The existence of Adei Ad harms Palestinians not just physically but also financially, and leads to the abandonment of villages.

The Israeli media stopped, in recent years, paying attention to assaults of Palestinians by settlers, unless this is a particularly severe case, such as an assault on an 80-year old farmer. One of the issues which isn’t even close to the surface, as far as the media – and hence, the majority of Israelis — is the fact that the existence of outposts is often theft, quite literally.

The outpost Adei Ad, which is the case study of our new report, “The Road to Dispossession“, encroaches on the lands of four Palestinian villages: Al Mughayer, Qaryut, Jaloud and Turmusaya. The clearest case is that of Al Mughayer.

As we’ve seen, the creation of an outpost creates several rings of damage around it. The first is the territory of the outpost itself, which often grows quickly. The second is the outpost’s perimeter, and the third is the lands which Palestinian farmers may enter just twice a year, subject to military approval and coordination. The farmers of Al Mughayer found out that someone found a way to exploit the fact they are prevented from accessing their lands: On several occasions, Israelis made their way to their olive groves and pillaged them several days before the owners received permission to reach it. The founder of Adei Ad, Boaz Melet, was convicted in such a case of trespassing, and two other settlers are still on trial on such charges.

But, enraging as these thefts may be, the major financial damage is not caused by theft, but by destruction of property and preventing access to it. The residents of the four villages complain time and again about trees being cut down, burned, and in a few rare cases poisoned. The police reaction – well, there’s not much to say about it, except one fantastic sentence, worth quoting: “The complaints are often general, and do not point out specific suspects.” Did you get that? The Keystone Cops are not all that good at investigating crimes, unless you point out the suspects to them.

Aside from damage to trees and lands, the main offense is caused by the very existence of the outpost: A prohibition on entering significant parts of the lands of the villages. In Qaryut, they estimate their yearly damage at about two million NIS (roughly 500,000 USD), assuming each dunam generates revenues of about 800 NIS (roughly 200 USD) per year. This calculation does not take into account the value of the land itself.

The village of Jaloud found out, since Adei Ad and other outposts were built on its lands, that the IDF forbids its residents from entering 9,937 dunams; the villagers have abandoned 319 more dunams out of fear of violence by Israeli citizens – violence which the army was supposed to prevent but fails to (which brings to mind the old military adage that “‘I can’t’ is a close cousin to ‘I don’t want to'”). The villagers have only about 5,965 dunams left – the worse parts of the land, hardly arable and mostly rocky.  In short, most of the village’s lands were practically nationalized for the benefit of a small number of outpost dwellers. The residents of Jaloud estimate the damage they suffer to be the equivalent of 6.4 million NIS (roughly, 1.6 million USD), assuming each dunam generates revenues of about 800 NIS per year.

Al Mughayer, which used to be a mainly agricultural settlement, no longer is. Where 500 of its residents used to make their living from agriculture, now they number about 30. Its pastures used to feed about 15,000 sheep; now less than 4,000 are left. The residents of Al Mughayer go out to work their lands in large groups, of 15 to 20 people, so as to deter the Israeli marauders; in many cases this tactic proves inefficient. Some of the village lands were abandoned, simply because there is no point in tilling them: Israeli citizens will destroy the crops or steal them.

All this has several more implications. As soon as it occupied the territories in 1967, Israel ceased the process of registering the lands there, started by the British and the Jordanians. The lands of the villagers are considered to be in their possession, but not registered to them. A plot of unregistered land which is also uncultivated because Israeli citizens (supported by the IDF) terrorize is owners is liable to be confiscated at some point by the state, and declared “public lands”, or as they are often called “state lands.” Once they are confiscated, they are very likely to be allocated to the settlers. This, after all, is the reasonable explanation for the acts of terror: An attempt to make farmers abandon their lands, so that with time they can become the property of those who dispossessed its owners.

Another reason is that an agricultural community whose lands are robbed from it cannot be sustained. Three of the four villages – the exception is Al Mughayer – report a significant abandonment of the villages. This, in turn, will allow later on the official annexation of these territories to Israel – a plan openly promoted by the recently elected Economy and Commerce Minister, Naftali Bennet.

These acts of terrorism, carried out with the silent approval of all the Israeli authorities, is not an isolated incident and is not a coincidence. It’s a system. And when the Israel media ignores it, it tacitly collaborates with it.