Israel Lets Settlers Spend Passover at Evacuated Outpost but Forbids Entry to Palestinian Land Owners

Amona outpost was built on privately owned Palestinian land and is a closed military zone - but settlers are free to enter and the zone remains closed only to Palestinians

Prefab trailers installed at the former Amona outpost, December 16, 2018.
Emil Salman

Although the site of the former Amona settlement outpost in the northern West Bank is a closed military zone, it became a recreation spot for Jewish settlers during the Passover holiday. The outpost was evacuated in 2017 on orders of the High Court of Justice, which ruled that it had been built on privately owned Palestinian land. The Palestinians who own the land on the Amona hill are still not allowed access, because of its status as a closed military zone.

Shortly before the eviction of the residents of Amona in 2017, the army issued the order barring access to the site by civilians. Initially the order ostensibly issued over the impending evacuation, to bar Israeli civilians from remaining there as residents. But the order was never rescinded, and it is now strictly enforced to keep Palestinian landowners from the nearby villages of Ein Yabrud and Silwad from farming their land at the site, as they had before the outpost was built.

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But the army has not enforced it when it comes to Jews, who are able to access the site fairly easily on a road from the nearby settlement of Ofra. There is a gate on the road, but it is wide open, and during on the intermediate days of Passover, which are not holy days, Haaretz found several Israeli civilians at the site. At the entrance, there was a large, colorful sign inviting members of the public to a scavenger hunt of sorts called “Amona landmarks,” along with a telephone number and the name of a kindergarten teacher, Einat Amitay, a former resident of the outpost.

A sign at the entrance to the evacuated West Bank Amona outpost.
Manor Brown/Kan Public Broadcasting Corp.

In January, Palestinians filed a high court petition through the Israeli Yesh Din human rights group seeking the rescission of the military order at Amona, which in practice only bars access to the site to Palestinians. The case is pending.

Dror Etkes of the Israeli group Kerem Navot, which seeks to prevent the dispossession of land owned by Palestinians and which has been monitoring the situation on the hill over the past several months, confirmed that Jewish settlers have free access to it. “It’s clear that after years during which the state got used to conducting itself in cooperation with the settlers in stealing land in the West Bank, it’s hard to wean itself off,” he told Haaretz.

The Palestinian petition to the high court was filed in January, shortly after two prefab structures that had been placed at the Amona site in December by setters in violation of the law were removed. Settlers claimed that they had purchased the land.

The army never explained how the settlers managed to bring the prefabs, where people took up residence, into a military zone. A Haaretz investigation revealed that the installation of the prefabs had been paid for by a non-profit organization that receives public funds.