[News] Palestinian Villagers facing massive Israeli land grab urge action from Europe

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 1 11:44:44 EDT 2014


  Villagers facing massive Israeli land grab urge action from Europe

Submitted by Patrick Strickland on Wed, 10/01/2014
*http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/patrick-strickland/villagers-facing-massive-israeli-land-grab-urge-action-europe*

Palestinian residents of Wadi Fukin in the occupied West Bank are 
appealing for international action to prevent Israel from stealing a 
large part of their village in one of the largest single Israeli land 
grabs in decades.

On 30 August, Israeli occupation authorities announced that they will 
confiscate an estimated 4,000 dunams (988 acres) of Palestinian land 
belonging to five villages situated south of Bethlehem 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/west-bank>. Along with Jabaa, 
Nahalin and Surif, much of Wadi Fukin's land will be stolen and given to 
three nearby Jewish-only settlements 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/israeli-settlements>.

The following day locals from the five villages "watched as the Israeli 
army placed placards across our lands, declaring them 'State Land,'" 
writes Ahmad Sokkar, head of the Wadi Fukin village council, in an open 
letter dated 8 September.

"The Israeli cabinet stated that the decision was in response to the 
kidnapping and killing of three settler youths, thereby openly revealing 
its intent to use collective punishment against the thousands of 
inhabitants of these four Palestinian communities for a crime they did 
not commit," the letter explains.

"Until this decision [to confiscate the land] is completely reversed," 
Sokkar is calling on the European Union 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/european-union> to ban all trade 
with Israeli settlements, cut off all European ties to Israeli projects 
in the occupied West Bank, and freeze the EU-Israel association 
agreement and Israel's participation in the EU's scientific research 
activities.

"Coated in legal terms, the Israeli statement attempts to camouflage the 
blatant illegality of Israel's decision under international law," Sokkar 
writes. "The European Union, however, holds a very clear position in 
regard to Israel's settlement policy. It is with this in mind that we 
appeal to you and ask for your assistance."

Residents have also responded by holding weekly demonstrations each 
Friday, which Israeli occupation soldiers have attacked.


    Razed

 From the time it occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) in 
1967, Israel recognized 125 settlements that today harbor a population 
of an estimated 550,000 Jewish-Israelis, according 
<http://www.btselem.org/settlements> to the human rights group B'Tselem 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/btselem>.

More than 100 smaller colonies known as "outposts 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/settlement-outposts>" also dot the 
map of the territory. Though outposts are considered illegal even under 
Israeli law, they are often provided with state resources, including 
funding, and protected by the Israeli military.

While Palestinians in the West Bank live under a brutal stripe of 
military rule, Israeli settlers are often treated with impunity when 
they steal land or attack Palestinian civilians, including children.

Like most Palestinians suffering continuous land loss in communities 
across the West Bank, the story of Wadi Fukin doesn't begin with 
Israel's latest land grab.

After suffering repeated attacks from Zionist militias, most notably the 
Haganah <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/haganah>, during the early 
and mid-1940s, Wadi Fukin lost some 9,000 dunams (around 2,225 acres) 
during the 1948 Nakba <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/nakba>, the 
ethnic cleansing of Palestine that led to Israel's establishment.

Wadi Fukin was razed completely in 1956. In 1970, just three years after 
Israel occupied the West Bank, the Israeli settlement of Alon Shevut was 
established partially on the Palestinian village's lands.


    Dumping sewage

The indigenous residents of Wadi Fukin --- many of whom were displaced 
in 1956 to nearby Palestinian communities, particularly the Dheisheh 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/dheisheh-refugee-camp> refugee camp 
--- were permitted by Israeli occupation authorities to return to part 
of the village in 1972.

Two more settlements were subsequently built in the area: Betar Illit 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/beitar-ilit> in 1984 and Bet Ayin in 
1989. Until today, Wadi Fukin's inhabitants have faced continuous 
military harassment, settler violence and land confiscation.

In 2005, Israeli occupation authorities seized 218 acres of Wadi Fukin's 
land.

Israel's suffocating restrictions have created continuously worsening 
conditions for the indigenous Palestinian population in Wadi Fukin.

  "Some of the confiscated lands are cultivated, while others are not, 
due to the fact that we have been impeded from using these lands in any 
way," Sokkar explains. "We are not allowed to build roads to be able to 
reach these fields by tractor, nor are we allowed to build houses, 
playgrounds, industrial, touristic or sports facilities."

"The fact that Wadi Fukin's only playground is being threatened with 
demolition offers a striking example of Israel's policies that 
essentially constitute a suffocating grip on our village," Sokkar writes.

As well as robbing local Palestinian farmers of their ability to produce 
an income off their agricultural output, for several years settlers have 
forcibly taken over the village's freshwater springs.

"Although the villages have not been attacked by settlers they are 
regularly harassed by armed settlers temporarily taking over playground 
and irrigation pools," according to a factsheet provided to The 
Electronic Intifada by the Wadi Fukin Campaign, a group trying to raise 
awareness about the village. "Sewage also regularly flows down from the 
settlement of Betar Illit."


    No justice

In his open letter, Sokkar explains that history has proven Palestinians 
cannot rely on Israel's courts to deliver justice. "Faced with the all 
too vivid realization that they stand little chance in fighting Israel's 
decision in Israeli courts, the people of Wadi Fukin appeal to the 
international community to support their efforts to retain ownership 
over their lands and livelihoods," he writes.

"The villagers are aware that they have very little chance to win in a 
confrontation in court since the Israeli laws and rules have proven, 
time and time again, that they were designed to legalize the 
expropriation of land for the sole benefit of a settler population which 
is illegal under international law," the letter adds.

Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights groups have roundly 
condemned Israel and called for the cancellation of the plans.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human 
Rights Watch <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/human-rights-watch>, 
said 
<http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/03/israel-reverse-illegal-plans-west-bank> 
the June kidnapping of three teenaged Israeli settlers in the West Bank 
(who were later found dead) did not permit Israel to "grab a vast tract 
of other people's land in an occupied territory."


    War crime

Alluding to another Israeli plan to forcibly relocate more than 12,500 
Palestinian Bedouins near Jerusalem, Human Rights Watch notes that 
"transferring [Israeli] civilian settlers into an occupied territory 
would amount to a war crime."

"It is worth noting that large scale, unlawful appropriation or 
destruction of property, is also a war crime," Bill Van Esveld, a Human 
Rights Watch researcher, told The Electronic Intifada by email.

In a press release 
<http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/09/03/israel-reverse-illegal-plans-west-bank> 
published on 3 September, Human Rights Watch also calls on the United 
States "to reduce its $3.1 billion in annual aid to Israel by an amount 
equivalent to the costs of Israel's spending in support of settlements, 
until Israel reverses its blatantly illegal plans to build new 
settlements and destroy Palestinian communities."

The human rights group Amnesty International 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amnesty-international> also said 
<http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/israel-must-scrap-illegal-land-grab-west-bank-2014-09-01> 
the plan to confiscate land in Wadi Fukin must be "rescinded immediately."

"Israel's strategy of illegally confiscating land for settlements in the 
West Bank must stop once and for all. Not only is it illegal under 
international law but it is leading to a wide range of violations of 
Palestinians' human rights on a mass scale," Philip Luther, the 
organization's director for the Middle East and North Africa, says in a 
press release 
<http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/israel-must-scrap-illegal-land-grab-west-bank-2014-09-01> 
issued on 1 September.

Sokkar concludes by emphasizing that the European Union should "take 
concrete and effective legal measures to meet its legal obligations and 
use all measures it has at its disposal, including sanctions, to change 
Israel's policy of regularly violating international law."

The European Union announced guidelines 
<http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4407135,00.html> for avoiding 
aid to Israeli settlements in 2013, though the rules have yet to be 
meaningfully implemented and do not address the root causes 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/eu-sanctions-israeli-settlements-not-state-created-them/13012> 
of Israeli colonialism.

Given the European Union's long history of complicity in Israeli 
violations of international law and war crimes against Palestinians, it 
seems unlikely it will heed Wadi Fukin's calls for justice.


    Full letter

The full text of the open letter is reproduced below:

    8 September 2014

    Dear Madam, Sir,

    I am writing to you out of concern for the future well-being of the
    people of Wadi Fukin and and its surrounding villages. On 30 August,
    the Israeli government announced the expropriation of 988 acres of
    Palestinian land. The following day, the inhabitants of Wadi Fukin
    and four of its neighbouring villages --- Hussan, Jabaa, Nahalin,
    Surif --- watched as the Israeli army placed placards across our
    lands, declaring them "State Land." The Israeli cabinet stated that
    the decision was in response to the kidnapping and killing of three
    settler youths, thereby openly revealing its intent to use
    collective punishment against the thousands of inhabitants of these
    four Palestinian communities for a crime they did not commit. This
    constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.

    The vulnerability of these communities is highlighted by their
    delicate location --- all four are situated near the internationally
    recognized 1948 armistice line, otherwise known as the Green Line,
    between the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. As a result,
    they have suffered tremendously from the war in 1948 and its
    aftermath, which displaced many and even destroyed our village, Wadi
    Fukin, in its entirety in the early 1950s, effectively wiping it off
    the map for three decades. Its residents  were consequently forced
    to relocate to Dheisheh refugee camp, yet continued to tend to their
    lands in the village. In the 1980s, we became one of the very few
    examples of Palestinians allowed to leave the refugee camp [who]
    rebuilt our village, albeit excluding a total of 9,000 dunams of
    land (2,220 acres) that were usurped by Israel in 1948. The
    remarkable story of Wadi Fukin remains visible as the ruins of old
    houses can still be seen between the newly built houses and continue
    to mark the hillsides. Today,  the people of Wadi Fukin once again
    risk being dispossessed.

    Coated in legal terms, the Israeli statement attempts to camouflage
    the blatant illegality of Israel's decision under international law.
    The European Union, however, holds a very clear position with regard
    to its opposition to Israel's settlement policy. It is with this in
    mind that we appeal to you and ask for your assistance. Israeli
    politicians and officials do not miss an opportunity to unilaterally
    declare that the area which they refer to as Gush Etzion, yet which
    in reality constitutes part of the Bethlehem governorate, will
    inevitably become part of Israel proper in any future peace deal.
    These statements must not under any circumstances convince EU
    policy-makers and their national counterparts that the fate of our
    communities is a lost cause. Acquiescing to such Israeli statements
    allows Israel to continue to act with impunity. If anything, our
    communities ought to be set as an example to show that the European
    Union will not allow Israel to unilaterally dictate the terms of a
    peace agreement, but that international law will be the standard to
    which Israel's actions will be held. The European Union ought to
    take up the fate of these four communities as a cause to demonstrate
    it is serious about confronting Israel's continued settlement policy
    in the occupied Palestinian territory.

    Faced with the all too vivid realization they stand little chance in
    fighting Israel's decision in Israeli courts, the people of Wadi
    Fukin appeal to the international community to support their efforts
    to retain ownership over their own lands and livelihoods. The
    villagers are aware that they have very little chance to win in a
    confrontation in court since the Israeli laws and rules have 
    proven, time and time again, that they were designed to legalize the
    expropriation of land for the sole benefit of a settler population
    which is illegal under international law.

    Some of the confiscated lands are cultivated, while others are not,
    due to the fact that we have been impeded from using these lands in
    any way. We are not allowed to build roads to be able to reach these
    fields by tractor, nor are we allowed to build houses, playgrounds,
    industrial, touristic, or sports facilities. The fact that Wadi
    Fukin's only playground is being threatened with demolition offers a
    striking example of Israel's policies that essentially constitute a
    suffocating grip on our village.

    We therefore appeal to you and the international community to act
    upon your declarations, beyond mere words of condemnation. While
    welcoming such statements of support, we urge you to introduce
    practical measures that will demonstrate the European Union's
    seriousness in opposing Israel's decision and its recent actions in
    the Bethlehem governorate.   We, the people of Wadi Fukin, ask for
    your assistance to help us not to freeze or delay these plans, but
    to completely reverse and annul them, and hence prevent our families
    from once more facing the threat of dispossession.

    The EU should take concrete and effective measures to meet its legal
    obligations and use all the measures it has at its disposal,
    including sanctions, to change Israel's policy of regularly
    violating international law.

    We urge the EU to:

    --- ban all trade with illegal Israeli settlements,

    --- ensure that European companies stop participating in any Israeli
    project in the OPT,

    --- freeze the main framework of EU-Israeli economic relations, the
    EU-Israel Association Agreement and Horizon 2020 Research Program,

    until this decision is completely reversed.

    Faithfully yours,

    Ahmad Sokkar

    Head of the village council of Wadi Fukin, Bethlehem

-- 
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