Aqaba defenders with Brooklyn peace activists holding Pinwheels for Peace

Aqaba defenders with Brooklyn peace activists holding Pinwheels for Peace

Pinwheels for Peace made by children of the Aqaba kindergarten

Pinwheels for Peace made by children of the Aqaba kindergarten

Aqaba is a small village located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. As part of the land that was zoned to be Area C under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Aqaba is under complete Israeli military and political control. The Israeli Civil Administration, not responding to requests from local village representatives for rezoning, declared in June 2003 that nearly the entire town was illegal. Now Aqaba, population 300, lives under 35 demolition orders which can be exercised at any time. Many homes have already been destroyed. Virtually every building in town is slated for bulldozing, including the mosque, the medical center, the kindergarten, and all the roads.

Under the law, Palestinians are permitted to build with permits. However, the Israeli Civil Administration, which must issue all building permits in Area C, rarely grants these to Palestinian applicants. In 1972, 97% of permits applied for by Palestinians were issued. In the period from 2000 to 2007, although fewer permits were applied for, only 5% were granted. The Israeli group Peace Now found that in this same period, during which only 91 permits were issued to Palestinians, 18,472 housing units were built in Jewish-only settlements of the West Bank.

Area C represents 60% of the land of the West Bank. About 130 of the approximately 150 Palestinian villages located in Area C are considered illegal by the Israeli authority, and therefore exist daily under threat of demolition. It is in Area C that the approximately 220 Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank are located. These settlements house over 280,000 Jews and have been declared illegal under international law. The Oslo Accords of 1993, which divided Palestine into Areas A, B, and C, were designed as a transitional framework through which a permanent agreement for an independent and self-governing Palestinian state was to be reached. Negotiations relative to permanent statehood were to begin no later than May 1996, and the entire transition was to be completed within 5 years, by 1998.

With 2 military bases set up nearby, and a third training area which was located just next to the town until June 2003 when an historic victory was won in Israel’s Supreme Court, daily life in Aqaba is heavily infused by the oppressive politics of Zionist apartheid. The mayor of the town, Village Council president Haj Sami Sadeq, has been wheelchair-bound since age 16 due to the bullet of Israeli soldiers training on the land of his village. He views the town’s constructive resistance as not only positive for the lives and spirits of his people, but also as a means of gaining the world’s recognition to save Aqaba.

Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq has been in the United States on a speaking tour to save his village from demolition. Also participating in the speaking tour were Director of Aqaba’s kindergarten Rawhieh Sbaih, Israeli architect and planner Shmuel Groag, and Donna Baranski-Walker, engineer and founder of Rebuilding Alliances, a nonprofit group dedicated to rebuilding housing destroyed in warzones and creating safe communities. New York events were co-sponsored by Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, Brooklyn for Peace, and the Brooklyn Society of Friends Peace & Social Action Committee.