Ethnic expulsion at Ras A-Tin

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Daphne Banai and Gali Hanadin
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

I am standing near Hassan’s tent at the end of a line of tents, overlooking the vast, empty and arid area beyond. Wherever you look, no tree, no house – not even a tent is seen. And where are the 25 families of Ras A-Tin, who were regarded with contempt by the State of Israel and the criminals of the illegal colonist outposts which it supports, in their greed to occupy more and more land, steal more and more property and trample the locals? Tight collaboration of the State of Israel’s army and apartheid with its police and colonists has brought about the ethnic cleansing of the area – to be “cleared’ of Palestinians.

25 families decided they were no longer able to absorb the violence of these combined forces. Most of them left, and some are still seeking a new site to erect their tent. For over twenty years these families lived quietly in the area behind the Kochav Ha-Shachar quarry. On privately-owned Palestinian land. They witnessed colonists arriving slowly and erecting ‘single ranches’, progressively narrowing the locals’ area. The vast expanse to the ease is totally empty, and blocked to Palestinians by colonist Elhanan of the Mal’achei Ha-Shalom outpost.

Ali says: ‘With Elhanan we have no problems.”

I: “And why don’t you graze over there, to the east?”

“It’s forbidden” (mamnu’a), he answers. “By whom?” I ask and he answers as if this were some undebatable divine order, not to be questioned: “The colonist (Elhanan). He’s the law here!”

So they began to over-graze near home. Harder, but still something of a livelihood.

A little over a year ago, with the help of the EU, they erected a small schoolhouse, of 6 grades. The previous one is located 15 kilometers away, and parents feared sending their daughters to school so far away. They wanted an elementary school for the little ones. Nearly every day, colonists from the criminal settlements around would arrive, take photos and pressure the authorities to demolish this schoolhouse. Itamar Ben Gvir and other right-wing ministers arrived too, their appearance accompanied by threats. The children looked on, wide-eyed, at the mean gang who only wants to prevent them from getting something as basic as education.

Precisely one year ago, on July 14, 2021, the Israeli army came and confiscated the 13 Ras A-Tin families everything they owned. In 43 degrees centigrade, men, women and children stood and saw the soldiers pouring to the ground the precious (in all every sense of the word) water from their tankers – since Israel denies them any water supply, and they are forced to purchase and bring it from afar. The tankers too were confiscated, as were the meager tents, the tractors that carry the water tankers, the solar panels, blankets, mattresses – everything.

And the families did not buckle down. They ground their teeth and slowly rebuilt. Not that they have any choice. Where would they go?

We visited again in the spring. Somewhat further away from the previous site, they had just received solar panels for electricity, following 9 months of total darkness, and were in the midst of preparing ‘yoghurt stones’ for the summer. The children played football at recess…

Occasionally, shepherds from the colonist outposts attacked or chased away a Ras A-Tin shepherd, but one month ago the colonists went further.

On June 14, 2022, colonists from Micha’s outpost, escorted by an Israeli soldier and held a pogrom among the families living in the southern part of Ras A-Tin. They attacked Mustafa on no grounds whatsoever. They beat up his wife with clubs and rods until she nearly died. The couple was taken to hospital with the wife suffering from a fractured skull and internal bleeding in the brain, needing two rounds of surgery. Mustafa, too, was hurt in the head. Their sons were arrested and released only a week later. “A fight”, said the judge. Really, your honor?? Inside Mustafa’s dwelling compound?

Then a week ago, on July 6, 2022, colonists from Micha’s outpost arrived, escorted by soldiers, and for 4 hours ran wild, destroyed and broke things, lit a fire in front of the tents, beat up the dwellers. The Palestinians summoned police but naturally no policeman arrived on the scene.

The soldiers made sure none of the inhabitants would protect their family members, and at the end of the pogrom two of the Palestinian family members were arrested and taken away.

Ali says: “We are simple folk, not harming anyone. We can stand the colonists and the army, which is colonists too, only wearing different clothes. And the police? Who will protect us?”

His brother Hassan adds: “If you stick a nail in the wall, hit it with a hammer again and again and again, finally it holds”.

Israel hits them again, and again and again. Until the even the most determined among them break down and leave.

When Rehav’am “Gandhi” Ze’evi used to speak of transfer, many said they would not let it happen, said they would stand in front of the trucks and not let them through. Where are all those people who said they would not let a transfer take place? Transfer is taking place in the West Bank this very minute!

If you do not stop them, these madmen will repeat this pogrom tomorrow in another community, and then another…