Erasing Palestine: Israeli land grabs on the increase

March 1, 2019
Map showing the increasing occupation of Palestinian land by Israel over time.

There is a very famous map of what used to be Palestine and what Palestine is now. Several frames in between show the increasing progression of Israel's land grabs.

Israel claims to be the only party interested in the elusive "middle east peace process" and a genuine believer in the widely discredited two-state solution, but the map tells a very different story.

Israel continues evicting Palestinian families, demolishing or allowing illegal settlers to steal Palestinian homes and annexing the rapidly shrinking land that Palestinians are meant to build a state upon.

After US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018, Israel ramped up its efforts to connect outlying illegal settlements to the city.

A newly-opened road, Route 4370, connecting Jerusalem with northern, illegal settlements is a strategic piece of infrastructure, designed to make outlying, illegal settlements and the theft of the Palestinian land a permanent fact and a secure part of an expanded Israel.

Route 4370 allows illegal settlers easy access to Jerusalem. However, on the other side of the eight-metre high barrier that runs the full length of the road Palestinian drivers are denied access to the city.

Recent plans to build 4000 settler units in strategic areas around Jerusalem have been hailed by the city's mayor, as a win for young couples. While young couples the world over are facing chronic housing stress, this is a housing scheme based on the theft of one community's land and resources.

Israel's illegal settlements have roads, services and infrastructure only Israeli settlers can use. Settler communities are protected by Israeli soldiers. According to Israeli NGO, Ir Amim, the end product of settlement construction and expansion around Jerusalem, is a "contiguous ring of settler controlled areas". It looks very much like a deliberate campaign to strangle Jerusalem and make its sole identity Israeli.

The case of the Abu Assab family highlights how much the Israeli court system is weighted against Palestinians. The family had lived in its Jerusalem home for decades, but was evicted by settlers escorted by Israeli soldiers.

Originally from West Jerusalem, the family were forced out in 1948 and took up residence in an East Jerusalem property that was abandoned by a Jewish family. Following the occupation of East Jerusalem, Israel's Justice Ministry "revived" the titles to properties abandoned by Jewish owners and placed them in a charitable trust — including the Abu Assab family residence. The trust applies to the magistrate’s court and then takes Palestinian homes and gives them to settlers with the court’s (inevitable) approval.

There are no such legal instruments or charitable trusts that Palestinians can use to reclaim their lost property. The lost property laws are about thoroughly stamping Jerusalem with an Israeli-only identity, not about redistributive justice.

The Negev region, with Be'er Sheva at its heart has been home to Palestinian Bedouin communities for centuries. On the map it appears as wholly part of Israel now, and it is almost a certainty that 36,000 Palestinian Bedouins will be expelled over the next four years. Israel is putting a lot of shekels into plans to "develop" the region — which is code for obliterating the Bedouin identity of the area.

Spending earmarked for housing and education is for "recognised" Bedouins only. Recognised means they agree to move or local leaders succumb to pressure to allow developments to proceed. According to Israel, the mass eviction and transfer of a target population is entirely legal.

A depopulated Negev will then be ripe for industrial and commercial development and security infrastructure to prevent evictees returning to "state" land.

Ironically, the end result of all the expulsions, evictions, land grabs and annexation would be a single state. Not a single, truly democratic state in which Israelis and Palestinians co-exist as equals, but an apartheid state.

The outcome of Israel's Knesset election on April 9 is anyone's guess. Whatever the outcome, the occupied Palestinians will have no relief, as the land grabs look set to continue.

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