Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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October 7, 2022
- High Court Grants Govt Another Delay of Forcible Relocation Khan al-Ahmar
- Booking.com Concedes to Israeli “Diplomatic War” Against Settlement Travel Warning
- Settlers Close Entrances to Nablus, Demand Another Round of Raids on Palestinian Resistance
- Settlers to get Armored Buses
- New Yesh Din Report on “Shepherding Outposts”
- Bonus Reads
On October 4th, the Israeli High Court of Justice gave the government a delay on meeting the Court-imposed deadline for forcibly dispossessing the Khan Al-Ahmar bedouin community of their land just south of Jerusalem. The Court – ultimately agreeing with the government’s argument that such a consequential move should not be handled by a transition government with elections on the immediate horizon – set the next deadline for February 1, 2023. This is the 8th such delay granted by the High Court.
A spokesperson for Regavim – the settler group whose appeal to the High Court led to the ruling requiring the government to destroy Khan Al-Ahmar (on the grounds that the entire community is illegal, as it lacks Israeli-issued building permits) – lamented the decision:
“A transitional government is allowed to sign a historic natural gas agreement,” said Yael Cinnamon, the attorney representing the right-wing NGO Regavim in an objection to the ruling. “But it can’t answer a simple question: Why is an illegal outpost that the court has decided time after time is to be demolished, still standing.”
Reports earlier this year suggested that the government was preparing to finalize a plan that would see the demolition of the Khan Al-Ahmar only to rebuild the community some 300 meters from where it currently stands.
A few weeks after announcing its plan to display travel warnings on properties located in Israeli settlements, the online vacation planning giant Booking.com changed its approach – reportedly in response to Israeli pressure (as a reminder: when the plan was announced, Israeli officials promised to wage a “diplomatic war” against it). As it has now been implemented, the new approach waters down the warning, de-contextualizes it, and for the purposes of travel advice and facilitation, effectively elides/erases any distinction between Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages/cities.
Specifically, instead of posting a travel warning that identifies each settlement listing as located in occupied territory and warning of “an increased risk to safety and human rights” (as was reportedly the origin plan), the warning instead (a) now appears at the top of any search results for locations anywhere in the West Bank (Israeli and Palestinian), and (b) rather than referencing the occupation and human rights (language that would have directly reflected the specific context of the West Bank and the power/security dynamics impacting travel there), the language, as implemented, merely warns travelers to “Review any travel advisories provided by your government to make an informed decision about your stay in this area, which may be considered conflict-affected.”
Ines Abdel Razek of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy told Al Jazeera:
“By continuing to list accommodations in illegal settlements or trading with them, they are essentially continuing to give a free pass to colonisation, segregation and racism, making profit on the back of Palestinians land and resource theft, labour exploitation, and mass expulsions. Worse, by equating rentals in properties owned by Palestinians to that of illegal Israeli settlers, Booking is failing in its responsibility and own affirmed commitment to ‘protect local communities’…Booking and Airbnb are also adopting Israeli disinformation misportraying [the concrete reality] as ‘disputed’ and ‘complicated’ in order to whitewash Israel’s war crimes [from] what is without ambiguity a military occupation and illegal settler colonial enterprise condemned for decades by the UN and international tribunals…While these companies are affirming their commitment to ‘promoting human rights everywhere’, they are applying very clear double standards about their zero tolerance approach when it comes to Palestinians.”
It is difficult not to count this as a major victory for the Israeli government and its effort to force companies and governments to treat settlements as part and parcel of the state of Israel – even though settlements are illegal under international law. Indeed, it’s worth noting that this victory was in large part won in advance: Booking.com at no point was (publicly) considering de-listing settlement properties entirely – a move that AirBnB ventured to undertake in 2018, resulting in intense backlash from Israel and in U.S. courts. Ultimately, AirBnB reversed that decision.
Declaring victory over Booking.com, Israel Foreign Minister Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) said:
“This is an important achievement for the State of Israel. From the moment this issue became known, under the instruction of Prime Minister Lapid, together with officials from the Foreign Ministry, we prevented the global company Booking from publishing false information against Israel and against Israeli tourism businesses located in Judea and Samaria. We proved that the State of Israel has the ability to act and be victorious in the field of diplomacy, and I am sure that we will act similarly in the future as well, against any attempt to harm us.”
Settlers staged two protests near Nablus – one on October 3rd and another on October 5th – closing down all of the roads leading into the city. In video of the event, Israeli military vehicles can be seen – apparently not only failing to remove the settlers from the road, but actually facilitating their sustained presence there. The stated goal of the rally was to demand the government launch a new and harsher campaign – which the settlers have dubbed Defensive Wall 2 – to counter rising Palestinian armed resistance in the West Bank. The rallies were also an immediate response to a shooting that took place earlier in the day on October 3rd, in which an Israeli bus and taxi were shot at near the Elon Moreh settlement. One person was lightly wounded.
As the October 5th rally was disbanding, the settlers were shot, with responsibility for the shooting subsequently claimed by a Palestinian armed group in Nablus calling themselves the “Lion’s Den.” The Lion’s Den also took responsibility on October 5th for capturing (and ultimately releasing unharmed) Israeli settlers who entered the Old City of Hebron by mistake.
A similar incident happened in Hebron only a few days later, when a group of three Israelis and eight tourists had driven into the Palestinian-controlled part of the city. Palestinian Authority forces helped escort the group safely out of the area.
The Israeli government has announced that it allocated $4 million (NIS 15 million) to purchase bulletproof, armored buses to serve the settler population in the West Bank. The announcement follows a report by the Israel Hayom outlet that a bus company – Electra Afikim – was close to canceling its service to the settlements because too many of its buses have been damaged by gunfire.
Yesh Din – an Israeli anti-settlement NGO – issued a new report on October 6th entitled, “Plundered Pastures: Israeli settler shepherding outposts in the West Bank and their infringement on Palestinians’ human rights”. Yesh Din reports that shepherding outposts have been wildly successful in “establishing, expanding, invading and perpetrating violence as means for driving Palestinian shepherds and farmers off of their land.”
The report further unpacks how shepherding outposts – where a small amount of settlers (sometimes one family) graze livestock over a vast expanse of land – have become a dominant form of land takeover used by settlers with the strategic facilitation of the Israeli government in the West Bank since 2017, resulting in the establishment of no less than 35 outposts in the four years that followed. What’s more, the report publishes for the first time documents showing the Israeli government has pursued the establishment of shepherding outposts as a means of land control since the early 1980s.
Yesh Din writes:
“The testimonies and data in this report describe the severe and routine harm that the settlers’ activities in shepherding outposts cause Palestinians in the West Bank – harm to their person, land and property. Analysis of the report’s findings exposes how establishing settler shepherding outposts is designed to create substantial and long-term change to the map of Israeli settlement in the oPt, which will lead to diminished living areas for Palestinians in the West Bank and result in severe and extensive infringement on their human rights.”
- “Netanyahu pledges massive West Bank settlement building if elected” (Jerusalem Post)
- “Jewish Home: No govt. without young settlements” (Arutz Sheva)