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War Crimes in Imwas - Israeli National Parks as a colonial tool

June 6th was marked around the world by activists protesting the 47th year of the Israeli 'occupation' of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights. But calls to 'End the Occupation' fall short of clarifying the events of 1967 and how they fit in to wider Zionist designs. The policies that were implemented following the 1967 war were in reality a continuation of Israeli colonial policies that began en-masse in the late 1940's as the Nakba began. Amongst the many issues that confirm this notion, is the fate of three Palestinian villages in the Latrun triangle, that were depopulated, destroyed and annexed in 1967, in much the same manner as had happened widely in 1948.

The villages of Imwas, Beit Nuba and Yalu lie within what is now referred to as the 'West Bank' on the road from Jerusalem towards Jaffa and Tel Aviv. These villages were attacked by Zionist forces in 1948 but local resistance successfully defended the villages.

In 1967, as Israel occupied the West Bank, particular attention was given to the three Latrun villages that had not been colonised in 1948. Imwas, Beit Nuba and Yalo were attacked and occupied, and their populations were driven from their homes. After the villages had been depopulated, they were systematically blown up. In his memoir – Righteous Victims – Moshe Dayan described the attacks, "[houses were destroyed] not in the battle, but as punishment … and in order to chase away the inhabitants." The depopulation and destruction of the villages in this manner amount to acts of war crimes under international law and treaties.

These three Palestinians villages remain empty today. Their former residents now live in enforced exile in refugee camps, Palestinian cities and across international borders. Over the ruins of Imwas and Yalu, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1973 established 'Canada Park' – an Israeli national park (within the 'West Bank') and picnic area.

About 10,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from these three villages in 1967. They have never been allowed to return and Israel claims to have 'annexed' this 'West Bank' land. The '1967 War' should not be seen as the beginning of the 'occupation', but rather an extension of the wider Israeli settler-colonial project which continues today under many guises and with many tools, across all areas of historic Palestine. Israeli 'National Parks' and the JNF are elements of this wider colonial matrix.

MEMO Photographer: Rich Wiles

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