The Threat of Expulsion in Masafer Yatta

by Douglas Gerrard, Pyla Bird-Leakey and Maya Novi

Masafer Yatta is an area in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank, home to around 1300 Palestinians living in 12 villages. 

Under Israeli occupation since 1967, Masafer Yatta was declared a ‘Firing Zone’ for military training in the early 1980s. This designation creates a pretext for Masafer Yatta’s demolition, and its residents have lived under the threat of expulsion ever since.

The threat to Masafer Yatta has intensified in recent years, and a recent Israeli Supreme Court hearing will go some way to determining its future. However, even if the Courts do not permit its demolition, Masafer Yatta will not be safe from annexation and dispossession. 

While there has been sustained pressure around Masafer Yatta from Palestinian and Israeli activists, as of yet the international community has not paid much attention to the issue. As the protests over the planned evictions in Sheikh Jarrah last summer showed, international pressure can have a real impact on the actions of the Israeli Government. Our aim is to initiate a UK wide reaction to the ongoing demolition and violence in Masafer Yatta to place pressure on the Israeli Government to halt the demolitions. 

There are two intended outcomes:

  1. Strengthen relations between the residents of Masafer Yatta and communities within the UK in order to provide solidarity and support.
  2. Bring the facts of the demolition and displacement to the attention of MPs in the UK and encourage them to make statements of solidarity with Masafer Yatta.

Our planned project has two parts:

  1. Twinning: We are hoping to facilitate an official twinning partnership between Masafer Yatta and a Jewish community in North London. The aim of the partnership, which would be the first of its kind in the UK, would be to foster sustained solidarity and connection between the two communities and help create a durable international constituency dedicated to advocating for Masafer Yatta and its residents.
  2. Document: We will create a document containing the political and historical background of Masafer Yatta, the legal context of its demolition, and testimonies from local residents. This will be used to lobby MPs to make statements regarding the illegality of the demolition and displacement. 

We plan to bring both strands of the project together in a live event in the latter half of the year, including speakers from Masafer Yatta and the twinned Jewish community, as well as legal experts and MPs.

Contact if you would like to find out more information.