Three weeks ago, on March 16, Tariq al-Hathalin posted on Facebook the words “Please please please not again.” Tariq, who is 22 and studying for a degree in English at Hebron University, attached to his post 16 photographs of a white Toyota Hilux pickup driving through the tiny West Bank village of Umm al-Kheir, in the dry and rocky hills south of Hebron, where he was born and where he, his mother, siblings, uncle and aunts, cousins and nieces and nephews live. They are Bedouins. Tariq’s great-grandfather bought the land on which the village sits after being pushed from his ancestral lands near what is now the Israeli city of Arad in the years after the establishment of the Israeli state. In the early 1980s, settlers arrived. They built their community, which they called Carmel, on land seized from the village. Since then the people of Umm al-Kheir have been under constant pressure from their neighbors, and from the army: demolitions, land confiscations, a slow and steady effort to force them from their homes.
The white Toyota belonged to the Israeli Civil Administration, which manages and oversees all aspects of Palestinian life in the 60 percent of the West Bank that falls under direct Israeli control and which, despite its name, is a subunit of Israel’s Ministry of Defense and part of the IDF General Staff. Tariq knew exactly what its arrival in Umm al-Kheir meant. One week later the demolition orders came. Tariq posted photos of the documents. “Why is this happening to my village?” he wrote. The orders, he told me, were for six small sheet metal homes, including the one in which he lived. An NGO had donated them after another round of demolitions in October 2014, when Israeli bulldozers knocked down six stone buildings that had together provided housing for 28 people. A few months later, the Israeli army had come back and confiscated the tents in which the people of Umm al-Kheir had been forced to take shelter. Yesterday Tariq posted photos of an Israeli military jeep in the hills outside Umm al-Kheir. “Ya Allah,” he wrote. (“Oh God.”)
Early this morning the bulldozers came. As always, with a large contingent of armed men. You can watch the video above if you have the stomach for it. They destroyed all six of the new houses. Tariq’s uncle Suleiman collapsed after attempting to stand in the way of the bulldozers and being pushed by soldiers. “He is okay,” Tariq wrote me this morning. “Everything is okay.”