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Migron evacuation proves Israel's land policy is political, not legal

The question is whether Israel will ever realize that regardless of the somersaults it does to try and establish legitimate claims to to the land, its power will one day run out.

So, Migron, the little illegal outpost that made big headlines in recent months, was finally evacuated in its entirety on Sunday, after years of legal battle and media commotion made over 50 families.

Demonstration to evacuate Migron in 2008 (Activestills)

News outlets made sure to report that the evacuation was carried out peacefully and with little resistance. Today’s Haaretz editorial chose to point to the fact that although the affair is a “badge of shame for Israel,” it is affirmation that justice and rule of law in Israel are being upheld.

Despite the political pressure and many attempts to postpone implementation of the eviction order, the justice and law enforcement systems passed the test.

But can we genuinely look at the Migron affair as a success story for Israel’s legal system? The editorial even admits:

The bad news is that an outpost established through deceit, without a permit, and on privately-owned Palestinian land managed to dispossess the land’s rightful owners for more than a decade.

Can I really rejoice at the fact that more than 10 years of theft and colonization done in my name and paid for by my tax money have now come to an end in one single, tiny place? And whose inhabitants will now be just a few meters away anyway, still in the West Bank?

The emphasis on the fact that Migron was an illegal outpost on private Palestinian land – and thus somehow worse than others – is problematic. Is there really a difference between the settlement of Ariel or Ma’ale Adumim and the outpost Givat Assaf or Avigayil? After all, an outpost is nothing but a baby settlement, a new settlement. All settlements were once outposts.  The fact that Israeli law does differentiate between illegal and legal outposts is but a nonsense facade to provide a semblance of law and order in its takeover of the West Bank.

Besides, the fact that certain outposts are considered illegal by Israeli law (since they are built on private Palestinian land that the landowner can prove with a deed) has not stopped Israel from finding loopholes, or just changing the law to suit its desires.

As David Newman, dean of the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University points out in an op-ed in the JPost:

Whether Migron is defined as legal or illegal is of no significance, as is also the case with regard to the many other smaller communities and outposts which have been set up in close proximity to the larger Jewish communities and townships during the past decade. Depending on one’s own politics, all 300,000-plus residents of the region are illegal settlers, or they are all entitled to settle throughout the ancient Jewish heartland of the Land of Israel.

He forgot to mention the other 200,000 settlers in East Jerusalem, but the point is that the issue is not a legal one, or even a moral one – but rather a political one. Israel wants as much land with as few Palestinians as possible. This has always been and continues to be the case. In this sense, the story of Migron is the story of the entire West Bank, and to an extent, all of Israel as well.

Israel’s methods for appropriating land range from military seizure (current example is Firing Zone 918 in South Hebron Hills), to “absentee property” (many neighborhoods in East Jerusalem)  to declaring them “state lands,” which is just a euphemism for confiscation. According to Peace Now, at least 90 settlements in the West Bank were built on “state lands,” which essentially means lands Israel found ways to forcefully and/or deceitfully keep Palestinians off long enough to declare them it as such.  So the concept of “stolen land” or “private land” simply becomes meaningless.

Thus, isn’t the attempt by liberal Israelis to see some kind of smooth distinction between “legal” and “illegal,” “moral” and “immoral” simply ignoring the heart of the matter?

Lets be clear.  According to some people, Tel Aviv is stolen land as well. But even if land ownership in Tel Aviv is proven by Palestinians, no Israeli is going to give it back, or Jaffa for that matter. So the issue of rightful or legal ownership is increasingly irrelevant – as it is something that the entity in power will always have a heavy hand in, and in most cases, ultimately determine.  Rather, the issue at hand is entirely political.

The debate over whose land it is and how it was registered and which parts belong to whom is irrelevant, since as long as one entity has all the power and all the will to control the land, it will continue to control that land – and how it does so is arbitrary.

The question is whether Israel will ever realize that regardless of the somersaults it does to try and establish legitimate claims to to the land, its power will one day run out – and it will still need to figure out a way to live with the Palestinians here.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. camembert

      The supposed difference between outposts and settlements is that while outposts do not fulfill one of the 4 Sasson criteria (built within approved area, government approval, approved building plan, not built on private Palestinian land), official settlements are constructed by the “rules”.

      This is nonsensical, since 70% of “legal”/official settlement construction in the West Bank does no fulfill one of the 4 Sasson criteria and is therefore illegal under Israeli law. (Spiegel Database data)

      The “illegal” outpost and “legal” settlement dichotomy is thus completely void and only serves Israeli colonial interest in the West Bank while distracting from the general illegality of the settlement enterprise.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      Israel has figured out how to live with the Palestinians here. It is just that neither you nor the Palestinians like it, but that doesn’t in itself mean that it is untenable or that alternatives exist.

      I would have thought that you would at least momentarily celebrate the ethnic cleansing of Jews, but I suppose some people aren’t going to be happy until the Palestinians celebrate the ethnic cleansing of all the Jews from the Middle East.

      As for ‘its power will one day run out’, this is another veiled vague future threat that is absolutely meaningless. If Israel’s power one day runs out then it will likely disappear regardless of whether Maale Adumim exists or not. As such, much like the rest of the article, you are really saying nothing.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bronxman

      Since control of water sources are an unmentioned high priority in the region I wonder if there are any geologic maps available to the public detailing this precious resource. I’m curious if there are any connections with the location of settlements. Does anyone have any information or comments?

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        It is unmentioned because it isn’t a very high priority. Israel extracts about 500 million cubic meters of water from the West Bank, including from aquifers that are shared across the border. The cost for desalinization is about .50c-.60c / cubic meter. So, even in the scenario where Israel loses access to any and all the water sitting in these aquifers it is a total loss of $250-$300M to a $240B economy (about one tenth of one percent). Here is a link: http://www.mideastweb.org/westbankwater.htm

        You can google for ‘water resource map west bank’ for other maps.

        Settlements don’t have significant value in securing water resources because aquifers cover very large territorial areas.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bronxman

          Kolumn9:

          I have followed up on the water issue in Israel and I’m learning a few things:

          1- Water is indeed considered as a national resource of utmost importance. Water is vital to ensure the population’s well-being and quality of life and to preserve the rural-agricultural sector. Israel has suffered from a chronic water shortage for years. In recent years however, the situation has developed into a crisis so severe that it is feared that by the next summer it may be difficult to adequately supply municipal and household water requirements. The current cumulative deficit in Israel’s renewable water resources amounts to approximately 2 billion cubic meters, an amount equal to the annual consumption of the State

          2- The Arab-Israeli dispute is a conflict about land – and maybe just as crucially the water which flows through that land.

          3- Heated arguments rage about the rights to the mountain aquifer. Israel, and Israeli settlements, take about 80% of the aquifer’s flow, leaving the Palestinians with 20%.

          4- The Palestinians say they are prevented from using their own water resources by Israel, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to buy water from the government at inflated prices.

          5- Israel allocates to its citizens, including those living in settlements in the West Bank between three and five times more water than the Palestinians.

          “It is unmentioned because it isn’t a very high priority” ? It looks like the exact opposite.

          I guess I’m going to have to follow up elsewhere since this subject seems to be very much a high priority item for Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bronxman

            Continued:
            4- The Palestinians say they are prevented from using their own water resources by Israel, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to buy water from their occupiers at inflated prices.
            5- Israel allocates to its citizens, including those living in settlements in the West Bank between three and five times more water than the Palestinians

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Bronxman, for everything you have listed, to maintain the Israeli water status quo the cost of replacing all the water resources in the West Bank is roughly $250M/year. That’s it. Israel doesn’t want to pay the extra $250M/year especially since it has gotten used to using the resources for free and the two biggest aquifers are shared across the borders, but the priority of the issue is still the equivalent of $250M/year – roughly 1/10th of 1 percent of GDP.

            I actually thought you were asking a real question but you just wanted a reason to spout off propaganda. If I wanted to do that I could too have told you that Israel is suffering from droughts and that the Kinneret is at a certain level and the Dead Sea is at this other level and that desalinization is expensive, and that the water issue is an existential one but silly me, I actually provided you an objective answer. The water resources are not that important and their total replacement cost is $250M/year. Spin it any way you want, but in the future I’ll make sure to ignore your BS questions.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bronxman

            Continued:
            2- The Arab-Israeli dispute is a conflict about land – and maybe just as crucially the water which flows through that land.

            3- Heated arguments rage about the rights to the mountain aquifer. Israel, and Israeli settlements, take about 80% of the aquifer’s flow, leaving the Palestinians with 20%.

            Kolumn 9: Your response shows me that a nerve has been hit and this must indeed be an important issue. This is a real question and it has nothing to do with monetary costs.

            Reply to Comment
    4. ish yehudi

      one big problem with the general 972 perspective (very clear here) is your abject, political refusal to recognize that MANY settlements are built on land legally purchased by Jews from also their LOCAL owners (not just absentees).
      I live in a yishuv that is part of a 600 dunam parcel of former grazing land that the local muhktar sold to Jews 100 years ago. Its now a settlement that gets easily lumped in all your rhetoric and doesn’t acknowledge the entire world of local reality.
      Why should we be boycotted? what justice will that serve? what will it prove- that we can’t ever live alongside each other?
      Sometimes it seems the left is much more interested in clearing its conscious than finding a working solution based on the peoples on the ground…

      Reply to Comment
      • As Yehudi notes, there will indeed be injustices if there is ever an enforced pull out. And the longer the occupation lasts, the greater the number of such injustices will be. There are also injustices on the other side. I suspect that a single State is inevitable. If so, then you will indeed have a chance to show how to live along side one another. It will be very difficult. On all sides. You will have to make them citizens; even then, all of the various “you”s will have reasons to resent and more. There will be no simple path. But I think you know that, living there, better than I.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Land under the UN Resolution enabling the foundation of the State of Israel, to which the Israeli Declaration of Independence agreed, is under that State’s control under its own laws. Tel Aviv is solely an Israeli internal matter. Past the Green Line, large settlements like Aerial, may be here to stay. Clearly, however, the creation of more, or expansion of the vanguard settlement boundaries, acts for force resident Palestinians on less land under any accord. Each expansion holds fidelity to the principle of lebensraum–land taken for the designated superior at cost to prior residents.

      I suspect the High Court will not void verifiable deeds because similar deeds have been involved in the sale of land within Israel. To void the deeds in one place could create a legal precedent for voiding them elsewhere, causing much confusion. The Court has shown no interest in stopping the vanguard settlements as such.

      Reply to Comment

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