By: Malak Hasan
RAMALLAH, June 24, 2012 (WAFA) – Six years have passed since Khalid Yasin first began his legal battle against Jewish settlers – a battle which is expected to culminate, and for the first time, in the demolishing of the settlement outpost Ulpana, built on private Palestinian land near the illegal West Bank settlement of Beit El.
Yasin, a Palestinian father of five and a farmer residing in the village of Dura al-Qari near Ramallah, filed a lawsuit in an Israeli court against several Israeli officials in a legal precedent to get back his 11 dunums of land, which were illegally taken over by Beit El settlers.
Yasin spoke to WAFA about his long and painful journey to get his land back, which first started in 1995 when he, along with other village residents, started to notice suspicious structures being set up on their land.
“At first the settlers put up caravans and tents to celebrate their festivals and holidays,” he said. “But after a while, these structures started to take a more permanent nature.”
The village residents protested the obviously malicious attempt by the settlers to take control of more of their land, with an aim to expand the settlement hovering over the village like a shadow of death.
“A man named Khair Qasim was killed during one of these protests,” said Yasin. “The village residents were not allowed to enter their land and were frequently terrorized by the settlers, who were armed most of the time.”
Later on, Yasin was denied access to his land after settlers annexed it to build Ulpana, a small settlement outpost of five buildings.
Dura al-Qari was once a thriving village of 5600 dunums and a population of several thousand farmers living in peace and off cultivating their land.
When Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, it turned a Jordanian army camp that was set up near the village on land that belonged to the town of al-Bireh, Ramallah’s twin city, into an Israeli army base. Eventually, and over the years, the Israeli camp expanded to nearby Dura al-Qari and annexed more than 1500 dunums of the village’s agricultural land for that purpose.
But the army did not stop here. The camp was then turned into a civilian settlement outpost, which expanded over the years at the expense of Dura al-Qari to become Beit El settlement. Eventually, the Israeli military government decided that most of Dura al-Qari’s land would become out of reach for its 3500 residents and deemed it Area C, which means Palestinians would not be allowed to develop it in any way. This encouraged the settlers to take over more Palestinian land and built Ulpana believing they can easily get away with their act.
Dora al-Qari was left with only 800 dunums of its land, which is only the built up area.
“In 2006, the settlers started razing land in preparation for the expansion of the new outpost, Ulpana,” said Yasin. “I had enough and decided to build a case against them with the help of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group providing legal assistance to citizens of the Palestinian Territory.”
On October 29, 2008, after two years of struggle to bring necessary documents to prove ownership of the land, Yasin and Harbi Mustafa, another man whose land was annexed by Beit El settlers, finally filed a lawsuit against several Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, demanding to evict the illegal settlers from their land and to get it back.
Less than a month after, on November 17, 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court issued an order to demolish all illegal structures built on Yasin and Mustafa lands. However, the order was met with deaf ears by the settlers who continued to build on the land.
“The Israeli government didn’t abide by the court’s order to dismantle the five buildings and failed to carry out the demolition order,” said Yasin.
Four years later, Yasin filed a petition to execute the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling, and won again with another court decision stating that he is entitled to his land and all buildings must be dismantled.
“They (the settlers) set fire to two cars that I owned. They don’t hesitate to unleash their anger by setting fire to mosques and spraying racist words such as ‘Revenge for Ulpana’ on houses that belong to Palestinians,” he said with anger.
“I have been bribed many times with huge sums of money to relinquish the case, but I would never do that because it is not worth my people getting hurt by the settlers’ savagery,” he stressed.
On April 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the Supreme Court that his government would not enforce its order because it needs more time to re-house Ulpana settlers.
The court rejected the Israeli government’s second appeal with a final court decision in favor of Yasin to be executed by July 1.
Less than a week away from the date which was set to demolish Ulpana, Yasin looked from the window of his house from which he can see his land and said: “I am very content and happy. I’m not sure what is going to happen, but for now I’m really happy that I won this battle against Israel.”
When Yasin was asked whether he was afraid of reprisal by settlers he said, “Abbas Ibn Firnas (an Arab scientist) attempted to fly and died. However, he was the one to inspire the world how to fly.”