Home / Journals / ISM Podcast episode 13 – Jordan Valley Solidarity

ISM Podcast episode 13 – Jordan Valley Solidarity

This episode of the International Solidarity Movement Podcast was recorded last year, long before the current Israeli genocidal attack against Gaza began. Since te interview took place the situation in the Jordan Valley has got much worse. Jordan Valley Solidarity (JVS) is still working to support the people of the Jordan Valley to stay on their land, despite massively increased settler violence and forced expulsions of entire Jordan Valley communities. This interview focuses on what JVS are struggling for: the beauty of the Jordan Valley, and the steadfastness of its people.

[00:00:00] Introduction: Hey, welcome to International Solidarity Movement Podcast [translation in Arabic]

[00:00:19] Tom: Hey, and welcome to episode 14 of the International Solidarity Movement podcast. In this episode, we speak to Rashid Khudary of the Jordan Valley Solidarity campaign. The Israeli state has wanted to annex the Jordan Valley since it occupied it in 1967. In 2021, Netanyahu announced final plans for the annexation of the valley, an area which makes up one third of the West Bank.

[00:00:41] Tom: People in the Jordan Valley resisted strongly against these plans, and there was an international outcry. Thankfully, the plans have been shelved for the moment, but the people of the Jordan Valley are under a constant threat from settlements expanding onto their land, from the violence of the Israeli settlers, from the closures of the Israeli military, which make most of the valley inaccessible to Palestinians. And from the constant demolitions of Palestinian property, which are carried out by the Israeli army. Jordan Valley Solidarity works to support the steadfast resistance of people in the Jordan Valley, to rebuild the schools and homes that have been demolished, and to celebrate the beauty of the Jordan Valley. Rashid talks about taking strength for the struggle from the natural world and the beauty of the land.

[00:01:23] Tom: And now over to Rashid to talk about life in the Jordan Valley and about the campaign, uh, in solidarity with people living there.

[00:01:44] Tom: I’m here with Rashid from Jordan Valley Solidarity at the beautiful house that you’ve built in Bardala. And I wondered if you could tell me about the Jordan Valley Solidarity campaign, about what you’ve been doing in the Jordan Valley, when it was established, and yeah, why there’s a need for a solidarity campaign for the communities in the Jordan Valley?

[00:02:02] Rashid: First, the Jordan Valley Solidarity Movement [was] established in 2003. Me, I joined since 2006. We as the Jordan Valley Solidarity, we are a network of Palestinians farmers from different communities, Palestinian farmers associations [together] with international solidarity and support [from] international volunteers. We work even with the Palestinian trade unions. Our main goal from our movement is to defend our population in the Jordan Valley to make him stay and [support them] resisting there.

[00:02:39] Rashid: Why the Jordan Valley [Solidarity] movement and why the Jordan Valley [is a] special area? First, the Jordan Valley region and area is very important and [strategic] for our Palestinian people in the whole region of Palestine and the West Bank because it’s very rich [in] resources in the Jordan Valley. Huge fields and a huge land, which is really very rich land, and it’s very rich of water resources in the Jordan Valley.

[00:03:11] Rashid: Even it’s the main border to travel from all West Bank, it’s only from Jordan Valley. To the Arabian [countries], to Jordan… From Jordan, we can travel to any place in the world. But because in the whole population [of] the West Bank, we are not allowed to travel from Israel to any country – even thousands or maybe millions of Palestinians – you are not allowed to enter to Israel.

[00:03:44] Rashid: And the Jordan Valley area for us it used to be, before, our main Palestinian breadbasket producing [all kinds] especially of vegetables. And before 1967, before the occupation and the war, it was the Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, more than 300,000 [people].

[00:04:04] Rashid: Now we are only just 56,000 who [are] still resisting and living in the whole Jordan Valley, and there is thousands of Palestinians who’re refugees. Thousands of people after the war – after ’67, the Israeli policy… They abused our community and [policies against]  our people making a lot of our people [get] out of the Jordan Valley through using different policy and displacement, most of our population [are now] outside of the area of the Jordan Valley.

[00:04:48] Rashid: Again, why the Jordan Valley? It was the Israelis who put this strategy and the plan before they even occupied the area… Now the Israelis, since 1967 until now, they’ve built 39 Israeli [colonies] in the Jordan Valley. They’ve built more than 20 army bases and army camps in the Jordan Valley. Even they control the main water resource through the Israeli company that they created in 1937, which they call it Mekarot company. This company, they build more than 20 water wells and taking the whole [of] our water resource under the ground and [controlling] it just for the Israeli settlers. Which that mean even we are not allowed, as Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, to have the drinkable water. This is now one of the main Apartheid system the Israeli created in the Jordan Valley. Without respecting even the international law, without respecting the [human beings], and trying to use the water as a weapon and as a gun to [displace] our people and kick him outside of the Jordan Valley.

[00:06:01] Rashid: And in the same time, if you look into the Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, is totally so green, big swimming pool, having good economic and good agribusiness there – especially dates, flowers, vegetables, grape farms they have, the settlers – which most of this kind of product, the settlers, they export it outside in the world: in Europe, in the UK, in the United States, everywhere. They have like a free [subsidised] land, free water. They have huge fundraising from Israeli government and from different international government to occupy our land, not just to build this kind of agribusiness.

[00:06:48] Rashid: In the same times, we are as a civilian under occupation not having any kind of right. Our right of water, we are not allowed to have water. Our right of health service: even we are not allowed to build in the Jordan Valley any kind of hospital or health clinic. Our right of education: even we are not allowed to build the schools and not allowed to go to the school inside the Israeli colony.

[00:07:15] Rashid: This is kind of what we need as [human beings]… the Israeli government, they don’t respect [us]. And this is why [we] established the Jordan Valley Solidarity because we need any kind of help and support for our communities, for our people, for our farmers, for our women, our children, to support what we need to resist.

[00:07:36] Rashid: And exactly what we are doing: we built six schools in different villages and communities in Area C, we built two health clinics in the Jordan Valley, we build and renovate more than 200 houses from north to the south of the Jordan Valley. We build four pipe line of water to bring water from village to other village where family not allowed to have a water.

[00:08:03] Rashid: And we try to have more international solidarity and support because even we as Palestinians, we work mostly as a volunteers… And we need more hands, we need more internationals to join our work. We need more internationals who can help us writing articles [and reporting]. We need more internationals who can support our farmers working with our farmers to harvest, to plant.

[00:08:36] Rashid: [As well] there’s many [things internationals] can do. Especially for us [it] is very important for international [volunteers] to see the facts about the occupation, about this kind of conflict, how the Israeli government and Israeli soldiers, and even the Israeli settlers councils, how they are dealing in our [real] life. For confiscating our car sometimes, even confiscating our tractors when we are going to work in our field or in our farm, and even how they came to destroy our structures and our house or our school. Because all [all of the things the Israelis are doing] we don’t think [that all the] people in the world they know about it. And this is why it’s very important for internationals to come. Even they can help for recording for filming, taking pictures and publishing or sharing this kind of information with the people in the world. And even trying to do something for the families who lost their houses or for children who lost their schools.

[00:09:50] Rashid: Even we have different kind of activities, like planting trees, sometimes organizing walking trails, like a path where Palestinians and internationals they can crossing the area to enjoy the [nature], to show them our plants, our beauty in the Jordan Valley.

[00:10:10] Rashid: And even they can learn cooking in the wood, cooking with our women, the Palestinian food. That’s something for us – even it’s very important, to share it, to show them: even we have a life if we are under the occupation. If the Israelis [are] stealing our culture, our land, our water, stealing everything. But they cannot steal our resistance. They cannot steal that, we can still teach the people: about our life, about our beauty life in the Jordan Valley. To show them- because most of people they think we don’t have a real life. No, we have a life. We have children. We [are] trying to use this kind of education [as] a seed, to show people how we are [resisting] and how we are sharing our hope and our power through all these projects and activities [and] work in the Jordan Valley.

[00:11:04] Tom: You were saying in the car on the way here that very often people from the Jordan Valley and in Palestine in general, they talk about the the situation with the Israeli occupation, the attacks of the Israeli forces on Palestinian people. But… well, it makes people forget about talking about the beauty of, for example, life in the Jordan Valley.

[00:11:01] Tom: So the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign tries to preserve and document the cultural heritage and natural heritage in the area, right?

[00:11:50] Rashid: Yeah, we create a path from a village called Hammamat al Maleh to another village called Ein al Hilwa. And we call the path in Arabic: ‘Yalla min Al Maleh l’Ein al Hilwa’.

[00:12:10] Rashid: And this path, before we started, we made a big research which we make it with mostly volunteers: Palestinians from the university and activist groups who join us, even some teachers from schools, and we used to go to the mountains to take pictures [of] plant[s], and even trying to learn about the name and why they give this kind of name. And even we try to learn from the plant, which we know, or if we don’t know, if it’s used for any kind of thing, like some kind of a plant we have it, we use it for medicine. And the same, we learn about animals and we writing about all kinds of animals in the area.

[00:13:00] Rashid: … We collected the story of the place, why this village is called Hammamat al Malih. Hammamat, it means ‘shower’. And Al Maleh, it means ‘salty’… In this village [there were] seven showers, which is like a swimming pool, because the water in this community it was coming from the natural spring water which is hot water which is good for the skin and people they was using it as a medicine, when they have a problem in the body or in the skin.

[00:13:44] Rashid: And [there were] a lot of people [who] came from different areas to this place. Me personally, the last time I [went] swimming in this place [was] in 1998, with my parents and my family and a friend there. And it was very beautiful valley full of water. In this project, we try to bring people to see the nature, to see the beauty of the Jordan Valley. We [even planned] to build in this [community] a tent where women can produce all hand make stuff or food that they make it to sell.

[00:14:20] Rashid: The Israelis, they came, they destroyed this tent and even they confiscated my private car. And they kept it for two months, later they gave it back after I paid 2,175 [Shekels, which is over $500]… This is what’s happening, which that means even the Israelis, they don’t give us the right [to have] beauty – to enjoy our nature. To go hiking, to go for a walk, to enjoy the plants, to enjoy our time, especially in the spring. This is what they start trying to steal and they change even some areas, or they create some areas, which they call it a ‘close military firing zone’ and [it is] forbidden to enter to this area. And in the same time, they make it as a national park. And at the same time, we are not allowed to enter [these places] without having permission from the Israeli military, not even from the Israeli natural organization, you know. And all this… is just to control the land and our resources just for the settlers.

[00:15:35] Rashid: Even everyone in the world, I’m sure they are in love with nature and they don’t have any problem with nature. But the Israeli government, even they have the problem with the natural reserves area. Why? Because since 2014 until 2020, there was every years, especially the settlers from April to June, the summertime, they burn the natural area. Which that’s mean they kill a lot of seeds. In this time, in the years, there is a bird, we call it Shinar, some people they call it Al Hajal, we have gazelle, they give the baby from April to June. Which that mean when they burn it, they kill the seeds, which that mean, maybe some kind of a plant, we cannot find it again, they kill a lot of animals.

[00:16:38] Rashid: Why? Just because they don’t want our shepherd taking his sheep, or goats, or cow to the mountain to feed it from the [nature]. Even this kind of animals, they- they spread the seeds of a plant, which is good for the [nature]. But even they use the natural area to [displace] our people without respect even the [nature] or the plant and the animals.

[00:17:04] Rashid: This is what they do for our people and our humanity, you know, when they kill or they are shooting, or when they destroy our houses, or our schools, or our water.

[00:17:08] Rashid: This is why it’s very important to talk about it, because we don’t want even people in the world to be silent.

[00:17:17] Tom: We talked a bit about international support and about volunteers coming here. But in the past, I know there have been big campaigns outside of Palestine to boycott Israeli goods in supermarkets and particularly to boycott Carmel Agrexco, which was the Israeli state owned national exporter that was exporting goods particularly from the Valley. That company was liquidated, but there are many other companies like Mehadrin and Galilee that are still exporting from the Jordan Valley. What would you say about the importance of these boycott campaigns which are happening outside Palestine?

[00:18:04] Rashid: What I will say. I will say anyone who’s working or who’s buying, or they have any kind of project with this kind of authority or this kind of government, you know, that’s mean he’s agrees about all the crimes have been [done] to [human beings] in Palestine. That’s mean he’s supporting the Israeli soldiers to have more bullets to kill more Palestinians. That’s mean he’s support the Israeli bulldozers [which] destroy our schools and our houses. Who’s agree and who’s support?

[00:18:40] Rashid: If we just respect a [human being], everyone they should think he’s under occupation. Because what Israeli they do, because what [the] Israeli government they [are] doing, is not just against us. We are surviving, and we still resist, and we are still learning from what’s going on, and what’s happening [to] us, what’s happening with our neighbours, with our villages, to keep going and to fight.

[00:19:04] Rashid: And we don’t take any decision to go outside of our country, our land. But why people in the world, at least, they will not, by cutting the Israeli products? Or [links with] Israeli academi[a]? or Israeli support, or [links with] Israeli companies? – who are stealing our right of water, our right of education, our right of health service. If you just respect the idea of a [human] being, and if you want to have a world – really have the [real] democracy and [real] freedom, at least we have to boycott the Israeli government, at least.

[00:19:40] Rashid: And we need, of course, the whole kind of support from international people to make even a pressure to international governments who are supporting or who are agree about all these kind of [Israeli] crimes.

[00:19:50] Tom: Yeah, one of the things people talk about here, the idea of staying on the land, and remaining on the land. even when there’s huge pressure against them, when their houses are being destroyed, when their right to water, right to education is being taken away… Often you hear this word steadfastness being used to describe the resistance here. Can you talk about what drives people to carry on resisting against the occupation and remaining on the land here in the Jordan Valley? What is it that drives people to keep on resisting, do you think?

[00:20:38] Tom: And also another question I had was what hope do you have for the struggle against colonization here in the valley?

[00:20:46] Rashid: Just this question?

[00:20:48] Tom: Sorry!

[00:20:49] Nicole: Haha!

[00:20:50] Rashid: No, no, don’t worry! About hope, it’s not really easy to have hope. Even I hope that everyone will hear my message, you know. It’s not easy to imagine the situation, really, because… It’s every minute, every second, every day, especially in the area that Israeli create and call as the Jordan Valley, Area C, ‘closed military zones’. Every day people [are] having different kinds of challenges and they still resist. Sometimes, me personally, I have hope from animals, from birds, from plants, from the beauty of the Jordan Valley, from [the] strong man that I’m [working] with or a strong woman. I see here – how she’s resisting to build her oven that has been destroyed many times and cooking her own bread for her family, you know.

[00:21:55] Rashid: This is what gives me back more hope- sometimes from international volunteers or the international movement who’s supporting. It’s from different ways that we can have hope, to be honest. This is what we need, we need really support. As I told you before, I don’t feel like we are just occupied from Palestine, and we are not just as a Palestinians still under occupation. But, I’m thinking we are [occupied by all] international governments… The whole people in the world is still occupied… If we don’t have the freedom, and our justice, and our country back, that will mean all people [around the world] are still under occupation too.

[00:22:43] Rashid: This is my message. Did I answer you?

[00:22:44] Tom: Yeah, yeah, you answered. Thank you very, very much.

[00:22:45] Nicole: Yeah, that was amazing!

[00:22:45] Rashid: Thanks for you!

[00:22:52] Tom: And, yeah  if you’re interested in finding out about Jordan Valley Solidarity, you can look at jordanvalleysolidarity.org. The campaign is asking for donations from people internationally as well.

[00:23:04] Tom: So, if you want to raise money for the campaign, you can donate through the website or get in touch with the campaign to hear more about the project.

[00:23:05] Rashid: Exactly, yeah.

[00:23:06] Tom: Is there anything else you want to say?

[00:23:08] Rashid: Ohhh yes. I will ask people to come and join our resistance and enjoy our vegetables, and our fruit, and our nature!

[00:23:09] Outro: [Music fades out]