Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that on Monday about 17,000 Israeli squatters marched through the Palestinian West Bank to the shuttered illegal squatter-settlement of Evyatar on Mount Sabih near the hamlet of Beita in the vicinity of Nablus, demanding its revival. Some 27 Palestinian counter-protesters suffered injuries from rubber-tipped metal bullets, and another hundred suffered ill effects from inhalation of military-grade tear gas. They were shot by Israeli troops that provided security to the far-right march.
It was the first time in two years that the Israeli military had permitted anyone to approach the abandoned site. The procession included 7 extremist cabinet members and 20 legislators in the current ruling coalition in parliament. Among the cabinet members were the fascist Jewish supremacists, Minister of the Economy Bezalel Smotrich and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir.
According to Hagar Shezaf, Fadi Amun, and Ben Samuels at Haaretz, Ben-Gvir said, “everyone understands why I insist on a national guard, this is the order of the day, a national guard to protect the residents of Israel.”
Many centrist Israelis are afraid that Ben-Gvir is creating Mussolini-style black shirts to repress Israelis as well as Palestinians. As it is, most Israeli squatters walk around heavily armed so that they form informal militias in their own right.
In international law and according to the UN Security Council, it is illegal for any Israelis to squat on Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank. This rule was part of the Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of populations during wartime under military occupation. It was intended in part to forestall a repeat of Nazi Germany’s policy in occupied Poland, wherein they expelled Poles and brought in German settlers to replaced them with the intent of Germanizing Poland and wiping it off the map as a Slavic country.
The Israeli security forces closed off checkpoints and roads, especially at the Zaatar checkpoint in Nablus, to make it easy for the squatters to reach the settlement site and to provide them security. The procession moved from the military checkpoint at Zaatar to Jabal Sabih at Beita, to call on the government to reopen the squatting site.
Top Israeli officials march in support of illegal settlements | Al Jazeera Newsfeed
In a video from the march, Ben-Gvir said, “We are here to say that the Israeli people are powerful,” and added that the participation of the cabinet sent “an important message.” During the march, Yossi Dagan, head of the squatters’ Shomron Regional Council in the north of the West Bank, said, “The arrival of the masses today proves that the Israeli people wants Evyatar and wants Zionism.” He added, “Together we proceed now and we say, ‘We will never ever give up the land of Israel, and it is possible, and it is necessary, to prevail over points of weakness and delay, and it is possible, and it is necessary to settle in our eternal land.'”
I guess I’m just glad Dagan doesn’t think he owns my house the way he thinks he owns all the Palestinians’ homes. I mean this is large-scale lunacy.
The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed in a communique that its teams treated Palestinians injured by rubber-tipped metal bullets. There were also prostate Palestinians who were delivered to a medical clinic for further treatment. It announced that 115 Palestinians suffered breathing difficulties from toxic tear gas, who were treated in the field.
The squatters demanded the legalization of this site and its announcement as a settlement. Some said on social media that they intended to squat on the site so as to create realities on the ground.
Evyatar was first squatted on in 2013 as a sort of revenge when armed Israeli squatter Evyatar Borovsky was stabbed to death by a Palestinian. It was soon closed down by the Israeli military for being illegal. Several further attempts were made by squatters to settle there, but they were evicted each time, most recently in July 2021. Seven Palestinian protesters against the illegal squatter-settlement have been killed by Israeli troops over time. In late 2021 then Minister of National Security Benny Gantz announced that Evyatar had been settled illicitly and would not be settled again.
Extremist Daniella Weiss, who advocates squatting at will on Palestinian land, complained that “Netanyahu is afraid of Biden,” adding that Yoav Gallant, the current Minister of Defense, “is not one of us.” She said the new government was being tested, as to whether it will allow the Israeli settlement of the region or would abandon it and allow the Palestinians to settle on it. Ms. Weiss is very confused about the Palestinians, who are not settlers but indigenous to the land and are already in their ancestral towns and hamlets, not settling new ones.
The spokesman for the Palestine Authority said that the massing of squatter militias, with the support of Israeli government cabinet members, will never change the reality that the West Bank is Palestinian land. He added, “This fascist procession by Jewish extremists, which coincides with the daily killing of Palestinians — with the most recent being the killing of the child Muhammad Fayez Nabhan, 15, and the assaults on the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque — are pushing matters toward a conflagration, which no one will in any way be able to control.”
He said, “The silence of the American administration encourages the Occupation to continue its crimes toward our people.” He called for an immediate and swift intervention to “stop this madness, for which the entire region will pay the price.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry announced that it is considering reporting the Israeli ministers and parliamentarians who took part in the march and so encouraged the breaking of international law to international authorities.
It may be referring to the International Criminal Court, which is beginning an inquiry into war crimes on the West Bank, for which Israeli officials could be indicted.
Israeli authorities are committed to sending in Israelis to squat on Palestinian land. To that end they usurp Palestinian farms and other property, using the right of eminent domain, which goes back to Ottoman law. Once the Israeli state has stolen the land from the Palestinians, it covertly encourages Israelis to build Jews-only apartment buildings on it and even funds this activity.
In other instances, private persons among the Israelis go to the Palestinian West Bank and build a squatter-settlement on some Palestinian family’s farm or orchard, without government permission. That was what was done at Evyatar. Even the Israeli government considers these squatter-settlements to be illegal and closes them down from time to time. Such steps are often taken in response to US pressure. Washington doesn’t do anything significant about the Israeli government-backed squatter-settlements that are gobbling up the Palestinian West Bank, but draws a line against the illegal ones.
The Rome Statute that forms the charter for the International Criminal Court strictly forbids occupying powers to settle their own population in militarily occupied territories, and the UNSC has also condemned Israel for this practice. It is possible that the ICC will indict Israeli officials who flaunt their support for the squatters.