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Palestinian village continuously inhabited for 3,000 years about to be destroyed by Israel

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC News | October 14, 2013

The Israeli High Court is set to rule on the forced expulsion of all of the residents of the village of Khirbat Zanuta, southwest of Hebron in the southern West Bank on Monday.

Villagers in Khirbat Zanuta (image by ACRI)

Villagers in Khirbat Zanuta (image by ACRI)

The decision comes five years after the initial order was made by the court to demolish the village. That decision was put on hold when an appeal was filed on behalf of the villagers by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,

“Last year, a Jewish expansionist organization named Regavim succeeded in reviving the case by filing an amicus-curia request; soon thereafter, the state submitted its full response to the petition. In April 2012, the Civil Administration issued additional demolition orders for new structures in the village, including several cisterns (ACRI is arguing that objections to the new orders should be joined to the original petition, but the Civil Administration disagrees). The Supreme Court heard additional arguments on July 30, 2012. During the hearing, the justices delivered harsh criticism of the State for its intent to demolish the village without suggesting a solution for its residents.”

But the decision on Monday is expected to result in the forced expulsion of all of the village’s inhabitants, who have lived on the land of their ancestors for as long as they can remember. They consider themselves stewards of the ancient archaeological site on which they live and tend their sheep, and have prevented any looting or destruction of artifacts on the site.

The Zionist organization Regavim that managed to revive the demolition order on the village had a quick response time from the court. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports that the organization has a “cozy relationship with the authorities”, according to its Director Bezalel Smotrich, who told the settler website Hakol Hayehudi on July 31, 2012, “Another parameter of the success of Regavim’s activities is the treatment by authorities in the establishment. Among the ranks in the field and in a lot of departments of the Interior Ministry, Israel Land Administration, the Justice Ministry and more, they view Regavim as a positive factor that is coming to their aid to steel them against the pressure they receive from the left. Most of them are good people, idealistic people… happy for the counter-pressure we exercise after years in which they absorbed so much heat in the form of pressure and letters from left-wing organizations.”

The inhabitants of Khirbat Zanuta are shepherds, who have traditionally lived in caves and structures around the cave entrances. The village is located in what Israel calls ‘Area C’, a designation created under the Oslo Accords in 1993 for land that was to temporarily remain under Israeli civil administration control, but should have been transitioned to Palestinian rule within five years. That never happened, and all of the areas designated as ‘Area C’ in 1993 remain under full Israeli control today – most of the 500,000 Israeli settlers that have taken over land in the West Bank in the twenty years since that designation have moved into ‘Area C’.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,

“The case of Zanuta is demonstrative of the Israeli government’s planning policy as it relates to the Palestinians in Area C, in which actions as severe as the destruction of basic humanitarian structures are justified by an absurd Catch 22 that penalizes residents for failing to apply for a permit they could never have been granted. If these demolition orders are carried out, the residents of Zanuta will be stripped of their most basic humanitarian rights: shelter, water, and livelihood, not to mention dignity, culture, and way of life. As an occupying power in Area C, Israel is bound by international law to protect the indigenous community. The case exemplifies a policy of demolishing buildings in Palestinian villages that removes indigenous peoples from their lands in absolute violation of the international law which protects them.”

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli occupation police close streets, confiscate lands in Jerusalem

Palestine Information Center – 13/06/2013

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israeli occupation police closed main streets leading to the Old City in occupied Jerusalem on Thursday, local sources said.

The Israeli decision to close the streets came due to the preparations for the organization of the Formula 1 race, which will take place on Thursday and Friday in the occupied city of Jerusalem with the participation of the Ferrari World team, under the sponsorship Kaspersky Company specialized in computer protection programs.

The police declared, in a statement, their intention to close the streets leading to al-Khalil, Asbat, and Al Magharibah Gates in the Old City on Thursday and Friday, according to Jerusalemite sources.

The race will be launched from the neighborhoods in the western part of Jerusalem towards the eastern part, in the vicinity of the Old City wall.

For its part; the Jerusalem Sports Federations Group asserted that the Ferrari race comes within the framework of the Judaization plans implemented by the occupation in the city of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Israeli police, accompanied with bulldozers and trucks, evacuated on Wednesday Wadi Joz car park east of Jerusalem claiming that it belongs to Israel Lands Administration (ILA).

Siyam, Abu Ta’a, and Farhan families confirmed that the car park was established on their own lands, declaring their intention to prosecute the ILA for its racial policy.

The families confirmed that the Israeli authorities have notified them since 6 months to evacuate the car park.

The park owners affirmed that they have official documents confirming their ownership of the land, where they appealed to the Israeli Municipal Authorities which permitted them to rehabilitate the park to be used as a car park, however they were surprised yesterday by the ILA breaking into the park.

June 14, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli occupation police close streets, confiscate lands in Jerusalem

Is the Custodian of Absentee Property Awaiting the Absentees?

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | April 8th, 2013

cus·to·di·an (kəs-ˈtō-dē-ən) n. 1. One who has charge of something: caretaker

The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language, International Edition, 1973

Custodian-1.1The office of Ronen Baruch, the current Custodian of Absentee Property for Israel, is in an ancient Arab home at 8 Yoel Salomon Street in Jerusalem. A house of this type is not unusual in this part of Jerusalem, and this one has few markings to indicate its function. Even its mail is delivered to the main building of the Ministry of Finance in another part of the city.

Searching the Internet will not yield this information unless you read Hebrew, and even then not much else. Much more is available about the Mossad, but perhaps only because it is bigger and more interesting. Information about the Custodian is not necessarily secret, just possibly of little interest to journalists. However, it has no website and does not advertise its contact information. It is almost as if Israel would prefer that no one knows it is there.

Despite this, the office plays a pivotal role in the existence of Israel. Most Israelis live and work on land that was once in the charge of the Custodian of Absentee Property, an office created less than two months after the Israeli state and existing to this day as part of the Ministry of Finance.

Who or what is the Custodian of Absentee Property?

To many of the indigenous nations of North America, the European notion of land ownership was strange. The role of humans was to be custodians of the land and for the land to be the custodian of its human inhabitants. Similarly, the rulers of Makkah and Medina have historically referred to themselves as custodians, not owners, of the holy shrines.

Thus, when Israel created the Office of the Custodian of Absentee Property in July, 1948, to take charge of property belonging to refugees that fled or were expelled, was its intention for the custodian to be a steward and trustee for the property of these refugees while they were away? Certainly, the title of the office implicitly acknowledges that the property belongs to the absentees, not the Custodian, which land registry documents in fact confirm.

Of course, land and the structures on it – some dating back a thousand years or more – were not the only property that came into the charge of the Custodian. Many millions of dollars of gold, jewelry, antiques, cars and other items made their way into the inventory. However, real estate was by far the most important and valuable. The absentee owners were almost all Palestinian Arab refugees and exiles, both rich and poor. A few were Jews, and their property was quickly returned to them. Not so for the rest, except a tiny fraction that were able to prove that they had not fled at all.

How much of the territory within the 1949 ceasefire line did the absentees leave behind? Prior to the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, some 6% of Mandate Palestine was Jewish property (Sami Hadawi, Village statistics: 1945). Considering that Zionist forces seized 78% of Palestine, however, the proportion within those areas would have been closer to 8%, excluding Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, the remnant of the Palestinian Arab population that was not expelled retained some of their lands and homes, currently estimated to be less than 3% of the same areas. Roughly half of the captured territory was state land of the government of Palestine, mostly the Naqab (Negev) desert.

It is likely that all the rest, roughly 39%, was declared absentee property, and placed under the control of the Custodian. This figure agrees with an inventory made by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) of 7,069,091 dunams. If the Custodian also took charge of state lands, the total would have been 89%. This information has not been released, but a statement by Jacob Manor, the Custodian in 1980, to journalist Robert Fisk (Pity the Nation, p. 45) indicates that the higher figure may be more accurate.

Of course, Israel had no intention of respecting the legal records of land ownership. The Absentee Property Law of 1950 made clear that the job of the Custodian was to “release” the property in its custody to other agencies, which would use the land without regard to the registered owners.

Thus, in effect, the Custodian of Absentee Property became Israel’s largest “fence” for stolen property. Under the powers authorized by the Absentee Property Law, the Custodian “released” the land to the Israeli state, the Development Authority and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), with the combined lands (93% of the state of Israel) under the management of the Israel Land Administration (ILA). The ILA thus became the largest recipient of stolen property in Israel, notwithstanding the international racketeers and blood diamond traffickers that have found a safe haven there.

Curiously, however, the ILA has until recently been prohibited from offering the land for sale, but rather to lease it to users, although in 2009 plans were made to begin granting title. This policy was promoted in the 1950s allegedly as an enlightened socialist program of collective ownership borrowed from the institution of the kibbutz. Was it instead a means of protecting individual Israeli citizens from the accusation of receiving stolen goods? If so, it constitutes another implicit admission that the property legally belongs to expelled Palestinians and not to either the Israeli government or its citizens.

Villa Salameh, Jerusalem

The Absentee Property Law is in fact contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Declaration of Human Rights, both of which were constituted less than two years earlier and to which Israel became a signatory. This discrepancy came to light in the case of the Jerusalem residence of the Consul General of Belgium, which has been located since 1948 on absentee property known as the Villa Salameh. In order to be in compliance with international law, Belgium elected to pay rent to the exiled Palestinian owners of the property rather than to any Israeli authority or to Israeli businessman David Sofer, who claims to have “bought” (leased) the property from the Israeli government since 2000.

Surprisingly, Israel has been one of the strongest proponents for the restoration of absentee property to its original owners or their rightful heirs. One of the best examples of this is the HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce) Project, established in 2011 with more than $2.5 million per year funding from the Israeli government, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Its purpose is to seek restitution for Jewish property seized by the Nazi government in Germany. Other victims of the Holocaust, such as Slavs, Poles, Romanies (Gypsies), disabled persons, non-Europeans, political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others are apparently ineligible for this service, as well victims of the 1948 Israeli ethnic cleansing project known to Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe).

Although the extent of past Israeli property theft is well known to students of such matters, popular awareness is lagging. Current activists are likely to consider the more recent thefts of Bedouin property in the Naqab (Negev), confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and West Bank land seizures, house demolitions and village eradications as the major problem without taking into account the much larger scale of earlier crimes. They might be shocked to learn, for example, that the land stolen from Palestinian owners prior to the 1949 ceasefire is equal in size to more than the total area of the West Bank and Gaza combined.

The issue is sometimes raised when defining “Arab land” in the Palestinian context. If, for example, “Arab land” is defined only as that which was seized in the June 1967 war, it disregards the enormous amount of property that was confiscated without compensation from “absentee” Palestinian refugees and exiles in 1947-49 and soon after.

Is the Custodian of Absentee Property awaiting the return of the absentees to reclaim their property? In a sense probably so, though not with a sense of joy. Rather, all who are responsible for the theft of the property and for the ethnic cleansing and other crimes committed in furtherance of that theft know that a day of reckoning always awaits those who think they are above the law.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Is the Custodian of Absentee Property Awaiting the Absentees?

Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling

By Charlotte Silver | The Electronic Intifada | 7 February 2012
A construction vehicle moves a large block of concrete
Israel claims its exploitation of West Bank land benefits the Palestinian population. (Najeh Hashlamoun / APA images)

Ramallah – Pillage: for some the word conjures up lawless warfare, a time before the order of nation states or the rule of international law. Indeed, in its petition to the Israeli high court, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din argues that “pillage” belongs to “ancient times,” when justice was determined by might and the victors of war were entitled to the fruits of the conquered land.

But in today’s world, pillage continues. Obscured in the thick mire of economic agreements or obfuscations of law, pillage remains part of the modern world.

In March 2009, Yesh Din filed a petition demanding a termination to all Israeli mining activities in the West Bank. The petition was served against the commander of the Israeli military, the head of Israel’s Civil Administration (which oversees the occupation of the West Bank) and 11 Israeli companies that run quarries in the West Bank and illegally transfer their spoils into Israel.

International law prohibits an occupying power from exploiting the resources of the territories it occupies. According to international law, an occupying authority may only use resources of the occupied territory if they serve the benefit of the occupied population.

“Unique” nature of Israel’s occupation

But international law would also have it that an occupation is temporary, and after 45 years, there are few who would characterize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as short-lived — including the Israeli high court. This exceptionally prolonged and “unique” nature of the Israeli occupation is just one of the several confounding reasons the high court ruled against Yesh Din’s petition on 26 December 2011 (“Yesh Din’s response to the HCJ ruling on the organization’s petition challenging the legality of Israeli quarrying activities in the occupied West Bank,” 3 January 2012).

Due to the extraordinary ruling, Yesh Din has applied for an extended chamber to reassess the court’s ruling. While it is unusual for such a request to be granted, Yesh Din argues this case merits a further hearing.

Writing the opinion of the court, President of the High Court Dorit Beinisch states, “The belligerent occupation of Israel in the area has some unique characteristics, primarily the duration of the occupation period that requires the adjustment of the law to the reality on the ground, which imposes a duty upon Israel to ensure normal life for a period, which … is certainly long-term.”

Thus, contrary to the opinion of many governments and many Israeli legal scholars as well, the court’s ruling exempts the Israeli authorities from the standard restrictions placed on an occupier.

An expert legal opinion submitted by seven Israeli legal scholars and Yesh Din states that appropriate interpretation of the laws of occupation in prolonged circumstances should be the opposite of that given by the high court last December (“Expert legal opinion — Executive summary,” 26 December 2011).

Bizarre claim that quarries benefit Palestinians

The court opinion is unprecedented in another respect as well. It argues that the operations of the Civil Administration — i.e. the occupation — are in fact for the benefit of the Palestinian population.

Before the court could strike down the petition, it had to argue that the riches gained by Israeli companies were benefiting the Palestinian population to meet the requirements of the Hague Regulations of 1907, one of the main instruments of international law relating to military occupation.

That the quarries employ approximately 200 Palestinians hardly substantiates a benefit to the collective population.

Furthermore, according to documentation by the Israeli interior ministry itself, 94 percent of mined resources are transferred to Israel, and most of the remaining 6 percent is transferred to Israeli settlements.

In 2010, a senior official in the Israeli State Attorney’s Office told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that since the mid-1970s, Israeli companies with permits to operate in the West Bank were required to pay a regular fee and additional royalties for each ton of material they extracted to the Civil Administration (“Israel seizing hundreds of millions of shekels meant for Palestinian services,” 7 April 2010).

That all changed in 1995 when the newly-created Palestinian Authority signed the Interim Agreements (generally known as the Oslo accords) with Israel. At that point royalties began to be funneled to the Israel Lands Administration, the body that manages land inside the state. The assumption in the agreements was that after 18 months the quarries would be transferred to the PA (the agreements also envisaged a full Palestinian state within five years).

The Civil Administration, a unit of Israel’s ministry of defense, is in charge of administering the occupation. It is responsible for home demolitions, flying checkpoints, the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank and squelching protests.

To say the least, the Civil Administration is not a trusted benevolent body for the Palestinian people. Speaking to Haaretz in 2010, one legal expert said that the Civil Administration and the defense ministry insisted that building the wall, funding Israeli police in “Judea and Samaria” (as Israel calls the West Bank), constructing bypass roads and other settler infrastructure should also classify as “for the good of the local population” (“Digging up the dirt,” 3 September 2010).

Absolving Israel

But never mind those facts. The court invoked the Palestinian Authority to absolve the operation of Israeli quarries. “It seems that the petitioner may have forgotten that the best interests of the protected population … lie within the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, alongside other entities, which is engaged in diplomatic agreements with the State of Israel,” the court stated in its verdict.

Speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit, Ashraf Khatib completely refutes the court’s invocation of the PA as a source for legitimizing the quarries. “The interim agreement clearly states ‘quarries must be transferred to the Palestinian side within 18 months’ — Israel has not done so,” he told The Electronic Intifada.

And then, in a twist of reality too sick even for George Orwell, the court argued that the military is promoting projects that benefit Palestinians.

“Royalties paid to the Civil Administration by the operators of the quarries are used to finance the operations of the military administration, which promotes various kinds of projects aimed to benefit the interests of the area,” the ruling adds.

It is hardly surprising that the Israeli court would find a way to legalize the activities of the occupation, but it goes well beyond that and argues that the occupation — its military and economic operations — is intended to help the Palestinian population. Now that takes real chutzpah.

But then again, it is not entirely novel for countries advocating for an open-door policy (that only opens in one direction) to claim it serves the benefit of the land and population it is exploiting. And while the Palestinian Authority will surely balk at taking responsibility for its encouragement of this kind of neoliberal relationship, it was only three years ago that the PA’s appointed prime minister and former International Monetary Fund official, Salam Fayyad signed on to the “economic peace” plan. Promoted by Benjamin Netanyahu, that plan prioritized normalization of life under occupation.

Despite attempts to divorce politics from economics, the fact remains that Israel is reaping economic benefits from continuing to occupy and subjugate Palestinian people. The Interim Agreement in 1995 opened up these neoliberal lines of communication between Israel and the West Bank with the alleged objective of gradually building state institutions. Since then, Palestinians have been further separated from the very land on which their state was to be built.

Neoliberal policies work this way all over the world: vulnerable states are subjected to exploitation and devastation. In the West Bank, these savage realities are enforced — and intensified — with the military might of Israel.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank. She can be reached at charlottesilver A T gmail D O T com.

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling