in the occupied West Bank, the genesis of a colony
The Lisson family is hard at work on this day in the heart of summer. With six children in their legs, the adults are arranging a patch of land on a hill in Samaria, in the occupied West Bank. There is already a tent, a table, chairs and a gazebo on their plot, the seed of a new Israeli settlement on a centuries-old agricultural terrace.
The place was given a name: Ma’ale Yonatan. Below is the settlement of Revava, established in 1991. Mother Serah, 36, points to the nearby Palestinian village: “If we don’t get here, they’ll take this land, and the state won’t do anything. » The town, Kifl Haris, has been on official records since 1517; but here, the cadastre comes up against divine law. The Lissons are part of 300 Israeli families ready to settle overnight on bits of land deemed strategic. With a purpose: “Jenin is ours, Ramallah is ours – one day the people of Israel will settle all over Israel” declares, to applause, Zvi Elimelech Sharbaf, co-director of Nachala.
Rising attacks and impunity
On July 20, this organization of young colonies announced very publicly the creation of ten of these outposts, illegal colonies under Israeli law and international law. During months of scouting, groups climbed the hills of Judea and Samaria to understand the topology and learn the history of the places. They consider the Palestinians incidental and see them as invaders who undermine the sovereignty of the State of Israel by “building out of control”.
A publicity stunt
Building an outpost requires religious fervor and elbow grease. But the battle is also for the hearts and votes of Israelis engaged in an endless electoral cycle. Of the 1.5 million euros collected by the organization – a record that includes large sums, a sign that the cause is attracting generous new patrons. The Zionist religious movement is fashionable: its representatives in the Knesset, to whom Benjamin Netanyahu makes the short scale, are gaining ground among the ultra-Orthodox, and even among certain secular Jews.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz had announced that no outposts would be allowed. But despite a reinforced police presence, the settlers were not prevented from passing. Only a few activists from a moribund peace camp intervened, determined to mobilize more firmly. « Writing reports is no longer enough », judge Mauricio Lapchik, of the organization Peace Now.
The power let the settlers set up five outposts, before dismantling everything in the middle of the night, when the cameras were still asleep. Around 3 a.m., the Lissons were forced to put everything back in their car and drive home to the nearby settlement of Rehelim. Victory given, for Serah: “My husband, my children and I, next week, we are leaving, there or elsewhere. »
In this intra-Israeli charivari, the Palestinians are absent. Wednesday, at the exit of the industrial zone of Ariel, clusters of men observed, between fear and disbelief, the hundreds of settlers walking. Here, the employees are Palestinian, the chefs are Israeli. We work in harmony, “we discuss almost everything” says Nidal, 50 – but never in Arabic.
He was 6 years old when one of the oldest and most populous Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Ariel, was founded, partly on his family’s land. Starting from nothing, this planned city now has 20,000 inhabitants, double the number of its native village of Salfit. The university accommodates 10,000 students. Built in the middle of the West Bank, between Nablus and Ramallah, Ariel is less than 45 minutes from Tel Aviv, by a well-maintained four-way that cuts in two and eludes the Palestinian state. This fragmentation is the real success of the settlements – and illustrates first of all a state project, supported by all governments since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967. « In fact, here is already Israel » concludes Nidal.
More and more attacks against Palestinians
On June 21, Ali Harb, a 27-year-old Palestinian, was killed, stabbed in the heart by a settler, during an altercation during one of these reconnaissances.
Settler attacks on Palestinian property and person increased by more than 50% between 2020 and 2021, according to UN figures.
This violence is committed with impunity, which is inseparable from the Israeli security system: the Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din estimates that 97% of cases are never prosecuted.