The High Court of Justice will hear a petition on Monday by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the villagers of Khirbet Zanuta in the southern Hebron Hills, against the state’s intention to destroy the community and expel its 130 residents.
In a previous hearing, the court ordered the state to propose an alternative housing solution for the villagers, but the state ignored the directive and entrenched itself in its position that the village should be considered a random collection of structures that were built illegally on an archaeological site. Thus, the state said, it has no intention of moving ahead with another planning solution for the people living there.
The nonprofit Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights has submitted its opinion to the court in the form of a proposal that would allow the villagers to continue living in Zanuta, while protecting the archaeological site in the area. A representative of ACRI, attorney Maskit Bendel, argued that this was not a case of destruction of a random collection of buildings, but rather destruction of a village, eradication of a community and the expulsion of all its members from their homes.
Discussion of Zanuta’s fate has resurfaced, after it was on hold for several years, following the submission of a request by the organization Regavim (“a movement working toward a Zionist land policy”) to join the petition as a friend of the court. It was only after Regavim joined the petition - three years after it was first submitted - that the state submitted its response that the village should be destroyed.
Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass, who visited the village last week, reported on the grim mood of the residents, who could soon find themselves expelled and homeless. “Israel will be able to say that this place is empty [of Palestinians], and, therefore, can and should be part of Israel. We are like a thorn in their eyes, so they want to kick us out,” said a resident of the village, Rashad al-Tal, who was born there 37 years ago.
Indeed, the clear impression one gets from the way the state is behaving is that in the southern Hebron Hills, as in the Jordan Valley, Israel is conducting an intentional and methodical policy of expelling Palestinians and Bedouin, to ensure the annexation of these areas.
The inhabitants of Zanuta, like those of Halat Makhoul in the Jordan Valley and thousands more residents of shepherd communities, are easy prey for Israel, and a helpless link in the long-time Palestinian settlement in the region. Only the High Court of Justice can, and should, put an end to this chain of expulsions, which can be described in no other way than transfer.
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