It’s happening right now, every day: Israel is trying to displace thousands of Palestinians who live in farming-shepherding communities throughout the West Bank. They face imminent expulsion and are subject to abuse, violence and dispossession.
It is a crime to transfer the protected residents of an occupied territory from their homes, regardless of whether the transfer is accomplished by brute force or by making residents’ life so unbearable that they leave, ostensibly of their own accord.
Forcible transfer is prohibited and constitutes a war crime.
Israel’s strategy is to forbid Palestinian construction of either private or public buildings. It also denies them the option of connecting to running water and electricity, and keeps them from paving roads. In some communities, Israel has demolished homes as well as infrastructure set up by the residents – such as solar panels for generating power, water cisterns and access roads. In addition, the military holds training exercises on the pastureland and farmland of some communities, and even in the midst of the residential area.
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How can you help?
Pressuring Israeli authorities has often been known to help prevent – or at least defer – the implementation of plans.Here too, public criticism – in Israel and internationally – can help these Palestinian communities stay on their land and help prevent the demolition of the residents’ homes. Negative public opinion is a price Israel doesn’t want to pay, and often would rather avoid. We can raise the price.
Why does Israel want to drive out these residents?
Israel’s goal is to establish as many facts on the ground as possible, in order to make more land available for settlements and to achieve conditions that will make it easier to officially annex Area C (unilaterally or in a future agreement) and until then – annex the land de facto. To that end, Israel wants to take over as much as possible of these communities’ land. Until it manages to do so, Israel is putting life there on hold. Officially, it is using the pretext of “enforcing building and planning laws”: demolishing what it terms “unlawful construction” and removing residents from land it has unilaterally declared as “firing zones”. All this is a blatant lie: the state knows full well that it has ensured that Palestinians in Area C are barred from any possibility of legally building or laying infrastructure.
Where is this happening?
Israel is focusing efforts on three areas throughout the West Bank:
1.The South Hebron Hills: Some 1,000 people, about half of them minors, live in this area. The military began transferring out local residents in late 1999, arguing that the land had been declared a “firing zone” as far back as the 1980s.
2.The Ma’ale Adumim area:: In the 1980s and 1990s, the Civil Administration expelled hundreds of Bedouins of the Jahalin tribe in order to establish and later expand the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. The residents were transferred to a permanent site created for them near the Abu Dis garbage dump, losing access to the pastureland that was their livelihood. Now, another 3,000 or so local residents are facing imminent expulsion. This number include about 1,400 who live in an area that Israel has designated E1 and earmarked for expanding Ma’ale Adumim, to create a contiguous urban bloc between the settlement and Jerusalem.
3.The Jordan Valley: Some 2,700 Palestinians live in this area, in about 20 shepherding communities. The military has declared much of the land on which they live “firing zones” and conducts training exercises near their homes. In some communities, residents are repeatedly forced to vacate their homes so soldiers can train nearby.
Why don’t the Palestinians build legally?
Because Israel has made this impossible. It has retained all planning and building powers in Area C and the Civil Administration refuses to draw up outline plans for Palestinian communities. When the residents – left no choice – build homes, public structures and infrastructure anyway, Israel threatens demolition on grounds of “illegal construction”, and in some cases makes good on the threat. Israel has created a bureaucratic bind which effectively denies these communities any possibility of legal construction or development.
If the transfer is unlawful, isn’t it better to fight it with legal means and petition the High Court of Justice?
The reality life in the West Bank is one of systematic violations of the law by Israel, aided by various laws and military orders the state set out without involving the Palestinians living there. The problem is that, at present, there is no worldwide institution that can effectively enforce international law. Inside Israel, the legal battles waged by the residents of these communities have managed to temporarily delay the demolition and transfer. However, the High Court of Justice has evaded taking a clear stance on the illegality of Israel’s policy. In some cases, the justices even approved the demolition of homes and infrastructure, knowing full well that the residents have nowhere else to go.