Annual report 2019-20Read now
Waleed Abohanya was farming his land when the soldiers came. There were dozens of them, supported by dozens more policemen. They had a simple mission: they were there to take Waleed’s land.
“They arrived with no warning,” he recalls. “When they bulldozed my land clear, it was like they were bulldozing my heart. It felt as though the bulldozer was driving over my stomach. I showed them the deeds for the land but they ignored them. I told them that one day I would be able to take my land back and they started laughing at me. That was the worst part.
“There were 50 or 60 soldiers and another 50 policemen, along with government officials and the settlers themselves. One hundred and fifty people with guns against one man in a field.”
Waleed Abohanya outside his home in Jiftlik, Jordan Valley, West Bank: Photos: Alan Whelan.
The soldiers bulldozed his crops and the land was officially handed over to an Israeli settlement. This incident, which took place in 2010, was the second time Waleed had lost land to Israeli settlers. In 1995, Israeli officials arrived at his farm and told him that they would return the following year in order to draw an official border between his land and the settler’s land. The officials did return the following year, but there were no negotiations.
“They arrived on my farm and told me they were taking my land,” he recalls. “I asked them could they at least wait until I had harvested but they would not wait. I asked them could they at least give me a few hours to remove the pipes from the ground but while I was talking to them they entered the land and bulldozed everything.”
Waleed’s farm was once 15 acres but today he has just a little over five acres remaining. The rest of his land is now owned by the Israeli settlers, who plan on planting it next summer. When that happens, Waleed and his family will be completely surrounded by settler farms. They wonder how long it will be before they come back for his remaining five acres.
Photos: Waleed’s children. Top Left and Right: Saua’a, 5 and Ala’a (11). Photos by Garry Walsh.
Top middle, bottom left and right: Mohammed, 12, Omar, 6 and Ro’aa, 8. Photos by Alan Whelan.
“I fear a lot for the future,” he says. “We are surrounded by confiscated land. They have taken land off me twice and every day I expect them to come back a third time. There is no justice here. Look at how the settlers live and how we live. The settlers confiscate our land and attack us. It is not safe here for us. It is a huge humiliation and a loss of dignity. To see a settler illegally working on your land is the same as them walking on your body as you lie on the ground. The conditions we face now make life very hard and it will get worse. I am 40 years old and for each of those 40 years life has got worse for us.”
Waleed takes hope from international opposition to the settlements, which are illegal under international law. He hopes that the international community will be able to put pressure on Israel to stop the illegal seizure of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
“People should come here and see what is happening with their own eyes. It is important for people to know what is happening here. I am proud of the relationship between Palestinians and the Irish people. It makes me happy that people in Ireland believe in standing up for our rights.
“My strength comes from my belief in human rights and in justice. Everybody should have justice. Justice means full equality. It means everybody being equal to everybody else. There is no justice here.”