Opinion |

The State Fills Israel's High Court With Lies About Palestinians in the West Bank

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag in front of an Israeli soldier during a protest against Jewish settlements, in Beit Dajan in the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 20, 2020.
A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag in front of an Israeli soldier during a protest against Jewish settlements, in Beit Dajan in the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 20, 2020.Credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The cartoon that landed in my WhatsApp was worth more than a thousand words: Two figures, their backs toward us, are standing in front of three doors. One figure is an Israeli soldier (a Star of David is drawn on his helmet), the other is an Arab (wearing a kaffiyeh). From the accompanying text it’s clear that he’s a Palestinian. The soldier’s rifle is pointed forward (not toward the Palestinian). A bandolier is wrapped around the soldier’s body. He has his hand on the Palestinian’s back in a relaxed, even friendly way, but it conveys an awareness of the soldier’s power, authority and superiority. In short, it radiates paternalism.

The soldier is saying, “Habibi, you choose – we’re a democratic state.” And then one’s eye moves to the signs on each door, which read: “Expulsion,” “Transfer,” and “Displacement.”

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Mass, immediate expulsion, creeping banishment and displacement, bit by bit; the types of expulsion that Israel imposes on the Palestinians are not topics raised during our election campaigns. The campaigns don’t deal with the violence of the settlers, the Civil Administration and the army, which are planning to erase rural communities and force their residents into urban areas. Israeli judges, who are pressured by the army and the settlers to approve expulsions and semi-displacements, know that these earthquakes in the lives of Palestinians don’t upset the party candidates. The judges rule amid the fog of most Israelis’ indifference.

The cartoon (with no date or newspaper name) by cartoonist Jihad Awartani, a native of Amman, was shared by Nasser Nawaja from Sussia. The cartoon summarizes his 39 years, during which his family and fellow villagers suffered two expulsions, one attempted expulsion and a displacement and forced resettlement that is still going on.

In 1986 the army expropriated the land of the ancient cave village in which he was born, declared it an archaeological site and evicted the 25 families that lived there. Some of the expropriated land was given to the ever-expanding settlement of Susya, which was established in 1983. The evicted families moved into tents and caves in a different area of the land they owned. In 1991, the army expelled them from there as well. They stubbornly moved to a different section of their cultivated lands. In 2001, the authorities, with the help of settlers, destroyed caves, buildings, animal pens and cisterns, and banished the residents. The High Court of Justice ordered they be allowed to return, but did not permit them to rebuild.

As in other Palestinian communities in 60 percent of the West Bank, the Israeli ban on building in Sussia, or its refusal to allow it to connect to water, power and road systems, is a type of creeping displacement, because how many people can go on enduring so many prohibitions and unending bureaucratic harassment? It’s worth it for them to move to the city of Yatta or nearby. That’s the paternalistic position of the Civil Administration, which told the High Court why it rejected the master plan the village had prepared. The subtext is, yalla, let them go to the enclaves we’ve arranged for them. The rest belongs to us, the Jews.

That was also the subtext and the text told to 12 communities in Masafer Yatta, east of Sussia. They, too, were evicted by the most Jewish state in the world. They, too, preceded Zionism and the State of Israel; their cave dwellings are one of the proofs of their rootedness, as is their way of life – a livelihood from animal husbandry and dry farming. But Israel insists on lying and telling the High Court that the residents of these villages moved into them after the area was declared a firing zone.

In 1966 the army blew up the homes in Jinba, which were a combination of caves and arched stone structures. In 1985 the army demolished Jinba again. In 1999 the army expelled residents of the 12 villages. The High Court ordered them returned, but did not order the state to allow them to rebuild. Soon the judges are meant to decide how to compromise between justice and the state’s demand that the villages be destroyed and their residents be allowed to work their land only on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. And the flocks will lick the concrete of Yatta until they die.

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