Letter to MP on land confiscation at Yatma

4th November 2012

Dear Amber Rudd, MP Hastings and Rye

Confiscation of Farmer’s Land in Yatma

As you know, Hastings Friends of Yatma, HFOY, supports a small village in the West Bank of Palestine where I am currently staying.

The Mayor of Yatma called me on 1st November to let the HFOY group know that two farmers were notified, by Military Order 208/5, that approximately three dunums of their land was being appropriated. The reason for the appropriation was for ‘security reasons’. I went to the actual land: it is by the roadside, the surrounding land is all olive groves and approximately 7 kilometres from the nearest settlement Kafr Tappuah (land around settlements is frequently zoned as a security area and forbidden to Palestinians except with a work permit).

So, there is no apparent reason why this small area could present a security threat and the result will be the loss of several of their olive trees, essential for the farmers’ livelihoods. Moreover, the Mayor and council feel it is the start of more land acquisition – if the farmers lose their appeal against the Military Order then more land will be under threat of appropriation.

The history of this system of land appropriation by Military Orders dates back to 1945 when Palestine was still under the British Mandate. These Military Orders were initiated by the British government because of the then ‘state of emergency’. The system was never meant to be permanent. However, the Israeli Civil Administration absorbed it into its ‘legal’ system and it continues to issue orders to this day to control many aspects of Palestinian life.

A key issue for Palestine now is its economy and, as David Cameron stated in his latest United Jewish Israel Appeal speech, that the growth of the economy should be supported. During my time here I have seen countless examples of the Israeli authorities circumventing the achievement of this goal and the land seizure in Yatma is a small illustration.

Lastly, the humanitarian rights of the Palestinians should surely get more attention; for instance, in his speech, David Cameron lauds the UJIA’s funding of a Safad medical school but avoids any reference to the 18 schools in Palestine that are under threat of demolition.

When you are here in the West Bank, rhetoric about the security for Israel sounds very empty when it does not address the security of Palestine as well.

Best regards

Gill Knight

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