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  • Israelis mourn next to graves of relatives in a cemetery, before the exhumation of graves as part of Israel

    Israelis mourn next to graves of relatives in a cemetery, before the exhumation of graves as part of Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 February 2018

A researcher behind the report said decision to situate cemeteries on private Palestinian land, some distance away from their homes, wasn't a coincidence.

A left-wing Israeli non-profit research group has exposed yet another Israeli strategy for the expropriation of Palestinian land, finding that 40 percent of Jewish settler graves in illegal West Bank settlements are on privately-owned Palestinian land, left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday.

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The new findings rely on a study carried out by Kerem Navot, an Israeli non-profit organization which conducts comprehensive land-use research, and Dror Etkes who has closely followed the Israeli settlement and land management policy in the West Bank since 2002. 

The research detailed that up until mid-1980s, there were only two Jewish cemeteries in the West Bank, both of which were purchased by Jews before 1948. Per Etkes who mapped the territory in June 2017, using aerial photography, there are now nearly 32 Jewish cemeteries with at least two graves, scattered around the occupied West Bank region. 

The research, which is based on the Israeli Civil Administration’s Geographical Information System, also found that it was quite common to use this method of land expropriation to establish settlements until a 1979 Supreme Court decision on the Elon Moreh settlement which ruled that the Israeli army could acquire land solely for military purposes and not for settlement-building.

But after the seizure of the lands, the army denies the original owners the right to make use of the lands until a "security situation" passes.

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Etkes told Haaretz that the decision to situate the cemeteries on private Palestinian land, some distance away from their homes, wasn't a coincidence.

"I work on the assumption that there are always deliberate intentions afoot," he said, adding the placement of a cemetery "is not chosen for no reason. It is a very long-term investment – and in Judaism, whoever buries people in a certain place does so on the understanding they will not be removed.  

"Obviously, there is deliberate intent lurking behind the location of these cemeteries, and it may be assumed that whoever buries the dead on private Palestinian land knows exactly what he’s doing." 

In the 2007 book "Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007," authors, Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar wrote that the first Palestinian Intifada was the catalyst for cemetery-building in the settlements.

"Death was political, and it was formulated and interpreted as a life-giving elixir,” they stated. “The grave reinforced the foundations of the home and extended the roots farther into the ground. Life is mobile and can exist in many places. The finality of the grave, it's being the terminal site, endows it with a numinous dimension that says ‘Touch me not'."

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According to the data, nearly 1,370 Jews are buried in the West Bank cemeteries. 

Of the total number of Jewish graves in the West Bank, 32 percent is on privately-owned Palestinian land taken for public use, while 27 percent of the graves are on the land declared state-owned by the Israeli authorities, but still illegally obtianed under international law. 

Some of the largest number of graves built on territory declared as Israel state lands are found in Israel-occupied territories of Ariel and Karnei Shomron, both contain 100 graves, and another in Kedumim, a town located in the Samarian hills of the West Bank, which has nearly 50 graves.

Whereas, five of the cemeteries built on private Palestinian land, contain 78 graves in Kochav Hashahar, Psagot, Mehola, Hinanit Shaked, and Yitzhar.

Israeli Jewish-only settlements are in direct violation of international law which states that an occupying force, in this case Israel, is prohibited from transferring its population into the lands it militarily occupies.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem who tend to be ultra-conservative Jewish people that reject the idea of a Palestinian people or state and believe that the West Bank should be part of a larger Israeli state.


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