The following report was published by Medical Aid for Palestinians on 31 January 2014
Al-Nu'man village: 'It's complicated'
At the beginning of January, Medical Aid for Palestinians organised a delegation to the West Bank in association with the Council for Arab British Understanding (Caabu), with Tessa Jowell MP and Nick Herbert MP. The delegation included meetings with diplomats, United Nations Agencies, the Palestinian Authority, and local humanitarian agencies and human rights groups.
During the visit, the delegation accompanied Al Haq – an independent Palestinian human rights organisation based in Ramallah, to al-Nu’man.
Al-Nu’man is a small village consisting of one street, around 25 houses and 220 residents. It is situated southeast of Jerusalem and northeast of Bethlehem, just north of Beit Sahour.
Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in 1967 included Al Nu’man. Whilst they took possession of the land, however, the Israeli authorities gave the majority of the inhabitants of the village West Bank identity cards, rather than Jerusalem IDs that most Palestinians were given in annexed areas. As a result, the villagers are currently caught in an absurd situation whereby Israel considers them to be illegally residing in Jerusalem, simply by being in their homes.
In addition to the problem of holding ID cards that do not permit them, under Israeli law, to live in their own village, substantial areas of the surrounding land has also been confiscated due to settlement expansion and the establishment of a military area.
Problems escalated for al-Nu’man in 2003, when construction of the separation barrier began near the village. Then, in May 2006, a permanent checkpoint in the barrier became the only entrance and exit point to and from the village.
Today, al-Nu’man is bordered on three sides by the separation barrier. On the western side of the village, the former road to Jerusalem has been partially destroyed by the Israeli authorities and is blocked by a metal gate at the entrance of the village. As a result, residents are severed from both East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
Only al-Nu’man residents with West Bank IDs are permitted through the checkpoint. The movement of people and vehicles is tightly restricted, impacting residents’ access to essential services and supplies. Even relatives of villagers are not permitted to enter al-Nu’man to visit their loved ones.
As one villager put it in an affidavit taken by al Haq on a previous occasion: “We feel isolated and under siege. The authorities, so we see, are trying to make things hard for us, to molest us and our children and to cut us off from our entire surroundings, all in order to hinder us and to cause us despair on the way to abandoning our village.”
As internationals, on the other hand, we were able to enter the village easily.
A woman invited us to drink tea with her. She told us that she lived in her house with her husband and three children, while another son lives in a shelter that used to be for the donkey. Their house is not big enough to hold them all, she said.
When her son got married, they built a house for him and his wife, but it was knocked down by the Israeli authorities on the grounds that they did not have a building permit. Because they are considered to be residing in al-Nu’man illegally, as West Bank ID holders, it is not possible to obtain a building license.
A number of homes, electricity pylons, water pipes and olive trees in the village have been destroyed by the Israeli authorities. The destruction or confiscation of private property is prohibited under customary international humanitarian law, unless required by “imperative military necessity”, yet Israel routinely uses lack of planning in Palestinian areas and “administrative” house demolitions as a means of demolishing structures in areas that are wanted for Israeli settlements or bypass roads.
Because al-Nu’man has no medical facilities or pharmacy, residents can only access healthcare outside the village. They must stop and pass through the checkpoint regardless of their condition. Doctors are not permitted to enter the village. If one of the residents requires emergency treatment, an ambulance might not be able to get to them due to the ban on non-residents entering.
Although some of her close relatives are allowed to visit, our host told us she was worried that if her children get married it will be difficult for their spouses or children to visit. She has three sisters who have not been allowed to visit her in 7 years.
We were told how an old man from al-Nu’man had once taken his donkey to buy two gas canisters for his house. When he tried to pass through the checkpoint, the Israeli soldier said the man and the gas canisters could go through but that the donkey could not pass.
Physical and psychological harassment and restrictions on movement have all combined to create insufferable living conditions as a means of indirectly forcing al-Nu’man’s residents to leave the village.
Director of Advocacy and Communications, Medical Aid for Palestinians
For more information on al-Nu’man Village see Al-Haq’s Virtual Field Visit and report.