In buses, trucks or command cars? How do the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration plan to carry out the major expulsion of over 1,000 Palestinians from their land, their villages, and their homes in Masafer Yatta, a collection of around 20 Palestinian hamlets and villages in the southern West Bank?
Will the soldiers receive an order to use live fire against the men, women and children who refuse to leave their land, their villages and their caves, the region where their parents and grandparents were born and lived? Or will rubber-coated metal bullets, dogs, suffocating tear gas, stun grenades, tasers and beatings with clubs suffice?
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Will the police be trained specially to drag the screaming, crying women and girls to the vehicles? Will the soldiers receive preliminary lessons, full of lies, about how the men, women and children whom they have to force into their vehicles are cynical invaders, who settled in Firing Zone 918 deliberately and maliciously, to interfere with the army’s training exercises?
Will the soldiers need a psychologist to overcome the memory of the weeping and shouting, and will their commanders then be interviewed on the friendly Israeli media and say, “It was a complex but necessary operation, and we’re proceeding according to the law?" They will, of course, be lying when they say that, because the expulsion is contrary to international law, but the sympathetic media will have no doubts and no questions. And a week or a month after the major expulsion, many acres of land will already be allocated to the flourishing settlement outposts in the area.
These aren’t prosperous kulaks living on private farms or in subsidized villages. These residents of Masafer Yatta are shepherds who combine sheep raising and grazing with dryland farming, mainly for their communities’ needs. They are familiar with every bend in the road, every rock, pit and cave, and know all of their names.
The process through which these villages came into being – first through seasonal residence in excavated caves, when the grazing area in the mother village of Yatta shrank – is an organic process that began about 200 years ago. The same villages also became permanent communities in a natural process, before the establishment of the State of Israel and before the West Bank was occupied in 1967. The family ties, friendships and work among the villages, and between them and Yatta, turn the entire region into a fabric in which every thread is vital.
For almost 40 years, Israel has been attempting to expel the Palestinians in Masafer Yatta from the region that contains their childhood memories and those of their parents and grandparents. Israel has been doing this simply by declaring the area a firing zone; by military training exercises; injunctions against construction, development and linking up to infrastructure, and repeated demolition of buildings and water pipelines for which there was no choice but to construct without permits.
- Israel blew up their houses in 1966. Now it claims their village never existed
- Why is the Israeli military exercising in these Palestinian villages, for the first time in 7 years?
- The village where Palestinians are completely powerless
In 1999 there was a de facto expulsion of about 700 people. Yes, during the “Oslo” period, when Ehud Barak was prime minister and defense minister. In 2000 the High Court of Justice acceded to the urgent petitions filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and attorney Shlomo Lecker on behalf of the residents, and ordered that the uprooting be stopped and that the evacuees be allowed to temporarily return – until the final decision.
Such a decision is supposed to be handed down soon by the High Court. The government adheres to its position that a firing zone and IDF training exercises are more important than the Palestinian residents and their history, and that the military order is above international law.
The expulsion tactics were a partial success: There could have been many more people living in the villages than are now living there. But “partial” also means that the residents living in the villages display admirable endurance and determination, and that for them there is no substitute for the open spaces where they were born, and the lifestyle into which they were born and that they have chosen.
I insist on writing once again about Masafer Yatta, a subject that is not considered newsworthy, because the scenarios above can be prevented. Because everyone involved in the story has an opportunity to come to their senses and not to participate in another attempt to erase and destroy a rich history and a present and future that are full of potential.