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Creeping dispossession destroys Palestinian agrarian communities

The existence of the illegal Adei Ad settlement outpost harms Palestinians not just physically but also financially, and leads to the abandonment of Palestinian villages.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Farmer and soldier (Anne Paq / Activestills)

An Israeli soldier holds a Palestinian farmer’s tools [illustrative photo] (Anne Paq / Activestills)

The Israeli media stopped, in recent years, paying attention to assaults of Palestinians by settlers, unless it is a particularly severe case, such as an assault on an 80-year old farmer. One of the issues which isn’t even touched upon as far as the media is concerned – and hence, the majority of Israelis – is the fact that the outposts’ very existence often constitutes theft, quite literally.

The outpost Adei Ad, which is the case study of our new report, “The Road to Dispossession,” sits on the lands of four Palestinian villages: Al Mughayer, Qaryut, Jaloud and Turmusaya. The clearest case is that of Al Mughayer.

As we’ve seen, the creation of an outpost creates several rings of damage around it. The first ring is the territory of the outpost itself, which often grows quickly. The second ring is the outpost’s perimeter, and the third is the land which Palestinian farmers may enter just twice a year, subject to military approval and coordination. The farmers of Al Mughayer are not allowed access to their own lands, and someone found a way to take advantage of that fact: on several occasions, Israelis made their way to Al Mughayer’s olive groves and pillaged them just days before the owners received permission to work the lands. The founder of Adei Ad, Boaz Melet, was convicted of trespassing in such a case, and two other settlers are still on trial for such charges.

Enraging as these thefts may be, the major financial damage is not caused by theft but by the destruction of property and preventing access to it. The residents of the four villages complain time and again about their trees being cut down, burned, and in a few rare cases poisoned. The police’s reaction – well, there’s not much to say about it, except one fantastic sentence worth quoting: “The complaints are often general, and do not point out specific suspects.” Did you get that? The Keystone Cops are not all that good at investigating crimes, unless you point out the suspects to them.

Aside from damage to trees and land, the main offense is the result of the outpost’s very existence: a prohibition on entering substantial parts of the villages’ land. In Qaryut, they estimate yearly damage at about NIS 2 million (roughly $500,000), assuming each dunam (1/4 of an acre) generates revenues of about NIS 800 (roughly $200) per year. This calculation does not take into account the value of the land itself.

Since Adei Ad and other outposts were built on its lands, the IDF has forbidden residents of the village of Jaloud from accessing 9,937 dunams (2,455 acres); the villagers have abandoned 319 more dunams (79 acres) due to fear of violence by Israeli citizens – violence which the army is supposed to prevent but fails to (bringing to mind the old military adage that, “‘I can’t’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t want to'”). The villagers have only about 5,965 dunams (1,474 acres) left – the worse parts of the land, hardly arable and mostly rocky. In short, most of the village’s lands were practically nationalized for the benefit of a small number of outpost dwellers. The residents of Jaloud estimate the damage they suffer to be the equivalent of NIS 6.4 million (roughly, $1.6 million), assuming each dunam generates revenues of about NIS 800 per year.

Al Mughayer used to mainly be an agricultural town; it no longer is. Whereas 500 of its residents used to make their living from agriculture, now they number about 30. Its pastures used to feed about 15,000 sheep; now fewer than 4,000 are left. The residents of Al Mughayer go out to work their lands in large groups of 15 to 20 people, so as to deter the Israeli marauders; in many cases this tactic proves inefficient. Some of the village’s land was abandoned, simply because there is no point in tilling it: Israeli citizens will destroy the crops or steal them.

All this has several more implications. As soon as it occupied the territories in 1967, Israel ceased the process of registering lands there, a process started by the British and the Jordanians. The villagers’ lands are considered to be in their possession, but not registered to them. A plot of unregistered land, which is also uncultivated because Israeli citizens (supported by the IDF) terrorize its owners, is liable to be confiscated at some point by the state and declared “public lands,” or as they are often called, “state lands.” Once they are confiscated, they are very likely to be allocated to the settlers. This, after all, is the reasonable explanation for the acts of terror: an attempt to make farmers abandon their land so that with time, it can become the property of those who dispossessed its owners.

Another reason is that an agricultural community cannot sustain itself when it is robbed of its lands. Three of the four villages – the exception being Al Mughayer – report a significant abandonment of their villages. Subsequently, in the future this will allow the official annexation of these territories to Israel – a plan openly promoted by recently elected Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennet.

These acts of terrorism, carried out with the silent approval of all the Israeli authorities, are not isolated incidents and are not a coincidence. It’s a system. And when the Israel media ignores it, it tacitly collaborates with it.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    1. rsgengland

      The Israelis stopped the process of ‘Land Registration’ started by the British and the Jordanians.
      So this process must have started in the early 1920s’ till 1967.
      Nearly 47 years and they could not, would not, were not interested in, or even attempted the Land Registration that is mentioned in the article.
      These lands were, and always have been State Lands [for centuries], and no matter how much obfuscation is employed, it still can not change that fact that they still are State Lands, controlled by the the current administration as has been the case down the centuries.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        What state is that, gland? It can’t be the state of Israel, because that land doesn’t belong to Israel. It hasn’t been annexed to Israel. So how can it be Israeli state land?

        The land is occupied territory, which international law explicitly prohibits converting to the occupying power.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Between 1947 and 1967 the Jordanians exercised sovereignty over the land and had control over the ‘state’ land. Since 1967 the ‘state’ is the Israeli civil administration, also known as the IDF, which has overarching control over this land. There is nothing controversial about this within international law. What is controversial is what the ‘state’ can do with the land. If there is an occupation then the occupying state has severe limitations on what it can do because the land belongs to a different sovereign and control is temporary. That doesn’t apply in this case since none of the previous states that controlled the land – Jordan, Britain, the Ottomans have any remaining claims.

          Reply to Comment
          • foresomenteneikona

            “That doesn’t apply in this case since none of the previous states that controlled the land – Jordan, Britain, the Ottomans have any remaining claims.”
            This is the classic “missing reversioner” argument used to by hasbarists to whitewash forcible colonization of the West Bank by Israel. It is a completely specious argument that has been rejected by the UN Security Council (resolutions 446, 452, 465, 607, 681, 694, and many others), the International Court of Justice (2004), the Red Cross (http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/the-levy-report-vs-international-law-1.474129), the Israeli Supreme Court, and every government in the world–except Israel’s.
            Yet right-wing Zionist wack-jobs continue to make this argument because they do not know much about international law, and because they do not really give a damn what it actually says.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            BS. Complete and total BS. The resolutions you mentioned state that the land is governed under the Geneva conventions. They do not state and never have stated who is sovereign over this land and they can’t since there is no state owner. Supporters of the Palestinians can scream till they are blue in the face that the land is occupied but getting from “the land is governed according to the laws of occupation” to the land belonging to Palestine is a tortuous route filled with landmines.

            Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            Disingenuous as usual. Don’t you ever get tired of it?

            You must know very well that Jordan absolved all claims to the land IN FAVOR OF THE FUTURE STATE OF PALESTINE, NOT ISRAEL! Never did Kings Hussein and Abdullah say that Israel is the rightful sovereign in the West Bank, nor will they ever.

            So please, stop making false and outlandish claims in Jordan’s name.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >You must know very well that Jordan absolved all claims to the land IN FAVOR OF THE FUTURE STATE OF PALESTINE, NOT ISRAEL!

            “On July 31, 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank — with the exception of guardianship over the Muslim Holy Sites of Jerusalem — to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”[37][38]”

            Jordan absolved all claims almost 20 years after it lost any control over WB.

            >Never did Kings Hussein and Abdullah say that Israel is the rightful sovereign in the West Bank, nor will they ever.

            Their respected opinions are of really no interest.

            Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      “As soon as it occupied the territories in 1967, Israel ceased the process of registering lands there, a process started by the British and the Jordanians.”

      The process of registering lands there was started by Ottomans just a bit earlier.

      “The Ottoman Land Code of 21 April 1858… The Ottoman Land Code of 21 April 1858 defined five classes of land ownership: ملك milk, وقف waqf, ميري mīrī, متروك matrūk and موات mawāt. Milk is “land in unrestricted private ownership,” land for which the raqaba (paramount ownership) is vested in the individual.1  What little milk there was in Palestine was mostly “plots of land which had at the time of distribution [by Muslim conquerors] been assigned to unbelievers….”2  Waqf includes land “dedicated to a religious purpose” — theoretically owned by God — and administered or held in trust by a stipulated party such as a religious council.3 … The provisions requiring registration, however, were “extensively ignored.”16  The peasants were semi-literate and accustomed to a traditional society in which custom and oral evidence were sufficient to support an individual’s claim to property.17  Landholders saw no great need to register their claim and often did so only when they wanted to sell it to another party.18”


      Reply to Comment
    3. One State as outcome, One State as outcome.

      Excellent report. The dry factual presentation will eventually drown out apologists.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Danny

      The day will come when Israel will be forced to pay severe restitution to the Palestinians for all the dispossession and theft of their property in the last 65 years. By my rough estimate, this sum might be in excess of $100 billion.

      Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        The compensation you mention can be taken from the compensation owed to the Arab Jews expelled from the Middle East/North Africa, caused by the wave of Antisemitism that swept the Arab/Muslim countries after 1948.
        As there were more Jews expelled, and the value of their property and possessions was far greater than that of the Palestinians, there should still be a lot left over for the descendants of those expelled Arab Jews.

        Reply to Comment