[News] This is how Israel plans to annex the occupied West Bank

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 30 13:27:15 EDT 2022

This is how Israel plans to annex the occupied West Bank
Dr Ramzy Baroud - May 30, 2022
[image: image.png]

Israel's Supreme Court has decided
that the Palestinian region of Masafer Yatta in the southern hills of
Hebron is to be appropriated entirely by the Israeli military and that the
local population of more than 1,000 Palestinians is to be expelled. The
court's decision on 4 May was hardly surprising. Israel's military
occupation is not only enforced by soldiers with guns, but also elaborate
political, military, economic and legal structures, all of which are
dedicated to the expansion <https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1118122>
of illegal Jewish settlements and the slow — and sometimes not-so-slow —
expulsion of the Palestinians.

When Palestinians say that the Nakba
<https://www.palestine-studies.org/en/node/1651256> ("Catastrophe"), which
led to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the establishment of
the state of Israel on its ruins, is an ongoing unfinished project, they
mean exactly that. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem
and the endless torment of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab, and now in
Masafer Yatta, are all testament to this reality.

However, Masafer Yatta is particularly unique. In the case of occupied East
Jerusalem, for example, Israel has made a fallacious, ahistorical claim
that the city is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. It
combined its unsubstantiated narrative with military action on the ground,
followed by a systematic process to increase the Jewish population and
eject the native inhabitants of the city. Such notions as 'Greater Jerusalem
<https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-greater-quot-jerusalem>' and
legal and political structures, like that of the Jerusalem Master Plan 2000
have all contributed towards turning the once absolute Palestinian majority
in Jerusalem into a constantly shrinking minority.

*Right of return: Nakba is back on Palestinian agenda

In the Naqab, Israel's objectives were put into motion as early as 1948,
and again in 1951
The process of ethnically cleansing the natives remains in effect to this

Although Masafer Yatta is part of the same colonial scheme, its uniqueness
stems from the fact that it is situated in Area C of the occupied West
Bank. In July 2020, Israel purportedly decided
to postpone its plan to annex nearly 40 per cent of the West Bank, perhaps
fearing a Palestinian rebellion and unwanted international condemnation.
However, the plan went ahead in all but name.

The wholesale annexation of large swathes of the West Bank would mean that
Israel would become responsible for the welfare of entire Palestinian
communities living therein. As a settler-colonial state, though, Israel
wants the land, but not the people. In Tel Aviv's calculation, annexation
without the expulsion of the population could lead to a demographic
nightmare, hence Israel's need to reinvent its annexation plan. De jure
annexation may have been "postponed", but it has continued in de facto
terms, which has attracted very little international political and media

The Israeli court's decision regarding Masafer Yatta, which is already
being carried out with the expulsion
of the Najjar family on 11 May, is an important step towards the annexation
of Area C. If Israel can evict the Palestinian residents of twelve
villages, more than 1,000 people, unhindered, more such expulsions can be
expected, not only south of Hebron, but across the occupied Palestinian

[image: An elderly Palestinian man faces member of the Israeli forces as
Israeli, foreign and Palestinian activists demonstrate against the eviction
of Palestinian villages to make way for an Israeli military training zone,
in the southern hills of Yatta, south of the West Bank town of Hebron, on
May 20,2022. [HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images]]

An elderly Palestinian man faces member of the Israeli forces as Israeli,
foreign and Palestinian activists demonstrate against the eviction of
Palestinian villages to make way for an Israeli military training zone, in
the southern hills of Yatta, south of the West Bank town of Hebron, on May
20,2022. – Israeli civil rights groups recently denounced a High Court
decision that approved the eviction of roughly 1,000 Palestinian villagers
to make way for a military training zone. The case of Masafer Yatta, or
Firing Zone 918, an agriculture area near Hebron, has been one of Israel's
longest running legal battles. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP) (Photo by HAZEM
BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

The Palestinian villagers of Masafer Yatta and their legal representation
know very well that no real "justice" can be obtained from the Israeli
court system. Nevertheless, they continue to fight the legal war in the
hope that a combination of factors, including solidarity in Palestine and
pressure from outside, can ultimately succeed in compelling Israel to delay
its planned destruction and Judaisation of the whole region.

However, it seems that Palestinian efforts
which have been underway since 1997, are failing. The Israeli Supreme Court
decision is predicated
on the erroneous and utterly bizarre notion that the Palestinians of that
area could not demonstrate that they belonged there prior to 1980, when the
Israeli government decided
to turn the area into "Firing Zone 918".

Sadly, the Palestinian defence was based partly on documents from the
Jordanian era and official UN records that reported on Israeli attacks on
several Masafer Yatta villages in 1966. The Jordanian government, which
administered the West Bank until 1967, compensated
some of the residents for the loss of their "stone houses" — not tents —
animals and other properties that were destroyed by the Israeli military.
Palestinians tried to use this evidence to show that they have existed
not as nomadic people but as rooted communities. This was unconvincing to
the Israeli court, which favoured the occupation army's argument over the
rights of the native population.

Israeli firing zones occupy
nearly 18 per cent of the total area of the West Bank. It is one of several
ploys used by the Israeli government to lay a pseudo-legal claim on
Palestinian land and, eventually, to claim legal ownership as well. Many of
these firing zones exist in Area C, and are one way that Israel
appropriates Palestinian land officially with the support of the courts.

*READ: Will Israel be held accountable? In conversation with the new UN
Special Rapporteur in Palestine

Now that the Israeli military has managed to acquire Masafer Yatta — a
covering 32 to 56km2 — based on completely flimsy excuses, it will become
much easier to ensure the ethnic cleansing of many similar communities in
various parts of occupied Palestine.

While discussions and media coverage of Israel's annexation scheme in the
West Bank and the Jordan Valley have largely subsided, the settler-colonial
state is now preparing for gradual annexation. Instead of taking 40 per
cent of the West Bank all at once, Israel is now annexing smaller tracts of
land and regions, like Masafer Yatta, separately. Tel Aviv will eventually
connect all these annexed areas through Jewish settler-only bypass roads to
larger Jewish settlement infrastructures in the West Bank.

Not only does this alternative strategy allow Israel to avoid international
criticism, but it will also permit the settler-colonial state to annex
Palestinian land while incrementally expelling Palestinians. Thus,
demographic imbalances will be prevented before they can even occur.

What is happening in Masafer Yatta is not only the largest ethnic cleansing
scheme to be carried out by Israel since 1967, but the move should also be
considered as the first step in a much larger scheme of illegal land
misappropriation, ethnic cleansing and official mass annexation.

Israel must not be allowed to succeed in Masafer Yatta. If it does, its
original, mass annexation scheme will become a reality in no time at all.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.
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