Iqrit

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Iqrit
Iqrit 1948 2.jpg
Villagers and IDF soldiers in Iqrit, 3 November 1948
Iqrit is located in Mandatory Palestine
Iqrit
Iqrit
Arabic إقرث
Also spelled Iqreet, Akrith
Subdistrict Acre
Coordinates 33°04′32″N 35°16′31″E / 33.07556°N 35.27528°E / 33.07556; 35.27528Coordinates: 33°04′32″N 35°16′31″E / 33.07556°N 35.27528°E / 33.07556; 35.27528
Population 490 (1945)
Area 21,711 dunams

21.7 km²

Date of depopulation early November, 1948[1]
Cause(s) of depopulation Expulsion by Yishuv forces
Current localities Shomera, Even Menachem, Goren

Iqrit (Arabic: إقرت‎ or إقرث, Iqrith) was a Palestinian Christian village, located 25 kilometres (16 miles) northeast of Acre. Originally allotted to form part of an Arab state under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, it was seized and forcefully depopulated then razed by the Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and their territory later became part of the new State of Israel.[2] All of its Christian inhabitants were forced to flee to Lebanon and neighboring Palestinian villages after they were expelled by Jewish forces in 1948-1951. Descendents to this day maintain an outpost in the village church, and bury their dead in its cemetery. All attempts to cultivate its lands are uprooted by the Israeli Lands Administration.[3]

History[edit]

Archeological sites[edit]

Iqrit contains mosaic floors, remains of a wine press, rock-hewn tombs, cisterns, and granite implements. The village also has many other archaeological sites in its vicinity. The Canaanites erected a statue for the god Melqart of Tyre in the village. When the Crusaders occupied Iqrit, they called it Acref. Açref is a name still commonly used for the village among surrounding Bedouin tribes. After the Crusaders left, Iqrit remained devastated, until it was re-built, joining the county of Tibnin, district of Safad by 1596. At this time, its population numbered 374 people with an economy dependent largely on goats, beehives and agriculture. There was a press used for both olive and grape production.[4] The population dropped to about 100 people by the late nineteenth century. The villagers were Christians, and had a modern church and houses built of stone.[5] The village area contained numerous archaeological sites.

Early twentieth century[edit]

Like a number of other villages in the neighborhood, Iqrit was linked to the coastal highway from Acre to Ras an-Naqura via a secondary road leading to Tarbikha. There were 339 people living in 50 houses in 1931 and that number rose to 490 by 1945. At the moment of their eviction in November 1948, there were 491 citizens in Iqrit, 432 of them Melkites (Greek Catholics), inhabiting the entire area of the village. Some of the 59 Muslims of the village rented their homes in Iqrit, while others built their houses in esh-Shafaya.

Only part of the village land was cultivated and the rest was covered with woods of oak, laurel and carob trees. By 1948, the village owned about 600 dunams (600,000 m²) of private property with groves of fig trees that served all inhabitants of Iqrit and the surroundings. The groves covered the hill of al-Bayad, and the remaining cultivated land was used for crops of lentils, as well as tobacco and other fruit trees.

There were a private elementary school which was administrated by the Greek Catholic Archdiocese, two natural water springs, and many other water-wells for collected rainwater within the village area, including a large pool for rainwater. There were many threshing floors mainly located between the built-up village lands and the cemetery.

The big Melkite (Greek Catholic) church remains standing.

Capture and expulsion[edit]

IDF soldiers during Operation Hiram, here in Sa'sa', 30 October 1948

According to Morris, the villagers of Iqrit were outright expelled by the Israeli Army in November 1948, (together with the villagers of Kafr Bir'im, Nabi Rubin and Tarbikha) "without Cabinet knowledge, debate, or approval - though, almost inevitably, they received post facto Cabinet endorsement."[6] While some of the former inhabitants of Iqrit became refugees in Lebanon, most are now internally displaced Palestinians who are also citizens of Israel. Iqrit was captured on October 31, 1948 by the Haganah's Oded Brigade during Operation Hiram, an Israeli offensive which advanced on the coastal road towards Lebanon. Iqrit and Tarbikha surrendered and the villagers stayed in their homes. That situation did not last for long. Iqrit and a number of other villages in the region were affected by a policy known as "an Arabless border strip".[7]

Expulsion[edit]

Six days after its surrender, on 5 November 1948, the Israeli Army ordered the villagers to surrender the village, and that they would be returned in two weeks' time when the military operations were over. Some went to Lebanon and the Israeli Army trucked the majority to Rame, a town between Acre and Safad.

In July 1951, the villagers of Iqrit pleaded their case before Israel's Supreme Court, and the court ruled in favour of the right to return to their village. After this judgement, the Military Government found another justification to prevent them from returning. The villagers appealed to the Supreme Court again and were scheduled to have their case considered on 6 February 1952. However, on Christmas Day in 1951, Israeli Defense Forces destroyed the village. According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs Israeli soldiers took the mukhtar of Iqrit to the top of a nearby hill to force him to watch as Israeli troops blew up every house in the village.[8]

In his book Blood Brothers, Father Elias Chacour, who was a child away at school at the time, records the story of what happened, as told to him by his brothers:

[8]

In its third verdict (Feb. 1952), the court blamed the villagers for depending on promises from the military ruler of Galilee, instead of benefiting from the legal remedy which was given to them by the court in its first relevant verdict.

Aftermath to the present-day[edit]

A number of Jewish settlements were built near or on the village's land. They are Shomera (1949 on Tarbikha ruins), Even Menachem (1960) and Gornot HaGalil (1980).

Today, only the building of the Melkite Greek Catholic church still stands. There is rubble from the destroyed houses and some fig, grape, almond, olive and other orchards. On the shoulder looking at the road passing by from the north, the cemetery of Iqrit is still located, fenced and annually maintained. There is a cowshed that belongs to the settlement of Shomera, on the western entrance of the village, as well.

The first legal action against the state of Israel was brought in 1951 by 5 men of Iqrit when Muhammad Nimr al-Hawari acting as their lawyer was instrumental in gaining the right of return for the men of Iqrit. On 31 July 1951 the Israeli courts recognised the rights of the villagers to their land and their right to return to it. The court said the land was not abandoned and therefore could not be placed under the custodian of enemy property.[9]

In the 1970s, villagers from Iqrit conducted a series of sit-ins in the town's former church over a period of six years, and the case of Iqrit (and of Kafr Biri'm) was frequently covered by the Israeli media.[10] Several prominent Israeli cultural and artistic figures supported the movement to repatriate the Iqrit villagers and public empathy for their plight was widespread. While the Israeli authorities recognized the right to return of the villagers in principle, officials resisted implementing this right. Said Golda Meir in 1972:

It is not only consideration of security [that prevent] an official decision regarding Bi'rim and Iqrit, but the desire to avoid [setting] a precedent. We cannot allow ourselves to become more and more entangled and to reach a point from which we are unable to extricate ourselves."[11]

Meron Benvenisti notes how it has been argued that the villagers of Iqrit and Bi'rim are not the only present-absentees in Israel, and therefore recognizing their right of return is perceived as setting a "dangerous precedent" that would be followed by other similar demands.[11] However, Benvenisti himself has argued that it could be a positive precedent if the Iqrit villagers were to be allocated the small amount of empty land they need to establish a community settlement on their own land.[12]

The operational name of the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972 was named after this town and Kafr Bir'im.[13]

In 2003, some of Iqrit's villagers repetitioned the Supreme Court so as to facilitate their return to Iqrit, but the petition was rejected by the court.[10] Villagers continue to hold out hope for their right of return. Recently, four families built their houses opposite the village from west, on a side hill of al-Bayad.

Afterwards, in August 2012, a large demonstration was held in the city of Haifa demanding Israel to grant the descendents the right of return to both villages that suffered the same depopulation and the destroyment, Iqrit and Kafr Bi'reem. Since the last Roots Camp in 2012, a group of the village's youngsters decided to stay in the village and manage their lives as regular people of the village, This came as an act of opposition on the Israeli government's continual dismissal of the case.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xvii, village #69. Morris also gives cause of depopulation.
  2. ^ Meron Benvenisti (2002). Sacred Landscape: Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23422-7. 
  3. ^ Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, 'Drafting the blueprint for Palestinian refugees' right of return,' at Haaretz 4 October 2013: "We return to our village only as corpses.”
  4. ^ Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter and Kamal Abdulfattah (1977), Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. p. 180. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.15
  5. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1881, SWP, Vol. I, p.148. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 15
  6. ^ Benny Morris (1994). 1948 and after; Israel and the Palestinians. Oxford University Press. p. 281. 
  7. ^ Baruch Kimmerling & Joel S. Migdal (1998). Palestinians:The making of a people. Harvard University Press. p. 416. ISBN 0-674-65223-1. 
  8. ^ a b Richard Curtiss (December 1987). "Iqrit and Bir Am: A Christmas Tale With a Moral". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs: 65. 
  9. ^ Joseph L. Ryan, S.J. "Refugees within Israel: The Case of the Villages of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit" in 2, no. 4 (Sum. 73): 55-81.
  10. ^ a b "Case-owners, not land-owners". Ittijah. 18 July 2003. Archived from the original on March 24, 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  11. ^ a b Meron Benvenisti (2000). Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of California Press. pp. 325–326. ISBN 0-520-21154-5. 
  12. ^ Meron Benvenisti: The High Court and fear of return, 3 July 2003, Haaretz
  13. ^ Morris & Black, 1991, p. 270

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]