The Palestinian Village of Ni’lin
Background information and reference data
Ni’lin village is located in the West Bank, 26 km to the west of Ramallah city. It lies at the centre of seven other villages: Al Midya, Qibya, Shuqba, Shabtin, Budrus, Deir Qaddis, and Kharbatha Bani Harith.
Historically, Ni’lin served as the centre of education, health, economic and public services for the surrounding villages. Ni’lin Secondary School is the top school in the area, and hosts students from several other villages. The village also has a small, basically equipped hospital, in addition to a number of factories that produce juice, cola, and rubber.
Until 1948, Ni’lin villagers owned 58,000 dunums (580 hectares: 1 dunum = 0.01 hectares) of land, which stretched as far as Ramle and Lod, cities that now lie inside Israel. After the Nakba of 1948, 40,000 dunums of this land was annexed to the newly created Israeli state.
After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal settlements of Kiryat Sefer, Mattityahu and Maccabim were built on village lands. In addition, new roads were created for the ever-expanding settlements of Nili and Na’ale. Together, these settlements and their associated infrastructure ate up another 8,000 dunums of Ni’lin’s land.
Moreover, an Israeli military base and scores of military checkpoints were also set up in the area.
- Ni’lin situation map
These confiscations left Ni’lin with just 10,000 of its original 58,000 dunums of land. Yet construction of the Wall on the western side of the village, and a military base on the southern side will strip Ni’lin of a further 2,500 dunums of land.
In addition to this, the closure of the main entrance to the village to replace it with a tunnel running under the segregated settler-only road will involve the confiscation of a further 200 dunums. This will effectively turn Ni’lin into a prison, where the Israeli military will have the power to open and close the tunnel to the village indiscriminately and at whim.
Finally, this will leave the village with just 7,300 dunums, including the land on which the houses are built.
The land to be confiscated includes prime agricultural land; hundreds of the olives trees will be lost.
In 1948 there were 2,500 inhabitants living in Ni’lin. Today, 60 years later, there are some 5,000 inhabitants. Under normal growth rates, the population should be five times higher. But continuous land confiscations and resulting poverty and unemployment, together with closures, have led people to leave the village in search of better work opportunities.
Several archaeological sites can be found in Ni’lin dating back to the Canaanite period, including the Al-Natof site that is thousands of years old, the Zebda site, the Shuqba caves, as well as castles and buildings that are five times older than the Israeli occupation. These sites are global cultural heritage, yet Israel is either destroying them day after day by building the Wall, or seeking to take control of these archaeological sites.
The private Israeli water company ‘Mekorot’ has controlled water resources in the West Ramallah district under authorisation from the Israeli military since 1967, effectively stealing the water from Palestinians at selling it back to them at inflated prices.
Additional water to Ni’lin and the surrounding villages is supplied by a well and springs located in Shabtin village. Yet even the amount of water that they can draw from these sources is controlled by the Israeli military. Meanwhile, settlers living in the surrounding settlements can access four times more water than Palestinians, and pay five times less for it than the Palestinian owners of the water sources. Villagers often face acute water shortages in the summer time because Israel cuts water supplies to the villages, forcing villagers to purchase tanks of water at high cost.
Over the years, hundreds of dunums of Ni’lin’s land has been classified as Area C by the Israeli military, which subsequently allowed the construction of bypass Road 446 on these lands. The official pretext used to justify this confiscation and construction was that these roads would connect Ni’lin with the surrounding villages. Yet Palestinians have been forbidden from using these roads since 2003. Instead, Road 446 connects three settlements in the area with each other. Now, Israel is planning to connect these settlements with Tel Aviv by constructing yet another bypass road on the northern side of the village, which will mean that even more land from the villages of Ni’lin, Qibya and Budrus will be lost. Construction of this new road will also isolate the surrounding villages from each other; this new Israeli plan will isolate the nine western villages into three ghettos and jails.
Following Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, the successive Israeli Governments adopted a policy of land confiscation for the various Israeli purposes that were mostly exemplified in the establishment of settlements, bypass roads and military bases.
Accordingly, the village of Ni’lin witnessed the confiscation of its lands for the establishment of five Israeli settlements that stand on 1963 dunums, 13.3% of the village’s total land area. The settlements are a home to more than 40,000 Israeli settlers as illustrated in the table below:
D = dunums
Classification of Lands in Ni’lin village according to Oslo II Agreement of 1995
|Settlement Name||Date of Establishment||Population (2006)||Settlement area Inside village Boundary (D)||Total settlement Area (D)|
Source: ARIJ GIS UNIT 2007
The village also suffers from the flow of wastewater from Israeli settlements such as Hashmon’im and the settlements inside the Green Line into its land. The flood of wastewater intersects with Ad Doyeh water flow that separates the village of Ni’lin from the village of Al Midya (South of Ni’lin).
The Israeli army has informed the village about a new tunnel that it is planning to build at the entrance to Ni’lin on the western side of the village. Some 150 dunums of the village’s land will be confiscated for this purpose. The current entrance to the village will be closed, and will be replaced by the tunnel to be built under Road 446.
The first aim of the tunnel is to control the life of Ni’lin’s 5,000 inhabitants and to cut them off from their networks in the surrounding villages, and Ramallah city. It will be built on some of the village’s best agricultural land, and will see the destruction of hundreds of olive trees that serve as a key livelihood for the local people.
The direction of the tunnel will come from west to east, dividing the village into two parts: upper and lower Ni’lin. One direction will isolate 1,000 inhabitants living in the upper area, and will prevent then from accessing the lower area. This will mean that they will be cut off from health, education and other services in the upper part, as well as from social and kinship networks. Their movement will depend on the whim of Israeli soldiers who will open the gate to upper Ni’lin for 45 minutes each day, like in Jayyous and other West Bank villages for example.
The second aim of the gate is to destroy the village’s economy, and the third aim is to isolate farmers from their agricultural land.
Since 1967, the Israeli military has committed daily human rights violations against Palestinians: killing, injuring and arresting them, stealing land etc. These violations also include house demolitions under the pretext that the owners do not hold the necessary building permits, despite the fact that they are built inside the West Bank.
The Israeli army has destroyed five houses in the surrounding villages in the past few years. Recently, the Israeli army informed 20 families in Almed that their houses will be demolished because they are built without permits, again, in spite of the fact that they are built inside the West Bank.
Humanitarian disaster, poverty and unemployment
The rate of unemployment has risen rapidly in the last few years as a direct result of land confiscation, closures and siege. Now, more than 80% of the villagers depend on wage labour in Israeli workshops and factories. The current closure policy of Israel, halt on work permits in Israel for Palestinians, the construction of the Wall, has lead to an unemployment rate of approximately 60% (there are no official statistics yet). When the Wall will be finished, it will be even harder for most villagers to reach their work in Israel, and this number will be even higher. Subsequently, because the agricultural land, the first income alternative for the village, has been and still is being confiscated for the benefits of the surrounding settlements, the people of Nilin and surrounding villages are left with no means to ensure an income. This has turned the village from a breadbasket into a hungry population, has undermined the villagers’ right to live a dignified life, and has prevented them from fulfilling other minimum human rights enshrined in international law.