Palestinian Land Day and West Bank Oil
By Eileen Fleming
Exclusive to the Arab Daily News
LAND DAY commemorates the killing of six Palestinians, wounding of 96 and arrests of 300 on 30 March 1976, when Israeli forces reacted with violence to a spontaneous peaceful demonstration by Palestinians over the confiscation of 5,500 acres of their land which Israel had classified as “closed military zones” for “security and settlement purposes.”
“Will the Israelis allow the Palestinians to exploit their own oil” the headline in The Economist asked and reported “Palestine’s government is to tender a concession for exploration around Rantiss, a village north of Jerusalem near the armistice line that separated Palestinian territory from Israel in 1967.”
President Mahmoud Abbas’s economic adviser, Muhammad Mustafa stated, “We would net $1 billion over a decade,” and notes Givot Olam an Israeli company that is already tapping the same reservoir in its drilling just inside Israel.
Israel’s military administration, which oversees the West Bank, has not yet given approval for Palestinian exploration and the field lies inside an Israeli-declared military zone.
Israel exercises full control over the predominantly rural swathe of the West Bank known as Area C, which accounts for 62% of the occupied territory (excluding the Gaza Strip).
Israeli hardliners are pressing to annex Area C.
Some Israeli officials fear that an influx of capital into Palestine would empower it in its struggle against Israel’s occupation.
A World Bank report from October 2013 stated that Palestine’s economy would soar by a third if it were able to exploit Area C and other riches offshore.
Mr Mustafa’s decision to explore Area C without Israeli approval may bolster a Palestinian campaign to recover the territory’s raw materials and to develop its agriculture, both of which Israel has exploited for the past 45 years…A Palestinian is arrested by Israeli policemen during a demonstration by hundreds marking Land Day in Israeli annexed East Jerusalem. (Photo: AFP – Menahem Kahana) 2012
My Land Day Experience:
On 30 March 2006, just after the break of dawn, a group of Israeli Jews and I traveled three hours north of west Jerusalem to the lower Galilee municipality of Sakhnin, an Arab village whose land continues to be grabbed and colonized by settlers.
Ronnie, was a Canadian who moved to Israel with a desire to help build a civil society and she co-founded Women in Black and was active with Machsom Watch, who are women at the checkpoints who watch for and report on human rights abuses. She laughed when she told me, “A friend said that I am so Left that if I ever gets to heaven I will probably argue with God that those in hell just didn’t get a fair deal.”
Ronnie turned serious and continued, “Religion is used as a cover, but it’s all about the land! It’s convenient to claim one is doing something for God but the laws are made to take the land. We don’t have settlers in Israel -the common name for illegal colonists in the West Bank-we just take it! First it is claimed to be for military reasons then it’ll become a park or agricultural land that the state has confiscated.
“The Palestinians who did not leave in ’48 but remained here still have lost their land. They can’t get permits to build.
“I am opposed to the occupation and as an Israeli Jew I want to see justice for all and I refuse to be enemies with anyone.”
Over 100 Israeli’s, Arab Christians, Muslims, atheists and internationals attended a tour of Sakhnin and conference coordinated by Batshalom and The Women’s Coalition for Peace and Justice.
I learned that not only had Israel confiscated acres of the most fertile of Palestinian land they had also placed land mines all over the land. Many farmers and other innocent ones lost their lives or legs, so people quit caring for their groves and the Israeli government declared the village of Sakhnin a military zone.
A few years prior, the President of Israel had declared that the people of Sakhnin, deserved to have their land back. But the Israeli county of Misgav, abetted by the Israeli Land Authority continued to collect taxes from the indigenous people but not return any land or issue permits for Palestinians to build upon their legally owned property.
An Israeli peace activist commented, “In 2000 during Land Day, hundred’s of nonviolent protesters were arrested and we were hit with tear gas and rubber bullets. Name it and we have had it!”
Another told me, “I am an Israeli Jew and I am responsible to change something about this situation. We all need to do this together.”
The speakers spoke in Arabic or Hebrew, and my interpreter was Aliyah [Hebrew for “Go Up”], who was born in St. Louis, grew up in Cleveland and moved to Israel in 1948.
She told me, “My Father was born in Jerusalem and I was a Zionist, but now I am not so sure. I still want the Jewish people to have a state but it must be honest and moral, I don’t want a piranha state! Before 1967 I was euphoric!
“My husband and I began to learn that there were Israelis who you could call prophets, who said we must return the land and make peace. Then a fundamentalist Jewish group, The Gush Emunim began erecting the settlements in the newly possessed land.
“When Israel went into Lebanon I was infuriated! I demonstrated against the massacres at Shatila and Shabra. Eighteen years of Israel in Lebanon is what built up the Hezbollah! The Israelis supported the group at first because they hoped the Hezbollah would be against the Palestinian refugees in South Lebanon.”
I inquired, “Isn’t that what Israel did with Hamas? Didn’t they originally support Hamas to be a wedge against the PLO?”
Aliyah replied, “Yes, stupidity repeats itself!”
In the Northern part of Israel 53% of the population are Jews who control 80% of the land. Palestinians are 47% of the population with only 20% of the land.
Sakhnin’s 25,000 people are allowed to access less than 10,000 dunums of their land but they only control half of that. In 1948 they owned and controlled 170,000 dunums. A Defense Industry and Army base complex a few miles from where we stood was also home to a mysterious warehouse.
Aliyah remarked, “No one knows what is going on inside, but it may be a nuclear reactor. The municipality asked the army to develop in another direction for there is a school over there too. The Israelis are allowed to expand anywhere, but the people of Sakhnin are not allowed permits to builds on their own land.
“I really became aware of what was going on in the ’80′s. I had been invited to a meeting of The Bridge for Peace and Coexistence, which is a group of Arab and Jewish activists.
“A man asked me where I was living and when I answered Bneitz-ion. He calmly and politely told me ‘That is my Uncle’s land.’”
Since 1967 Israel has confiscated more than 750,000 acres of land from the 1.5 million acres that comprise the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the land has been confiscated to make space for settlement expansion and bypass roads that are for the exclusive use of Israeli only colonists.
Since 1948, Israel has confiscated nearly 85 percent of the territory within the Green Line from Palestinians. Most of this land was taken from the 750,000 Palestinian’s who were made refugees when they were evicted or fled in fear during the 1948 war.
The Israeli Knesset has passed dozens of laws in defiance of U.N. Resolutions and International Law, such as The Absentee Property law and the Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law.
That law in Arabic is called ‘Qanoon Elhader/Gayeb’, and was adopted in March 1950. It classifies anyone who was a citizen or resident of one of the Arab states or a Palestinian citizen on November 29, 1947, but had left his place of residence-even to take refuge within Palestine- as an ‘absentee’.
Absentee property was vested in the Custodian of Absentee Property who then ‘sold’ it to the Development Authority.
This effectively authorized the theft of the property of a million Arabs, seized by Israel in 1948.
Adopted in July 1950, this law was devised as a legal ploy to shield the Israeli government from the accusation that it had confiscated abandoned property.
The Development Authority is an independent body empowered to sell, buy, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and cultivate Palestinian property and none of these transactions can take place without a Jew or a Jewish entity!
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 enshrines the “occupying power cannot move segments of its own population to parts of the land it occupies,” or make any demographic or territorial changes that are not in the interest of the occupied.
Furthermore, provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention have unquestionably condemned Israel’s settlement activities and demanded the ceasing of “all” settlement expansion by Israel.
In 1990, UN Security Council Resolution 681 confirmed that the Forth Geneva Convention is applicable to the Occupied Territories and thus Israel’s compliance is mandatory.
In 2005, the Israeli separation wall was deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice and described in a UN report as a “creeping annexation” with confiscation of the most fertile of Palestinian land and water sources.
Israel has effectively “wiped Palestine off the map” by ethnically cleansing the indigenous population from over 500 villages.
Israel calls ‘independence’ what Palestinians call Nakba, which translates to catastrophe, and it created over 700,000 refugees in 1948 who are still denied the right to return to their homeland.
The Nakba continues due to USA policy that favors and shields Israel like no other state in the world.
America was founded by agitators, rebels, dissidents and revolutionaries who essentially told the King of England to back off this land and they held these truths to be self-evident: That all [people] are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among [people] deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the RIGHT of the people to ALTER or to ABOLISH it.
Contact her at eileenfleming.org
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