What does it take to displace Palestinians from their land?
In the Wadi Qana valley, years of Israeli government restrictions on Palestinian farming and the incursion of illegal settlements into the area, have left the once lush valley polluted and damaged.
Despite this, some locals are still clinging on to what little they have left.
Abu Adham says: “I was born here in this area, and raised here. This place is a part of me…I care about it…what should I tell you. I swear to God, I’ve started to hate this valley.”
Abu Adham and his wife are among the few Palestinians still living in Wadi Qana, in their home that was built in 1960, prior to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967.
Since then, Israel has designated parts of Wadi Qana as a “nature reserve” and parts as Area C — the more than 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control.
Israel has used such designations to prevent all Palestinian agricultural, industrial, and commercial works in the valley, making it nearly impossible for the Palestinians that lived and farmed in the area to survive.
Abu Adham continues: “The occupation prevents us from planting any trees or new saplings, it’s not allowed. Any building… it’s banned, banned, banned, everything is banned. Even small stone walls, if you build, they will destroy it. If you plant a sapling they will uproot it. If you put up a tent, they will destroy it and throw it away. This is the occupation and what they do. We’re in a terrible dilemma, really terrible.”
Meanwhile, six illegal Israeli settlements and outposts have been built on the valley slopes, in contravention of international law.
For nearly 20 years, waste water from the settlements was released into the valley’s stream without hindrance, despite being a protected ‘nature reserve’.
The wastewater spoiled the natural springs and farmers’ water sources, causing nearly all 50 families that onced lived here and enjoyed the springs recreationally, to leave to a nearby village.
Abu Adham: “Before these settlements, we were so happy, and comfortable. They even brought wild boars to the land that destroyed everything for us. They destroy the vegetables that we plant, they destroy the figs, grapes, oranges, almonds, peaches, everything…destroyed. I hope God will help us.”
While proper sewage systems were eventually installed in the settlements, the stream continues to be polluted by wastewater during system malfunctions, which locals say happen almost every few months.
In addition to destroying the livelihoods of Palestinian farmers and residents, the wastewater has left irreparable damage to the natural ecosystem of the valley.
Animals that are brought by Palestinian farmers to graze have no choice but to drink from the polluted streams, while the contaminated water has caused fruit and olive trees to die off.