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Benjamin Netanyahu, March 2010
The Jordan Valley is an area under urgent threat of annexation and during the last few week Israel have considerably tightened its grip on its indigenous Palestinian population. On the 11th of April the IOF shut of the main water source to Bardala -jeopardising the village's viability as a farming community-, on the 12th of April they declared Al Maleh a closed military zone, which prevented shepherds to grass their animals, and on the 15th of April the IOF raided Al Farisiya and stole four water pumps in a further attempt to control all water resources in the area. On the 25th of April the harassment of Palestinians increased significantly as armed settlers from the strongly Zionist Maskiot settlement erected a tent only ten meters from the the Al Maleh Bedouin community.
The Maskiot settlers, who have resettled in the Valley after being evacuated from the settlement of Gush Katif during the Israeli “withdrawal” from Gaza in 2005, are ideological settlers aiming to expand the Jewish presence in the area. An estimated 20-30 settlers arrived in Al Maleh at four pm on Sunday afternoon and the erection of their outpost was facilitated by the Israeli army and settler security. The settlers then proceeded to intimidate the community, which has live in the area for 25 years, by circling their community carrying guns and taking photographs and video of its inhabitants. During the first night the Maskiot tent brought in a generator and played loud music until four am -around the time when the people of Al Maleh normally rise in order to herd their sheep. By Monday evening the settler tent had already expanded to three times its original size, and lines which could not be crossed by Palestinians had been established. People from Maskiot were doing shifts in the tent, with around 10-20 settlers present at any one time. In a strong show of collective defiance, Palestinians from areas close by came to show their support with Al Maleh , and on Tuesday evening a Palestinian party with singing and dancing managed to drawn out the settlers' amplified music. Al Maleh, as an area C community, are not allowed electricity by the Israeli occupation forces.
Throughout the next few days army and police presence by the tent increased, with soldier frequently seen having a laugh with the settlers and enforcing the illegal “border line” drawn by them. When Palestinians attempted to cross this border and reclaim their land they were met by force from both the settlers and the army. Early on Thursday morning (29th of April), in the presence of the army, police and border police, the area was declared a closed military zone and, in a move that essentially rewarded the settlers for their illegal actions, an army official instructed that both tents be dismantled. This was done voluntarily, meaning that Al Maleh now have one less tent for their community.
Although the immediate physical threat of the settler outpost have now decreased, the repression in the Valley continues. In the early hours of Friday the 30th, just one day after the El Maleh eviction, a large amount of IOF soldiers raided a house in Al Jiftlik, arresting a several people. Army, police and border police were present as they then proceeded to dig up the family's front yard for “security reasons”. Needless to say, nothing was found on the scene. Cameras used by activists to film the event were confiscated by the police, after the army made it clear that there were people involved in this operation who could not be seen on film. The IOF are still refusing to release information about the location of Palestinians arrested on the day.
The communities in the Valley, many of whom are Bedouin, are used to the slow and systematic ethic cleansing carried out by the Israeli state in the area. Nonetheless, these new developments are deeply worrying. It is high time for the international community to come and stand in solidarity with the Jordan Valley and to recognise the urgency of this battle.
For an article on the general situation in the Jordan Valley, including the establishment of Maskiot, see http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/71348
For a report from inside Maskiot, see http://www.brightonpalestine.org/node/611