A Palestinian man, Atef Yousef Hanaysha, was
killed by Israeli occupation forces on March 19 during a weekly protest
against illegal Israeli settlement expansion in Beit Dajan, near Nablus, in
the northern West Bank.
Although tragic, the above news reads like a routine item from
occupied Palestine, where shooting and killing unarmed protesters is part of
the daily reality. However, this is not true. Since right-wing Israeli Prime
Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
announced, in September 2019, his intentions to formally and illegally
annex nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, tensions have remained
The killing of Hanaysha is only the tip of the iceberg. In
occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a massive battle is already underway.
On one side, Israeli soldiers, army bulldozers and illegal armed Jewish settlers
are carrying out daily missions of evicting Palestinian families, displacing
farmers, burning orchards, demolishing homes and confiscating land. On the other
side, Palestinian civilians, often disorganized, unprotected and leaderless,
are fighting back.
The territorial boundaries of this battle are largely located
in occupied East Jerusalem and in the so-called “Area C” of the West Bank – nearly 60% of the total size of the occupied West Bank – which is under complete
and direct Israeli military control. No other place represents the perfect microcosm
of this uneven war like that of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied
On March 10, fourteen Palestinian and Arab organizations
issued a “joint urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures
on forced evictions in East Jerusalem” to stop the Israeli evictions in the
area. Successive decisions by Israeli courts have paved the way for the Israeli
army and police to evict 15 Palestinian families – 37 households of around 195
people – in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni area in Sheikh Jarrah and Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood
in the town of Silwan.
These imminent evictions are not the first, nor will they be
the last. Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in June 1967 and formally,
annexed it in 1980. Since then, the Israeli government has vehemently
rejected international criticism of the Israeli occupation, dubbing, instead,
Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel”.
To ensure its annexation of the city is irreversible, the Israeli
government approved the
Master Plan 2000, a massive scheme that was undertaken by Israel to
rearrange the boundaries of the city in such a way that it would ensure permanent
demographic majority for Israeli Jews at the expense of the city’s native inhabitants.
The Master Plan was no more than a blueprint for a state-sponsored ethnic cleansing
campaign, which saw the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes and the
subsequent eviction of numerous families.
While news headlines occasionally present the habitual evictions
of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and other parts of East Jerusalem
as if a matter that involves counterclaims by Palestinian residents and Jewish
settlers, the story is, in fact, a wider representation of Palestine’s modern
Indeed, the innocent families which are now
facing “the imminent risk of forced eviction” are re-living
their ancestral nightmare of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine
Two years after the native inhabitants of historic Palestine
were dispossessed of their homes and lands and ethnically cleansed altogether,
Israel enacted the so-called
Absentees’ Property Law of 1950.
The law, which, of course, has no legal or moral validity,
simply granted the properties of Palestinians who were evicted or fled the war
to the State, to do with it as it pleases. Since those “absentee” Palestinians
were not allowed to exercise their right of return, as
stipulated by international law, the Israeli law was a state-sanctioned
wholesale theft. It ultimately aimed at achieving two objectives: one, to ensure
Palestinian refugees do not return or attempt to claim their stolen properties
in Palestine and, two, to give Israel a legal cover for permanently confiscating
Palestinian lands and homes.
The Israeli military
occupation of the remainder of historic Palestine in 1967 necessitated,
from an Israeli colonial perspective, the creation of fresh laws that would
allow the State and the illegal settlement enterprise to claim yet more Palestinian
properties. This took place in 1970 in the form of the
Legal and Administrative Matters Law. According to the new legal framework,
only Israeli Jews were allowed to claim lost land and property in Palestinian
Much of the evictions in East Jerusalem take place within the
context of these three interconnected and strange legal arguments: the Absentees’
Law, the Legal and Administrative Matters Law and the Master Plan 2000. Understood
together, one is easily able to decipher the nature of the Israeli colonial
scheme in East Jerusalem, where Israeli individuals, in coordination with settler
organizations, work together to fulfill the vision of the State.
In their joint
appeal, Palestinian human rights organizations describe the flow of
how eviction orders, issued by Israeli courts, culminate into the construction
of illegal Jewish settlements. Confiscated Palestinian properties are usually
transferred to a branch within the Israeli Ministry of Justice called the
Israeli Custodian General. The latter holds on to these properties until
they are claimed by Israeli Jews, in accordance with the 1970 Law. Once Israeli
courts honor Israeli Jewish individuals’ legal claims to the confiscated Palestinian
lands, these individuals often transfer their ownership rights or management
to settler organizations. In no time, the latter organizations utilize the newly-acquired
property to expand existing settlements or to start new ones.
While the Israeli State claims to play an impartial role in
this scheme, it is actually the facilitator of the entire process. The final
outcome manifests in the ever-predictable scene, where an Israeli flag is triumphantly
hoisted over a Palestinian home and a Palestinian family is assigned an UN-supplied
tent and a few blankets.
While the above picture can be dismissed by some as another
routine, common occurrence, the situation in the occupied West Bank and East
Jerusalem has become extremely volatile. Palestinians feel that they have nothing
more to lose and Netanyahu’s government is more emboldened than ever. The killing
of Atef Hanaysha, and others like him, is only the beginning of that imminent,
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle.
He is the author of five books. His latest is These
Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli
Prisons (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow
at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle
East Center (AMEC). His website is