There is a policy in the occupied Palestinian Territories of demolishing people’s houses, confiscating their land and building new houses (for Israelis) on it. There is a policy in the occupied Palestinian Territories of restricting people’s freedom of movement in a way that going to a hospital or visiting family members becomes an arduous task or sometimes is impossible. The policies are clearly visible in the governorate of Bethlehem:
In Wadi Fukin Palestinians are only allowed to build on less than 300 Dunams, while nearby Israeli settlement Beitar Illit, which dumps its sewage on the village’s agricultural land, is built on over 4000 Dunams. Only in February a farmer had to witness how the military uprooted more than 100 of his olive trees on his own land. Land, which Israel has designated state land and which could be used for settlement expansion.
Read article about Wadi Fukin here (scroll down to main article).
In Nahalin the Nassar family has been fighting in court for more than 20 years against land confiscation by Israel. The family’s land is located on a hilltop, surrounded by several, constantly expanding settlements. And only recently has the military installed a new gate on the road to Hebron, which is now definitely blocked and forces people to make a long detour.
In Al Walaja inhabitants will be surrounded completely by the barrier, once it is completed. The village has lost more than 75 percent of its land to Israel since 1948, either during wars or by land confiscation for Israeli settlements, the wall and a national park. Court cases to prevent more house demolitions are still ongoing.
An Nu’man has been allocated to Jerusalem but is inhabited by Palestinians with a Westbank ID. The village has its own checkpoint and only the approximately 200 people registered as living there as well as internationals are allowed to enter. This means that family members and friends from outside cannot visit. This also means that people who get married have to move out and this also means that in an emergency, an ambulance is not allowed into the village.
In Khallet Sakariya several houses have been demolished in the past years and many more structures are threatened by demolition orders, which also include water tanks and street signs. Only lately two demolition orders were handed out to two farmers, who built houses on their private land.
On the UN map you can see that all those villages are located west or southwest of Bethlehem in the same area as the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. This includes settlements such as Beitar Illit, Neve Daniel, Efrat and Nokedim. Construction work there is ongoing and new houses spring up like mushrooms. A tendency that is not due to stop in the near future as Israel sold a high amount of land for construction in the occupied Palestinian Territories recently. Another look at the map makes clear that the planned route of the separation barrier will allocate all these settlements as well as all the Palestinian villages surrounded by them to its Israeli side.
There is a clear policy of preventing new construction, demolishing houses and confiscating land in Palestinian areas as well as discriminating against villagers (as in An’Numan). The combination of settlement expansion and these policies make it apparent how endangered the future of Palestinian villages around Bethlehem is. The question remains what will become of the people who live there.