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What occupation looks like for Rashida Tlaib’s village in the West Bank

Forty years of land grabs, settlement expansion, and the building of a highway that is off limits to Palestinians. This is what is happening to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s village.

By Dror Etkes

The West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa made headlines over the weekend, after Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib announced she would not accept Israel’s offer for a “humanitarian visit” to see family, and particularly her aging grandmother.

Beyond Tlaib’s personal story, however, is the story of a village that has seen decades of land grabs for the purpose of Israeli settlement expansion and the construction of a bypass road, which Palestinian residents of the West Bank have been banned from using for nearly two decades.

A map of Beit Ur al-Fauqa. (Dror Etkes)

A map of Beit Ur al-Fauqa. (Dror Etkes)

Beit Ur al-Fauqa is a relatively small Palestinian village located approximately nine kilometers west of Ramallah and seven kilometers east of the Green Line. According to the 2017 Palestinian census, the village has 1,049 inhabitants. A British land ownership survey, conducted during the years of the Mandate, shows the village land is comprised of 943 acres.

As a result of the Oslo Accords, 101 of those acres became part of Area B, under Palestinian civil administration and full Israeli military control. Another 3.5 acres of land were included in the village’s Israeli-approved master plan from 1992, granting it a total of 104.5 acres — 11 percent of the village’s total land — available for Palestinian construction.

Luckily for the inhabitants of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, their land was already fully registered before June 1967, when the West Bank came under Israeli occupation. At the time, only two plots of land in the entire village were registered as Jordanian state land in the general registry (Tabu).

This spared large tracts from the same fate as nearby villages Beitunia and A-Tira, where swaths of land were declared “state land” by the Israeli authorities and were automatically handed over to Israeli settlements. At the eastern edge of Beit Ur al-Fauqa lies one of the two parcels registered as Jordanian state land. This parcel was also taken by the Israeli authorities and allocated to the settlement of Beit Horon, which was established in 1977.

Yet the real story of Beit Ur al-Fauqa is not the settlement of Beit Horon but Route 443, a highway built through the West Bank in the early 90s to connect northern Jerusalem and its adjacent settlements to Israel’s coastal area.

Israeli soldiers guard at the 'Bell' Checkpoint, on road 443 near Beit Horon, on January 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers guard at the ‘Bell’ Checkpoint, on road 443 near Beit Horon, on January 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

To pave this road, the Israeli army confiscated 50 acres of the village’s land in the late 80s. Hearing that their land would be confiscated, landowners from Beit Ur al-Fauqa and the neighboring villages petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice. The High Court would eventually dismiss the petition, accepting instead the IDF claim that the road would also serve the “local population,” who will be able to drive on it faster and more securely.

When the road was finally paved, 425 acres of Beit Ur al-Fauqa’s cultivated and grazing land were practically disconnected from the village, remaining southwest of Route 443.

What about an access road to these 425 acres or a tunnel under the newly-built highway? Not in the West Bank. Once the road was constructed, the villagers were forced to make a seven-kilometer detour to reach their land. It is no wonder that few bother to make the trip.

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This wasn’t the village’s first encounter with the occupation’s land policies. In 1979, the IDF issued a confiscation order for 545 acres in the area; only a few acres were confiscated from Beit Ur al-Fauqa for a road that was supposed to be paved just north of the village. Luckily for the villagers, that road was never paved. In 1996, the army issued Construction Ban Order 1/96, preventing construction alongside roads in the West Bank, including Route 443 to the south of the village as well as the planned road to its north. The order included 113 acres of the Beir Ur al-Fauqa’s land.

At the end of 2000, as the violence of the Second Intifada was beginning to unfold, Palestinians were sporadically banned by the IDF from using Route 443. Following several cases of Palestinian gunfire at Israeli vehicles on the road, in which six Israeli citizens and one resident of East Jerusalem were killed, Israel entirely prohibited Palestinians from using the road in 2002.

Muftia, the grandmother of U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, sits with family members outside her home in the village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, West Bank, August 16, 2019. (Flash90)

Muftia, the grandmother of U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, sits with family members outside her home in the village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, West Bank, August 16, 2019. (Flash90)

Yet the IDF had officially committed to the High Court’s demand that Palestinians be allowed to use the road. For this, the army uses “temporary seizure orders.” Between 2005 and 2006, the IDF issued seizure orders for 30 more of the village’s acres in order to pave two “fabric of life” roads — an alternate network of roads and tunnels intended for Palestinian use only — that would serve as Palestinian bypass roads on Beit Ur al-Fauqa’s land.

It is true that Beit Ur al-Fauqa does not suffer the worst consequences of Israel’s occupation and its land grabbing enterprise. In many ways, it’s just “another village” — and that’s bad enough.

Dror Etkes follows Israel’s land and settlement policy in the West Bank.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      @Russ Ackerman: The checkpoints are like most of Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians – ostensibly they are for ‘security’ but in reality their purpose is to make life so miserable for those under occupation that they’ll want to leave.

      “Checkpoints and, for that matter, the monstrous separation wall, are not the sort of fences that “make good neighbors.” They are a form of violence and will only breed and nurture resentment and hatred, and they incur enormous material and nonmaterial losses on the Palestinians. Israel’s legal and moral right to protect its citizens and soldiers from attacks is not in question – well over 1,000 were killed during the second intifada, and a very high percentage of them were civilians, including children. What is in question, however, is Israel’s legal and moral right to collectively punish, humiliate, besiege and impoverish a whole nation in order to prevent or reduce attacks against its own citizens by a small minority of militants. This is a normative question that can and should be settled by appeal to moral principles and norms of international humanitarian law. Isn’t it also the case that collective punishment increases, rather than decreases, violence and the motivation for violence?”


      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      @Russ Ackerman: +972 Magazine misses nothing. It is miles ahead of you in understanding anything.
      Israel is not the Palestinians’ law-abiding “next door neighbor” going about minding it’s own business. The Palestinians are not Israel’s “next door neighbors.” They are a belligerently occupied population, going on 50 years now, who are SUPPOSED to be protected persons under occupation by international law but of course Israel violates that law and protects them not at all, but does the opposite. Brutally. And its so-called “security” measures are transparent land-confiscation devices. So you have the whole thing upside down and backwards. Israel has to have the checkpoints to protect its unjust settler-army regime and its ongoing and never ending brutality and land theft project. Such a project any indigenous people on Earth has a right to resist.
      To put this in terms of your analogy, what would you do if your next door neighbor barged into your house and occupied it, incessantly taking more and more rooms of that house over 50 years, all the while complaining to the world that you were not being polite about it? Would you just take it? Or would you do something about it?
      Reporting honestly on these realities is +972 Magazine’s “personal agenda.” What’s yours?

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        The so called “fakestinyans” are NOT Israel’s next door neighbors.
        JORDANIANS are Israel’s next door neighbors.
        The Aggressors have renamed themselves so they can claim their victims lands in the name of a nonsense nationality.

        Only stupid Leftists have fallen for this absurd ploy.

        Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordine

        Blah blah and propaganda.
        “Palestinian” authority is an independent entity that can legislate in the territories it occupies. It has just done so by prohibiting LGBT people in this territory. It has a police, its ministeries, etc. It has security and economic ties with Israel according to the Oslo agreements. Israel provides tens of thousands of jobs to the Arab inhabitants of this territory as well as social security and the health system. To come back to this Rachida, she was not unaware that the BDS is illegal according to Israeli law. As a BDS supporter, she could not claim to enter the country without problems. She wanted to take advantage of her parliamentary immunity to create disorder. When the State of Israel generously granted her permission to meet her grandmother under the condition of not disturbing public order, she of course refused by accusing Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu. It was therefore a fortunately failed political operation. Apart from a few leftists, everyone does not care.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      Actually, Beit Ur al-Fauqa should be dismantled and re-assembled on the East Bank of the Jordan. That is where it belongs. This will allow the Jordanian-American senator Tlaib to “return” there and embrace its indigenous Jordanian culture.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      Why is it that everyone on the right sounds completely batty these days? Trump thinks economists and his own Fed appointee are plotting against him. Mike Pence (among others) thinks the Jews are going to burn in the Rapture (but Amen Oztma Yehudit in the meantime), Bezalel Smotrich rants about a gay-free halakhic state, Third Templeists shout to destroy al-Aqsa mosque, Sara Netanyahu tries to rush airplane cockpits, her increasingly wild-eyed husband demands written loyalty oaths and erects huge banners of him and his BFF Putin then madly rushes off to cheat on Vlad with Volodymyr in Ukraine in order to woo away Yvette the Moldovan’s lovers; Itshak Halevy thinks Otzma Yehudit are misunderstood Democrats and anyway the End Time is nigh; and Lewis from Afula babbles incessantly like the wild eyed homeless guy on the corner about some “Jordanian” plot while also known to mutter about cyanide in the water.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        And now the Jews are “disloyal.” Says Trump. THE classic anti-semitic trope, going back to Pharaoh!
        But, hey, the Israeli right wing will forgive him. Poor misunderstood Trump. He just misspoke. His son-in-law is Jewish!!! And “The Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel…They love him like he is the second coming of God.”
        And “I am the Chosen One.” Says Trump. Taking narcissism to psychotic proportions.
        Yes, the right is increasingly simply nuts. Maybe Halevy is right after all and we are living in the End Times. In which case, Whoever is coming down from Up There ain’t gonna be pleased with any of these characters.
        Personally I think Nature, making an appearance in the form of global warming, is the god who will have the last laugh on all these Middle Eastern nut jobs. And the rest of us.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Itshak Gordine

      The very “liberal” Palestinian authority so admired by the Israeli leftists has just banned any LGBT activity on the territory that this entity occupies.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Meanwhile the Shin Bet cruelly blackmails gay Palestinians, and the occupation goes on. But don’t worry cuz Israel is so, so, so, so LGBT friendly!!!

        Israel and the territories it occupies, “Where pinkwashing the blackmailing is our specialty!”

        And while we we’re busy demonizing the Palestinians and white-pink-washing routine Israeli cruelties, let’s hide crazy gay-bashing Uncle Bezalel in the attic when the American company comes over. Crazy Aunt Ayalet too. Who thinks it’s just fine for the women (other than her) to sit in the back of the bus. But oh wait, they both bid to be important ministers in the next government. They’re not really going to stay in the attic, they’re going to be waltzing around the front parlor. Oh well.

        Halevy, you delude yourself if you think this crude move against two US Congresswomen did not alienate unprecedented numbers of Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish. You really ought to get yourself out of that closed off information foxhole you are in, only peeking your head out to throw a few wet firecrackers at +972. And by the way, your hero Trump’s ship is sinking with the economic recession he’s provoking. Only making him as paranoid as Bibi. When the opposition party comes to power in America they are not going to forget the rank partisanship of the Israeli right and their raw disrespect of the US Congress and a former US president.

        Reply to Comment