Update From Jayyous: ISRAELI SETTLEMENT SEIZES PALESTINIAN FARMLAND
by David Bloom
On Nov. 29, Jayyous residents awoke to find yet a new disaster befalling their already beleaguered Palestinian farming village of 3,000, in the form of a massive new land confiscation. Jayyous farmers arriving in their fields found construction crews with US-made Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers destroying village farmland just west of the north gate--the main access Jayyous has to its fields beyond Israel's illegally constructed "separation barrier". The crew explained to the Jayyousi they had their orders from the army to confiscate 850 more dunams of land (1 acre = 4 dunams), and to build 80 housing units, to start with. The workers warned that over 2,000 dunams may be taken in the end--nearly the remainder of the village’s land, belonging to 79 Jayyous farmers.
Temporary street signs in Hebrew have been placed on these lands, including one that says, "Sharon street." The Jayyousi farmers fear the gate they use to access their fields will be blocked off, forcing them to travel an additional several kilometers to access their field from the Falamya gate to the north. This would add yet more expense to their farming, which already was failing to yield a profit. The farmers are mostly maintaining their land now to try to keep it alive, hoping to prevent Israel from confiscating it under the Ottoman Land Law of 1858--still used to seize "unused" lands.
The construction workers said the new settlement they were building was to be called "Zufim North." A warning of the planned confiscation came in mid-July, when a group of settlers and Israeli army troops drove up in busses and jeeps to the North gate, and staged what StopTheWall.org referred to as "war games"--with some of the settlers in the role of Palestinians. The Israelis filmed their strange shadow play, and left. Afterwards, Jayyous residents saw signs posted in the area with the names of famous Zionists, and saw that further properties had been marked to be confiscated. A new dirt road was built leading towards the illegal settlement of Zufim, which has already confiscated 450 acres of Jayyous' farm land.
Jayyous proceeded with its vital fall harvest of figs, tomatoes and olives--with the now-usual difficulties of "conditional permits" for access to their own fields not being issued to all farmers, and unpredictable gate openings and closings, at the whim of local soldiers. As a result, some of the harvest is in, but much of it lies rotting on the trees with fruit falling on the ground.
Another ominous development came in November, in the form of Military Order #04/75646-2004, affecting farming villages in the agriculturally vital Tulkarm and Qalqilya districts. The order stated that "no building is to be allowed within a 300 meter wide area on the eastern side of the Wall," further hampering development of towns already hemmed in by the barrier, and possibly presaging demolition of already-built structures near the fence. (StopTheWall.org, Dec. 1)
On Dec. 9, Zufim settlers uprooted 117 olive trees at Jayyous, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported. Villagers said dozens of settlers, some of them armed, entered the olive grove owned by Jayyous resident Mohammed Salim that morning and began razing it with a bulldozer. Villagers alerted the occupation authorities, but police and troops only arrived in the afternoon--long after the trees had been destroyed. "How would you like to buy one of my trees?" a settler told an international. The uprooted trees were carted away in the direction of Israel, possibly to end up in Israeli nurseries for sale, construction workers reported. The phenomenon of Palestinian olive trees uprooted by Israel in the building of its separation barrier ending up being sold as trophy plants in Israeli nurseries was well documented in "The battle of the Olive," by Danny Adino Ababa, Meron Rapaport and Oron Meiri, Jan 22, 2003, in the Israeli paper Yediot Ahanorot .
Also on Dec. 9, farmers went to the regional military authority at the settlement of Kedumim to contest the documents possessed by the construction company, Ge'ulat Haaretz [the Redemption of the Land]. They will now begin a legal battle to prove that the proof of sale was forged. It appears that bulldozing of the land has been stopped until there is an outcome from the court. Another farmer, Sharif Omar, owns land which is designated on the new map for an expanded Israeli military training ground; yesterday the Israeli military authority denied that his land has been confiscated. His lawyer expects that the army plans to use it on a "temporary" basis, which can be months or even years. As Omar will not be allowed to enter a restricted military area, he will have no ability to farm his land, and he anticipates that his 1,300 fruit and olive trees will die. However, he cannot contest this in military court until he is served with a notice from the Israeli government.
West Bank Apartheid
In August of 2003, WW3 REPORT and an Israeli activist from Jews Against the Occupation went to the settlement of Zufim dressed as religious settlers, and visited a real estate agent there, saying we were looking to buy a house. It's easy to get to Zufim; a wide, well-paved settler road tears through the landscape of the occupied West Bank, skirting by the walled-in prison-city of Qalqilya, without having to pass by the checkpoint that is the only way in and out of the town of 40,000 Palestinians. The road passes a billboard declaring, "Follow your dreams"--advertising the Jewish-only settlement of Zufim, sporting images of two gleaming villa-like houses. All Qalqilyians must pass by this sign every time they enter or leave the city.
Up the road to the top the hill, where Zufim is situated, we entered with a laconic wave of the hand by an armed security guard who does not bother asking us for ID. At the time, Zufim comprised about 1,600 housing units, said the real estate agent we found. He wore a knitted, colored kippa, signifying him as a member of the National Religious Party led by Effi Eitam. The agent explained that for the price of a two-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv, we could get a multiple-bedroom house in Zufim, where the air is clean, you have space, and the children can play. Only 45 minutes’ drive to the center of Tel Aviv, he says, and with the light rail expected to be built from the nearby city of Rana'ana in Israel, it will be a ten minutes drive to the train station, and 20 minutes by train into Tel Aviv. All subsidized through housing grants from the Israeli treasury, which receives money directly from the US government without the oversight of US AID--the only country to have such an arrangement for receiving US aid.
The agent took us up to where we could have a view. The view to the west looks towards Israel and Tel Aviv; to the north, Jayyous' farmland, with all seven of its wells, are visible. Jayyous' irrigated land, all of it now enclosed west the barrier, can be seen, some six kilometers from the Green Line. This area, called the "Seam Zone" by the Israelis, is off-limit to Palestinians without permits, but this reporter, as someone eligible for instant citizenship under Israel's Jews-only Law of Return, does not require a permit. We ask the agent what the land in the valley below is--is it part of Zufim? "No," he replies, "it belongs to the Arabics." What "Arabics?" we ask, what's the name of their village? "I don't know, " he says. But he does tell us that Zufim plans to build 1,000 new units in the valley, to be called Zufim North. Zufim, he tells us, has about 2,500 current residents, but it is planned to have enough housing for 12,500 people--all Jewish, of course--when it is finished. If the Arabs own the land, the agent is asked, how will Zufim build there? He thinks for a moment. "Maybe they will sell it." Have you ever had any problems with the local Palestinians? "No," he answers. "No problems."
But the Jayyousi have had problems with Zufim. The settlement is made up of a mixed secular-religious population, and religious settlers have attacked farmers whose land abuts Zufim with stones. They have also stolen olives from the farmers. Zufim itself was started in 1989, and is being developed by the LIDAR corporation, owned by Lev Leviev, said to be the richest man in Israel. Leviev--educated by the Lubavitch Chassidic sect which opposes giving any land to a Palestinan state, believing God meant for all the land "between the river and the sea" to be settled by Jews--also owns Africa Israel, which runs malls in Europe and urban development projects in the former Soviet Union, where Leviev, a Bukharin Jew from Tashkent, is from. It also deals in diamonds. It was in the diamond trade with apartheid-era South Africa that Leviev made his fortune.
LIDAR also owns the Zufim North quarry, which sits on land confiscated from the largest landowner in Jayyous, Sharif Omar. On Omar's land is built a large water tower, constructed mostly with foreign aid, which provides most of the water for Jayyous' farmers. The edge of Zufim North Quarry is now just 15 feet from the water tower, and every time they drill new blast holes and expand it, it carves further into the land under the tower, threatening its structural integrity.
"Israel confiscates land by destroying it first," Omar says. Omar has managed to obtain a temporary restraining order on further blasting. In 1988, he won a legal case against LIDAR preventing the confiscation of part of his lands, a parcel 30 meters to the east of the water tower. It is this land that Israel started to bulldoze on Nov. 29. In a Dec. 12 Ha'aretz article by Akiva Eldar, he mentions that Ge'ulat Haaretz is the "yazam," or developer, and the contractor, "kablan" in Hebrew, is LIDAR. For some reason, Ge'ulat's relationship to LIDAR is mentioned in the Hebrew-language edition of Ha'aretz, but any mention of LIDAR has been censored from the English-language edition.
Before Zufim was built in 1989, its land was part of the at least 600-year old village of Jayyous, and was called "Zufin." The first two parcels of land were bought from Jayyousi widows, who have since moved away; the third was an elderly Jayyousi who claims he was tricked by the buyers, who he says claimed to be Palestinians who intended to build a factory there. When he found out the land was to be used for an Israeli settlement, he was horrified and tried to give the money back. He died a broken man. Another Jayyousi, whose family still owns a parcel of land just outside the entrance of Zufim, was under great pressure from Israelis to sell his land, but always refused. One night he was beaten and handcuffed, and thrown atop a donkey. Alert Bedouin in the area scared his attackers off. His son, Abu Ali Nofal, took his elderly father to three different Israeli police stations before anyone would remove his handcuffs. His son pursued the matter to the highest levels of the Israeli government to seek redress for this crime, only to be told several times that all information relating to the case had been lost. He finally dropped the matter after threats from Israeli authorities, he told WW3 REPORT. Nofal still has all the resulting documents, and press clippings, some in English, relating to the case, as well as a photograph of his father handcuffed, his hands bloodied. Nofal's family still owns the parcel of land, situated improbably between an Israeli army and the entrance to Zufim.
From the Fields of Jayyous to the Corridors of Power
Any permanent Israeli settlement, and any transferring of its civilians into the occupied West Bank, is in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars the settlement of occupied territory. Israel's government has generally referred to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as "disputed" rather than occupied. But as recently as last summer, the Israeli High Court confirmed the West Bank (except East Jerusalem, which Israel has illegally annexed) exist "under a state of belligerent occupation." This was confirmed by the July 9 decision of the International Court of Justice at the Hague, which found all Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be illegal, and ruled that the entire barrier must be removed in areas where it is not built on the Green Line, which is most of it.
In the wake of the decision, Israel feared possible sanctions, and the Israeli attorney General Menahem Mazuz even floated the idea of belatedly applying the fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories. But the idea has gone by the wayside. To date, not a single country has applied punitive measures towards Israel, as mandated by the ICJ's decision. Apparently encouraged by the total lack of international will to enforce the rule of law in the West Bank, Israel is seeking funds from international donor countries for construction of bypass roads and 16 tunnels, to connect Palestinian cities and villages, bypassing the separate roads built for Jewish settlements. The New York Times' James Bennet aptly referred to this system as a "habitrail." Donor countries balked when the Palestinian Authority refused to accept the money, saying that the construction would ensure a permanent state of apartheid in the West Bank. (UK Guardian, Dec. 5)
President Bush, during his recent trip to Canada, declared: "Achieving peace in the Holy Land is not just a matter of pressuring one side or the other on the shape of a border or the site of a settlement. This approach has been tried before without success. As we negotiate the details of peace, we must look at the heart of the matter, which is the need for a Palestinian democracy. The Palestinian people need a peaceful government that truly serves their interests. And the Israeli people need a true partner in peace."
Bush has gradually taken on the advice of his neo-con advisors, some of whom once worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjaymin Netanyahu. In 1996 Douglas Feith, David Wurmser, and Richard Perle, who were later all to work for the Bush administration, wrote a white paper for Netanyahu. "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" recommended, among other things, that Israel abandon the "Land for peace" formula of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the nebulous "peace-for-peace" idea, keeping whatever land Israel wants.
Bush's Canadian trip also netted another prize: on Dec. 1, Allan Rock, the Canadian ambassador at the UN, announced that Canada will abandon its traditional "honest broker" position in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and instead of abstaining from resolutions condemning Israel's occupation and illegal settlements, will for the first time ever vote against the resolutions, with the United States. (Ottawa Sun, Dec. 3)
In Feith's office at the Pentagon works Larry Franklin, the bureaucrat at the center of allegations of spying for Israel--specifically passing privileged information about US policy on Iran to Israel through employees of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Four AIPAC employees have just been served grand jury subpoenas in the affair, and the FBI searched their offices for a second time. Also working under Feith is Alan Makovsky, brother of David Makovsky, former Jerusalem Post editor and Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a "public educational foundation dedicated to scholarly research and informed debate on U.S. interests in the Middle East" founded by senior administrators of AIPAC. One of David Makovsky's tasks at WINEP has been selling the separation barrier to the US government and public, through numerous op-eds, and a monograph, "A Defensible Fence". Makovky appeared this Feb. 10 before a Congressional committee discussing the barrier as an expert witness, along with WINEP's director and former Mideast negotiator under Clinton, Dennis Ross.
In his testimony, Makovsky that "there is hardship" for Palestinians impacted by the fence, but asserted that most "are very happy to hear the Israeli government coming out this week with a 2-billion shekel or $500 million program on the hardship. I happened to speak to the mayor of Qualqilya, and I saw the wall on the Palestinian side, and I asked him, I said, 'if there was a compensation program to offset some of these hardships, would you be for it?' He said absolutely. "
Having spent three months in Qalqilya district, including Jayyous, this reporter never met a Palestinian who would accept compensation for their land--regarding it as their ancestral and cultural heritage, the selling of which amounts to collaboration with the Israeli occupiers. Marouf Zahran, the mayor of Qalqiya who Makovsky reportedly spoke to, told WW3 REPORT in a Feb. 9 e-mail:
"It is with deep regret that I learn that David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy implied that I would accept 'compensation' for the impoverishing and destructive effects of Israel's Wall as built around the West Bank town of Qalqilya, the town of which I am Mayor. As I made clear to Mr. Makovsky during his visit that while I would welcome any relief offered to the suffering residents of Qalqilya, such relief would not be necessary if Israel builds its Wall on the border [the Green Line] between what became Israel in 1948 and Occupied Palestinian Territory. I made it very clear to Mr. Makovsky, with the express intent that Mr. Makovsky not misconstrue my statements for his own purposes, that under no conditions would I or the residents of Qalqilya accept or otherwise acquiesce to the construction of the Wall in exchange for compensation. Our property and our human rights are not for sale."
The Industrial Agenda
What Israel and Makovsky have in mind for the people of Qalqilya district first became clear during a November 2003 visit to Washington by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. On Nov. 14, the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot ran an article titled "Mofaz's Initiative: Jobs for Palestinians," reporting that Mofaz presented the US government with an "initiative to build industrial parks that will create jobs for 120 thousand Palestinians." Yediot's Washington correspondent, Orly Azulai, noted that Secretary of State Colin Powell had asked Mofaz to "minimize the suffering caused on Palestinians as a result of the construction of the Separation Fence."
"To implement the initiative, of course, there is a need for an end for terrorism and financial resources," Mofaz said after a meeting with Dick Cheney and Condolezza Rice. "As part of the plan, industrial parks will be built in the Palestinian side and on the seam line. The Palestinians will be able to go to these places without going through IDF checkpoints; private security companies will monitor these passages."
Possibly this will be the fate of Jayyous. The independent farmers of Jayyous who have tilled the land for at least nine generations will be a dependent Israeli-controlled industrial workforce on what used to be their land, without even entering Israel. This is already happening to the south of Jayyous, where residents of Arab Ramadin, who lived off of sheep herding, have been enclosed inside the fence with the illegal Jewish settlement of Alfe Menashe, and, thus cut off from their grazing lands, have been compelled to abandon their traditional way of life and take jobs in the settlement's industrial zone. In a Dec. 18, 2003 press release, the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign of the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON) concluded: "The completion of the Wall and its ghettoization of Arab Ramadin are turning a community of shepherds into exploited workers for Israeli settlement industrial zones, as they are unable to sustain their lives."
See also WW3 REPORT #95
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 10, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution