Ahmed Oudeh is the Founder and Director of the Center for Freedom and Justice in Beit Ummar, a village in occupied West Bank. Mr. Oudeh is currently in Colorado for speaking engagements and establishing partnerships to bring back to his community. The work of the center focuses on agricultural and water justice in the Occupied Territories, particularly Area C, which is most tightly controlled by Israel.
Area C, which makes up over half of the West Bank, is an administrative division created out of the Oslo II Accord. The international community considers Israeli settlements in Area C to be illegal. Indeed, the United Nations upheld the view that Israel’s construction of settlements constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Never the less, Israel strongly disputes these assertions based on contrary legal grounds.
Area C is, today, completely under Israeli control. Within Area C there are currently 385,900 Israeli settlers and approximately 300,000 Palestinian inhabitants.
Mr. Oudeh says that in Area C, any land left unused for 3 years can be appropriated and becomes Israeli state land. Palestinians generally do not build their homes within the boundary of Area C because of the frequency of demolition orders. Rather, they build and live in Area B and endeavor to do as much agricultural activity on the land as possible, to avoid Israeli state land confiscation.
The efforts of the Center for Freedom and Justice to hold on to land have had some positive impact. Even so, lands are being confiscated, says Mr. Oudeh, “when the Israeli government, they decide to take land whether it’s farmed or not, they will take it.”
Water for agricultural and residential use is also a concern. Areas that once were agricultural are no longer because of water availability. People keep tanks on rooftops to collect water for domestic use – which runs to homes only once every 2-weeks. “Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it isn’t” says Mr. Oudeh.
Israeli settlers dig wells to supplement their water supply. The Israeli government, often though, does not allow Palestinians to dig more than 2-metres down, explains Mr. Oudeh. Nowhere near the 60-metre minimum to reach the ground water. When they do build a well, the Israeli government will either issue a demolition order or simply come and destroy the well themselves.
Well-building is one example of how beneficial international support is to the Palestinian efforts in Area C. Mr. Oudeh explains, when a well is built in conjunction with an international partner there is far less likelihood of demolition by the Israeli government.
Rob Prince is part of the group that brought Ahmed Oudeh to Colorado. He explains their model as an effort to establish a long-term, person-to-person connection with the community of Beit Ummar. The two sides will select a practical project to work on together. That established connection has consequences on human and political level that “will be enduring”, says Mr. Prince.
It is Mr. Prince’s judgment that the efforts of Israel in the occupied territories is to make life unlivable for the Palestinians – to the point that either they leave or they suffer a complete collapse of civil society. Indeed, he asserts, “What Ahmed and his group are doing is to try to keep civil society alive, and we are going to do what we can to help that effort.”
Listen to the full interview here:
There are a number of opportunities to hear Mr. Ahmed Oudeh speak, while in Colorado.
Friday, May 25th at 7pm
CU Boulder – Eaton Humanities Room 250
Oudeh will will speak on “Living Under Israeli Occupation”. The center facilitates sustainable programs in rural Palestinian communities. Through a combination of educational and development projects the center seeks to improve the lives of rural West Bank residents. It also teaches the practice of non-violence.
The event is sponsored by the Center for Freedom and Justice-Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Peace and justice Center, and the Denver/Boulder Jewish Voice for Peace. The event is free.
Saturday, May 26th from 2:00-4:00pm
Learning Party “Meet the Middle East”
Posner Center for International Development
1031 33rd Street, Denver
Please RSVP with your name and number in your party to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, May 27th from 3:00-5:00pm
Organized by the Friends of Sabeel Colorado
Augustana Lutheran Church
5000 E Alameda Ave, Denver