01.06.18 | Bethlehem, West Bank, Checkpoint 300 | A Palestinan Authority policeman shouts as a crush develops during a Friday in Ramadan
A dangerous crush develops as thousands of Palestinians attempt to pass through Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem. It is the third Friday of Ramadan and they are trying to reach Jerusalem to attend prayers at Al Aqsa. They have travelled from all over the West Bank, most leaving their homes before dawn, knowing they must first navigate the Israeli security system. In the photo, a Palestinian Authority policeman shouts at the crowd while Israeli soldiers look on. The Israelis are members of the ‘Border Police’. This is a misnomer; They are a military force granted police powers. They also operate throughout the occupied territories, not solely on any border. At the point shown in the photo, the people have not even reached Israeli processing yet. The X-Ray machines, cattle-gates, and the soldiers who will decide whether they can go to Jerusalem today are another 500 or so metres away. When (if) they finally pass to the other side of the separation wall, they will still be two kilometres inside occupied Palestinian territory. About 85% of Israel’s ‘Border Wall’ actually lies inside Palestinian territory. Due to the ever-shifting nature of the occupation, the people in this photo never know if they will reach their destination. Permit rules change regularly, without warning, and without explanation. You may have been able to visit Al Aqsa for Ramadan in previous years, but not today.
07.05.18 | South Hebron Hills, Yatta | Soldier searching car at Zif junction flying checkpoint
As well as permanent checkpoints, sometimes given the misnomer of ‘terminals’ by Israel, Palestinians must pass undeclared Flying Checkpoints on a daily basis. These can happen anywhere, at any time. Drivers are waved to a stop and asked for their identity papers and the documentation for the vehicle. Their personal details are radioed to a commanding officer who decides whether the person must be detained or not. If the car is found to be improperly registered it is common for the car to be confiscated, or sometimes dismantled, on the spot. At the flying checkpoint shown in the photo, there is an alternative road which may be used by Palestinians if they wish to avoid being stopped: It exits about 30 metres away from the soldiers.
13.06.2018 | South Hebron Hills. Susiya | Ahmed watches as IDF soldiers speak by phone to the police following a settler complaint
Shepherding and the Invisible Line
A shepherd grazing his sheep while an Israeli soldier watches over him. The man is from Susiya. In 1986, Israel expelled the inhabitants of Susiya after the remains of a 5th Century synagogue were discovered. Using archaeological digs as a pretext for displacement is a common practice of the occupation. The purpose is two-fold: Displace Palestinians and promote historical Jewish connection to the land. The Palestinian residents of Susiya, who have lived there for hundreds of years, have since lived in tents on a small part of their original farming and grazing lands. The adjoining settlement, which retained the name of Susiya, has been steadily expanding since the 80’s. The tent town of Palestinians displaced in ’86 is an unwelcome impediment to the further expansion of the settlement. The Israeli government has destroyed the community four times, but the Palestinians have returned every time.
The soldier on the hill is watching to ensure that the shepherd does not cross a line. This line is invisible, ever-changing and defined by the settlers who live just over the ridge of the hill, at the soldier’s back. The soldier is not told before he arrives at his post for the first time where exactly this ‘security perimeter’ lies. The head of the settlement security, an armed civilian, will inform him where the line is. If the shepherd crosses this invisible line, the settlers will then complain to the soldier and ‘help’ him avoid making the same mistake in the future. Crossing this invisible line, even while remaining on your own land, results in a 20-year old soldier shouting at you to move, armed settlers arriving to harass you, and the likelihood of being arrested by the paramilitary ‘Border Police’. Knowing that this invisible line only moves in one direction; outwards from the settlement, shepherds are forced to constantly maintain their presence at the limits of their shrinking territory, where the harassment and violence is a guarantee. They must stay on the land today, or tomorrow they will be told it was never theirs.
Ahmad’s land is not where it was yesterday. A settler called the army. The army called the police. And this is how Ahmad discovered that the invisible line has moved again, this time by 100 metres. He discovered this by being ordered to leave by three armed 20-year olds. “It’s not his land”, said one of the soldiers confidently when I asked him to explain. “You can see the way he left without arguing too much. He knows it isn’t his land.” Or maybe it’s Ramadan and he’s too tired to fight today. Maybe he’s thinking of his baby daughters, and how he wants to be with them tonight, rather than handcuffed in an army base. Maybe it’s just hard to argue with someone with a gun. Tomorrow he will return with his sheep to the outer limits of his land, and will have to make a decision: 100 metres or peace?
10.04.18 | Hebron, H2 | School children passing soldier at Beit Hadassah
Segregation in Hebron
The children are returning from school in Hebron. At the bottom of the stairs they must turn left. They are not allowed to turn right and head past the soldier down Al Shuhada Street. Only Jews and tourists may use this street. Al Shuhada was once the commercial heart of the Hebron region. Following Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinians in 1994, and the subsequent rioting, the IDF closed the street to Palestinians. The area is now a ghost town. The few Palestinian residents that have remained climb out the back doors and windows of their houses because their front doors have been welded shut by the army. They live under constant pressure to join the hundreds who have given up and moved out of the area. They are subject to daily harassment and violence at the hands of settlers and the army. The Star of David is spray-painted on the doors of their closed businesses. They know that once they leave, their departure will be noted by the settlers, and their homes will be targeted for take-over. And so, the settlement expands.
Prayers road is also part of the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron. This road connects the settlement of Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a place of worship for both Muslims and Jews. Palestinian residents may only walk on the road, only Jews may drive. All segregation measures implemented by Israel are justified by “security” concerns. Exploiting incidents of violence, by either side, to further restrict the movements of Palestinians, and to further expand the settlements, is a consistent strategy of the occupation. The day after an attack in Hebron in 2002, in which 12 IDF soldiers died, then-PM Ariel Sharon stated that “a window of opportunity existed in the coming 48 hours to establish a “compact” zone of Jewish territorial contiguity between Kiryat Arba and the Jewish enclave in the heart of Hebron, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs.” The soldiers guarding the bottom of the stairs said “all we want is for people to be safe, for things to be quiet.” There is nothing quieter than a ghost town.
15.05.18 | Hebron | Protester gestures at IDF soldiers during disturbances.
A Stone Can Kill
Israeli soldiers fire at protestors in Hebron on Nakba Day. The people throwing stones were exclusively children. The older set may have been 14 or 15 max. The soldiers shot three children, one with live ammunition. I was at the scene for about seven hours, standing either directly beside or beneath the position of the soldiers. At no point were they in danger. The stones did not even reach them. They were not under threat, and they knew it. They were relaxed and joking. Israel’s justification for the use of lethal force in these incidents is that “a stone can kill”. The extreme improbability of an Israeli being killed by a stone justifies the high probability of a Palestinian being killed by live ammunition. The child shot by live ammunition on this day survived.
15.05.18 – Hebron. IDF soldiers fire on children during disturbances.
10.05.18 | South Hebron Hills, Shib al Butum. | Jabareen children
Living in Area C
There are seven children in this family. They live in a small, isolated valley where they graze sheep and goats, and dig the land. Their parents are slim and muscular from hard, dirty work. Their mother can sit calmly and contentedly while her children climb the walls (literally) and push the two-year-old around the concrete-floored kitchen on a broken office chair. They share every moment with each other; They eat together, play together, work together, and collapse together, exhausted, under the pile of blankets in the corner of the bare room at night. A kitten sleeps on the four year-old’s face. The settlement looms on the nearby hilltop, the sound of construction chatters in the night. The diggers work by floodlight. I asked the father how the children were since the bad news; “They’re kids, they won’t know anything bad is happening until it’s happening.” Last week, the army came to the father with a document written in Hebrew. The officer told him; “Demolish the home now, or we will charge you for the cost of the army demolishing.” They are a poor family. The father is looking up at his roof, thinking about how he will start the job. He can salvage the materials. And he can’t afford whatever fee the army will charge him for the demolition. We photographed the army documents and asked around for advice. The army officer was lying: He was trying to trick the father into demolishing his own home. The document served was a Stop Work Order, usually a precursor to a demolition order but still no demolition order. They at least had a court date. We returned with the good news. The father didn’t care. His wife was already preparing the tent they would live in. I passed over the phone so he could hear from the UN what he refused to believe from me. Still, he didn’t care; “Call Mahmoud Abbas, it does not matter. They want to do it, so they will do it.”
The family live in Area C, an area comprising of about 61% of the West Bank – territory designated by the Oslo Accords as being under total Israeli control. According to the agreement, this control was to be temporary. The territory was to be passed over to the Palestinian Authority within five years. This never happened. Instead, Israel has retained control of the area and implemented an aggressive policy of settlement and displacement. The number of Israeli settlers in Area C has more than tripled since the Oslo Accords, now outnumbering Palestinians. Palestinians who live in Area C are not allowed to build and are subject to daily pressure in an effort to force them to move to Areas A and B, where the greatest concentrations of Palestinians live, and where the Palestinian Authority has a modicum of control. Settlers living in Area C are protected by Israeli law, pay (heavily subsidised) taxes to the state, and drive on their own segregated roads lined with Israeli flags. This de-facto annexation is only awaiting the official stamp, and will receive it once the number of Palestinian residents has been sufficiently reduced – the Jewish State must preserve its demographic integrity, or else how is it a Jewish State? Israel wants the land but not the people. And so these children have got to go. The fact that this family have been living on the same spot since the Ottoman Era is irrelevant.
28.06.18 | Jerusalem, Wadi Joz | Nur Amro with his children in their partially demolished home
Nur Amro and the Bulldozers
Nur Amro’s school lies at the foot of a stairs, out of sight from the road above. You would only know it is there by the sound of laughing and shrieking children, or because Nur himself told you it was there. And Nur tells a lot of people. The fundraising never stops for a school denied state investment. Nur walks smoothly down the concrete steps leading into the yard, making a mockery of my instinctive thoughts of helping him. Nur is blind and navigates his world with confidence and dignity. He fights for his students to do the same. He established this school with a mission to provide blind, and otherwise marginalized children, with the education he was denied as a child. 150 children, the max occupancy of the building, study at the Siraj Al-Quds school in Wadi Joz. Four of Nur’s classrooms are made out of metal and wood: “We need to be able to take them apart within 30 minutes.” Building permits are nearly impossible to obtain in East Jerusalem, and the school cannot afford the cost and disruption of an Israeli demolition. Running such a school without any state support is difficult, but Nur has not been defeated yet; “We always try to do miracles here.” Aside from the physical disabilities common among his pupils, about 80% suffer psychological problems due to demolitions, jailing of family members, night raids, and other ordeals of the occupation. And Nur understands: The family was asleep when the soldiers came, “banging violently on the doors.” Nur lives with his wife and three children. They said they would demolish a wall, but when he walked outside to speak to the officer, they began to demolish the entire house instead. “They deceived us. We stood in front of the bulldozers and hindered the demolition. Part of the house was saved. We never expected such a thing. We were not ready; no court order, no decision, nothing.” Israel has plans for a Natural Park ringing the walls of the Old City, and the 4,000 Palestinians living there, including Nur, are in the way. “We are living in a state of instability. We are living in constant anxiety. My children are asking where they will go if the house is demolished, and I don’t have an answer for them.”
09.04.18 | Hebron | IDF soldiers on Al Shuhada Street
Stop and Search
Armies are not designed to govern civilians, they are designed to identify and kill armed combatants. Under military occupation, a Palestinian male must constantly prove he is not a threat. He must justify his presence on this road at this time. He must have the correct permit. He must lift his shirt. He must turn and place his hands on the wall. Just because he proved it this morning does not mean it is true this evening. He will prove it for years and years, checkpoint after checkpoint, search after search, question after question, but never be recognised as a man. He is a military-age Arab male; a potential terrorist. When describing a particularly violent ‘Border Police’ soldier I had seen several times in Jerusalem, the young man interrupted me; “Oh I’ve known him since I was a kid. And he recognises me too.” Former IDF soldiers, now advocates with Breaking The Silence, have described the purpose of this relentless pressure as “making our presence felt. We make the Palestinians feel constantly chased.”
13.05.18 | Jerusalem, Old City | Settlers walk in front of Al Aqsa Mosque with armed guard on Jerusalem Day
Jerusalem Day at Al Aqsa
The Noble Sanctuary, the compound containing the Dome of The Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, is the heart of Palestinian Muslims. After years of increased division – East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Fatah and Hamas, those inside and outside The Wall – preserving the sanctity of the site, and access to it, has survived as the one cause with the power to unite and mobilise Palestinians. Any perceived Israeli interference with the Noble Sanctuary has the potential to cause mass peaceful protests, as seen in 2017 following Israeli attempts to install metal detectors, but also terrible violence. Misbah Abu Sbeih, a 39-year old father of five, was banned from accessing Al Aqsa by the Israeli security forces. His friends say he would weep when stopped at the gates. Before he killed two Israelis, he posted on Facebook; “How I yearn for my love and wish it would be the last thing I see, to kiss and kneel on its soil to pray.” Levana Mahili (60) was a grandmother of six. Yosef Kirma (29), a Police officer, was newly married.
23.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Architecture detail inside the Dome of the Rock.
23.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Muslims pray under the Rock inside the Dome of the Rock.
Every day, groups of settlers are escorted through the compound by the military and police. They are there to venerate what they call the Temple Mount, the raised area upon which the Dome of The Rock stands now but where they hope the Third Temple will stand in the future. Their presence is unfailingly seen as a provocation by the Muslim worshippers, who greet them with hard stares and sporadic shouts of Allahu Akbar. On Jerusalem Day 2018, Jews celebrated the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967 by gathering at the gates of the Sanctuary, raucously singing and jumping in unison. Some continued their triumphalism inside the walls, chanting in front of the stone-faced Muslim worshippers. One Waqf guard lashed out at a policeman and was quickly beaten to the ground. He was later dragged in handcuffs, with blood on his face, through the same group of Jewish teenagers who had so enraged him. One leaned in to laugh in his face. For Palestinians, Jerusalem Day celebrates the beginning of their subjugation – and the loss of control over their beating heart.
13.05.18 – Settlers inside the Al Aqsa compound photograph on-looking Palestinian worshipers.
13.05.18 – Jerusalem, Old City. Israeli security forces arrest a Waqf guard after fighting in the Al Aqsa compound on Jerusalem Day.
The video shows Border Police clearing Damascus Gate and the surrounding area of Palestinians. The nationalist rally to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967 would begin at Damascus Gate, the entrance to the Muslim Quarter, and no Palestinians would be allowed to remain. You may think you are witnessing a heavy-handed reaction to a protest, but aside from a small group spontaneously chanting at one point, there was no protest. The Palestinians attacked were simply there, and that could not be tolerated. Not on this day. Border Police moved outwards from Damascus Gate, expanding a metal barrier perimeter as they went, assaulting and arresting any Palestinian who did not move quickly enough out of the cultural and social centre of Palestinian life in Jerusalem. At no point did I, nor anyone else I spoke to, witness any violence or threat towards the security forces.
24.06.18 | South Hebron Hills, Meitar Checkpoint | Palestinians cross illegally into Israel at dawn to work
Palestinians cross illegally into Israel at dawn to work. They are passing through a hole in a fence, in full view of a military checkpoint; the sign in the foreground is for the vehicle entrance. Israel’s Wall is only partially completed. At the checkpoint I tried to ask men why their permits had been rejected, but they rushed past me, lunch bags in hand, towards the nearby hill: They could not miss work this morning. Israel justifies the Wall by citing the near-total decrease in bomb attacks since the beginning of its construction, yet an estimated 40,000 Palestinians cross illegally from the West Bank every day, bypassing all security checks.
09.03.18 | Jerusalem, Issawiya. | Residents conduct Friday prayers on the road in protest
Issawiya Night Raids
Residents of the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya pray on the road in protest. Israeli military and police stand in the background, watching and filming the participants. The entrances to Issawiya are subject to closure as a means of collective punishment. Blockading entire communities for crimes such as stone-throwing is a signature practice of the occupation. Another is raiding homes before dawn – the night before the protest, the army had taken seven people. The night before that: six. The record, from last October, stands at 51 people in one night. Muhammed has been taken before, many times. The community leader walks with a crutch after catching an Israeli bullet at a protest four years ago. He spent eight years in Ashkelon prison in the 90’s, where he cooked falafel for Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear whistle-blower held in solitary confinement. “Every day, we shouted good morning to him in Hebrew.” Muhammed cannot count the number of times the soldiers have raided his home. But he knows they usually come after two in the morning. I asked if this frightens him. He shrugged; “Is the city afraid of the sea?”
26.06.18 | South Hebron Hills, Bani Naim | IDF soldiers arrive at scene of protest against settlement outpost
The villagers argue with a soldier while young teenagers from the nearby settlement look on. An outpost has appeared on the village land; a house and barn beyond the settlement fence. The settlement is legal by Israeli law, the outpost is not. Yet there is no demolition order pending and the structure is connected to water and electricity. Also, security is guaranteed by a combination of the settlement security, the police, and the army. Palestinians are prevented from using the adjoining land by the following process: Palestinians arrive to work the land, settlers engage in intimidation or outright violence, the army declares the area a temporary closed military zone and orders everyone (including settlers) to leave. Palestinians who do not comply quickly enough are arrested. From a military perspective, order is restored. For the Palestinian, he is denied the use of his land. Knowing that the army will use this order to clear the area, the settler will confront the Palestinian every time. And so, the army facilitates the expansion of the settlement. The Palestinian must constantly return to the land, and face violence and arrest, or lose the land under absentee property law dating from the Ottoman era.
26.06.18 – South Hebron Hills, Bani Naim. Settler teenagers look on as Palestinians protest settlement outpost.
26.06.18 – South Hebron Hills, Bani Naim. Palestinians argue with IDF soldier during protest at settlement outpost.