The Settlement of Anatot – Background to Last Week’s Mob Attack | By Dror Etkes

The settlers of Anatot grew accustomed to the idea that any and all private Palestinian land around the settlement, belongs not to the Palestinians, but to them. As such, they have no intention to allow an “Arab” and his friends to work on land that has been nationalized for the sake of the settlement expansion.
This is the story of systematic land grab that lies behind the mob attack that settlers from Anatot carried out during Rosh HaShana against Yassin el-Rafa’i, his wife, and a few dozen Left-wing activists who accompanied them to their family’s fields.
The settlement of Anatot- officially known as Almon- was founded in 1982 atop a rocky outcrop Northeast of the Palestinian village of Anata. The land on which Anatot was built was, even during the period of Jordanian rule, registered as “State Land.” In other words, the land was public land that the State of Israel transferred to the exclusive control and uses (as in the rest of the West Bank) of Jewish settlers.
Anatot was settled by people (mostly from Jerusalem) seeking to enhance their housing situation, to fulfill the dream of owning a house with a garden. These settlers were not necessarily identified with the hardcore religious right. Their sociological background is reflected in their voting patterns: in the last Knesset elections, in 2009, 54% voted Likud, 18% Kadima, 11% voted for Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party, and the National Unity Party (which received the majority of votes in most “hardcore” religious settlements) received on 5% of the vote.
The takeaway is clear: the idea of “quality of life settlers” is a fiction. The violence that these same dozens of Anatot residents enacted last week would have made the extreme/radical outpost settlers proud.
As in all settlements founded in the same period, the residents of Anatot lived, during the early years of settlement, in trailers and caravans. Living in the trailers turned out to be a worthwhile “sacrifice:” during the early 1990s, permanent houses were built, and Anatot- like many other settlements- was transformed into another bourgeois suburb, located a few kilometers east of Jerusalem.
The permanent neighborhood of Anatot was not built on the original site of the caravans. In order to take control of more territory, the neighborhood of Anatot was built on the other side, the Northern side, of the valley- which was then still being worked by Palestinians from the village of Anata. The settlement of Anatot, thanks to distorted and morally criminal planning, expanded onto both sides of the valley, despite the fact that the land there was listed as private Palestinian land.
How is such a situation to be managed? Does every settler who wants to visit his friend on the other side of the valley have to climb into a helicopter? No; connecting roads between the two parts of the settlement were built in the middle of more private Palestinian land.
In the late 1990s, a jurisdictional map of Anatot was signed by the central IDF commander of the West Bank, in a move that was both strategically masterful and morally despicable. Official territory of the settlement included on “State Lands,” but it was impossible to create a continuous strip of territory for the settlement—the “State Lands” are surrounded by many plots of land that are listed, in the Land Registry, as the property of Palestinian residents of Anata.
The Civil Administration continued to approve plans for construction on the “State Land,” as if the “State Land” was not surrounded by hundreds of acres of private Palestinian land which would have to be dismembered in order to create access routes to the settlement.  Thus the “Lidor” Compnay was able to build, in 2003, a new neighborhood in Anatot, on an island of “State Land” located 700 meters west of the main permanent neighborhood. The logic was simple: We will begin by taking over lands that are the farthest away from the main settlement so as to create facts-on-the-ground that will, in turn, widen the settlement’s de facto territory. In order to include the new neighborhood, the settlement’s gate was moved further west, and vast areas were fenced into the settlement’s borders. In 2003, the State built a perimeter fence that trapped inside it dozens of private Palestinian plots of land, on hundreds of acres of territory. From the moment that the fence and the gate were built, the Palestinian landowners were de facto prevented from entering their plots of land that were “stuck” between the islands of “State Land.” One of these plots belonged to Yassin el-Rafa’i.
In recent years, there has been a massive upsurge of such processes, in which  settlements in situations like that of Anatot expand onto land that formally does not belong to them. In Anatot, two parks and a Café called “Coffee in the Desert” were built on private land. Elsewhere, private land located between two projects belonging to the “Lidor” Company was taken over in order to develop a “public park” for the good of “the community:” wouldn’t it be a shame if the land remained undeveloped? The Palestinians are prevented from entering the settlement, anyway…
Thus passed eight years. The settlers of Anatot grew accustomed to the idea that any and all private Palestinian land belongs not to the Palestinians, but to them. As such, they have no intention to allow an “Arab” and his friends to work on land that has been nationalized for the settlements. This was exactly the message that was passed along, quite clearly, to Mr. Yassin el-Rafa’i and the activists that accompanied him to his land last week, during Rosh HaShana.
Dror Etkes has been following Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank for the last 9 years.
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