Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Dr H in the Holy Land IV: Land

The battle here is about land… and it has always been. Last night Nicholas took us to his land or his family’s land, it’s called Al Makhror, and now lies on the other side of the checkpoint.

It’s beautiful, hilly and full of trees, the sun was setting in between the valley and the sky was blue. When you look to the left and up you can see the ugly slabs of grey concrete wall on the horizon, and when you look further up you can just about see the tree tops peering above the wall. In fact this wall separates Palestinian land on one side from Palestinian land on the other side.

“I want to come and live here”, Nicholas said.

“How? It’s just hills…. And nothing more?”

“It’s beautiful and it’s my land.”

Yes I agreed with him, it certainly was picturesque, you could feel the breeze at the back of your neck, see the olives trees across the landscape, a goatherd in the distance with his animals, and the sun setting in the middle of two mountains, creating a beautiful orange sky. It was quiet, in the distance to the left you could see Route 60 – the road that only Israelis could drive on.

“If I don’t live here, it will become Israel … ” And the thought crossed my mind, that if he did live here, it would probably still become Israel. Looking up at the wall, that today separated Palestinian land from Palestinian land, clearly was a symbol that one day in the future it will separate Palestinian land from land that will become Israel, perhaps another settlement to be built.

Nicholas’ father was there, and he showed me a room that was made out of white large marbled stones, when you walked in, it was cool and dark and had a roof that spiraled up into the shape of a dome all made of stones, almost like a cave. The room was only about 4 metres in diameter and circular but they had a gas hob and a bed. Leading out onto the verandah there was a makeshift roof of corrugated metal on top, and beneath were sofas to sit on with a hole in the wall for a window but nothing more.

“We can not build here, this is our land and we can not build on it. I need permission and I know I will never get it”. Amu (uncle in Arabic) Yousef (Nicholas’ dad) answered my thoughts about why he had not finished what had been started. I looked into the sunset, not knowing how to answer.

It’s hateful how a Palestinian has to ask for permission to build on his land, which inevitably will be denied and then on that very same land a settlement will be built.

International humanitarian law prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population.

The establishment of the settlements leads to the violation of the rights of the Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.” (

IOF stopping an olive harvest. Courtesy S-C. A.

I saw a film yesterday and in it a Palestinian’s olive grove was being torn to shreds to make room for the wall. He shouted in response (or words to this effect as I did not write them down): “I will not leave this land, this is my land, if the Israelis are going to tear the trees down, then I will plant new ones, my family and I will not leave this land, if they tear down my house, we will live in a tent, we will not leave this land like our parents did in 1948. How is it that someone from Ethiopia has more right to this land than me?”

Jews of Ethiopia are also known as Falasha, or Beta Israel, the Jews of Ethiopia. More than 120 000 Ethiopian Jews have been resettled in Israel under Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991). They were granted this luxury under Israel’s Law of Return (1950) which allows Jews to settle in Israel and gain citizenship.

Israel states that it wants peace but with the expansion of settlements, whose houses are being sold in housing expos in London, I wonder if that will ever be possible? With settlements, comes the never ending division of territory, the separation of lives, different roads for different ethnicities, how can you expect peace when you can not live at peace with your neighbour? When two different people living on the same land can be treated so differently?

Anyways again I have to dash, I was meant to go to Nablus today, but it is under siege. This means that the IOF are shooting and creating more trouble for the Palestinians .. They have taken 4 children’s school buses, because apparently the children’s school supported Hamas. They are now shooting in a shopping mall?! I wonder where they get their information from .. perhaps they should just sit and observe and see what these buses are actually being used for. How will these children now get to school? Again an attack on society, on the right to education … perhaps I will get to go another day.

I do urge you to try and watch:

Writers on the Borders – by Samir Abdallah and José Reynes

July 8, 2008

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"