Friday, May 8, 2015

Nabi Saleh: "We are unbreakable, they can demolish our houses, we will rebuild until the last breath”

Dear friends,
As you will be aware, the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank is one of the many Palestinian villages which refuses to be bowed by the Israeli military.  As you will be aware, I have blogged extensively on the village since the first demonstrations in the village began in 2009.  Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) have repeatedly used appalling levels of violence against the village and its residents over the last six years.  At the end of April, the IOF raised the level of aggression against the village once again, moving to demolish one of the houses in the village and threatening to demolish 12 others.

The village, however, has not been bowed and immediately in the wake of the demolition began rebuilding the house.  Manal Tamimi, one of the leaders of the unarmed popular struggle in the village, was defiant stating: "We are unbreakable, they can demolish our houses, we will rebuild until the last breath”.

I have included below photos of the demolition, as well as rebuilding.  Also included in an article from +972 Magazine on the demolition of the house in Nabi Saleh.

You can support the people of Nabi Saleh and keep up with the latest news from the village by joining the Nabi Saleh Solidarity page on Facebook (click here to go to the page) or checking out the Nabi Saleh Solidarity blog/webpage (click here).

In solidarity, Kim


Demolished house, Nabi Saleh: 28 April 2015 
Photo by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC)

Photo and text by AFP (via Instagram): Palestinian children from the ‪#‎WestBank‬ village of ‪#‎NabiSaleh‬ wave their national flag and flash the sign for victory as they sit on a house after it was demolished by ‪#‎Israeli‬ bulldozers under the pretext that there was no building permit for the construction in the village, near the ‪#‎Jewish‬ ‪#‎Hallamish‬ settlement during a ‪#‎demonstration‬ on April 28, 2015. 

29 April 2015: ‪#‎NabiSaleh‬ rebuilds the house demolishedby the ‪#‎Israel‬ ‪#‎Occupation‬ Forces in the early hours of the morning. Photographs by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (via twitter)

 Photo by PSCC, 29 April 2015

  Photo by PSCC, 29 April 2015

 Photo by PSCC, 29 April 2015

1 May 2015: Manal Tamimi - "We are unbreakable, they can demolish our houses, we will rebuild until the last breath” Photograph by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) via Twitter.


First demolition in Nabi Saleh: Warning shot or ominous sign?

Four years ago, the residents of the village received demolition orders, but they were never carried out. On Monday, bulldozers razed an uninhabited house. Now the villagers, who have been protesting every week since 2009, fear that the army will carry out the rest of the demolition orders to collectively punish them.
Ruins in Nabi Saleh, following Monday's demolition campaign. Credit: Bilal Tamimi
Ruins in Nabi Saleh, following Monday’s demolition campaign. Credit: Bilal Tamimi
“When we started the demonstrations five years ago, we knew we would have a heavy price to pay,” says Manal Tamimi, a resident and activist in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. “Not just with violence and home demolitions, but also with our lives.” She pauses. “But under occupation you lose everything. And when you have faith in what you are doing, you don’t care what will happen to you.”

Nabi Saleh ended up paying a heavy price, many times over. Since 2009, when weekly non-violent demonstrations began to protest the annexation of the village’s well and land by the next-door Halamish settlement, the villagers have been embroiled in ongoing clashes with the Israeli army. Injuries from live ammunition have become a regular feature of the protests, with Manal herself having recently been shot in the leg. Two protesters have been killed over the years, including Mustafa Tamimi who was shot in the face with a tear gas canister at close range. And now, with the arrival of bulldozer at 4 a.m. on Monday, the threat of home demolitions was finally underway.

“Four years ago, the army gave demolition orders for thirteen houses in the village, but they were never carried out,” explains Manal. “At four in the morning on Monday, we suddenly heard the sound of a bulldozer and didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t give any excuse or warning.”

Following the events of Monday night, Nabi Saleh’s residents are now worried that the army will begin carrying out the rest of the demolition orders. The house that the Israeli army demolished was uninhabited, but the remaining orders are for buildings that house families, including children.

“About 20 percent of the village is under threat,” says Bassem Tamimi, another prominent activist in Nabi Saleh. Because the majority of the village’s land falls in Area C of the West Bank, which is fully controlled by Israel, residents are unable to obtain building permits. This, in turn, provides the military with a pretext for issuing demolition orders.

But the residents of Nabi Saleh are convinced that the army’s actions are merely a form of collective punishment. “When they gave the orders four years ago, they told us: ‘If you stop the protests, we will stop the demolition orders’,” says Manal.

There is also a general feeling in Nabi Saleh that with the demolition, they are entering a new period of violence. The last few months have already seen a noticeable escalation in the army and Border Police’s suppression of the weekly demonstrations. In addition to the use of live ammunition in contravention of army regulations, in recent weeks soldiers have also been filmed firing tear gas directly at demonstrators and assaulting photojournalists.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, residents began rebuilding the home that was destroyed. The army intervened, causing a confrontation with youths who were working on the house, but Manal confirms that the rebuilding will continue until it is complete – in spite of the threat from Israeli security forces. For those in Nabi Saleh, this episode is symbolic of their wider struggle. “The house demolitions are meant to scare us. But we will not stop our resistance,” Manal says. “We have been told before that if we stop our demonstrations, we will get our well back. But we do not want to give up and be weakened; if we do, they will just take another area from us later on.”

“They have to understand that it’s not just about a piece of land. This is about the occupation.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Stop the forced closure and ethnic cleansing of Aboriginal Communities in Western Australia

Dear friends,
as you will be aware from previous blogs, while this blog is primarily dedicated to providing updates, news and information about Palestine, I have also posted on Aboriginal rights activism in Australia.

As long term readers will be aware, I became active in the Palestine solidarity campaign was because I saw the similarities between the Indigenous struggle of the Palestinian people and the struggle of Indigenous Australians.  Coming from a family of mixed heritage (my mother is Aboriginal and my father comes from a mixed European background), my first engagement with political activism was around Aboriginal and Indigenous rights and the struggle for land rights and justice in this country.

In the last few months, tens of thousands of Australians have been mobilising on the streets in opposition to the announced plan by the West Australian state government of Colin Barnett to close more than 150 Aboriginal communities.  This plan will result in the ethnic cleansing once again of between 12,000 and 15,000 Aboriginal people.  The plan has the full backing of the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and his party (note, both Barnett and Abbott belong to the Liberal Party, which in Australia is a righwing conservative party).

This latest round of ethnic cleansing is a direct result of a funding deal between the Liberal Barnett state government and the Liberal Abbott Federal government. In September 201 the Abbott government signed a deal with the Liberal/National state governments in Queensland, West Australia, Victoria and Tasmania for those governments to take responsibility for municiple and essential services, including supplying power and water to remote Aboriginal communities. The Labor South Australia government did not sign on in September but signed on in April 2015. 

Australian Federal governments since the 70s had been funding the essential services to remote communities. This funding had been won after decades of struggle by the Aboriginal community for self-determination and land rights.  The shifting of the responsibility for remote communities from the Federal government to the states is part of the Abbott government's complete restructure of the way in which funding is delivered in regard to Aboriginal Affairs.   This restructure was announced in the 2014 Federal budget, flagging $534 million to be cut from Indigenous programs, including $`160 million from Indigenous health and $9.5 million from Indigenous language support. The Abbott government announced they would dump 150 separate programs for the Indigenous community, streamlining them into 5 streams.  It is part of the Remote Community stream that funding for remote communities was shifted to the state governments.

Within months of signing the deal with the Federal government, WA Liberal Premier Colin Barnett announced the forcible closure of 150 of the 274 Aboriginal communities in WA.  According to Barnett, the state could not afford to provide basic services such as sewage and electricity tot he communities, calling them "economically unviable".

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has backed the scheme, outraging many (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people) in March when he declared that living on Aboriginal homelands was a "lifestyle choice" that could not be afforded. 

In response, Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and around Australia have been mobilising in opposition to the planned closures.  Last week, on May 1st more than rallies were held all around Australia in both major cities and regional areas, as well as internationally,  to oppose the racist plan to ethnically cleanse Aboriginal peoples.   

The biggest rally in Australia took place in Melbourne, with between 10,000 and 12,000 people taking to the streets and shutting down Melbourne city and the central business district for approximately three hours between 4pm and 7pm.

This was the second time that this had happened, an early rally in April against the closure had attracted 5,000 people. It also succeeded in closing down Melbourne city and the CBD for several hours.

I will be posting more on this issue in the coming weeks, but in the meantime here are some photos from the Friday rally in Melbourne.

You can also read some of my previous blogs on Aboriginal rights in Australia: here, here, here and here.

In solidarity, Kim