Israeli Apartheid Expands: Palestinian Villages Face Demolition
In the latest episode of Palestinian displacement from their land, Israel’s high court approved a government decision to demolish eight Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills under the pretext that the area is needed for military training.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that residents of the villages threatened with demolition are supposed to be moved to Yatta and the surrounding towns.
The Israeli army said it will allow the residents of these Palestinian villages to farm their lands and herd their livestock during periods when the army is not training in the area.
Information indicates that four villages inhabited by about 300 people and located to the north of the training area will remain, even though they make the area smaller and prevent the use of live ammunition. Meanwhile, about 1,500 Palestinians will be displaced from eight villages.
These villages existed well before the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, and even before the 1948 Nakba – dating back to at least the 1930s – the Israeli army and the so-called Civil Administration that runs the occupation consider the residents of these villages “squatters in Firing Zone 918.”
The villages slated for demolition are Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, al-Mirkez, Jinba, and Kharuba, while the four villages that will be spared demolition, for now, are Tuba, Mufaqara, Sarura and Megheir al-Abeid.
In the late 1990s, evacuation orders for 12 Palestinian villages were issued by the Israeli army but the orders were halted by an injunction from Israel’s high court after 200 families filed petitions through attorney Shlomo Lecker and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
In 2005, after its failure to reach an agreement with the villagers, the Civil Administration started issuing demolition orders of wells under the pretext that they might alter the status quo as determined by the court. This past April, proceedings in the petitions resumed and the Israeli state submitted its final position on Sunday.
According to old and proven information, the Israeli army had declared in the late 1970s about 30,000 dunams as a closed military zone thus allowing only its permanent residents to remain in it.
In 1997, the area fell under Area C, which means the Israeli authorities did not allow Palestinian residents to build any structures – not even schools and medical clinics – to accommodate the natural growth in population. That is why these villages remain until today without an infrastructure, water system, or electricity grid.
In August and November of 1999 most of the residents of the villages received eviction orders under the pretext that their homes are “illegal residence in a firing zone.” On November 16, Israeli forces evicted more than 700 people by force and the Israeli military demolished houses and wells and confiscated property.
At the time, Israel’s high court issued an interim injunction allowing residents to return to their homes temporarily but the demolitions prevented many from returning.
That is not all. The Israeli municipality in occupied Jerusalem wants to exclude Palestinian neighborhoods in the city that fall outside the apartheid wall from its services, and wants the Israeli army to take on its responsibilities instead.
Haaretz revealed that officials in the Israeli municipality of occupied Jerusalem held meetings with high-ranking officers in the army including the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Eitan Dangot, and the head of the Civil Administration, Moti Almoz, and asked them to take responsibility for handling civilian matters and provide services for areas that were excluded by the wall from the city of Jerusalem.
The Israeli municipality demanded that army officials take on civilian responsibilities and provide services in these areas, like sanitation and construction. But army officials pointed out that it is a difficult matter and a political decision is needed.
The areas that the municipality wants to abandon and turn over to the army include about 90,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites in places like Shuafat refugee camp, Ras Khamis, and al-Salam neighborhood. These are Jerusalem neighborhoods that are left without services, languishing under very difficult living conditions.
According to the agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian side and its security services are not allowed to operate in these areas, while at the same time, Israeli authorities keep clear of these neighborhoods due to – in the words of the newspaper – “security fears.”
Khalil Tufakji, head of the cartography department of the Arab Studies Society and an expert in Israeli settlement policy, told Al-Akhbar about the danger of the Judaization of Jerusalem and expulsion of Palestinians. He said he has addressed this issue and published materials about it 10 years ago.
He pointed out that Palestinian citizens in occupied Jerusalem constitute today 35 percent of the city’s population, a proportion that grew tremendously over the years.
In the current circumstances, this figure could reach the 55 percent mark in 2040, which means the mayor of Jerusalem will be Palestinian and Jerusalem will not be the capital of Israel, as the Zionists claim.
He adds, “for this reason, Israel exploited the wall issue pretending it is strictly a security matter, but the fundamental issue is entirely demographic. When Israel drew the route of the wall, it confiscated the largest amount of land with the least number of people leaving Palestinian neighborhoods outside the wall.”
Tufakji says that Israel gave occupied Jerusalem major national significance on purpose, increasing spending on the city and organizing its infrastructure without expanding its municipal borders.
But on the ground, there has been an Israeli effort to “exclude Palestinian residents and bring in Jewish ones.” All of this, Tufakji says, aims at decreasing the percentage of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem to 12 percent in order to exercise control over them.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.