Is­rael ousts il­le­gal set­tlers from West Bank town

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - NEBI QENA AND TIA GOLDENBERG

Is­raeli forces up­rooted the West Bank out­post of Amona on Wed­nes­day, re­mov­ing res­i­dents and hun­dreds of their sup­port­ers in some­times vi­o­lent clashes as they dis­man­tled a com­mu­nity that has be­come a sym­bol of Jewish set­tler de­fi­ance.

The evac­u­a­tion, which fol­lowed years of le­gal bat­tles, came amid a flurry of bold new set­tle­ment moves by Is­rael’s gov­ern­ment, which has been buoyed by the elec­tion of United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Thou­sands of po­lice of­fi­cers car­ried out the re­moval, squar­ing off against hun­dreds of protesters, many of them young reli­gious ac­tivists who flocked to the windswept hill­top to show their sol­i­dar­ity with res­i­dents.

Plant­ing them­selves in­side trailer homes and the com­mu­nity’s syn­a­gogue, the protesters de­fied po­lice, who car­ried some away. Protesters chained them­selves to heavy ob­jects or linked arms to form a wall against po­lice, chant­ing “Jews don’t ex­pel Jews!” Dozens of res­i­dents re­luc­tantly left their homes with­out re­sis­tance, young chil­dren in tow.

“This is my home. I want to stay here. It is my right to stay here,” res­i­dent Ta­mar Nizri told Chan­nel 2 TV news. “This is ex­pul­sion, de­struc­tion, an in­jus­tice and a crime. The most ba­sic truth is that the land of Is­rael be­longs to the peo­ple of Is­rael,” in­clud­ing the West Bank, she said.

With some 250 res­i­dents, Amona is the largest of about 100 unau­tho­rized out­posts erected in the West Bank with­out for­mal per­mis­sion but gen­er­ally with tacit sup­port from the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment. It was the scene of vi­o­lent clashes be­tween set­tlers and se­cu­rity forces dur­ing a par­tial de­mo­li­tion ex­actly 11 years ago, on Feb. 1, 2006.

Those homes were found to be built on pri­vate Pales­tinian land. Is­rael’s Supreme Court later ruled in 2014 that the en­tire out­post was built on pri­vate Pales­tinian land and must be de­mol­ished, set­ting Feb. 8 as the fi­nal dead­line af­ter re­peated de­lays.

In an ap­par­ent at­tempt to tem­per set­tler anger over the evac­u­a­tion, Is­rael ap­proved thou­sands of new set­tler homes a day be­fore the out­post’s re­moval, sig­nalling a ramp­ing up of set­tle­ment con­struc­tion un­der Trump, who has in­di­cated he will be more ac­cept­ing of Is­raeli set­tle­ment poli­cies. The set­tler move­ment is a po­tent po­lit­i­cal force in Is­rael, and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s na­tion­al­ist coali­tion gov­ern­ment is dom­i­nated by set­tlers and their al­lies.

In con­trast to his pre­de­ces­sors, Trump has voiced no ob­jec­tions to Is­rael’s lat­est set­tle­ment binge. Amona res­i­dents and their sup­port­ers had hoped Trump and his softer ap­proach might open a door for the out­post to re­main on the hill­top, to no avail.

Po­lice spokesper­son Micky Rosen­feld said some 3,000 of­fi­cers were de­ployed to carry out the evac­u­a­tion.

They were met by 1,500 protesters who erected makeshift bar­ri­cades from smashed tiles, rusty metal bars and large rocks to slow the po­lice ad­vance. Po­lice said some 20 of­fi­cers were slightly in­jured by stones or an uniden­ti­fied liq­uid hurled at them, and a dozen protesters were ar­rested. Hun­dreds of protesters were re­moved from the hill and more than half of the out­post’s roughly 40 fam­i­lies had left their homes by night­fall.

The evac­u­a­tion marks the end of a years­long le­gal bat­tle by the Pales­tini­ans who own the land Amona was built on and wit­nessed re­peated de­lays by the gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment the court rul­ing.

“Our feel­ing is in­de­scrib­able,” said Ab­del-Rah­man Saleh, the mayor of the nearby Pales­tinian town of Sil­wad who as­sisted the landown­ers in build­ing their case.

“This will open the way for other Pales­tini­ans to move ahead and re­trieve their con­fis­cated land.”

Ah­mad Ma­j­dalani, an aide to Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, also wel­comed the evac­u­a­tion, but said the other set­tle­ment moves were “meant to fi­nally kill the twostate so­lu­tion.”

LIOR MIZRAHI, GETTY IM­AGES

Is­raeli set­tlers burn tires and block an en­trance ahead of the evic­tion of the il­le­gal Jewish set­tle­ment on Wed­nes­day in Amona, West Bank.

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