The Right to Exist Campaign focuses on three rights: the Right to land, to water and to education. We seek to support those Palestinians that are threatened with expulsion and to strengthen their resolve to stay on the land despite Israel’s attempts to forcibly displace them. The Right to Exist Campaign will act whenever Israel denies Palestinians the right to water, education, building and access to and cultivation of their land. The Right to Education Campaign considers strengthening Palestinians’ sumud as an existential urgency to preserve their existence on their land.
“On November 4th, 3 Israeli bulldozers, 11 white cars belonging to the Israeli Civil Administration, the Israeli military ruler, representatives of Israel Antiquities Authority and tens of armed Israeli soldiers came to my home to demolish a building I built for my 30-year-old son next to my house. Only my wife and myself were in the house when they arrived as my five children were at work”, narrates Khaled Daraghmeh who is known as Abu Jamal from the village of Al-Luban al Sharqiyya, southern Nablus district.
Many Israeli soldiers had arrived to demolish Abu Jamal’s property. Nevertheless, Abu Jamal desperately tried to stop them from demolishing the building he was dreaming about to be the place where his elder son can have a family. He adds: “When I saw them, I realized that they are too many to resist. Yet, I did not give up on defending my property; so, I tried to stop them from entering my house. I expected their response to my act: Israeli soldiers started brutally beating me, broke my right hand and handcuffed me.”
Hardly surprising, the Israeli soldiers denied the humanity of Abu Jamal. They refused to provide him with treatment after the ruthless beating. He explains: “Although one of my hands was broken and hurting me, my two hands remained handcuffed from around 9.30 AM until 6.30 PM, when they finished the demolition of the building. The house next to the demolished building, where my wife and children currently live, is an old Khan built during the Ottoman rule. They did not demolish the Khan but they destroyed the furniture inside it; as well as broke the doors and the windows. They also plundered my equipment I need for work and my wife’s gold ornaments. All what they looted is worth 70, 000 NIS (approximately 20, 000$).”
The Israeli military also attempted to cut off the source of water Abu Jamal and his family depend on. Abu Jamal asserts: “They also demolished the infrastructure my grandfather built ninety years ago to protect a natural water spring in the yard of the Khan.”
Abu Jamal continues to defend his land and the old Khan that belongs to his forefathers. He stayed in his house despite the difficult and inhumane conditions caused by the Israeli demolition. He explained: “For a month and ten days, I and my family lived in our windowless and doorless house. We had no electricity as they cut it off on the day of demolition amid the cold weather. Wild pigs entered the house more than once.”
Adding insult to Abu Jamal’s injury, “tens of Israeli illegal settlers have violently attacked us eleven times during the month of November. The fanatic settlers from the neighboring settlement brutally beat me and my sons.”
The settlers’ attacks are part of the systematic violence of Israel’s apartheid regime to ethnically cleanse Abu Jamal from his land. They systematically deprives him of any sense of safety. He explains: “I lack any sense of safety as I expect them to come at any moment. Sometimes, I cannot even sleep at night thinking they will raid the place and destroy my property. I live in a situation, where I constantly feel that I am near my death. The settlers never take a break from aggressively beating me.”
Nothing deters Abu Jamal from being a man in ‘sumud’, a man of steadfastness. He stays in his land against all odds to challenge Israel’s erasure of his existence as a Palestinian. Abu Jamal has made it clear to the Israeli authorities that his defiance and sumud cannot be broken: “I told the Israeli general who was among those who came to demolish my house that I know that one day I will leave this place. But this will only happen when I am dead in my coffin.”
Abu Jamal mantains his steadfastness because he sees it as a defiance that disrupts Israel’s settlement expansion project. He states that “this place which belongs to my ancestors since hundreds of years means everything to me. In addition, my presence in the strategic area, where the Khan is built, blocks the settlement expansion of the Israeli settlers. It protects large swathes of lands located behind the Khan. Losing the Khan would increase the risk that the people of my village lose their lands to settlers.”
Yet, Abu Jamal needs the support of other Palestinians and people, decision makers and organizations across the world to continue to stay steadfast on his land as he faces an entire system of apartheid and systematic violence. Abu Jamal asserted: “Although I am determined to stay steadfast in my home against all odds, the support of people in Palestine and around the world tremendously matters to me.”
Israel’s endless series of violence against Abu Jamal
In 2003 the Israeli occupation authorities turned their greedy gaze towards the Khan and the surrounding lands. since then Abu Jamal has been carrying out a daily battle for survival.
His 300-year-old Khan that he has inherited from his forefathers is located along the road connecting Ramallah and Nablus. It cuts off the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Lubona from the Green Line and the other illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley.
This strategic location of the Khan is the reason why both the Israeli occupation forces and settlers are adamant about taking over the place. They use various forms of tremendous brutality against him.
As part of the endless series of attacks against Abu Jamal, an Israeli illegal settler once tried to murder Abu Jamal. Thanks to Abu Jamal’s courage to defend his life that he is still alive and preserves the place from seizure.
Abu Jamal relies on raising cattle and other kinds of animals for livelihood. Therefore, Israeli settlers killed a horse belonging to him. In 2013, they also poisoned the only cow he owns to cause a financial loss for Abu Jamal. They simply wanted to create a coercive environment to make him leave his home. Israeli settlers have also attacked Abu Jamal’s chickens. Abu Jamal always struggles to protect his livestock.
Israel also claims a divine right to the possession of the place in order to justify their actions. Israeli settlers distort the facts of history to fit with settler colonial objectives. They claim that prophet Moses once washed with the water of the spring in Abu Jamal’s yard. They also say that the Khan was built thousands of years ago. In reality, it was built during the Ottoman rule (1516-1916) as a resting place for trade convoys.
In 2013, the Israeli occupation authorities besieged the Khan of Abu Jamal and started excavation activities around it. They unsuccessfully attempted to find any historical remains they could claim as a proof of their presence in the area about 2000 years ago.
While Israel cites religion and distorts history to take over Abu Jamal’s land and water by force, the truth is that it seeks to control an area that cuts off the north and middle of the West Bank known for its abundance with water resources and its arable land.
SUMUD: EXISTENCE IS RESISTANCE
What Abu Jamal encounters is part of a wider policy of ethnic cleansing, de facto and looming de jure annexation practices. Israel’s apartheid regime engages in these pracices because it aims to create a purely ethnic Jewish state on all of Palestinians’ lands; or if not possible, to reduce those Palestinians that remain forever to an oppressed minority group.
What Palestinians call as their ongoing Nakba is the result of Israel’s settler colonial project, which aims at effacing Palestinians’ existence, colonizing their lands and replacing them with another group of people: Jewish settlers.
The ethnic cleansing actions of Israel have recently escalated to de jure annex the West Bank. In response, Stop the Wall has launched the Right to Exist Campaign. This campaign aims to obstruct the Israeli attempts to obliterate Palestinians’ very existence on their land by reinforcing their sumud.
The Right to Exist Campaign focuses on three rights: the Right to land, to water and to education. It seeks to support those Palestinians that are threatened with expulsion and to strengthen their resolve to stay on the land despite the coercive environment created by Israel. The Right to Exist Campaign will act whenever Israel denies Palestinians the right to water, education, building and access to and cultivation of their land. The Right to Education Campaign considers strengthening Palestinians’ sumud as an existential urgency to preserve their existence on their land.
Sumud: Palestinians’ anti-colonial weapon
During 2020 Israeli apartheid has increased its violence and oppression. Palestinians have met this with more sumud, including popular actions aimed at obstructing Israeli plans to expand their settlements. This sumud has been in the way of Israel’s attempt to further entrench its apartheid regime subjugating Palestinians.
Weekly demonstrations have continued to take place in various parts of the West Bank to protect lands from Israeli usurpation. Through demonstrations and other popular actions like sit-in tents and direct confrontation with settlers, Palestinians succeeded in ousting eight settler outposts built during the year.
In the several areas where demolitions took place, Palestinians continued to assert their right to exist on their land by refusing to leave it. Abu Jamal is one of these people, whose property Israel has destroyed and who has been beaten for years. Yet, he is still steadfast on his land.
The people of Khirbet Humsa in the Jordan Valley have experienced how Israeli authorities have reduced their entire village to rubble last November. They also refused to leave. They are currently trying to rebuild the tents that are their homes despite the limited financial resources available and the Israeli restrictions on any Palestinian act of construction in the Jordan Valley.
To protect areas threatened with confiscation, Stop the Wall Campaign planted over 800 olive trees across the West Bank during 2020. We also supported the sumud of the farmers who are subject to fanatic settlers’ aggression to harvest their olive trees through the collective annual effort of the ‘You Are not Alone’ Campaign.
The efforts made by Stop the Wall Campaign as a part of the Right to Exist Campaign and the individual acts of sumud carried out by people to preserve their existence enable Palestinians to maintain a Palestinian way of life. They defy Israeli apartheid policies that seek to obliterate Palestinian presence as a people, a culture and a lifestyle.
APARTHEID: ELIMINATING PALESTINIAN EXISTENCE
In 1948, the nascent state of Israel was established on the rubble of Palestinians’ houses. It was ‘baptized’ with the tears of over 750, 000 Palestinians expelled from their land and with the blood of those who were massacred by the Zionist gangs. Israel continues to repeat the 1948 scenario to eliminate Palestinian existence and build more settlements on the wreckage of their homes.
Throughout 2020 Israel has continued it policies started 72 years ago and escalated its ethnic cleansing practices against Palestinians. According to UN OCHA, throughout this year Israel has destroyed about 846 buildings located primarily in Area ‘C’. This has led to the forcible displacement of around 996 Palestinians.
Simultaneously, Israel has approved the construction of more than 15, 000 housing units in Jewish-only settlements. This further fragments and ghettoizes Palestinians’ towns and villages across the West Bank.
Moreover, the Israeli government has recently revealed a scheme that would legalize approximately 70 settler outposts built in the last couple of years according to Israeli law. Both the Israeli settlements and settler outposts are deemed illegal according to International Law. Yet, the Israeli legal system differentiates between settler outposts and settlements. While settlements are considered legal, settler outposts are usually built by individual settlers and regarded illegal by Israeli law. If the Israeli government approves the recently proposed scheme, the settler outposts will enjoy more Israeli governmental support to develop their infrastructure. It will turn them officially into either new settlements or neighborhoods of existing settlements.
The colonizer’s rule of law obliterates the native
To facilitate the pillage of more Palestinian lands, the Israeli occupation authorities have issued tens of military orders last September. This came a few weeks prior to the olive harvest season and has immediately impacted the farmers. Since the issuance of these orders, the owners of the targeted lands, which are close to Israeli illegal settlements in different West Bank districts, have been unable to access their lands. Palestinians fear that such orders pave the way for the confiscation of their lands in the coming years. The orders make it impossible for them to cultivate and tend them. According to Israeli law enforced in the so-called Area ‘C’ (under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords) the Israeli occupation authorities can take over Palestinians’ lands uncultivated for ten years continuously and announce them as ‘State Land’.
Below we showcase the number of military orders issued in the different West Bank districts:
- Israel has issued 20 military orders prohibiting Palestinians from accessing and utilizing around 5050 dunums of their lands in Nablus district. The closed lands according to these orders are adjacent to the Israeli illegal settlements of Har Brakha, Itamar, Alon Moriah, Rahalim and the settler outpost of Adei Ad.
- In the district of Qalqilya, 16 Israeli military orders have deprived Palestinians of around 1375 dunums of land. The confiscation of these lands would allow Israeli apartheid to expand the illegal settlements of Kudumim, El Kana; as well as the illegal settler outpost of Giv’at Gil’ad.
- In the governorate of Hebron, Israel issued 22 military orders that prevented Palestinians from accessing 1243 dunums of their lands. The targeted areas are located near the settlements of Qiryat Arba’, Taleem, Adora, Negohait, Beni Heever, Bat Ayin, in addition to some settler outposts in the area.
- In Ramallah district, the Israeli occupation has issued 13 military orders to block Palestinians’ access to about 1095 dunums of their lands near the settlements of Halamish, Tillmon, Ma’alee Levana and the illegal settlement of Zeit Re’nan.
- Palestinians in Bethlehem district have also become unable to reach more than 400 dunums of their lands near the settlements of Tikwa’ and Nokdeem after the Israeli occupation has issued 18 military orders.
- In the district of Salfit, 12 military orders have made Palestinians no longer able to reach about 568 dunums of their lands located near the settlements of Lishem and Broukheen.
- Based on Military Order No. 363, the Israeli occupation authorities declared around 11, 000 dunums of lands as ‘Natural Reserves’ in the Jordan Valley during 2020; which has prohibited Palestinians, especially shepherds from using them.
DO JUSTICE TO PALESTINIANS BY SUPPORTING THEIR RIGHT TO EXIST
Supporting Palestinians to keep up the momentum of sumud is tremendously central to stop the oppression of Israeli apartheid regime. Yet, reinforcing Palestinian sumud – their perseverance to stay on the land – has to be part of a proactive and protective strategy rather than as a part of a reactive response to the constant demolition and ethnic cleansing practices.
We call on the international community embodied in its govenments, human rights organizations, INGOs, and grassroots organizations to take the following concrete steps to defend Palestinians’ right to exist:
- Palestinians’ determination to stay on their lands against all odds is confronted with a coordinated and well-financed Israeli apartheid regime. Palestinians are forced to live in miserable economic conditions as Israel loots their lands and natural resources and repeatedly destroys their property to coerce them into leaving their lands. The international community, therefore, should support economic alternatives for the targeted individuals and communities that ensure them not only survival, but also a dignified life.
- Recognize Israel as an apartheid state according to the UN definition of the Apartheid Convention (1973) and call for the reactivation of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid.
- Join Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns to hold Israel and complicit corporations and institutions accountable.
- Ban Israeli settlements goods and services and stop any business with Israeli and international companies operating in and profiting from Israeli settlements.
- Ensure the United Nations Database of Businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements released on 12 Feb. 2020 will be annually and transparently updated and published.