Now that Israel has made clear that the endless colonization process will continue, you’d think we might hear from the victims of that process.
Meet Atta Jaber, a farmer whose house outside Hebron has been destroyed four times by settlers but who rebuilds and hangs on, rarely leaving his property, because he has no choice but to defend his livelihood and ancestral lands for the sake of his children. Last week, Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions took me down to the occupied hills to meet Jaber. You see him above, standing next to his half-plowed zucchini and tomato field, left. And just past the tomatoes you can see the gas station that the Jewish colony Kiryat Arba built on his stolen land, and a hillside beyond that with settler “outposts” on it (not visible in my pic; but erected this year, Jaber says, in complete defiance of the alleged freeze).
On the way back to Jerusalem, Halper said he has continually urged American congressmen to have face-to-face conversations with Jaber, as I did– in which I asked this weathered farmer in his 40s questions about his experience and aspirations, and he answered me with eloquence and sincerity, in English. Just see for yourself. This man has greater political sophistication about the issue than just about anyone you will meet inside the Beltway. Halper shook his head over the fact that hundreds of our congresspeople visit the region at the behest of AIPAC, but never make this simple journey to see the victims of Israeli expansion. No: they sign letters saying that Israel is blameless and they put pressure on the Palestinians.
I made four videos of my visit with Jaber, and I thought it best to just post them all here, and give some descriptions of them so you can jump around and listen to this man tell you about his life.
In Video 1, Jaber points out the landscape of the occupation: the new buildings that Kiryat Arba is putting up and pouring cement for right across from him and the outpost buildings they’ve established on the bare hill to the right. And he says that just yesterday the illegal colonists tore down Palestinian grapevines. (Salim Shawamreh and Jeff Halper of ICAHD both appear on this video.)
Then Jaber explains the settlers’ motivation: state ideology and religious ideas, their deed from Abraham. As if Muslims are not also sons and daughters of Abraham. And he tells the story of his own nephew’s arrest for trying to stop the settlers from tearing out his irrigation pipes.
The best part of this video is about halfway through when Jaber tells me how afraid he is for his life and crops, and I ask him who is helping him, and he tells me: ICAHD and Rabbis for Human Rights. That’s all, folks. Later on Jaber told me that B’Tselem is also helping him, but this is the sorrow and the pity: an honest man is terrorized by Jewish religious crazies on his own land, his lands are stripped of water, in the most important political terrain in the world, and just a few brave people are helping him. But Anthony Weiner and Barney Frank and Rachel Maddow and Jerrold Nadler and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are nowhere to be seen. Oh my. This will be an exhibit in the Nakba Museum some day.
Video 2. This one’s short. You’ve heard about the separate roadways? Jaber shows me the old Palestinian road right next to his lands and then the wide settlement road that was put in, on his family’s land, stealing hundreds of acres of Palestinian land in the supposed Palestinian state. You see the roads side by side, you see Kiryat Arba across the way. And while Jaber may use that road locally, I believe that if he tries to travel any distance on it, he could be arrested.
Video 3. We were in Jaber’s house and I asked him whether he’s ever attacked a settler, and why not. I apologize for my tone now; I think violence will get us nowhere. I was shocked by what Jaber had told me about the attacks on him. Jaber repeatedly tells me this idea is not in his mind, and tells me about the dangers of taking up arms– to his own humanity and to his family. He also tells me about settlers who have been kind to him. Then at about 5:36 he starts talking about the two state solution, which he supports– if only the occupation were gone.
The highlight of this video is Jaber’s insistence that Palestinians want to be left alone to make their own future. “We are a clever people. We are not beggars. We have muscles. We have minds.” And a few millionaires too. And note Jaber’s analysis that in the years 1970-1990 or so, it was one country and Palestinians had freedom, but that Israel didn’t want one-state because it didn’t want Palestinians. In his analysis, you see the logic of the slow Judaization that is taking place across the country.
Finally, in video 4, he shows me a tomato/zucchini field from which the Israeli civil administration and water company, Mekorot, tore out his irrigation pipes. On his own land. Right next to a water meter that records how much he owes Mekorot. You can see the desiccated tomatoes.
I forgot to mention that it was after the Civil Administration tore out water pipes from Jaber’s family land in August, that we got that incredible video of the five-year-old boy screaming in anguish as his father was arrested. The boy is a cousin once removed of Jaber, who told me that his nephew, who was arrested in that video, is still in jail, two months later. What do Barney Frank and Howard Berman have to say about that? Diddly.
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