Return This Israeli Settlement to Its Palestinian Owners

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Protest march near Homesh, on Thursday.
Protest march near Homesh, on Thursday.Credit: Amir Levy
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Thousands of settlers, under the army’s protection, went Thursday, once again, to the “evacuated” West Bank settlement of Homesh, after the one-week mourning period for Yehuda Dimentman, a student at the Homesh yeshiva who was murdered nearby.

Instead of this provocative demonstration, the state should have allowed the owners of the land on which Homesh stood, Palestinian farmers from the village of Burka, to finally return to this land, which has been their private property for generations. As long as this doesn’t happen, and as long as the settlers, with backing from the government and the army, continue making mischief – whether by maintaining a yeshiva at Homesh or anything else – Homesh will continue to be a place of injustice and bloodshed.

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In 1978, this land was seized for “military needs” that quickly turned into the settlers’ needs for land for a settlement. In August 2005, Homesh was evacuated as part of the government’s disengagement plan, under which all settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank were evacuated. But Homesh’s land was never returned to its owners, who weren’t even allowed to visit it. In 2013, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to rescind both the seizure order and the order declaring the land off-limits to Palestinians. But the Israel Defense Forces scoffed at the court’s ruling and never took steps to enforce it.

Since 2009, a yeshiva has operated there under the army’s protection, while the land’s owners are still forbidden to even approach their land. At least some of the students at this yeshiva are very violent young men. The B’Tselem organization has documented 12 attacks on Palestinians near the yeshiva since March 2020. Haaretz reported four months ago about the horrifying abuse of a Palestinian teen by young men who set out from the yeshiva (August 26).

Following Dimentman’s murder, it has become all the more important to put an end to this entire march of folly. We must say no to the yeshiva and no to President Isaac Herzog, who betrayed his responsibilities by shamelessly volunteering to pass on the squatters’ request that America let settlers return to Homesh to the U.S. national security advisor, with whom he was scheduled to meet.

The only return to Homesh now should be the return of the land’s owners. The High Court decided that long ago. It’s inconceivable that settler activists, first and foremost the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, should continue to hold the state by the throat and make a mockery of the rule of law. The current uproar over Homesh should actually serve as an incentive to belatedly restore justice, without further delay.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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