Over 40 per cent of the graves in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have been dug on privately owned Palestinian land, according to a new report by Israeli NGO Kerem Navot.
The study, using Israeli authorities’ official data, found that “some 600 graves, situated in or near 10 settlements, are built on Palestinian land, including land that has been expropriated for public use or taken by Israel for what it describes as security needs.”
Until the mid-1980s, says the report, there were only two Jewish cemeteries in the West Bank. By June 2017, this had grown to 32 Jewish cemeteries “containing at least two graves, scattered around the West Bank”. The report estimates that 1,370 Jewish Israelis are buried in West Bank cemeteries.
The data shows that “the cemeteries are often situated hundreds of metres away from the homes of the actual settlements” – the Kochav Hashahar cemetery, for example, which has 35 graves dug on privately owned Palestinian land, is located half a kilometre from the settlement’s nearest homes.
Study-author Dror Etkes said he believes the location of the cemeteries is not a coincidence.
The placement of a cemetery “is not chosen for no reason. It is a very long-term investment – and in Judaism, whoever buries people in a certain place does so on the understanding they will not be removed,” he said.
“Obviously, there is deliberate intent lurking behind the location of these cemeteries”, he continued, “and it may be assumed that whoever buries the dead on private Palestinian land knows exactly what he’s doing”.