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Affidavit No. 1237/2003

Sworn Statement

After having been warned to tell the truth and nothing but the truth or else I shall be subjected to penal action I, the undersigned, Jamal Suleiman Muhammad Dir'awi, holder of ID # 991976994, of Palestinian nationality, born on 15 June 1967, an employee and a resident of al-Nu'man village, Bethlehem Governorate, would like to declare the following:

Al-Nu'man village is located five kilometres east of Bethlehem, five kilometres south of Jerusalem and one kilometre from Sour-Baher. The village is around 2500 dunums in area. A large part of it is owned by citizens from Beit-Sahour and Sour-Baher. Most of the village land is poor quality agricultural land. There are 150 residents in the village living in 25 houses. The village receives all its services, including water and electricity, from the Palestinian Authority. The village citizens also hold West Bank Palestinian identity cards.

The village’s problems started in 1986 when the Israelis demolished a garage claiming that it was not licensed. Then, in 1992, the Israeli authorities informed the village’s citizens in a letter issued from the Jerusalem Municipality, that the village was located within the lands of the Jerusalem Municipality and that the residents’ presence in the village was illegal because the residents carry Palestinian identity cards and live in the Jerusalem Municipality. In the same year and in the same village, the employees of the Jerusalem Municipality, accompanied by the Israeli army, came to the village and served notices stating that building in the village is prohibited, claiming that the area has no planning permission and building is not licensed in it.

In 1993, the village’s citizens took their case against the Jerusalem Municipality to the Israeli courts to settle the village’s problem in a just manner. Two solutions were suggested: (1) to obtain planning permission and all services from the Jerusalem Municipality along with Jerusalem identity cards, or (2) keeping the village as a West Bank village and not a village within the borders of the Jerusalem Municipality. The village commissioned lawyer Wasim Dakwar, a Palestinian from the 1948 occupied territories. This lawyer represented our case in the Israeli courts until 1998, during which period the case reached the Israeli High Court of Justice. In 1996, the High Court decided to give a 60-day grace period for the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Ministry of the Interior to solve the village’s problem. However, nothing was done at that time.

In 1996, a fine of 15,000 shekels was imposed on one of the village residents on the pretext that he built a house without obtaining a licence, and the decision to demolish his house would remain effective for one year if he did not obtain a licence. This decision was issued by the Planning Department of the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Interior. However, the Israeli authorities constantly refused to grant licences because it is a “green” site and no licences are granted for building on it. The resident concerned, however, with the assistance of a lawyer, obtained a decision freezing the demolition of his house, which is still in effect at the present time.

In 1996, a decision was issued by the Jerusalem Municipality notifying the Education Department not to accept students holding West Bank identity cards. As a result, the village students were deprived of studying in schools in Um-Touba in Jerusalem, where they used to study prior to 1967 due to its proximity to Jerusalem. Now, 50 village children at the primary level have been distributed to Beit-Sahour schools and schools in the eastern rural area.

This has been accompanied by other attempts to restrict the village citizens, including closure of the only road that links the village with Bethlehem by Israeli bulldozers many times over the last five years, and breaking the water pipes that bring water to the village. The closure of the village entrance lasts for 20 to 30 days each time, and is only reopened when the citizens themselves open it. The village remains without water until the citizens repair the water pipes. This is because the Israelis allege that the village is part of Jerusalem and the village is not allowed to receive services from the Palestinian Authority, and at the same time the Jerusalem Municipality refuses to provide it with any services.

In April 2002, we were informed verbally by the Israeli army that the village is located in an area through which the Separation Wall will run. This Wall will surround Jerusalem, and separate the West Bank from Jerusalem. The Israeli military bulldozers opened a preliminary road as a precursor to the path of the Wall. Moreover, the military bulldozers destroyed the one-kilometre long asphalt road leading to the village, and the village’s water pipes, and gave notification that three houses would be demolished. Through the efforts of a lawyer, Husni Abu-Hussein, the demolition decisions were replaced by very high fines of around 50,000 to 60,000 shekels for every house not exceeding 80 square metres in area.

On 2 April 2003 at approximately 10:00 am, while I was at home in al-Nu'man village, patrol soldiers came with two border guard jeeps to my home. One of the soldiers was bald, wearing a hat, around 180 centimetres tall, white, slim and spoke only Hebrew. He introduced himself to me as Davier and gave me his telephone number, which I do not remember. He said that he belonged to an agency concerned with following up residents’ problems with Israeli ministries. Davier asked for the residents’ names and identity cards, which he recorded. He then started to talk about our village’s difficult problem in Hebrew, which I understand very well, and added that he will work on helping us to solve this problem. Davier asked me whether any of the villagers would want to sell their land to the Jews or to any citizen from Sour-Baher. My response and others’ responses were that we absolutely reject selling our lands.

In the course of talking to me, Davier said that if the problems were only faced by one or two families, it would be easy to evacuate them, but that the whole village was too big to evacuate. He also said that the village residents would face problems after the Wall separates them from the West Bank in addition to the closure imposed in the direction of Jerusalem. Davier also said that the Israelis would cut water and electricity supplies to the village to encourage the villagers to evacuate voluntarily from the village which would then have become like a cage.

He pretended that he was sympathising with us and said that we would be like prisoners with our families. He added that the village would be the border with the Palestinian Authority in the future and therefore would have to be empty, so our presence there was illegal. Davier showed us a map with three roads that will pass through the village (two bypass roads and the third being the 800 metre wide Separation Wall). The Wall, he added, would swallow the land of the village and residents would be given permits to reach their land, which could be rejected for security reasons.

On 10 April 2003, construction began of the Separation Wall that will separate the village from the West Bank. Since then we have been waiting for the unknown, which is frightening to us. I would like to mention that Davier stayed for around two hours in

my house. At the end of his visit, he asked to meet me at the Israeli Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem on the condition that no lawyers would come with me. He took my name and my ID number to obtain a permit for me and I did not refuse because I wanted to know what he wanted. On 6 April 2003, Davier called my cousin Yousef Dir'awi whose telephone number I gave to Davier because he speaks Hebrew better than me. Davier told my cousin that I was denied a permit for security reasons. Therefore he met my cousin Yousef alone for an hour on 7 April 2003. The result was negative. The best they could give offer Yousef was a possible permit, but even that was not confirmed. Meanwhile, Yousef has not responded to the Israelis’ demand to evacuate or sell his land despite the intimidation he has been submitted to. As I have mentioned, on 10 April 2003, the construction of the Wall started and our future at this moment is uncertain and frightening.

It is worth mentioning that the problems in our village have been followed up by a number of legal organisations including the Israeli organisation B'Tselem; Saint Eve; and an Israeli lawyer, Samuel Matsa. However, the lawyer will not take action without money, and his fees are very high. The case is currently pending, but the village cannot afford his fees.

According to what the residents of Beirauna, in the Beit-Jala district, have told me, it seems our problem is similar to theirs. They obtained Jerusalem IDs with a judgment from the Israeli courts despite the fact that the Wall does not surround all of them or even a majority of them.

This is my declaration and hereby I sign, 12 April 2003

Affidavit Details

  • Affidavit Number: 1237/2003
  • Field researcher: Zahi Jaradat
  • Affidavit Date: 12 April 2003
  • Name: Jamal Suleiman Muhammad Dir'awi
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