According to Ha’aretz, NBC, CBS, NPR, BBC, the EU, the UN, and countless denizens of social media, a whole Palestinian village was allegedly demolished and its entire population made homeless on 4 November of this year. Ilhan Omar accused Israel of “a grave crime … ethnic cleansing,” and called for “defunding” Israel. The story is that it was done “under cover of the US elections,” in order to allow for the replacement of Palestinians in the territories by Jewish “settlers.” The act was called “illegal,” “unlawful,” “inhumane,” and worse.
Here are the facts.
Khirbet Humsa is located in the Jordan Valley, part of “Area C” which, according to the Oslo Accords is under full Israeli civil and security control. It was a Bedouin encampment which consisted of seven tents and eight pens for animals. Bedouins camped there starting in 2010, but it was not a permanent settlement: aerial photographs from 2013 show only vacant land, proving that claims that the residents “lived there all their lives” are false. According to the NGO Regavim, new structures were built with money from the European Union in 2019, and it was these that were demolished on 4 November.
The area has been an IDF firing range since 1972, and is used regularly by the IDF for exercises. Bedouins who have encamped there to graze their animals have been required to move from time to time for their own safety.
Under international law, which recognizes the Oslo Accords as binding, construction in Area C requires permission from Israeli authorities. The Bedouins who now claim the area for a permanent settlement have no title to the land and no building permits. They are simply squatters. Even the left-leaning Israeli Supreme Court turned down three petitions on their behalf.
The European Union and the Palestinian Authority (PA) who encourage them and provide them with money for construction claim that all the land beyond the “Green Line,” the 1949 armistice line, is “Palestinian land” according to their interpretation of international law. How they square this with their recognition of the Palestinian Authority, which was created by the Oslo Accords, is not clear to me. But they continue to pay for illegal construction there as “humanitarian aid.”
The Bedouins who were evicted immediately received new tents from the EU, and have returned to the area. Incidentally, one of the more tear-jerking articles (by Amira Haas in Ha’aretz) about this incident refers to the IDF taking a car “belonging” to one of the families. I am willing to bet 1000 shekels that the car was confiscated because it had been stolen; car theft by Bedouins – including hijacking (Heb. link) – is common.
This is a skirmish in a larger war that the Israeli government has been ignoring, as it loses battle after battle. Since 2009, when then PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad published a plan for “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State,” the PA – with money provided by Israel’s “soft enemy,” the European Union – the PA has been engaged in a program of illegal building and settlement throughout Area C. Millions of Euros are used to build structures, often “schools” and “hospitals” to serve as nuclei for illegal Palestinian settlements in Area C.
This is a win-win situation for the Palestinians. If Israel allows them to remain, then they create facts on the ground that make it impractical for Israel to ultimately annex the areas in which they are located. If they are demolished, then they provide grist for the international media propaganda mill, which grinds out stories of Israeli inhumanity.
It’s ironic that despite the continuous complaining by all the usual suspects about “illegal” Israeli “settlement construction,” there is far more truly illegal Arab construction underway. And there have been far more cases in which Jewish residents have been removed by force from illegally built settlements, than Arabs.
Recently European countries have even demanded that Israel compensate them for their investment in illegal buildings that have been demolished! The chutzpah of that request is only matched by that of the Egyptians who are suing the Jewish people for gold allegedly stolen at the time of the Exodus.
Israel has recently begun to step up the demolition of illegal European-funded construction in Area C. I would go farther, and expel EU representatives from the territories. One wonders what the Belgian government would do if Israel sent money and advisors to the Flemish separatist movement (Dutch link).
What other sovereign state would allow agents from hostile nations to openly engage in subversive activities inside the country?