Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Nahaleen Residents Served with Evacuation Warnings
posted by: Jacob Pace, Interfaith Peace-Builders at 10:14 PM

Last night, Israeli occupying forces served Evacuation Warning notices to residents of the village of Nahaleen, or Nahalin, west of Bethlehem (see the map at the bottom of the page). The notices were left on a parcel of agricultural land adjacent to the village. The targeted land is uninhabited but is planted with olives, grapes and other crops and is owned by Palestinian residents of Nahaleen.

The orders cite Israel’s Absentee Property Law (#59 of 1967) which has been used repeatedly to expropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian residents have been given 45 days to leave their land. If it is not evacuated in that that period, the land will be cleared at the owners’ expense. The notices were on a form with Hebrew and Arabic but the details were written in Hebrew only. This is a rough translation:

The Israeli Defense Forces
Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria
Office of Government Properties - Central Investigations Unit

- Evacuation Warning -

To whom it may concern:

1. Under authorization of the Law of Government Properties in Judea and Samaria #59 of 1967 and according to Section (2) of that Law and relative to the Law of Land Protection and Government Properties in Judea and Samaria #1006 of 1982, I hereby certify that you illegally hold the following lands:

[The lands in Nahaleen are here listed according to their coordinates on an Israeli military map of the area. No area measurement is specified]

2. According to this order, you are required to withdraw from the land cited and and return it in its original status within 45 days from receiving this order.

If you do not conform to this requirement, the relevant authorities will enforce your evacuation and you will be obliged to pay any expenses accrued in the process.

3. You are entitled to appeal this decision to the Military Appeals Committee based in Ofer [settlement] within 45 days of receiving this order.

Signed: Captain Kahane
The Israeli Defense Forces

The Evacuation Warning notices are the latest in a systematic campaign of intimidation orchestrated by Israeli soldiers and settlers targeting Nahaleen’s 7,000 Palestinian residents. The village is pinched between several illegal Israeli settlements, all of which are currently undergoing expansion. The large settlement of Betar sits directly west of the village. Every Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath), Israeli settlers from Betar gather on the hill above the only road to Nahaleen and throw stones at Palestinian cars as they pass to and from the village. But these settler attacks are little compared to the constant incitement of Israeli soldiers who enter Nahaleen nightly.

This morning, I interviewed a friend who lives in Nahaleen. He told me that Israeli soldiers and settlers light small brushfires along the fence between the town and the settlement every evening. The soldiers blame the Palestinians for lighting the fires and use them as a pretext to raid the village.

Every night seven to ten soldiers enter the village firing flares and concussion grenades (sound bombs). They patrol the streets of the village taunting and teasing the Palestinian children until the children start to throw stones. When the children come with the stones, the soldiers respond with more grenades and live ammunition. It is a symbolic game, but one that can end tragically for the residents of Nahaleen.

These constant Israeli attacks must be seen in the proper context. According to Israel’s published plan for the Apartheid Wall, the village will be one of four Palestinian communities isolated in a small, mini-ghetto outside the main Bethlehem ghetto. The villages are surrounded by Israeli settlements in the Gush Etzion Block, one of the largest illegal settlement blocks in the West Bank. Israel is currently expanding almost all the settlements west of the wall, and the Gush Etzion settlements are certainly no exception.

There is one access road to Nahaleen, which according to village residents, may soon be controlled by an Israeli military checkpoint. My friend is not optimistic for the future. He fears that Palestinians will soon need a special permit to enter the village. Meanwhile, Israeli occupying forces will continue to appropriate Palestinian lands (like those targeted by yesterday's Evacuation Warning) for settlement expansion. Nahaleen’s lands will shrink and the people will be unable to sustain themselves by farming, as they have for generations. The sum result may be to force the residents of Nahaleen to leave their village in order to feed their families.

Ethnic cleansing is a strong word, but readers can draw their own conclusions.

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