Cave-dwelling Palestinian farmers facing eviction from homes (TELEGRAPH UK) By Adrian Blomfield, Jenba, the West Bank 05/14/12)
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A unique way of life in the West Bank is under threat after Israel
renewed a legal bid to evict more than 1,600 cave-dwelling
Palestinian farmers from their land in the desert hills near the
Biblical city of Hebron.
Israel´s defence ministry is expected to seek court approval this
week to destroy up to 12 traditional "fellaheen" communities situated
in an area designated as a training zone for the occupying Israeli
The issue has threatened to heighten tensions with the Palestinian
leadership, which has refused to resume peace talks with Israel as
long as it continues to build settlements on land it occupied in the
Six Day War of 1967.
It has also set the Jewish state on a collision course with European
powers, particularly the British government which funded the
construction of cisterns and sanitation facilities for the cave-
dwelling communities, home to some of the poorest Palestinians in the
"The UK takes any reports of projects funded by the UK taxpayer being
demolished seriously," a Foreign Office spokesman said on Sunday. "We
are aware of the legal proceedings and are monitoring the outcome of
The EU´s 27 foreign ministers will issue a strongly worded rebuke on
Monday, denouncing Israel for expanding Jewish settlements and
demanding Palestinians be allowed to build on their own land without
fear of having their homes demolished.
The Foreign Office said it was particularly concerned by the 40 per
cent increase in the number of Palestinian property demolitions
ordered by Israel last year.
"They cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; are
harmful to the peace process; and, in all but the most limited
circumstances, are contrary to international humanitarian law," said
Alistair Burt, the Middle East minister.
Although the communities under threat have been marked on British
maps since the 1830s, no one knows how long they have really existed.
In the village of Jenba, one of the largest of the 12 communities,
they all remember they were born in the same caves as their fathers
Sitting on the floor of his cave, its ceiling covered with cobwebs
and blackened with stove smoke, Hamid Jabareen, 72 and almost blind,
recalled that the only time his father left home was when he was
drafted into the Turkish defence of Jerusalem before its capture by
Gen. Allenby´s troops in 1917.
With its motley collection of tents and discreetly hidden caves,
Jenba is an unprepossessing place far removed from the cacophonous
bustle of the West Bank´s sprawling towns and cities.
But behind its narrow doorway, Mr Jabareen´s home – shared with his
two wives and myriad children and grandchildren – is surprisingly
homely, its natural walls reinforced with stonework and its kitchen
and sleeping areas set at split levels.
Mr Jabareen has spent his whole life tending to his flocks and
cultivating wheat and barley. The prospect of being deprived of his
both his livelihood and the only way of life he has ever known is
inconceivable to him.
"It is my land," he said. "It is the land of my father and of my
grandfather before him.
"We can only hope that decent and dignified people will raise their
voices and say something about it."
The cave dwellers say they have been the victims of a sustained
campaign of Israeli harassment for decades.
Settlers living nearby have poisoned their cisterns, burnt their
crops, beaten them up and rustled their livestock.
But the greatest threat to their futures began 12 years ago, when
Israeli forces forcibly evicted 700 of them after ruling that they
were illegally living in a military training zone.
Although they won a reprieve through a court injunction the following
year, Israel´s defence ministry is now determined to resolve the
It will disclose the contents of a new court petition this week.
Activists say they expect the ministry will seek to evict and
demolish most, perhaps all, the communities.
The ministry, which sees the cave dwellers as illegal squatters and
accuses them of rejecting compromises to relocate them, refused to be
drawn on what course it would take.
Rights groups claimed that Israel´s real intention is to allow
settlers to move onto the land once the Palestinians have been
Ezra Nawi, an Israeli activist, said: "To build new settlements, you
need to get the Palestinians out somehow, which is why there has been
a campaign of intimidation and harassment to make more and more
people leave." (© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012.
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