Twenty-five years ago, Israeli citizens took over private Palestinian land in the West Bank, drove off the Palestinian farmers who were trying to cultivate their land and built the illegal outpost Amona. An unprecedented legal struggle finally led to the evacuation of the settlers of Amona. Nearly four years after the invaders were removed, Israel still prevents the Palestinian landowners from reaching their private land.
This report visits the main junctures in establishing the illegal outpost in the mid-1990s, the key legal proceedings that resulted in the evacuation of Amona in 2017, and the Palestinian landowners’ persistent and ongoing struggle to return to their land.
Several facts are undisputed by all parties and were confirmed by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ):
- The outpost Amona was built on private, registered Palestinian land
- Construction of the outpost entailed trespassing and was undertaken without construction permits and against the law
- The Civil Administration issued demolition orders for all the outpost structures yet did not enforce its own orders
- The Israeli government allocated public funds for the illegal outpost
- The outpost settlers, who violated the law, received millions in compensation and a new settlement was built for their benefit
Even after the High Court’s decision finally compelled the State to evacuate the outpost, Israel continues to frustrate Palestinian landowners’ efforts to reach their privately-owned land.
Paradoxically, Israel refuses to allow the Palestinian landowners to go to their own land because Israeli settlers are present there, illegally. Since 2017 and encouraged by senior public officials, many Israelis have violated the demarcation order and have repeatedly visited privately-owned Palestinian land where the illegal outpost Amona once stood. Their visits involve prayers, events, repeated attempts to resettle and tending to the agricultural invasions there.
Israel’s policy creates a vicious circle: law authorities allow Israelis to carry out illegal actions and thereby prevent the Palestinian landowners from accessing and cultivating their land and living off its fruits.
The Amona affair has become a symbol of Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories. And it is a symbol. Amona represents offending settlers who use violence and a variety of unlawful means to take over private Palestinian land and treat it as their own property. It stands for military and law enforcement authorities’ policy of non-enforcement when Israelis harm Palestinians and their property. It is an example of the millions of shekels in funding and of the tacit and overt legitimacy the Government of Israel extends to illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory. It is an icon of Israel’s regime of colonial occupation trampling Palestinians’ rights for over 53 years.
The Palestinian landowners from Ein Yabrud, Taybeh, Deir Jarir, and Silwad are still struggling to return to their privately-owned land, stolen by Israelis 25 years ago.