Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Emblem of an Elemental Conflict: Seized West Bank Land

A sign in the West Bank that was put up by the Israeli government says, “State Lands — No Trespassing.” Credit Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

By ISABEL KERSHNER, NYT, SEPT. 9, 2014

WADI FUKIN, West Bank — At the edge of this small Palestinian village, an asphalt road turns into a dirt path that winds through a fertile valley where natural springs irrigate lush plots planted with a rich ratatouille of vegetables, as well as orchards and vines. Goats graze on the steep, rocky slopes, some bare and rugged, others planted with olive and almond trees and pines.

The veneer of pastoral serenity was shattered just over a week ago when a new crop suddenly dotted the hillsides: dozens of bright yellow plastic boards tied to metal stakes, printed with the logo of the Israeli military’s Civil Administration and in large, red Hebrew letters the words “State Lands — No Trespassing.”

The same warning appeared less prominently in small, black Arabic letters, as if to minimize the potential impact of a move that local Jewish settler leaders said could herald a new Jewish city in the area. Palestinians and anti-settlement groups like Peace Now described the action as possibly the biggest land grab in the occupied West Bank in 30 years.

The signs accompanied Israel’s formal declaration that it was laying claim to nearly 1,000 acres of territory in this area of the West Bank, prompting a storm of international criticism and a blunt call from the United States to reverse the decision. Wadi Fukin and four other villages directly affected by the announcement — Surif, Hussan, Jaba’a and Nahalin — instantly became the latest symbols of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, pared down to the elemental struggle over the land.

(More here.)

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