GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Dozens of Palestinians from the village of Bani Naim, east of Hebron, protested June 26 against the confiscation of their land after Israeli settlers set up a tent, a caravan and a barn for their sheep on some 20 dunums (around five acres) of village land with the aim of confiscating it June 21.
On June 19, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled the Civil Administration must freeze its military order on demolitions in Area C until the Israeli government gives its opinion on the petitions that several Palestinian and international human rights institutions such as Saint Yves Society submitted to it in protest against the decision.
Area C is a part of the West Bank populated by Palestinians and Israeli settlers and administered by Israel. On May 27, the Civil Administration ordered that uninhabited houses and facilities in Area C be demolished as well as buildings under construction. It gave Palestinians until June 17 to stop working on these buildings in preparation for their demolition.
Ayed Marar, the director-general of the legal department at the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission (CWRC), told Al-Monitor, “The order was due to enter into force on June 17, but on June 10, we made several objections through lawyers from the CWRC and international organizations at both the Israeli Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Israeli Supreme Court. This prompted the latter to order the Public Prosecutor's Office to issue a response to the objection June 19, but the Supreme Court did not receive any response, which prompted it to freeze the order.”
On Jan. 29, the Israeli government published a detailed plan to expand the settlement of Beni Heifer on the land confiscated from Bani Naim.
Marar pointed out that Israel is exploiting ancient laws and confiscating uncultivated land based on the Ottoman Land Code of 1858. In Area C, land that has not been cultivated for 10 years is considered subject to confiscation. He added that Israel is also confiscating land for military purposes while declaring some areas as natural reserves in accordance with the Jordanian Planning and Building Law, which applies to the occupied West Bank.
“These laws were put in place to protect and serve the population, not to cater to Israel's land confiscation policies,” he said.
Marar explained that the CWRC is working to give residents hope that they might be able to recover and protect their land. It provides lawyers, topographers and other experts to examine property documents and land. The CWRC managed to salvage a lot of land by bringing documents from Turkey, which was in power during the Ottoman rule, that served as evidence of Palestinian land ownership in Israeli courts.
“The Israeli authorities do not ask the settlement institutions for proof of ownership of the land they seized, but they do ask Palestinians who have been expelled from their land to prove their ownership of the land through cumbersome procedures,” he said. He stressed that Israel is working on increasing its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while forcing the displacement of Palestinians.
Political analyst Khaled al-Amayra told Al-Monitor, “The decision was merely postponed with the aim of bolstering Israel’s image. This is especially true as the postponement decision coincided with the visits that US presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Prince William [of the UK] paid to Israel.”
He added, “On June 19, under the Israeli army's protection, settlers began razing Palestinian land in the village of Al-Tawani south of Hebron to expand the Ma’on settlement.”
Amayra called on Arab states to put an end to the normalization process with Israel and warned against being dragged toward the so-called US “deal of the century.” He also called for supporting the Area C residents who are suffering from water scarcity, lack of services and infrastructure, and increased poverty.
Omar Jaara, a professor of political science at An-Najah National University in Nablus, told Al-Monitor that the White House has refuted Netanyahu's statements that the annexation of parts of Area C is being carried out in coordination with the United States. He said that there is a disagreement between the Israeli government and Supreme Court over the reduction of the court's role and influence in the government's decisions.
He pointed out that the Palestinian cases that the Supreme Court looks into are mostly related to land confiscation and house demolition in Area C, and indicated that out of the 175 petitions that have been thus far filed by Palestinians, only four have had a verdict issued in their favor.
Asked about the role that Palestinians and Arabs can play when it comes to restricting land confiscation, he stressed that the only way Arabs could confront Israeli settlement policies is by pressuring the United States to defend just Arab issues and stand up to Israel. Palestinian residents mustn't give up, he added.