Updated: Jul 28
A testimony by A., human rights activist, from Tuesday, May 24, 20203, about the week in which Ein Samiya villagers had to leave their home. This is how transfer is carried out without orders or any Israeli trucks:
Mustafa, inhabitant of Ein Samiya – a Palestinian village near Ramallah – said to me on the day he had to leave his home: “I invited the colonist to my home, told him we should live as good neighbors. The colonist refused. He said – ‘I don’t feel good as long as you’re here’.”
Until a few days ago, Ein Samiya was home to some dozens of men, women and children, in the Ramallah district. The villagers have lived here since 1980, after Israel evicted them from their previous domicile. The village is located right beneath Kohav HaShahar, a large colony full of villas with a beautiful view. At Ein Samiya, on the other hand, families lived without any connection to electricity or water, nor construction permits – in other words, threatened always with demolition and eviction. Still, because of their determination and love for the place where they had lived and grown up, the villagers managed to exist and conduct their own community life. The village school, for example, was built at night. Had they built it in daytime, they would be caught, the army would confiscate their work tools and construction materials, and prevent the village children from enjoying their right to education.
In recent years, the Ein Samiya villagers have been suffering daily terrorist attacks by colonists of the unauthorized outposts that have emerged in the area. The colonists prevented their access to their own grazing grounds, threatened them, and sometimes blocked the access track to the village. They even threw stones at them. When the villagers wished to demonstrate in protest of the erection of new outposts, they were suppressed with stun grenades, teargas and sponge ammunition fired at close range.
A few days ago, colonists entered the village in the middle of the night to scare its inhabitants. The next day, a colonist stole an entire flock from Aata, one of the villagers. The colonist told the policemen and soldiers who were there that the flock belonged to him, although Aata himself birthed and tended each and every one of the sheep in the flock. He stood by watching helplessly as the police and army forces secured the colonist while stealing the flock that had been all he had ever owned.
The villagers have searched for solutions for this harsh situation that had been forced on them. How should they hold on to their land in spite of colonist harassment? They thought of transferring the women and children elsewhere until things blow over, while the men would remain in the village. But then, after turning to various bodies, they realized they could not raise support for such an initiative. Some of the families decided to leave, others still deliberated.
Their deliberation ended shortly. The colonists of the unauthorized outposts returned and blocked the track leading to the village. This made everyone decide to leave.
Since Monday this week, the Palestinians have been packing, loading all their belongings on tractors and vans, taking apart home walls and loading them up too. Every moment, a truck leaves Ein Samiya loaded with clothes and furniture wooden panels and metal rods that might serve to build their next home. Among the moving piles, girls and boys are crowded too.
I asked one boy where they were going. He answered: “Far away. Far from here. As far as possible.” Others said they don’t know yet, hoping to come up with a possibility in the next few days, as they finished packing. There is no place for the entire community to move together, and from now on it is every family to its own fate. Areas A and B where Palestinians are allowed to build are thickly inhabited. This means that most of them have no choice but to settle in another spot in Area C where they would live again in “illegal” structures, on borrowed time.
We met one young man who came to visit the village in its dark hour, and said to him: “It’s a harsh day.” He answered us with one word: “Nakba”.
On Monday, while the shepherds were packing and leaving, colonists came to a spot a few hundred meters from the village. They congregated, brought along a large water tanker and erected a tent. We called the police and said they were entering private property. The policeman who came said: “If the landowner is not here, or is here but does not have all his ownership documents, there is no reason to make them leave.” I said to him: “If I saw a burglar enter the home of a Jew in my neighborhood and called the police, would they still demand the presence of the home owner and documents proving it, refusing to do anything without this?” He answered: “It’s not the same thing.”
As soon as the colonists noticed the policeman, they quickly folded their tent.
We told him: “They brought a water tanker and erected a tent. That’s exactly how new outposts are erected.” He answered: “No way, they’re only enjoying an outing” and walked away.
Yesterday, on our way to Ein Samiya, we saw the colonists from the road. Still at the same spot. They had re-erected their tent.
Seemingly, no transfer had taken place yesterday. The families took their homes apart themselves. Still, what is happening at Ein Samiya is transfer. There is no such thing as “transfer of one’s own free will”. People who have no other place to live do not leave their home wholeheartedly, only as a last resort to survive, escape terrorism, unable to provide for the family, living in constant fear.
Israel’s history shows acts of loading Palestinians onto trucks and taking them far away. This week the state has found a much crueler mode of ethnic cleansing, saving truck fuel and avoiding horrifying pictures. One only needs to crush Palestinian spirit, deny them their fundamental living conditions, sow multiple terrorism (violent colonists, violent soldiers who back up colonists, military courts that carry out injustice, racist police) until they chase themselves away.