Last month Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Masafer Yatta, a collection of Palestinian villages in the southern hills of Al-Khalil, would be completely ethnically cleansed. The demolitions have already begun, despite some protest from US lawmakers, constituting the single largest ethnic cleansing event since 1967.
Western media seems to be all but silent on one of the most horrific crimes, against the Palestinian people of the West Bank, in years. Over 1000 Palestinians are set to be made homeless, as Israeli occupation forces are now following orders to demolish the homes of every Palestinian living in the area known as Masafer Yatta, violently forcing them from their lands in the process.
This act constitutes not only a flagrant violation of international law, but the largest single ethnic cleansing order since Israel took over the occupied territories — West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — in 1967. Despite this, we see little media attention on the ongoing process of violently forcing villagers from their homes and broadcast news is absent of any of the footage of family’s screaming in sorrow at their houses being crushed in front of their eyes. Israel’s justification is that Palestinians haven’t been able to prove ownership of their land in Masafer Yatta, prior to 1981. 1981 was the year that Israel declared Masafer Yatta as “Firing Zone 918”.
What also makes the ethnic cleansing of Masafer Yatta so significant is that the villages which form the area are located in Area C of the West Bank. Area C is under full Israeli occupation control and is an area where Palestinians are 99.9% of the time rejected the permission to build new homes on their land. Area C constitutes 60% of the West Bank and is where the majority of Israel’s illegal settlements are located. In 2020 the Israeli government officially backed away from the prospect of annexing the Jordan Valley area — which constitutes roughly 40% of the West Bank — due to the potential international backlash, but also the fact that annexation would mean taking more Palestinians under direct Israeli rule.
However, Israel’s decision to stop its de jure annexation of the West Bank has not stopped it from pursuing such an annexation on everything but paper. This essentially means that despite Palestinian legal efforts — which have been taking place since 1997 — to defeat the Israeli attempt to uproot them from Masafer Yatta, there has been little talk of the illegality of the Israeli ruling in the International Community. The biggest international pushback against this ethnic cleansing campaign has come from US lawmakers, but has received little attention in the press. Fifteen House Democrats signed a letter, address to US President Joe Biden, calling on Washington to “immediately send the strongest diplomatic message possible [to Israel] not to expel the indigenous Palestinian residents,” the letter read.
Such an act of ethnic cleansing is perhaps the worst racist hate crime we have seen this year, yet there is minimal attention placed on it by Western media. Many people do not even know this is happening. The fact that people are not aware is due to the media specifically ignoring the story because its impact is huge and says a lot about Israeli policy. Just about every major news agency in the world has a bureau in West Jerusalem, just about an hour or two drive from where this is happening.
When Palestinians speak of the Nakba being an ongoing event which did not end with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, this is exactly what they mean. Israel continues to force Palestinian families from their homes, demolish their villages, kill those resisting, all with the silence of Western media and complicity of Western governments.
Perhaps one of the worst parts of this story is that this is not even the first time that Israel has attempted to ethnically cleanse Masafer Yatta. In 1999, 700 of the Palestinians who lived in Masafer Yatta were forced from their homes, rounded up, loaded violently into military vehicles and forced out of the area. It was only after a legal appeal that the native inhabitants of the villages were allowed to return. This time, there will be no return. Their homes are being destroyed as you read this article, and even if the people manage to get back into the area, they will return into Israel’s newly declared “firing zone” and to the rubble which used to be their houses, shops, and businesses. Israel’s racist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is an ongoing event, it never ended, and the West is not only funding this, but giving Israel the cover it needs to continue its vile war crimes.