Saturday, March 31, 2012
Today, on “Land Day,” Israel should rethink its discriminatory land-use policies
Human Rights Watch
March 30, 2012
"(Jerusalem) – Where two villages once stood just inside Israel’s border with Lebanon, the only structures remaining are the two Catholic churches. Former residents of Iqrit and Kafr Bir’im return to worship, marry, and bury their dead. But they can’t move back.
While Palestinian aspirations for a state on the land Israel occupied in 1967 are well known, the importance of land to the Palestinian minority within Israel, some 20 percent of the country’s population, is often overlooked. March 30 is marked by Palestinians as “Land Day,” a pivotal event in their struggle against discriminatory land policies.
In November 1948, the Haganah – the pre-Israel Zionist military force – rounded up the residents of Iqrit and Kafr Bir’im and expelled them. Fighting in the area had already ended, and the villagers put up no resistance. Haganah officers told them that the expulsions were temporary.
In 1951, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the state must allow the uprooted villagers to go home. The military then declared the villages “closed military areas,” to defend the border region against armed infiltrators. The court scheduled a new hearing on Iqrit for February 1952, but on Christmas Day, 1951, the army blew up all the houses there. In January 1952, the court decided that the residents of Kafr Bir’in could return once they obtained the military’s permission. The army never granted it, and blew up the village in September 1953. The churches were left standing....."