Creeping dispossession destroys Palestinian agrarian communities

The existence of the illegal Adei Ad settlement outpost harms Palestinians not just physically but also financially, and leads to the abandonment of Palestinian villages.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Farmer and soldier (Anne Paq / Activestills)
An Israeli soldier holds a Palestinian farmer’s tools [illustrative photo] (Anne Paq / Activestills)
The Israeli media stopped, in recent years, paying attention to assaults of Palestinians by settlers, unless it is a particularly severe case, such as an assault on an 80-year old farmer. One of the issues which isn’t even touched upon as far as the media is concerned – and hence, the majority of Israelis – is the fact that the outposts’ very existence often constitutes theft, quite literally.

The outpost Adei Ad, which is the case study of our new report, “The Road to Dispossession,” sits on the lands of four Palestinian villages: Al Mughayer, Qaryut, Jaloud and Turmusaya. The clearest case is that of Al Mughayer.

As we’ve seen, the creation of an outpost creates several rings of damage around it. The first ring is the territory of the outpost itself, which often grows quickly. The second ring is the outpost’s perimeter, and the third is the land which Palestinian farmers may enter just twice a year, subject to military approval and coordination. The farmers of Al Mughayer are not allowed access to their own lands, and someone found a way to take advantage of that fact: on several occasions, Israelis made their way to Al Mughayer’s olive groves and pillaged them just days before the owners received permission to work the lands. The founder of Adei Ad, Boaz Melet, was convicted of trespassing in such a case, and two other settlers are still on trial for such charges.

Enraging as these thefts may be, the major financial damage is not caused by theft but by the destruction of property and preventing access to it. The residents of the four villages complain time and again about their trees being cut down, burned, and in a few rare cases poisoned. The police’s reaction – well, there’s not much to say about it, except one fantastic sentence worth quoting: “The complaints are often general, and do not point out specific suspects.” Did you get that? The Keystone Cops are not all that good at investigating crimes, unless you point out the suspects to them.

Aside from damage to trees and land, the main offense is the result of the outpost’s very existence: a prohibition on entering substantial parts of the villages’ land. In Qaryut, they estimate yearly damage at about NIS 2 million (roughly $500,000), assuming each dunam (1/4 of an acre) generates revenues of about NIS 800 (roughly $200) per year. This calculation does not take into account the value of the land itself.

Since Adei Ad and other outposts were built on its lands, the IDF has forbidden residents of the village of Jaloud from accessing 9,937 dunams (2,455 acres); the villagers have abandoned 319 more dunams (79 acres) due to fear of violence by Israeli citizens – violence which the army is supposed to prevent but fails to (bringing to mind the old military adage that, “‘I can’t’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t want to'”). The villagers have only about 5,965 dunams (1,474 acres) left – the worse parts of the land, hardly arable and mostly rocky. In short, most of the village’s lands were practically nationalized for the benefit of a small number of outpost dwellers. The residents of Jaloud estimate the damage they suffer to be the equivalent of NIS 6.4 million (roughly, $1.6 million), assuming each dunam generates revenues of about NIS 800 per year.

Al Mughayer used to mainly be an agricultural town; it no longer is. Whereas 500 of its residents used to make their living from agriculture, now they number about 30. Its pastures used to feed about 15,000 sheep; now fewer than 4,000 are left. The residents of Al Mughayer go out to work their lands in large groups of 15 to 20 people, so as to deter the Israeli marauders; in many cases this tactic proves inefficient. Some of the village’s land was abandoned, simply because there is no point in tilling it: Israeli citizens will destroy the crops or steal them.

All this has several more implications. As soon as it occupied the territories in 1967, Israel ceased the process of registering lands there, a process started by the British and the Jordanians. The villagers’ lands are considered to be in their possession, but not registered to them. A plot of unregistered land, which is also uncultivated because Israeli citizens (supported by the IDF) terrorize its owners, is liable to be confiscated at some point by the state and declared “public lands,” or as they are often called, “state lands.” Once they are confiscated, they are very likely to be allocated to the settlers. This, after all, is the reasonable explanation for the acts of terror: an attempt to make farmers abandon their land so that with time, it can become the property of those who dispossessed its owners.

Another reason is that an agricultural community cannot sustain itself when it is robbed of its lands. Three of the four villages – the exception being Al Mughayer – report a significant abandonment of their villages. Subsequently, in the future this will allow the official annexation of these territories to Israel – a plan openly promoted by recently elected Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennet.

These acts of terrorism, carried out with the silent approval of all the Israeli authorities, are not isolated incidents and are not a coincidence. It’s a system. And when the Israel media ignores it, it tacitly collaborates with it.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

11 responses to “Resource: Choosing annexation over development”

  1. itshak Gordine says:

    Review paid by the EU so trash

    • Ben says:

      This by you, is denialism of truly comic proportions. Of sublimely unintentional self-satirizing proportions.

      (In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality. -Wikipedia)

      And there is always this odd, Herr Sturmer video-style anti-Semitic smear clinging to these “paid by EU” slanders. And the right wing never tires of doing this. Are the hard core settlers ever capable of shame? I haven’t seen it.

      • itshak Gordine says:

        Bla blah: Like many Israelis, I am wary of studies and projects funded by Europe. Those who receive help from generally hostile entities have almost no public in Israel (Breaking the silence, BDS, etc.). Their “works” only serve to feed the speech of associations or people hostile to the State of Israel. But at least it occupies them .. Meanwhile we build everywhere in the Land of Israel.

        • Ben says:

          Note the absolute, pure disregard for whether the report is TRUE or not, in this as in any other report, it’s all about what can be gotten over on others.

          Note the absolute regard for whether the right wing public reads it or not, the degree to which the truth can be squelched or not, the absolute disdain for the truth.

          Note the equation of “hostility to Israel,” (aka “anti-Israel”) with any opposition to unrestrained settlements and their associated constant human rights violations.

          Note the “what can we get away with?” gangster mentality.

          One cannot argue with people like this, one has to bring principled state forces to bear on them from outside the cult. And this, by the EU is what Haley just loathes.

          At the same time that Halevy feels entitled to all sorts of massive EU subsidies and massive German funding for Israel’s defense and all sorts of things, he begrudges the EU sending school bake sale amounts to tiny shoe string human rights organizations or truth-telling newspapers and communities the Israeli behemoth treats with great brutality. And he ruthlessly smears the motives of the people doing it, even deploying anti-Semitic insinuations to do it.

          FYI, the person I am replying to here lives as a settler in the West Bank. He types his replies to me from a settlement in the West Bank. And yet he, like the Judge on the Israeli High Court (Noam Sohlberg) who is also a West Bank Settler, poses as some kind of neutral arbiter, some kind of unbiased arbiter, of what constitutes “hostility.” You can’t make this stuff up.

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            The EU is a joke and it is slowly coming apart.
            Most EU reports are nothing more than waffly irrelevant rubbish.
            Judea and Samaria will stay Israeli long after the EU is a forgotten memory.

          • Ben says:

            The Report, and Shenhav-Goldberg’s account of it, are anything but waffly and irrelevant. Remember, denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality.

          • itshak Gordine says:

            If you are not happy with Israeli politics, come to Israel, become a citizen and get into politics. Otherwise your abundant verbiage is useless. You are bleating in the desert.

          • Ben says:

            This is amusing coming from a settler who does not actually live in Israel but in illegally occupied territories outside Israel. Yet is accorded the right to vote inside Israel while people living for generations a half-kilometer down the road from him are not. Simply based on ethnicity. A settler who eagerly practices a form of apartheid. But this same settler living outside Israel gets steamed about anyone else from outside Israel having a say about it.

            As I said above, this is the mentality of gangsters everywhere. “Leave us alone, what business is it of yours, everything is fine here, we can handle it, this is ‘our thing.'”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Those people livimg half a km down the road NEED TO GO HOME.
            Their reletives in Amman are waiting for them !

          • Itshak Gordine says:

            You are definitely losing your nerves. someone who may never have set foot in Israel who allows himself to make false accusations. We are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Judea and Samaria. We have made it a developed, green region, with a high quality of life and a very high birth rate, with the blessing of the US government and most of the Jews around the world who are sending us their youth.

          • Ben says:

            Oh, I’ve set foot not just in Israel, I’ve set foot outside Israel, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Why don’t you tell me what settlement you’re sending these bouquets of propaganda from, settler, and I’ll tell you if I’ve been in your settlement. Or outpost.

            Is that you swimming in the Anar Springs here?

            It’s ridiculous to be having tit for tats here with brutal hard core ideological settlers spouting sugar-coated propaganda lies in the forum of a Magazine meant for much more intelligent purposes.