Tuesday, August 7th, 2012, two helicopters landed Israeli soldiers on Khirbet Jenbah, a Palestinian village in the south-east corner of the West Bank. Soldiers terrorized locals and vandalized property. The village is in an area assigned as a “fire zone” for military training. Recently, Security Minister Ehud Barak ordered to evict Jenbah and seven other villages that are situated within the arbitrary training zone in South Hebron Hills. Roughly 1800 people will be displaced as a result.
The idea is to force the residents of Jenbah and other villages out of their traditional lifestyle and compel them to concentrate in the nearby city of Yatta. The Palestinians of the West Bank live in a divided-butchered-discontinuous territory. By means of walls, fences, roads with limited or no access for Palestinians (“sterile” – to use the military term), settlements and outposts, Israeli authorities conduct the divide-and-conquer method. Yatta, and its large suburb of a-Samu’, are blocked from the north and west by road 60, from the south by the Separation Barrier and from the east by a strategically placed chain of settlements and ultra-violent outposts. A month ago Ta’ayush activists witnessed and documented Israeli army Engineering Corps blocking all dirt roads from Zif junction (north of Yatta) southward. Israeli apartheid is unique, but the situation of Yatta and other densely populated areas bear similarities to the Bantustans of South African apartheid, the Native American reservations of European colonialism and the Ghettoes of the Nazis.
Jenbah existed long before the State of Israel (click to see Rabbis for Human Rights’ 1945 aerial photo of the village), and yet its people are considered “invaders to 918 fire zone” (name of the training zone) by the Israeli State. Note any fishy similarity to the local’s official status of “alien natives” in South African apartheid?! Jenbah is a quiet village and our (Ta’ayush) presence there has been limited, considering that it’s not in the immediate vicinity of settlements. Ta’ayush activists have supported local residents with water mobilization and differing needs/tasks. Like most villages of the wild south, Jenbah is not connected to any water supply. Residents live mostly off traditional agriculture and use water cisterns and wells. Roughly 50% percent of their income is spent on water, more than 8 times what an Israeli would pay west of 1967 line while settler water is subsidized by the state. Jenbah residents painstakingly transport large tanks of water on rough dirt roads.
Jenbah is in a beautiful part of the desert. On nice days with a clear view, one can look off across the valley over to Jordan on the silhouettes of the Mountains of Moav where the sky kisses the earth. A donkey brays lugubriously and the goats graze calmly. In the hot summer, it is very nice to sleep and chill in the cool caves. Then, during languid Ramadan, soldiers drop like Rambos from the sky and enter all houses, tents and caves. They wreak havoc, throw furniture, spill a can of precious butter that took days to make and aggressively demand identification documents from the residents of the village (see my previous post about IDs as a symbol of both Israeli and Afrikaner apartheid). Note the pictures taken by B’tselem volunteers, scenes similar to many colonialist regimes. It is painful to imagine the trauma inflicted to children whose homes are randomly raided by ski masked men with oversized guns.
Jenbah has never been a “security hazardous” village (a term used by Israeli media and authorities). The village is in an area Israeli authorities have deemed a military training zone, and today was just practice to what’s to come. “Dry” (military term) fire zones are restricted for military “maneuver training” where areas are used like movie sets and live ammunition is restricted. My guess is that the army is preparing to displace the villagers. These Tuesday atrocities are just one facet of the many tools of occupation that make life an impossibility in the South Hebron Hills and across the West Bank.