Israeli settlements hurt Palestinian livelihoods

By EVAN DRUKKER-SCHARDL and MIRANDA BACHMAN | November 16, 2017

This past August, 80 children in the town of Jubbet ad-Dhib arrived to their first day of school to find their classrooms gone. Concrete slabs sat in the place where, the evening before, six trailers stood with whiteboards, pens, papers and books awaiting the students and their teachers. Undeterred, or perhaps without any other options, the children began to study in the hot August sun before the school set up a tent large enough for most of the children.

Jubbet ad-Dhib, with a population of 160, has stood in its present location since 1929, when a group of Bedouin Arabs decided to settle in what was at that time Mandatory Palestine. Today the village is in Area C of the West Bank, which means it is under civil and military control of the Israeli government. The Israeli Civil Administration, which governs Area C, confiscated Jubbet ad-Dhib’s new school this summer because the aid organization that donated the trailers lacked the necessary building permits.

However, the Civil Administration almost never grants building permits to Palestinians in Area C. Nor do they allow Palestinian communities to connect to electricity and water infrastructure meant for nearby Israeli settlements. Jubbet ad-Dhib neighbors three Israeli settlements, all of which have running water, electricity and schools.

The story of Jubbet ad-Dhib is far from unique. In 2016, the UN estimates that Israel demolished almost 900 Palestinian structures in Area C. The Israeli government’s actions against Palestinians in Area C pose both an urgent humanitarian crisis and a long-term political one. Palestinians in this region cannot safely educate their children and build and strengthen their communities without swift intervention. Each demolition and confiscation makes it more difficult for members of communities like Jubbet ad-Dhib to remain in their homes.

If these demolitions continue — especially of villages and structures that sit next to Israeli settlements — it will allow these settlements to coalesce into “settlement blocs,” areas of the West Bank with several Israeli communities and no Palestinian presence.

The deliberate formation and expansion of settlement blocs contributes to the Israeli government’s creeping annexation of the West Bank and makes a two-state solution almost impossible by consolidating Israeli presence in the land that would make up a future Palestinian state. Demolitions in Jubbet ad-Dhib and all over Area C put the two-state solution in danger and bring us farther from peace every day.

As students who care about Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, as well as the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and a state of their own, this is unacceptable, and we must stand against it.

For these reasons, J Street U at JHU and the J Street U chapters up and down the southeastern United States are partnering with Israeli and Palestinian NGOs and leaders in Jubbet ad-Dhib to fight demolitions and preserve a two-state solution.

Our partners on the ground — and our own experience combatting the imminent demolition of another village, Susya — tell us that concerns raised by U.S. diplomats and members of Congress can help stop or slow these actions. The Women’s Council in Jubbet ad-Dhib, which advocates for the community internationally, has succeeded in bringing European diplomatic pressure to bear to help preserve the community. Now they’re calling on us to organize alongside them here in the States.

As J Street U launches our Stop Demolitions, Build Peace campaign, let’s join together to push political leaders and leaders in the Jewish community in the U.S. to proactively invest in a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians.

Let’s imagine a world where those with power over this conflict don’t stand idly by as the Israeli far-right governing coalition demolishes communities and with it, dreams of Palestinian self-determination coexistence alongside a secure and democratic State of Israel. Then, let’s act with the Women’s Council and other organizers in Jubbet ad-Dhib to stop demolitions, build peace and fight for a two-state solution.

Evan Drukker-Schardl and Miranda Bachman are the Co-Presidents of J Street U at JHU.

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