The scope of the destruction wreaked by the Civil Administration November 3 in Khirbet Humsa, a Palestinian shepherding community in the Jordan Valley, was so great that a large delegation of European diplomats went there to see the devastation with their own eyes. The village is in an area that Israel has declared a firing zone.
In terms of the number of people made homeless, it was the Civil Administration’s largest single demolition operation in 10 years: 11 families – 74 people, including 41 children. In terms of the number of structures razed, it was the biggest since 2016. Dozens of shacks, animal pens, water tanks, watering troughs and solar panels – all destroyed by Civil Administration employees.
The destruction took place before the very eyes of dozens of frightened children, who since birth have become accustomed to being deprived of the rights enjoyed by children their age just a few kilometers away. For example, in the Jewish settlements Ro’i and Beka’ot or in Jewish shepherd outposts that have sprouted, particularly over the past decade, and continue to develop despite demolition orders.
The families of Humsa, like those in dozens of Palestinian communities in the area, are barred from using the wide-open spaces of the Jordan Valley – most of which is privately owned land – in keeping with their lifestyle and need to support themselves. They are prohibited from connecting to the water and electricity supplies or to use the local access roads. They cannot even dream of permanent housing where they could live without the daily threat of demolition or eviction. The Palestinian authorities are prohibited from developing the area in keeping with population growth or with planning norms.
Of course, this blatant discrimination is perfectly lawful. The spokesperson’s office of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories described the legal discrimination as follows: “Seven tents and eight animal enclosures that were illegally erected in the firing zone were demolished. … The enforcement was carried out in accordance with authorization and rules and subject to operational considerations.”
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But law is manmade, and with the aid of military orders the goal is to implement a policy that has not changed since 1967: pushing the Palestinians into separate enclaves, without reserves of land, and shaping the spaces in the West Bank in such a way that most of them are available for Jewish settlement. Firing zones, only a small portion of which are used for training exercises, are one of the proven means of displacing Palestinians from areas that were used seasonally for agriculture and residence before gradually became permanent places of residence.
This egregious humanitarian violation is made possible by the apathy of Israelis and the inefficacy of international oversight. The resilience of these Palestinians is indeed impressive, but they are exhausted. This is a moral stain on the State of Israel.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.