By: George Kurzom
Rotem settlement in the Jordan Valley - Israeli occupation's control of the Palestinian agricultural landscape under the guise of ecological settlement
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
The Israeli colonists in the West Bank have been working systematically, recently, towards classifying many Palestinian natural and agricultural areas as resorts and places for recreational trips.
According to this colonial classification, many of the looted Palestinian lands were incorporated into their natural environment. The process of land theft was marketed as a form of environmental-“ecological settlement”, including green buildings, organic agriculture, and beautiful and attractive landscapes; whereas the Palestinian farmers, with their traditional agricultural practices in harmony with the surrounding natural environment, were the ones who, for centuries, maintained a balanced ecological system in those areas that were characterized as fertile agricultural lands planted by the Palestinians with various rich crops.
The settlers, however, tend to market the natural scenes, as if they are part of the normal life, free of any national liberation struggle waged by the Palestinian people.
Settlers market themselves as "protectors" of the environment and nature, claiming that Palestinians pose constant threats to the environment and spread unplanned waste incineration sites, letting sewage flow into Israel. While the main reason for these phenomena is the so-called civil administration of the occupation, which prevents Palestinians from developing modern infrastructure to deal with environmental threats and solve the problem of waste and wastewater.
The continuous destruction that settlers inflict on nature and open Palestinian lands during their settlement activity is of no importance for these “environmentally friendly” settlement organizations and associations. Ironically, many of these Zionist institutions and associations, such as the “Society for the Protection of Nature” and the “Jewish National Fund”, define themselves as "green" and are at the same time deeply involved in the occupation.
The colonial control over the agricultural landscape has become a prominent feature in past few years in the context of settlement expansion and spread throughout the West Bank.
In the Jordan Valley Palestinian areas in particular, this process started long time ago, since the seventies and eighties until now, due to the agricultural nature of the Jordan Valley settlements.
The establishment of those “settlement farms” became an “innovative” colonial method for plundering Palestinian lands and legitimizing the process of land theft.
More than ten years ago, the occupation (through the so-called “Israeli civil administration”) invented what it called “pastoralist settlements” in order to establish settlements in various parts of the West Bank, where they controlled large areas of Palestinian land and established farms for raising and grazing livestock .Those lands were tightly closed, and Palestinian farmers were prevented from going to them to cultivate their livestock, as they had been doing for hundreds of years (Haaretz 6/9/2022).
In the first stage, the Israeli civil administration aims to legitimize about 40 “pastoralist settlements”, knowing that there are currently about 50 similar settlements in the West Bank almost 240,000 dunams, or about 7% of the area of the so-called Area C (Haaretz 6/9/2022).The new colonial philosophy is focused on the deepening of settlement and its control over the largest possible areas of land with the fewest number of settlers.
Resorts and entertainment in the presence of aggression and looting
In recent years, ِAfaq environmental magazine has documented the systematic expulsion of Palestinians from their agricultural areas; as well as springs areas. Palestinians were uprooted and removed from their springs that had served them for hundreds of years.
The settlers often turn those springs and agricultural areas into alleged Jewish religious sites, or memorial sites for those killed by Palestinian resistance operations.
Many of the lands planted with olive trees have become sites of violent clashes, where the Palestinians face the settlers’ gangs who attack them with protection of the occupation army and police.
Various forms of non-stop, continuous settler attacks against Palestinian farmers, especially the systematic uprooting of Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley, the systematic uprooting and burning of trees, and the destruction of Palestinian crops and spraying or burning them with toxic chemicals.
With this settler aggression, throngs of Israelis come weekly to stay at the settlement resorts and entertainment sites, visit wineries, and hike the tourist trails.
A large part of the Jordan Valley lands is defined by the occupation authorities as “natural reserves” and “military training areas.” And so, Palestinians, especially shepherds and farmers, are prevented from entering these areas.
The Israeli occupation army is constantly demolishing the buildings built by the Palestinians, while the settlements in the area grow, and the settlers enjoy free access to and cultivate the looted agricultural land.
The Israeli settlement frames work intensively towards expanding the settlers’ control over large additional areas of Palestinian land, and thus a continuous increase in the volume of construction and the expansion of the “border” of settlements, and the deepening and consolidation of the Israeli colonial presence in various parts of the West Bank.
The main goal of all this wide settlement expansion is to prevent the Palestinian expansion in the so-called “Area C” (which is under absolute Israeli control according to the colonial division), this expansion that Israel considers “illegal.”
The settlers make annual new establishments, holdings and agricultural projects to protect the land they have seized from the Palestinian "invasions," as they claim.
Last year, the settlement leadership established “land committee” in each settlement, with the aim of establishing settlement projects and stimulating the activity of the so-called “young settlement pioneers.”
The “Jewish National Fund” (Hebrew: “Keren Kayemet Leyisrael”), which defines itself as a “green” institution, not only actively supports settlement activity, but has intensified its efforts, in recent years, to seize lands in the West Bank and control the largest possible areas of Palestinian land.
This colonial institution is considered one of the most powerful tools of the Zionist institution to seize and Judaize Palestinian lands in the occupied territories in 1948.
Continuing its long-term colonial policy, the National Fund has finally changed its bylaws so that it can seize Palestinian land in the West Bank and use it to expand settlements.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh