An Exercise of the Settlements’ Army

Haaretz Editorial
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IDF soldiers, Jordan Valley, West Bank, 2020.
Haaretz Editorial

The Mount Hebron Regional Council welcomed the exercise held this week by the Israel Defense Forces in and around Palestinian villages in the southern West Bank. In a statement the council, which governs the area’s Jewish settlements, said the exercise was “one of the ways to increase governance, hold open space and impose law and order.”

The council disclosed an open secret: The West Bank’s firing zones are meant to block Palestinians’ access to their lands and to thwart the natural development and growth of towns, villages and sheepherding communities. That is “hold(ing) open space,” which in practice is Jews taking control of it.

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The military exercise – which included firing artillery about a kilometer from people’s homes and, contrary to the army’s explicit promise, the movement of armored personnel carriers and mobile artillery in the village of Jinba and damaged fields and destroyed roads. That is what is meant by “impos(ing) law and order” – a reminder to the Palestinians that their lives are subordinate to the needs of the army and the expansion of the settlements.

In the same spirit, the lack of “governance” refers to the fact that the Israeli authorities have not managed to eliminate the villages of Masafer Yatta (Military Firing Zone 918), whose residents have not been “voluntarily” displaced and resettled in Yatta, despite the draconian prohibitions on construction that have been imposed on them.

In the northern Jordan Valley, this week the forces of the army and the Civil Administration conducted a different law-and-order operation: They destroyed and seized, for the second time in three months, the rudimentary structures of a small sheepherding community in Khirbet Humsa, which leases land from residents of Tubas and Tamoun.

The Humsa community members originated in the southern West Bank village of Samu’a. Israeli construction and restrictions on movement reduced their grazing area and access to water in the south, causing the families to move north with their flocks.

The Civil Administration pretends that its only concern is for the families’ welfare when it orders them to move some 15 kilometers west due to the danger of remaining in Military Firing Zone 903. The truth is that their presence obstructs the expansion of nearby settlements and the violent sheep and cattle farms established illegally in the area in recent years.

The impending election and the pandemic have not disturbed the settlers’ routine. The pro-annexation right has succeeded in removing the occupation from the political conversation, but its crimes continue. The leftist parties must return the occupation to the public and political agenda. Otherwise, neither they nor the state will have the longed-for resurrection.

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

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