Life Under Occupation

May 4, 2004
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by Noaf Tzuf

READING ABOUT the occupation and settlements, or seeing documentaries about the “Separation Barrier,” one learns plenty of details and facts. But living under occupation, suffering from the disaster caused by settlements and experiencing the tragedy created by the barrier, is living in a reality that damages the soul and tortures it more than physical pain. This is the Palestinian reality that makes life dark and bitter beyond what the best writer’s prose or director’s film describes. Living under occupation means experiencing tragedies — visible and invisible, direct and indirect, material and emotional. All aspects of life and death are transformed by occupation.

My life — in the village of Harres, across the road from the settlement of Revava — is one long, never-ending day. As an activist, people turn to me with all of their problems: students who can’t get to the universities; the sick who can’t get to hospitals; the unemployed; those who can’t receive permits of one sort or another; those who are stopped day and night on the streets; social problems. The occupation uses power to restructure our lives for the convenience and security of the settlers. My life is always in danger and I always feel pressured; I can’t escape this responsibility.

My children hardly see me. They too feel that our lives are in danger. Just last week a settler passed by the entrance to our village and fired shots, injuring a man coming out of a store. Settlers often put stones on the road and then inform the security forces that we threw them, knowing that the army will enter the village and harass the residents, impose a curfew, etc. Settlers fire at us and then say that they were fired upon.

The settlement of Revava was built in the middle of an olive grove belonging to our village. Our trees were cut down for the houses. Access to our remaining trees is limited because their security is endangered. Month after month more trees are hacked, burned, or uprooted and more houses appear. These trees feel like a part of our families and are our economic lifeline. My own siblings are unemployed, and I can do nothing to help them or their children.

All this is taken in by the children of the village, whose favorite pastime is to play with plastic guns. I feel the violence breeding. Our youth see that a supposedly democratic country is using force to control every aspect of their lives, while the world does nothing.

Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are a cornerstone of an occupation turning Palestinian land into Jewish land. From a Palestinian perspective, the settlements:

1. Rob our land for settlements and settlement infrastructure.

2. Serve as outposts for attracting future settlers from around the world.

3.     Make life for Palestinian citizens unbearable, eventually expelling them from their land through military, economic, psychological, and social pressures.

4. Change — geographically and demographically — the reality on the ground, making the land appear to be entirely Jewish.

5. Separate Palestinians from one another, turning towns and village into ghettos surrounded by settlements and military forces.

The Salfit region, where I live, is home to 50,000 Palestinians; it is being turned into part of the Israeli state through the occupation. The area, which includes 20 villages, now has 22 Jewish-only settlements with a population that exceeds the original Palestinian population and is expected to increase after the “Separation Barrier” is completed.

Settlements began in the 1970s. As settlements were built, more and more land was claimed, and we were denied access to our lands because of their proximity to settlements. Poverty increased. Israel now wants to build the “Separation Barrier” 22 kilometers into the Occupied Territories in order to include Ariel and most of the settlements in our region. That will leave us with nothing but our homes as prisons. The village of Maskha, for example, will lose 4,000 of its 5,000 remaining dunam. Our region will be divided into three disconnected cantons, without access to medical care or the possibility of traveling between villages.

Everything looks dark in the near future. In the long term I am optimistic. It is impossible to live without hope. There are Israelis with common sense who understand that it is impossible to rule by power forever. We look at the suffering of other peoples throughout history and believe that justice and the human spirit will prevail.

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Noaf Tzuf is a Palestinian activist, an advocate of nonviolence, who works closely with Israeli and international activists. He directs the Palestinian-Israeli liaison unit in the Salfit region.

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