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New Israeli Land Confiscations in the Southern West Bank


Last week, the Israeli courts rejected a Palestinian appeal against a military order of confiscation of land issued one year ago. This order confiscates 2000 dunam (1 dunam= 1000 m) belonging to nine Palestinian families in the villages of al-Khader and Artas in the south of Bethlehem District, to the north of the settlement of Efrat. The families affected appealed to the Israeli courts in Jerusalem through human rights organizations, but unfortunately only one of the nine appeals was accepted. According to sources, there are plans to expand the settlement of Efrat toward the north and northwest, encroaching ever closer to the two villages and to the city of Bethlehem...

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New Israeli Land Confiscations in the Southern West Bank

by Ahmad Jaradat, Alternative Information Center (AIC)

Feb 23, 2009

Last week, the Israeli courts rejected a Palestinian appeal against a military order of confiscation of land issued one year ago. This order confiscates 2000 dunam (1 dunam= 1000 m) belonging to nine Palestinian families in the villages of al-Khader and Artas in the south of Bethlehem District, to the north of the settlement of Efrat. 

The families affected appealed to the Israeli courts in Jerusalem through human rights organizations, but unfortunately only one of the  nine appeals was accepted. According to sources, there are plans to expand the settlement of Efrat toward the north and northwest, encroaching ever closer to the two villages and to the city of Bethlehem.  

The Court sustained the Settlement Council and the Israeli Authority, even though the farmers presented the necessary certificates of ownership in due time, which is, according to the Israeli Law, seven days from the issue of the order.

As a result, the Palestinians of the area will begin a popular protest movement, considering that all the legal procedures have not worked. They want to preserve their lands, which have fertile soil for trees and grapes and are rich in spring water, factors that contribute significantly to the success of agriculture, and, subsequently, a good income for the families. 

A long time ago, throughout the region between Bethlehem and Hebron, one could see only fields and beautiful landscapes, now everything, from east to west, is covered with settlement buildings, spoiled by by-pass roads, and fragmented by the wall. All these factors work together, compromising the geographical unity of the West Bank.   

The Aim of Land Confiscation and the Strategic Policy of Settlements: The Case of Gush Etzion and Efrat 

In 1983 the settlement of Efrat was established in the West Bank, soon becoming one of the biggest colonies, though one of the less crowded with people. In all the area of the settlement, there is a lot of space between one building and another, and the streets are very large. At the beginning, the settlement was built as a line from the north to the south. Later, however, it was also expanded west to east, with new housing units, security zones and roads. 

According to Israeli sources, the number of inhabitants is approximately 9,000. On the land just confiscated, in all probability 2,000 houses will be built.  

This extension will be strategic, in fact the order of confiscation n. 5/03/09 aims to join the settlement of Efrat with the settlement of Gush Etzion. After the unification, the Israeli Government will continue building the Wall in order to surround the two settlements. Taking into account, the additional two orders of confiscation in the Hebron District, it becomes clear that the Israeli Administration is attempting to create a kind of metropolitan region around Jerusalem, completely encircled by the Wall, covering 100 square miles.  

Tens of families have lost their lands and their properties, becoming refugees in their own land. Only in the Hebron District are there are 45,000 dunam of land between the Green Line and the Wall.  

The disposition of the settlements in West Bank is not accidental, but based on an extreme version of the Zionist project, entailing evacuation of the great majority of non-Jews from the lands controlled by Israel. The settlements are created according to a circular population distribution, aiming to eventually connect between one settlement and the other. This strategic planning is vexing the Palestinians: they can't cultivate their lands, they can't simply build in their cities and villages, and they lose the freedom of movement. 

It is the Settlement Council in West Bank that coordinates the building of new outposts. So, settlers decide for the settlers. The Israeli Army merely issue the military order for security reasons, and the Israeli Government simply undersign the decisions made by the Settlement Council.

Three months ago, 103 outposts were counted. The outpost is the first step of the settlement policy. Typically, the Israeli military evacuate the Palestinian people in as non-explicit way as possible, frightening them in order to declare the land as an "abandoned asset." 

This despite the fact that the IV Geneva Convention, in the article 49, prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territories to the occupied territories.  

Furthermore, the Hague Regulations prohibits an occupying power from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs, in the narrow sense of the term,  or unless they are undertaken for benefits of local population.  

Not one of the cases of land confiscation in the Hebron District adheres to the regulations of international law. 

The Reactions to the Land Confiscations and the Connection between the Israeli Policy of Settlement and the "Peace Process"

The Palestinian leadership, and particularly Mahmoud Abbas, has spoken a lot about this last land confiscation. Israel has acted to appropriate a huge amount of land during a significant political period. Because Israel is in a transition period during which elections were just held, and a new government has not been formed, it is conveniently for the settlers, more difficult to control the situation.  Meanwhile, though the Palestinian Authority has spoken a lot, it has done nothing to prevent the land confiscations. 

The AIC met with, Abdul Hadi Hantash, an expert on land and settlement for the Land Defense General Committee. The Committee is very active; it has brought 285 cases to the Israeli courts. "In the past, we won 80 percent of the cases," explained Hanatash. "In the cases of confiscation for 'Israeli property of the land, the Court used to sanction the mechanism, contributing to create a mask of legality. Subsequently, however, they began to do this in parallel with the army." 

Typically, the Committee takes three approaches to help Palestinians fight against the land confiscations. 

The first step is a press conference; the second step is going to foreign consulates and organizing tours for politicians and diplomats in order to show the real situation of the occupation. The third step is bringing the case to the Israeli courts. Between 1998 and 2000, the Committee obtained a lot of decisions for the return of lands to Palestinians. 

We asked Hanatsh what he thinks about the connection between the peace process and land confiscation. He said that the aim of the settlement project is to take the remaining 55 percent of Palestinian lands. Moreover, he was very pessimistic about the real intention of the Israeli government.  

"Whoever believes that they want the peace is mad. They say that they want peace, but we want to see facts to support this on the ground. We want to put an end to the bloodshed and we want to live as a free people. But giving a hand to Israel is the same as putting snakes in our pockets. Not one of them dares to say: 'we want to stop confiscating the land, demolishing houses, building the Wall, etc. And the occupation goes on and on, with the robbery of hundreds of dunam."


:: Article nr. 52098 sent on 15-nov-2009 04:57 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=52098

Link: www.alternativenews.org/content/view/1590/494/



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