Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem has slammed the government’s recognition of illegal settlement outpost Gilad Farm, after years of de-facto land seizure and harassment of local Palestinians.
On 31 January, “the Israeli government approved the establishment of what it described as a ‘new community’ on part of the land seized by force by the settlers at Gilad Farm”, said B’Tselem.
“The settlers have lived on the outpost for many years with the authorities’ support, albeit without official approval,” the NGO added.
Gilad Farm outpost was established in April 2002, around one kilometre from Kedumim settlement. According to B’Tselem, “it forms part of a ring of settlements that chokes the city of Nablus, restricting Palestinian movement in the area”.
In the beginning, settlers erected four structures “on private land belonging to residents of the village of Far’ata”. After initially attempting to demolish these structures, by July 2003, Israeli occupation authorities desisted from any further demolition attempts.
Since then, the outpost has remained, with Israeli authorities turning a blind eye to “ongoing construction”, B’Tselem reported.
“In full view of the security forces,” the NGO explained, “the outpost expanded and now spans some 450 dunams [0.45 square kilometres] of farmland and pastureland under the private ownership of Palestinians from the villages of Far’ata, Tal and Jit.” There are now 75 buildings on site, mostly residential.
B’Tselem noted that “the settlers’ presence on the site and their seizure of land from the villages have been accompanied from the outset by violence against local Palestinians”, yet “the Israeli legal system has consistently refrained from taking any action against Israeli assailants from Gilad Farm.”
Even when soldiers are present during attacks against Palestinians, they often stand back and sometimes even take part in the attacks
This “method”, the rights group explains, “whereby settlers establish facts on the ground despite the supposed disapproval of official state arms”, is not unusual or unique.
“It constitutes a privatised and ostensibly independent mechanism of land seizure that is applied throughout the West Bank, enabling the state to establish and expand dozens of settlements while claiming internationally that it is not.”
Thus, B’Tselem continued, “the state manages to promote acts of settlement and expropriation while disassociate itself from them when necessary.”
“All the settlements, whether recognised or unofficial, are supported by government decisions,” the group concluded. “All the settlements violate international law, advance the expropriation project and gravely violate the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.”