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Thirty-five years after Israeli confiscation, a Palestinian village returns to its land

Israel/Palestine
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Palestinian firemen from the village of Burqa near Nablus plant an olive tree sapling on land restored after a 35-year Israeli confiscation. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinian firemen from the village of Burqa near Nablus plant an olive tree sapling on land restored after a 35-year Israeli confiscation. (Photo: Allison Deger)

After 35 years, deliverance has finally come to the village of Burqa. Decades ago the West Bank hamlet on a hilltop near Nablus lost part of its agricultural grounds when it was confiscated for an Israeli army post, and then later converted into the settlement of Homesh in the 1980s. But in a first in the West Bank, Israel’s high court has restored the former settlement back to the original Palestinian owners.

“Homesh was evacuated and demolished, but still the military order to seize the land remained valid, and the Palestinians could not enter,” said Burqa’s counsel Anu Deuelle Luski, an attorney with the Israeli legal rights firm Yesh Din.

“In 2010 Yesh Din started legal procedures. We went to the court, submitted a petition and demanded to cancel the seizure order that dated back to 1978,” continued Luski. “After a two and a half year trail the state finally cancelled the closed military zone designation,” she said.

Palestinian from Burqa paints over Hebrew letters that read "Homesh First" on an evacuated settlement water tower. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinian from Burqa paints over Hebrew letters that read “Homesh First” on an evacuated settlement water tower. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Yesterday, on the heels of the ruling, Burqa’s villagers reclaimed the hill. Arabic music blared from a sound system and the farmers took turns riding on the hood of a tracker while tiling the rocky soil. Every moment of arduous work was celebrated. As the earth was upturned, a cloud of dirt flooded the air with the sharp smell of anise, which had spread across the one time orchard after decades of neglect. There were jokes that the field smelled like a late night of drinking arak, an alcohol made from the yellow-flowering plant.

“We want to build a hospital, a university, a hotel and an airport” said Amid Nimer Faiz Salah from Burqa who was dizzy with excitement. Salah owns around 45 of the 2,500 dunums that were delivered back to the Palestinian community. Before the military confiscation, “we used to farm and plan wheat, and apples and almond trees,” said Salah. But when Homesh was constructed the settlers “blocked the roads, we couldn’t reach the land and they used to shoot at us.”

Palestinians from Burqa ride a tracker and celebrate the restitution order of their farm land. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinians from Burqa ride a tracker and celebrate the restitution order of their farm land. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Homesh used to be a secular Israeli bedroom community of central Israel’s Kfar Saba. But then the first Intifada struck and the instability sent the moderates back inside the Jewish state’s 1967 borders. Yet the settlement remained and religious-nationalists replaced the previous, more liberal population, coinciding with the country’s overall political turn to the right. However, the state intervened in 2005 and Homesh was marked for eviction as part of the negotiated disengagement plan.

But it took several evacuations for Homesh to finally be cleared of it’s settlers, and the fallout was dramatic. Homesh residents established the group “Homesh First.” They organized protests with thousands, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) arrested a handful of rightists, and when the atmosphere finally calmed the settlers returned to illegally construct a Yeshiva, or religious school. Then in 2007 Homesh got a big break. Some of their residents had been camping in a nearby forest when Knesset members from the nationalist bloc and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party formed a working group. The political machine they established is still lobbying on the settlers behalf. Yesterday Israel’s housing minister Uri Ariel told Israel National News the high court ruling, “sends the wrong message to the Arabs, the results of which are seen on the ground.”

The remnants of the Homesh are still visible today. Invasive bushes of pink flowers and unattended palm trees line spherical paved roads that are the hallmark of Israeli outpost landscaping. At the top of the hill there is a water tower painted in Hebrew with the words “Homesh First,” a reminder that the hardline group hopes to rebuild their community and yeshiva. Dismayed over the lingering symbol of the territorial confiscation, when the Palestinians first arrived at the land yesterday, before farming, before speeches of their victory, before an appearance from the mayor of Nablus, the villagers spray-painted black “X”’s over the Hebrew letters, and then blotted out the settler group’s name altogether with buckets of white paint. Later that evening, members of Homesh First returned to the site and again branded the water town with their organization’s name.

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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24 Responses

  1. talknic
    talknic
    October 4, 2013, 3:35 pm

    These illegal settlers are Jews? Exodus 20:17

  2. Ludwig
    Ludwig
    October 4, 2013, 4:07 pm

    It’s important to know that the Jewish people will return to Homesh. The tragedy of the disengagement will become undone.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      October 4, 2013, 5:38 pm

      Homesh couldn’t fund itself and the great guru Sharon pulled the plug. I think you need to reallocate spending and put your money into education. It’s going to be a mess when the Haredim take over.

    • amigo
      amigo
      October 4, 2013, 6:03 pm

      “It’s important to know that the Jewish people will return to Homesh. The tragedy of the disengagement will become undone.” ludvig

      Say ludvig, doesn,t that rhyme with “Koresh”

      Remember Waco.

    • Bumblebye
      Bumblebye
      October 4, 2013, 6:42 pm

      Earwig
      Those slimy settlers, along with the army and the government who encouraged and supported them, who STOLE the land, should be charged 35 years of rent, plus what the farmers lost for 35 years of crops, plus the costs of returning the land to their use. The TRAGEDY of shtetlement Israeli style is that they’ll probably not see a single shekel.

      • Kathleen
        Kathleen
        October 4, 2013, 8:38 pm

        Bingo. One step forward 20 back. The illegal settlements are expanding at an excelerated rate.

      • Ludwig
        Ludwig
        October 4, 2013, 8:45 pm

        Kathleen,

        I agree with you. Settlements are massively expanding at a rate which makes an independent Palestinian state impossible.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      October 4, 2013, 7:50 pm

      You’re a petty thief to the bone, aren’t you, Earwig.

    • Dutch
      Dutch
      October 4, 2013, 10:18 pm

      @ Ludwig
      Great pledge for the RoR. Thanks. Or, wait. Is it ‘Jews Only’?

    • eljay
      eljay
      October 4, 2013, 10:25 pm

      >> It’s important to know that the Jewish people will return to Homesh.

      You mean supremacist Jews will steal it – again – from its rightful owners.

      My gawd, what a truly hateful and immoral person you are.

    • talknic
      talknic
      October 4, 2013, 10:40 pm

      @Ludwig “It’s important to know that the Jewish people wi…

      It’s important to know … Israeli citizens are prohibited from settling in territories occupied by the State of Israel
      no matter what their DNA
      whether they’re Jews or Arabs
      whether they believe in a G-d who didn’t bother to show for the Holocaust or not
      whether they helped make the desert bloom
      whether they invented the mobile phone
      whether they invented felafel
      no matter how many Nobel prizes have been won
      or any of the other idiotic crappolla morons for Israel mention in order to justify the Jewish state’s illegal actions

      • Ludwig
        Ludwig
        October 4, 2013, 10:40 pm

        Watch and weep talknic.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      October 5, 2013, 12:32 am

      @ Ludwig

      Oh I fully expect they will. The Palestinians must be punished for having the effrontery to challenge the master-race mustn’t they Ludwig. We’re all just waiting for the inevitable “price tag” terrorism to start.

      It’s important to know that the Aryan people will return to the Rhineland. The tragedy of the Versailles Treaty will become undone.

      Every time one of these repugnant zionists opens their mouths I find it harder and harder to tell the difference. Next thing Hugo Boss will be opening a factory in Israel just to manufacture IDF uniforms.

    • K Renner
      K Renner
      October 6, 2013, 12:01 pm

      So, we can’t take you seriously or show you any respect because you’re a blatant kahanist?

      Sounds good to me.

      “Homesh” has been reclaimed by the rightful owners. Cry more.

  3. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster
    October 4, 2013, 4:45 pm

    The smile of the fireman in the top photo could not be more genuine or pleasing. It does my heart good to see these people taking joy in these far too rare incremental victories.

  4. amigo
    amigo
    October 4, 2013, 6:06 pm

    It,s just too bad we did not get to see the illegal settler scurvy being dragged out of there.That would have made the picture complete.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    October 4, 2013, 6:56 pm

    RE: “[T]he state intervened in 2005 and Homesh was marked for eviction as part of the negotiated disengagement plan. But it took several evacuations for Homesh to finally be cleared of it’s settlers, and the fallout was dramatic.” ~ Deger

    AS AN EXAMPLE OF SETTLER ZEALOTRY, SEE – “Video: Arrest of settler who bolted himself to floor”, by Itamar Fleishman, YnetNews.com, 9/27/13
    Bags filled with urine, feces thrown at police officers during arrest of Yitzhar resident Boaz Albert, who violated administrative order banning him from settlement. It took police hours to unchain him from floor. [Take a look at this PHOTO! – J.L.D.]
    LINK TO ARTICLE AND VIDEO – http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4433829,00.html

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      October 4, 2013, 7:58 pm

      “It took police hours to unchain him from floor.”

      A couple whacks with an axe would have taken that leg off in no time…

      ” [Take a look at this PHOTO! – J.L.D.]”

      LMAO. What a moron!! Pretty stupid to weld such a contraption and uses exposed hinge pins??!!??!! Like a screen door on a submarine.

    • Bumblebye
      Bumblebye
      October 4, 2013, 9:26 pm

      I remember miriam wailing about this poor fellow, banned from the West Bank a few weeks ago – but her comment page came up blank when i looked (even tho it says there are several pages – of blank?!). Could be my connection throws up anomalies – its not landline.

      • talknic
        talknic
        October 4, 2013, 10:43 pm

        Bumblebye “Could be my connection throws up anomalies…”

        Maybe it just throws up … can’t blame it really

      • miriam6
        miriam6
        October 5, 2013, 7:59 am

        [email protected];

        I remember miriam wailing about this poor fellow, banned from the West Bank a few weeks ago – but her comment page came up blank when i looked (even tho it says there are several pages – of blank?!). Could be my connection throws up anomalies – its not landline.

        What on earth are you talking about BB?
        please identify who I was supposedly wailing about?
        I think you have got me mixed up with someone else.
        Anti zio caine has evidently addled your brain..

  6. kayq
    kayq
    October 5, 2013, 1:43 am

    Eeee, I’m so happy for them!

  7. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    October 5, 2013, 10:43 am

    @Hostage
    “Woody you’ve managed to claim that half a Congress can abrogate any article of the Constitution that they please.”

    Yes, if it is deemed necessary and proper in order to put down insurrection, insure a republican form of government, and protect the rights of the Freedmen, the Constitution gives the Congress exactly the power exercised during Reconstruction. And it wasn’t the Congress doing it to the South, it was the Southerners doing it to themselves. (And your argument makes no sense. If the rebel states did, in fact, leave the Union, then when they were conquered by the Americans, they were nothing but territories which the Congress could administer as it saw fit.)

    “While the rebels couldn’t deprive the law abiding citizens of their rights, privileges, and immunities, you blithly claim that half a fucking Congress can do exactly that by calling it ‘Reconstruction’?”

    Yes. as a legal matter, the Constitution permits the Congress to do exactly what they did so long as it is necessary and proper to fight insurrection, to ensure a proper form of government and protect the Freedmen. Given the overwhelming support for the treason in the states, these measures were deemed necessary and proper to ensure that the insurrection would not be revived.

    “’Rebel states’ was a statutory term that included all of the territory, inhabitants, and departments of state government – without exception.”

    Yes and the Congress found those governments to be illegal. Reconstruction was required to end the treason, ensure a republican form of government, and protect the rights of the freedmen History showed they were right. As soon as Reconstruction ended, the traitors took over the governments again and the hundred year terror of Jim Crow began.

    “It was never limited to only the insurrectionists.”

    No, it also included ensuring a republucan form of government and protecting the Freedmen.

    “The conditions imposed under Reconstruction were explicitly prohibited by the Constitution itself”

    Not even close.

    “Your mental gymnastics…”

    LMAO. No, just basic legal reasoning.

    “The notion that the Union was perpetual or indestructible was a legal fiction that was applied haphazardly at best and was obviously false to any sane observer.”

    Nope. it’s inherent in the document and has been determined with finality by the Supreme Court. The only people who think otherwise are insane observers. Like Rick Perry.

    “The Constitutional rights, immunities, and priveleges of everyone in the so-called rebel states were violated for years on end, long after the organized insurrection was over.”

    No, they were not violated. As I’ve explained to you many times, the acts taken under Reconstruction, weak as they were, were deemed necessary and proper in order to not only ensure the end of the insurrection, but also to ensure a republican form of government and to protect the rights of the Freedmen. Those rights and privileges which you speak are not absolute but our contingent upon the Congress not being required to exercise it’s constitutional powers under these a forementioned provisions.

    “You can argue that there was no war between the states,”

    No argument. It was a civil war.

    “or statutory recognition of the existence of the rebel states”

    No argument. There wasn’t.

    “And their governmental departments,”

    No argument. The Congress specifically declared those governments to be illegal.

    “but it just makes you look stupid.”

    LMAO. Well, feel free to believe that as you waive your Confederate Treason Flag.

  8. Ecru
    Ecru
    October 6, 2013, 4:47 am

    Sorry if this is a tad cynical of me but:-

    “Price Tag” terrorism against the Palestinians returning home to commence in 5..4..3..2…….

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