(CHICAGO) — Palestine belongs to Palestinians. They’re willing to settle for what lies within 1967 borders. It’s 22 percent of what they lost. They also rightfully claim East Jerusalem as their capital. It’s theirs, not Israel’s.
Israeli settlements are illegal. This article discusses Migron. It’s one of dozens of illegal Israeli outposts. More than 100 exist.
They were built without government authorization. International law doesn’t distinguish between settlements and outposts. They’re all illegal and have no right to exist. Israel spurns legal principles and does what it wishes. Why not when no one intervenes.
Israeli settlements, outposts, military areas, no-go zones, nature reserves, commercial areas, by-pass roads, tourist sites, checkpoints and other barriers comprise well over 50 of West Bank land and East Jerusalem.
More than half a millions settlers live on stolen Palestinian property. Many occupy illegal outposts, including Migron. It lies northeast of Jerusalem overlooking Route 60. It’s Israel’s largest outpost.
In 1999, it was built on privately owned Palestinian land. In 2002, it expanded. It’s home for more than 250 settlers. Israeli authorities never intervene to stop land theft or development. In fact, they aid and abet it.
The Ministry of Construction and Housing spent 4.3 million shekels for Migron’s infrastructure. No authorization approved it. In June 2006, Peace Now petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) to dismantle what never should have existed.
Government officials proposed building a neighborhood in Geva Binyamin settlement for Migron residents in exchange for evacuating the outpost.
Settlers said no. At the time, the HCJ refrained from ordering Migron dismantled. Government officials promised to “rapidly and effectively enforce planning and building laws.” They also called the outpost “unacceptable.”
Nonetheless, residents kept building. Nothing was done to stop them even though the HCJ said Migron violated Palestinians’ property rights.
In 1979, the HCJ’s Elon Moreh ruling prohibited seizing privately owned Palestinian land for settlement construction. Only so-called state land could be used even though no legal authority justifies classifying it that way.
Following the court ruling, Israel arbitrarily appropriated more than 900,000 dunums as state land. It was brazen theft. Doing so violated international law. Palestinians were denied the right to contest loss of their own property.
Israel also invented other new ways to steal land. For example, it appropriated Jordan Valley property belonging to absentee Palestinian owners. Other land was seized. It was used for dozens of settlements. Some were claimed necessary for “military needs.” Saying so was subterfuge for theft.
All settlements and outposts should be dismantled. Migron is one stain among many. On Aug. 2, 2011, the HCJ ordered it taken down by end of March 2012. It was the first such order since Elon Moreh was ordered shut in 1979.
The Court called Migron one of the most brazen examples of lawless development, saying, “The establishment of the outpost and its ongoing expansion are in clear and blatant defiance of the rule of law and infringe on the proprietary rights of the Palestinian landowners.
Eighteen months later nothing changed. Knesset hardliners delayed Migron’s demolition. Orders weren’t issued to do so. A deal gave settlers until 2015 to relocate. Rule of law principles and Israel’s High Court ruling were ignored.
By March 2015, settlers agreed to move to state-owned West Bank land. Their structures would either remain vacant or Israel’s military will claim them. Palestinians won’t get back property rightfully theirs, at least not without further court action.
In 2015, further delays may follow earlier ones. Perhaps new legislation will legitimize outposts and prevent evacuations and demolitions. Hardline Knesset members support virtually anything settlers wish. Palestinian rights are ignored to please them.
In the mid-1990s, settlers began establishing unauthorized outposts after Israel pledged no new settlements. Israel did nothing to stop them. Considerable aid was given for infrastructure, security and even planning.
In July 2012, things got worse. Netanyahu’s Levy committee rewrote international law. Its report claimed that occupation “as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades.”
“Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”
It recommended legitimizing illegal outposts. It said zoning officials should authorize them without further political approval. It urged no restraints on settlement construction.
Netanyahu praised the report. So did Knesset hardliners. Levy served earlier on Israel’s High Court. He represents decades of occupation injustice.
He claims the West Bank and East Jerusalem aren’t occupied territories. International law, jurists who support it and the International Court of Justice say otherwise.
Migron is a drop in an ocean of injustice. It symbolizes unbridled Israeli lawlessness. Land rights cut to the heart of Palestine’s liberating struggle.
One outpost is inconsequential. Settling it equitably, however, matters. Failure to do so legitimizes others. It also facilitates unrestrained settlement expansions.
A Glimmer of Hope or a False Positive?
On Aug. 29, Israel’s High Court again ordered Migron evacuated. Settlers were ordered out by September 4. The site was ordered cleared by September 11. Justices rejected a petition by 17 outpost families. They wrongfully claimed establishing Migron was legal.
They said land settled on was bought. Proof doesn’t support bluster. Evidence suggests purchase documents were forged. The Court said “purchases have nothing more than (an unsubstantiated) purchase.” Construction wasn’t authorized and is illegal.
The ruling came days after government officials apparently yielded. They agreed Migron has to go. Perhaps they’re willing to exchange one outpost for another on so-called state land by changing the subject.
During the Court hearing, state prosecutor representative Osmat Mandel explained the government’s new position. Migron settlers won’t be abandoned. They’ll be moved to newly built homes on alternate Palestinian land.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said it “expect(s) residents of Migron to respect the High Court’s ruling and evacuate on their own.” They issued a statement, saying, “It is a dark day for the State of Israel, a day that has seen the basic rights of right-wingers trampled. The High Court granted legitimacy to the ‘price tag’ tactics of the State Attorney’s office against settlers.”
“The Israeli government will not be able to clean itself of the brutal rape that took place under its nose, and which it did nothing to stop.”
They blamed Netanyahu personally, adding that he “joins in the eternal shame of the former prime ministers that decided to strike against the settlements. We are positive that Zionist Israelis will know who to blame for this.”
“Residents of Migron are holding their heads high on this difficult day, and believe that the settlements will grow and prosper, and that soon, the story of Migron will end in at least two new settlements!”
Israel’s Yesha Council is a hardline umbrella settlement organization. It accused the HCJ of “not really being open to hear” Migron residents side of the story, adding, “We will not give up because of this. On the contrary: We will double our efforts to legitimize the land in upper Migron, and we will settle there again, faster than people think.”
Peace Now issued a statement saying, “The High Court’s decision is a victory for law and order over the illegal settlements in the West Bank. The decision transforms Migron from a symbol of defiance and lawlessness into a symbol for the preservation of Israeli democracy.”
“The court ruling is a beacon of light for Israeli society, proves that the settlers are not above the law, and that the West Bank is not abandoned territory. Peace Now sees the court ruling as an important achievement for all those who believe in a two state solution, and the rules of democracy.”
It remains to be seen whether Migron’s story end here or if new chapters remain to be written. On September 2, Israeli radio said settlers there began leaving of their own accord. Haaretz said within a few hours they were gone.
Longstanding battle lines aren’t dismantled. Well over 200 other settlements and outposts keep expanding. Justice for Palestinians remains distant. Their liberating struggle continues.