As part of MIFTAH’s “Gender-Based Violence and Women’s Empowerment” Project, funded by UNFPA, MIFTAH works to enact UN Resolution 1325 through forming coalitions and supporting them with information and capacity-building in three districts (Jericho and the southern Jordan Valley, Hebron and Nablus).
Upon recommendation from the coalition members, MIFTAH connected with the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2012 to find ways of cooperation and coordination in the field of documenting human rights violations against women and girls through 1325. An agreement was reached to train a group of coalition members in the three areas to document human rights and be sent to the commissioner’s office through MIFTAH. Meanwhile MIFTAH followed up on the trainers in their field work and to see how compatible the high commissioners’ criteria for documenting human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls was, given that most often these women are subject to indirect violations. This is due to home demolitions, forced displacement, raids, the arrest of husbands and sons in addition to the repeated attacks by settlers in Area C of the West Bank.
Through its field experience in supporting coalition members in the field of documenting human rights violations against women, MIFTAH felt it was necessary to develop its own model for these violations in a way that it would also document the social, health, economic and psychological impacts of the violations against Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territories and which prevent them from actively participating in state building.
Fatimeh Najada, or Um Al Abed, 53 has been a widow for almost 25 years and is a mother to two young men and a girl. She is on dialysis every other day and has a weak heart. In May of this year, her home was demolished, apparently because it was too close to the Jewish settlement of Niran. According to claims by the Israeli authorities, the land on which the house was built belongs to the settlement, something which was not apparent while standing on the ruins of her home. All of the surrounding land has already been confiscated for the sake of agricultural settlements in the area and are almost completely empty of residents.
After her husband died, Um Al Abed left her husband’s family in Hebron and moved to Al Ojeh with her own family to find a living. Her sons worked in the settlement farms in the Jordan Valley but the jobs were not always steady, which made their lives even more difficult.
There are 31 settlements in the Jordan Valley, most of them agricultural. They are built over an area of 12,000 dunams with 60,000 more annexed to them for agricultural purposes, taking advantage of the perfect climate for growing certain fruits and medicinal herbs.
The residents of the Bedouin Al Najada area live in homes built of burlap and animal hair; some are made of corrugated iron propped up with wood and steel pillars with others graduating to stone. According to the mukhtar of the family, there are around 16 houses in Al Ojeh built without a license and which are threatened with demolition housing 150-200 people.
Um Al Abed explains that her house is not even fully paid for and that the preparations for her son’s wedding had almost been completed. The bedroom had been bought and the bride’s new things were all prepared. She would live with her husband’s family. “Now all of this has been buried under a pile of rubble,” she says. The Israeli army did not allow her to take any of her furniture or belongings out of the house, so she and her children carried anything they could in their arms before it was razed to the ground. She rented a small house in the area because a tent was all that officials could offer her. She also receives subsidies from the social affairs ministry totaling NIS750 every four months.
Um Al Abed’s story is typical of many Palestinian families in Jordan Valley villages. These families are deprived of some basic human rights such as shelter, water and job opportunities.
This encirclement of the people has threatened the lives of the Bedouin, who depend on shepherding in vast grazing areas; they also depend on the presence of water, which has now been confiscated by the occupation for the sake of “the settlements’ security”.
These restrictions have resulted in a serious imbalance at all levels, whether in terms of Bedouin life or in creating a demographic imbalance in favor of the settlers. Also, at the social and economic levels, it has caused a slow exile of the people; shepherds and their herds are prevented from accessing water resources and Palestinian construction is prohibited in Area C of the Valley.
Researcher Abdel Sattar Shreideh says in his research paper “The Palestinian Jordan Valley…Trickling Away”: “Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this is that the occupation is pushing Palestinian youths especially towards abandoning their land; it has turned them into an army of laborers who work to develop the settlements’ agricultural areas instead.
It is difficult to determine how many people work in the Palestinian agricultural sector in the Jordan Valley mainly because the crops and their workers are usually run by families and not individuals. However, the climate imposed there has prompted the larger part of the youth sector to work in the settlements and has allowed for a rise in the percentage of women working in the agricultural sector by 35% with the remaining 65% being males who are an average of 48 years old.
These percentages shed light on the migration of Palestinian youths from their land in favor of working for the agricultural sector in settlements. This is a result of the built-up frustration that the occupation created for the Palestinian agricultural sector in this area.