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December 2012, Week 3

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Mon, 17 Dec 2012 22:10:47 -0500
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Gaza: The Connection to the Land Cannot Not Be Broken

The struggle for land rights near the Gaza border.

by Joshua Brollier

December 15, 2012 Voices for Creative Nonviolence

http://vcnv.org/connection-to-the-land-cannot-not-be-broken

Gaza City-Yesterday in al-Faraheen, Gaza, Israeli
Occupation Forces shot and wounded an unarmed 22 year
old farmer, Mohammed Qdeih, from behind. Mohamed and
nine others went out to their fields in the early
afternoon, walking approximately 250 meters from the
Israeli border. Within minutes, two heavily armed
Israeli military jeeps rushed to the security fence.
They issued a warning for the farmers and residents to
leave the area and shortly thereafter the Palestinians,
intimidated by the heavy military presence, began to
head back to the village of Abasan. The soldiers were
not satisfied and opened fire, piercing Mohamed's right
arm from the backside. Israeli forces continued to
shoot rounds of live ammunition while Mohamed and the
others frantically evacuated and waited for an
ambulance. Another young Palestinian, 19, was shot
yesterday near the border in Jabaliya.

Under the siege, Israeli "closed military zones" have
confiscated up to 35 per cent of Gaza's arable land,
which was previously used for fruit and olive orchards,
wheat and various vegetables. With nearly half of
Gaza's population designated as "food insecure" by UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA) and the farming industry having been crippled
from the inability to export products under the Israeli
blockade, this land is essential for the livelihoods of
thousands of farmers and residents of Gaza. Even so and
given that four Palestinians have been killed and over
50 injured since the November 21st, 2012 ceasefire
agreement, one might ask why anyone would risk their
life and venture near the border at all.

Palestinians have had varying experiences near the
fence. There have been some successes with farming and
some incidents resulting in death and serious injuries.
The agreement between Israel and Hamas clearly stated
that Israeli forces would "refrain from targeting
residents in the border areas" and to "stop all
hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air
including incursions and targeting of individuals."
Hamas and other factions have held up their end of the
bargain with not a single rocket being fired from Gaza.

As a participant in an international solidarity team, I
sat down this with Mohammed Qdeih and family members
this afternoon to get their perspective on the breach
of the ceasefire and why they would risk their lives in
pursuit of reclaiming their land. "The ceasefire is
without any sense," said Mohammed. "They attempted to
kill me." Mohammed is single but works the land to help
provide for his 15 extended family members who reside
together in Abasan al-Kabir. The family has
approximately ten dunams of land which fall in the
vaguely defined "buffer zone." He is one of only five
who are able to work in the fields and now the family
will be without his help for a month at best.

After waiting patiently for Mohammed to tell his story,
attention shifted to the eldest member of the family,
Ahmed Hassan Jabbar Qdeih. Around ninety five years
old, Ahmed became infuriated and began to speak up
passionately. "What I have seen in my lifetime is too
much to bear!" Though they are originally from Abasan,
the Qdeih family used to have 500 dunams of land which
spread far beyond Gaza's borders, most of which fell in
what is now considered Israel. In 1948 when Ahmed was
in his thirties, he was working near the local water
well when Zionist militias terrorized his farm. Ahmed
was detained, along with his family, and taken to their
house where they were forced to watch as his father was
murdered in front on them. The militias destroyed their
home, bombed the well and set ablaze 60 dunams of land.
Additionally, they stole 60 sheep and two cows to take
with them.

Mr. Qdeih also spoke of February 7th, 1957. Just before
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in March of that
year (under very strong pressure from the United
States), Ahmed again barely escaped with his life.
Presumably during one of Israel's last "screening
operations" to eliminate members of the Palestine
Brigades in which over 500 Palestinians were killed,
Israeli forces lined up Ahmed and ten other men who
were then mowed down with gunfire and executed. The
rifle which targeted Ahmed malfunctioned. When he was
later discovered to still be alive, he was arrested and
imprisoned in Israel for eight years. While in jail,
the prison guards stomped on his hands and beat him
mercilessly, leaving him permanently disabled and
unable to walk properly. In the process of explaining
this, Ahmed almost removed his shirt successfully in
front of all present before being discouraged by a
relative standing nearby. "Look, look! You can still
see the scars on my back," he nearly screamed in a
fashion as if he was still reliving those torturous
years.

Having a proud persistence in farming and a history of
tragedy dating back to the Nakba, the connection to the
land runs deep for the Qdeihs and obviously so do the
scars. As many Palestinians feel that they have taken
the victory from the recent conflict, the present
situation holds many possibilities farmers like the
Qdeih family. However, recent events have been no less
distressing. Two days after the Israeli Pillar of Cloud
offensive, Anwar Qdeih, the twenty year old cousin of
Mohamed Qdeih, was shot and killed while participating
in an impromptu demonstration near the border.

In a celebratory mood due to the gains supposedly
guaranteed by the ceasefire and in defiance of the
brutality of the recent Israeli assault, a small group
consisting primarily of young men headed to the "buffer
zone." When approached by heavily-armed Israeli
soldiers, some threw stones and managed to cross the
first security fence, which does not constitute the
official border. Upon confrontation with the soldiers,
the group turned back and the Israeli forces opened
fire striking Anwar in the head and killing him
instantly. Eighteen others were wounded, including
three children. (There is also a second fence the
protesters did not reach which is electrically charged,
more heavily guarded and virtually impenetrable to such
a group. There are no Israeli houses or civilians in
the vicinity. It is also essential to remember that
Palestinians have a legal right to resist the
occupation through such demonstrations and even armed
resistance.)

The Israeli military establishment seems to be
confounded that, for all its advanced weaponry and fire
power, hundreds of young men like Anwar and Mohammed
and elders like Ahmed continue to come out daily to
their fields. The right-wing, ruling elite and even
many self-proclaimed "liberals" in Israel appear to be
in denial that the Palestinians' claim to their land
and will for self-determination is unquenchable. While
they talk of more deadly operations like Cast Lead and
Pillar of Cloud, they continue with the harassment of
farmers and fishermen. While they provide for and
forcefully protect more illegal settlements and carry
out the demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West
Bank, they justify the killing of a young man at a
check point in Hebron and the following vicious
assaults on the media. While strengthening apartheid
policies against Arab and non-Jewish Israelis and
fortifying new stretches of the separation wall, they
feel the need to collectively punish the civilian
population of Gaza with siege. While they aggressively
stomp any remnants of a two- state solution under their
feet and isolate themselves with mantras of victimhood,
the United Nations has affirmed the right to
Palestinian statehood.

What are the goals and likely consequences of these
violent and obstructionist policies? How could they
possibly make Israel more secure or lead to a just
solution? All the while, resistance is again becoming
more and more popularized among Palestinian civilians
and the factions are moving towards uniting. Regardless
of the new shapes the resistance takes or any path the
Israelis choose, as evidenced clearly since 1948 until
this very day, the Palestinians' deep connection to and
affection for their homeland cannot be broken.

[Joshua Brollier is a co-coordinator with Voices for
Creative Nonviolence. He can be reached at
[log in to unmask]]

Links

1. 
http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ochaoptgazablockadefactsheetjune2012english.pdf

2. http://www.imemc.org/article/64748

3. 
http://vcnv.org/israeli-forces-fire-on-gaza-farmers-and-internationals-in-khuza-a

4. 
http://www.media-diversity.org/mdi/additional-files/documents/c-books/Unprotected%20Palestinians%20in%20Egypt%20since%201948%20%5BEN%5D.html#page19

5. 
http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=comcontent&view=article&id=9072:weekly-report-on-israeli-human-rights-violations-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory-22-29-nov-2012&catid=84:weekly-2009&Itemid=183

6. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IsraelandEgypt%E2%80%93GazaStrip_barrier

7. 
http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/8807/is-gaza-still-occupied-and-why-does-it-matter

8. 
http://972mag.com/why-was-17-years-old-muhammad-killed/61950/

[Many thanks to the author for submitting his article to
Portside.]

==========

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