Election campaign in Jayos
By Ehab Lotayef
January 8, 2005
It's getting close to Election Day. We head to the West Bank to talk with the people who will be going to the polls on Sunday. The village of Jayos is a good place to start. Jayos was in the news frequently over the past two years because of its residents' active opposition to the Wall during various stages of its construction.
Soon after our arrival and right after the Friday prayers the head of the municipal council is pleading with the people to prevent their children from bothering Israeli soldiers. As he explains to me later, the soldiers, when bored, parade into the village and if children bother them or throw stones at their Hummers punish the whole village by keeping the gate closed.*
We need to understand the background of the situation: The Wall (AKA Separation Barrier) separates Jayos' people from most of their fields. Out of a total of 12,500 donums (a donum is about 1/4 acre) 9,500 donums of Jayos' agricultural land now lies on the other side of the Barrier. To build the Barrier a path was cut through the fields (on confiscated land) at a width of about 50 meters on which the fence, or wall, a road, a ditch and two barbed wire barriers are built. Looking at the path of the Barrier and how it wiggles separating the wells, green houses, and fields of Jayos from the residential part of the village one can accept no "security" explanation.
The only gate though which the fields on the other side can be reached is normally opened twice or three times a day for 1 hour periods (but it seems that most days are not normal). Those who can cross when the gate is opened must have a valid permit issued only to land owners (one man told me that for his family the only permit that was originally issued was to his 80 year old mother who, of course, can do no field work). In harvest time or during bad weather a day or two can make the difference between a reasonable and a worthless crop.
Today the gate is closed.* The Israeli soldiers are watching from a hill top.* They drove towards the Barrier when I spent too much time close to it taking photos and sounded their siren. They went back to their observation point when I moved away.
One topic leads to another, and I ask about the elections. There are tons of campaign posters and banners at the entrance to the village,* and I heard that one of the candidates will be holding a meeting here in an hour or so. I realize that no one is really excited about the elections or expecting much to come out of it, or after it. What I heard made sense: "What can any candidate do in the face of total Israeli dominance?" "What difference would it make who wins if Israel will not abide by international law and when the international community is practically silent?"
Editor's note: In a recent article, I read that Ariel Sharon is "disappointed" in the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, this after he hand picked him to be elected. It would make one wonder what he meant by "disappointed."
The people of Jayos are wondering why the Wall is not central to any candidates' campaign while it is – at least currently and to them – the biggest threat facing the Palestinian people. I want to say that it is bad practice for politicians to promise what they cannot deliver or bring up issues that expose their inabilities, but I think the people of Jayos know this. I ask a few if it would have made a difference if Mustapha Barghouti (the West Bank Fateh leader imprisoned by Israel) should have stayed in the race. The majority say he should have.
The candidate arrives and people head to the hall where the meeting is to take place. We decide to leave.
On our way we drive into the settlement of Ariel close by where houses come with a government subsidy, there is no barrier, and no gate separates the settlers from "their" land.
* Barrier diagram:
* Ehab Lotayef is an engineer, a peace activist and a freelance writer from Montréal, Canada
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