I read on the homepage of Haaretz’s Hebrew website on Friday that “ahead of [Jared] Kushner’s visit to the region, the Palestinians are threatening to renew their campaign for UN recognition.” I was alarmed. Should we go down to the bomb shelter, or is it enough to just wear a protective helmet?
In the report itself, the phrase “The Palestinians are threatening to renew” doesn’t even appear, although a word derived from the same root does appear in a quote from the PLO/Palestinian Authority ambassador in Washington, Husam Zomlot. The renewed request to the United Nations, explained Zomlot to my colleague Amir Tibon, was one option and the Palestinians “will use it at the right time. The UN is not a threat – it’s our right.”
Anyway, back to the reason for which we gathered: How is the possibility of returning to the diplomatic track defined by us as a threat? It’s no coincidence. The job of editing (which includes writing headlines) often reveals an internalization of official narratives and what is seen as the public position – in other words, what military men and media experts repeatedly tell us. Anything the Palestinians do or will do that doesn’t comply totally with Israeli demands is presented as illegal, dangerous, a violation of agreements, contemptible.
According to the Shin Bet security service and the Israeli army, an unarmed popular struggle against the occupation is “popular terrorism.” A regime that tries and imprisons bloggers, including minors, calls every lawsuit against military commanders who killed civilians “judicial warfare.” Killing uniformed, heavily armed Israelis is murder, just as killing civilians in their homes is terror. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is deemed terrorism because its supporters demand taking nonviolent steps against violent Israel. Consequently, even talk of taking diplomatic steps is described as a “threat.”
It turns out this atmosphere even filters through to unexpected places like the Haaretz website.
The editors are representatives of the readers, and they act as mediators between them and the writers. And my editors, who worked on my Friday article (in Hebrew) about the West Bank settlement of Halamish, rightly said a headline stating “Closing road prevents Palestinians from accessing their land” is not news to the average reader. Not news because it happens all the time. And, in effect, not news because very few people are interested.
Israel doesn’t threaten. It implements. Overtly and covertly. Quickly and gradually. Officially and pirate-like. The main road to the West Bank villages of Beitillu, Deir Amar, Jamala, Deir Nidham and Al-Nabi Saleh – which has been closed for about a month – tells the story of Israel’s skill as a colonialist entity. Of farsightedness and working in stages, and the patience of the settlement bodies.
The settlement of Halamish was built in 1977-78 on an abandoned Jordanian base, on the road that connects Bir Zeit to other villages west of Ramallah. In 1978, the army issued an order to seize private land belonging to the villages of Deir Nidham, Al-Nabi Saleh and Umm Safa, and transferred 686 dunams (170 acres) to the new settlement. This was before the 1979 High Court of Justice ruling that ordered the evacuation of the settlement of Elon Moreh from private land that had been seized by military order.
After the ruling, Israel developed the “state land” trick. What isn’t deemed state land? Whatever the Palestinians managed to register in the Land Registry before 1967, or land that’s cultivated with such intensity that even our official land robbers cannot declare it state land – i.e., land for Jews coming from Tel Aviv, New York, Paris and Jerusalem.
In the early 1980s, the Israeli Civil Administration declared 2,060 dunams in the area of Al-Nabi Saleh as state land. The land was transferred to Halamish. But that wasn’t enough for the settlement, which is built on about 10 percent of the area that was stolen and allocated to it. It set its sights on agricultural plots belonging to Deir Nidham and Al-Nabi Saleh, near which the settlement was built. The army blocked Palestinian access to this land. For security reasons, of course. How convenient.
And so, beginning in 2007, the settlers have controlled about 60 dunams of land owned by Palestinian residents who were denied access to it. Later, the settlers took control of the Al Qaws spring that belongs to Deir Nidham and Al-Nabi Saleh, renaming it Meir Spring and barring Palestinians from reaching it. Now I have learned from the Kerem Navot NGO website that they have also completed the takeover of another nearby spring, Ein al-Khaled.
A pre-army preparatory academy has already been established east of the settlement. About a month ago, immediately after the attack in Halamish that left three settlers dead, an outpost was built outside the entrance. It wasn’t built in an orderly procedure. Binyamin Regional Council is supposed to enforce the rules, and is expected to approve it. But the plan to expand Halamish across the road came long before the murders. The murders are being utilized as an excuse to realize old expansion plans.
The objective is to turn the road, which has been used by the Palestinians since British Mandate times, into a private road of the settlement, and to create a large bloc of settlements together with Nahliel, Talmon and Dolev in the south. All of them were built in order to drive a wedge between the Palestinian villages. The same is true of Halamish. And now – the wedge is widening.
And in the words of the settlers, who hung a sign near the military checkpoint in Halamish, “The area where you are located is under Jewish control. The entry of Arabs is absolutely forbidden and constitutes a mortal danger to you!” It’s true the Israel Defense Forces removed the sign after an inquiry by Haaretz. In effect, though, the army, settlers and Civil Administration are working in coordination, in order to realize the threat.
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