What Is the Significance of Considering Colonial Settlers as “Local Residents”?


Walid Salem – TRANSCEND Media Service

21 Dec 2018 – In November 2017, Israeli Supreme Court of Justice Judge Salim Gibran decided to consider colonial settlers living in the West Bank as “local residents” and asked the Civil Administration to discharge its responsibilities towards them, as it do to any other local resident in the same area.

Shortly after this decision, the Israeli government’s legal advisor, Avihai Mendelblit, approved the use of Judge Jubran’s decision to allow a road to a random settlement called Horashah to be built on the grounds that its “local residents” are as worthy of service as other local residents. The same expression was used in the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the evacuation of the Al Khan Al Ahmar arguing that the residents of Al Khan Al Ahmar were residing “illegally” on land “owned” by other local residents of neighboring settlements.

This does not mean that the consideration of the colonists as local inhabitants is new. The mere fact that Israel has since 1967 transferred part of its population and immigrant population to the territories occupied in 1967 entails recognition of their “legitimate right”. In recent years, this “right” has been devised through official decisions, perhaps the first of which was the decision of the Israeli government last year to settle the status of random settlements built on Palestinian land, including the settlement of 4,000 housing units, and the decision completed two days ago to complete Settlement of the rest of these colonies, including 66 other settlements.

What is new, then, is represented first in the legislation of control on private Palestinian land, as long as it is controlled “in good faith” as stipulated in the special legislation on the subject of these random settlements of last year.

The second is to start judicially (in the Israeli judiciary) by making decisions on this basis, such as the decision on Al Khan Al Ahmar , as well as the decision on “Batn Al Hawa” in Silwan.

In light of these developments, which have been intensively used in Israeli legal bodies recently, it appears that Israel has officially moved to consider all of the West Bank, including private property, as a land that is eligible to settler colonialism over them. In this context we can explain, for example, the confiscation of the land of the house of Nasser Abu Humaid in the Amari camp after it was demolished two days ago.

Israel is now moving into a new situation in which the settler colonists become a “local population” in terms of the official name, but are in fact treated as “the people of the country of origin”. Did not Netanyahu say at the opening ceremony of the roundabout Gaba’a few days ago: “This is our country, they want to uproot us, but we stay?”

In this way, the settlers are also preferred above all the Israelis. On the one hand, they are “Israeli citizens”, but above that “the pioneers and the vanguard of the completion of the Zionist project”. Nine ministers go out to participate in their demonstration in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office yesterday.

The Israeli government says with full mouth that it is no longer satisfied with its control within the 1948 borders, but it wanted to claim and apply the right to all of Palestine. This creates a new stage that requires the unity of fate among all the Palestinians. There is no longer any difference between what is happening in the Negev and what is going on in Jerusalem and the West Bank in this context.

On the other hand, Israel says to the Palestinian Jerusalemites: “You are Jordanian citizens living in the Land of Israel” and to the West Bank people: “You are Palestinian residents of disputed territories.”. The wretched Gaza Strip, whose image is being exported to the world, is then left as a haven for terrorism and misery. Refugees have become out of the equation.

It is interesting to note that it was the Israeli government that initiated the recent escalation in the killing of Ashraf Na’alwa and Saleh Barghouthi. As soon as the Palestinian response came, it immediately brought out its colonial settlement projects from drawers such as approving the construction of 2,000 housing units on the basis of the “market system”. It is noteworthy that these decisions have been accompanied by another to intensify the repression against the perpetrators of the operations and their families and to increase the suffering of the Palestinian people. The settler colonists took part in these actions by cutting off roads between the cities and throwing stones at Palestinian cars throughout the West Bank. Statements were also issued and published pictures calling for the killing of President Mahmoud Abbas.

The United States is involved in the colonial settlement project on the ground, and today there is one in every six settler colonists of American origin. American Anglican associations are also active as volunteers in the settlements in the West Bank.

All invited to seriously discuss what have been achieved over the “Conflict resolution decades”, not only forward-looking, but also to define clearly the essential non violent elements of confrontation as alternatives to mere negotiations.


Dr. Walid Salem is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He was born in East Jerusalem in 1957 and teaches democracy and human rights at AlQuds University. He is a writer of thirty books and training manuals, and tens of research papers on Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, and Jerusalem. He is also a consultant, evaluator, and trainer for several public and private bodies. Salem trained more than thirty thousand Palestinians on these issues since 1990. From 1993, he has been the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem. He is the Coordinator of Middle East Citizen Assembly as regional network of experts and activists on citizenship issues that include participants from 19 countries from the region since 2004. He has lectured at several international conferences and seminars about democracy, Jerusalem, refugees, and development in Palestine.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Dec 2018.

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