Abu Imad is a bedouin. His community and family have been moved twice by the Israeli authority. Now they want to move him again. "They don't even treat us like animals: it's way worse".
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"My future is very dark"
When asked about what he sees in his future, Abu Imad is very straight-forward: "It's very dark". His family, together with other 2500 members of the twenty-two Bedouin clans that make up the Al Jahaleen tribe, is under imminent threat of being expelled from their land by Israel for the third time. As their representative, Abu Imad is a strong presence amongst the protesters gathering every night on the planned ‘relocation’ site of Abu Dis, demonstrating against Israel's latest expulsion plan.
Forced to leave their homeland
First, in 1948, they were forced to leave their homeland in the Naqab as the Zionist movement carried out their ethnic cleansing plans on what would become Israel. Abu Imad's tribe settled then in the hills east of Jerusalem, until they were once more expelled by Israeli forces in 1997 to make way for the expansion of settlements in the area and the creation of new military zones.
Video explaining the ethnic cleansing in 1948.
Suffering from forced displacement
They are still suffering from the economic, social and political effects of this second forced displacement. The lack of space completely dismantled the economic basis of the Bedouin lifestyle:
"When I was in the mountains, I used to have one hundred fifty sheep and goats, and all of my family worked on this, we were with our sheep in the mountains there, going back home every day, and this is the style of our life. Since they forced us, and they brought us here by force, I don't have any space where I can put the animals, so this was the first thing that I lost. When I sold the sheep, I was left without any source of income".
Abu Imad now has to provide alone for the fifteen people on his family, most of whom are unemployed and cannot enter Israel to find work, for alleged "security reasons".
The women are suffering
The social impact of the multiple expulsions is also palpable.The women, suffering as everywhere in the world restrictions of patriarchal structures, are the ones to take the brunt of the devastating effects of Israeli policies. Bedouin communities do not have the habit of sending them out to find work in other places. In fact, they can be so conservative that strangers are forbidden to lay eyes on them, and the villages are built in a specific way so that the women can move freely within, and be an active part of the social and economic life, without being seen by people from the outside who come to visit. Now, with their communities crammed in tight spaces between settlements, military areas and walls, the women remain essentially locked inside their houses.
The freedom of movement
As Abu Imad points out, the freedom of movement of the Bedouin people, that should be guaranteed by international law, is severely restricted by Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid.
"Even the animals have their freedom of movement guaranteed by Israel. That's what the natural reserves are about. But we are deprived of it completely, we are deprived us of the possibility to continue our lifestyle, of our lands and even our homes. So they are not even treating us like animals, they don't think we deserve to live our own normal lives, with our culture and our history. They didn't even give me a permission to go and see my sister in the Hadassah hospital, last march, before she died. Not even to go to the hospital and come back. So, in fact, you can see that our expulsion and our catastrophe didn't end by 1948".
Impose its apartheid agenda
For Abu Imad and his tribe, however, it is clear that the latest project for the expulsion of the Bedouin communities seems a bit different than the ones before it.
"It's clear now that the plan is much bigger. It's not just about expanding settlements or building military zones, it's about evacuating people from this land".
The expulsion of the Bedouin from the hills and particularly from the E1 area, which separates the Ma'ale Adummim settlement from Jerusalem, is one of Israel's latest moves to impose its apartheid agenda on the West Bank and incorporate more land while restricting Palestinian freedom of movement within their own territory.
Key obstacle to Israel's plan
The Bedouin communities, living in 40% of the West Bank and distributed all over area C, are a key obstacle to Israel's plan to achieve a greater Jewish Jerusalem with borders that would extend beyond Ma'ale Adummim almost to the Dead Sea, at the edge of the Jordan Valley. The presence of the Bedouin is one of the main factors that are holding back this project that would completely separate the north of the West Bank from the south.
"If there are no Bedouin in this area, in between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adummin and all the way to Jericho, I swear that no Palestinian will be able to cross or enter this area without Israeli permission", says Abu Imad.
Not an isolated problem
It is clear that this is not an isolated problem and that their fight and that of the Palestinian people as a whole are one and the same. That was never in question for Abu Imad, who insists on the necessity of unity despite Israel's continuous efforts to divide and create conflict within the Palestinian people.
"We are part of the Palestinian people, we are deeply rooted in our Palestinian identity, and we are sacrifying, we have martyrs. We are paying very high prices, as part of our people. I for example have been jailed in Israeli prisons in 2009 and 2010".
In fact, the protest that gains strength every day is of the utmost importance, as it brings together the Bedouin, the people of Abu Dis and other nearby villages, and various organizations of the Palestinian popular resistance.
Will not allow Israel to expel them again
The Al Jahaleen tribe have, for their part, made a decision within all of their communities: they will not allow Israel to expel any of their families for a third time.
Rejected by the Israeli courts
Their attempts to start master plans for the villages in the area in order to regulate them were, of course, rejected by the Israeli courts. And as most of them are located in the so-called area C, they are all under constant threat of demolition. In Abu Imad's community, which is located only one hundred meters away from the nearest settlement, he is not even allowed to build a shelter as strong as the protest tent where he was standing while we were talking. The protest tent didn't even have a roof.
"And it is an irony. That we, the indigenous, historical people of this area, are now not allowed to live in our land while it is allowed for a Jew or a Zionist who is coming from Russia, from Europe, from all over the world to come and settle in our land, freely, with all the support from the government" .
Refuse to move again
Even though their current situation is far from ideal, the Bedouin refuse to move again. According to Abu Imad, they are prepared to either stay where they are, or to return to their lands in the Naqab, from where they were expelled in 1948. Despite their determination, they are well aware that the fight must be embraced and taken on by a broader public for their objectives to be met.
"We can't achieve this by ourselves. We can do all that we do, we can resist, we can remain steadfast and confront the occupation, and it's not going to achieve our goals. This needs international interference. This needs the Palestinian Authority to be able to take them to the criminal courts, to the ICC, to actually open its fight with Israel".
International community are important
Therefore, the support of the international community and of all those that are opposed to colonialism and apartheid is crucial. Abu Imad stresses that other countries must take responsibility, as they support the oppression of the Palestinian people when they support Israel.
Refuses to loose hope
Despite all the difficulties and the darkness that the future seems to bring, Abu Imad refuses to loose hope, and the current protests help to give him strength.
"This youth who is sitting here, standing here, they are not holding machine guns, they are playing music. This is how they convey their message: they are singing, they are happy, because they are in their land. The message that they want to give is that we are staying here, this is our land, and this is where we will be".
Israel wants to bulldoze this area
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