Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ten Years Since Jaber Demolition

(CPT Hebron Release)

Atta, Dalia and Rodeina Jaber

Ten years ago this week, Atta and Rodeina Jaber’s home was demolished for the first time.

“The rubble is still in my face, on the ground,” Atta said Tuesday as he and his family harvested tomatoes in the hot, late-morning sun. “If I forget, the rubble reminds me. Every day.”

It was Aug. 19, 1998 when 140 Israeli soldiers and two large bulldozers arrived at the Jaber family home. The soldiers pulled Rodeina, her two daughters and her 3-month old son from their home and beat Rodeina and Atta’s mother as they tried to protest. Then the bulldozers destroyed the home that Atta and Rodeina Jaber had built six years before on land where Atta’s family has lived for more than 100 years.

By the time of the demolition, the Jabers had received seven demolition orders from the Israeli Civil Administration. Their land in the Beqa’a Valley is in Area C, which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under full Israeli control. Palestinians are routinely denied building permits in Area C, and since September 2000, more than 1900 Palestinian homes have been demolished due to permit violations, according to the Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions.

Despite the demolition, the Jabers insisted on staying on their land. Neighbors and family members immediately came together to rebuild Atta and Rodeina’s home. Within a few days, they had built a two-room house with donated labor and supplies. But on Sept. 16, the army returned to demolish this house as well. When Atta tried to hand his infant son to a soldier to take to safety, he was beaten and then arrested. He spent four days in jail and was unable to work for eight months due to his injuries.

The harassment of the Jaber family has continued ever since. With help from a lawyer and Israeli friends, the Jabers were finally able to get a permit in April 2000, but the Civil Administration periodically ordered them to stop building. Then in December 2000, settlers from Kiryat Arba occupied their new house for two days. They broke windows, drew graffiti on the walls, stole tools, busted walls, and burned some of the family’s possessions.

Once again, the Jabers rebuilt their home.

Today they still live in that house, built on a hill above their tomato fields. An Israeli road cuts the Jaber land in half, and across the road is the entrance to the Harsina settlement. Beyond Harsina is Kiryat Arba. Though they have been spared another demolition, Atta says he is still wishing for freedom.

“The occupation still continues. [The Civil Administration] talks about the law. What kind of law? They are breaking the law,” Atta said as he carefully packed tomatoes into a wooden crate.

That morning, Atta and his 12-year-old daughter, Dalia, had to remove crates and vegetables from under a tarp next to the main road. The day before, an officer from the Civil Administration had come to tell them that they were not allowed to sell their tomatoes by the road, and they would have to remove the tarp.

Atta and Rodeina were upset. The road, which is restricted to Israelis, internationals, and those with special licenses, is off limits for the Jabers. In building the road the Israelis had confiscated much of their land in the first place. Now they cannot even benefit from the business it could bring.

“We sell our tomatoes for 15 NIS on the road but only 5 to 7 NIS in the market,” Atta said. This new restriction will cost them.

Still, as Atta thinks back over the last decade, he does not regret his decision to stay here. Despite his suffering, he says he is happy. He, his wife and children continue to work the fields in which, almost 46 years ago, Atta’s mother gave birth to him. “This soil, I nursed from it before the milk of my mom,” he said. “I belong to this land.”

While he talked, a military jeep drove by slowly. “They are watching us,” he said and took a drag of his cigarette. For now, Atta has these fields and his house, but the struggle for his family’s land continues – even as he packs crates with the tomatoes his children dump by the bucketful beside him.

“I wish to have a state,” he says, “and first of all, freedom and humanity.”

Watch Atta reflect on the past ten years:


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