‘It’s our home! Why would we leave?’

How Palestinians in Masafer Yatta are resisting Israel’s expulsion attempts

Qassam Muaddi, The New Arab, 10 February 2023

In May 2022, the Israeli supreme court ended a 20-year-long legal battle by rejecting a petition, presented by the inhabitants of the 12 villages, against the military declaration of their lands and homes as a ‘firing zone’.

Desert yellow hills extend to the horizon on both sides of a narrow paved road, as thin drops of a light rain shower the front glass of the car. Small groups of dozens of one-story brick houses are scattered along the road, many of them unfinished.

“This is an Israeli road that leads to the settlement chain which separates the firing zone from the rest of the West Bank,” Ali, a 24-year-old local activist explains. “It is one of the few paved roads in this area,” he points out.

The long drive is part of an unusual journey to Masafer Yatta. An agglomeration of 12 Palestinian villages in the southern Hebron hills, extending over some 36 square kilometres.

Visitors arrive at Hebron city, from where public transportation takes them to their last accessible station; the town of Yatta, to the south. From there, locals, often activists, offer a drive to the first village in Masafer Yatta, Twani, already in area ‘C’, under strict, direct military Israeli control.

The car drives the lonely paved road past Twani up a hill, on which the industrial, almost identical houses of Israeli settlers can be seen from a distance. “We will try to reach the firing zone, where local residents are holding a protest right now against illegal Israeli settlement expansion on their lands,” notes Ali. “We hope the Israeli military will let us through their checkpoint,” he says.

Masafer Yatta - Qassam Muaddi
Masafer Yatta, a 36Km2 area in the southern Hebron hills including 12 Palestinian villages was declared a {firing zone by the Israeli army in 1980 [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Masafer Yatta has repeatedly made headlines in recent months, mainly because of the ramp-up of Israeli demolitions against Palestinian houses and property. However, The story of Masafer Yatta began more than 40 years ago.

A large part of the area was declared a ‘firing zone’ by the Israeli army in 1980, exposing Palestinian inhabitants to constant demolitions and imminent expulsion.

In May 2022, the Israeli supreme court ended a 20-year-long legal battle by rejecting a petition, presented by the inhabitants of the 12 villages, against the military declaration of their lands and homes as a ‘firing zone’.

Then, in early January, the Israeli government notified the Palestinian Authority’s liaison office that eight of the villages of Masafer Yatta will be soon evacuated for military drills. Since then, Palestinian inhabitants are bracing for a mass expulsion at any moment.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
For generations, Palestinians in Masafer Yatta have used their lands as seasonal grazing spaces and living places as part of their way of life [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Ali’s car stops at the hilltop, behind a line of Palestinian cars. To the right, the houses of the Israeli settlement of Karmael can be seen meters away, behind a double fence of metal wire. Ahead, a patrol of Israeli soldiers questions passengers of each car, one by one, while one of the soldiers aims his rifle from behind a cement cube, towards the line of vehicles.

“Where are you from?” asks the Israeli soldier. “From here,” replies Ali, who is a resident of the village of Touba, across the checkpoint. The two have a brief discussion before the soldier spots The New Arab reporter’s camera. After asking the reporter where he comes from, the soldier orders the car back where it came from.

Area ‘C’, including Masafer Yatta, covers more than 60% of the West Bank’s area. The classification of the territory as areas ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C, was agreed upon between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators at the Osle accords and subsequent agreements in the 1990s. It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement to end in 1999, with a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

That conclusion never happened, as negotiations between the two parties collapsed in the year 2000, and the second Palestinian Intifada broke out. However, the segregation of the Palestinian territory remained, and with it, the expansion in area ‘C’ of Israeli settlements, was never taken into account in the Oslo accords.

Ali drives back to Twani. The village of 400 people looks like any West Bank Palestinian village, frozen in the early 1990s. The community’s school, built in 1996, during the Oslo negotiations period, is one of the very few in Masafer Yatta. Most of the houses are old, and many streets are not paved.

At one house, a small group of international journalists debate the Palestinian cause and the Ukrainian war, as they wait for the protest to end to try and cross into the firing zone.

Outside, a Palestinian woman yells at her 10-year-old son who plays with a hairy, large domestic dog that had just run away from an Israeli settler. “Leave the dog alone, we don’t need any trouble with the Israeli army,” she orders the child.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
Twani, a Palestinian village outside of the ‘firing zone’ in Masafer Yatta, has one of the few schools in the area [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

In all of area ‘C’, Palestinians are forbidden from building without special construction permits given by a special body of the Israeli army, known as the ‘civil administration’. In theory, these permits are given in a few limited zones of area ‘C’.

In reality, Palestinians have to spend large amounts of money in legal procedures, over several years, to request a permit, while more than 98% of permit requests are rejected. Any new Palestinian structure without a permit in area ‘C’ eventually receives a demolition order. In Masafer Yatta, this policy threatens almost the entire Palestinian population of the area.

According to the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – OCHA, 214 Palestinian households and their livelihoods are threatened with forcible transfer and demolition in Masafer Yatta. These include, according to OCHA, 1144 Palestinian men, women, boys and girls, out of the nearly 2000 inhabitants of the area.

Ali drives back across the hilltop, near the Karmael settlement’s fence. The Israeli army’s checkpoint is no longer there, and Ali’s car arrives at the outskirts of his village, Touba.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
Most children in Masafer Yatta lack school and health care, due to Israeli prohibition of building infrastructure [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Riyadh, a 22-year-old inhabitant welcomes visitors into the main room of his home. He walks ahead, down a few cement stairs through a small door placed under the natural rock formation of the hill, into a large cave.

“I was born at the clinic in Yatta, but I grew up and lived all my childhood here, in Touba,” Riyadh tells his visitors. “As our family expanded, my parents moved to Yatta, but me, my wife, my brother and my sister continue to live here,” he points out.

The cave’s ceiling, covered with black smoke stains, holds a cable line that ends with a lamp bulb. In the middle of the cement floor is a square hole that the family uses as a cooking fire pit. “My mother gave birth to me right here, before we made the floor as you see it,” says Dalal, Riyadh’s 26-year-old sister, while pointing at the firepit.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
“I lived my childhood and all my life here, in Touba”: Riyadh, 22 years old [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Because building new structures is forbidden, Palestinian families in the firing zone in Masafer Yatta started to accommodate caves in their lands, turning them into living rooms and kitchens, as extensions to the already-existing built structures of their homes, which are regularly subject to Israeli demolition.

“We used to have a two-room house just outside, and we had solar panels for electricity,” points out Riyadh. “That was before the occupation demolished it,” he recalls the demolition of his house in March 2019.

“The civil administration had given us demolition notice a week earlier, then one morning we saw the military vehicles driving towards us from far away, and with them came a bulldozer,” remembers his sister Dalal.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
The houses of the Palestinian village of Um Al-Khair in front of the houses of the Israeli settlement of Karmael, in Masafer Yatta [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

“I was sleeping right here in the cave, and my brother was sleeping on the other side when an Israeli soldier woke us up pointing his rifle at us,” says Riyadh. “He searched the room, then arrested my brother and ordered me out.”

Dalal continues, “The soldiers removed the solar panels and loaded them to a truck, then the bulldozer tore down the house and the water tank as we watched. They released my brother the same day, but ordered us not to come back,” she notes.

The family made it back to their home five months later, with the help of local activists who volunteered to build a new room and the installation of a small power generator to light the cave. “The new room already has a demolition order, and we might be expelled at any moment,” says Riyadh.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
“An Israeli soldier entered the cave pointing his rifle at us, he searched the cave, arrested my brother and ordered me out”: Riyadh, 22 years old [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Riyadh and Dalal’s home is located on a hill east of Touba, a few minutes away from the unpaved road that leads to Twani. The majority of villages in the fire zone are further to the south, where dozens of families live, practically isolated from the rest of the world, but close enough to the attention of the Israeli military and judiciary system.

In 1999, the Israeli army expelled some 700 Palestinians from the ‘firing zone’ and demolished or confiscated their property. A few months later, the Israeli supreme court issued an interim decision allowing Palestinian inhabitants to return. The decision was not final, and inhabitants remained at risk of expulsion.

In 2012, the Israeli army presented a petition to the Israeli supreme court, claiming the right to expel communities from the area, while giving them access to land for grazing, only on weekends and Jewish holidays. Human rights groups continued to press against the army’s petition, delaying a final ruling and providing fragile, temporary protection for Palestinian communities.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
Most Palestinian inhabitants of Masafr Yatta are threatened with expulsion from their homes by the Israeli army, according to the UN [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

That protection ended in May 2022, when the Israeli supreme court ruled that there were no legal barriers to expelling the people of Masafer Yatta. The ruling was based on an argument made by the Israeli government that Palestinian inhabitants had not permanently lived in Masafer Yatta before the declaration of the area as a firing zone.

“What the Israeli government pretends to ignore is that the people of Masafer Yatta are owners and property holders of their lands,” points out Ali, as he makes his way through a rocky hill overlooking a ploughed land.

“For generations, the people here have cultivated these lands with barley for their livestock, alternating their living place between the villages and their grazing lands depending on the season,” he says. “It’s just their way of life. These lands are their homes and their livelihood,” he stresses.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
Palestinians in Masafer Yatta have accommodated caves as kitchens and living rooms to avoid Israeli demolitions [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

The rocky hill that Ali walks is the only way from Touba to the neighbouring village of Sfay, deep inside the firing zone. “There is no road because the occupation doesn’t allow us to build one,” notes Ali.

The lack of roads, signs or any kind of infrastructure marks a striking contrast with the Israeli settlement of Karmael, with its American-suburb-like houses surrounded by gardens and trees. The landscape makes it difficult for new visitors to guess that this is a Palestinian-inhabited area. In a way, Palestinians in Masafer Yatta just don’t exist on Israel’s maps.

In 2020, Masafer Yatta was also excluded from the proposed map of a ‘Palestinian State’, as part of the US Trump administration peace plan, dubbed ‘Deal Of The Century’.

It was seven months after Trump’s plan was announced that the Israeli government argued before the Israeli supreme court that the people of Masafer Yatta had not permanently lived in their lands before it was made a firing zone. Then, Israeli forces began to escalate demolitions against Palestinian villages in the firing zone.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
Palestinians in Masafer Yatta treat their children’s illness at home, as they lack medical centres and ambulances can’t reach the ‘firing zone’ [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

“The so-called Deal Of The Century was a green light for Israel to empty Masafer Yatta and the Jordan Valley of Palestinian communities,” Khalil Tafakji, the leading Palestinian expert on Israeli settlements and head of the maps unit at Jerusalem’s Orient House, tells The New Arab.

Masafer Yatta overlooks the Negev Desert across Israel’s 1948 boundaries and connects directly to the Jordan Valley, which makes it strategic for Israel to control,” argues Tafakji. “Pushing Palestinian communities in Masafer Yatta to leave is a silent implementation of the Deal Of The Century, it is not a legal issue, but a political one,” he stresses.

The political aspect of Israeli policies in Masafer Yatta has always been linked to settlement expansion. In a declassified minutes of a 1979 meeting between the then-Israeli agriculture minister, Ariel Sharon, and the Zionist World Organization’s settlement committee, Sharon is quoted stating that the sole purpose of creating ‘firing zones’ in the West Bank was to make “reserve lands for settlements”. The following year, Masafer Yatta was declared a ‘firing zone’ by the Israeli army.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
“On this land, there is something worth living for”, a verse of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish painted on a Palestinian family’s cement room in Masafer Yatta, with an Israeli demolition order against it, according to the family [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

After one valley and two hills more, Ali leads visitors into the home of Um Sanad, in the village of Sfay. The mother welcomes visitors into a large cave that the family uses as a living room and kitchen, and as a bedroom for all eight children at night.

“We had another house of several rooms that the occupation demolished two years ago, then we accommodated this cave to live in,” says Um Sanad, as she prepares tea on a small stove in the corner of the cave.

For Um Sanad, taking care of her large household is a full-time job, and not an easy one. “I wake up the children before dawn and we all perform the morning prayer, then they go to school and I feed the sheep, clean the cave and then prepare lunch,” she explains, as her eldest daughter holds her eight-month-old baby. “We had to walk one hour in the valley to the road and wait for a car there, just to take the little one to Yatta for vaccination,” says Um Sanad.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
“I wake the children up before dawn and we all perform the morning prayer, then they go to school and I feed the sheep, and I clean the cave”: Um Sanad, mother [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Palestinians in Masafer Yatta treat their children and elders’ illness at home, as there is no medical centre nearby, and ambulances can’t reach most villages. Um Sanad says that their neighbours lost a five-year-old child with a heart disease three months ago because they couldn’t take him to the hospital soon enough.

As Um Sanad serves the tea, three of the daughters stand shyly by her side, while her eldest son, Sanad, explains his life in Sfay, laying on the floor: “I love it here, we have fresh air and plenty of space to play,” says the 15-year-old boy, while his younger brother, Anas, hides behind him, avoiding the camera.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
The cave at Um Sanad’s home serves as a kitchen and bedroom for eight children [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

“What I don’t like is school, because we have to wake up very early and walk one hour to the nearest road, then wait for a car to take us to school in Yatta,” describes Sanad. “Sometimes we have to walk all the way to school,” he adds.

In late 2022, the people of Sfay built a small school, less than 200 metres away from Sanad’s home, with the help of activists. The Israeli army demolished the school in early January, for the third time.

“I remember that the soldiers came in the morning, as we were in class, and locked us all inside,” recalls Malak, Sanad’s older sister. “Then we began to jump out of the window, and one female soldier pushed me and hurt my arm, then they pushed us all away from the school, and we watched as the bulldozer destroyed it,” she goes on.

“We all helped build the school,” notes the mother. “My 10-year-old Anas was carrying buckets of construction material all day, to the point he didn’t come home for lunch,” she says.

I liked our school here in Sfay, I miss it,” adds Sanad.

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
“We had to walk for an hour to the road and then wait for a car to take us to Yatta for the little one’s vaccination”: Um Sanad, grandmother. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Sanad and his siblings lead visitors to the rubble of their school, where he and his sister Malak explain enthusiastically; “Here was the board, and we sat here, facing it,” explains Malak.

“Over there was the window where I helped other kids out before the demolition,” says Sanad, as younger children play amidst the rubble.

The third demolition of the school of Sfay in early January was one of the rare occasions on which Masafer Yatta was covered live by most TV sat channels in Palestine.

On the Palestinian national channel, crowds of inhabitants and activists were seen arguing with Israeli soldiers as the demolition took place. One woman who looked older than the rest stood out, as she addressed the Palestine TV camera.

“I said to the TV lady that this was our land and that we will never leave, even if they come to demolish our homes and schools every day,” Suaad, the 58-year-old woman tells The New Arab while serving tea on the floor of her cave, surrounded by no less than 10 children aged between 2 and 12 years old.

“These are all my grandchildren, and there are more, twenty in total, all born here in our land,” the matriarch explains proudly, as she names her grandchildren, one by one.

“How do we continue to live here?” Suaad repeats the question addressed to her with an astonished gesture. After a brief moment of silence, she states; “It’s our home! Why would we leave?

Masafer Yatta / Qassam Muaddi
“I will die one day, but my grandchildren will bury me here and continue to live in my place”: Suaad, 58 years old [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

“I was born here, and my father, who died at 85, was also born here, and his father who died at 80 was also born and lived all his life here. How old is the oldest Israeli settlement in these hills?” exclaims Suaad with a defiant tone.

“I will die one day, but these little ones will bury me right here and continue to live in my place after me,” she adds, as her grandchildren run out of the cave to join other children of the community playing outside, while the sun sets on the yellow, desert hills extending to the horizon of Masafer Yatta.

Qassam Muaddi is The New Arab’s correspondent in the West Bank. He is a Palestinian journalist and writer who has covered Palestinian social, political and cultural developments in Arabic, French and English since 2014. He has co-published two books in French ‘Terre Sainte, Guerre Sainte?’ and  ‘Taybeh: Dernier village Chrétien de Palestine’. In 2021, he started the ‘7ara 36’ blog in Arabic, featuring human stories from Palestine.

Follow him on Twitter: @QassaMMuaddi


Masafer Yatta Instagram Live!

Tune in to learn how you can stand in solidarity with Palestinian people as they defend Masafer Yatta from Israel’s violence. We’ll be joined by Sami Huraini, a Palestinian activist and co-founder of Youth Of Sumud / شباب صمود, based in Masafer Yatta.

Since June of 2022, the Israeli regime has been demolishing multiple homes and an elementary school for Palestinian children in Masafer Yatta. The Palestinian people in Masafer Yatta have existed and tended to their land for generations. Now, within a matter of minutes, Israeli forces could uproot the lives of nearly 1,000 Palestinian people in Masafer Yatta through demolitions, arrests, and constant attacks on their lives.

Please be sure to join us on Monday at 7:00 PM Palestine time/12:00 Noon ET to learn how you can help defend Masafer Yatta. Our collective action can and will make a difference, and it is up to us to show up for Palestinian people now and for future generations.


Rep. Pocan on Israeli demolition in Masafer Yatta

End-of-Year Appeal: Help with Rafah Family Home

Dear Friends of MRSCP,

We hope you will consider contributing to our year-end fundraising drive to renovate and repair a family home located in the Tal al Sultan neighborhood of Rafah, where we previously installed a playground.  This house is one of 20 that the U.S. organization Rebuilding Alliance has selected for their new Gaza Family Guided Home Construction Project which involves each family as well as local agencies and contractors in design and construction of their particular space.

We are also asking you to support a housing solution here in Madison: Occupy Madison’s Tiny Houses project.

Help Provide Shelter in Gaza

As you are probably aware, the housing crisis is just one of many afflicting the over 2 million men, women and children trapped in Gaza. The fifteen year-long Israeli-US-Egyptian blockade has made it virtually impossible to keep up with the demand for proper shelter created by population growth, or to recover from the devastation of either massive demolitions along the borders or Israel’s periodic devastating military bombardments.

Rebuilding Alliance has launched this pilot program to implement low-cost housing solutions for 20 families which will (1) improve access to water & sanitation facilities; (2) decrease overcrowding and allow more privacy by adding upstairs rooms; and (3) upgrade heating and ventilation.

The home that MRSCP hopes to renovate is occupied by two parents and three children. The father has become disabled and the mother works to try to keep the family afloat.  Their small apartment is desperately in need of roof repairs, interior renovations especially to the main living area and bath, and the addition of another room–especially now that the cold and rains of winter have arrived.

The project will be completed in three stages. As of this writing, we have raised $960 of the $3080 needed for Phase 1. The total cost of all three phases is $10,064.
Contributions to the Rafah home project can be made online via Global Giving.
If you prefer, send a check payable to MRSCP marked “Rafah House” to MRSCP, P.O. Box 5214, Madison, WI 53705.

Help Provide Shelter Here in Madison

Once again, we also ask your support for a local project that is related to our campaign in Rafah. Please consider donating to Occupy Madison’s Tiny Houses, addressing the housing crisis right here at home.

Occupy Madison has built two tiny house villages that house 30 formerly homeless individuals and is in the process of buying a third property. Self-governed by the people who live there, the goal is to become self-sustaining by selling goods made in a wood shop, home-grown flowers and plants, crafts and jewelry and soon, a coffee cart!  There is a very long waiting list for these houses. 

Your donation will help support the current villages and build new houses for another village.

You can donate online to Tiny Houses here. (Please include a note in the comment box that the donation is for the Tiny Houses.) 
You can also send a check made out to Occupy Madison marked “Tiny Houses” to Occupy Madison, 304 N. Third Street, Madison 53704.

We hope you are able to help support these two projects. And as always, we thank you for your support!


Rowan Attala, Tsela Barr, Cassandra Dixon, Samir El-Omari, Ashley Hudson, Barb Olson, Donna Wallbaum and Kathy Walsh for MRSCP 


The Zionist Cossacks Have Been Released on the Palestinians

What are we – anti-colonial Israelis, Jews of conscience and international supporters of Palestinian rights – going to do about it?

Jeff Halper, ICAHD, 16 December 2022

Benjamin Netanyahu, due to return as Israel’s prime minister within the next few days, has one overriding concern: evading conviction and possible imprisonment in the three corruption cases for which he is currently being tried. After last month’s election in which the fascist settler party Religious Zionism won 15 seats – absolutely critical if Netanyahu is to set up a coalition government – he entered into a Devil’s Deal that has shaken even members of his own Likud party. In return for helping to pass legislation to “reform” the judicial system, including legislation that would annul Netanyahu’s trial and invalidate the ability of the Supreme Court to override the overtly illegal reforms Netanyahu needs, he has agreed to give virtually unchecked power to the settlers to complete their eviction of the Palestinians from Area C, the 62% of the West Bank controlled by Israel in which the settlements are located, and to employ the army, police, militias and the prison service to violently repress any Palestinian resistance.

To save his own skin, Netanyahu has done exactly what Russian Czar Alexander III did in the 1880s. Just as the Czar handed over his country’s Jewish population to the murderous and antisemitic Cossacks, which initiated 20 years of pogroms that killed thousands and drove millions of Jews westward, so too has Netanyahu done so by handing over the fate of the Palestinians to murderous settlers dedicated to driving them out of the Land of Israel, taking their lands – and not hesitating for a second to kill as many as necessary in the process.

Not that the settlers have a monopoly over murderous ethnic cleansing. Benny Ganz, the “moderate” outgoing Defense Minister, opened his electoral campaign bragging of many thousands of “terrorists” he killed in Gaza. When he became Ganz’s Chief of Staff, Aviv Kokhavi promised a more “lethal” IDF – and delivered. Besides repeated assaults on Gaza, 2022 saw over 150 Palestinians killed, including 33 innocent children, the highest in many years.

In preparing for his incoming government, Netanyahu has dismantled the Ministry of Defense in order to pass control of the Palestinians to the Religious Zionist Party This party is headed by Bezalel Smotrich, a known racist, who founded Regavim, a pro-settler organization that lobbies the government to demolish Palestinian homes (registered as a charity in New York state). He will now be in charge of the Civil Administration, the actual government of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). It will have several key functions including the demolition of Palestinian homes that have not been granted building permits by the Israeli authorities. So far, some 60,000 homes, schools, mosques, businesses and farm structures have been demolished in the OPT since 1967 and now no obstacles will exist to ethnically clearing Area C, confining three million Palestinians of the West Bank to tiny bantustans, until they are expelled (or “induced” to leave).

Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, has been appointed “Minister of National Security” in Netanyahu’s new government. He is a fascist Kahanist living in Hebron whose hero is Barukh Goldstein, his neighbor who murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. That means Ben Gvir will have augmented authority over the Israeli police – the only force that until now gave (minimal) protection to Palestinians – plus control over the Border Police, a combined army/police militia which will now be his private army in the OPT.

The most immediate response to the pogroms to which the Palestinians are now facing must be a demand for the UN to urgently deploy a Protection Force in the OPT, something that the Palestinian Authority has formally called for. Israel opposes that, of course, wanting a free hand to Judaize the West Bank. And, indeed, every time a resolution to establish such a force has been brought before the Security Council, the US has vetoed it.

This is the time, in my view, that every Palestinian support group in the world should set aside the important campaigns they are pursuing in order to focus on this most urgent need: establishing a UN Protection Force for a Palestinian population whose very existence is in immediate peril.

Longer range, we must get political, focusing our efforts on dismantling Israeli apartheid so that we can move on to a new post-colonial reality.

Whatever, Zionism’s final push to cleanse Palestine of its Arab population and transform it from an Arab to a Jewish country is being launched. What are we – anti-colonial Israelis, Jews of conscience and international supporters of Palestinian rights – going to do about it?


ACT NOW: Prevent water cistern demolition in Sfai, South Hebron Hills


December 24, 2022

In this time of Hanukkah, while Jews celebrate the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 days, the Palestinian village of Sfai in the desert of Masafer Yatta is about to have its water cisterns demolished. There could not be a more cruel irony. No water means no life.

We are supporting our friends at Rebuilding Alliance in their campaign to ask Congress to intervene in the demolition. On December 26th (the 8th day of Hanukkah), Israel’s Army is scheduled to respond in court to the appeal filed by the village of Sfai seeking to protect their water storage system. That means the judge can rule as early as the 27th — when Congress is out of session. The attorney believes that political intervention is needed now more than ever.

It’s easy to act. We are asking you to do three things today:

  • Send a form Email to your Representatives and Senators with one easy click HERE.
  • Call your Representative HERE.
  • Call your Senators HERE.

Your phone call to a congressional office is very influential, even if you just leave a voicemail. Here is the script for your call:

My name is ________ and I live at _______. As your constituent, I need your help tostop the demolition of water storage cisterns in the Palestinian village of Sfai and prevent the escalating demolition of humanitarian infrastructure in Masafer Yatta. This is urgent: please call the Israeli Embassy State Department today or tomorrow at the latest.

  • In June of last year 2021, the village of Sfai’s water mains were demolished by the Israeli Army, leaving only the water cisterns to sustain the community.
  • Now, the water cisterns are at risk of being demolished.

Please have your staff call the Israeli Embassy and the U.S. State Department on my behalf as a constituent. Fast track Congressional intervention has prevented the demolition of Palestinian villages and schools.


South Hebron Hills Watch is a group of Israeli American volunteers who forged a strong connection with Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills and Jewish activists who are providing witness and physical support to these communities. We are not affiliated with any political party or organization but partner with like-minded people and organizations that support nonviolent activity on the ground and amplify the plight of these Palestinian families in the face of a broader effort to remove them from their lands. Please follow us on Facebook , Instagram, and Twitter. Subscribe to our mailing list.


Palestinians resisting forced removal by moving into caves

The people of Masafer Yatta are using ancestors’ caves to resist Israel’s home demolitions

Members of Palestinian Masafer Yatta communities determined to remain on their land despite Israeli forced evictions, south of Hebron in the West Bank, May 7, 2022. (Mamoun Wazwaz-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert, Business Insider, October 23, 2022

  • Palestinians are resisting Israel’s Supreme Court order that they be removed from their homeland.

  • The people of Masafer Yatta are relying on their history of living in caves to resist eviction.

  • The United Nations says the forcible removal of the Palestinians could be a war crime.

In an effort to resist their forced eviction by Israeli authorities — which the United Nations has said may be a war crime — some Palestinians are living in caves to remain in their homeland.

“We have no home to live in and no tent — we have no option but to live in the cave,” The New York Times reported Wadha Ayoub Abu Sabha, 65, a resident of the village of Khirbet al-Fakheit, said. “The beginning of my life was in the cave, and the end of my life will be in the cave.”

The semi-nomadic people of the Masafer Yatta region have, for generations, lived in small homes and caves along the hillside as they migrated livestock across the area. The desert region, located at the southern tip of the occupied West Bank, is home to 33 villages where some residents, now facing the destruction of their homes by Israeli forces, have moved their families into the old caves to resist being displaced.

The caves are dusty and hot, The Guardian reported, with stone walls and improvised lighting attached to generators. Though their ancestors once used the caves willingly, residents now feel stuck, facing full Israeli control and the demolition of their existing homes.

“In these days we are jailed in our caves, we cannot move,” Indian news outlet EastMojo reported Hajja Halima Abu Younis, an 82-year-old woman from the Jinba village, said. “We are afraid the Israeli army will kill someone while they are conducting military training. The army trains tanks around our village. The sound of the bombs and shots scare the children and the flocks of animals. My son Issa cannot graze his 150 sheep during the military training. How can a shepherd be a shepherd if he cannot graze his sheep?”

In May, Israel’s Supreme Court approved the removal of the people of the Masafer Yatta villages, home to approximately 1,200 residents, in order to allow the country’s Army to use the land for a live-fire military training ground. The landmark decision was one of the largest removal rulings made by the court since Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories began in 1967.

“About 1,200 people, including 580 children, are now at imminent risk of forced eviction and displacement,” read a United Nations statement released shortly after the decision. “They stand to lose their homes, belongings, access to water, livelihoods, primary health facilities and schools. This could amount to forcible transfer, a grave breach of international humanitarian law and, thus a war crime.”

Read the original article at Business Insider

No Government Has the Right to Pass Such Laws

Dr. James J. Zogby, Arab American Institute, October 17, 2022

During the past month Israel has held 800 Palestinians under administrative detention orders, expelled several Palestinians from East Jerusalem, seized more Arab-owned land from areas around Hebron and in the Jordan Valley turning much of it over to settlers, and instituted a lockdown of many Palestinian areas during Jewish religious days. All of this passed without notice in the US press because Israel policies, such as these, have long been routine features of the 55 year-long occupation.

What’s important to note, however, is that all of these practices are in violation of international law, and all have a disturbing history in Israel/Palestine.

Many of them were initially put in place by the British as part of their effort to squash the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936-1939. Back then, as Palestinian rebels at the peak of their uprising had gained control of significant areas of the country, the British put in place what they termed the “Emergency Military Administration in Palestine.” Under the provisions of this new regime, thousands of Palestinian rebels were arrested and detained without charges, hundreds were expelled, villages were subjected to collective punishment, and Palestinian properties were confiscated and/or destroyed—all in an effort to end the Revolt.

While these repressive measures did play a role, what finally ended the Revolt was a combination of false promises by the British that they would consider Palestinian demands for independence and the naïveté of some Arab leaders who accepted these British pledges and, therefore, urged the Palestinian fighters to disarm.

After World War II, when faced with a new threat from a Zionist armed insurgency, Britain reinstated the Emergency Administration — this time directed against the Jewish militias. In response, Jewish leaders rose up in outrage. One noted attorney, Ya’acov Shimshon Shapiro (who later served as Israel’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice) criticized these British laws as “unparalleled in any civilized country.”

There were, he said, “no such laws even in Nazi Germany. . . There is only one form of government which resembles the system in force here now — the case of an occupied country. . . It is our duty to tell the whole world that the Defense Laws passed by the British Mandatory Government of Palestine destroy the very foundation of justice in this land.”

He concluded by noting that “no government has the right to pass such laws.” Given this outrage and condemnation, it might be seen as ironic that immediately upon assuming state power in 1948, the State of Israel would adopt these very same laws, applying them to the Palestinian population that remained after the Nakbah & mdash; without any protest from Jewish jurists.

From 1948 until 1965 the Emergency Defense Laws (EDL) & mdash; as they were now called & mdash; were in place in order to control the captive Palestinian community in Israel. Collectively, these laws functioned to: establish a military administration over the Arab sector, give the state the power to institute collective punishment, intern Palestinian citizens of Israel without judicial process, expel Palestinian citizens without recourse, confiscate Arab-owned land, and impose curfews and lockdowns over entire regions.

While the EDL were formally lifted in 1965, they were resurrected and rehabilitated in 1967 & mdash; this time to be applied, even more harshly, to the areas of Palestine that had been occupied in the 1967 war. Collective punishment of entire villages was widespread, as was the use of administrative detention. No political parties or expressions of Palestinian national identity were allowed. Well over 1,200 Palestinian leaders & mdash; mayors, college presidents, labor leaders, and clergy & mdash; were expelled. Substantial areas of Arab-owned land were confiscated, placed under Israeli control and declared either “green spaces” or “security zones” & mdash; off limits to Palestinians, later given over to Israeli settlement construction. And since any Palestinian construction required Israeli permission, which was rarely forthcoming, homes and community buildings were routinely demolished.

Even after the Oslo Accords, which Palestinians hoped would lead to an independent state, provisions of the EDL remained in place as accepted legal practice by the Israeli occupation authorities.

Given that these Israeli “laws” have been in place for more than seven decades, it might not be surprising that Western media and political leaders have become inured to these Israeli repressive measures. This, however, only adds insult to injury.

Palestinians are not “children of a lesser god.” They are human beings, deserving of the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions. Israel’s “security concerns” (like those of the British in the 1930s and 1940s) do not excuse their wholesale trashing of international law and conventions. And they do not absolve the silence of the West in the face of this total disregard for Palestinian rights. To repeat the quote from Israel’s first Attorney General, these laws “destroy the very foundation of justice in this land. . . no government has the right to pass such laws.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization that does not endorse candidates.

Note: To discuss this column with me, please register here for my next ‘Coffee And A Column’ event Wednesday via Zoom.

Arab American Institute Foundation1600 K Street, NW, Suite 601Washington, DC 20006United States

Emergency Zoom on Conditions in the West Bank

In this time of crisis, I invite you to an

Emergency Zoom Forum with the UN: Conditions on the Ground in the West Bank
Sunday, October 16th, at 1pm CT
Register for Sunday’s Zoom Forum

Who: Our guest speaker is the U.N.’s West Bank Field Coordinator, Jonathan Whittall, who will be calling in from Jerusalem.

  • Before he joined UNOCHA, he spent 5 years as Director of the Humanitarian Analysis Department at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders)
  • As head of the humanitarian innovation team supporting MSF operations in conflict, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine and South Sudan, focusing on negotiating humanitarian access

What: In this hour long Zoom forum, Jonathan Whittall will focus on the West Bank — including the recent escalation in violence, Israeli Military closure of Palestinian communities, loss of life, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis — and encourage discussion of ways to de-escalate and ensure the safety and security of all.

Why: A midnight phone call with the U.N. helped shed light on something that might help: Congressional intervention. Now is the time when calls from your members of Congress can ease tensions and ensure the safety and security of all, especially for Palestinian children and families. I fear Congress won’t do the right thing unless you, their constituents, ask.  

Email Congress Now to express your concern and invite them to their own RA Zoom briefing with the U.N.

The Sunday Zoom Forum is an important opportunity for you to hear about what is happening on the ground in the West Bank, ask questions, and share ideas.

Click this link to register for the Zoom Forum on Sunday

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Sincerely,Donna Baranski-WalkerFounder and Executive Director, Rebuilding Alliance

P.S. Al Jazeera in Jerusalem reported this in Arabic on Friday, 10/14, ‘In light of prominent Palestinian models for decades, civil disobedience SUCCEEDS in breaking the siege of Shuafat camp’It includes a history of Palestinian nonviolent civil disobedience movements. You can use Google Translate to read it.

Urgent Call to Defend Khallet ad-Dabe’ from Destruction

Stop the Wall, 26 September 2022

A whole village with over 90 residents is at the brink of being ethnically cleansed. The Israeli Supreme Court set September 29 as the date the demolition of Khallet Ad- Dabe’ can begin. The demolition orders include all homes and most livelihood structures in the village. 

If no action is taken to thwart Israeli demolition plans,
a whole village will be ethnically cleansed. 

Your action is crucial now!

Khallet ad-Dabe’ is one of the eight Palestinian villages in Masafer Yatta that apartheid Israel has classfied as a firing zone for its occupation forces. 20 Palestinian villages in the area have been struggling against ethnic cleansing policies for more than 40 years. 

The demolition of Khallet ad-Dabe’ village is part of a huge and systematic effort to deprive Palestinians of their lands in order to cement Jewish dominance over Masafer Yatta. If implemented, it would be Israel’s largest ethnic cleansing since 1968. 

In order to expel the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel destroys homes and schools, confiscates the land and steals natural resources as it expands illegal settlements and persecutes human rights defenders and residents.

Palestinians in Khallet Ad-Dabe’ are armed with hope, popular resistance, and local and international support. Their steadfastness on the ground is the fundamental element to protect their existence on their ancestral land. 

People struggle every day to reach their lands, jobs or schools. They are subjected to attacks by settlers and the military, beatings, abuse and murder. Families are fighting to defend their right to exist. 

What is happening in Masafer Yatta is the result of the failure of world powers to act to end Israel’s impunity, hold those responsible for Israeli apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism accountable and ensure respect of International Law and Palestinian human rights.

Here is what you can do to defend Khallet ad-Dabe’:

  1. Join us on Wednesday September 28 on social media! On our website, twitter, facebook and instagram you will find posts to share. Here below can download graphics, info and messaging to share and raise awareness on the imminent destruction of Khallet ad-Dabe’ on social media. Use the hashtag #DefendMasaferYatta and #UNinvestigateApartheid.
  2. Write to your government’s foreign ministry and diplomatic missions and ask them to urgently take all actions at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing of Khallet ad-Dabe’ and Masafer Yatta. Find a model letter below.
  3. Mobilize support from human rights organizations, political parties, members of parliament, trade unions, church, and other civil society groups, asking them to help you put pressure on your government to stop the demolition of Khallet ad-Dabe’, #DefendMasaferYatta and impose sanctions on Israel to #DismantleApartheid.
  4. Build BDS campaigns to pressure the bulldozer companies to stop profiting from and enabling Israeli demolitions. 

Model letter to your government or diplomatic mission:

To: [….]

Subject: A request for urgent action to defend the Palestinian village Khallet ad-Dabe’ from Israeli demolition

A whole village with over 90 residents is at the brink of being ethnically cleansed by Israel. On September 9, the Israeli Supreme Court set September 29 as the date the demolition of Khallet Ad- Dabe’ , occupied West Bank, can begin. The demolition orders include all homes and most livelihood structures in the village. 

If no action is taken to thwart Israeli demolition plans, a whole village will be ethnically cleansed. 

Khallet ad-Dabe’ is one of the eight Palestinian villages in Masafer Yatta that apartheid Israel has classfied as a firing zone for its occupation forces. 20 Palestinian villages in the area have been struggling against ethnic cleansing policies for more than 40 years. 

The demolition of Khallet ad-Dabe’ village is part of a huge and systematic effort to deprive Palestinians of their lands in order to cement Jewish dominance over Masafer Yatta. If implemented, it would be Israel’s largest ethnic cleansing since 1968. 

In order to expel the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel destroys homes and schools, confiscates the land and steals natural resources as it expands illegal settlements and persecutes human rights defenders and residents.

What is happening in Masafer Yatta is the result of the failure of world powers to live up to their obligations under international law and to act to end Israel’s impunity, hold those responsible for Israeli apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism accountable and ensure respect of international law and Palestinian human rights.

I urge you to: 

  1. Urgently take all actions at your disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing of Khallet ad-Dabe’ and Masafer Yatta.
  2. Publicly condemn Israel for its policy of persecution and its policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing as implemented currently in Khallet ad-Dabe’ and Masafer Yatta. 
  3. In view of the flagrant and systematic violations of human rights by Israel, suspend arms trade and military security cooperation with Israel, ban all trade with Israeli illegal settlements and ensure that companies refrain from or end their business with Israel’s illegal settlement industry in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and ensure that individuals and corporate agents responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid regime are brought to justice.

Social Media toolkit

Tweet suggestions

Tweet #1: 

A whole village, Khallet ad-Dabe’, with over 90 residents is at the brink of being ethnically cleansed.

I call on [tag your MEP/foreign minister/secretary of state] to hold Israel accountable and demand: #DefendMasaferYatta #EndEthnicCleansing #UNinvestigateApartheid 


Tweet #2:

The imminent destruction of Khallet ad-Dabe’ is part of apartheid Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. World powers have to end Israel’s impunity & ensure respect for International Law and Palestinian human rights.


Tweet #3: 

Israel’s policies in Masafer Yatta amount to the crime against humanity of apartheid. Israel’s brutal occupation prevents international peace. @UN is obliged to investigate & dismantle Israeli apartheid.

#UNInvestigateApartheid #DefendMasaferYatta


Tweet #4:

The destruction of Khallet Ad-Dabe’ is a fundamental part of the ethnic cleansing campaign led by the Israeli apartheid – its government & settler organizations – to impose Jewish dominance over the area.

ACT NOW and #DefendMasaferyatta


Tweet #5: 

Defend Khallet Ad-Dabe’ in Maafer Yatta from ethnic cleansing! On ٍSeptember 9 Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the demolition orders for the entire village. First demolitions may start tomorrow….

ACT NOW: https://tinyurl.com/DefendKhalletadDabe

 #EndEthnicCleansing #DefendMasaferYatta

Tweet #6:

The world’s failure to impose effective sanctions condones the demolition of Khallet ad-Dabe’ & Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies.I call on [tag your MEP/foreign minister] to hold Israel accountable and demand:

#EndEthnicCleansing #UNinvestigateApartheid


Tweet #7:

In Khallet ad-Dabe’ and across Palestine, Israel violates international law by imposing inhumane apartheid and ethnic cleansing practices on Indigenous Palestinians to expel them from their ancestral land. 

#DefendMasaferYatta #UNinvestigateApartheid


Tweet #8: 

Khallet Ad-Dabe’, in #DefendMasaferYatta, is to be demolished any time.

It is only one of hundreds of Palestinian villages Israel has demolished since it built its colonial regime on +500 destroyed Palestinian cities & villages.

Not one more! ACT NOW!


Tweet #9: 

Bulldozer companies @JCBmachines, @VolvoGroup, @HyundaiHeavyInd, @CaterpillarInc make huge profits from Israel’s destruction of Palestinian villages, like Khallet ad-Dabe’, in #DefendMasaferYatta.

#EndEthnicCleansing and hold accomplices accountable!


Update: On-The-Ground Jewish Solidarity with Masafer Yatta

Thanks to those who attended our webinar “On the Ground Jewish Solidarity with Palestinian Resistance in Masafer Yatta” with Peter Beinart, Awdah Hathaleen, Nur Zahor, and Zack Witus. If you didn’t have a chance to see it, you can watch the recording. The testimony by our panelists was emotional and powerful.

It was apparent that the expulsion of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta is happening right under our noses in daily increments. Many left the webinar wanting to take action. Below are resources and suggested actions for you to take today!

Resource Links




Join us for an exciting webinar, moderated by Peter Beinart, exploring the role of Jewish activists as they join Palestinian-led resistance to the escalating violence of the Israeli occupation. Together, they stand against the state policy enabling daily army and settler violence, home demolitions, and mass expulsions in Masafer Yatta.

The webinar will focus on the connections between Jews (diaspora and Israeli) and Palestinians in the justice movement in Masafer Yatta. We will discuss the imbalance of power and the responsibility Jewish activists have in standing in solidarity, the personal transformations that take place through this work together, how each of the speakers carries this work forward, and the central importance that this joint struggle activism has. Going beyond personal connections, the work creates space for us to stand up together against Israeli settler and army violence and oppression, and make an impact today and in the future.

  • Peter Beinart, moderator – journalist and professor of journalism at CUNY.
  • Nur Zahor – an Israeli Arabic and Hebrew teacher and activist in Masafer Yatta.
  • Awdah Hathaleen – Palestinian Human rights activist, English teacher, and journalist from Masafer Yatta
  • Zak Witus – Young Leadership & Education Coordinator for New Israel Fund and a recent participant in the Center For Jewish Nonviolence Sustained Solidarity Hineinu delegation in Masafer Yatta.

South Hebron Hills Watch is a group of Israeli American volunteers who forged a strong connection with Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills and Jewish activists who are providing witness and physical support to these communities. We are not affiliated with any political party or organization but partner with like-minded people and organizations that support nonviolent activity on the ground and amplify the plight of these Palestinian families in the face of a broader effort to remove them from their lands. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Israeli soldiers arrest Hafez Huraini of Masafer Yatta

BREAKING: Hafez Huraini, 52, was arrested by Israeli soldiers after he was brutally attacked by settlers who broke his arm and disabled his ambulance in the village of Tuwani. He is still detained.

Hafez is the father of Sami Huraini, a Palestinian law student and coordinator of Youth of Sumud, activists from the At-Tuwani area opposing Israeli home demolition and settler violence. Israeli soldiers continue to harass and incarcerate residents as part of a policy to steal their land.

#FreeHafezHuraini!    #DefendMasaferYatta!

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