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The Wall From A Historical Perspective: A Land Without A People




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“Except for the extermination of the Tasmanians, modern history recognizes no cases in which the virtually complete supplanting of the indigenous population of a country by an alien stock has been achieved in as little as two generations.  Yet this, in fact, is what has been attempted in Palestine since the beginning of the 20th century.   … Our natural tendency to assume that what exists today has always been, may afford us a psychic peace but only at the terrible cost of denying reality.  And once historic reality has been denied, our capacity to understand and react meaningfully to the present is similarly destroyed.”[1]  

“Transfer” – a euphemism denoting the organized removal of the Palestinian Arab population of Palestine to neighboring or distant countries or to small confined areas within Occupied Palestinian Territory – is deeply rooted in Zionism and in Zionist practice.  Far from being an extreme right-wing slogan or recent practice, “transfer” policies have been carried out since the formation of the state of Israel and continue to the present day.  Indeed, Israel’s unstated transfer policies have been so successful that Moshe Dayan, Israeli Defense Minister, stated in 1969:

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. …There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”[2]

The latest step in pursuing the policy of transfer is Israel’s so-called “security” wall – an undertaking which highlights Israel’s long-time goal of confiscating as much Palestinian land as possible while removing as many Palestinians as possible.




1948 and its aftermath:

Israeli forces expel, or cause to flee approximately 800,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims[3] (amounting to 75% of the Arab population of what became Israel).  Israel has never allowed them to return because of their religious/ethnic identity. [4]  


May to June 1949:

 Israel expels over 5,000 Palestinians into the West Bank.[5]


June 1950:

 Israel forcibly removes 2,700 Palestinians living in al-Majdal (now Ashkelon), “transferring” them to the Gaza Strip.[6]



 Israel expels the residents of 13 Palestinian villages into the West Bank.[7]


1949 to 1953:

Israel expels approximately 17,000 Palestinian Bedouin from the Negev into the Sinai.[8]


October 1956:

Israel expels between 2,000 to 5,000 Palestinians from the villages of Krad al-Ghannamah and Krad al-Baqqarah to Syria.[9]

June 1967:

Israel occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Israeli forces expel or force to flee over 300,000 Palestinians.  Israel has never allowed them to return because of their religious/ethnic identity.

1967 to 2002:

Israel deports over 1,500 Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.[10]



1948 and its aftermath:

Following the expulsion of 75% of the Palestinian population, Israel attempts to destroy any evidence of the previous population.  Israel destroys more than 418 Palestinian villages, including homes, mosques, churches, schools and businesses and in some cases, even cemeteries.[11]



Following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in June 1967:

  • Israel demolishes 135 homes in the al-Magharbeh quarter in East Jerusalem (800 acres[12] ), giving the 1,000 residents only a few minutes’ notice before the area is razed. [13] 

  • Israel demolishes the Latrun Valley towns of Bayt Nuba, 'Imwas and Yalu near the Green Line, leaving 10,000 Palestinians homeless. [14]

  • Israel razes the West Bank cities of Bayt Marsam, Bayt 'Awa, Habla and Jifliq.[15]

1967 to 2000:

 Israel demolishes approximately 8,000 Palestinian homes, including more than 900 demolished after the signing of the Oslo Agreements. [16] 

2000 to 2003:

 Israel demolishes more than 1,200 homes, leaving thousands of Palestinians homeless.[17]


To make way for the “security” wall, Israel has already demolished 124 businesses and 7 homes in Nazlat Issa alone and destroyed 546 greenhouses.[18]  

Israel has announced that it will create a “buffer zone” between the wall and Palestinian cities.  The “buffer zone” is expected to be between 50 to 180 meters from the wall.  In order to create the “buffer zone” Israel will undoubtedly demolish homes, as it has already demolished nurseries, greenhouses, and uprooted trees and crops.  In the governorate of Qalqilya, eight homes have already received demolition orders due to their proximity to the “buffer zone.”



1948 and its aftermath:

Prior to the 1948 war, Palestinians owned approximately 87.5% of the total area of Palestine (now Israel), while Jews owned only 6.6%.  Following the creation of the state of Israel, Israel enacted legislation to expropriate the land of Palestinian citizens of Israel.  The resulting effect:

  • Israeli expropriation of nearly 1 million acres of land belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel.  This figure comprises almost one-half of the land owned by these citizens;[19] 

  • A reduction in the average size of each remaining Palestinian village inside Israel from 2,275 acres in 1948 to 500 acres in 1974;[20] 

  • A reduction in the per capita land held by Palestinian citizens of Israel from 4.125 acres in 1948 to 0.125 acres in 1997;[21] 

  • 75% of all land-owning Palestinian citizens of Israel have had land expropriated by Israel.[22]

The Palestinian citizens of Israel, although comprising nearly 20% of Israel’s population, are not entitled to purchase or even rent approximately 80% of the land of Israel.[23]


1967 to present:

Israel expropriates approximately 41.9% of the Occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.  There are now more than 370,000 settlers[24] living in more than 160 colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [25]        

  • Since 1993, after the signing of the Oslo Agreements, the settler population increased 80% from approximately 200,000 to 370,000;[26] 

  • The number of housing starts in the Occupied West Bank (not including East Jerusalem) increased by 52% during that same period;[27] 

  • Since 2001, as the world focuses its attention on “violence,” the Sharon government has built 102 new colonies[28]


The construction of the “security” wall will result in the de facto annexation of up to 55% of the Occupied West Bank, as the wall is not being built on the Green Line but well within Palestinian Territory.  Prime Palestinian agricultural land will be annexed well into Israel.  No Israeli colonies will be dismantled. Rather, Israel intends to expand existing colonies and build new ones. 

Seize Agricultural Land and Water Resources
1967 and its aftermath:

Following Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in 1967:

  • Israel outlaws the drilling of any wells by Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;[29] 

  • Israel confiscates all water resources, declaring them Israeli state property. [30]


The expropriation of water continues:

  • The Israeli water authority takes control of water distribution in the Occupied West Bank.  Palestinian wells are destroyed, and supplies dry up due to digging and pumping from deeper wells for Israeli use.[31]

Israel controls over 90% of the springs of the Occupied West Bank.  Palestinians now consume less than the World Health Organization’s specified minimum standard of 100 liters per capita per day and more than 3.5 times less than the 350 liters per capita per day consumed by Israelis. [32]



The first phase wall will continue to deprive Palestinians of their natural resources:

  • Approximately 11,700 Palestinians, living in 11 towns, will live west of the wall (between the wall and the Green Line), while their land (689.5 acres) will be east of the wall;[33]   


  • Approximately 20,000 Palestinians, living in 29 towns, will live east of the wall, while their land (approximately 25,000 acres) will be west of the wall, and will be de facto annexed by Israel; [34] 

  • The wall will separate 50 underground water wells from their owners and from the thousands of people who rely on them for drinking and agriculture; [35]

  • More than 30,000 meters of irrigation network and water pipelines have been destroyed;[36] 

  • More than 100,000 trees have already been uprooted (of which 83,000 are olive trees), causing serious damage to more than 2,500 acres of land. [37]


Impose Militarily-Enforced Curfews

1948 to 1966:

Palestinian citizens of Israel are subjected to military curfew in which they are confined to their homes, requiring Israeli permission to move from city to city.[38]



 Israel imposes curfew on Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, imprisoning Palestinians in their homes. [39]



Israel re-imposes curfew on 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank.  The resulting effect is an unemployment rate of 63.3%, and poverty resting at 70%.[40]



Palestinian towns situated between the Green Line and the wall risk being declared “closed military zones,” meaning that the residents will be unable to leave their homes to work.  The resulting effect will be a gradual migration eastward as Palestinians, who are denied access to their land and businesses, attempt to survive.

[1] Janet Abu-Lughod, The Demographic Transformation of Palestine (1971).

[2] Ha’aretz, 4 April 1969.

3 United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Historical Survey of Efforts of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine to Secure the Implementation of Paragraph 11 of General Assembly Resolution 194 (III), U.N. Doc.  A/AC.25/W.81/Rev.2 (1961).

[4] U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194(III) of 1948 demands that Palestinian refugees be entitled to return to their homes.  This Resolution has been reaffirmed every year by the U.N. since 1948.  A condition of Israel’s acceptance into the U.N. was its fulfillment of this Resolution, yet Israel has failed to comply for more than 55 years.  To date, Israel has not allowed a single refugee to return to his/her home.

[5] Nur Masalha, A Land Without a People 8 (1997).

[6] Id. at 9.

[7] Id. at 11.

[8] Id.

[9] The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling upon Israel to allow these Palestinians to return to their homes (U.N. S.C. Res. 93 (1951)). Israel has never allowed the Palestinians to return.

[10] See B’Tselem, Statistics on Deportation at http://www.btselem.org/English/Deportation/Statistics.asp

[11] Walid Khalidi, All That Remains xx (1992).  Moshe Dayan, former Israeli Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense, at a lecture in Haifa in 1969 explicitly stated that:  "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu'a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population." 

[12] Approximately 3,200 dunums (4 dunums = 1 acre).

[13] Nur Masalha, A Land Without a People 81 (1997).

[14] Id.  Canada Park, a park funded by the Canadian Jewish National Fund was created on the site of the three bulldozed villages.

[15] Id.

[16] Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, http://www.rebuildinghomes.org

[17] Id.

[18] PARC, supra note 33, at 4.

[19] Nur Masalha, A Land Without a People 136 (1997).

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id. at 137.

[23] Adalah, Press Release:  UN Committee Deeply Concerned about Persisting Inequalities between Jewish and Arab Citizens of Israel, 28 May 2003.  http://www.adalah.org/eng/pressreleases/pr.php?file=03_05_28

[24] There are approximately 7,000 settlers living in the Gaza Strip, 168,872 in East Jerusalem and 201,300 settlers in the remainder of the West Bank.  For data on the settler population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), see Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Population in Urban Localities and Other Geographical Divisions, 2002, www.cbs.gov.il/population/new_2002/tab_1.pdf .  For data on the settler population in East Jerusalem, see Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, Spotlight on Jerusalem 1 (2003).  The Institute estimates that 38% of the Jewish population of Jerusalem lives in Occupied East Jerusalem.  www.jiis.org.il/spotlight.jpg

[25] Approximately 130 in the West Bank, 12 in East Jerusalem and 16 in the Gaza Strip.

[26] The settler population in the West Bank (excluding Occupied East Jerusalem) was 111,600 in 1993 and rose to 191,600 in 2000.  For 1993 statistics, see:  Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (1996) www.cbs.gov.il/archive/shnaton52/st02_07.pdf.  For 2000 statistics, see: Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (2001) www.cbs.gov.il/archive/shnaton47/st02-08.gif

[27] Source:  U.S. Presses Israel on Outposts and Prisoners, Ha’aretz, 9 July 2003 at 1.

[28] See Molly Moore, In the 'Wild East’ Israel Grows a Hilltop at a Time, International Herald Tribune , December 9, 2002.  http://www.iht.com/articles/79633.html

[29] See Israel Military Order 92, (15 August 1967) which transfers authority over the water resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the Israeli military commander.  Israel Military Order 158 (19 November 1967) forbids the construction of new water infrastructure.  http://stopisraeliapartheid.org

[30] Israel Military Order 291 (19 December 1968).  http://stopisraeliapartheid.org

[31] Passia Diary 2003 at 275.

[32] Id. at 276.

[33] PARC, Needs Assessment Study and Proposed Intervention 4 (2003).

[34] Farmers will be deprived of 11,000 acres (44,000 dunums ) of olive trees; 2,075 acres (8,300 dunums) of irrigated trees; 1,750 acres (7,000 dunums) of irrigated vegetables, 275 acres (1,100 dunums) of  green houses and 9,500 acres (38,000 dunums) of grains.

[35] Out of the 52 locations targeted by the first phase, only 5 locations are connected to the Israeli water network.  The remainder are dependent upon well water and water tanks.

[36] PARC, supra note 6 at 4.

[37] Id.

[38] Orders read as follows:  “No inhabitant shall be allowed to leave home during curfew.  Anyone leaving his home shall be shot; there shall be no arrests,” quoted in Masalha, supra note 5 , at 23.  Defence (Emergency) Regulations 110 (1945).

[39] PASSIA, One Hundred Years of Palestinian History 240 (2001).

[40] UNSCO, The Impact of Closure and Other Mobility Restrictions on Palestinian Productive Activities, June 2002. http://www.un.org/news/mideast/econ-report-final.pdf

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