Palestinians threatened with expulsion by Israel vow to stay on land

Everything here is provisional, the result of decades of uncertainty. Houses are built from tin and plastic panels, water is delivered by truck and electricity is generated from batteries or some solar panels.

The lives of thousands of Palestinians in a cluster of Bedouin communities in the southern West Bank have been on hold for more than four decades since the land they cultivated and lived on was declared a military firing range and training ground by Israel.

Since that decision in early 1981, residents of the Masafer Yatta region have endured demolitions, property confiscations, restrictions, disruptions to food and water supplies, and the continuing threat of displacement.

That threat increased significantly this week after Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a long-standing expulsion order against eight of the 12 Palestinian hamlets that make up Masafer Yatta – potentially leaving at least 1,000 people homeless.

On Friday, some residents said they were determined to stay in the countryside.


The verdict came after more than two decades of legal battles by Palestinians to remain in their homes. Israel has argued that residents only use the area for seasonal farming and that they were offered a compromise that would have allowed them occasional access to the land.

The Palestinians say the ruling, if implemented, will open the way for the eviction of all 12 communities, which have a population of 4,000, mostly Bedouins who rely on pastoralism and a traditional form of desert farming.

Residents of Jinba, one of the hamlets, said Friday they refused any compromise because they lived in the area long before Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war.

Issa Abu Eram was born 48 years ago in a cave in the rugged mountains and has had a hard life because building is forbidden here.

In winter, he and his family members live in a cave. In the summer they stay in caravans near the cave. His goats are a source of income, and on Friday he had dozens of balls of cured goat’s milk yoghurt laid out to dry on the roof of a shack.


He said his children grew up with the threat of deportation. They attend a makeshift school in Jinba, the eldest son is now in the 12th grade.

“He lived in no other place than Jinba. How are you going to convince him… to live somewhere else?” he said.

The Palestinian leadership on Friday condemned the ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court, which was handed down on Wednesday – when most of Israel was shut down for the country’s Independence Day.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said the deportation order “amounts to forced displacement and ethnic cleansing and violates international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

Also on Friday, Israel’s interior minister said Israel will move forward with plans to build 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank. If approved, it would be the biggest advancement in settlement plans since the Biden administration took office.


The White House opposes settlement growth because it further undermines the possibility of an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The West Bank has been under Israeli military rule for almost 55 years. Masafer Yatta is located in the 60% of territory where the Palestinian Authority is banned from operating. The Palestinians want the West Bank to form the bulk of their future state.

Jewish settlers have set up outposts in the area that are not officially authorized by Israel but are protected by the military. Last fall, dozens of settlers attacked a village in the area and a 4-year-old boy was hospitalized after being hit in the head with a rock.

For now, families say they have only one choice: to stay and stay on their land.


“I have no alternative and they cannot remove me,” said farmer Khalid al-Jabarin, standing in front of a goat pen. “The entire Israeli government cannot depose me. We won’t go…we won’t get out of here because we are the residents of the country.”

Referring to West Bank settlers who came from other countries, he said: “Why should they bring a replacement from South Africa to live in the high mountains, in our country, and replace us and remove us, why?”


Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Hamilton, Canada, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Palestinians threatened with expulsion by Israel vow to stay on land

Joel McCord

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