- One dunam is 1,000 square meters, four dunams to an acre.
Israel is stealing them incrementally to control all valued Palestinian
land, dispossessing indigenous people illegally in the process.
- B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human
Rights in the Occupied Territories. In May, it published a comprehensive
report titled, "Dispossession & Exploitation: Israel's policy
in the Jordan Valley & northern Dead Sea," saying:
- Both areas contain "the largest land reserves in
the West Bank," covering 1.6 million dunams or 28.8% of the Territory.
It's home to 65,000 Palestinians in 29 communities, as well as another
15,000 in dozens of small Bedouin ones. In addition, about 9,400 Israelis
live in 37 settlements, including seven outposts.
- Israel intensively exploits these areas, notably their
water and other resources, to a greater extent than elsewhere in the West
Bank, "demonstrat(ing) its intention: de facto annexation of the Jordan
Valley and the northern Dead Sea area...."
- In fact, settlers and many Israelis consider these areas
part of Israel, claiming they're not Palestinian Judea and Samaria land
(the West Bank and Jerusalem). Moreover, Israeli governments stress maintaining
control as a strategic buffer zone between Israel and the "Eastern
Front," the earlier name given a potential Iraqi/Jordanian/Syrian
military coalition no longer a threat.
- Nonetheless, Netanyahu, like earlier prime ministers,
opposes withdrawing from Jordan Valley land, wanting Israel's security
border there permanently. As a result, longstanding Israeli policy expropriated
"large swarths" for military areas, nature reserves and state
- However, the State Comptroller determined that "Israel
stole thousands of dunams of privately-owned" Jordan Valley Palestinian
land, in breach of Military Order No. 58, stipulating that:
- -- land transactions are valid as long as Israelis carry
them out "in good faith."
- Most stolen land belonged to absentee Palestinians, mostly
those fleeing the West Bank in 1967. In the late 1960s and 1970s, land
was seized by exchanging it, Palestinians given "substitute land that
had belonged to absentees, and by direct allocation of the land of absentees,
amounting to thousands of dunams."
- However, the Civil Administration's legal advisor held
that allocating absentee Palestinian land was "prima facie unlawful."
Moreover, the State Comptroller said abandoned private property belonged
to original owners.
- Yet hundreds of them were denied West Bank entry to prevent
returning expropriated land allocated for settlements, closed military
areas, or other purposes. In addition, Jordan Valley and northern Dead
Sea areas were registered by Jordanian authorities as government property
when occupation began in 1967.
- Thereafter, Israel expropriated land various ways, including
- -- taking it from Palestinian refugees for settlements
from 1968 through the 1970s in violation of Military Order No. 58;
- -- seizing and enlarging state land by legal maneuvers;
- -- declaring large areas military firing zones, despite
locations near settlements, farmland, and main traffic arteries;
- -- designating other areas nature reserves, though small
parts of them are suitable for visitors, and two-thirds of them are used
as military firing zones; and
- -- seizing land for Separation Wall use.
- In total, 77.5% of Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea
land is off-limits to Palestinians. Moreover, Israel "cut up the Palestinian
spatial sphere and isolated Palestinian communities in the area."
Hardline policies, including home demolitions and dispossessions accelerated
- Expropriating Area Water
- Jordan Valley land is one of the West Bank's richest
natural water sources from the Jordan River Basin, floodwaters, and waters
flowing into the Jordan River from West Bank streams and underground sources
from the Mountain Aquifer's eastern section. Moreover, it's the highest
- Under international law, some may be shared by Israelis
and Palestinians, while other sources belong solely to Palestinians. Nonetheless,
Israel expropriated most of it for settlers, creating chronic shortages
elsewhere in the West Bank.
- Beginning in 1967, Palestinians were prohibited from
using water resources without permission. In 1995, an Interim Agreement
restricted Palestinian usage, including from private wells, leaving them
dependent on annual precipitation.
- Mostly from the Jordan Valley, water provided settlers
lets them develop "intensive-farming methods" for year round
use. The amounts are far more than allowed Palestinians, exacerbated because
some wells are drying up while others produce less water.
- As a result, Palestinians neglected some arable land
and switched to less profitable crops elsewhere. Jericho governorate is
especially hard hit, its available farmland to Palestinians the lowest
in the West Bank at 4.7% compared to 25% on average elsewhere.
- In the Jordan Valley overall, 209 operating Palestinian
wells existed in 1967 compared to 89 today. Most are for agricultural use.
They're not deep, ranging from dozens of meters to 200, in contrast to
much deeper Israeli wells, accessing greater amounts of water.
- In addition, the area contains 22 springs, dependent
on rainfall to supply them. In recent years, little precipitation caused
water levels to drop, and Jordan Valley Palestinians are prohibited from
accessing springs elsewhere.
- As a result, per capita Israeli settlements are allocated
487 liters a day, three to four times more than Palestinians depending
on their Jordan Valley location. In addition, they pay triple the amount
assessed settlers, and for communities not connected to a water system,
six times that amount or half their monthly expenditures.
- In fact, according to UN standards, water consumption
in Bedouin communities amounts to minimum amounts needed to survive in
humanitarian disaster areas.
- Restrictions on Movement and Building
- Despite calm in the Jordan Valley, Palestinian residents
are separated from the rest of the West Bank. Four checkpoints restrict
them - Tayasir, Hamra, Ma'ale Efrayim and Yitav, permitting only Israeli-recognized
vehicles to pass. In addition, 18 other obstructions include six trenches
over a 24.8 km area, eight dirt mounds, and four agricultural gates, forcing
farmers and workers to wait hours at times to pass through.
- As a result, normal life is seriously impeded, restricting
access to educational, medical, and other essential facilities, as well
as the ability to visit friends and family.
- Moreover, Israel's planning policy severely restricts
building and community development, prohibiting Palestinians from using
over three-fourths of Jordan Valley/Dead Sea land. In fact, for years,
Israel "prepared plans for only a tiny fraction of the Palestinian
communities." Moreover, no new land for construction and development
was allocated, severely restricting a growing population.
- Building without permission on their own land assures
demolition in violation of international law. Article 46 of the Hague regulations
states private property must be respected and can't be confiscated. In
addition, Fourth Geneva's Article 53 prohibits destroying personal property
"except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by
- Israel also controls tourist areas, including the Dead
Sea's northern shore, Wadi Qelt, the Qumran caves, the Ein Fashkha reserve
springs, access to Jericho, and Qasr Alyahud where John the Baptist baptized
- Exploiting Other Area Resources
- Besides water, Israel controls fertile land, mineral
resources, tourist sites, and cheap labor in spite of international law
prohibitions and a 1983 High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruling that "area
held in belligerent occupation is not an open field for economic exploitation."
Like many other HCJ decisions, Israel ignored it, denying or restricting
Palestinians access to their own resources.
- In fact, the World Bank said if Palestinians had greater
water access, agriculture (their main economic sector) would nearly double
its share of current GDP and increase employment by 100,000, nearly twice
- Moreover, if they had access to 50,000 more dunams of
land and its water, they could develop a modern agricultural industry,
generating about $1 billion annually and up to an additional 200,000 jobs.
- In contrast, settlers engage in "intensive, year
round, computerized," innovative farming, switching crops depending
on domestic and export markets demand.
- Israeli enterprises also exploit the area's resources.
Examples include Ahava cosmetics using Dead Sea high-mineral content mud,
Kochav Hashahar quarry extracting building materials, and Jordan Valley
facilities treating Israel and settlements' wastewater, burying it on Palestinian
- As a result, B'Tselem and other human rights groups condemn
Israel's exploitative policies, an issue a May 18 Haaretz editorial touched
on headlined, "Israeli policy will end up isolating it to the point
of sanctions," saying:
- Ahead of traveling to Washington, Neyanyahu addressed
the Knesset, "sketch(ing) out a diplomatic plan devoid of vision and
totally detached from the new reality developing in the region."
- Offering no concessions, he made demands, including:
- -- maintaining the status quo;
- -- "demanding a military presence along the Jordan
- -- asserting the right to Judaize East Jerusalem;
- -- demanding Palestinians recognize Israel "as the
home of the Jewish people," effectively ordering them to renounce
their culture and heritage, leave, or stay with no rights; and
- -- cancel the Fatah/Hamas unity agreement as a condition
for resumed negotiations.
- As a result, his inflexibility and those around him may
eventually subject Israel to "economic and cultural sanctions similar
to those once imposed on apartheid South Africa."
- Calling it "a slippery slope," Haaretz concluded
saying Israelis will pay the price. Many others also if Netanyahu and other
hardliners resort to familiar tactics, including belligerence, making a
bad situation worse.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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