Trending Topics:

Israeli police arrest three Palestinian youth who returned to the village of Iqrit

on 5 Comments
Nidal Khoury, Jeries Khiatt and Walaa Sbeit in court this morning. (Photo: Iqrit)

Jeries Khiatt, Nidal Khoury, and Walaa Sbeit in court this morning. (Photo: Iqrit)

Sunday morning police and authorities with the Israeli Lands Administration arrested three youth in the village of Iqrit near the border with Lebanon, uprooting trees and confiscating tents and furniture. The youths—Walaa Sbeit, Nidal Khoury and Jeries Khiatt were eating breakfast outside of the village’s church, the only fixed structure in Iqrit, when around 20 officers arrived.

“We had our mass in our church, and it was a memorial for a man from Iqrit who passed away a month ago,” said Shadia Sbeit (aunt of Walaa), the village spokesperson. Khoury yelled as the police took chairs and tables that were borrowed for the commemoration. In turn, three officers threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly, said Sbeit.

Monday morning the three youths were arraigned in a district court. Sbeit and Khiatt were released under house arrest for 60 days, for the charge of interfering with an officer’s duty. After the arrest, tens of other villagers arrived to Iqrit and several other and supporters gathered outside of the jail where they were held.

Aside from the church and the cemetery there are no other traces of the Iqrit built around 270 years ago by Christian Palestinian families. The Israeli army bombed the entire village in 1951. Then the newly established state of Israel appropriated the area. For decades Iqrit’s leafy hills were under virtual lock and key by a closed military order, and today it is under the stewardship of the lands administration re-zoned as a park. Under Israeli law, permanent structures cannot be built in nature preserves and so the youth sleep in the town’s church or in tents.

Alex Kane and I visited Iqrit during April for their annual Easter celebration. While we were there, the village appeared heavily monitored, with a drone passing overhead. At that time we interviewed Sbeit who is a well-known musician with the Palestinian music ground the Republic of DebKey. I spoke with him again last week during a drive as he headed from Haifa to Iqrit to spend the night. In the car he mused that in Iqrit he and the others “live without material possessions,” but that they are fortunate in that they have done the impossible; they forged the Palestinian dream of returning to their taken lands. For Sbeit, that meant curating a new possibility for how Palestinians can imagine their futures inside of a state that defines itself as Jewish homeland. When he and around 20 youth took up residence in the church two years ago, it marked the only example of descendants of Palestinians expelled during 1948 being able to return to their family’s original village.

The raid of Iqrit comes just two weeks after the Pope’s visit to the region, where Shadia Sbeit and her husband had lunch with the Holy See. “We asked for direct interference with Prime Minister Netatnyahu.” Iqrit villagers, like many Palestinians expelled during Israel’s war of independence and the Palestinian Nakba, or “catastrophe” when over 750,000 were forcibly removed or fled, want to go back to their village. And unlike most of the over 500 villages destroyed between 1947-51, nothing was ever constructed on top of Iqrit. There is no new Israeli town, no Jewish National Fund forest, where evergreens grow “memoricide,” fielding over the traces of a recent Palestinian past across the Jewish state, according to the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé.

Villagers of Iqrit are due back in court on July 1st as they have petitioned to connect the church to electricity. Separately, they have a complaint against the municipality of Ma’ale Asaf to turn over $25,000 in government funds allocated for the restoration of the cemetery.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

5 Responses

  1. just on June 10, 2014, 9:54 am

    “Sbeit and Khiatt were released under house arrest for 60 days, for the charge of interfering with an officer’s duty.”

    What about Khoury?

    Christians and all other folk all over need to know what Israel has done and continues to do to all Palestinians– no matter their chosen belief !

    “JERUSALEM (AFP) — Several dozen radical Jews gathered Monday at the Jerusalem site known as the Cenacle to protest against Christian pilgrims praying there for Pentecost, a police spokeswoman said.

    “Around 30 Jewish faithful gathered to pray in the presence of (rightwing Likud) MP Moshe Feiglin,” Luba Samri told AFP.

    The Cenacle, or Upper Room, on Mount Zion is in a two-story building considered holy to both Christians and Jews, who regard it as the place where the biblical figure David was buried.

    An AFP photographer said Christian pilgrims and tourists were kept by police in one part of the church as Jews protested, danced, and prayed.

    Pope Francis ended his recent Middle East trip by celebrating mass at the Cenacle, amid a decades-long debate over prayer rites at the site where Christians believe Jesus had his Last Supper.

    The Cenacle is also where Christians believe that the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.

    “The Christians prayed at the tomb of king David, and for us this is blasphemy,” one of the Jewish protesters, Shaga Brand, told AFP about Christian prayers there on Sunday, calling it a “provocation”.”

    • on June 10, 2014, 1:53 pm

      i can’t necessarily altogether explain it, but i think anybody whos been following the sorrowful tragedy of the palestinians all these years can understand this following point i’m about to make.
      i think the most emotionaly “touching” thing i’ve ever, EVER, read about the whole israeli caused palestine crisis is the statement;
      “when he and around 20 youth took up residence in the church two years ago it marked the only example of descendants of palestinians expelled during 1948 being able to return to their family’s original village”.
      i said this on another post and i’ll say it again here, there needs to be some kind of mass sponsorship program organized by american churches to have christian palestinians come to america, and everywhere, to let these palestinian christians tell the brainwashed masses what’s really been going on over there.

  2. annie on June 10, 2014, 2:42 pm

    a few years ago,just months before the youths re inhabited the village, we published “It is only 20 minutes from my village to the ruins of Iqrit — but 63 years of dispossession” by Fida Jiryis

    at the time i had never heard of Iqrit, nor the history of the high court ruling. it’s a moving story:

    On Christmas Eve, 1950, the Israeli army blew up all the houses of Iqrit, in a timely “Christmas gift” to its expelled Christian residents. My father, a boy of 12 at the time, saw the smoke rising above the village in the distance, and, in panic and haste, told a man named Tu’meh from Iqrit, who had taken refuge in Fassouta. Tu’meh’s eyes filled with tears.

    imagine my relief just months later reading about them coming back.

    just thought i’d mention. there isn’t a lot there historically alex and allision didn’t cover but reading Jiryis’s account, driving there from her village to “to visit her[friend’s mother] grave on the occasion of Good Friday, as is the custom among Palestinian Christians” is a worthy read.

    and i recommend these awesome photos

  3. Zach S on June 11, 2014, 11:28 am

    If a group of Jews descended from those expelled from Hebron in 1929 returned to their village, this website would call them “settlers” and say their lives are forfeit. Gotta love those double standards.

    • VoxVeritas on June 11, 2014, 3:28 pm

      Um, maybe you’ve noticed: Jews HAVE returned to Hebron in significant numbers, supported since 1968 by a heavy military presence, turning the former Arab market and residential areas of the historic core into a tension-filled ghost town.

      In 1929, Hebron’s Jews were evacuated by the British authorities for their own safety following a massacre which, of course, was horrendous and should never have happened.

      Perhaps you’ll be gracious enough to admit that the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Iqrit (and (Biram) — not to mention that of hundreds of other Arab-Palestinian towns, villages and urban neighborhoods, including several well-documented massacres — should never have happened either.

      After all, we don’t want any double standards, do we?

Leave a Reply