While in Nazareth we took a tour with British journalist Jonathon Cook, who lives with his family in Israel/Palestine. He brought us to the remains of the Palestinian town of Saffuriya, which up until 1948 had been one of the largest towns in Northern Palestine and the Galilee. It had been a central site of resistance to the British during the Mandate period, and because of this Israel feared it, and bombed it heavily when it occupied Palestine in 1948. Almost the entire town was leveled and destroyed, with over 4,000 Palestinians sent into exile.
You can see from the photo that Jonathon is holding up what the hilltop you see in the background used to look like: a thriving, built up town. Now it is completely gone, even the rubble is hidden amongst the trees the Israelis planted to hide and mask the destruction. Southeast of the remnants they built an entirely new Jewish settlement called Tzippori. The only evidence that anything is amiss is the barbed wire fence completely surrounding the forested area, marking it as a military zone illegal to enter.
This is not an anomaly. While most known for it’s supposed conservation work planting trees across Israel, the Jewish National Fund is largely using the trees to cover over demolished Palestinian villages, making it impossible for refugees to return home. Often they are cutting down trees native to the environment (olive, fig, and date trees, among others) and replacing them with non-productive evergreens, which have the benefit of growing quickly, all the faster to destroy the evidence of Israels brutality. Ironically pine trees are extremely dry and inappropriate for this region, with many spontaneously combusting, causing large forest fire problems. Some people here call it “blowback.”