Naomi Kahn
Naomi KahnHezki Baruch

Naomi Kahn is director of Regavim's International Division. Regavim is a public movement dedicated to the protection of Israel's national lands and resources throughout the country and acts to prevent illegal takeover of Israeli land.

The Jewish occupants of the small cluster of homes that comprise the Pnei Kedem Farm were awakened before dawn on Tuesday by a Civil Administration the demolition team, accompanied by a large force of Border Police. The residents – at least one of whom returned from battle in the Gaza Strip as his home was being torn down, in the vain hope of rescuing his possessions – were rousted, as the sun came up over Gush Etzion.

The leaders of the Gush Etzion Municipality were unavailable to come to their aid or defense; they were, sadly, “otherwise occupied,” preparing funeral arrangements for another one of Gush Etzion’s fallen soldiers, David Schwartz of Elazar.

Tragically, demolition of Jewish homes in this time of war is not unique; despite specific directives against them by cabinet ministers, “enforcement actions” continue – but in the Jewish sector alone.

The demolition of the Pnei Kedem Farm took on a particularly harsh tone, in light of the massive illegal ground-clearing work being carried at by Arabs at that very same time, right up the road. On the back fence of Efrat, Arab teams using heavy machinery were busy uprooting protected trees and clearing the ground – just another day in the ongoing onslaught of illegal annexation by the Palestinian Authority to which Israel’s enforcement authorities continue to turn a blind eye.

In addition, the Regavim Movement previously documented no less than 46 illegal Arab structures – 7 of them built within the last year - in the immediate vicinity of the now-demolished Pnei Kedem Farm. The Civil Administration has never taken any action against these illegal Arab structures – ever.

The timing of the selective enforcement in Gush Etzion stands out as even more absurd than usual against the backdrop of recent statement by Israel’s State Comptroller, Matanyahu Engelman, on a recent visit to the northern Israeli Druse communities. “It is incomprehensible that a Druse soldier holds his emergency draft notice in one hand, and a demolition order for his home in the other,” Engelman intoned.

These glaring inequities are only the tip of the iceberg of a massive paradigm failure. The Ministry of Defense and the IDF, the Civil Administration’s “parents”, suffer from a far far more insidious illness than mere anti-Jewish bias. Below the surface of Israel’s skewed enforcement policy is an underlying, systemic rot.

Successive governments of Israel have clung to erroneous conceptions of Israel’s national interest and security that can no longer be allowed to prevail. The Israeli government has completely failed to learn the lessons of October 7th. Rather than addressing the immediate danger posed by the Palestinian Authority’s de facto annexation of tens of thousands of dunams of Israeli state land in Area C, particularly in areas that pose a direct threat to the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, the Civil Administration devotes massive resources to the demolition of Jewish farms that were created in order to protect state land from Arab encroachment.

Regavim’s recently-published report, “The Israel Envelope 2023,” exposes the Palestinian Authority’s massive takeover of the seamline zone abutting Israel’s “green line” security barrier.

Some 19,000 illegal Palestinian Authority structures currently occupy what was envisioned – even by Oslo architects Peres and Rabin! – as a sterile buffer zone that would enable Israel to defend itself against an October 7th-style invasion from Palestinian Authority-controlled territory.

Within 1 kilometer (half a mile) of the Israeli communities adjacent to the security barrier, Regavim documented a staggering 16,899 illegal structures. The Civil Administration simply pretends that they do not pose a threat, and continues to conduct itself according to the concepts that enabled the October 7th massacre to occur.

A policy of “enforcement parity” continues to dictate demolition of the few Jewish homes that stand of Israeli state land – precisely in order to hold the Arab takeover of land at bay – while massive European-funded Arab construction has completely engulfed Israel’s security assets.

If there is any lesson to be learned from the massacre of October 7th, it is this: The tolerance and selective blindness that characterized Israel’s behavior along the southern border must never be repeated.

Israel must maintain control of seamline areas, or the next massacre of Israeli civilians is only a matter of time. Israel’s border with Gaza is a fraction of our border with the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, which overlooks the vast majority of Israel’s densely populated coastal plain and central cities.

If we hope to avoid a repeat of Be’eri and Nahal Oz in Rosh HaAyin, Modi’in, Kochav Yair, Israel’s enforcement priorities must be redrawn so that our national interests are at the very top of the list.

Illegal PA building along separation wall
Illegal PA building along separation wallRegavim