Recently a disturbing report, involving a Christian Palestinian farmer in the Bethlehem area, has been circulating on the internet.
According to the report the farmer, Daoud Nassar, received nine demolition orders from the Israeli authorities. Nassar writes that while “they” (Israel) are attempting to break his spirit, he is determined to fight and conquer this (Israeli) “evil”. (Italics MP)
He appealed to his sponsors abroad for urgent help. Later he issued another statement to his sponsors in which he mentioned that he had spent already 140,000 $ on law suites over the years and reported that he again needed to hire a lawyer to appeal the demolition order at the Israeli High Court of Justice
Daoud Nassar lives on a hill next to the Neve Daniel settlement in Gush Etzion. His farm “The Tent of Nations” is an attraction for tourists from foreign countries who come to Israel on so called “occupation fact finding tours”. Nassar claims to be a proponent of co-existence between Jews and Arabs. On his website the following slogan appears prominently: “People building bridges”.
His report has been publicized on tens of Christian and Jewish websites. For example the Jewish Tikkun organization reported the story on its website and the Shalom Rav website labelled the story “horribly upsetting”. Meta Floor a Dutch woman who is an envoy for ‘Church in Action’ (an offshoot of the Dutch Protestant Church) and Friends of Sabeel in Israel published the story on her website, adding some personal comments. She claimed that 500,000 illegal Israeli’s, living on the West Bank (Samaria and Judea), have basic rights and provisions that Palestinians like Daoud, are lacking.
The statements of Daoud Nassar necessitated an investigation.
Missing Peace contacted the Civil Administration in Israel, the mayor of Gush Etzion, Shaul Goldstein, Palestinians living near Gush Etzion and Daoud Nassar, whom we visited on his farm. Additionally we investigated newspaper reports about the problems that Nassar addressed and about Jewish-Arab co-existence in the Gush Etzion area. The investigation results show that important information was missing. This is often the case with reports by reporters, envoys and NGO’s about the situation on the West Bank.
This report gives a totally different picture of the situation in Gush Etzion and the reasons why Nassar received the demolition orders.
The demolition orders
The demolition order was indeed handed to Daoud Nassar on May 28th 2010.
The Israeli Civil Administration informed us that this concerned illegal structures.
Daoud informed us that the demolition order involves the adding of structures with a solid roof. He had built those structures to legally existing buildings without obtaining a permit.
He also added that he had lost a court case in 2006 against the demolition of the same structures. The demolition orders he has now received from the Civil Authorities, were in fact the result of a court order handed down in 2006. He could not say why the authorities waited four years before executing that order.
He alleged that the law is not applied equally in the Jewish villages in the area.
The mayor of Gush Etzion is aware of Daoud Nassar’s problem and said it is also one of Gush Etzion’s problems. Thus Nassar is not unique in receiving a demolition order for illegal building. Civil Administration officials issue between 10 and 15 demolition orders in Gush Etzion weekly, according to Goldstein. He advises Nassar to follow the example of the other civilians in Gush Etzion, by contesting the demolition order via the justice system. (The Supreme Court in Israel also deals with these cases.)
He rejected Nassar’s claim that double standards exist in executing demolition orders. He cited examples of Gush Etzion residents who had to demolish structures in the absence of a permit. Goldstein said that the High Court is currently deciding the legality of buildings in the outpost Derech Avot next to Elazar. Nassar says the building there is illegal.
Indeed the High Court of Justice in Israel recently rejected a petition by Peace Now on behalf of Palestinian farmers who claim land in Derech Avot. The Court instead ordered the State to launch a survey process to determine whether the lands of “Derech Ha’avot” are State Lands. If the process should reveal that the buildings – all or part of them – are on State Land, then their authorization will be considered. Buildings that will be found to be built on Private Lands wil be subject to having their demolition orders executed, according to the priorities.
Goldstein also added that demolition orders have been issued to the outpost Sde Boaz adjacent to Neve Daniel.
In a similar situation in Kiryat Arba in 2008, the Israeli Authorities demolished the illegally built home of Jewish activist Noam Federman in the middle of the night. (Appendix 3)
Oppression or rule of law
Nassar writes in his e-mail: ‘They are trying to destroy our spirit, but we are determined to resist and overcome the Evil with GOOD and justice will prevail.’
This suggests that the officials of the Civil Administration have hidden agendas concerning the execution of court orders. Meta Floor’s statements also convey the idea of ruthless oppression.
However during our discussions, Nassar admitted that a judicial decision by a court was made in 2006 and that such decisions have to be executed within the parameters of the law.
Nassar’s “Tent for all Nations”
Nassar’s “Tent for all Nations” suggests the desire for co-existence and peace. A billboard at the entrance of his farm proclaims, “We refuse to be enemies”.
Questioned about his relationship with Jews in the area, he said that he had few or no affiliations. He suggested that problems occurred on a regular basis with Jews in the area, but further inquiry pointed to incidents in the nineties and an incident during the peak of the Second Intifada in 2002.
On many Christian websites stories about harassment and violence against Nasser’s property, committed by Jews in Gush Etzion, figure prominently.
Shaul Goldstein pointed out that he has no knowledge of such incidents. Indeed these stories seem at odds with the fact that tens of Palestinian farmers work their land in the fields in the same area and do so without reporting any incidents.
Nasser’s contact with Israelis is limited to individuals that are pro-Palestinian and those campaigning against the “occupation”.
The mayor of Gush Etzion says Nassar is not honest when he says that he desires co-existence and the cessation of enmity.
He mentioned co-existence projects in Gush Etzion where Jewish Israeli’s and Palestinians work together on a daily basis. Nassar admitted that he had no knowledge of these projects.
An example of co-existence is to be found in Beit Sakariyah, a Palestinian village situated amongst the Jewish villages in Gush Etzion. Palestinians of this village are employed at a garage and gas station at the main intersection on route 60 in Gush Etzion. The cooperation between Jews and Arabs there is as old as the garage and the gas station itself.
These people also participate in joint social events which even took place during times of crisis. During the Second Intifada, Jews in Gush Etzion assisted the local Palestinians when their movement was restricted due to curfews. In a similar manner, residents of Efrat, the largest settlement in Gush Etzion, assisted Palestinians of Wadi An Nis with clothing and food during the Second Intifada.
In some instances, Palestinian employers and employees have been continuously working in Efrat for more than twenty years. Even during the Second Intifada those Palestinians continued to work there.
Nassar admitted that in fact he had never joined this co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Gush Etzion
He indicated that he primarily has contact with visitors from abroad who are visiting Israel. A group of foreign volunteers are doing the work on his farm.
When asked about his thoughts on the internal situation of the Palestinian Authority, he said that he knew very little about the Palestinian leaders.
Initially he only wanted to discuss the Israeli role in daily life, but later he admitted that some of the problems could be ascribed to the Palestinian leadership. He declared that the Palestinian leaders only care for their own families.
During our meeting, he requested advice regarding the demolition orders and the possibility of adjustments to the structures that would be within the law. He was advised to replace the corrugated iron structures with reed mats. This type of structures is permitted to be built without permission.
We also discussed ways of reaching a better understanding between Jews and Palestinians.
He acknowledged the Jewish claim on the land of Israel and said that that both population groups should, because of their love for the country, work on building it.
Jews and Palestinians in Gush Etzion
The mission of Church in Action
Meta Floor’s comment about 500,000 illegal Jews in the West Bank appears to indicate a lack of knowledge about the status of the Jewish towns and homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank According to the interpretation of the International Law by renowned experts (Hard Law- appendix 2), Israel has the better claim to these areas.
Activists like Floor often base their biased judgements on the UN resolutions which are part of the so called soft law.
Floor alludes to Israel being responsible for providing basic amenities for all Palestinians as if the Oslo Accords do not exist. These accords handed the civil administration in the Areas A and B (Urban areas) to the Palestinian Authority.
Building in Area C is problematic because it is largely agricultural land and zoning plans often do not exist. This is primarily because of the status of the area since it came under Israeli rule in 1967. Because of the fact that Israel did not annex this area, it does not fall under Israeli Civil Law. In a number of PA areas as well in Area C, legislation dates back to the Ottoman period.
A treaty between Israel and the Palestinians ought to regulate the status of the area.
Furthermore isolated Jewish buildings and outposts in Area C often lack the same basic amenities as is clear from a Time article (App.3) about the Jews of the Havad Gilat outpost. They also have generators and water tanks in stead of a normal connection to the civil infrastructure.
Inaccurate statements and inciting articles- such as an article by a Belgian theologician in which Israel was accused of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem- are frequently published on Meta Floor’s website. Floor’s bias and incitement against Israel, is diametrically opposed to the goals of Church in Action.
A declaration on the website of ‘Church in Action’ repeatedly states that a one-sided approach of the situation in Israel excludes peace.
In summary, it can be concluded that important information was omitted in the statements of Daoud Nassar. Furthermore his proclamation of peace and co-existence does not mirror his actions.
Envoys like Meta Floor have a great responsibility for the way they inform their rank and file in the churches. It is no coincidence that large parts of the Christian church have lost objectivity in their judgments about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Therefore Christian envoys who deliberately distribute disinformation or incitement should be held accountable for their contribution to the increasing delegitimization of Israel.
E-mail message from Meta Floor (containing Daoud Nassar’s message)
I received an e-mail from Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem (see below) of the Tent of Nations. Many of you have met Daoud and his brother Daher on one of your trips. They are important people to me; in simplicity, they persistently stick to their motto ‘We refuse to be enemies’.
Yesterday Daoud informed me via e-mail that the Israeli army handed him NINE orders to demolition structures. Presently 500,000 Israeli’s inhabit the West Bank illegally while enjoying freedom of movement, homes and access to water and Electricity. Although Daoud resides on his own land and holds the title deeds, he is denied the most basic of rights. He writes: ‘They are trying to destroy our spirit, but we are determined to resist and overcome the Evil with GOOD and justice will prevail.’
Included please find his e-mail and my request to – if belonging to a church community – ask for intercession on behalf of the Nassar family on Sunday. Daoud will certainly appreciate a sign of commiseration and support via e-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org
With the longing that fairness will prevail for the inhabitants of this land,
(Nassar’s original message)
Dear Friends of Tent of Nations all over the world,
Today at 2.00 pm in the afternoon, 2 officers form the Israeli Civil Administration guarded by Israeli soldiers came to our farm and gave us NINE demolishing orders for nine ( structures) we built in the last years without a building permit from the Israeli Military Authority. The demolishing orders are for: tents, animal’s shelters, metal roof in front of both old houses, the restrooms (Shelters), a water cistern, a metal container and 2 underground renovated cave structures. One officer was writing the demolishing orders and the other was taking pictures with two cameras, Israeli soldiers were following them everywhere and pointing their guns on us.
The demolishing orders were written in Hebrew and I refused to sign receiving them. We have 3 days only to react against those demolishing orders. The timing for delivering the demolishing orders was plant properly and purposely on Thursday, in order to make it difficult for us to try to stop those orders by the Israeli court within 3 days, because of the Jewish weekend (Friday and Saturday). The idea is to make it impossible for us to act quickly. I contacted our Lawyer and he will write an opposition and send it to the military court on Sunday morning. We hope to get a paper from the court through our Lawyer on Sunday morning to stop the demolishing orders.
We would like to ask you to be prepared and alert for actions, if anything might happen. We will keep you updated and will guide you for actions but please forward this E-mail to your friends. PLEASE be prepared for actions… Thank you for all your solidarity and support.
They are trying to destroy our spirit, but we are determined to resist and overcome the Evil with GOOD and justice will prevail.