Palestinian home held captive by Jewish settlement

Sedat Gharib and his family reside in a one story house, the size of a small metal cage enclosed by homes of Jewish settlers.

Palestinian home held captive by Jewish settlement
World Bulletin / News Desk
Hemmed in by illegal settlements from every direction, life in Sedat Gharib's home in the town of Beit Ijza on Jerusalem's outskirts reflects the plight of a people whose land has been usurped.

The Gharib family resides in a one-story house akin to a small metal cage, enclosed on all directions by the homes of Jewish settlers, who, Gharib told The Anadolu Agency, had turned his life into a "living hell."

"We've been living in a small prison since 2007; the Israelis have surrounded our home with barbed wire," Gharib said.

"The only way to enter our home is through a gate that is constantly under camera surveillance; the Israelis are trying to expel us from our home so they can confiscate it," he added.

The metal gate was installed by the Israeli army, which continued to operate it – by remote control – until the family obtained a court order in 2009 to keep it open.

The Gharib family home is located only meters from the family's ancestral hometown of Beit Ijza, but it is walled in by housing units from the Givat Hahdashah settlement and surrounded by an eight-meter-high fence replete with barbed wire.

Gharib's experience with the settlements dates back to 1978, when a number of Israeli settlers tried – but failed – to convince his father to sell his land for $2 million.

"Instead, the settlers confiscated the land in phases, the last of which was in 2006, despite an Israeli court ruling confirming the family's ownership of the land," Gharib said.

Built in 1977, Gharib's home stands on 130 square meters, in addition to a 100-square-meter yard. He lives with his wife, mother and two sons.

Before construction of the Givat Hahdashah settlement, Gharib had owned nearly 110 square kilometers, some 40 square kilometers of which the settlement was eventually built on. The rest of his land was lost to Israel's West Bank separation barrier.

During the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000, on the pretext of barring Palestinians from sneaking into Israel, Israeli authorities began building a barrier to isolate the West Bank.

According to official Palestinian figures, construction of the wall consumed nearly half of the land of Beit Ijza.

The presence of cameras is unpalatable to most Israeli settlers, who shouted diatribes against Palestinians, Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, and who draw links between Islam and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group.

Settlers also hurled rocks at members of the Gharib family and the Anadolu Agency crew.

"These are usual daily assaults… we suffer at the hands of the settlers on a daily basis, but I refuse to give up my home –despite the lucrative offers I continue to receive," Gharib said.

"Among these was an offer of a blank check, even though the price of the house and land don't exceed $50,000," he added.

As settlers pelted the house with stones, Gharib's mother, Sakina, told AA: "This is how daily life goes on here… memories of painful clashes, assaults and land confiscation are ingrained in my memory."

"Every day I wake up and see the land my husband died defending being inhabited by alien settlers who defile it… One day, the land will go back to its rightful owners," she said.

In the yard outside, Palestinian children run and play. Despite the hardships, even the children are adamant: they will never leave their land.

Ahmed, Gharib's ten-year-old son, told AA: "This is the house of my grandfather and uncle and we will never leave it… they [the Israelis] stole our land; they need to go. Despite our suffering, we're resolved – that's what my grandfather taught me."

Ahmed's 11-year-old cousin, Montaser, interjected, saying: "Every day, settlers assault us from behind the fence. They don't want us to play here because we supposedly disturb them… but we don't care and continue playing."

Gharib's town lacks any parks or playgrounds, while the adjacent Jewish-only settlement enjoys modern infrastructure, parks, paved roads, lighting and services.

The Israeli authorities, meanwhile, prevent Gharib from carrying out any restorations to his home.

"We're not even allowed to plant an olive tree," he said.

But despite the distress Gharib and his family suffer at the hands of Israeli settlers, he told AA: "Even if they shoot at us, we're staying. We inherited this perseverance from my father, who died in April 2012."

After the AA crew left, Israeli security forces visited Gharib's home and threatened to arrest the owner, Gharib said later.

In February 2011, the UN's high commissioner for human rights at the time, Navi Pillay, along with then-Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, likewise visited Gharib's house.

They, too, heard the stories of the family's suffering. At the time, Pillay had described their situation as "inhumane" and promised to intervene on their behalf.

But despite the high-level UN visit, nothing appears to have changed. Israeli authorities continue to deny that the Gharib family is being unjustly targeted, claiming that the security measures target "terrorists who throw stones at settlers."

The family's story symbolizes the quotidian struggles of Palestinians victimized due to Israel's West Bank separation barrier, which is often highlighted by Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups.

Palestinian territory falling between the West Bank barrier and Israel's 1948 border stood at roughly 680 square kilometers in 2012, or some 12 percent of the West Bank's total area

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Şubat 2015, 17:52