Jordan Valley: To exist is to resist

Lorna Stephenson reports on a grass-roots campaign group challenging the Israeli occupation in the Jordan Valley

May 22, 2012
4 min read

The Jordan Valley, which makes up two thirds of the occupied West Bank, is the forgotten land in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The struggles of the Palestinians who live here receive little attention, and it often escapes the notice of international solidarity groups and NGOs.

There is total Israeli control over 95 per cent of the valley, designated ‘Area C’ under the Oslo Accords. Many of the 56,000 inhabitants now live in the other 5 per cent – just five small villages and Jericho. The area had a population of 360,000 before 1967, but with the war came the mass expulsion of people from the land they had farmed for generations. This was then turned over to ‘natural reserves’ (often used as a convenient label for areas Israel seeks to control), military bases and settlements.

The expansion of the settlements continues at a rapid pace – they now cover half of the valley. The contrast of the settlements’ lush greenery with the more barren, desert-like landscape of the Palestinian land shows the occupation at its starkest.

Israel’s determination to capture the valley rests on its huge strategic importance. The area also has vast arable lands and important water reserves (estimated at almost half of total water resources in the West Bank). It would be the only place a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem could expand.

The population remaining in Area C now mainly comprises farmers and Bedouin communities. Daily life under occupation is hard, characterised by repression in the form of home demolitions (in many cases over and over again), destruction of personal property and farming equipment, harassment, violence and the stifling effects of military checkpoints. Denied the necessary permits to build, infrastructure and water pipes are regularly destroyed. In light of all this, one can understand the motto of the valley’s population: to exist is to resist.

Helping people to do this is the Jordan Valley Solidarity campaign. Rashid, a Palestinian in his late twenties who works with the group, describes its work as ‘popular and peaceful resistance – the struggle to stay on the land is the main resistance’.

The campaign is the only grass-roots Palestinian movement in the valley. Based in the Friends Meeting House in the village of Al Jiftlik, it takes its lead from the valley’s communities, mobilising to support those facing repression and documenting abuses by the army and settlers. Ongoing building projects with mud bricks aim to create long-term Palestinian ‘facts on the ground’, including homes, schools and water pipes – even if building contravenes occupation policy. Hundreds of Palestinians from the Jordan Valley are involved in the JVS campaign in various capacities, such as building and teaching, and the loose network of solidarity extends throughout the area.

Despite the relentless Israeli attempts to eradicate Palestinian life from the area, there have been successes. One is the village of Upper Fasayil, which has flourished since the building of a school six years ago. Homes have been built where before people lived in tents, and they have water and electricity.

The work of the Palestinians is supported by people from around the world, who help with the campaign activities and spread the voice of the people in the valley through global links. ‘The most important thing is that people go there, see the situation and then come back home and talk about it because they’ve seen it with their own eyes,’ says Rashid.

Rosa, an activist from Brighton, spent six months last year working in Palestine with the campaign and agreed that being a witness is an important role. ‘People on the ground know people are watching and supporting them. That’s one of the biggest things, that the people there do not feel forgotten.’

The campaign is seen as an evolving network. After initially twinning with a group in Brighton in 2006, there are now also groups in France, Spain, Italy and Japan. Unlike the top-down approach of many NGOs and aid organisations, the emphasis is on listening to what the Palestinian communities want and need, and working in the vein of friendship and solidarity between communities. Rashid asserts that this is the way of the future, the ‘right way’.

While the occupation strengthens its grip on the land, the resolve of Palestinians to support each other, along with growing global civil society links, offer the best chance that the Jordan Valley will not be forgotten.

www.jordanvalleysolidarity.org

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself


17