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ON THIS PAGE:
• Overview with short video
• TAKE ACTION
• Congressional Letters
• Learn More (in the column on the right)
A 2-MINUTE VIDEO ABOUT MASAFER YATTA
In early May of 2022, the Israeli High Court approved the forced eviction of a group of Palestinian hamlets in the Masafer Yatta area, in the south of the West Bank. In effect, the Israeli court has approved a war crime. Clearly, the Nakba - the Palestinian catastrophe of being forced from their homeland - continues unabated in 2022.
If this crime is carried out as planned, it will be the largest forcible transfer of Palestinians from their land since 1967, when the Israeli military took over the West Bank and Gaza.
These expulsions and demolitions in Masafer Yatta can happen at any time, with no notice. Indeed, they have begun already! In June, Israeli soldiers arrived in Masafer Yatta with bulldozers, and horrific demolitions and displacement began. The military forced Palestinians out of their homes and destroyed them in front of their eyes.
We know that over 1,200 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, including 500 children, are threatened with the destruction of their homes and communities. But that number may be much larger - we have heard that Israel might be targeting neighboring communities putting thousands more men, women, and children in danger of losing their homes and communities.
Scroll down this page to see the Congressional letter, lead by Rep. Cori Bush and endorsed by 65 organizations, including UMKR.
Israeli High Court greenlights forcible expulsion of more than 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta
Mondoweiss • 6 May 2022
Late Wednesday night, the High Court rejected an appeal by the residents against their expulsion, paving the way for the Israeli military to demolish their homes and forcibly expel them from their land, a crime under international law.
According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, since 2006, Israel has demolished 64 homes in the communities in Masafer Yatta, displacing at least 346 people, including 155 minors.
“After 20 years of legal proceedings, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the forcible transfer of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes – for the clear purpose of taking over their lands in the service of Jewish interests – is legal,” B’Tselem said in a scathing statement on Thursday.
“Proving once again that the occupied cannot expect justice from the occupier’s court, the decision, weaving baseless legal interpretation with decontextualized facts, makes it clear that there is no crime which the HCJ justices won’t find a way to legitimize,” the group said.
The Norwegian Refugee Council also condemned the court’s decision, calling it a “dangerous step that must be reversed.”
Masafer Yatta communities Israel is trying to drive out
B'Tselem • January 2013, Updated May 2022
Israel's leading human rights center gives the history of the communities of Masafer Yatta and their struggle to stay on their land
Israeli court approves mass forced transfer of Palestinians
Electronic Intifada • 5 May 2022
"Israel’s judicial system as a whole exists to provide a liberal and democratic facade to a brutal settler-colonial regime. The ruling should also serve as a reminder that just about every facet of the Israeli government is implicated in Israel’s settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank – likely to be a primary focus of the ICC investigation, should it move forward."
Palestinians vow to stay on West Bank land despite defeat in decades-old legal battle
CNN • 6 May 2022
The leader of a Palestinian village council in the West Bank vowed Friday to continue fighting eviction from land the Israeli military is claiming as a firing range, despite an Israeli Supreme Court decision against the Palestinians in a case that has been in court for more than two decades.
"We will all resist and stay in our lands; we have no other place to go to," Masafer Yatta council leader Nidal Abu Younis told CNN on Friday.
"Israel is seeking, through these attempts, to separate the villages in the Hebron Mountains from the northern Negev in the occupied lands, and break families' ties," Abu Younis said.
High Court Justices Know Israel Won’t Face Sanctions Over Masafer Yatta Evictions
Haaretz • 6 May 2022 • Amira Hass
In the historiographical debate about whether Israel is in its essence and character a colonial-settler entity, the justices have expressed a firm stance: Most certainly, it is. Because the essence of settler colonialism is the taking over of land by an immigrant population while expelling its indigenous (in the most extreme case by committing genocide), denying their linkage to the land and totally excluding them from the new political order that the immigrants have created. In this order, in which the indigenous population has no say or any rights, it’s natural for the new rulers to decide that a particular piece of land is needed for its army. Or maybe more settlers. Or maybe both. Masafer Yatta’s transformation into Firing Zone 918 is but another tier in a process that has been going on between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean for more than a century, and serves as an illustration of the continuity of Israeli policy.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Masafer Yatta: Israel’s new annexation strategy in Palestine
Mondoweiss • 6 May 2022 • Ramzy Baroud
When Palestinians state that the Nakba, or Catastrophe – which led to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel on its ruins – is a continuous, unfinished project, they mean exactly that. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the endless torment of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab and, now in Masafer Yatta, are all testaments to this reality.
However, Masafer Yatta is particularly unique. In the case of occupied East Jerusalem, for example, Israel has made a fallacious, ahistorical claim that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. It combined its unsubstantiated narrative with military action on the ground, followed by a systematic process that aimed at increasing the Jewish population and ejecting the original native inhabitants of the city. Such notions as ‘Greater Jerusalem’ and legal and political structures, like that of the Jerusalem Master Plan 2000, have all contribute towards turning the once absolute Palestinian majority in Jerusalem into a shrinking minority.
With the Naqab, Israel’s similar objectives were put into motion as early as 1948, and again in 1951. This process of ethnically cleansing the natives remains in effect to this day.
Though Masafer Yatta is part of the same colonial designs, its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is situated in Area C of the occupied West Bank.
Armed with High Court expulsion order, Israel’s bulldozers arrive in Masafer Yatta
+972 Magazine • 12 May 2022
The Israeli army carried out the first demolitions in the area since last week’s court ruling, triggering fears of a mass deportation not seen in two decades.
“Thirteen of us will have to sleep here in a tent,” said Fares al-Najjar, one of those whose home was destroyed. He sat in a plastic chair, watching videos of the house his family lived in being destroyed. Around him, his brothers stretched out ropes, hung tarpaulin, and tried to set up a shelter near the remains of the house. “They sent us back 20 years,” said Fares’ brother Ali, as he tightened a rope to fasten the tent to iron bars.
UN experts alarmed by Israel High Court ruling on Masafer Yatta and risk of imminent forcible transfer of Palestinians
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
16 May 2022
UN human rights experts* urgently called on Israel and the international community to stop the forced evictions, arbitrary displacement and forcible transfer of Palestinian communities from Masafer Yatta in the occupied West Bank.
“Following the judgement of the Israeli High Court of Justice earlier this month, around 1,200 Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta, including 500 children, face imminent risks of forced evictions, arbitrary displacement and forcible transfer, in serious breach of international humanitarian and human rights laws,” said the experts.
“We are monitoring with concern the latest information indicating that the Israeli forces have demolished structures in the Masafer Yatta communities of Khribet al Fakhiet and al-Markez. These demolitions place them at immediate risk of forcible transfer.”
Ahead of Biden visit, Israel launches biggest eviction of Palestinians in decades
Washington Post • 22 May 2022
The Najjar family knew what to expect on the morning of May 11 when a neighbor called: “The bulldozer is coming.” For the second time in five months, the Israeli military had come to knock down their house.
But this time there was reason to fear that the house would be gone for good. After decades of demolition, rebuilding and a more than 20-year legal battle, Israel’s highest court this month gave the military permission to permanently evict more than 1,000 Palestinians here and repurpose the land for an army firing range.
Less than a week after the high court ruling, the Najjars’ house was demolished, marking the start of what activists say will probably be the biggest mass expulsion of Palestiniansin the occupied West Bank since the 1967 war, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from territories captured by Israel.
Israel says this book justifies Masafer Yatta expulsions. Its author begs to differ
972 Magazine • 25 May 2022
Havakook disagrees with this interpretation, particularly of his use of the term “seasonal settlements.” Two decades ago, he tried to submit an opinion to the High Court on behalf of the petitioners against the expulsions. But the Defense Ministry, where Havakook worked at the time, forbade him from submitting an affidavit as well as numerous photographs he had taken that clearly show the existence of the villages in the 1970s and ’80s. At the same time, the ministry used select quotes from his book to argue that the villages there were not permanent.
Furthermore, the justices did not refer at all to the countless testimonies by Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta, who describe their presence in these villages long before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.
The disqualification of the residents’ own experiences, along with the fact that the ruling was made by the High Court of an occupying state that conducted its proceedings in a language foreign to the people who would be impacted by it, is part-and-parcel of the colonial framework within which the trial took place. Moreover, the story of Havakook reinforces the notion that Israeli expert voices only receive legal weight in this framework if they serve the interests of the state.
Palestinians in Masafer Yatta made homeless twice over by Israeli demolitions
+972 Magazine • 1 June 2022
The Israeli military bulldozed tents housing 21 Palestinians on Wednesday morning, whose original homes had already been destroyed last month.
“The aim is to send us into despair,” said Muhammad al-Najjar, a resident of al-Markaz. “They came straight away to carry out demolitions against everyone whose homes they’d already destroyed.” After carrying out a demolition, the Civil Administration — the arm of Israel’s military government that governs the 2.8 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank — can return to demolish buildings in the same spot without the need for a demolition order or legal proceedings.
PODCAST: Life in the firing zone: the occupation of Masafer Yatta
The Guardian • 8 June 2022
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Bethan McKernan, explains the history of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and how the court justified its decision. Hagai El-Ad, the director of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, argues that international pressure is needed to prevent more Palestinian’s losing their land.
Listen (34 minutes)
FIRING ZONE 918 – AN EXERCISE IN WAR CRIMES
Video from B'Tselem - 2.5 mins
Type your paragraph here.
On MSNBC, Ahman Mohyeldin reports on the danger to Masafer Yatta and speaks with Peter Beinart of Jewish Currents (8 mins) Watch it here
For those in the U.S. or with a U.S. address:
Send a message to your legislators in Congress to speak out publicly and to work through diplomatic channels, to press Israel not to fulfill its plans for ethnic cleansing and destruction in Masafer Yatta.
Contact Congress here
For those in the UK:
Write to your MP,with Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
Save Masafer Yatta
For human rights supporters everywhere:
Sign our petition to the Biden administration urging U.S. leaders to exert pressure on Israeli government leaders to desist from its destructive plans for Masafer Yatta.
Go to the petition
Support BDS campaigns in solidarity with Masafer Yatta
See 5 campaigns - focused on HP, Hyundai, Puma, AXA, and the Jewish National Fund and Israeli agri-businesses - that address the dangers
faced by the communities of Masafer Yatta: See them here
Visit the Save Masafer Yatta campaign websiteand follow their ongoing efforts:https://savemasaferyatta.com/
UMKR ENDORSES CONGRESSIONAL DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER TO BIDEN ADMINISTRATION
31 May 2022 – Fifteen members of the House of Representatives sent an urgent letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling for action to halt the Israel government from forcibly displacing and making homeless over 1,000 Palestinian residents of the Masafer Yatta region. The letter, led by Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), asks the Biden administration to take immediate and concrete steps to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes and demands accountability for the Israeli government’s blatant violations of Palestinian human rights.
The letter was endorsed by 65 faith-based and civil society human rights organizations, including United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR).
Click here to see and download the full letter and Congressional signers
Read more about the letter with Jewish Voice for Peace and see the full list of endorsing organizations
Progressive Democrats Deem Israel's Planned Evictions of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta a 'War Crime'
Haaretz • 31 May 2022
The letter, signed by some of the fiercest critics of Israel in the House, says eviction would be 'a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention'
Fifteen progressive Democrats on Tuesday urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to send the "strongest diplomatic message possible" to pressure Israel into preventing the eviction of more than 1,000 Palestinians from the Masafer Yatta villages in the West Bank.
Progressive Lawmakers Demand Stop to Israeli “War Crime” in Masafer Yatta
Jewish Currents • 31 May 2022
In a letter to the Secretary of State, 15 House Democrats urged the administration to intervene against the expulsion of Palestinians from West Bank villages.
THE SECOND CONGRESSIONAL LETTER FOR MASAFER YATTA
Another Dear Colleague letter in support of Masafer Yatta gathered
signatures from 19 Senators and 62 Representatives.
See and download that letter
A Tale of Two Letters
Mondoweiss • 2 June 2022
....the difference between the two Masafer Yatta letters is worth noting. The first letter was promoted by the liberal Zionist group J Street and praises Biden’s commitment to a two-state solution, whatever that means nowadays. It identifies the signatories as “supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship” and warns the administration that bulldozed homes could “imperil Israel’s security.” On Twitter Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who co-led the letter, writes that the forced evictions “increase tension and undercut efforts to take concrete steps toward peace.” The land theft isn’t referenced within any wider context of Israeli behavior.
The second letter, which was led by Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and first reported by Jewish Currents, clearly states that forced displacement and transfer is a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. A war crime. It asks Biden to stop the destruction, but also calls on the administration to condition military aid to the country. This is the letter that attracted just 15 signatures: Bush, Carson, DeSaulnier, Grijalva, Jayapal, Pocan,
Garcia, Hank Johnson, Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, Newman, Pressley, Takano, and McCollum.
See more about this issue in the column on the right »»