In the News May 14
Anniversary of Al-Nakba
Ruling of Israel’s High Court Permitting More Dispossessions Deserves Condemnation
Today it is becoming common practice for High Courts and Supreme Courts, considered duty bound to uphold the cause of justice and human rights, to rule on unconscionable laws and declare them legal. This is what we are witnessing when Israel’s “High Court of Justice” on May 4 issued a ruling allowing the Israeli state to demolish 18 Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills and to permanently expel the residents of those villages. At least 1,500 people are said to live in these villages in an area of some 3,000 hectares.
According to the Geneva Conventions pertaining to humanitarian treatment in war, it is illegal to expropriate occupied land for purposes that do not benefit the people living there, or to forcibly transfer the local population. However, in a similar fashion to the Zionists’ dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948, Israel claims that these villagers were not permanent residents when the area was seized by its military and therefore have no rights to the land.
Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence said of the ruling: “The high court has just green-lighted the largest population transfer in the history of the occupation since the early 1970s.
“Deportation of over 1,000 people in favour of expanding settlements, outposts and training of Israel Defence Forces soldiers is not only a humanitarian catastrophe that could set a precedent for other communities across the West Bank, but also a clear step in de facto annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and cementing military rule indefinitely.”
Nidal Younes, the head of the Masafer Yatta village council said of the ruling, “We have been fighting with Israel in the courts for the last 22 years and it took this judge five minutes to destroy the lives of 12 villages and the people who are dependent on the land.
“In the end, history repeats itself: Nakba after Nakba,” he said.
David Shulman, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an activist against Israeli settlements, recently explained in an article for The Wire, “The ruling also has severe implications for the survival of another five villages situated in military training zone 918. Here are the names of all 13 villages under this zone: Jinbah, Markaz, Fakhit, Sfayi, Halawah, Khalat al-Dab’a, Taban, Majaz, Rakiz, Simri, Magha’ir al-‘Abid, Tuba, Mufagara-Sarura. To eradicate families from these villages is to efface an entire traditional culture and a unique, historic way of life.
“The training zone was arbitrarily established by the army in 1981, and the present high court ruling reconfirms its legality. For over 20 years the Palestinian residents of this area have been struggling against eviction. The ruling of May 4 may mark the end of this legal process and thus the end of hope for these people. For the last many decades, the Israeli authorities have been systematically demolishing their homes, destroying the roads and wells, and confiscating their meagre agricultural implements.
“During this same period, Israeli settlers were building and expanding illegal outposts within the same training zone, usually with the open support of the army; such settlements enjoy immunity from any threat of destruction, while the settlers engage in daily harassment and violence against their Palestinian neighbours.”
Shulman explains further: “The judges, dismissing hard evidence submitted by the Palestinian plaintiffs, ruled that there were no permanent residences in these villages before 1981, when the firing zone was declared. There is ample evidence going back at least to the first half of the 19th century that the Palestinians lived in the villages of Masafer Yatta for at least eight to ten months each year (some families throughout the entire year).”
Since the 1970s, Israel has declared 18 per cent of the occupied West Bank “firing zones” for military training. According to the minutes of a 1981 ministerial meeting, Ariel Sharon, who was at that time Agriculture Minister, proposed creating Firing Zone 918 with the explicit intention of forcing local Palestinians from their homes.
The Guardian newspaper explains that Palestinian communities living within firing zones have been repeatedly threatened with home demolitions and the confiscation of agricultural land because they lack building permits, which are issued by the Israeli authorities and are nearly impossible to obtain.
TML Daily, posted May 14, 2022.