14 living children, over 75 grandchildren). She herself was arrested with hundreds of others and forced (like all of them) to take a DNA test and to put her fingerprints on a document in Hebrew that she does not read. She, like hundreds, was not allowed access to lawyers during their detention. 14 of her children and grandchildren are still kidnapped by the colonial soldiers. One of her Children still held by the Israelis is the volunteer head of the Municipal council. Another child is the only doctor in town. The homes of these two children, her home, and many other homes were ransacked and heavily damaged (the fascist soldiers had clearly come to destroy as an act of collective punishment). The doctor's room and his medical books and supplies were not spared. While we visited nearly three weeks after the damage and after much of the houses were tidied-up with help of international volunteers, we still could see significant evidence of the damages. To punish a whole village in such a fashion reminds us of the worst regimes in history.
It is a stain on humanity that the world is silent about these practices of land theft and destruction of people's lives. Now that Hamas and Fatah are reconciling some of their differences, I wonder if any of them (in positions of "authority") will do something for the villages of Awarta or Izbet Al-Tabib. We are angry and sad and we ask all decent people (Israelis, Palestinians, and Internationals) to shed what is left of our collective apathy. We must insist that settlers be removed from all stolen Palestinian lands and that Palestinians be provided protection. If the Palestinians can't be provided protection by neutral parties, then it is almost certain that, based on our history of 15 uprisings, a new uprising against this injustice will be carried forth.
"Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,.." preamble of the universal declaration of human rights
"If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable." John Fitzgerald Kennedy