Thank you and good evening everyone. My name is Basel Adra and I am from a village called Tawani in the south of the West Bank in a town called Masafer Riata. Our village is one of twenty small Palestinian communities living in Area C. Areas A, B and C have already been thoroughly explained. The occupying Israeli forces combined all our towns in 1967.
The lives of the people living here have been affected badly by these occupying forces.
In our area since the 1980s the Israelis forces have placed several severe impositions on our land.
First of all, tens of thousands of dunams [acres] of our land have been confiscated and designated as state land. Historically there had been an agreement that Palestinian families might live in thesemountains and use the public land for grazing their animals. All the communities here are farming communities and they mostly keep sheep or goats, though some of them raise camels. The communities need that land for grazing. They also plough the land and plant crops on some of it. Now the Israeli laws say that grazing sheep or animals in these places is an insufficient use of the land. So it's 'lifted' as they call it i.e. confiscated and called state land.
Once our local families find out that their land is regarded as state land they have to go to appeal to the court on that decision. Some of the farmers have been building on the land, unaware that it had already been confiscated. But the decisions are the same regardless of whether the land has been built on or not - it is stolen by the State of Israel. The state gives the green light for the army to take the land and remain in it themselves.
The moment they confiscate the land and it becomes officially state land, they start building settlements and digging roads for the settlers to connect them.
This started within the city of Jerusalem and BeerSheva so that settlers and the army would be be able to move around freely.
The other decision that was made was that they declared that 3000 hectares of our land would become a closed military zone to be used as a firing zone. This area includes 12 communities of our villages in Masafer Yatta. Whole communities - their houses, the farmland where we plough and plant - every part of our communities becomes a firing zone for the Israeli occupying army to come and train in.
It is very clear that the occupying forces are violating international law. The occupying power cannot legally declare occupied land as a firing zone and do military training. It is insane to declare a firing zone above twelve Palestinian communities so that the Israeli army can train and carry out military exercises. It is a lie, and it is just legitimising the confiscation and the stealing of our land.
And we know that this is not a temporary occupation for security. It is a crime and it is colonisation, not just apartheid. We Palestinians are being forced to move away from our homes towards area A and area B, where the big Palestinian cities are. Most of our land is allocated for Jews and their settlements and we are being ethnically cleansed.
So they are legitimising their presence on our land by first declaring our land as state land and the second level is to declare it as a firing zone.
I was born in 1996 and I've been witnessing this the whole of my life. And I hear the stories of my father and my grandfather before me, and it is going from bad to worse.
And as for the recent change of the Israeli government, to be honest, it's not a big change because here on the ground the powerful Israeli army and the settlers have been acting like this since the 1980s. In 1985 and 1986 they started demolishing our buildings and entering Palestinian caves in the communities.
In Riata(sp?) the people managed to stay in their land and did not move away from their homes until 1999. That's when the first violent eviction by the Israeli occupation army happened. They brought buses and trucks to forcibly remove them.
The Israeli forces physically and violently moved 700 residents of Masafer Yatta from the 12 communities into the buses and the trucks with their sheep and livestock.
Everything inside the houses - the kitchens and mattresses, where they slept - everything about their life - was shoved inside the trucks there and the people were moved away. And no alternative solution was provided by the Israeli occupation forces. The Israeli commander just showed them a map with the borders of the firing zone, and that was that.
Many of them came to live in my community or other communities that were not yet in the firing zone but still in Masafer Yatta.
A lot of the Palestinians set up tents in their neighbour's land in an attempt to start the their life again. For six months they stayed away from their homes and appealed to the Israeli high court. There were a lot of speeches by Knesset members, mostly from the left wing, to put pressure on the Israeli government.
Some families have since gone back to their homes or at least started to graze their sheep on their land, or harvest what they ploughed before the eviction.
A lot of those who tried to re-enter their homes were arrested and beaten up brutally by the army. A lot of their tractors were confiscated as well as their sheep and they had to pay fines as well.
So the soldiers kept them out of their land up until March 2000, when a temporary court ruling came from the court allowing the residents to go back and live in their communities until the final decision would be made, and this decision was finally made in 2022.
I just want to mention that we are living under military control. We don't choose the laws imposed on us. The Israelis change the laws as they see fit. It is a foreign army that is controlling our life, confiscating our land and demolishing our farms.
I am 26 year old. I have never in my life have voted in any election, not even in a Palestinian Authority election. I have not had any choice in the control of my life.
I carry a document from the father of my grandfather showing that I own a piece of land. But legally, according to the laws that are imposed on us here, I can't build a home. I can't act to change this law. And I am forced to follow it. Because the power of an army controls our life here.