Historic Photos: Israeli Settlements and Palestinian Sumud

Presented below are a series of rare and historic photographs donated to the Institute for Palestine Studies by the Foundation for Middle East Peace. The photographs date from the early 1980’s as the rate of Israeli settlement growth on the West Bank accelerated. Many of the photographs were published in Prescription for Conflict: Israel’s West Bank Settlement Policy (Washington, D.C.: Foundation for Middle East Peace, 1984). Attendant captions in italics are from Prescription for Conflict or were printed on the backside of the photographs.

On the Pathway to Greater Israel 

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The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture provided buses for prospective settlers to visit settlements: Bus from Hadera (not far from Ceasarea half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa.) Sign on the bus reads: “A nice land; an operation for the encouragement of the settlement in Eretz (Greater) Israel. Ministry of Agriculture.” 

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1983 advertisement in The Jerusalem Post. Promoters place colorful double-page settlement advertisements extolling the spacious yards, beautiful scenery and all the advantages of suburbia. Unable to find a sufficient number of ideologically committed Israelis, the government now seeks to attract settlers with massive subsidies. The cost of Israel’s settlement program is estimated at $300,000,000 annually. 

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The access highways are built to avoid all the Palestinian towns. Settlers complain at sharing buses with Palestinians, and that Palestinians do not relinquish their seats to settlers. 

Ma’ale Adumim, in September 1982, when it was dedicated as a planned community of 10,000 housing units. 1,500 families were attracted to Ma’ale Adumin in 1983. It has 18 kindergartens, 75 small factories, three synagogues. 

By September 1983, the number of housing (family) units in all West Bank settlements (occupied, vacant, and under construction) was 12,427. Israel’s settlement budget exceeds that for education. Many Israelis are alarmed at the impact of settlements expenditures on both defense and social service needs. 
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The Settlements 

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The settlement of Kiryat Arba, overlooking Hebron. In 1968 Gush Emunim activists sat in downtown Hebron in defiance of Israeli government policy. They were given permission to move into a military base on the outskirts of the city. In 1970 this base was legalized as a regular civilian settlement and its borders expanded. [Former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem] Meron Benvenisti writes of “the existing tension in  the Hebron area, where a community of Israeli zealots (Kiryat Arba) numbering 3,500 persons terrorizes and controls a population of 70,000 Palestinians. 

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Karnei Shomron settlement. The sign on the building left reads “No more retreat.” The sign on the building right reads “Yamit [Israeli settlement in Sinai, Egypt dismantled by Israel in 1982 after the 1979 Camp David accords] will never fall again.” 

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Construction underway at the Efrat settlement, ten miles south of Jerusalem. Plans for Efrat were drawn up under the Labor Government in 1975. The Begin government launched Efrat in 1978 as one of three large settlements to ring Jerusalem. There is little contact between the West Bank settlers and Palestinian residents. Most settlements are surrounded by barbed wire. One half of West Bank settlers commute to work within Israel.
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New settlement of Herodian, south of Jerusalem.
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Anatot, northeast of Jerusalem.

After [U.S] President [Ronald] Reagan called for a freeze on settlements in September 1982, trailers were brought in to speed this new settlement.

From The New York Review of Books:

It began with a visit by a small group of about 15 Israeli peace activists, mostly from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement and Ta’ayush, to Yasin Abu-Saleh al-Rifa’i, a Palestinian who owns a plot of land that, to his misfortune, has been included in the area of this large Israeli settlement, which was founded in 1982 and now has a population of nearly 1,000. The Israeli courts have repeatedly confirmed al-Rifa’i’s title to this land, and over the years he has tried to keep his claim alive by planting olive trees there—which are always uprooted immediately by the settlers—and by making continuous visits to the site. (Under Israeli law, land that is not cultivated by its owner for three consecutive years reverts to the state.) Al-Rifa’i and his wife have been repeatedly threatened and sometimes viciously attacked by settlers.

On the morning of September 30 [2011], the activists accompanied him to the rocky hillside that is still nominally his; they were carrying with them a Palestinian flag. The Anatot settlers seemed to have known ahead of time about the visit, and within minutes, a large contingent of them—estimates range from 60 to 100—arrived and attacked the group. First they cracked open Yasin’s head and attacked his wife, breaking her ribs, and then they beat the Israeli activists with clubs and rocks. Many were injured; four were hospitalized (Yasin himself is still recuperating), and, as usual, some activists—in this case three of them—were arrested (generally, settlers are above the law).

From the West Bank: When Brutality Enters the Mainstream 

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Palestinians in the foreground.

The Palestinians in the Shadow of Settlements

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One thousand acres of land were confiscated in March 1980 from the Arab villages of Hizma and Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, for the settlement of South Neve Yacov. 

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Ain Yabrud resident points to his fruit trees enclosed within the barbed-wire perimeter of the Ofra settlement, 12 miles north of Jerusalem. Ofra began as a “work camp” in early 1975 when Defense Minister Shimon Peres of the Labor Government authorized “overnight lodging” at a former Jordanian Army camp near Ain Yabrud. The Begin government subsequently allowed Gush Emunim settlers to expand Ofra on adjacent privately owned Palestinian land. 

From Israeli human rights group B’Tselem:

In a dramatic decision, Israel’s High Court of Justice (former President A. Grunis, President M. Naor, and Justice I. Amit) ruled [on 8 February 2015] that the state must carry out demolition orders issued for nine illegal structures built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Ofra. The Court accepted the petition filed by Palestinian residents of nearby villages . . .

Unlike in other cases concerning illegal Israeli construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank, the state claimed in this petition that due to “special circumstances”, the usual priorities for enforcement . . .  did not apply in this case. The “special circumstances”, the state explained, were that most structures in Ofra had been unlawfully erected on privately-owned Palestinian land, i.e. their status was almost identical to that of the nine structures under examination. The state’s problematic argument was that as almost the entire settlement of Ofra had been built on privately-owned Palestinian land, there was no justification to demolish those particular nine structures – although they were new and the petition was filed before they were completed. Therefore, the state argued, the fate of the nine structures would be determined along with the rest of the settlement, through negotiations on a permanent-status agreement with the Palestinians. State representatives referred to Ofra throughout the court sessions as “the largest illegal outpost in the West Bank”.

Last night, the Court rejected the state’s position and ordered execution of the demolition orders issued for the nine structures.

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The Hadasha settlement, six miles northwest of Jerusalem, founded in late 1979, includes land taken from the Sabri Gharib family… The Gharibs struggle to hold their remaining land.

Sabri Gharib, whose wife is pictured here and whose family has been working their land for generations, recounts experiences common to West Bank farmers: the Israelis High Court of Justice has issued three different restraining orders intended to protect him and his family of eleven from settler harassment; in the two years 1981-1982 he and his family were beaten three times, arrested, jailed or detained eight times, twice had identity cards confiscated, received threats to demolish their home, and were harassed in other ways, including being fired upon. 

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Saleh Hassounea struggles to hold his farm bordering the Beit-El settlement (background) near Ramallah. In litigation involving Palestinian lands taken for this settlement, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the Hague Convention of 1907 is applicable to the West Bank, that Israel’s status is that of a belligerent occupier with limited and temporary rights, and that “permanent” Israeli settlements are prohibited. 

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Mohammed Darwish [pictured left] and family work their tomato field beneath the Efrat settlement (October 1983). Twenty dunams of their land were “closed” for “security” reasons in 1979 and subsequently used for the settlement. Darwish has been told by Efrat settlers that his remaining land “will, in time, be a playground for our school.” 

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The Gilo settlement, with home of Halima Abdul Nabi in foreground. Mrs. Nabi, a 70-year old Palestinian widow, once had a four-room home on a 12-dunam (three acre) fruit orchard. In 1970 her land was confiscated for “public purposes”. In 1976, without notice, bulldozers uprooted her orchard, and settlement construction commenced. The pictured staircases went through her washroom and kitchen. Mrs. Nabi was imprisoned for three days for resisting the taking of her land. She is left with two room and one tree.

From the Journal of Palestine Studies:

This displacement of Palestinians from the Holy City was achieved by two methods. First, the use of a terror campaign in 1948 to evict the Palestinians from their homes and villages in what is now called West Jerusalem. The second method utilized a legal process, developed after 1967, by which privately-owned Palestinian land was confiscated for “public purposes.” “Public” refers to the Israeli public, and the “purpose” is the establishment of exclusive Jewish residential fortress colonies being built in East Jerusalem.

From Palestinian to Israeli: Jerusalem 1948-1982

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Israeli sentry in downtown Hebron. The influence of the Gush Emunim [settlement] on Israeli policy in the occupied territories has been substantial. “To Tell the truth,” says a Gush Emunim settler from nearby Kiryat Arba, “we want them to leave. And if they stay, they have to accept that this is a Jewish country, not an Arab one. They will have to accept being ruled by us.” 
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To learn more about Israeli settlements, visit the Institute for Palestine Studies’ Special Focus on Settler Violence in Palestine a series of articles on settlements , their history, expansion, and corollary of dispossession and violence. For the most comprehensive source on Israeli settlements, check out Settlement Monitor, which is updated quarterly on our website and originally published in the Journal of Palestine Studies (the most recent Settlement Monitor may be found here).  The Institute for Palestine Studies was one of the first research centers to translate The Karp Report: An Israeli Government Inquiry into Settler Violence Against Palestinians on the West Bank (1984) into English and we’re pleased to announce it is available for purchase in our Bookstore.

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By Khelil Bouarrouj.