A Tale of 7 Houses (Part One)
The last few days in Tuwani have been both thrilling and depressing. Thrilling because Palestinian nonviolent resistance in Tuwani is intelligent, courageous and persistent. Depressing because the consequences for this resistance are still high. And because the Israeli government still just doesn't get it - the Palestinians of the South Hebron Hills aren't going any where, wherever the army and settlers do to them.
Starting on the 16th of July, Tuwani residents built 7 new houses in Humra Valley, just outside of At-Tuwani on land owned by the residents. No one had any illusions about the risk they were taking. They knew that the houses would likely be destroyed by settlers or demolished by the Israeli army, but they built any way because they wanted to say to the world that this was their right, that they owned the land and should be able to access it and build on it.
We spend the day accompanying the building, which mainly meant carrying blocks and standing around awkwardly since we were the only people in the area who didn't know anything about construction. But the atmosphere was jubilant. Residents hoped that this would help them secure their land and tell their story.
But the night of the 17th, just what everyone expected happened.
Settlers came and destoryed one of the half-finished houses (photo above.) They also cut an olive tree in half, which saddened the family much more. (Remind you of anything? Maybe one fo the reason that Havot Ma'on and Ma'on should be dismantled?)
The DCO also told everyone that they would need to stop construction. Read the next entry for the continuing story. It gets worse, sadly.
Just for background, here's the press release we put out:
On the morning of 17 July, a Palestinian family from the village of At-Tuwani discovered that their newly constructed house was destroyed during the previous night. In addition, the family discovered an olive tree located near the new house cut in half. The family believes that Israel settlers from the Ma’on settlement and Havot Ma’on outpost are responsible for the vandalism. Despite being threatened by both settlers and officers from the Israel military District Coordinator (DCO), the family plans to rebuild the house.
On 16 July Palestinian residents of At-Tuwani began construction on six new small houses on land owned by the village. During the construction, Israeli settlers from Havot Ma’on outpost shouted at Palestinians working on the houses. Officers from the DCO told Palestinian land owners that the construction was illegal and threatened to arrest the workers. In addition, an officer told one At-Tuwani resident that everything he owned would be destroyed if he did not stop building. Despite these risks, Palestinians say that they plan to continue construction to assert their right to build on their own land.
While the Israeli army restricts Palestinian building, Ma’on and Carmel settlements and Avigail and Havot Ma’on outposts in the area continue to expand. Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams have documented continuous settlement expansion since 2004.
For photos of the demolished house, visit: http://cpt.org/gallery/album289
For photos of recent settlement expansion, visit: http://cpt.org/gallery/album288