Hebden Bridge support for Palestinian villages

Report from Ron Taylor on Palestinian villages which have received some support from people in Hebden Bridge

Friday, 30 October 2009

Over the last two years or so people from the Hebden Bridge area have given generously to Palestinian causes. Much of the money raised has gone to organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians. But some has been given directly to the people of two West Bank villages - At-Tuwani and Artas - which are under daily threat from the military occupation of Palestine. Particular thanks are due to Vicky and Maggie who asked guests at their birthday parties to donate money for Palestine rather than give presents, and to Janet who donated cash raised at a social event in Mytholmroyd.

Following a recent short trip to the West Bank, Hebweb has kindly allowed me some space to report on what is happening in these places and to let readers know how the money is being used.


The village of At-Tuwani lies in the South Hebron Hills in the far south of the West Bank. It is home to about 250 people but is also a centre for several remote hamlets tucked away in the surrounding hills. Whilst some villagers have jobs in the larger towns to the north, the majority depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. At the best of times it is hard to make a living from the soil in this arid region. And, for the Palestinians living here, this is not the best of times.

Hebden Bridge  support for Palestinian villages

At-Tuwani has been a village under threat for many years. The land is wanted by the Israelis for its policy of colonisation but the Palestinians, who have had a presence here for possibly a thousand years, are not. The Israeli settlement of Ma’on was established in the 1980s. Under international law it was built illegally. The settlement encroached on to village land, but worse was to come when the outpost settlement of Havat Ma’on sprouted on Hill 833 in 2001, even closer to At-Tuwani. (The outpost is illegally built even under Israeli law, but the Israeli authorities allow it to remain – common practice in the West Bank).

With virtual impunity the settlers, who are armed and protected by the Israeli army, harass and attack the Palestinians. Their activities are part of what has become known as ‘the silent transfer’ - make life difficult enough for them and they will leave. Many Palestinian villages have disappeared in this way. But the people of At-Tuwani are determined to stay on their land.

Hebden Bridge  support for Palestinian villages

There have been regular instances of settler violence against shepherds and their animals, crops have been destroyed and water sources contaminated. But the most despicable part of the campaign against the people of At-Tuwani began in 2004 when children, making their way from outlying hamlets to school in the village, were attacked. One 6 year old girl suffered head wounds when, during one attack, she was hit by rocks. She never returned to school.

The village sought help and the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), a remarkable group of people mainly from the US, stepped in. CPT members began to accompany the children to and from school, but they, too, were subject to violence from the settlers.

Hebden Bridge  support for Palestinian villages

After the matter was raised by Israeli peace activists in the Knesset, the government of Israel made a remarkable decision. Instead of prosecuting the attackers or evacuating the illegal outpost, it ordered the army to provide a military escort for the children.

Last year the CPT published a report about the escort system. Its detailed findings show that the army is half-hearted in its approach to the protection of Palestinian children. During the 2007 /8 school year the escort was late nearly 40% of the time and on 94 occasions failed to accompany the children along the entire length of the route. The failure of the escort to carry out its duties adequately means the children are vulnerable.

Hebden Bridge  support for Palestinian villages

The CPT recorded 14 occasions during 2007/8 when the children were attacked. No settler has ever been charged with offences of violence against the children in this area.

The 2008/9 school year saw a similar pattern and, even though the current school year is only a few weeks old, it seems that little has changed . . . At this point, and I know this may appear to be management of the news, I will stop writing as I have just checked my email inbox. I have in the last few minutes received the following press release from the CPT in At-Tuwani and it needs no further comment from me. Please read.

Israeli military negligence again exposes young Palestinian children to threat of attack from Israeli settlers

27 October 2009

On Tuesday 27 October 2009, Palestinian school children from the villages
of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed did not attend school in At-Tuwani due to
threat of violence from Israeli settlers from the Israeli settlement of
Ma'on and the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma'on.

Internationals from Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove made repeated calls to the Israeli military, who were mandated by the Israeli Knesset to escort the children from Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed to the area school in At-Tuwani.  After waiting forty five minutes for the Israeli military to arrive, the children and the internationals began walking a longer route to school at 8:15 am, fifteen minutes after the start of the school day. However, four adult Israeli settlers, one masked and armed with a slingshot, in addition to settlers in a pickup truck, blocked their way.  The internationals ran with the children back to Tuba.  As a result, sixteen children missed a day's education.

Later, at 8:47, after the children returned to Tuba, an Israeli military jeep came to the area in which the settlers had threatened the children. Soldiers from the jeep spoke with members of Operation Dove who were in the area.  The soldiers claimed they were new and did not know where to meet the children for the escort, though at no point previously did international volunteers see a jeep driving in the area.

This is the second consecutive day in which the Israeli military has failed to arrive to escort the Palestinian children to and from school, forcing them to take a longer path on which they have been attacked by Israeli settlers on numerous occasions.

In 2004, following a series of attacks by Israeli settlers on the young
Palestinian schoolchildren and also on international volunteers, the Israeli Knesset mandated the Israeli military to provide daily accompaniment for the children on the shortest possible route to and from school.  The Israeli military have repeatedly failed to carry out this task adequately, resulting in children being late for school and subject to unnecessary anxiety and risk.

Background information

During the 2008-2009 school year, settlers used violence against the
children ten times; two of these times the settlers threw rocks at the

For a complete report on the school escort in 2007-2008, including maps,
photographs and interviews with the children, please see "A Dangerous

Back to the money. The cash given to At-Tuwani goes towards the following:

  • Paying for mobile phones so shepherds and farmers can report imminent settler attacks and summon help from the CPT and others in the village.
  • To buy water when stocks are low; the people of At-Tuwani (and of many other villages in the West Bank) are not allowed access to the mains water network (unlike their assailants in the settlements). When water collected in their cisterns runs out, they have to purchase tankered water. They have to pay as much as 10 times more than the residents of the settlements.
  • To purchase animals to replace those killed by settlers. One such incident occurred in 2008 when a donkey was stabbed to death by settlers because it was essential to the needs of a farming family living near At-Tuwani.

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