Um Elkhair: Hard Conditions Due to the Israeli Occupation

29 August 2012

In Um Elkhair, a village in the South Hebron Hills, the people face a daily existential struggle caused by the Israeli occupation.

What strikes you the most when entering this area is the coexistence, separated by few meters, of two totally different worlds. The chain-link fence holds back leafy green trees and bushes, which give way to a rocky, dry and barren landscape. The discrepancy between water supplies for Palestinians and colonists is a nationwide problem but in few places is it as stark as Um Elkhair.

While the colonists have lush, green gardens the locals Palestinians have no other option then to travel over 2 km, daily, to get water for their livestock. This livestock is the only source of income for the village since the lack of water makes agriculture an impossibility.

The quality of housing on either side of the fence is another plain demonstration of the injustices of the occupation. Whilst the colonists’ villas could be mistaken for an affluent European suburb, the Palestinians’ village was resembles a shanty town.

Palestinian home in front of a colonist's house.

Residents, speaking to the PSP, described how their home had been repeatedly threatened with demolition. This building is a simple construction of metal poles and plastic tarpaulins on a concrete base, unfurnished, but was constructed without authorization in area C. One of the elderly men rhetorically asked “Where’s the justice when we’re forbidden from building a home on our own land?”.

Some organizations have attempted to alleviate the hardship faced by the inhabitants of Um Elkhair, however, the progress has been inhibited by the colonists. A non-governmental organization installed solar panels to provide electricity for the local Palestinians, but they were soon destroyed in an attack by colonists. Other organizations have occasionally provided essential supplies and the UN have been monitoring the situation for seven years, but a lack of enforcement power has meant that no progress has been made.

Examples like Um Elkhair highlight the ongoing policy of the occupation authorities to deliberately inflict ‘Third World’ conditions upon the Palestinians, whilst allowing the colonies to continue to expand on stolen Palestinian land.

A colonist's villa seen through the fence that seperates Um Elkhair from the Israeli colony