How one settlement evolved
One of my fellow olive pickers from a French solidarity group asked me why we call settlements settlements, ‘Zaire colonies’ he said. How true, common parlance has diluted the true essence of the land grab in the West Bank. This was bought to mind an earlier occasion when we were supporting, by olive picking, the deputy mayor of Kafr Qaddom. He gazed over the colony of Qedomim that has appropriated half of his village’s land. He and his brother had been attacked the previous day by around 100 settlers and the army were called. They told him to return the next day and they would offer protection. He asked for assistance from the international solidarity volunteers. As we picked olives I wondered why the soldiers their eyes fixed on us and not the settlement where the potential aggression might come from!
I have been increasingly interested in how the West Bank land grab has happened. Below is a profile of Qedumim.
Qedumim, also spelt Kedomim, was first ‘settled’ in 1975 by 12 families. It is south west of Nablus. The name in Hebrew means ‘Ancient’ but is also remarkably similar to the Qaddom in Kafr Qaddom, the original Palestinian village. This follows the Israeli pattern of calling settlements with like sounding names. The slogan on their website is: ‘The Vanguard of Jewish Resettlement in Samaria’. Kafr Qaddom (the Palestinian community) has lost 58% of its land to Qedumim
Gush Emumim and the Origins of Qedumim
Gush Emunin was an Israeli messianic and political movements committed to establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. It sprang out of the 1967 War, and was formally organised in the 1974 in the wake of the Yom Kippur war.
Gush Emunim’s platform defined the movement’s mission in the following way: “To bring about a major spiritual reawakening in the Jewish people for the sake of the full realization of the Zionist vision, in the knowledge that this vision’s source and goal in the Jewish heritage and in Judaism’s roots are the total redemption of both the Jewish people and the whole world.”
In 1975 part of Gush Emunim tried to establish itself in Sebastia, north of Nablus. Eventually this was unsuccessful and they were evicted by the IDF and given temporary housing in Kadum a former Jordanian military base. In 1977, under the protection of Shimon Peres, the then Minister of Defence, Qedumim was given official recognition.
and the Growth of Settlements
Har Hemed is an example of an outpost that has been incorporated into a municipality. After Oslo Accords, it was agreed that settlements should not be expanded except by natural growth (although this was not exactly defined and whether it could include immigrants was never made clear). Outposts were not exactly legal either officially but received funds from governments ministries. By a process of naming them ‘neighbourhoods’ and zoning the area into a regional council the settlement could grow by stealth. All municipal areas are off limits to Palestinians unless issued with a permit and are virtually enclaves.
As the map indicates, if the proposed barrier is built (black dotted line) Qedumim could become parter of a much larger enclave together with the settlements around Wadi Qana, which is already categorised as a ‘natural reserve’. Closed military zones and nature reserves are tools used by the occupation to evict Palestinians and/or curtail agricultural activity.
Impacts on Kafr Qaddum
Apart from losing more than 50% of their land, this village is cut off from areas of their agricultural land by the settlement. Also, since 2003, access to their land and to Nablus has been affected by the closure of the linking road that passes by the settlement. This makes travel much longer: for a farmer with land the other side of route 60, it means a 10K journey via Al Funduk, it takes double the time to travel to Nablus.
Farmers have suffered multiple incidents of aggression from the settlers. On the edge of the deputy mayor’s land is a house that used to be used by his father when he grazed his animals. He said it was frequently occupied by settlers who left trash and daubed the walls with Hebrew slogans. For more details of settler aggression see http://www.btselem.org, land confiscation and access links.
Present Day Ideology of Qedomim
Gush Emunim has declined as an organisation. However, its influence lives on and its raison d’être made more acceptable. This is encapsulated by one time mayor, Daniella Weiss, a right wing activist instrumental in the settlement’s expansion, who claims the settlement was built on a barren hilltop and is of strategic importance to Israel’s security and ‘must out pace the rapid, often illegal, building by Palestinian Arabs’.
Although land grab can never be condoned, violent Palestine resistance can give the settler movement reason to feel threatened. In 2006, a suicide bomber who had hitched a lift, blew himself up at the gates of Qedomin killing 4 people 3 of whom lived in the settlement. The Al Asqa brigade claimed responsibility.