Text size

"I was born here, in Khirbet Tana, and I inherited the land from my grandfather. I am a shepherd and have a family of 10. All of us are shepherds, and that is our sole source of livelihood. In June I moved to Beit Furik, because in the summer the sheep can't take the heat in Khirbet Tana. On Tuesday, July 5, 2005, at around 8:30 A.M., I received a phone call from one of the shepherds in the area, who told me that the Israeli army was demolishing our houses. I immediately went there and when I was two and a half kilometers from the houses in Tana, Israeli soldiers in an army jeep prevented me from getting any closer. The soldiers left the area at around noon. In place of a house I found a pile of cinder blocks. My family and I live in two new structures built of cinder blocks and mud. We built the house to live in and protect ourselves from the cold in winter and the heat in summer. The soldiers also destroyed the livestock pen. We kept the taboun [a large brick oven] in the pen. They didn't leave us anything. They also demolished other houses and huts of people in the area."

This is the account that Wassef Hanani, 51, gave to a B'Tselem field researcher. The home of Abed al-Kader Ibrahim, 72, was also demolished. He still remembers his grandmother as the owner of the surrounding land. He and his brothers and sisters were born in Tana. "I don't know any other place. Here I got married and my nine children live here .... Between June and August we move to Beit Furik ... to herd the sheep and live there in tents, but it's only temporary. There isn't enough land or water there for herding. They didn't only demolish homes, they also destroyed the elementary school building. It had two classrooms where the children study up to fourth grade. It's the only school here. They also destroyed part of the fence around the mosque. An ancient mosque, which was built more than 200 years ago."

Information about the destruction of Tana has been completely swallowed up by the media inundation of disengagement-related news. It is a Palestinian community that developed as an annex of the existing village Beit Furik, east of Nablus. There are dozens of similar subsidiary communities that formed over the centuries in the West Bank. Some grew into independent villages, some depend in one form or another on the main village. But the gradual transition from living in caves to living in ramshackle huts, to small buildings and even to larger buildings, is common to all of them.

Much can be learned about this natural process from a research study drafted by the geographer David Grossman, printed in 1977 in the book, "Judea and Samaria, Chapters in Settlement History," which was published by the departments of geography at Tel Aviv and Bar-Ilan universities (Rehavam Ze'evi was one of the editors). This prolonged process demonstrates the continuity of Palestinian existence here over hundreds of years, the way that traditional agriculture coped with natural hardships and the preservation of pre-capitalistic agrarian traditions, on the one hand, and on the other, the emphasis placed in recent years on educating the younger generation: This is why schools were built in these annexes, if only the earlier grades.

On July 5, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and the Civil Administration demolished 22 structures and sheep pens, which served 450 persons. Only two structures and the mosque were spared. "These are largely temporary structures, without permits, that were built on an active firing zone used by the IDF," the Civil Administration wrote to Haaretz in response. "A military closure order exists for the site. It is superfluous to note the great danger of the residents being in the firing zone. These are structures that are not permanently occupied; they are occupied mainly in the winter, primarily by residents of Beit Furik, where their permanent residences are located."

For Israeli authorities, every structure built after 1967 that does not have a permit from the occupation authorities is unlawful and therefore subject to demolition. And when the absence of permits does not keep people away, the firing zone comes and does so under the guise of concern for residents. This is the same firing zone that for some reason is not dangerous to the settlers of Mechora, only a few kilometers from Tana.

The Israeli love for law and order was fulfilled not only a short distance from Mechora, which like all of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unlawful according to international law. The demolition in the name of the law was carried out a short distance away from the annexes that are known even in Israel as "unlawful" - the settlement outposts of Itamar.

Tana is not an isolated case. Other village-annexes in the Jordan Rift, southern Hebron Hills and the area of Qalqilyah are similarly threatened by the Israeli love of the law. But there is much more here than an isolated action. In addition to the destruction of a venerable social fabric, this is yet another method by which Israel attacks the broad margins of the Palestinian West Bank and dispossesses their occupants, in preparation for their annexation to Israel.