Dear South Hebron Hills Watch: Thank-you
Dear South Hebron Hills Watch:
Without help, the naive Facebook user may not understand how a particular post you uploaded to Facebook actually supports the opposite of what you intended. I appreciate the wonderful opportunity you have afforded me to provide a real learning experience. After all, you claim to be “a group of American volunteers who work to publicize events in the South Hebron Hills . . . to inform Americans of the daily effects of Occupation.” Therefore, let me use your post to give readers a lesson in critical consumption of media/propaganda/news/etc.
In your Facebook post, you write:
Israel has stepped up demolition (blocking) of dirt roads used by Palestinian villages to reach their fields for watering and harvesting. Deliberate harassment that destroys lives and inflicts economic pain. Pushing Palestinians off their land.
The video you provided hints at why these roads have to be demolished (blocked). I agree that demolished is a much harsher term than blocked and understand why you wished that, for propaganda purposes, you could write the former without having to acknowledge that it is really the latter. At least where you are providing visual evidence for the lies that you write you do have a red line beyond which you believe you would lose the credibility of your intended audience.
You accuse Israel of deliberate harassment – I am sure that those around the world who want to add an extra room or a garage to their homes without a permit, grow chickens or goats in their backyards without a permit, erect a fence around their yards that happens to include 100 meters of an adjacent public park, etc. all consider the authorities that insist they desist from such actions or demolish what they have already constructed to be harassing them. And harassing them deliberately. It certainly is inconvenient to have to obey the local planning and construction laws.
Pushing Palestinians off their land? Well, that requires a bit of an explanation. You see, the South Hebron Hills is in Area C, designated as being under FULL Israeli control. And the contract that assigned it as such was signed by Yasser Arafat on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (aka The West Bank). That contract goes by the name of the Oslo Accords.
I agree that Area C is an inconvenience, both for Israel and the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA) in that within it there are bubbles or islands of Area B, places that are under joint Israeli and PA control. In fact, Area B consists of villages for which the PA provides municipal and other services, such as education and health. The PA and Israel share responsibility for security issues.
Area A is under exclusive PA control.
Beyond the borders of the villages lies Area C and any construction that Arabs want to engage in there requires permits from Israeli authorities. These are hard to come by, I agree. However, an informative map of land use shows that Arab construction in Area C covers 10% of the available land while, curiously, Jewish construction covers only 7%. In Areas A and B, where the PA has authority to permit construction, 63% of this land remains available for use. Therefore any argument claiming that building in Area C is the only way to provide for the growing Arab population is just a lie.
In fact, the village and the dirt road shown in the video are all illegal. Try building a dirt road without a permit in any other country and you will find it at least blocked and most likely actually demolished.
The video itself lets us know that the village, Quawawis, is illegal, erected by squatters. They say that water tankers cannot reach it. If it was a legal town, there would be complete water, electric, communications and transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, there was an article decrying the demolition of a family home in Qawawis in 2018. The article stated clearly that the family never filed a request for a construction permit and a reliable source who wishes to remain anonymous confirmed that the entire village is illegal. Maybe you would like to do an exposee on why the Israeli Civil Administration does not take down these illegal villages when it is perfectly within its rights to do so?
Here is where you get ridiculous!
Funnily enough, the video image contradicts the video text. The text says that the roadblock (the red “X”) prevents farmers from the village of Qawawis (blue circle) from getting to their fields (circled in green). Note that the “X” appears at the point where the dirt road meets up with Highway 317 and does not block access between the village and the fields at all.
And the next scene in the video shows just that – blocking of the road where it meets up with the highway. Yet the text goes on to emphasize how this activity blocks villager access to their fields.
They even claim that such a barrier forces the Arabs to abandon their fields so that Israel can build more settlements on their land.
South Hebron Hills Watch wants viewers to believe that the following image shows how farmers cannot get from the village to the fields but the photo was taken at the point the dirt road meets the highway – i.e., the “X” on the screenshot above. We see that the dirt road goes from the olive grove without interruption all the way to the village at the horizon. Therefore, their claim that the villagers’ livelihood “is disrupted with a single act” is patently false.
The video text claims that Palestinians cannot own heavy equipment, meaning that “clearing roads is lengthy and arduous”. It is certainly a shame that clearing roads they are not permitted to build on land that is under Israeli control is “lengthy and arduous”. I would prefer it to be impossible. Only the Israeli administration can authorize new roads and then construct them.
The final text reads: “One day of the occupation. Two roads blocked. Hundreds of lives disrupted.” Viewers are not shown the second road. I wonder if it was one of the smuggling routes carved out between the South Hebron Hills and the Arad area as reported in The Jewish Press:
The illegal route, about three-mile[s] long, is located entirely on state land, and allows a relatively comfortable ride for private cars. The cost of its construction is estimated at more than $850,000.
The EU provided these funds, and construction of this road belies the claim that the poor Palestinian Arabs cannot build (illegal) roads other than by a “lengthy and arduous” process. The hundreds of lives disrupted, according to the video, could certainly have been supported quite well if the $850K was directed toward improving village life in legal villages rather than their cynical use of Arabs as pawns in their hate-activism against Israel.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you again for this video because the distortions and lies told about Israel in Area C are not always this obvious.
This is a modified version of an article that was first published on Jewish News Syndicate.