I visited Al Jiftlik, a Palestinian town in the Jordan Valley last week in the hope of making connections between grassroots groups in the valley and in Brighton.
Al Jiftlik is in the Israeli controlled area of the valley although it is part of occupied Palestine. The residents leased land from the Jordanian state before 1967 but have no ownership. Since 1967, 98% of the valley has come under Israeli colonist or army control. Palestinan residents in the Israeli controlled areas have not been able to obtain permits to build new structures since 1967. The majority of residents of Al Jiftlik live in tents. Any new structures are bulldozed by the Israeli army.
We met a member of the village commitee for Al Jiftlik. Like many other residents he has little choice but to work for Carmel-Agrexco on a nearby Israeli colony (all Israeli colonies -or “settlements”- build in the West Bank or Gaza are illegal under international law). Carmel-Agrexco are 50% owned by the Israeli state and are the largest exporter of fresh produce from the West Bank colonies to Europe. 60% of their produce is sold in the UK. Many Palestinians work for Carmel-Agrexco in the valley for as little as 35 shekels per day (about US$8 or £4.5) with no sick pay or employment contracts. The man we spoke to was paid slightly more as a supervisor.
We were told that 25 homes in Al Jiftlik were scheduled for demolition by the Israeli army. The owners of the homes had been given notice of the demolition in the last two months and had been called to appear before a military tribunal at the nearby colony to appeal against the decision.
The representative of the village commitee was pessimistic about the prospect of fighting the demolitions saying “the army do what they want”, but he was grateful for any outside interest in the village.
The destruction of the few remaining stone structures in a village where most people live in tents can only be motivated by a desire to ethnically cleanse the area. The Israeli restrictions are, on the one hand, making life impossible in the valley and, on the other, revoking the permits of Jordan Valley residents who leave the valley for any substantial period of time or who do not have a permanent abode in the valley. This new wave of house demolitions in Al Jiftlik is a part of that process.
Update on Al Jifflik Tent School
Al Jifflik is a small town in the Jordan Valley. Most of the residents of Al Jifflik live in temporary plastic structures as Israeli miitary law prohibits the building of new structures.
When I visited Al Jifflik in April the local children were studying in a school constructed from 6 large canvas tents (see previous report). The villagers had erected these tents over a year ago to provide local education for their children, who would otherwise have to travel through unpredictable military checkpoints to the UNRWA school.
Since then teaching in Al Jifflik has ground to a halt, as it has all over Palestine. The US and EU sanctions on Hamas means that teachers have not been paid since the elections. The tents are being used to teach a few essential exam classes
However, the people of Al Jifflik have defied the military imposeed building restrictions and the bureaucracy of aid organisations and obtained money from a local agricultural association to build a stone structure to house the local students. The headteacher said that they were afraid that the Israeli military would come to demolish the school but they were not willing to go on exposing their children to the sun in the summer and thew rain and cold in the winter.