The Independent / June 15, 2022
The only thing that can stop this injustice – our expulsion from our homes – is international pressure.
Growing up in Masafer Yatta – in southern West Bank, in Palestinian territories – was in many ways a beautiful experience. As a child, I dearly loved living in the natural environment in which my family and community has thrived. Along with my father, grandfather and brothers, we would take care of the sheep, enjoying the village life of a farmer. I remember school, summer camps, weddings and playing with friends.
But there was another side to life here. When I was three years old, soldiers forcibly evicted all families in the villages of the Masafer Yatta area. It was a traumatic event. A year after the eviction, people were able to return to their lands because of a temporary court order.
We have now lived through a 23-year-long legal battle to save our land. I became an activist, like my parents, watching – and filming – with pain how the Israeli occupation targets my community: demolishing homes, water pipes, and roads. Tearing apart places and people I love. Meanwhile, just a few hundred metres away from my home, illegal Israeli settlements have been expanding, stealing more of our land and resources. They enjoy all the benefits of the infrastructure that the army prevents us from building on our land.
Things are now at a critical moment. The Israeli Supreme Court, aligned with the interests of the occupation, has decided that my community can be destroyed at any moment. Some 1,300 people will become homeless and 12 villages will be wiped out.
The planned evictions are justified by Israeli authorities on grounds that our villages are located in a so-called “firing zone” (declared as such by those same authorities). But our families have been living here for centuries – the firing zone is an excuse, a brutal tool, to evict us.
Since the court ruling, there have already been two large-scale demolition raids. Overall, dozens of structures were wiped out, around half of which were people’s homes, as well structures used by our communities for agriculture and farming. Dozens made homeless, livelihoods destroyed. Israeli forces have also delivered demolition orders to an entire village in Masafer Yatta – nothing was spared; homes, water wells, sheep shelters, everything is targeted for destruction.
How can this be happening? The answer is that Israel is not held to account. Palestinian homes are demolished and land is confiscated. Illegal Israeli settlements grow and new ones are established.
The reason why our land is being taken is very clear to me: it is to make more room for Israeli settlers, part of much bigger efforts to have land for Jews only, without Palestinians. This is also clear from the racist policies and laws imposed on us, preventing us from having building permits and basic infrastructure, while the settlers – on our Palestinian land – have all they need. Even their chicken farms get better services than us.
This is, in other words, a very clear apartheid.
So, what now? Diplomats visit us, observe, but nothing changes on the ground. Soldiers and settlers create the “facts on the ground”, ethnically cleanse us, and assault us – the violence, which I myself have experienced, is to make sure we feel vulnerable and insecure. Like anyone around the world, our home means so much to us. It represents our memories, our traditions, our sense of community and togetherness. Israel wants to destroy this and remove us.
We will remain steadfast on our land – but we need your support. We started the #savemasaferyatta social media campaign to get the attention of the international community – share our stories amongst your family, friends, and elected representatives.
This is our home and we have no other place to go. The only thing that can stop this injustice – an expulsion pursued and approved by the Israeli government, military, and judiciary – is international pressure. This is why I am writing. This is why you must act.
Basel Adra is a journalist and activist from Masafer Yatta