Ghost Village Beitin
by Stephen Lendman
Beitin’s status is testimony to Israeli ruthlessness. It reflects racist hate. It’s vicious. It’s lawless. It’s out-of-control. It demands long denied real change.
Beitin is a Palestinian village. It’s in al-Bireh Governorate. It’s three miles northeast of Ramallah in the West Bank. It’s population once numbered about 2,300.
Israel’s Beit El settlement is northwest. In January 2012, Haaretz contributor Amira Hass headlined “In West Bank, buying land isn’t always what it seems.”
Building “homes on privately owned Palestinian lands, residents of the outposts employ subterfuge to camouflage their nonexistent land purchases.”
Settlements expanded this way since first established. They’re build on stolen Palestinian land.
They’re protected by “fences, threatening dogs, armed Israeli civilians, guards and IDF patrols.”
Palestinian farmers working their fields nearby have reason to fear. Settlers attack them with impunity.
They risk having their land confiscated. Documents are forged to do so. Palestinians rarely get justice. Ghost village Beitin reflects what they’ve faced for decades.
On September 10, B’Tselem headlined “13 years of closure: Once a vibrant commercial center, Beitin near Ramallah has become a ghost village.”
Until the second Intifada, it thrived “socially and economically.” Many small businesses operated there. Population numbers grew. It’s proximity to Ramallah made it a desirable location.
After September 2000, Israel established roadblocks and checkpoints. It did so throughout the West Bank. Two entrances to Beitin were blocked.
A metal gate and dirt mound blocked main one. Its access road connects with a route to Beit El settlement.
The southeastern entrance leads to Road 60. It’s also blocked. Palestinians with VIP passes and international organization staff members alone may pass unimpeded.
Accessibility for other Palestinians currently is only through a northern entrance. It leads to ‘Ein Yabrud village.
Getting to Beitin this way requires following a circuitous 15 km route. It snakes around nearby villages. It’s an enormous hardship. It’s more expensive in time and transportation cost.
Businesses that moved to Beitin earlier left. So have residents. According to Village Council head Diab Muhummad Badwan, about half the remaining work force is unemployed.
Others have jobs in Ramallah or farm. In 1972, Farid “Abd a-Rahman Hamaeyl and his two brothers opened a stone and marble business in Beitin.
In 1996, he moved there with his family. He prospered until the second Intifada, saying:
“The road connected Ramallah to the northern West Bank and there was an incredible amount of commercial traffic on it.”
“Everyone used this road, Arabs and Jews. The state of commerce in the area was fantastic.”
“Our store was very successful and I had a high income. My five brothers, our families and I – more than 50 individuals – lived off of the business.”
“This excellent situation carried on until 2000, when the second intifada broke out and the Israeli military started putting roadblocks and obstacles, which began to affect our work and our income as well as our family and social connections with people in nearby villages.”
“When the military completely closed off the main road to Ramallah and we couldn’t even cross by foot, commercial, construction and all economic activity in the village were completely paralyzed.”
“Our sales went down by 90%. Even today there are some months in which we have no income whatsoever.”
He laid off his employees. He and two brothers became “paid laborers elsewhere.”
Agriculture suffered. About 1,000 farmers grew apricots, figs, plums, and grapes. They sold them in Ramallah. They did so on their own and/or cooperatively through greengrocers.
After Beitin entrances were blocked, transportation costs were too high. Currently around 100 farmers still operate. Around 90% of them stopped planting.
According to Village Council head Badwan:
“I used to plant fruit trees, like apricot, fig, plum and grapes. We took some of the fruit for the family to eat and I’d sell the rest in the Ramallah market.”
“It would take me half an hour to go there, sell the produce and get back home without any trouble.”
“It was a source of extra income for the family and helped pay for my kids’ education.”
In 1995, a new village medical center was established. After Israel blocked its entrances, it closed.
Saber Hasan Daher owned the building housing its operations.
“I put USD 600,000 into this building, from savings and from compensation I got for thirty years of work in the United States, Jordan and Bir Zeit,” he said.
“We put some very superior finishes on this building.”
“The rent for an apartment in the building was USD 450 per month, and for a warehouse was USD 300.”
“The first floor was rented by a few doctors who set up a clinic that specialized in many fields: ear-nose-and throat, surgery, chronic diseases, x-ray.”
“There was also a lab. The doctors were planning to rent the entire building eventually.”
“The center provided services to residents of the village itself and of nearby villages.”
“Patients came even from Ramallah and other cities. I rented the rest of the apartments to people who worked in Ramallah, because Ramallah was just a few minutes away.”
“Blocking the entrances has had a very serious impact on our lives.”
“In a single moment, the Beitin road became a ghost road where you never see anyone.”
“The renters started leaving one by one, and the building has been empty since 2003.”
Education suffered. Nonresident teachers left. Before Israel blocked entrances, about 250 students studied in Ramallah schools.
Most no longer do so. It’s too time consuming to get there. Beitin’s main road now is deserted. Businesses closed.
Buildings are vacant. Farmlands are neglected. Blocking access to Road 60 cut off Beitin from Burqah village.
Doing so severed strong ties between both communities. Burqah students studied in Beitin. Their residents got medical care there. According to Badwan:
“People used to come over in the evening, just to play cards, or visit. They don’t anymore.”
“People have a hard time getting in and out of the village, and they only come for family celebrations.”
Israel remains hardline. It doesn’t surprise. It treats Palestinians like subhumans. Attempts to unblock village access are systematically rejected.
Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual attorney Yadlin Eilam represents Ramallah and al-Birah mayors, as well as heads of nine area local councils.
He’s working to end severe hardships residents face. Their fundamental rights are denied.
He contacted IDS OC Central Command Major General Nitzan Alon. He wants village access blockage ended. He got no reply.
He contacted Israel’s State Attorney’s office. He said a High Court of Justice petition would follow. So far, no response was received.
Israel doesn’t give a damn about Palestinian rights. It never did. It doesn’t now. Rogue states operate this way. Israel’s one of the worst.
It builds walls. It does so to steal Palestinian land. It’s not for security. Peace, stability, equity and justice are verboten.
Palestinians are ruthlessly terrorized. They’re exploited. They’re murdered in cold blood. Violence persists daily.
Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar co-founded Hamas. Before Israel blockaded Gaza, he was PA Foreign Minister.
He’s currently a member of Hamas’ leadership. He’s outspoken and straightforward. Palestine’s liberation requires resistance, he stresses.
It won’t come any other way. So-called peace talks accomplish nothing. They’ve been stillborn from inception.
Abbas is a longtime Israeli collaborator. He “does not have the legitimacy to hold talks with Israel,” said Zahar.
Palestinians are on their own to live free. They’ve waited decades to do so. They’ll wait as long as it takes.
Vital struggles aren’t won quickly or easily. They take time, patience and commitment. Palestinians have those attributes and lots more. Hopefully one day they’ll prevail.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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