At-Tuwani: Ethnic Cleansing
by Jan Benvie
“We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border” (Theodor Herzl, one of the founders of Zionism, from 'Righteous Victims'
by Benny Morris, p21-22)
From its inception there have been those within the Zionist movement who supported the expulsion of the indigenous Arab population of Palestine in order to create a Jewish state. This ethnic cleansing has been supported overtly and covertly by successive Israeli governments from the first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, to the present incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu.
"In many parts of the country new settlement will not be possible without transferring the [Palestinian] Arab fellahin.. . . Jewish power … will also increase our possibilities to carry out the transfer on a large scale.” (Ben Gurion,1937, from 'Righteous Victims' Benny Morris, p143)
These words echo daily in my mind as I live and work in the South Hebron Hills. Here the Palestinian farmers (fellahin) have resiliently defied attempts to 'spirit' or 'transfer' them from their land.
Sometimes the 'transfer' is manifest, as in November 1999, when the
Israeli army forcibly expelled around 700 residents of this area, loading their belongings onto trucks, sealing their cave homes, destroying their cisterns and scattering their flocks. ('Means of Expulsion'
More often the 'transfer' is furtive. Since the establishment of the
settlements in this area in 1981, Palestinians have faced a constant
struggle to remain on their land. The nearby settlements and outposts
control large swathes of land, far in excess of their built up area*.
Almost daily, armed Israeli settlers, soldiers and police collude to expel Palestinian shepherds from their grazing lands.
“This is Israel,” the soldiers frequently say, gesturing to indicate all the land in sight.
Recently a Palestinian shepherd told me, “Today they tell me I can't graze here, tomorrow it will be over there.” pointing to the next valley, nearer his village. “After a while we will be forbidden to leave our homes.”
Before the arrival of the Israeli settlers the Palestinian communities of the South Hebron Hills were self-sufficient. As Herzl and others proposed, settlers have expropriated much of the valuable land. Denied the ability to grow crops or access their grazing land, the Palestinians of the area have been rendered 'penniless', with many dependent on food aid. Some villages have been abandoned because of settler violence, their populations forcibly 'transferred'. Nevertheless, despite economic hardships and Israeli settler and military violence, many villagers remain, a testament to their continuing non-violent resistance.
*See 2008 report 'Access Denied, Israeli measures to deny Palestinians access to land around settlements', by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
Also 2006 report by Israeli group Peace Now, 'Breaking the Law in the West Bank', which reports that nearly 40% of the land on which Israeli settlements have been built is private Palestinian land.
Further information on how the Israeli state has taken control of
Palestinian land see B'Tselem.
Crossposted at Booman Tribune and Street Prophets