Thirty-one years after the Israeli authorities confiscated his land in the Palestinian village of Dura Al-Qar’, north of Ramallah, Palestinian landowner Abdul Rahman Kassem has fought for a legal ruling for the demolition of two units in Beit El settlement on the grounds that they are built on private property. Although the ruling does not allow Kassem access to his land so that he can farm it with grapes, as he did in the past with his father and grandfathers, he promises that “one day my children and grandchildren will be able to do so.”
His story began when Israel confiscated his land, amounting to about 3.5 acres, in 1984 for “military purposes” as part of a decision to confiscate nearly 450 acres of land in the village in order to build the Beit El settlement. This settlement had been considered as a military outpost in the occupied West Bank since 1978.
Kassem has been knocking on various political and legal doors over the past 30 years in order to restore his land, but has not been able to achieve anything. When an Israeli building company began the construction of settlement housing units on his land in 2009, he resumed his legal battle in the courts.
The Israeli Supreme Court initially issued a ruling halting the construction on Kassem’s land, but the builder did not attend the trial and carried on. He even called Kassem to offer him $28 million for the land, or “any amount he wanted”. Kassem told him that the land was not for sale, neither to an Arab nor a Jew.
On 8 September last year, Kassem succeeded in getting an order from the Supreme Court that ordered the demolition of the two settlement units being built on his land, but settlement groups appealed against the ruling.
“I was presented with tempting offers to drop the case,” explained Kassem, “but I told the investor that nine young men were killed on this land while they defended it; four from Jalzone Camp and five from my own village, one of whom was my son Ibrahim who was a university student at the time, in 1991. If your son was killed for the sake of your land, would you sell it?”
His land inside the settlement is surrounded by metal fencing and cement walls. “This is not important now,” he says with confidence. “One day they will be removed from Beit El and we will fight to our deaths to regain it.”