Israel’s Top Authors Protest Plans to Evict Cave Dwellers

Amos Oz
Author Amos Oz in Tel Aviv. The writer has joined a protest against Israel government plans to evict Palestinian cave dwellers from their traditional homes in the West Bank as part of a plan for a new firing range. Photographer: Ahikam Seri/Bloomberg

Palestinian cave dwellers in the West Bank won support from an unexpected corner this week when Amos Oz and other Israeli writers protested against Israeli government plans to evict them.

“In a reality of ongoing occupation, of solid cynicism and meanness, each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering, do something to bend back the occupations’ giant, cruel hand,” Oz, David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, Etgar Keret and 18 others wrote in a petition.

The plea was posted on the website of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which petitioned the High Court of Justice in January against the eviction of about 1,000 Palestinians living in eight rural villages in an area designated as a military firing zone.

There is a tradition of cave dwelling by Palestinians in the West Bank area near Hebron. Some set up tents near caves. They herd goats and sheep and grow small crops on the land, using wooden plows, and rely on rainwater.

The court has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the forced removal of the families. It is holding its next hearing on July 15. The Defense Ministry said in a statement that it has proposed a compromise that would allow some of the cave dwellers to remain in the area while others would continue to work the land when the army wasn’t using it for training.

The ministry said the disputed area in the West Bank, near the city of Hebron, was declared a closed military zone in the 1970s and designated as an area under Israeli jurisdiction in the 1993 Oslo peace accords.

Human Rights

A second petition on the association’s website, signed by Israeli law professors, said the ejection of families from lands “where they have been retaining a unique way of life for many generations, is a harsh violation of their human rights and of international humanitarian law.”

Israeli authors such as Oz and Grossman who oppose the occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a state, routinely give speeches at rallies, sign petitions and write opinion columns. For many Israelis, they are secular spiritual leaders, although they don’t necessarily see themselves as such.

On June 26, Grossman wrote an editorial in the daily Haaretz protesting a new highway meant to link Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem. The road will bisect the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa, cutting families off from each other, Grossman said.

“The injustice and malice of it cry out,” wrote the author, who lost a son during Israel’s 2006 fighting in Lebanon.

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