Palestinians farmed land on the ruins of the former Homesh settlement in northern Samaria on Thursday, after entering the site for the first time in close to 40 years.
They did so, after the state in June canceled the 1978 military land seizure order that created the West Bank settlement and after the Attorney-General’s Office in September ruled that the area was no longer closed to Palestinians.
The IDF clarified, however, that while Palestinians were allowed to farm there, Israelis were not allowed to enter the site.
Homesh is one of four north Samaria settlements – along with Sanur, Ganim and Kadim – that were destroyed as part of the 2005 disengagement.
The three other settlements are closed military zones.
Since 2005 settlers have returned many times to Homesh to hold events and festivals among its ruins, in which they called on the government to allow them to rebuild.
Politicians – including senior Likud ministers such as Moshe Ya’alon and Yuli Edelstein – have, before this current government, held press conferences by the water tower. It was painted orange, the symbolic color for the battle to save the four Samaria settlements and the 21 Jewish Gaza communities that were evacuated during disengagement.
On Thursday, however, Palestinians stood by the water tower and waved red, green and white Palestinian flags.
They also began to plant olive tress, according to Yesh Din spokeswoman Reut Mor, whose organization accompanied the farmers on what she said was the first of many days in which they would now be working the land.
It was Yesh Din that in 2010 filed a petition on behalf of Palestinians from the nearby village of Burka that led the state to rescind the 1978 military order.
Haaretz reporter Chaim Levinson snapped a photograph of a sign held by Palestinians on Thursday morning, as they rallied by the water tower, that showed a black arrow or a sphere rammed into the mouth and out threw the head of a religious Jewish man.
In the caricature, the man has a black skullcap, long pe’ot and a grey beard.
On Thursday night the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip reacted angrily both to the sign and to the presence of the farmers at Homesh.
“I am appalled by the anti- Semitic images displayed by the Palestinians in Homesh,” said the council’s deputy director, Yigal Delmonti.
“The Israeli weakness that allows the Arabs to enter Homesh but bans Jews from the site has increased incitement and anti-Semitism,” he said.
The government should immediately authorize the return of its citizens to Homesh and the other three settlements, he said.
Separately, Yesh Din this week filed a petition before the High Court of Justice in which it asked the state to rescind the 1979 military order that allowed a plot of private Palestinian land outside the master plan of Beit El to be included in the settlement, which was created in 1970.
It filed the petition on behalf of a Palestinian landowner, Ahmad Abd al-Rahman Qassam, from the nearby village of Dura al-Kara, who is already battling through the court to halt a project of five buildings that has begun on that site.