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Amnesty International is sending out letters to the faithful asking them to protest an Israeli crime: Israel is denying water and electricity to Arab Palestinians, destroying their villages that have existed since time immemorial and driving them off their land - another Nakba. If it were true it would be truly frightening and shameful. From what I can learn, this circular letter ought to be listed in Snopes and Urban legends.

The letter reads:

"Dear Ehud Olmert - Prime Minister,

I am concerned to learn that house demolitions are continuing and that currently the residents of Humsa and Hadidiya face the demolition of their homes and expulsion from their area. I call for the demolition and expulsion orders to be rescinded, for harassment to end, and for confiscated property to be returned.

Another grave concern is the restrictions placed on the residents living in the area and the failure to be allowed access to essential resources such as water and electricity. I urge you to remove any hindrance to the residents' access to water, electricity and other basics needed to survive. Please allow the Palestinian villagers in the Jordan Valley to move freely within the Jordan Valley, and between the valley and the rest of the West Bank.

I ask that you impose a moratorium on house demolitions and forced evictions in the occupied West Bank until the law is amended to bring it into line with international standards.

Finally, I would also like to take this opportunity to urge you to remove the responsibility for planning and building regulations in the Jordan Valley and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the Israeli military authorities and to transfer it solely to the local Palestinian communities.

Many thanks for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to receiving your response."

Note that this supposed humanitarian protest has included a number of political demands that add up to "end the occupation now, unconditionally." The letter is not intended to really influence PM Olmert, who is no doubt informed about the actual nature of activities in the Jordan valley. However it does influence the Amnesty International recipients and donors who get the letter. Any reasonable person would infer from the letter, that Israel is uprooting thousands of Arab Palestinians from a verdant paradise where they have lived since the time of Goliath, tending their flocks like the patriarchs of old. Evil Zionists driving Caterpillar bulldozers demolished the picturesque stone houses of the Palestinian Arabs, which have stood for hundreds, maybe thousands of years in Filastin. Fat Nazi-like IDF officers cutting the electric wires and settler fanatics poisoning the wells. Veritably a second Nakba. Worse than the Holocaust without a doubt.

Here is a picture of the "verdant paradise" and the great metropolises that Israel is destroying, from a pro-Palestinian source, POICA:

Verdant Arab Palestinian village destroyed by Israel
(source: poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=1123 )

A picture is worth 10,000 words. The light brown stuff is called sand. This type of region is generally called "desert." The "villages" that have stood from time immemorial turn out to be tents and tar paper and sheet metal shacks. This is freely admitted by the POICA:

...the local people who confirmed that all the dwellings are of primitive nature built of animal hair tents and barracks which are very easy to dismantle at any time....

The population of Al Hadidiya and Humsa derived from the families of Basharat and Bani Odeh from Tamun village to the east of Tubas city. Before the occupation of 1967, a portion of Tamun people moved to settle in a place called Al Hadidiya in the Buqei'a valley which is about 10 km to the eat of Tubas, and began to rear animal due to the availability of rich soil, pastures and water...

...the supreme court issued a decision confining them to stay in 91 dunums which are un enough for the livelihood of their cattle whose number is estimated at 10000. [English errors reproduced as in the original]

POICA's map shows that the real name of Humsa is Khirbet Humsa, which means ruin of Humsa - a village that was abandoned a very long time ago. Some of the people in question are from the Bani Odeh "family." Bani Odeh is probably the name of a Bedouin tribe.

Amnesty International tells us, under the scare headline, "Evictions crisis deepens for Palestinian villagers" (source: amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/Evictions-crisis-deepens-for-Palestinian-villagers-20070820"More than 100 villagers, most of them children, risk losing their homes and being forced out of the area."(emphasis added) That is the entire crisis that demands world attention, and requires that the Israeli government immediately end the occupation. "More than 100" people have violated a court order and pitched tents in the desert, and they "risk" losing their homes. Well yes, if you pitch your tent on public land, you are trespassing, and and you risk losing your home, if home is where the tent is. But one suspects that these people have adequate permanent housing in town. Imagine if you pitched your tent in Yucca flats, and the evil US Army arrived and said, "You can't stay here, it's a closed military area." You call amnesty, and next thing you know Amnesty International and the United Nations are condemning the US government and demanding that they stop the "house demolitions," and run water pipes and electric lines to your house.

It is interesting that this story has gotten little mention in the Israeli press. There are no articles presenting the Israeli point of view and no mention of the court decisions. There is only one article by Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz (Source: haaretz.com/hasen/spages/903676.html) that paints the same fictitious atrocity story that Amnesty International does, with a bit of additional embroidery and a small "improvement." Levy insists that these are not "Bedouin" but "Palestinians:

In the summer everyone is together; in the winter the women and children are in Tamun and the men remain with the flocks.

We sit in the shade of used flour sacks stretched between wooden poles, a substitute for the tents that were destroyed. The women crowd together on the ground behind a curtain made from another sack of flour. There is no electricity, no water, no sewer, no school. Nothing. Despite their lifestyle, these people are not Bedouin but rather Palestinian shepherds - even if the documents of the omniscient Civil Administration sometimes indicate otherwise. Abu Saker says his father was born here, too. For decades they have been shepherds in these deserted areas.

How does Levy decide they are not Bedouin? It is not Israeli documents, but anti-Israeli articles that claim they are Bedouin. They live as Bedouin live. Somehow it is supposed to be the fault of the Israeli government that there is no water, no sewage and no electricity in the middle of the desert. Does illegal "possession" for decades grant right of ownership?

But the most important revelation of Gideon Levy is that this is just a summer encampment of people who live in Tamun, and decided to expropriate some land for their flocks. If some Jerusalemites erect tents in a park, is that OK because they lived in the area for decades? If I decide to set up a sheep farm in Arizona, is the US government obliged to supply water and sewage and electricity?

Of course, the argument that Levy and others are trying to make is that these are just "temporary" encampments. But if the "Palestinians" (Bedouin or otherwise) had built stone houses there, would Amnesty International or Gideon Levy or POICA or the UN (which also publicized this hoax) be any less upset?

If settlers put up an outpost next to Efrat or Ariel, will Gideon Levy say that they have a right to be there, because they have been "in the area" for decades? Will Amnesty international uphold the right of Palestinian Jews to these illegal outposts? Will they ask people to petition Ehud Olmert to stop destroying the settlements?

It must take a special mentality for Amnesty International donors to pay money to an organization in order for them to receive hoax letters from that organization, which they are asked to forward to the Israeli government. I get my hoax letters for free and put them in the deleted folder. But if someone wants to pay for such letters, I will gladly supply all they want. In Britain they stopped teaching the Holocaust, Germany is boycotting Israel, the French are encouraging anti-Semitism, Barak Obama is a Muslim, Bill Gates is giving away $200 to each person who forwards the e-mail and this inexpensive preparation will make any 80 year old great grandmother look like Beyonce. (I should not have to add that these are all hoaxes - not true - but based on some responses I got, it seems I need to add it. - A.I.)

If you want to contact Amnesty International about their hoax letter, you can do at the addresses listed in this contact form (or send email through the form) AI Contact.

Remember the one hundred people in their summer tents the next time you read about Israeli "atrocities" - "expropriation," "house demolitions," and "war crimes" from a "reliable" source like Amnesty International or Ha'aretz newspaper.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000515.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 3 Comments

There are a number of issues. If Israel was an "occupying power" it would be obliged to uphold the law of the land. If this means Jordanian law, then it would imply occupation from Jordan, but Jordan relinquished all claims to the West Bank, essentially defining itself as an "occupier".

Simply put, this land cannot be defined as "occupied" in any way that supports any meaning of the Geneva conventions. The land is "disputed", a dispute between Israel and a group of Arabs which makes actual titled ownership a major issue ... acquiring land by squatting need not and should not be tolerated.

This brings us to Jewish settlements. The bulk (about 80%) of Jewish settlements are built on land, like the Etzion Bloc, which Israel owns by virtue of purchase and valid title. How anybody in their right mind can say that owners building on their own land is "illegal" is beyond me ... outside a political desire to make it so, of course.

Historically,from Abraham to the kings, the Jewish nation was born and developed in the bulk of the area known the "Palestine Mandate" (Israel, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza). This makes Jews the only indigenous people in the area ... the Arabs, including Palestinians, are indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. Being indigenous in an unclaimed land gives Jews rights that others don't have, the basis of the San Remo Committee of the League of Nations decision in 1920, which gave all of of the Palestine Mandate to the Jews.

I'm not a legal expert, but would love to hear comment on the partition of that mandate in 1922, in which the Arabs were given 80% of the land, today's Jordan. It is the last agreed division (Arabs didn't accept 1947), and I would think that, barring new developments or agreements with Israel, both the West Bank and Gaza are legally Israeli. These facts may help change some people's perspectives.

Morry, Friday, April 4th

Dear Amnesty,

In your original letter, you used the alleged legitimate human rights issue as a device to make political demands of the Israel government, and you are doing it again now. The borders of Israel and the status of the occupation are a matter for negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments. I do not believe your 501c(3) mission statement covers requests for regime change or interference in political negotiations.

In your reply, you persist in the falsehood that the tents and shacks were the permanent and only homes of the Palestinians. Repeating the falsehood does not make it true. Your photos tell a different story. If there were permanent dwellings, that were allegedly demolished, where are they? While the information that these are permanent residents of a different village may or may not be correct, the photos at your own Web site are not lying are they? I didn't see any permanent homes there. Can you point out a house that was destroyed in these "villages"? Only tents and shacks. These might be "permanent" structures, but could hardly be permanent homes. One of these "villages" is called Khirbet Humsa. "Khirbeh" means "ruin" - an abandoned village. Therefore it is unlike that anyone, Palestinian Arabs, nomadic Bedouin, Jews or Martians has live there for hundreds of years.

You note that the village of "Khirbet Tana" was "demolished." But "Khirbeh" as explained, means abandoned village. So your complaint is that Palestinians squatted in an abandoned village and the Israeli army destroyed the "village."

Palestinians have indeed lived in different parts of the Jordan valley for a long time as you assert. Jews lived in Hebron for a long time, but that doesn't mean that any specific individual Jew can go there and claim some property. That is the logic that settlers use to defend illegal outposts, since "Judea" and "Samaria" had a Jewish population for a long time. I cannot claim the Empire State Building is mine because Jews have lived in New York for a long time. It is not relevant. If you erect a tent or a shack on land that is not yours and say "my people" have lived here for years, the government will make you take it down.

Those specific Palestinians do not have a claim to that particular land. That was decided by the Israel supreme court which also gave them 91 dunam of land, but not that land. Assuming that international law is applicable, the occupying power has the right to make to make such decisions. The area in question was declared to be a closed military area. If it is used for target practice and maneuvers, then surely the occupying power has the right and the duty to eliminate it. International law cannot and should not interfere in property cases.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, addressed by your circular letter, should not have the power to upset Supreme Court decisions, as that would gravely endanger the basic rights of all Israeli citizens. Ehud Olmert is not an official of the Israeli judiciary. Surely Amnesty International supports independent judiciary systems? If Amnesty International takes issue with the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court, then Amnesty should go before the court on behalf of the Palestinians.

Ami Isseroff

Ami Isseroff, Wednesday, April 2nd

Dear Ami Isseroff,

RE: Demolition of Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley villages of Humsa and Hadidiya

We have read your criticisms, both through your e-mail to us of 25 March, and your post on Middle East Web, of Amnesty International’s appeals to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on behalf of Palestinian families whose homes have been demolished by the Israel army in the villages of Humsa and Hadidiya in the Jordan Valley. You have asserted that the villagers concerned have no entitlement to the land from which they have been evicted, that all that has been destroyed are temporary shelters used while grazing their flocks and that they have permanent homes elsewhere, and that they are “illegal trespassers” and, as such, have no right to expect the Israeli authorities to provide them with electricity and water.

Amnesty International rejects these criticisms, and makes the following points in response:

1. It is not correct that Humsa and Hadidiya are no more than summer encampments erected on land to which their Palestinian residents have no entitlement. Both villages are located in the Jordan Valley region of the Israeli-occupied West Bank in an area in which Palestinians have lived and pursued the same way of life for a long period, possibly many centuries, and certainly since before the Israeli army occupied the West Bank in 1967. Under international humanitarian law (in particular the Hague Conventions), Israel, as the occupying power, may make changes to planning regulations but only regulations that will benefit the local Palestinian population. Consequently, it is a breach of international humanitarian law for the Israeli authorities to arbitrarily or forcibly evict these villagers from homes or land that they own or occupy.

2. While Palestinians continue to be forcibly moved off their lands in the Jordan Valley by the Israeli authorities, a substantial network of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure continues to be built in the area with the support or acquiescence of the Israeli authorities. The establishment and expansion of such Israeli settlements (which are, in effect, colonies established by Israel in the West Bank) violates international humanitarian law, notably Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring part of its own population into occupied territory.

3. Many Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley have traditionally, over many years, practised transhumance, according to which they spend the summer with their flocks in the hills of the West Bank and then move to the Jordan valley to reside for the winter. The Israeli authorities’ obligations under international human rights law require that they respect these Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement and choice of residence, and their right to exercise their cultural practices. They must not arbitrarily or forcibly evict them from homes or the land they own or occupy, and the authorities must not destroy their homes or property. In practice, however, as Amnesty International has previously documented, in some cases the Israeli authorities have razed entire villages – for example, the village of Khirbet Tana. This village was destroyed by the Israeli authorities in the summer of 2005 at a time when the villagers had taken their livestock up to the hills. Since 2006, villagers have remained all the year round in Hadidiya and Humsa due to their fear that the Israeli army will take advantage of any temporary absence to destroy their homes and force them out of the area.

4. At Hadidiya and Humsa, the Palestinian communities live in informal dwellings, mostly consisting of shacks and tents, as Amnesty International has repeatedly stated, in which approximately 100 people reside, and keep animal pens for their livestock. An additional reason why the villagers live in such structures is that the Israeli army routinely demolishes anything they erect.

Amnesty International, Wednesday, April 2nd

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