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Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Part 2 of 10

WITNESS NO. 6 (ANONYMOUS)
The witness said that his statement would relate to the village of Amwas where he lived for 30 years.

This village is located 25 kms west of Jerusalem. Before the events of 5 June 1967 the village had 800 houses, with 3,500 inhabitants, two mosques, one Carmelite convent under the protection of the French government, and two schools. It was equipped with two wells for drinking water and an installation providing running water for 280 homes. Amwas is an agricultural area with olive trees and fruit trees.

That village was destroyed in 1967, without any military justification. The Arab Legion had withdrawn from the area two hours before the arrival of the Israeli troops; none of the inhabitants had any weapons and therefore there was no military or armed resistance. Nevertheless, on 6,7 and 8 June 1967, after the occupation by the Israeli Army, one third of the village was dynamited and all the houses were blown up. Then on 24 June, the Israelis began to destroy two thirds of the village by the use of bulldozers. Only two mosques, the cemetery and the Carmelite convent were spared.

During all the events connected with the destruction, which lasted about one month, the entire area was closed to everyone except the Israeli Army. French priest Paul Gauthier got the closest to the village and made a report, protesting against what had happened, and addressed it to the Israeli Army.

Returning to the ordeal suffered by the inhabitants, the witness said that during the first day of war about 100 or 150 villagers from Amwas had taken refuge in the monastery. But at the end of the fighting when they tried to return the Israeli soldiers did not let them enter their houses. On 12 June, two buses with Israeli armed soldiers arrived in the monastery and the refugees were ordered to leave this monastery. They refused but the Israelis came into the monastery and pushed the refugees by force outside. They were then taken to the village of Belt Sira. The witness pointed out that most of those refugees were in night clothes and that they had nothing with them, not even food or water. It was impossible to establish any kind of contacts with them for almost two months. At the beginning of July, the person in charge of the monastery met in Ramallah with the chief of the district of Amwas and the leaders of Amwas. They asked the Israeli authorities to allow the refugees in Ramallah to return and reconstruct their village. But that request was rejected.

The witness gave as a reference the book, A Lost Victory, written by Amos Kenan, who was a head of the group that the Israeli Army entrusted with the mission of destroying this village. The book was published in Tel Aviv in 1970 by Abraham Publications and it is a first-hand report of an impartial witness. According to the witness, he heard from a great number of people that during the destruction of the village some elderly people who were not able to leave their homes were killed under their houses when they were blown up

After the war two thirds of the villagers moved to Amman and one third remained in Ramallah, Jerusalem or in other villages. Until now none of those villagers has been able to return to that village to live or work. The Israeli authorities transformed that village into a leisure park, planted trees and called it Canada Park. Asphalt roads had been built in the village and around it. The witness outlined that the only remaining part of Amwas now was the Carmelite Convent, which was located in the middle of the village and used to be surrounded by many houses. He noted that if there had been any battles, that convent would have been destroyed too, due to its location. There was no battle and the village was destroyed deliberately. All the lands of the village had been seized and were now being exploited by the Israeli foundation. Kerin Kiemet, and by the inhabitants of the nearby Israeli settlements. All the area was irrigated by an irrigation network. Two kilometres away from Amwas, the Mevo Khoron settlement was founded.


WITNESS NO. 13 - MR. IBRAHIM MUSTAFA EL-SHEIKH

The witness was a resident of the village of Amwas with a population of 3,500 at the time of the occupation. On 6 June 1967, the Israeli troops entered the village with artillery, arms and tanks. Four hours after the inhabitants were ordered via loudspeakers to go to the house of the community leaders (mukhtar) and then told to leave the village for Ramallah. Only the very old people and the very young children remained in the village; the rest, under the threat of being shot, were forced to leave without being allowed to take any belongings with them. After a two-day walk they reached Ramallah. On 11 June they were told via loudspeakers to return to their village. They walked back 32 kilometers and as they approached the village, at adistance of two kilometres, they saw the village being blown up. The witness stated that all the houses and their contents had been blown out, with the old people and the very young children that had been left behind still inside. They were then told by Israeli officials to go back to Ramallah as their village was now declared a forbidden area for security purposes. In Ramallah, the villagers pleaded with the Military Governor to allow them to return to their village but in vain. The Abbot of the Latrun Monastery tried to intervene on the villagers' behalf and offered to the Military Governor to bear the expenses for rebuilding the village, but was told that the matter was beyond his competence, as the village had been blown up by special order of Moshe Dayan. Mr. El-Sheikh recalled that in 1967, Amwas village had 40,000 dunums of agricultural lands, 800 houses, a primary school for boys with 600 pupils, a special primary school for girls with 400 pupils, special secondary schools, two mosques, a post office, a network of drinking water and 2,000 dunums of land planted with olive trees, walnut trees and other fruit trees. After the occupation, the village, where the Jews had now owned any property prior to 1967, was turned down by Israel into a park, which was called "Canada Park." The whole area was called Nakhsoun, including the land which Israel had had since 1948 with the settlements of Nakhshoun on it.


WITNESS NO. 7 (ANONYMOUS)
The witness, who lived in Qalqilia on the frontiers of 1948, said that most of the land in that area was in the hands of Jews but the houses and the highest areas belonged to the Arabs. The local people, being very active in the field of agriculture, had succeeded in transforming the rocky land into a prosperous and fruitful area, in particular, by digging some 50 artesian wells. This is a real motive why Israel had led various attacks in that area before 1967, in particular on 10 October 1956 and 5 September 1965, when 1 1 artesian wells were destroyed by Israel.

During the 1967 war, 60 per cent of the houses in the village were destroyed and its inhabitants compelled to leave for a period of 25 days. The villagers formed a committee that carried out contacts with various consulates and finally, the inhabitants managed to return to their village. Land of about 22 dunums which belonged to different owners had been taken over by Israeli authorities and surrounded with barbed wire.

Since then, in 1976, the Israeli authorities installed some sort of equipment in the artesian wells to control and limit the quantity of water which could be used. These water restrictions forbade the villagers to make use of the rest of their property and even compelled them to leve their land. The witness said he had with him photocopies of the orders of the Israeli Water Supply Authorities establishing strict limitations for the use of water for each well during the current year. Since farming was the villagers' only source of livelihood they were in serious need of water.

Referring to the settlements, the witness said that on the road between Nablus and Qalqilia the Israeli authorities established two settlements at Kafr Lakef and Kafr Kaddum. The first one was founded in 1976 in a wooded area and bulldozers uprooted all the trees. The second settlement was built on the land of villagers of Kafr Kaddum, which had been levelled by bulldozers. Both settlements started with about 20 houses, now they have approximately 150 houses each and are surrounded by barbed wire. The authorities built some new roads and equipped an artesian well with a motor engine and pipelines to supply two settlements with water.

Responding to various questions, the witness said that only a few of the original owners had been paid for the houses that had been destroyed. The amount paid for each house was about one quarter of its real value.


WITNESS NO. 8 - MR. ALI DHIB OMEIRI, MUKHTAR OF BEIT NUBA
Mr. Omeiri said that on 6 June 1967, Israeli authorities occupied his village. On that day the people of the village were asked to leave without being given any explanation. After three days at the outskirts of the village, the inhabitants of Beit Nuba were asked through loud speakers to return to their homes and raise a white flag on the house. As the inhabitants came close to their village, they were stopped by military personnel and their homes were destroyed in front of them. As Mukhtar of the village, the witness appealed to the military commander of the area, who confirmed that the people of the village could not return to their village, which had been destroyed.

Describing the village of Beit Nuba, in the West Bank Highlands, Mr. Omeieri stated that it was approximately 25,000 dunums in size and that the population amounted approximately to 4,000 persons; it had two schools, and a medical clinic. It was equipped with an artesian well and a flour mill. He added that 650 houses had been blown up and gave the names of 14 people who lost their lives in that destruction.


WITNESS NO. 9 (ANONYMOUS)
After giving an historical background of Zionism and explaining the various mechanisms utilized by Israeli authorities to acquire the land of the Arabs, the witness talked about his own experience with Israeli settlements. He said that at the beginning of 1977 a project for a settlement started in the Salfit area, located between the so-called green belt and the Jordan River. The new settlement called Messha, 20 km from Salfit, started with 20 prefabricated houses on land that had been confiscated from the village Tefoa (between Nablus and Jerusalem). In February 1978, Israeli authorities expropriated another 500 dunums of land in the villages of Salfit, Kofar El-Harish and Marda for a new settlement which was built by the group, Gush Emunim, and with the approval and help of the Committee on Settlements headed by the Israeli Minister of Agriculture. It started with 80 families and there are plans of settling 1,500 more families there within the next 5 years. Protests led nowhere.

In April 1979 the local councils in the Salfit district were informed of a new expropriation decision concerning 3,500 I dunums between the settlements of Alyeh and Tefoa. The occupying authorities took control of the only artesian well, I which is located in the village of Zawiya, in order to supply the above-mentioned two settlements with water, while the local inhabitants of those villages were prevented from using it. The witness said that he was a farmer and that Israel had expropriated 80 dunums of his land, which was the main source of living for his family. Regarding the expropriation of land by Israeli authorities, the witness noted that in some cases Israeli authorities offered as barter other lands which belonged to families abroad whose properties had become known as the land of absentee owners. However, the farmers had rejected that offer on the grounds of its illegality and in the knowledge that it would engender hatred among the Arabs involved.


WITNESS NO. 17 (ANONYMOUS)
The witness stated that he was appearing before the Commission to represent the municipality of Hebron, because the military authorities had prevented the Mayor of Hebron from leaving his city and coming to be a witness before the Commission. The witness stated that he lived in Hebron in 1970 when the Israelis created the settlement of Kiryat Arba, one of the largest settlements in the West Bank area.

In 1970, the occupying authorities and their troops encircled an area of about 500 dunums of the municipality of Hebron with barbed wire. When the citizens protested, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan attended a public meeting with them and the former Mayor of Hebron. He swore on his honour that there would be only one camp established in the area. A few days later the Governor of the West Bank issued a military order expropriating 3,000 dunums of Hebron land from the internal limits of the community.

In 1973, the Governor of the West Bank, together with the Military Governor of Hebron, issued an order forbidding the Arabs from building anything on their lands or houses within the municipal boundary of Hebron. On 12 December 1978, 38 Arab inhabitants and the witness himself were summoned to the military headquarters where they were informed that their area had been declared as a closed-off area and that the inhabitants could not leave it without previous permission from the military authorities. The area concerned comprised 38 houses inhabited by more than 400 people. In addition to closing off the area, the inhabitants were continuously subjected to harassment by nearby settlers of Kiryat Arba. Soon after that military order, the Mayor of Hebron received a letter accompanied by a map showing a plan for the establishment of 500 new houses to be built on land and properties belonging to Arab inhabitants (the witness submitted a copy of that letter and a map). Houses included in the plan were demolished to make room for new homes.

Speaking of the ordeal of the people of Hebron, the witness stated that children were forbidden from going to school and that, by night, Jewish settlers from Kiryat Arba shone floodlights and spotlights on windows of homes to frighten the women and children. Those settlers were in military uniform; they belonged to the Gush Emunim Group and were the same settlers who killed the children in the demonstrations that occurred at Halhoul.

The witness indicated that the inhabitants complained to the United States Consul in Jerusalem, who promised them that the Secretary of State of the United States would visit their area. After the visit had taken place, the inhabitants enjoyed some freedom of movement in and out of their area. In another attempt to stop land expropriation, the witness indicated that a case on behalf of the Municipality of Hebron and in the name of 39 Arab landowners, was submitted to the High Court of Justice, which by its decision had nullified the expropriation of only 530 dunums, out of a total of 3,000 dunums which was the amount of land that had been expropriated from its Arab owners in Hebron.

After the Court decision, Arab inhabitants, with the help of 4,000 Jewish Israeli citizens - members of a group called Israeli Peace Movement - tried to plant or replant the area but were prevented by the military authorities.

In response to questions, the witness stated that the amount of land expropriated by Israel from Arabs in Hebron was 3,000 dunums. The settlement of Kiryat Arba was established on 500 dunums. Also 38 buildings were built on 530 dunums. Four hundred and fifty persons lived there. The Israelis uprooted the trees, which constituted the inhabitants' means of livelihood and until the present have prevented Arab inhabitants, in spite of Court decisions, from any building on this land.

In response to another question about the incident that took place in the village of Halhoul, in which two children were killed by one of the settlers, the witness stated that at that time the Military Governor of Hebron imposed a curfew on the village of Halhoul for 15 days, forbidding anyone from bringing anything to the village. In order to obtain food and milk for the people, a matter which was refused by the Military Governor, the witness said, they complained to the Red Cross and also sent a cable to the United Nations Secretary-General.


WITNESS NO. 14 (ANONYMOUS)
The witness gave an account of how the Israelis expropriated about 1,000 dunums of agricultural land in his village of Northern Assira, situated between Assira and Nablus.

Two months before, he said, the Israelis had informed the village mukhtar (community leader) that the land in question was to be seized. They showed him a list in Hebrew of the owners of that land and asked him to inform them that the land was to become Israeli property. They told him that anybody who wanted compensation should see the Military Governor.

Naturally, said the witness, the owners were upset to hear about the expropriation of their land, since it was their sole means of livelihood, and decided that they would not yield except under duress.

Two weeks later, the Israelis started building a road 10 metres wide and 4 kilometres long in an area covered with wheat fields and almond and olive trees. As a result, the owners sustained substantial losses.

Next, the Israelis divided the land into parcels of 50 dunums, installed telephone poles and brought prefabricated houses.


WITNESS NO. 19 (ANONYMOUS)
The witness talked about an agricultural village, Anata, located 2 kilometres north-east of Jerusalem. The village had an area of 13,000 dunums with a population of 3,500 who depended on agriculture for their livelihood. The area of the village appeared in the district file of Tabu during both the Ottoman and the British Mandate rules. It had also been surveyed during Jordanian rule. The witness submitted to the Commission a list of landowners in thevillage, each of whom had his own separate file for property ownership.

In 1971 and 1972, the Israeli military authorities had undertaken, without giving a reason to the villagers, a new survey of the lands on the eastern side of the village, which had continued until 1975. In January 1975, the Military Governor of Ramallah had called in the witness to inform him that the village had been divided into three zones: the western part was linked to the municipality of Jerusalem; the northern part to the municipality of Ramallah; and the southern part to the municipality of Bethlehem. One of these zones with an area of 4,650 dunums, which included 40 inhabited houses, was marked as a military zone, access to which was completely forbidden. Copies of the plan had been distributed to the registration of Tabu and to the municipal administrations of villagers and towns in order to forbid any selling of these lands or other transactions on them and to stop issuance of building and construction authorizations.

On 5 May 1977 the Military Governor had informed the villagers that they would not be allowed to harvest their crops in the closed-off areas. Access to these areas would be granted by a special authorization from the military authorities only andviolators would be taken to military court. On 19 September 1978, the Military Governor had met with the village notables and had proposed to lease the land from the villagers at the rate of 5 Jordanian dinars for each dunum in the first category, 3 Jordanian dinars for each dunum in the second category and 2 Jordanian dinars for each dunum in the third category. That offer having been refused, the Military Governor had proposed to pay compensation to the villagers according to the report of the Committee of Agricultural Experts. That proposal had also been rejected. Three thousand and five hundred people were still living in the village of Anata. On 8 October 1978, the Israeli military authorities had summoned the workers under military guard and had closed off the zone with barbed wire and iron gates. On 14 October 1978, the witness had requested the Jordanian Government to intervene and raise the question of expropriation of their lands at the international level. The Jordanian Government had raised the question in the Security Council. On 25 October, the witness had sent cables to the Secretary-General, the President of the United States, the President of Egypt and the United States Ambassador to Israel, requesting their intervention against the expropriation of the village lands. On 14 November 1978, the villagers had submitted their case to the Israeli High Court of Justice, which on 10 Decmember 1978 had given a temporary judgment forbidding the army to work on the land until the Court had made a final judgment. On 15 December 1978, General Shalam Tagner had submitted a statement to the High court indicating that 1,740 dunums, not 4,650 dunums, were needed as a military zone and had requested that the temporary judgement be nullified. The High Court had not allowed enough time for the villagers to respond to the new situation and had met on 17 December 1978. On 15 January 1979, the Court had issued its judgement, agreeing to the expropriation of 1,740 dunums of fertile agricultural land. The villagers had not been informed of the decision until 18 March 1979, that is after the period of 30 days legally allowed to appeal such a judgement. The witness submitted to the Commission, among other relevant documentation, a list of the landowners in the 1,740 dunums of land. Noting that he himself was the owner of 1,200 dunums out of the 1,740 dunums of land, the witness stated that he had been left with only 300 dunums without any possibility of access. On 11 April 1979, he had submitted a request to the Israeli authorities for permission to reach his land, but there had been no answer. He stated further that on 5 April 1979, the Israeli army had started surveying the remaining lands in order to establish an industrial zone thereon. The army, he continued, was then building roads and organizing the new zone.


WITNESS NO. 20 (ANONYMOUS)
The witness said that, unlike other occupations in the past, Israeli occupation had as its ultimate aim to take possession of the land and drive its inhabitants away. An important new facet of Israel's settlement policy, he said, was that unlike past policy, which consisted of establishing settlements mostly close to the green line which separated Israel from its pre- 1967 borders, the new trend was to divide the West Bank into large squares, then criss-cross them withroads in all directions. As perceived by the inhabitants, the aim of that policy was to divide the main cities and towns by building settlements on the corners of each square; thus "balkanizing" the territory in such a way that it would not be a viable entity.

The witness also gave a number of incidents involving mistreatment of Arab youngsters by some of the Jewish settlers, especially in the area of Kiryat Arba.

In reply to various questions, the witness said that the new trend which he described in his statement would result in the loosening of trade and other ties between the towns and the outlying villages because the settlers would start taking the law into their own hands and set up check points wherever they saw fit. Furthermore, the occupied West Bank being a small territory, the land lost as a result of the building of wide roads and streets would deprive several families of their property.

The witness said that some check points were permanent, especially at the entrance of Jerusalem and other major cities. Waiting time at those check points could be as much as one hour and 45 minutes.

All settlements, he also said, were of a permanent nature, even when they started as temporary shelters. The population in settlements ranged from 200 to 2,000. The only Arabs allowed to enter them were poor labourers doing menial jobs.

As to the extent of the land taken so far by Israel, it amounted to 36 per cent of the area of the occupied West Bank. He believed that as a result of the road construction, the percentage would soon reach 39 per cent.


WITNESS NO. 22 (ANONYMOUS)
Testimony submitted in writing stated that Silwad is a town located 15 kilometres north of the city of Ramallah in the West Bank. The witness added that Israeli practices towards the landowners of Silwad were the following:

1. Land expropriation. After 1967, the Israeli occupation authorities expropriated 1,650 dunums in the area called Al-Thaher. This land was owned by individual farmers of Silwad. They objected to this action to the Israeli Military Governor, who offered to pay for the land, but the owners refused to sell. A small local airport was built on it with a military camp. The camp was transformed gradually after 1974 into a settlement for Israeli civilians;

2. The Israeli Settlement of Ofra. Before the 1967 war, the Government of Jordan was in the process of using an area of 300 dunums south-east of Silwad as a military camp. When the 1967 war broke out, no compensation was paid to their individual owners. In March 1974, an Israeli settlement was established in this area called Ofra. The area was expanded to include an additional land of 100 dunums. The owners objected this action to the Governor but with no success;

3. Restricted area. A total of 5,000 dunums were fenced and restricted by the Israeli occupation authorities. This area belonged to individual owners of Silwad and the neighbouring town Ein Yabroad.

CONCLUSION OF THE COMMISSION

The Security Council Commission concluded its report by stating the recent information about Jewish settlements and the impact of the settlements on the Arab population as follows:

RECENT INFORMATION ON THE SETTLEMENTS

According to the figures obtained, there are altogether in the occupied territories 133 settlements, including the 17 in and around Jerusalem, 62 in the West Bank, 29 in the Golan Heights, and 25 in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai.

The population of those settlements varies in number, probably depending on the policy purposes predetermined for each settlement. In the area of Jerusalem and the West Bank where the establishment of settlments has been the most intensive, the number of settlers has reached approximately 90,000, while in the Sinai their number would be under 5,000.

The land seized by the Israeli authorities as a whole, either specifically for the establishment of those settlements or for other stated reasons, covers 27 per cent of the occupied West Bank and the quasi-totality of the Golan Heights.

On the basis of the information received, the Commission is convinced that a number of settlements were established on privately owned land and not only on public land.

Many of those settlements are of a military nature, either officially placed under the control of the Israeli army or de facto with a settler population of military age. Moreover, those settlers are said to have at their disposal military weapons in the midst of an unarmed Arab population.

According to several witnesses, the location of the settlements is determined in accordance with agricultural designs, and also with what Israel considers to be "security" purposes. That may explain, for instance, the existence of three successive belts of settlements reported to have been established between Jerusalem and the Jordan River and which would be aimed at "compartmenting" the local population.

Supported by the strong influence of various private groupings, the settlement policy is an official government programme which is implemented by a number of organizations and communities representing both the Government and the private sector inside and outside Israel.

In addition to private contributions coming mostly from outside Israel, the financing of the settlement policy is essentially a governmental matter. In that connexion, the Commission was told that the Israeli government has set aside the equivalent of $US 200 million for expanding and establishing settlements during the fiscal year 1979180.

The Commission found evidence that the Israeli Government is engaged in a willful, systematic and large-scale process of establishing settlements in the occupied territories for which it should bear full responsibility.


CONSEQUENCES OF THE SETTLEMENT POLICY ON THE LOCAL POPULATION

The Commission is of the view that a correlation exists between the establishment of Israeli settlements and the displacement of the Arab population. Thus it was reported that since 1967, when that policy started, the Arab population has been reduced by 32 per cent in Jerusalem and the West Bank. As to the Golan Heights, the Syrian authorities stated that 134,000 inhabitants had beenexpelledleaving only 8,000, i.e. 6 per cent of the local population in the occupied Golan Heights.

The Commission is convinced that in the implementation of its policy of settlements, Israel has resorted to methods - often coercive and sometimes more subtle - which included the control of water resources, the seizure of private properties, the destruction of houses and the banishment of persons, and has shown disregard for basic human rights, including in particular the right of the refugees to return to their homeland.

For the Arab inhabitants still living in those territories, particularly in Jerusalem and the West Bank, they are subjected to continuous pressure to emigrate in order to make room for new settlers who, by contrast, are encouraged to come to the area. The Commission was told also that in the Golan Heights Israeli authorities imposed Israeli citizenship on all new-born children in an effort to assimilate the remaining population.

The settlement policy has brought drastic and adverse changes to the economic and social pattern of the daily life of the remaining Arab population. As a mere example of that evolution, the Commission was informed that a number of Arab landowners were now compelled to earn their living and that of their family by working on their own land as the hired employees of the Israeli settlers.

The Commission considers that the pattern of that settlement policy, as a consequence, is causing profound and irreversible changes of a geographical and demographic nature in those territories, including Jerusalem.

The Commission has no doubt that those changes are of such a profound nature that they constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and of the relevant decisions adopted by the United Nations in the matter, more specifically: Security Council resolutions 237 (1967), 252 (1968) and 298 (1971); the consensus statement by the President of the Council on 1 1 November 1976; as well as General Assembly resolutions 2253 (ES-V), 32/5 and 331/13.


IMPACT OF THE SETTLEMENT POLICY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES ON THE SEARCH FOR PEACE

While fully aware of the extreme complexities inherent in the Middle East problem and at the same time recognizing the limitations in the scope of its mandate, the Commission none the less had the opportunity to note a genuine desire for peace in the capitals it visited as well as among the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization whom it met.

Unfortunately, the Commission has also perceived a deep sense of despair and helplessness, primarily among the Palestinian refugees. That stems from the realization that Israel's policy with regard to the occupied Arab territories and more particularly its policy of continuing to establish more settlements is unabated and undaunted either by United Nations decisions or any other external factor. The Commission would like to state clearly in that regard that in the course of its various meetings it felt that this settlement policy was widely regarded as a most negative factor in the achievment of peace in the area both by the refugees themselves and all those who support their cause, including the neighbouring Governments for which that policy generates at the national level economic and social problems of grave consequences.

Consequently, after examining the situation relative to settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, the Commission wishes to reaffirm the determination made in resolution 446 (1979), according to which "the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."


B. RECOMMENDATIONS

On the basis of the conclusion reached, the Commission would like, therefore, to recommend that the Security Council, bearing in mind the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homeland, launch a pressing appeal to the Government and. people of Israel, drawing again their attention to the disastrous consequences which the settlement policy is bound to have on any attempt to reach a peaceful solution in the Middle East.

In the view of the Commission, as afirst step, Israel should be called upon to cease on an urgent basis the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the occupied territories. The question of the existing settlements would then have to be resolved.

The Security Council might further wish to consider measures to safeguard the impartial protection of property arbitrarily seized.

As to Jerusalem, the Security Council should also call upon the Government of Israel to implement faithfully the resolution it has adopted on that question as from 1967. Moreover, recalling that Jerusalem is a most sacred place for the three great monetheistic faiths throughout the world, i.e., Christian, Jewish and Moslem, the Council might wish to consider steps to protect and preserve the unique spiritual and religious dimension of the Holy Places in that city, taking into account the views of high-ranking representatives of the three religions.

In view of the magnitude of the problem of settlement and its implication for peace in the region, the Security Council should keep the situation under constant survey.

THE USURPATION OF PALESTINIAN LANDS AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF JEWISH SETTLEMENTS IN THE WEST BANK AND THE GAZA STRIP 1980-1989

The following information about the usurpation of Palestinian lands and the establishment of Jewish settlements is collected from Jewish newspapers, Al Fajr (the Jerusalem Palestinian weekly), the research done by Dr. Meron Benvenisti, the Institute of Palestine Studies and the annual reports of the United Nations Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the population of the occupied territories.(13 )

USURPATION OF PALESTINIAN LANDS AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF JEWISH SETTLEMENTS IN 1980

Zionist policy towards the occupied territories in 1980 was shaped and executed against the backdrop of the Camp David process. At the end of January, Israel was to withdraw from strategic passes in the Sinai and formal diplomatic relations with Egypt would immediately follow. There remained the thorny question of the simultaneous negotiations on Palestinian "autonomy" which had a deadline for resolution of May 26. On January 7, Israeli Prime Minister Begin flew to Aswan to meet with Sadat, allegedly to clear the air over the Palestinian issue so that normalization could.proceed on schedule. However, the meeting was described as "heavy on sightseeing" with little substance coming out of the talks. This characterized all other American-Egyptian-Israeli discussions on the Palestinian question throughout the remainder of the year.

Israeli conceptions of Palestinian "autonomy" were presented to the Sadat regime in January in the form of a 26 page plan outlining an administrative structure to be imposed on the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. The plan was published in the Israeli press on January 19th with a summary of the powers Israel would arrogate to itself.

For the Begin government the key to thwarting the possibility of the eventual emergence of an independent Palestinian state was the establishment of a proliferation of settlements in the occupied territories. Settlement was to be promoted regardless of whether or not individual colonies were economically viable or whether there were sufficient government finances to establish them in the first place. The Begin government was so obsessed with the idea of alienating Palestinians from their land, that it also offered virtual sponsorship to the settlement schemes of fanatical independent settler movements such as the Gush Emunim and Meir Kahane's Kach. Renegade land expropriation and settlement construction occurred in tandem with the more refined occupation schemes of the World Zionist Organization and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The World Zionist Organization settlement strategy was outlined in a plan drawn up by the head of its Settlement Department, Mattityahu Drobles:

"In light of the current negotiations on the future of Judea and Samaria, it will now become necessary for us to conduct a race against time .... It is therefore significant to stress today mainly by means of actions, that the autonomy does not and will not apply to the territories but only to the Arab population thereof. This should mainly find expression by establishing facts on the ground. Therefore, the state-owned lands and the uncultivated barren lands in Judea and Samaria ought to be seized right away, with the purpose of settling the areas between and around the centres occupied by the minorities so as to reduce to the minimum the danger of an additional Arab state being established in these territories. Being cut off by Jewish settlements the minority population will find it difficult to form a territorial and political continuity. There mustn't be even the shadow of a doubt about our intention to keep the territories of Judea and Samaria for good ... The best and most effective way of removing every shadow of a doubt about our intention to hold on to Judea and Samaria forever is by speeding up the settlement momentum in these territories." (14)

To kick off the massive settlement drive for 1980, the joint Israeli government-World Zionist Organization settlement committee announced a plan on December25,1979 to double the Jewish population in the West Bank in the coming year and a half. Some 20,000 people were to be newly settled in the West Bank. However, there was no idea as to how to come up with the funds for such a project. The settlement budget for 1979 was IL 3 billion. The new plan called for an allocation of funds of up to IL 10 billion ($ 285 million). Even though there was no budget guarantee, an aide to Finance Minister Yigael Hurvitz commented: "Billions don't frighten anyone today."

At the beginning of 1980, the continued easy expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank was temporarily thrown into confusion by a successful court challenge by Palestinians whose land had been seized by Gush Emunim settlers for Eilon Moreh near Nablus. On October 22, 1979, the Israeli High Court ruled that Eilon Moreh was not imperative for military security and must be evacuated. The Gush Emunim settlers still refused to evacuate the site as of January 1. The Begin cabinet supported the settlers' "illegal" occupation by granting an evacuation extension of 5 weeks in defiance of the High Court decision. Begin's determination to flaunt even Zionism's own legal formalities to pursue the settlement campaign provoked four unsuccessful no confidence motions in the Knesset.

To demonstrate the determination not to lose a single settlement, work commenced in December on a new site only a few kilometres away from the original site of Eilon Moreh. The evacuation delay sparked a stream of protests by Palestinians whose land had been confiscated. Besides demonstrations near Eilon Moreh, the landowners petitioned the High Court, which issued a show cause order against the government demanding why the site should not be evacuated immediately. Finally, on January 29, the government began to dismantle the settlement. Some remaining holdouts were ejected by force on February 3 and transported to the new site on Jabal al-Kabir.

Preparation of the new site cost the government over $1 million. In a Knesset ruckus, Moshe Dayan claimed that the government was throwing away "millions and millions" on Jabal al-Kabir. But Eilon Moreh was crucial to the Begin government's single-minded drive towards expansion. No expense would be spared. On January 30, the government began clearing ground adjacent to the settlement site for an "industrial zone." On the day of the ground clearing, the site was visited by Agricultural Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in charge of settlement programmes and an unofficial sponsor of Gush Emunim. He stated what Eilon Moreh meant for the Begin government: "It is absolutely clear a Jewish town will rise near Nablus. Most of my efforts have been directed at that. A town with thousands of Jews is perhaps the only practical answer Israel has to prevent the possibility of a second Palestinian state. Jordan is Palestine already."

The $1 million allocated for initial construction on Jabal al-Kabir was only the opening shot in the campaign to maintain this barren outpost inhabited by extremist Gush Emunim settlers. It was disclosed in the Hebrew Press in March that nineteen families had been given personal grants totalling over $1 million by the World Zionist Organization just to stay in the settlement. Only sixteen families were living in the settlement at the time; three of them had not even made the decision to move there when they received their money. This amount of money did not include allocations to the settlement by other government ministries. For nearby Palestinians, the new site meant more land expropriations and a continuing struggle against the new intruders. While the settler population did not increase, the land seizure did. On July 9, the Ministerial Defense Committee approved a new access road to the settlement and forty hectares of land were expropriated from Palestinians in a nearby village.

The Eilon Moreh episode led the fanatical Gush Emunim settlement movement to establish new settlement sites to force the government to escalate its settlement activities. While the fate of Eilon Moreh was being decided in January, Gush Emunim's main sponsor in the Begin Cabinet, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, prompted the cabinet to reaffirm Gush Emunim's prerogative to establish the settlement of Livona. Gush Emunim's settlement plans were a provocative attempt to settle Jews in parts of the West Bank densely populated by Palestinians. Eilon Moreh was to be a first implantation adjacent to Nablus, while Livona was a "thickening*' of the Gush Emunim settlement of Neve Tsuf near the Arab villages of al-Lubban and Arad.

The escalation of a new settlement campaign touched off by the Gush Emunim's seemingly renegade actions, did not leave the supposedly "moderate" Labour Party untouched. The Labour controlled Unified Kibbutz Movement held a two-day meeting at the beginning of January to work out its own settlement drive. A political communique issued afterwards criticized the Begin government for financing Gush Emunim settlement actions and said that Gush Emunim activity in the West Bank was harmful to peace efforts. But the key issue seemed to be that Labour settlements were not obtaining enough money for themselves. The conference announced that the Unified Kibbutz Movement would set up thirteen new settlements of its own by 1983 -a target date long after the time when the so-called "Palestinian autonomy" was to be instituted in the West Bank under the terms of the Camp David agreements. While the Israel High Court decision on Eilon Moreh implied that West Bank settlements might actually hinder Israeli military "security," Yigal Allon stated at the conference that "it is very important for security to have rural settlements along the state borders." He was undoubtedly thinking of the Jordan Valley, where Labour already had a string of settlements and wanted more government money poured into new ones controlled by Labour.

At the same time, the Gush Emunim announced its own plans for increasing the number of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza before any kind of "Palestinian autonomy" could ever be implemented. At a conference held at the beginning of January, Gush Emunim instructed its member settlements to form a new settler nuclei to "multiply" their existing settlements. Each new nucleus would be responsible for establishing one new settlement.

From the very beginning of its multiplication campaign, Gush Emunim was assisted by the military occupation forces and found in Sharon apowerful advocate in the Begin cabinet. One of the main targets in the campaign was the extension of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, which was ultimately to lead to a generalized explosion of the whole conflict between the Palestinian population and the encroaching occupation forces. But the less dramatic examples of the Gush settlement expansion attempts also demonstrated the close collaboration with the Israeli military and Sharon.

After the announcement of the new campaign, Gush Emunim settlers from Giveon decided to expand the settlement by setting up a "guard post" one kilometre west of the settlement. The site was to be the beginning of a new settlement called Tal Hadasha. Although not officially approved by the Ministerial Settlement Committee, a road was constructed connecting Tal Hadasha to Givon and the new site was actually inhabited by regular Israeli army troops. The main aim of the extension was to stop Palestinian villagers from the Neve Samuel area from cultivating their land nearby. Within days after the land seizure, the Ministerial Settlement Committee chaired by Sharon approved the Gush Emunim seizures ex post facto.

With Gush Emunim leading the way, the scramble to establish new settlements moved very quickly, and no Zionist political faction wanted to be left out. The youth movement of Begin's Herut Party established a new settlement called Maale, overlooking the Palestinian village of Azun, on January 23. At the endof January, Sharon announced government plans to erect a series of new settlements around the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, Nablus. Gush Emunim moved fifty more families into Karnei Shomron, three kilometres west of Nablus during the first week of February. Construction on the settlement of Efrat near Hebron was slated to have begun the year before. Despite the grandiose announcements of new settlement projects there was increasing difficulty in finding new settlers. In the first week of February, commencement of workonEfrat was announced anew, and in this outpost, which was supposed to eventually contain 5,000 housing units, it was now proclaimed that the first settlers were to be two hundred American families.

The Gush Emunim settlement of Livona got another boost from the government in the first week of February when a decision was issued allowing settlers to seize 1,000 dunums of land belonging to the Palestinian village of Abud for the beginning of construction. The Gush settlers from Neve Tsuf who had instigated the establishment of Livona also extracted government permission to chop down a historic grove of trees near the village of al-Nabi Salih to make way for theirpre-fab homes.

On February 14, Sharon inaugurated the settlement of Kame Shomron B near Qalqilya. With the normalization of Egyptian-Israeli relations just concluded, the settlement campaign was attracting unprecedented international condemnation. Sharon justified the continuing Zionist expansion in the West Bank with a new distorted logic. He stated at the inauguration ceremony that the settlements were "the Zionist response to the menace of establishment of a Palestinian state ... Go to part 3

 

Go to part 3

 



Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem
By Issa Nakhleh

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