The fertile Jordan Valley has long been a target of the Occupation’s colonial aims. Due to its abundance of water resources, rich soil, and natural minerals, the Valley has been the site of extensive land confiscation and expulsion of Palestinian residents, especially since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. Oslo severely restricted the Palestinians’ capacity for growth in the region, and effectively opened the door for increased military occupation and settlement expansion that is aimed at eventually eliminating the Palestinian presence in the Jordan Valley. Currently, only 5.62% of the Valley is under Palestinian control, while 94.37% lies under the Occupation’s control.

***image2***Hassan Zbeidat, the mayor of Zubeidat, explains how the Occupation control infringes upon all aspects of the people’s lives. The small village of Zubeidat is one of the five villages in the Valley that have been designated as being Area B, meaning Palestinians are allowed to build on the land. However, Zubeidat is surrounded on all sides by settlements, closed military areas, and Area C lands, thus completely preventing any outward expansion. This means that as the village population grows, the inhabitants are forced to build vertically, constructing additional storeys on top of already-existing buildings. According to Hassan, Zubeidat presently has 1,700 people living on 42 dunums of land.

The building restrictions also inhibit the construction of schools and hospitals, as there is no space upon which to build any large structures such as these. Children from the village must therefore walk several kilometres to go to school, and the nearest hospital or clinic is several villages away.

The villagers’ freedom of movement is also severely restricted, as they are prohibited from leaving the village and establishing a home elsewhere in the Jordan Valley. Given the fact that all of the villagers are Bedouin, this restriction on their movement is an assault on their traditional way of life. Indeed, the Bedouin have lived for centuries as a semi-nomadic people, so to constrain them in such a small area is in essence a means of destroying their culture and their identity.

Hassan further adds that there are severe inhibitions on Palestinians’ ability to grow crops in the area, as the Occupation has confiscated most of the land.Even those who are able to cultivate a small plot of land are disadvantaged, as they are barred from selling their produce to all international markets, and to some domestic ones as well.

Hassan also highlights the water shortages that Zubeidat faces, as the settlers around the village take the vast majority of the water resources. The village does have one well, but it is prohibited to fill the well past a certain point. Furthermore, the settlers have built a deeper well very close to the one that serves Zubeidat, and this deeper well takes virtually all of the potable water, only leaving brackish water for the villagers.

While the Palestinians in the area face this myriad of restrictions and prohibitions, the settlers are allowed to do everything that the Palestinians cannot. Indeed, rather than having to pay to work the land, the settlers are in fact paid by the Occupation to maintain their settlements. They are also connected to the national water system and electricity grid, and they receive unconditional support from the Occupation forces. The settlers are permitted to move around freely, to build new homes, and to cultivate as many fields as they desire.

Hassan argues that all of the restrictions that the villagers face, and all of the hardships to which they are subjected are deliberate attempts by the Occupation to make life in the Jordan Valley unsustainable for Palestinians, in order to force them off their land. Indeed, by cutting of the village’s water and electricity supplies, and by forcibly overcrowding Palestinian areas, the Occupation hopes that the residents will simply abandon their properties and move elsewhere in the West Bank.

According to Hassan, however, this strategy is in vain. “We will not leave this land,” he says. “If we are born here, we will die here.” Hassan and other villagers are incredulous when settlers from the US, Russia, Germany, France, Ethiopia, and other places around the world say “this is our land” when neither they nor their families have ever lived in the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians take strength in the fact that they know without any doubt that they are the rightful owners of the land, and that foreign colonizers have no right to take it from them. The steadfastness of the Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, who have such deep ties to the land that they refuse to be forced off, will not wither even in the face of so much repression.

Convinced that they are fighting on the side of justice, Hassan says that although times are difficult now, the Palestinians are certain that one day they will prevail over the Occupation. Presently, the world is wrong in defending the Occupation and in its lack of support for the Palestinian people. However, he believes that each international coming to Palestine in search of the truth will see the realities on the ground, and will understand the truth of the situation. This, Hassan says, is the light at the end of the tunnel. It will not happen today, and it will not happen tomorrow, but one day the truth will prevail, and Palestine will be free.


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