The takeover of a tract of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank by Israeli settlers has triggered rare intervention by the High Court of Justice in a case that exposes one of the means by which land theft and ethnic cleansing has been carried out in Palestine.
The land in question is more than 1,000 dunams (about 247 acres) in the northern Jordan Valley. According to details of the case revealed by Haaretz the land has been designated as a closed military zone since 1969, barring its Palestinian owners from entering it for more than 50 years. During this time, however, settlers were allowed to begin working it, including a date-growing company called Zorganika.
Since 2018 the rightful Palestinian owners of the land have been waiting on the enforcement of a court order for the military zone to be rescinded and for the illegal settlers to be evicted. The Israeli court issued the order following a petition by 20 Palestinian land owners.
The state now has 60 days to respond, after which another hearing will be held and the court will issue its verdict.
Apparently, settlers have worked the land for many years with the knowledge of the army, which permitted them to enter. Government agencies are said to have approved even though the land is privately owned by Palestinians but is being worked by Israelis, ostensibly under the auspices of a closure order issued for security reasons.
The petitioners' lawyer, Wissam George Asmar, dismissed the claim of security justifications for keeping the Palestinians out as "baseless." He argued that the land is next to the river, which is the border with Jordan, and Israel has a peace treaty with the kingdom and secondly that the settlers are in any case using Palestinian workers on the land.
Asmar also said that the settlers and the World Zionist Organisation, which initially allocated the stolen land, "worked behind the state's back" to carry out a "patently illegal transaction."