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Dead occupying the living: Half of settler graves built on Palestinian land' Open in fullscreen

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Dead occupying the living: Half of settler graves built on Palestinian land'

Researchers noted "deliberate intent" behind the location of the settler cemetaries [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 March, 2018

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New research has found that over 600 Israeli settlers are buried on private Palestinian land - a move which could cause major complications for any future settlement evacuation plan.
Almost half of Israeli settler graves in the occupied West Bank have been dug on private Palestinian land, according to a new report by Israeli NGO Kerem Navot.

Nearly 40 percent of settler graves - equating to more than 600 buried Israeli settlers - have been built on Palestinian land beyond the Green Line, including that seized or occupied by Israeli authorities for public use or "security" reasons.

The findings of the research, carried out by left-wing NGO Kerem Navot, which specialises in Israeli land policy beyond the Green Line, or Israel's 1967 borders.

It was also reported that slain settler rabbi Raziel Shevach - who was shot and killed by Palestinian Ahmed Jarrar near the wildcat settler outpost of Havat Gilad in January - is among those buried on Palestinian land.

Baruch Goldstein - who murdered 29 Muslim worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994 - is also buried in the West Bank, in the settlement of Kiryat Arba. 

The approximately 10 cemeteries located on private Palestinian land vary in size, the biggest being located near Barkan, west of Ariel, containing some 300 graves.

A further 20 cemeteries lie in the occupied West Bank, however on territory the Israeli authorities have declared as "state lands", however this is still considered illegally occupied land under international law.

The research was carried out by Dror Etkes from Kerem Navot, who used data from the Israeli Civil Administration's Geographical Information System, which he accessed through a freedom of information request.

Using satellite images he was able to locate and estimate how many burial sites are spread across the West Bank. He also discovered that many graves are situated at a considerable distance to settlement homes themselves.

He told Haaretz that the choice of where the cemeteries are located - in particular when they have been built on private land far away from the nearest homes - is no coincidence.

"I work on the assumption that there are always deliberate intentions afoot," he told Haaretz. The placement of a cemetery "is not chosen for no reason. It is a very long-term investment - and in Judaism, whoever buries people in a certain place does so on the understanding they will not be removed.

"Obviously, there is deliberate intent lurking behind the location of these cemeteries," Etkes added, "and it may be assumed that whoever buries the dead on private Palestinian land knows exactly what he's doing".

Etkes also highlighted the sensitivity of such findings, as Jewish religious custom dictates that graves may not be exhumed and moved.

Therefore any peace agreement that includes evacuation of illegal settlements will be further entwined in complication.

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