Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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July 14, 2023
- Settlers Move In After Israel Forcibly Evicts Ghaith-Sub Laban Family
- Israel Starts Planning New East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave Via Weaponization of the Land Registration Process
- Settlers Takeover Another Palestinian Home on Shuhada Street in Hebron, Potentially with IDF Help
- Settlers Lead State-Backed Archaeological “Excavation” in Area B
- Government Admits it Deliberately Permitted Illegal Construction at Homesh Outpost
- Bonus Reads
On the early morning of July 11th, a large contingent of Israeli police arrived at the home of Nora Ghaith and Mustafa Sub Laban to forcibly remove the elderly couple from their apartment in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The apartment was handed over to settlers, who moved in as soon as the Ghaith-Sub Labans were removed.
The Ghaith-Sub Laban family has spent more than 45 years in a legal battle against settlers (and the State) over their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This family’s story is not unique, and the broader, systemic processes behind the forcible dispossession of Palestinians in Jerusalem is also discussed. In March 2023, FMEP hosted Rafat Sub Laban and Ir Amim’s Amy Cohen on a podcast – “‘We Are Determined to Stay”: One Palestinian Family’s Story of Dispossession in Jerusalem” – to discuss the Sub Laban case and how it relates to broader State-back settler efforts to dispossess Palestinians across Jerusalem.
Ir Amim explains the Israeli legal system which aids settlers in taking possession of Palestinian properties across East Jerusalem, including the Sub Laban home:
“… lawsuits were filed by settler groups on the basis of the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law. This discriminatory law exclusively affords Jews with land restitution rights for assets allegedly owned by Jews in East Jerusalem prior to 1948 despite many of these properties now inhabited by Palestinian refugees. No parallel legal mechanism exists for Palestinians to recover pre-1948 assets on the Israeli side of the Green Line now inhabited by Jews. To the contrary, the 1950 Absentee Property Law enshrines that Palestinians who were forced to abandon their homes in what became Israel due to the war of 1948 cannot retrieve them.
Settler organizations aided by state bodies act to secure ownership rights of these assets through various means despite having no relation to the previous Jewish owners or occupants. Acquisition of these rights provides settler groups with the legal platform to then “retrieve” the property from the General Custodian and initiate eviction lawsuits against Palestinian families through application of the 1970 law.
A department within the Ministry of Justice, the General Custodian is the Israeli body responsible for managing pre-1948 Jewish assets in East Jerusalem until “reclaimed.” It should be noted that the General Custodian has become one of the leading state institutions who works in cooperation with settler groups to facilitate evictions of Palestinians and seizure of their homes in East Jerusalem. Many of the families facing eviction are Palestinian refugees who lost homes on the Israeli side of the Green Line in 1948 and now stand to be displaced for a second or even third time.”
For a comprehensive overview of the Sub Laban family’s legal battle, as well as other East Jerusalem eviction cases, please see Ir Amim’s report.
Israel Starts Planning New East Jerusalem Settlement Enclave Via Weaponization of the Land Registration Process
Ir Amim and Bimkom report that Israel has initiated the planning process on a new settlement enclave in the Umm Lysoon neighborhood in East Jerusalem, and in order to facilitate the new enclave the State is simultaneously carrying out land registration for the land where the enclave will be built. The plans for the settlement enclave call for the construction of 450 settlement units, on an open piece of land between Umm Lysoon and the adjacent neighborhood of Jabal Mukkhaber, one of the only open land reserves in the area where Palestinians face a severe housing Crisis. Unsurprisingly, some of the same settlers who are pushing the Umm Lysoon plan not only live in Jabal Al-Mukaver, but have already succeeded in massively expanding the Nof Zion/Nof Zahaf settler enclave in that neighborhood.
The plan for the new Umm Lysoon enclave hinges on the settlers’ work with the State to transfer ownership of the land into the hands of settlers using the land registration process – – which Ir Amim and Bimkom have shown to be a politically-driven tool used by the State to fuel the expansion of settlements across the city.
The land where the new enclave is being planned for has been managed by the Israeli Custodian General, the State body which acts as a caretaker for property abandoned by Israeli Jews as a result of the 1948 war, with the idea that the property will be returned to its original owners. Settlers have worked with the state to secure ownership rights to East Jerusalem land despite having no relation to the previous Jewish owners. Such is the case with the Umm Lysoon land, where the Israeli Custodian General is submitting the plans (even though it does not own the land, just manages it) for the new enclave alongside Topodia LTD, a settler-linked construction company. Topodia managed to acquire ownership of a very small percentage of the land within the enclaves planned borders, but the planning requires the willing participation of the Israeli Custodian General.
The plan for Umm Lysoon is the third settlement plan in the last 1.5 years that has been promoted not only on lands managed by the General Custodian, but also with its direct involvement – the others being the Givat HaShaked and Kidmat Zion settlement plans.
Ir Amim and Bimkom write:
“If constructed, it would constitute a major settlement within the heart of Umm Lysoon, which until now has remained untouched from the threat of setter presence or encroachment. As with other East Jerusalem neighborhoods, Umm Lysoon continues to suffer from a severe shortage in housing, public buildings, infrastructure, and basic services. Instead of promoting residential development and urban planning to meet the needs of local residents, the plan is rather being advanced to establish a new Jewish settlement inside a Palestinian neighborhood on land marked in policy documents for the community’s development.”
Peace Now reports that settlers have illegally moved into a Palestinian-owned property in the heart of Hebron on Shuhada Street, just south of the Cave of the Patriarchs, in an area of downtown Hebron where no other Israeli settlers live. The settlers appear to have accessed the home, which until recently was blockaded by concrete barriers, with the assistance of the IDF and further claim to have purchased the home. This location – and the alleged purchase of the home – is hugely significant both on the ground and in the Israeli government’s brazen support facilitation of settlement expansion, as explained by Peace Now:
“Hebron is perhaps the most scattered city in the West Bank. Any change in ownership of a store, courtyard, and especially a structure means establishing a new settlement in the city. Many houses and properties in the part of the city controlled by Israel have remained vacant and abandoned over the past decades and serve as a target for settlers’ takeover. Until recently, approvals for the settlement of new houses by the settlers required the approval of the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister. As part of the transfer of civilian authority to Bezalel Smotrich, it was decided that in Hebron, the approval of settlement would be in the hands of Smotrich in coordination with Minister Yoav Gallant. The settlers’ entry into the house openly indicates that both ministers agreed to establish the new settlement. The new settlement is located on Shuhada Street (the settlers changed its name to King David Street), between the Pool of Siloam and the neighborhood of Avraham Avinu. This is an area populated by Palestinians and far from the existing settlements in the city. The new settlement is, in fact, an entry into a new area in the city.”
Years ago, the IDF installed concrete barriers preventing anyone from accessing the house, and evicted settlers from the home last year when they used a ladder to climb over the barriers. Those concrete barriers were recently removed (which can only be done with heavy equipment), suggesting that the IDF is planed to allow the settlers to enter (and likely remain) in the house.
The home is owned by the Palestinian Jariwi family, which petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice to evict the settlers. The state initially responded to the petition saying that the settlers had already been evicted (clearly not true), and the State is now facing a July 30th deadline with the Court to submit an updated response given that the settlers are still squatting in the house illegally.
Photo of the new enclave found at: https://peacenow.org.il/en/a-new-settlement-was-established-in-hebron-with-the-return-of-settlers-to-a-house-that-the-idf-evicted-a-year-ago
Emek Shaveh reports that a triad composed of settlers, an American Christian evangelical organization, and the Israeli army collaborated on a recent unlicensed excavation on Mount Ebal – located north of Nablus near the Palestinian town of a-Sira al-Shaliya in Area B of the West Bank (where Israel does not have civilian authorities, according to the Oslo Accords). The excavation was approved by the Israeli Civil Administration under pressure from settlers, but given the location of the site in Area B and the lack of any license to carry out the excavation – Emek Shaveh states that this could be considered antiquity theft.
The groups transferred some 80 cubic meters of soil from Mount Ebal to the Shavei Shomron settlement, where settlers then promoted an opportunity for members of the public to join the archaeologists in sifting through the materials (thereby promoting tourism to the settlements). Haaretz called the excavation “is mainly used as a tourist attraction to the West Bank and is of little scientific significance.”
“The archaeological site at Mount Ebal is becoming a watershed in Israeli archaeology. The activity on the site has turned from a pirate operation led by a group of Messianic Jews and Christians into a state sponsored operation under the auspices of the Civil Administration led by Minister Bezalel Smotrich.This is yet another violation of the Oslo Accords and suspected violation of domestic and international law that is whitewashed by Israeli authorities and intended to serve as a method for advancing the annexation of the West Bank to Israel.In addition to the alleged violation of the law, the excavation constitutes an ethical failure by the entire archaeological community in Israel whose silence continues to grant legitimacy to such projects. A comprehensive and immediate investigation is required by all the relevant parties as well as independently by the Israeli Archaeological Association.”
In response to a petition submitted by Yesh Din, the Israel state formally confirmed reports Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the Israeli army to stand down when it arrived in May 2023 to stop settlers’ attempt to relocated the Homesh outpost onto a small sliver of “state land” in the area of the former Homesh settlement in the northern West Bank. Gallant’s intervention only served to confirm the unapologetic determination of the Israeli government to reestablish the Homesh settlement on the “state land,” despite the fact that the land is surrounded by privately owned Palestinian property belonging to the nearby village of Burqa. (spoiler: In 2018, Israel established basis in its legal books for violating the private property rights of Palestinians in order to build an access road to the Haresha outpost).
In the weeks since settlers were permitted to illegally move into the area, the outpost has been connected to the state water grid.
On July 7th, a group of ~400 Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists attended a Peace Now protest march intended to start in Burqa and end at the Homesh outpost, in an effort to call on the government of Israel to stop the establishment of a settlement there. Though the marchers had requested and received a permit to hold the march, the IDF used force to stop the march from approaching Burqa. One marcher was detained and later released.
As a reminder – the legalization of Homesh was explicitly agreed to in the coalition deals which formed the current Israeli government. And despite the message to the U.S. behind closed doors, Israeli lawmakers and settler leaders hailed the Israeli government’s moves on Homesh as concrete steps toward the realization of this commitment. Otzma Yehudit MK and settlement activist Limor Son Har Melech hailed the news and said that the real goal is to reestablish all four settlements located near the Homesh outpost which were dismantled by the Israeli government in 2005 (the order issued by the IDF Commander on May 18th that allows Israelis to enter to the Homesh area did not extend to the areas of the other three settlements – Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim).
- “Four Palestinians said wounded in settler attack in West Bank” (The Times of Israel)
- “Smotrich wants one million West Bank settlers. That’s not so far-fetched” (+972 Magazine)
- “Senate Foreign Relations Committee set for debate over Biden guidance on Israeli cooperative funding” (Jewish Insider)
- “Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – Weekly Update: 06-12 July 2023” (PCHR)