In what is being called one of the biggest single expulsions of Palestinians since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, Israel’s high court has decided to permit the eviction of 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank area. The land will be repurposed for the use of the Israeli military.
In the 1980s, the Israeli state designated about 3,000 hectares of a rural area in the south Hebron hills as a “firing zone,” which prohibits the presence of civilians. The area is home to several Palestinian villages, and the Geneva convention does not allow the forced transference of local populations for purposes that do not benefit them.
However, the Israeli state is arguing that the villagers there were not permanent residents when the firing zone was declared. Expert testimony and written documentation proving that the villagers had lived there for decades did not sway the court. The Israeli court also said that prohibitions against forcibly transferring populations represents a “treaty norm” that is not enforceable in a domestic court, according to reporting from the Guardian.
It is not immediately clear if the Palestinians have any legal recourse.
“The court decision is a racist decision taken by a settler judge [David Mintz, who lives in an illegal settlement in the West Bank],” Nidal Younes, the head of the Masafar Yatta village council, told the Guardian. “We have been fighting with Israel in the courts for the last 22 years and it took this judge five minutes to destroy the lives of 12 villages and the people who are dependent on the land.”
Since the 1970s, about 18 percent of the West Bank has been declared a “firing zone.” Minutes from a 1981 ministerial meeting showed Ariel Sharon, who would go on to become the prime minister, proposing “Firing Zone 918” as an explicit means of removing Palestinian homes. Firing Zone 918 is the designation given to the area in which the Masafar Yatta village is located.
An NGO called Breaking the Silence is made up of Israeli veterans who now advocate for Palestinians in the West Bank area. They forcefully denounced the ruling. “The high court has just green-lighted the largest population transfer in the history of the occupation since the early 1970s,” they wrote. “Deportation of over 1,000 people in favour of expanding settlements, outposts and training of Israel Defence Forces soldiers is not only a humanitarian catastrophe that could set a precedent for other communities across the West Bank, but also a clear step in de facto annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and cementing military rule indefinitely.”