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The quiet population transfer that dares not speak its name

A quiet phenomenon has been taking place over the last decade: the quiet dispossession of the Palestinians from their lands, which in turn increases their despair and leads them to abandon their villages. All this is done in our name and with our funds, but the government makes certain Israelis remain ignorant of the facts.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

A new Yesh Din report reveals how despair causes Palestinians to abandon their villages, which settlers eventually turn into illegal outposts.

Yesh Din published one of most comprehensive reports, The Road to Dispossession (which has its own mini-site), dealing with the illegal outpost Adei Ad. The outpost sits between four Palestinian villages and robs them of their lands. The information we gathered shows a quiet phenomenon of the last decade: the dispossession of the Palestinians from their lands, which in turn increases their despair and leads them to abandon their villages. In other words, a quiet population transfer, paving the road to the annexation of Area C to Israel. The annexation is already in practice: Yesh Din recently received a letter saying the government intends to whitewash the outpost Derekh Avot, by declaring the Palestinian lands on which it sits to be public lands.

Yesh Din documented 96 criminal offenses carried out by Israeli civilians around Adei Ad, where 26 families reside. The number would look more impressive once one recalls that these are only the offenses the organization managed to record (Yesh Din was founded in 2005, Adei Ad in 1998 – Yesh Din’s ability to investigate events prior to 2005 is very limited). Thus, it should be stated that there are many undocumented offenses. Among these Yesh Din can track: 21 offenses deal with violence against Palestinians, 47 with property crimes, and 28 offenses of taking over land. The Israeli police closed almost all of the cases, and in 92% of the cases, the investigators failed to do their job and find the culprit.

As a result of several international obligations, the government has found it difficult to create new settlements since 1999. A government resolution from 1995 forbids the creation of new settlements. So the process of building new ones has, in effect, been privatized: a process which can be hardly considered as anything but a conspiracy between the government and the settlers. As the latter go off what would officially be considered illegal building of settlements, the government (which declared the action illegal) is swift to provide the outlaws with IDF protection, as well as all of the utilities the settlers need. The Sasson Report, which will celebrate its tenth birthday in a year, used a very harsh language:

It would appear, therefore, that violation of the law became a fixture, became institutionalized. We do not deal with a felon or a group of felons acting against the law. The picture is that of blatant violation of the law by certain state authorities, public authorities, local councils in the Judea and Samaria region, and the settlers – all while presenting a false image of an institutional system acting legally.

Almost all of the outposts were built – partially or fully – on private Palestinian lands, and each outpost has several rings of damage around it. The first ring is that of the outpost itself; entry to it is of course forbidden to Palestinians. As most of the outposts sit, at least partially, on private lands, forbidding access to them is a severe blow to the ability of the Palestinians to make a living. These rings tend to extend: when Adei Ad was created in 1998, it had five families which used 15,554 square meters of land. In 2002, the territory of the outpost was 140,902 sq. meters – almost ten times its original size. In 2003, it grew to 442,250 sq. meters (and contained 37 buildings, all built at large distance from one another), and in 2010, the lands of the outpost were enlarged to 465,321 sq. meers – about 30 times its original size. 26 families now live in the outpost.

The second ring is the outpost’s security perimeter, which is also closed to Palestinians. The third ring contains lands close to the security perimeters, which the Palestinians may enter only rarely, and only by permission of the authorities – the same authorities described by Sasson as allowing “ violation of the law to become a fixture, become institutionalized.” Often, such access is limited to several days or at most several weeks a year, with the IDF – which is for all practical matters the collaborator of the criminals here – using an unimaginable process. It informs the residents, orally and not in writing, that a certain portion of land is closed to them, but not to the settlers, of course. Everything goes according to the ill will of the local commander, without any practical way to appeal this decision. Try and tell the court “I was forbidden entry by Captain Danny”, without any documentation of the order. The IDF Spokesman was forced to admit no documentation of these orders was found.

The fourth ring is the most fiery: what is left of the agricultural lands of the Palestinian villages and towns that the Israeli authorities have yet to completely steal. Their residents suffer from regular attacks by settlers, particularly on the agricultural lands. These attacks include burning houses of residents, stealing of their property, assault on animals and men, and sometimes even poisoning of animals. Many of these attacks are carried out under the aegis of the IDF, with the soldiers preventing the Palestinians from defending themselves or actively participating in the assault on them, contrary to international law, which says the occupying power has to defend the occupied population. And then comes the law enforcement apparatus of the police and closes the circle: A Palestinian can expect nothing but injustice from the occupation forces.

The expected result was not long in coming. The villagers residing near Adei Ad – those of Jaloud, Al Mourayer, Kraiut and Thurmusia – understood that their livelihood is less stable than ever. The young people began abandoning them. Kraiut was mostly abandoned: six thousand have left, and only 2,800 residents remain. Out of the thousand residents of Jaloud, only 400 remain. The numbers from the other two villages are less clear, but reports from Thurmusia say a large number of residents left for foreign countries, and the money they send home is now the main source of income for the village.

All this is done in our name and with our funds, but the government and its operational arm, the outpost hoodlums, make certain Israelis remain ignorant of the facts. The lack of knowledge, partially a result of the decision by the media, is what makes dispossession possible, is what prevents a public outcry when each and every one of us is turned into a partner in stealing the fruits of the labor of people who are poor as it is.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. 

Report: How settlers turn Palestinian lands into illegal outposts

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    1. aristeides

      I think plenty of Israelis know, and approve, and gloat. We see them here.

      Reply to Comment
    2. rose

      This piece deserves much attention.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Eliza

      Why does Yossi Gurvitz think that there this quiet dispossession is not known to the Israeli public? It appears that the fact that there is not a public outcry from the Jewish Israeli public means (for Yossi at least) that it logically follows that they cannot know.

      I agree with Aristeides – plenty of Israelis know and either don’t care or actually approve. The transfer has never been off the table.

      The work of Yesh Din etc is commendable – I just wish they would let go of the rosy glasses when viewing their fellow Israeli Jews.

      Reply to Comment
      • Factually, the media does not report these things much. To say the Israeli public knows and either does not care or approves is to shift the report from a factual plea to an attack on the Israeli citizenry; this would only obscure the facual evidence with nationalistic defense.

        Reply to Comment
      • I think this is the first time anyone blamed me of wearing rosy glasses…

        Reply to Comment
    4. If we shift these crimes of violence and property theft (including blocking use rights) to Israel proper and further shift the violence endured from Paestinian to Jew, the law would act swiftly. Even if Jew against Jew violence was not addressed, Arab against Jew would be. Obviously, there is no equal protection of the law in the Bank and, as said many times now, since the State monopolizes all authority, and since the IDF is often eye witness present to these attacks, this violence to property and persons attaches to the State.

      Obama noted this. Kerry is warning of the consequence. Long term, the Israeli right nationalist position, which is also that of the State, will collapse.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      This is a push/pull type of population movement. The settlers push. Ramallah and other cities (and countries) pull the young. These kind of rural -> urban population movements are actually pretty normal around the world once agriculture is no longer an economically competitive industry due to population growth, trade or the existence of other industries. It happened in Europe during the industrial revolution, and is happening all over the world (Mexico, China, Africa, etc.). In the territories a young person would probably strive to work for the PA, work in the private sector or work in Israel or the settlements industrial parks in order to maximize their income. All of these are likely to push people out of some if not most of the villages and towards the cities with better transportation and more commerce/government/industry.

      It is hard to determine which of these forces is stronger, but in other places similar population movements happen without any settlers so assigning full responsibility to them or to Israeli state policy seems unsupportable.

      Reply to Comment
      • It is wrong K9. Land is confiscated, the IDF supporting the unilateral move. Other land has its use rights interdicted. It does not matter if Ramallah acts as a pull. The land left is not returned to Palestinians, nor sold by the PA if it ends up in their control. There is no moral right to this position at all save for those who embrace the ideology of annexation.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Of course it matters if Ramallah acts as a pull. If Ramallah is the reason why people are leaving the villages then placing sole blame on some idiot settlers and their IDF protectors for the ‘population transfer’ is stupid.

          Reply to Comment
          • carl

            Kolumn you are shameless.
            You would be able to defend anything just to fit your sick ideologic world.
            Little man with little arguments.

            Reply to Comment