Press Release 3 February 2012
When the children who had been thrown out of their homes were crying, the soldiers posed for souvenir photos on the bulldozer, smiling and laughing
Occupation rule’s cynical game with the small village of Aqaba. Brigadier General Almaz makes a personal visit, promising to “look into the complaints” Then, his representative issues 25 demolition orders – in a village consisting of 45 houses in all.
In a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Gush Shalom warns of a cynical game played by the occupation rule in the small village of Aqaba, the east of Jenin, which is over many years the target of repeated raids by the Military Government’s Civil Administration, destroying houses and basic infrastructure. “A month ago they were here last time,” Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq told Gush Shalom. “They destroyed our access road, which we call ‘The Peace Road’ and demolished several houses. When the children who had been thrown out of their homes were crying, the soldiers posed for souvenir photos on the bulldozer, smiling and laughing”.
In recent years, there was some interest in the village of Aqaba on the international scene, when an American human rights group called “The Rebuilding Alliance” raised the issue in meetings with Representatives and Senators and invited the village’s mayor to a lecture tour in the United States. Following this international interest in the issue, the Civil Administration head Brigadier General Motti Almaz, made an unprecedented personal visit to the village.
“He sat with me at the local council offices. I told him: ‘You’re destroying our homes and we build them again. What else can we do? This is our village, we have nowhere else to go. I told him that in our village there had never been clashes with the army, neither in the First Intifada nor in the Second one. For years the army carried out training with live ammunition among the village houses, villagers were killed and wounded. I personally, the mayor, was hit at a young age and remain in a wheelchair for life, and yet I feel no bitterness or hatred. I support peace. I just ask that they live us alone. I asked Almaz to approve a zoning plan for our village so that we can build legally. I asked him to allow us to rebuild the access road to the village – with our own money and labor, just that they don’t destroy it. I asked him to let us build a school on 42 dunums of state land which are in the middle of the village and which we can’t use. To allow us to be linked to the water pipe, so that we will no longer need to fetch water by tankers, at twenty Shekels per cubic meter. I told him that ten years ago, the electricity pylons at the entrance to the village were pulled down, and in 1999 Knesset Members wrote to Defence Minster Ehud Barak and he gave instructions not to touch our electricity – but still, two months ago they came and again pulled down twenty pylons. I put all problems and issues to Brigadier General Almaz, and for everything I said he answered ‘We will look into it’, ‘We will take care of it’. And he went off.
What happened next? A few days later there arrived in our village the local representative of the Civil Administration, a man named Yigal (he does not tell his family name) and started handing out demolition orders. Demolition orders for houses, for cattle sheds, even for the tabun bread ovens. Seventeen demolition orders in total. And he told us, this whole village is illegal, everything must be destroyed. Is this the ‘looking into it’ which the Civil Administration Head promised us? Then the Head of the Jenin Area Civil Administration, located at the Salem Chekpoint, came to our village. I asked him ‘Why did you send us Yigal with the demolition orders?’ And he said: ‘No, I did not sent him, this did not come from me’. And then. after another few days Yigal came back with another eight demolition orders. Demolition orders also for our kindergarten and clinic. A total of 25 demolition orders for a village which consists of 45 houses in all. So what am I to do now? What can I tell villagers who ask me ‘You are talking about peace. Where is your peace?’ ”
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson, wrote to Defense Minister Barak: “There are two ways of interpreting this, one of them bad and the other even worse. Either the Civil Administration plays a cynical game of ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’, or in truth the Civil Administration Head does not control the people who are supposed to be under his command, and they run their own independent policy. In both cases, this abomination must be stopped. The residents of Aqaba should have the right to live safely and in dignity at their homes and in their village.”View all →