Israel to Cut Palestinian Village From Water Source in Order to Take Control of Farming Land (Haaretz)

Nir Hasson
Nov 16, 2017 11:38 AM
Haaretz – Israel News

After a checkpoint moves deeper into the Palestinian area, residents of al-Walaja will no longer be able to visit the local spring or their fields beyond it


Construction work on the Ein Hanya spring, April 8, 2016. Emil Salman

Israel has told residents of the Palestinian village of al-Walaja south of Jerusalem that they are to be cut off from their farmland and farming terraces because of the relocation of a checkpoint, shifting a large segment of land from the Palestinian side to the Israeli one.

A Jerusalem district planning panel said that the Ein Yael checkpoint on road between Jerusalem and Har Gilo would move deeper into the Palestinian area, where it will become part of the Jerusalem metropolitan park.

This land includes Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills; for the residents of al-Walaja, the site also provides recreation, bathing, and water for their livestock. Palestinian families from farther afield in the West Bank, such as Beit Jala and Bethlehem, regularly visit the spring and the two deep pools in the area for bathing and picnicking.


Image: Al-Walaja and surrounding areas.

Part of al-Walaja falls under Jerusalem’s jurisdiction, but the recent completion of the separation fence has cut the village off from Jerusalem entirely. The fence also separates the village from extensive farming areas owned by the residents.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Jerusalem Development Authority have already started renovation work at the spring and the surrounding area. Now they plan on surrounding the spring with a fence, building a visitors center and a restaurant and turning it into one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s metropolitan park, which abuts the capital from the south and west.
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Two days ago al-Walaja residents received letters telling them that the checkpoint will be moved closer to their village, some two and a half kilometers deeper into the Palestinian territory. It currently sits near the exit from Jerusalem, a mere one and a half kilometers from the Malha shopping mall.


A man walks past one of the pools at Ein Hanya, April 8, 2016.Emil Salman

Once the checkpoint relocated, Palestinians without Jerusalem resident papers will not be allowed to pass through it. They will not be able to visit the spring area or their fields and terraces beyond it.

The villagers were given 15 days’ notice to submit an appeal against the decision.

Ironically, the well-groomed, carefully tended terraces that al-Walaja’s residents have nurtured over the years were one of the reasons given by the Israeli authorities for setting up a park in the area. However, once the checkpoint is moved, the farmers will be denied access to them.

“The stone steps are one of the park’s outstanding features. This landscape has decorated the Judean Hills for longer than 5,000 years, since man started farming the land. The terrace agriculture was preserved in the Arab villages until the War of Independence,” the park’s information leaflet says.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher with Ir Amim, a nonprofit that advocates for a more equitable and sustainable Jerusalem, said “relocating the checkpoint is another step in [Environmental Protection] Minister Zeev Elkin’s plan to move al-Walaja and the rest of the neighborhoods beyond the separation fence out of Jerusalem’s borders. In Elkin’s Jerusalem, Israelis will stroll among the beautiful terraces, tended to and fostered by al-Walaja residents, with the land owners locked behind a barbed wire fence a few dozen meters away, unable to come to the lands that were robbed from them.

“That’s the rightist government’s vision: instead of peace and justice, fences and increasingly brutal oppression,” he said.

Nir Hasson

Haaretz Correspondent

Haaretz.com, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel, and analysis from Israel and the Middle East. Haaretz.com provides extensive and in-depth coverage of Israel, the Jewish World and the Middle East, including defense, diplomacy, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the peace process, Israeli politics, Jerusalem affairs, international relations, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli business world and Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora.

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Banksy Walled Off Hotel in Palestine to sell new works by elusive artist (Guardian)

Gift shop, which will open in autumn in West Bank, will sell pieces including crucifixes fashioned into grappling hooks

The Walled Off hotel
The Walled Off hotel Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

It’s the sort of merchandise you might find in any hotel gift shop: mugs emblazoned with slogans, T-shirts, prints of local beauty spots and novelty key rings. But this is not any ordinary holiday tat.

Banksy’s Walled Off hotel in the Palestinian territories will open a gift shop and sell new works by the elusive street artist for the first time in four years.

The works on sale include limited-edition crucifixes that have been fashioned into giant grappling hooks, and painted keyrings and ornaments resembling parts of the wall that separates Israel and Palestine.

The gift shop, which will open in the autumn, will be next to Banksy’s hotel, museum and protest gallery space that he opened in March overlooking the vast concrete stretch of wall, topped with barbed wire, that passes through Bethlehem.

This is the first time Banksy has put his works for sale since 2013, when he set up a small, anonymous pop-up stall in Central Park in New York where lucky passers-by could purchase original signed canvases for $60 (£38). They were a steal compared with the prices that original Banksy artworks now fetch at auction, and indeed some of the Central Park works have since sold for upwards of £120,000.

Most of the new works at the Walled Off gift shop will only be available in the West Bank shop, but a few are also going on sale in the hotel’s online store.

The works on sale include limited-edition crucifixes that have been fashioned into giant grappling hooks.
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The works on sale include limited-edition crucifixes that have been fashioned into giant grappling hooks. Photograph: JBPR

Those keen fans and collectors hoping to get their hands on a limited edition crucifix grappling hook will have to put in an order before they travel to the West Bank.

In true Banksy fashion, none of the new works are on sale for anywhere near the six-figure sums that collectors are willing to pay for signed Banksy work. Miniature reproductions of the hotel key fobs, which resemble segments of the concrete separation wall, will be available to buy in the shop for 90 shekels (£20), or 230 shekels for those who want it hand-painted.

Souvenir reproductions of parts of the separation wall are also on sale, some featuring Banksy’s popular Girl with Balloon image, and others daubed with more openly political statements such as “Free Palestine”.

Also likely to be in high demand is a Banksy art print that portrays the wall’s Israeli military watchtower as a fairground swing ride, set behind an actual chiseled piece of the wall, on sale for 575 shekels.

All of the items have been designed and created by Banksy himself and are likely to be hugely popular, since it is now rare for him to put his own works on sale, despite an enormous demand for them all over the world.

It also marks a continuation of the graffiti artist’s decade-long relationship with Bethlehem, since he came to the Palestinian city over a decade ago and graffitied the wall, making it a tourist destination in its own right. For the Israeli government the West Bank barrier, built from 2002 after the second intifada, is seen as a vital security wall to protect Israel from terrorist attacks. Palestinians, however, regard it as a symbol of their oppression and racial segregation.

The wall is now covered in political art and statements from street artists and protesters from all over the world, including a recent illustration of Donald Trump hugging the watchtower and another of the US president vowing to build the West Bank wall “a brother” – a reference to his election pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border.

The Walled Off hotel, which the artist described as having “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, exists both as a living art institution but also an informative museum space that explains the turbulent history of the region. It is also a gallery showcasing Palestinian artists, who are often restricted from travelling and exhibiting their work in Israel and abroad. Banksy’s hope for the hotel was that it would draw a new type of tourism to the area and generate much-needed jobs. Rooms start at $60 (£46) and go up to $965 for the presidential suite.

Miniature reproductions of the hotel key fobs, which resemble segments of the concrete separation wall, will be available to buy for 90 shekels.
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Miniature reproductions of the hotel key fobs, which resemble segments of the concrete separation wall, will be available to buy for 90 shekels. Photograph: JBPR

The area where the hotel sits in Bethlehem is under Israeli control, but for Israelis to get there requires a journey through Palestinian territories which would be illegal for Israelis.

In October, as well as the opening of the gift shop, the Walled Off hotel will also be running package holidays for the first time. The “vandals’ retreat” will give people the chance to visit the Bethlehem hotel in the presence of a famous graffiti artist, such as Australian street artist Lush, and guests will be taken on excursions to paint the wall themselves.

A hotel spokesperson said: “It’s a bit like going on a cruise with a celebrity, but with a lot more swearing.” But with his own appearance still shrouded in mystery, Banksy himself is unlikely to be among the package holiday guest vandals.

This article was amended on 13 September 2017 to correct a date and clarify a detail about location access.

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Victory for Palestinian Prisoners as 80% of Strike Demands Met

(Link to Friends of Bethlehem on Facebook)

  • Palestinians celebrate after Palestinian prisoners ended a hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 27, 2017.

    Palestinians celebrate after Palestinian prisoners ended a hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 27, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

“We know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine,” stated a solidarity network.

After more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners staged a a mass, historic hunger strike for 40 days, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ officials confirmed Sunday that nearly 80 percent of the prisoners’ demands were met as the strike ended Saturday.

RELATED: 
Palestinian Prisoner Hunger Strike Ends After 40 Days

Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission, spoke at a press conference Sunday, declaring the victory “an important achievement to build on in the future on the basis of the protection of the prisoners’ rights and dignity.”

Among the many conditions prisoners wanted to be improved that the Israeli Prisons Service agreed to include expanding access to telephones; lifting the security ban on hundreds of family members of Palestinian prisoners, including the 140 children who were denied visits from parents; allowing distant family members to visit their imprisoned relatives; and improving the conditions of both women and children prisoners.

Other met demands include establishing in every prison department a separate kitchen area for the preparation of food; allowing photographs with parents once annually, or with a prisoner’s spouse; stocking prison stores with higher-quality goods, including fruits and vegetables; introducing modern recreational equipment in the recreation yards; and transferring prisoners to prisons closer to their families’ places of residence.

The end of the strike will also see the return of prisoners who were transferred to their original locations and the lifting of sanctions imposed on hunger-striking prisoners. Additional negotiations will be held around the prisoners’ other demands.

“On this occasion of the prisoners’ victory, we know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine. We urge all of the Palestinian communities, supporters of Palestine and social justice organizers who took to the streets, drank salt water, engaged in hunger strikes, expressed their solidarity and organized across borders and walls to celebrate the victory of the prisoners with events and actions on 4-6 June, in Celebrations of Dignity and Victory,” said the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in a statement Sunday.

RELATED: 
‘Intifada ad Infinitum’: Palestinians Launch Second General Strike in Support of Prisoners

“In these celebrations, we will recognize the power of the Palestinian people to defeat the occupier and the colonizer, honor the prisoners and their steadfastness, and emphasize the ongoing struggle,” the group added.

After 40 days, the health of many prisoners was deteriorating rapidly, with 182 striking political prisoners having been hospitalized.

The strike was met with solidarity demonstrations throughout occupied Palestine, and around the world, with near-daily demonstration, rallies, protests and strikes.

 

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Donald Trump arrives in Bethlehem for talks with Abbas

(Link to Friends of Bethlehem on Facebook)

Donald Trump arrives in Bethlehem for talks with Abbas

Visit comes after US president failed to explain how to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks after meeting with Netanyahu.

Trump is welcomed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in Bethlehem [Mussa Issa Qawasma/[AFP]

Donald Trump has met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank as the US president seeks to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bring new hope the region and its people,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Abbas on Tuesday.

“If Israelis and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace throughout the Middle East,” he said without elaborating on any plans to restart talks.

Abbas said Palestinians “are committed to working with [Trump] to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel,” adding that the “main problem is with the occupation and settlements”.

READ MORE: Palestinian basic rights ‘not on the agenda’ for Trump

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Bethlehem, said Trump’s remarks regarding the link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stability in the rest of the region was significant, adding, however, that many Palestinians will be disappointed by what Trump did not say.

“Trump didn’t speak of their right to self-determination. he didn’t speak of the two state solution … and they will probably be disappointed that Trump did not say what his plans were or his vision was,” Abdel-Hamid said.

The short visit in Bethlehem came a day after Trump met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as Palestinians held a general strike in support of hundreds of hunger-striking prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Meetings between Trump and Netanyahu concluded on Monday with Trump promising to help broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but gave little indication of how he could revive negotiations that collapsed in 2014.

“It’s not easy. I have heard it is one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we are going to get there eventually. I hope,” Trump said after the meeting, without elaborating.

Abbas said he was committed to working with Trump to reach a “historic peace deal” [Mandel Ngan/AFP]

The last round of peace talks, led by then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, fell apart in 2014.

One point of contention is the fate of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

During his presidential campaign, Trump advocated breaking with decades of precedent and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, deeply alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move was still being looked at.

READ MORE: How Israel is targeting Palestinian institutions

Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, says Trump’s comments about striving for a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians are not promising.

“The time is now for the world to end Israel military rule,” she told Al Jazeera. “It’s not going to come through negations; it’s only going to come through exerted efforts to hold the Israelis accountable by boycotting through sanctions and bringing them before the international criminal courts.”

“That Palestinians have to negotiate their freedom and prove ourselves worthy of freedom is repugnant,” Buttu added, arguing that Trump should use its multi-billion dollar financial support to Israel as weight to pressure it from ending its occupation of Palestinian territory.

“I have very little faith that he will be able to do anything with the Israelis to change their policy,” she concluded. “I don’t anticipate anything positive is going to come out.”

‘Day of rage’

The Palestinian prisoners’ affairs committee called for a “day of rage” on Monday for “the voice of the prisoners to be heard by the president”.

Tuesday marks the 37th day of a mass hunger strike inside Israeli jails. Palestinian news agency Ma’an estimates that more than 1,300 Palestinians are currently on strike behind bars in Israeli prisons, while Israeli outlets have placed the number in the high hundreds.

On Monday, Israeli forces shot and injured at least 11 Palestinian protesters who staged a general strike in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip in support of those prisoners on hunger strikes.

In a separate incident on Monday, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager as he allegedly attempted to stab a border police officer at a checkpoint near Bethlehem.

In Gaza, Hamas organised a demonstration on Monday to denounce its labelling as a “terrorist” group by many Western governments, including the United States.

After talks with Abbas, Trump will travel to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and give a speech at the Israel Museum.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

 

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