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Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign

Land Defense Coalition - Our Struggle 2016

Overview

The Land Defense Coalition, officially founded in 2014 as a collective effort of a dozen Palestinian grassroots organizations, has during the last year organized ongoing campaigns, protests and actions to defend the rights of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid as well as against neoliberal policies promoted by the Palestinian authorities, which effectively weaken the capacity of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli violations of their rights.

2016 has been a year that has seen unprecedented levels of Israeli onslaught on the communities in Area C of the West Bank, including rising home demolitions, land confiscations, denial of access to water and intensified settlement construction. The heightened impact of grassroots mobilisation based on the cooperation of the Land Defense Coalition members has been a crucial contribution to the national effort to resist Israeli occupation and maintain steadfastness of the most targeted communities.

At international level, we have been involved in building solidarity in South America, Europe and Asia. We have focused in particular on further developing the Stop Mekorot campaign and military embargo campaigns including the Stop Elbit campaign, the campaign against the participation of corporations and institutions of the Israeli military and homeland security sector in the EU research funding program Horizon2020.

 

Our main impact:

 

We have made sure the Wall and settlements see continous popular resistance on the ground and are not being ‘normalised’.

We have significantly contributed to the steadfastness on their land of the communities that are on top of the Israeli list of Palestinian communities to be displaced. So far Israel has been able to wipe out any of the communities listed in its ‘relocation plan’.

We have protected Palestinian farmers rights and successfully challenged and changed policies of the Palestinian authorities to ensure the rights of our farmers and communities.

We have lead successful workers struggles against to settlement factories and defended workers in courts achieving hundreds of thousands of Shekels in compensation.

We have supported the construction of the Palestine Youth Forum as well as other  Palestinian coordination mechanisms and contributed to the formation of new ones.

We have struggled for the Right to Water and successfully targeted international complicity with Israel, achieving victories against Israeli water company Mekorot in Brazil.

We have targeted EU complicity and reached first campaign victories against the participation of the Israeli military and security sector in EU research projects.

We have built new ties and strategies of solidarity in India and Malaysia.

We have continued to provide research and analysis in Arabic, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

At an organizational level, Stop the Wall has continued to coordinate the Land Defense Coalition. Regular meetings have been held and common objectives and workplans have been agreed. With the official recognition of the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions (New Unions) by Palestinian authorities as trade union federation and the official launch of the Palestine Youth Forum at its first national conference, the Land Defense Coalition has been able to celebrate the organizational advancement of both organizations and has welcomed them as new full members.

We finally want to remember João Bigode, activist of the Small Farmers Movement in Bahia (Brazil), with whom we built the campaign against Mekorot and who has been killed by a death squad on April 15 2016.  We want to remind all our supporters that Salah Khawaja, coordinating committee member of Stop the Wall, who has been arrested by Israeli military forces on October 26th of October, is still in Israeli jails. #FreeSalah.

 

 

Highlights of our struggles in 2016:

 

Protests against the Wall and the settlements

 

Stop the Wall and the Land Defense Coalition have organised in cooperation with local committees and organizations ongoing protests throughout the year across the West Bank, including:

  • Susiya: the community is under continuous threat of destruction by the Israeli authorities

  • Shuhada Street in Hebron: Israel continues to blockade passage for Palestinians in the road in the heart of the Old City

  • Cremisan in Bethlehem district: Israel re-started land confiscation and the construction of the apartheid Wall in the area.

  • Ni’lin in Ramallah district: The village continues to resist the Israeli apartheid Wall and settlement built on their land

  • In front of the O’fer prison in Ramallah: Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners is a fundamental element of our call for justice

  • Khirbet Al-Taweel, Aqraba in Nablus district: The village continues to resist its destruction through home demolition and dispossession through settlement expansion.

  • Wadi Qana in Salfit district: Palestinian residents struggle against the settlement construction and their pollution of the valley.

  • At the Israeli settlement industrial zone in Tulkarem district: We have supported the workers struggle inside.

  • Shwekeh in Tulkarem district: Residents and activists continue to fight for access to their land isolated behind the apartheid Wall.

  • Jayyous and Izbet Al Tabeb in Qalqiliyah district: both villages have lost most of their land isolated behind the apartheid Wall and struggling against the Wall and access to their land.

In order to support the mobilising efforts on the ground, Stop the Wall has produced several studies, such as a report on Israeli violations in Qana Valley caused by the settlements, their construction and expansion and the systematic pollution of the area through the wastewater that is being channeled from the hilltop settlements into the valley.

 

Supporting Palestinians in the Jordan Valley - the Right to Water Campaign

 

Land Defense Coalition member, the Popular Council for the Protection of the Jordan Valley, has taken the lead in the launch of the Right to Water campaign. Defending Palestinian right to water as such but focussing mainly on the particularly dire situation in the Jordan Valley, the campaign has gathered the support by many Palestinian civil society organizations. Based on the initiative of the LDC, the Right to Water Campaign has brought a court case to Israeli courts asking for the implementation of the agreement between the Palestinian Water Authority and the Israeli Water Authority dating from 2009 to provide Al Hadediya with 200 cm2 daily. Yet, until today the Israeli water company Mekorot and the Israeli state have not complied with the agreement. Further national and international campaigning for 2017 has been planned.

 

Supporting steadfastness against displacement

 

The Land Defense Coalition has supported communities that are resisting Israeli ethnic cleansing policies not only in mobilising and international advocacy but as well in gaining access to first necessity support when home demolitions occur. This has been the case of Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley as well as in the south of Hebron. We have launched a campaign for Susiya, in the south of Hebron, when the community was expecting imminent destruction to ensure they would have the necessary support in case of home demolitions. We supported the people in Tal Romaida, in the old city of Hebron during an ongoing Israeli siege on the area. We ensured the communities in Jeftlik and al Hadidiya, both in the Jordan Valley and repeated targets of Israeli home demolitions, would have access to tents and materials to continue their existence and steadfastness on their land.

 

Supporting Palestinian Youth

 

National Youth Conference

After one year of coordination and planning, on September 25, the Palestinian Youth Forum (PYF) gathered for its first national conference. Over 250 young people from all over the West Bank met in Ramallah to discuss a common vision on the Palestinian struggle and coordinate common further action. Coming from different political experiences and perspectives, the Forum testifies a foundational moment to overcome the differences and divisions tearing apart the Palestinian struggle and to find common grounds within differences. For more click here.

Voluntary work

The Land Defense Coalition has collaborated with the Palestine Youth Forum on a number of occasions organising voluntary work days, for example during the Olive Harvest Campaign or in cooperation with the Tulkarem municipality when the LDC and the Palestine Youth Forum mobilised 200 youth that for a day spread throughout the city cleaning streets, painting walls and drawing graffitis. They met school pupils and spontaneously involved them in the action, which ended with a march to the Red Cross building in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners.

 

Supporting Palestinian farmers

 

The Olive Harvest Campaign

For the 13th year in a row, Stop the Wall and the Land Defense Coalition have conducted the “You Are Not Alone” campaign, the collective voluntary efforts to support Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest against Israeli aggression and land confiscation. This year the olive harvest campaign  it has been focused on 3 main villages: Nilin in Ramallah district, Deir Istiya in Salfit district and Wadi Fuquin in Bethlehem district.  Central activities have been organised in these locations while other 12 olive picking activities have been organised locally by popular committees in villages across the West Bank.

During the olive season we have documented the violations of Israeli settlers and military against the Palestinian farmers and worked together with media to raise awareness.

For more see, click here.

Protecting chicken farmers

The Palestinian Farmers Union supported by the Land Defense Coalition has lead a successful campaign to support and protect chicken farmers after the collapse of eggs prices. We organised many protests in front of the ministry of agriculture and the prime minister’s office and a media campaign publicizing the demands of the farmers to protect the prices and to compensate the farmers. The result was big success to the farmers: The government bought tons of eggs and sent it to Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and took steps to limit and control the eggs smuggled into the Palestinian market from Israel.

No to the strangling taxes on farmers and Bedouin communities

The Palestinian Farmers Union and the Jordan Valley Council, supported by the Land Defense Coalition, successfully mobilised against an income tax law on farmers, which would have been catastrophic at a time when farmers and Bedouin communities need support to be able to remain steadfast on their land and to protect their farms and livestock against the Israeli attacks that deprive them from water and markets and confiscate their land. We held many meetings with farmers, agricultural organizations and farmers societies and cooperatives, officials from the ministry of agriculture and finance. We organised many big protests in front of prime minister’s office and a media campaign including media shows that featured farmers challenging the responsible officials. The campaign ended with the cancellation of the law.

The Palestinian Farmers Union has initiated and is leading the ongoing discussion about the Palestinian Authority’s agricultural policies, convinced that it has to be radically changed in order to give support to struggling Palestinian farmers and to be able to develop the agricultural sector. It is further unacceptable that much of the PA’s budget goes to the security sector and projects that benefit big business while the small farmers, which are at the frontlines of defending Palestinian land and rights are to sustain the PA without seeing any effective support policies in their favour.

No to Palestinian land confiscation

We have supported local communities in their struggle to preserve their land against confiscation by Palestinian neoliberal policies:

  • We have supported the organising of protests against the confiscation of thousands of dunums of lands in Nablus and Tulkarem. The Palestinian Authority intended to take over these lands so that Sanad cement factory could build a factory there. After several demonstrations with thousands of people affected by the planned confiscations the project got finally cancelled.

  • We have co-organized protests against a new quarry on the agricultural land of Kour, Saffareen, and Beit Leid villages. The movement of affected farmers demanded the closure of the existing quarry and end of construction of the old one. After intensive mobilisation and a powerful media campaign, the construction of the new quarry has been frozen until now.  

 

Supporting Palestinian workers

 

On March 19, the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions (New Unions) has celebrated with its Annual Conference its official recognition as trade union federation under Palestinian labour law. After five years of organising to defend workers rights, the New Unions comprise 27 unions and union branches, with a membership of over ten thousand workers. The New Unions continue their regular presence at the Israeli workers terminals, in particular in Tulkarem and Qalqliyia, where at dawn they meet with workers to discuss their problems, raise awareness, encourage organising and offer support where possible. New Union cadres pay similar visits to Palestinian factories, where they talk with them about their problems and needs and encourage them to unionise. For 2017, the New Unions aim to continue their work in the tourism sector with the establishment of a trade union of the employees in the tourism sector.

Workers mobilisation and strikes in the Israeli settlement industrial zone in Tulkarem

The New Unions have been leading workers victorious struggles in two Israeli factories in the settlement industrial zone of Tulkarem:

  • One workers mobilization occurred in at Yamit factory, which employs 116 workers and produces liquid fertilizers and filters for agricultural use. Established in 1990, Yamit moved from Sha’re Efrine, inside the Green Line, to the Tulkarem settlement industrial zone. Workers in the company mobilised and went on strike in order to protest low salaries and lacking security systems. After a hard battle, Yamit had to sign an agreement with the workers guaranteeing their rights and raising salaries.

  • In the same settlement industrial  zone, workers of the Tal-El factory, which provides waste collection services, including Tal-El also provides waste collection services to the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim and to the Jerusalem municipality as well as to the Israeli military, started to mobilise for their rights and started a court case against Tal-El. The company, which employs 123 workers in the Tulkarem settlement industrial zone, won the case against the factory when the court ordered Tal-El to pay the workers 3 million Shekel in compensation for exploitatively low wages. Subsequently, Tal-El sold of the factory and the new investor reached an agreement with the workers that grants them  their rights according to Israeli labor law.

Like all other factories in the industrial zone, Yamit has devastating health and environmental implications for the people of the area: for example, there has been a great increase in cases of serious respiratory illnesses among the people living near these factories, especially among children. Therefore, Stop the Wall has compiled on behalf of the Land Defense Coalition a study on the  Israeli settlement industrial zone  west of Tulkarem and the destructive effects on human health, the environment and water resources in the area, caused by the factories and their chemical liquid and solid waste and gas emissions. This report gives necessary information and helps to organise workers and the local population to defend their rights and lives.

Defending workers rights in the courts

The New Unions have continued to work together with lawyers, Palestinian citizens of Israel that volunteer to defend Palestinian workers from the occupied West Bank that work in Israeli companies. Out of the 120 cases that the New Unions brought into Israeli labour courts in 2016, 92 cases have been concluded ensuring workers achieved their rights.

In the West Bank, the New Unions reached agreements to solve claims of workers for their rights in 50 cases. Either by invoking courts or direct negotiation with the employers, the successful conclusion of these cases has returned 500 thousand Shekel to the workers. Beyond this, the New Unions have brought 120 cases against the Ministry of Finance to claim the repayment of taxes to the workers. 30 of the cases have been concluded and achieved a total repayment of 40 thousand Shekel to the 40 workers involved in the cases.

Building workers internationalism

The New Unions have continued their cooperation with the Norwegian Workmates trade union solidarity organisation and have received trade union delegations from Norway, Spain, France, Ireland and other European countries. The New Unions have participated in the first conference held by the European Trade Union Initiative for Justice in Palestine, held in Brussels on November 17-18 2016. Over 100 trade union delegates, representing twenty nine unions and three million members from all over Europe, gathered in a historic first meeting in Brussels to challenge European governments’ complicity with Israel and establish a cross European platform in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

 

Protecting Palestinian human rights defenders

 

After the arrest of Salah Khawaja, coordinating committee member of the Stop the Wall Campaign as well as leading figure in various other Palestinian organizations and networks, we have launched the  #FreeSalah campaign in order to garner support for Salah and to contribute to the broader struggle against Israeli repression of human rights defenders. We have been able to ensure broad support from civil society, UN organs and EU observers at his hearings.

 

Support to Palestinian civil society struggles and initiatives

 

Israeli Apartheid Week

As co-founders and secretariat members of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), we have been tasked by the BNC to coordinate the formation of the local committee for BDS. We have organized meetings to strategize for BDS locally. As the first collective mass action of this effort, the local BDS committee has organised a powerful demonstration to inaugurate Israeli Apartheid Week in Palestine. Some 2000 people from all over the West Bank participated in the central demonstration in Ramallah.

National Days of Commemoration

The Land Defense Coalition has participated in different activities and events to commemorate national occasions such as Land Day, Palestinian Prisoners Day, the Commemoration of the Nakba and of the Naksa (occupation of the OPT in 1967). We have organised local activities and joined national gatherings.

Teachers strike and fight against the reform of the social security law

The New Unions and the Land Defense Coalition participated in and co-organised protests and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on the social security law. We have further strongly supported the Palestinian teachers strike at the beginning of this year and have been part of the support committee formed by civil society organizations to support the teachers in their negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. We have been central in failing the attempt of the Ministry of Education to break the strike of the teachers in Tulkarem. As a result, the coordinator of the popular committees of the Stop the Wall Campaign received several death threats in anonymous phone calls.

Formation of the Arab Network for Food Sovereignty

Stop the Wall and the Palestinian Farmers Union have played a vital role in the establishment of this civil society coalition. 22 organizations from nine Arab countries have established this network in their first conference, held in Amman on December 4 2016.

 

Promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and corporate accountability

 

Stop Mekorot

The Land Defense Coalition has continued to raise awareness at international level about Israel’s use of its control of Palestinian water resources as a central tool in its colonisation and ethnic cleansing policies. We have highlighted the crucial role Israel’s national water corporation Mekorot plays in implementing this illegal policy. We’ve continued to help linking activists globally on this issue and, in particular have:

  • Been central in mobilising for the victorious ‘From Palestine to Bahia: we are thirsting for Justice’ campaign against a technical cooperation agreement between Mekorot and the government of Bahia. After months of awareness raising and campaigning, the authorities in Bahia publicly announced the cancellation of the agreement.

  • Brought our voice to the United Nations within the framework of the Campaign to Stop Corporate Impunity during the Days of Action for a Binding Treaty on Transnational corporations and human rights. The head of the Popular Council for the Protection of the Jordan Valley, Abu Saqer, has participated in a number of events inside and outside the United Nations.

Horizon2020

As part of our leading efforts to promote a military embargo in Israel, we have done research, lobbying and mobilising against the participation of companies and institutions of the Israeli military and homeland security sector in the European Union funded research program Horizon2020. In particular, we have campaigned against a project called LAW TRAIN, which sponsors the cooperation of EU police forces, ministries, universities and companies with the Israeli police, ministry of ‘public security’ and Bar Ilan university in order to develop technology to improve common interrogation practices. Just as the UN Committee against Torture has once again denounced Israel, its prison and police system for ongoing practices of torture and ill-treatment, such cooperation is unacceptable. Together with Portuguese partners, we have been able to ensure the government of Portugal has withdrawn from the project - the first time a government withdraws from an EU research program project following pressure from the solidarity movement - and are continuing to campaign for an end to LAW TRAIN and other EU projects including the Israeli military and homeland security sector.  For a full overview, click here.

 

Outreach to India and Malaysia

 

On behalf of the BNC, we have been working to build ties in India and Malaysia. Israel’s strategic focus on social, economic and military ties with Asia continues and is increasing at rapid pace. India is Israel’s most important military partners and a growing market for its civilian exports. Malaysia, a key player in Southeast Asia already has an incipient BDS movement. If we want to build a truly global and effective movement, we have to strengthen BDS capacity in Asia. Therefore, we have invested - and will continue to invest - efforts to identify partners and strategies to support the movements in the region and build effective BDS campaigns in the near future.

 

Providing information and analysis

 

Stop the Wall and the Land Defense Coalition are known as a reference to the media, especially Arabic media, regarding Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, in particular concerning the apartheid Wall and the settlements. Almost every day our activists are interviewed in many TV channels and radios to give analysis or comments on news of settlements expansion or other Israeli violations of human rights or Palestinian popular activities.

Dozens of international delegations have visited the Stop the Wall offices and Land Defense Coalition members to understand the situation on the ground and hear our analysis.

Analysis pieces have been published in different languages around the world.

 

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