We are like a tree, if you uproot us we will die – A local resident
The concepts of military training alongside fertile agricultural land, to say the least, are worlds apart. Home to thousands of Palestinians, whose existence is sustained by the fruitfulness of their land, both the crops and people of the Jordan Valley are now at the forefront of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The war on crops is fast becoming one of the main tactics adopted by Israel to destroy the livelihood of many Palestinians, directly hitting their main source of income and destroying their way of life.
As 90% of the Jordanian Valley is classified as Area C, therefore under full Israeli control and administration, military exercise and operations are seemingly simple to set up; yet conveniently they also provide a pretext to supposedly justify the illegal displacement of Palestinians. Not only does the occupying force declare much of the land belonging to Palestinians to be military zones, which as a result enables them to wipe out entire Palestinian communities and take over the rich land, it also destroys both homes, farmland and agricultural land. By enforcing conditions that to an extent make the land uninhabitable and unprofitable, it is evident that the strategic aim of Israel is to impose extremely harsh policies which in many cases results in Palestinians "voluntarily" escaping their land and hardship.
With last winter being amongst the best on record in terms of rainfall, the wheat and barley fields were incredibly prosperous, to such an extent that the fruitful production would be able to sustain the communities and animals throughout the dry summer. However, widespread fires caused by Israeli shells and ammunition have largely turned the Jordan Valley into a battle field against the Palestinians and their way of life. Beginning on 3rd of May, these so called essential military exercises have occurred this year on an unprecedented scale; in doing so one can infer that Israel is aiming to displace as many Palestinians as possible and take full control of the area imminently. Involving over 2000 military personnels, helicopters and tanks, the occupying forces have destroyed crops worth hundreds of thousands of shekels to make way for illegal military training. Not only does this cause grave financial loss in terms of profiting from the fruits of the agricultural land, shepherds have had to leave their animals unattended, many of which die from the scorching heat. Not only has Israel destroyed hectares of private Palestinian land, they have temporarily displaced many families by issuing temporary evacuation orders, which are often handed out with only 24 hours of notice.
As of 2015, there have been three military training exercises, which have resulted in the forced evacuation of Palestinian families from their land. On 19th of January, 19 families were evacuated from Ibziq in Al Maleh area. This was then followed by evacuations in early May where families were evacuated from Humsa, Ibziq, Hammamet Al-Maleh and Furush Beit Dejan. Between 3rd-10th of May, families were forcibly evacuated from Humsa, Ibziq, Hammamat Al Maleh, and Furush Beit Dejan. Not only were thousands of military personnels deployed to intimidate and forcibly evacuate the Palestinian communities, but many of them were threatened with home demolition orders. On 26th of May, 4 families, who had only recently been evacuated, were again forced to leave their homes in Ibziq.
On 10th and 16th June, ten families, collectively made up of 69 individuals with 43 of them being minors, were evacuated at 7am from their village, Khirbet Humsah. On return to their homes, they found grazing areas and farmland on fire, which is without a doubt a result of military gunfire. Additionally, water tanks, which naturally are an important asset to the Bedouin, were severely damaged by bullet holes. Unexploded ammunition was also reported to be found at the sites. On 22nd June and 25th June, fifteen families, collectively made up of 92 individuals, of which 51 are minors, were forced to leave their homes at 6am. Similarly, agricultural land was damaged by gunfire as a result of extensive shooting in the area. Over the last two years, Israeli authorities have forced residents of Ibziq to evacuate their homes more than 20 times for military purposes in the area.
In relation to international humanitarian law, set criteria has to be met in order for an occupying state to operate within the occupied territory and none of the military exercises fulfill thee criteria. Whilst the occupying power is not allowed to use Palestinian territories for general training or to set up military bases, what is more concerning is that this pretext is used to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes and to further the cause of the annexation of the Jordan valley.Stop The Wall therefore calls upon the world to stop this Israel's violation of international law, which continue to endanger the livelihoods of many and illegally take over land.
Below is a press statement from the UN highlighting Israel's violations of international law. Yet, no effective change will result from allowing Israel's violations to pass with impunity – press statements without reprecussions are not enough.