For years, Israel has been implementing a policy aimed against Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank, designed to make the residents leave their homes and displace the communities.
The policy is implemented tactically, so as to avoid blatant images of soldiers forcing Palestinians onto trucks. Instead, Israel invests efforts in making the lives of these residents unbearable, in order to get them to leave their homes as though of their own free will. The policy is not applied uniformly to all the communities, and ranges from harassment and preventing development to an explicit intention to expel entire communities. In any case, Israel’s goal is to minimize Palestinian presence in order to use the territory for its own uses, including expanding settlements.
There are 180 Palestinian communities of this kind in Area C, which constitutes some 60% of the West Bank. As a rule, Israel does not authorize master plans for these communities, thereby preventing them from receiving building permits and connecting to basic infrastructure such as running water and the power grid. One justification that the state cites for its refusal is that the communities reside within “firing zones” or “nature reserves” – overlooking the fact that it was the state that had thus designated these areas when the communities were already living there. The residents, who need housing, schools, medical clinics and playgrounds have no choice but to build without receiving permits. The Civil Administration then issues demolition orders for the structures. Some of them are carried out, and in any case, the result is that the residents live in constant uncertainty regarding their future. The authorities also prevent the communities from connecting to basic infrastructure, leaving them to live for years without running water or a connection to the power grid, lacking basic sanitation and driving on unpaved roads.
Israel is concentrating its efforts to expel Palestinian residents in three areas: the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, and the area around the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Some of the communities in these areas petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) in order to prevent their expulsion, and their petitions are pending. However, in the past, the Court has repeatedly refrained from stopping the state’s implementation of this policy. If this policy forces the residents leave their homes, it will constitute a violation of the International Humanitarian Law prohibition against forcible transfer. Violating this prohibition is considered a war crime, and all those responsible for it bear personal liability.
In the following, the current legal situation of some of these communities is detailed.
Khirbet Umm al-Jamal and Khirbet ‘Ein al-Hilweh, two adjacent communities in the northern Jordan Valley, are home to some 20 families in total, numbering 130 residents, about half of them minors. The Israeli army holds military maneuvers nearby, and the Civil Administration has repeatedly demolished residents’ homes. Since 2006, 57 structures have been demolished in these communities, of which 34 were home to 114 people, including 56 minors.
On 1 November 2017, the state issued a “demarcation order” for the area in which the communities are located and ordered the residents to leave their homes, taking their property with them. This comes in addition to demolition orders already issued against the homes. This was the first time that the authorities used “demarcation orders” (which were originally intended to be used to handle settlement outposts) against Palestinian communities.
The residents of the communities petitioned the HCJ, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for 14 May 2018.
Abu a-Nuwar – the Ma’ale Adumim area:
Some 650 people live in the community of Abu a-Nuwar, about half of them minors. The community is located between the settlements of Keidar and Ma’ale Adumim, within what Israel has defined “Area E1” and has earmarked for future expansion of Ma’ale Adumim. The Civil Administration issued demolition orders for all structures in the community twice: in 1997, and again in 2005. Since 2006, the Civil Administration demolished 12 structures in the community, including 10 homes – to 28 people, 17 of them minors – and a school.
The residents of the community are engaged in several simultaneous legal battles against the demolition of their structures, and recently also petitioned the HCJ against the intended demolition of the school. In its response to the petition, the state emphasized that it will provide no assurance that the structures slated for demolition will be authorized.
The arguments provided by the state indicate that driving the residents of Abu a-Nuwar out of their homes is supposed to enable the expansion of the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, as having Palestinians reside near the settlement is “a security risk” for the settlers. On 16 November 2017, the HCJ decided that the state must allow the residents of the community to file for a building permit for the school, and that after the request is considered, the state must give the residents ten days’ prior notice before carrying out the demolition order. On 24 January 2018, the Civil Administration’s planning committee rejected the residents’ request, and on 2 February the residents appealed the committee’s decision. Despite the appeal, and although not all the legal avenues open to the residents were exhausted, on 4 February the Civil Administration demolished two classrooms in the school. The classrooms, which were built with financial aid from the European Union and the Palestinian Authority in late September 2017, were the educational framework of 25 children in the third and fourth grades.
Civil Administration demolishes two classrooms at the school in Abu a-Nuwar, 4 Feb. 2018
The cluster of communities that make up Khan al-Ahmar are located east of Jerusalem. The settlement of Ma’ale Adumim was established nearby. The cluster includes 12 communities that number about 1,400 residents in total. In the “Al-Madrase” (school) community, which is located about two kilometers south of the settlement of Kfar Adumim, there are 32 families, numbering 173 residents, 92 of them minors. At the site are a mosque and a school that was established in 2009 and serves more than 150 children between the ages of six and fifteen, about half of them residents of the neighboring communities. The communities in the Khan al-Ahmar area are scattered along both sides of the Jerusalem-Jericho road, east of Mishor Adumim, and along both sides of Route 437, which connects the Jerusalem-Jericho road with the village of Hizma.
Over the years, the authorities have confiscated equipment and various facilities in the community and demolished structures, on the grounds that they were built without permits. From 2006 to the beginning of February 2018, the authorities demolished 26 homes in the community, leaving 132 people homeless, including 77 minors. They also demolished six non-residential structures.
Over the years, the residents petitioned the HCJ against demolition orders issued for structures they built. At the same time, settlers who live in the area petitioned the HCJ, with the help of the Regavim organization, demanding that the state expedite the demolitions. In late August 2017, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman declared the government’s intention to remove the community within several months, although the legal proceedings in the matter are still underway. A hearing on these petitions was set for 25 September 2017. About two weeks earlier, on 13 September, representatives of the Civil Administration came to the community and notified the residents that in April 2018, they will be relocated to a nearby site called “Al-Jabal West”, which lies next to the Abu Dis garbage dump. After the state delayed its answer to the court, the hearing was postponed and a new date has yet to be scheduled.
Stop-work orders served in Khan al-Ahmar, Feb. 2017
Jabal al-Baba – the Ma’ale Adumim area:
The community of Jabal al-Baba also lies within the area defined by Israel as E1. It is located near the village of al-‘Eizariyah, northeast of Jerusalem. The settlement of Ma’ale Adumim was established east of the community, and the route of the Separation Barrier runs south of it. The community is home to about 40 families, numbering some 290 people. Some of the land on which the community lives was declared “state land” by Israel. Since 2006, 33 structures in the community have been demolished, 27 of them home to 136 people, including 73 minors. In addition, several demolition orders have been issued for structures in the community.
In addition to the demolition orders, the state also issued a “demarcation order”, which amalgamates several existing demolition orders, and notified residents they must vacate their homes. This does not take into account the fact that about 40% of the land on which the community resides is privately owned, and therefore “demarcation orders” are not supposed to apply to it. On 16 November 2017, the state notified the residents of the community that they must vacate their homes within eight days. The residents petitioned the HCJ to stop the evacuation, and the court ordered the state to respond to the petition by 16 April 2018. Meanwhile, the court ordered that the “demarcation order” be put on hold until the state responds to the petition. The residents of Jabal al-Baba are also waiting for the state’s position regarding the demolition orders – which will, apparently, be given after the response to the demarcation issue.
Several Palestinian communities facing expulsion live in the area of Masafer Yatta, southeast of the town of Yatta, numbering some 1,300 residents in total. Israel has declared broad swathes of land in the area a “firing zone” (Firing Zone 918) and, in 1991, the military expelled the residents. However, following a petition to the HCJ, they were allowed to take up residence again in the area, under strict restrictions that prohibited any new construction. After that, the residents entered into various proceedings with the military, but the efforts came to a dead end in early 2016. The very next day, the Civil Administration demolished structures there. The residents filed several petitions with the HCJ – some representing several communities – against the evacuation orders. The petitions are still pending, and the state is supposed to provide its response to them.
The state is also trying to expel the residents of Khirbet Susiya, a community that numbers some 250 residents, in addition to another 100 who join it seasonally for livelihood. The village was established on the residents’ private land, after Israel expelled them from their original village in 1986. Among other things, the residents petitioned the HCJ against the rejection of the master plan they had drawn up for the village. Since 2006, the state has demolished 24 structures in Khirbet Susiya, 12 of them homes that housed 95 people, including 36 minors.
Since the residents of Khirbet Susiya filed their last petition in 2014, the state has announced its intention to demolish several structures built in the village after the petition was filed – including structures renovated after they were damaged in a storm and a medical clinic that serves the entire village. On 1 February 2018, the President of the Supreme Court decided that the state could demolish seven structures in the village, which serve 42 people – about half of them children, and some of them ill persons – immediately.
The state has been required to submit its position on the village’s master plan by 7 May 2018.
Israeli military destroys dirt road to Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills, 2017