Stop the Evictions

New eviction orders for Palestinians in Jordan Valley 'only' affect 'unauthorized buildings,' but what are the shepherds in the designated area supposed to do?

Ein al-Hilweh, in the northern Jordan Valley, November 10, 2017.
Gil Eliahu

On the morning of Thursday, November 9, soldiers placed, on the side of the road near the village of Al-Maleh in the northern Jordan Valley, a few papers that together were a “declaration of delimited land,” delivered under the “order regarding unauthorized buildings.”

The declaration, signed by the chief of the army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, and dated November 1, gave “the owner or possessor of any property in the area of the declaration” eight days to remove it.

On either side of the road and the nearby junction, in the villages of Ein al-Hilweh and Umm Jamal, live hundreds of people in herding communities that have been there for decades. Israel, which has built several settlements in the area, prohibits these Palestinian communities from connecting to the electricity and water grids or to build in order to accommodate natural increase or changing needs. They are periodically subject to demolitions and displacement.

The order left last week does not name any specific individual or family, but the attached map defines the delimited area from which all property must be removed. The order applies to an area of 550 dunams (136 acres) in which some 300 people live. In other words, 300 people are being ordered to pick up their possessions and move them to an unspecified location. It’s no surprise the residents concluded that it was an immediate eviction order.

The residents have no idea whether the eight days allotted them to evacuate have already expired, and if as a result they can expect military jeeps to appear at any moment to confiscate their flocks and other property. The residents also didn’t know that the text of the order regarding unauthorized structures was originally written (in 2003) to evacuate unauthorized Jewish outposts and that Article 4 explicitly forbids remaining in the area after eight days.

Although the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said, in its response to Haaretz, that “The new order addresses illegally built structures, not a presence at the location,” it isn’t clear what the shepherds there will do without their flocks, pens, water tanks, tents and shacks. Tawfik Jabareen, a lawyer who is representing the residents, hastened to file his objections to the order with the military commander.

Whatever legal proceeding ensues, the fact is that this declaration is an escalation of the pressure on the local Palestinians and part of the declared Israeli intent to evict as many Palestinians as possible from Area C, which is under total Israeli control, including from the Jordan Valley.

It’s no coincidence that near Ein al-Hilweh are two expanding unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts whose residents periodically threaten the shepherds and try to scare them away from grazing lands in the area. This trend can and must be stopped, because it’s illegal, unjustified and dangerous.

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