The Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the Israeli government confiscated privately owned Palestinian lands in the Jordan Valley, and gave the lands to Kibbutz Merav, inhabited by Jewish settlers.The Israeli government re-routed the Annexation Wall in the area in order to secure the illegal takeover of nearly 1500 Dunams (375 Acres) of privately owned Palestinian lands, effectively declaring the lands as part of Israel.
The move in question is not new, as Israel’s settlements and settlements blocks in the occupied territories are mostly built on Palestinian lands. This instance is different as the ownership of West Bank Palestinian-owned lands is transferred to a Jewish community that is considered inside Israel itself.
Haaretz said that Maj. Guy Inbar, a spokesperson for the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the occupied territories, stated that the expropriated Palestinian lands are in the West Bank, and claimed that Jewish settlers in Merav “have been farming the lands for decades”.
Spokesperson of the Jewish Settlements Division of the World Zionist Organization, Ofer Amar, stated that the division has no authority on the land that is classified as “farmland”, and falls under the control of the Emek Mayanot Regional Council.
Director of Peace Now Movement, Dror Etkes, stated that the annexation order effectively robs the lands in order to give them to Amona, Givat Asaf and Migron illegal settlement outposts.
Etkes added that extremist officials like right-wing Member of Knesset, Ofir Akunis, and extremist other right-wingers are censoring and silencing leftist groups in Israel, and are trying to control the media to make it a puppet for the government.
Haaretz said that a Palestinian resident, identified as Ashraf Madrasa from the Palestinian village of Bardalah, showed its reporters maps and deeds, issued in 1961, proving he owns 36 Dunams of the annexed lands. The army initially confiscated his land declaring it as a “military zone”.
It is worth mentioning that under the Israeli so-called Absentee Property Law”, lands that belong to Palestinians who became refugees when Israeli occupied Palestine, can be declared as state lands.
The International Law states that Israel, the custodian of absentee property in the occupied territories, cannot use the lands for settlement activities.
In 2004, the State Comptroller in Israel wrote a report stating that thousands of Palestinian Dunams were granted to Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley in the 60’s and 70’s of last century, Haaretz said.
Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under International Law, and violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.
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Geneva Convention Article 49
Aug. 12, 1949
‘Article 49 – Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.
Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.
The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated.
The Protecting Power shall be informed of any transfers and evacuations as soon as they have taken place.
The Occupying Power shall not detain protected persons in an area particularly exposed to the dangers of war unless the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’
United Nations Security Council Resolution number 465;
‘Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.’