Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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August 11, 2022
- Israel Completes Secret Registration of New Land in East Jerusalem
- Israel Asks Court to Stay Out of Homesh Outpost Case on Promise to Evacuate Settlers (Eventually)
- IDF Removes Settlers from Ramat Migron Outpost
- This Week in Area C: Continued Annexation & Harassment
- Not Just Area C: Settlers Eye Archaeological Site in Area B
- Update: Israeli University Defends Excavation Near Nabi Saleh
- New Analysis of “Silicon Wadi” Project
- Bonus Reads
Israel Hayom reports that Israel has succeeded in secretly registering State ownership of 16 dunams (four acres) of land in East Jerusalem, opening the possibility for constructing a new settlement enclave there.
The Israeli Justice Ministry secretly completed the acquisition of the land after the Israeli Custodian General hired researchers tasked with finding evidence that the land was purchased by Jews in the 1920s as part of a larger land purchase, though this part of the land was not registered. A court recently accepted new evidence found by the researchers, resulting in the land being placed under the control of the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property on a temporary basis, while the State searches for the Jewish owners (or their heirs).
The newly-registered land is surrounded by Palestinian neighborhoods, close to the West Bank barrier (which in this location is an actual wall) to the East – with Abu Dis on the far side – and the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukhaber to the west. According to Haaretz, the location is considered one of the most sensitive in East Jerusalem, due to its proximity to the building designated as the future home of the Palestinian parliament and its distance from other Jewish neighborhoods.
This land is south of the area where that has been planned for the settlement called Kidmat Tzion, though this plan has been frozen. In 2017 (during the Trump-Netanyahu era), Ir Amim reported that Kidmat Zion was one of nine Jerusalem area settlements that Israel planned to move forward.
On August 10th, lawyers representing the Israeli government told the High Court of Justice that it plans to remove settlers from the illegal Homesh outpost site as soon as the Defense Minister sets a date for the evacuation, asking the Court to allow it to delay the evacuation until it finds “the right time from a security standpoint.” This is the second time the State has assured the Court that it will dismantle the outpost without committing to a deadline to enforce Israeli law against the settlers illegally living and studying there.
The Israeli NGO Yesh Din said in response:
“The state continues its foot-dragging and refuses to carry out its legal and moral obligation, which is to evacuate the outpost built illegally on private land belonging to the village of Burqa. The expulsion of Palestinians and the stealing of their land must end. Every day that passes increases the injustice and rewards lawbreakers. The defense minister and the prime minister, like their predecessors, prove that the rule of law will always take second place in the face of political interests and appeasing the settlers. The Supreme Court must bring them back into line by a clear judicial ruling that expresses its displeasure at this conduct, which is a complete infraction of the law and infringement of Palestinian rights.”
The State has, for over a year, delayed its response to a 2019 petition filed by Yesh Din seeking the removal of settlers and settler structures from the site of the former Homesh settlement, located in the northern West Bank, and a guarantee of the site’s return to Palestinian landowners. The Homesh settlement was dismantled by the Israeli government as part of the 2005 Disengagement Plan (along with two other small settlements in the area). Despite Homesh being dismantled, Israel never permitted Palestinians to regain access to or control of the land, declaring it a closed military zone. That status has prevented Palestinians from entering the area, while allowing settlers to routinely enter and (illegally, under Israeli law) inhabit the land, even (illegally) establishing a yeshiva there. That yeshiva, according to the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot, has become one of the West Bank’s “hardcore centers of settler terror”. Settlers have also wreaked terror on nearby Palestinian villages, most notably Burqa and Sebastia. One Israeli politician even went so far as to say that settlers are “carrying out a pogrom” in Burqa.
Settlers and and their powerful allies in the government ramped up their lobbying campaign pressing the Israeli government to officially reestablish the Homesh settlement in the wake of the death of settler Yehuda Dimentan in December 2021. Dimentan studied at the illegal yeshiva at the Homesh site. In January 2022, settlers staged a massive march to Homesh as part of its pressure campaign to legalize the yeshiva in his memory.
In the early morning hours of August 11th, Israeli forces cleared the illegal outpost dubbed by settlers “Ramat Migron”, removing three mobile homes and razing a structure used by settlers as a synagogue. The Times of Israel reports that three families and several young settlers were living in the outpost, which is located north of Ramallah on a hilltop where the illegal outpost of Migron, evacuated by the government of Israel a decade ago, formerly stood. Settlers remain defiant, saying:
“We have something to tell you, ministers of the government: we do not intend even for a moment to give up, and we intend to continue to hold on to the hill until it becomes an established and flourishing permanent settlement.”
As a reminder, the illegal outpost known as Migron was dismantled by the Israeli government in 2012 when the Israeli High Court ruled the land is privately owned by Palestinians. Since then settlers have continually sought to reestablish a settlement there. Israeli forces have razed outposts at the site at least 10 times in the past 10 years — all the while denying Palestinians the ability to reclaim control over land that an Israeli court affirmed they own.
As a reminder: In addition to the IDF retaining control over the Migron outpost site, Israel rewarded the settlers it forcibly removed from the outpost by promising to establish two new official settlements: “New Migron” as well as 184 housing units to be built east of the settlement of Adam (aka, Geva Binyamin). Construction of the “New Migron” settlement was completed in July 2020. All said, the two new settlements and temporary housing for the evicted settlers cost Israeli taxpayers millions of dollars – sending a clear message that settler law-breaking pays off.
The Israeli state and its settlers have not taken a summer break from the ongoing campaign to effect the de facto and de jure annexation of Area C.
- On a tour of the northern West Bank, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar called for a new National Plan to “protect” Area C.
- Also in the northern West Bank, work began this week on a large, new Torah center in the Immanuel settlement – a settlement currently enjoying a construction boom as reported by Arutz Sheva.
- And finally, settlers continue to closely monitor and report on Palestinian construction in Area C – this time on a new water park that opened this summer and a few new Though settlers allege the water park was built illegally, the Israeli Civil Administration assured Israel Hayom that illegal construction has already been dismantled.
As FMEP has chronicled, settlers and the Israeli state have undertaken an organized campaign that weaponizes archaeology to serve their own political agenda. Just last week, FMEP covered how the Sambuski cemetery in East Jerusalem is a part of the effort.
An August 3rd report by Israel Hayom details Palestinian plans to develop a national park at a historical site that settlers refer to as “Tel Orma,” which is the site of an ancient fort and reportedly rich with remnants of Jewish heritage in the area. The report suggests that the Palestinian Authority has damaged the site and is also determined to destroy evidence of Jewish civilization and antiquities that are potentially located there. This site is in Area B of the West Bank, where Israel does not exercise civil control of matters like culture and archaeology, but that has not stopped settlers from flying a drone over the site to see what the Palsetinians have been developing there, or from visiting the site to see the work in person.
Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan – whose ambitions to take over more land for the settlements are not confined to Area A – told Israel Hayom:
“We call on the Israeli government, the defense minister, and the public security minister to take action right away and protect these important places. Just like no other country in the world would allow its people’s history to be attacked, we must not allow rioters from the Palestinian Authority to harm our history. Tel Orma is [part of] the Jewish people’s legacy and an important part of Jewish history, and we cannot stand by as the place is systematically destroyed.”
Following media attention to an excavation being conducted by Bar Illan University in the West Bank, the university has now publicly defended the dig, saying that it is located on “State land.” The Israeli Civil Administration also stated that the dig is being conducted legally and that a permit had been issued in accordance with Israeli military law which governs the occupied territories.
The area is located between the Palestinian villages of Nabi Saleh and Deir Nidham, just north of Ramallah. Palestinians claim that the land is privately owned.
This week Ir Amim issued a new report on the “Silicon Wadi” project being implemented by the Jerusalem Municipality, which calls for the establishment of a major high-tech hub along the western side of East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood, requiring the eviction of many Palestinian businesses located there. The report is a useful summary of where the project stands, what its implications are, and how the “Silicon Wadi” initiative connects to larger plans by the State and settlers to increase Israeli hegemony over Jerusalem.
Most importantly and urgently, Ir Amim stresses regarding the Silicon Wadi project:
- Palestinian businesses are in a “tenuous position” because most are able to operate based on “special use” permits allowing them to conduct business on land that is not zoned/designated for such use. Theoretically, Israel can revoke those permits if it chooses.
- The land in question has not been registered, and Israel has been re-initiating the land registration in other parts of Jerusalem. If the process were to be restarted for this land, the land could be placed under the control of the Israeli Custodian General. Ir Amim also reports that the attorney hired by Israel to conduct an unofficial mapping of the area is known to have ties to settler groups.
- The project fails to address the primary need of East Jerusalem: housing. The ongoing housing crisis in East Jerusalem is at an all-time high.
- And finally, Ir Amim writes: “The land slated for the Wadi Joz Business Park is located between the Kerem al-Jaouni section of Sheikh Jarrah, where settler groups have been working to evict approximately 30 Palestinian families, 5 and the northeastern part of the Old City. …there is speculation that the plan aims to extend the ring of settlements within Palestinian neighborhoods around the Old City and establish an Israeli stronghold on the northeastern side under the guise of economic development.”
- “More U.S. Jews Moved to West Bank Settlements in 2021 Than Any Other Year in Past Decade” (Haaretz)
- “Israel expands West Bank security fence as violence escalates in Jenin” (Al-Monitor)
- “Israel Demolished a Palestinian’s Home in Violation of Court Orders. He Now Lives in a Tent With His Children” (Haaretz)
- “Top British Funder of Israel Trips to Probe Surprise Overnight Stays in Settlement” (Haaretz)
- “Jewish groups fume at construction of illegal Palestinian water park“ (Israel Hayom)
- “Opinion Shame on me for believing courts could stop the Israeli settlement machine” (Gershom Gorenberg / Washington Post)
- “Basketball Team From West Bank Settlement Should Be Kicked Out of Israel League, Says Ex-pro Player” (Haaretz)