Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to this report, please click here.
July 23, 2021
- Ben & Jerry’s Announces End of Ice Cream Sales in Settlements
- Report: Bennett Agreed to Delay Settlement Approvals at U.S. Request
- Israeli Lawyers Prepare Amicus Brief Opposing Sheikh Jarrah Displacement
- State Delays “Relocation” of Khan Al-Ahmar Community Until September 5th
- High Court Green-lights State Sponsorship of Illicit Settlement Activities via Amana Settler Org
- New Docs Show the Israeli Government Uses the JNF to Take Control of West Bank Land for Settlements, & How the JNF Uses a Subsidiary to Hide Deals
- Israeli Consumer Authority Refuses Request for Proper Labelling of Settlement Products
- Coalition of Palestinian Orgs Launches Campaign for Revocation of U.S. Charitable Designation for Settlement Groups
- Senior Israeli Government Official Lives in Settlement Under Demolition Order
- Testimonies Show Israeli IDF Complicity in Settler Violence
- Bonus Reads
Comments or questions? Email Kristin McCarthy – email@example.com.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company has announced that it will not renew the license of its Israeli franchisee because that franchisee refuses to stop operating in settlements. Ben & Jerry’s linked this decision to the illegality of settlements, saying in a statement:
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners. We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year. Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”
Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the settlements – which are illegal under international law and have been shown by human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to be at the core of violations of Palestinian rights – has received an inordinate amount of attention from the media and from the Israeli government.
Quickly following the announcement that Ben and Jerry’s was exiting the settlements, pro-Israel allies in the U.S. expressed outrage and threatened legal repercussions under state anti-BDS laws. The U.S. State Department also expressed its disagreement with Ben & Jerry’s policy decision – and its outright opposition to, and commitment to combating, BDS targeting Israel and/or Israeli settlements. During a briefing, Spokesman Ned Price said:
“Our position on BDS has been clear. This is not something that we need to review. Again, the BDS movement unfairly singles out Israel… [the U.S.] will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel [in a way that is] consistent with the First Amendment rights of the American people.”
Israel Hayom reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has agreed – at the request of the Biden Administration – to for the time being freeze construction approvals for new settlement units. The outlet reports that over the past month Bennett has prevented the Civil Administration’s High Planning Council from scheduling a meeting in which it could advance settlement construction plans.
The report has drawn criticism from within Naftali Bennet’s inner circle, with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked threatening to leave the governing coalition – which cannot survive without her – if Bennett in fact agreed to a settlement freeze. Shaked told the press:
“If the government does something that is ideologically serious in my view, we will not be a part of it. For example, if the US administration demands a freeze in Judea and Samaria — there will be no government.”
In response to a question at a State Department press briefing about reports that the U.S. is pressuring the Bennett government to curb settlements, U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price did not confirm or deny the reports. Instead he merely reiterated the Biden Administration’s standard response to questions related to Israeli settlements, saying:
“When it comes to settlement activity, we have also been clear and consistent on that. We believe it’s critical to refrain from unilateral steps that increase tensions and make it more difficult to advance a negotiated two-state solution. This is a message we have conveyed in public, as I have just now, but also in private. And it has been the longstanding position, certainly the position of this administration and had been a longstanding position of prior administrations.”
Peace Now has assembled a group of prominent Israeli legal authorities to prepare and submit an amicus brief arguing to the Israeli High Court that Palestinians living under the threat of forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah should not be evicted by the state in favor of settlers. The brief – which deals with the spefic case of the Duweik family but can be applied broadly to other pending displacement cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan – asserts that the Palestinian residents as long-term tenants the Palestinians have accumulated property rights to their homes and should not be evicted.
Peace Now summarizes:
“The brief addresses an approach that has emerged in international jurisprudence on human rights law which puts an emphasis on group vulnerability of occupants facing eviction and institutional, systemic discrimination against them. Where these are present, in certain circumstances, the occupants’ rights, stemming from the human right to housing and specifically, to live in their home and their family’s home – trump the right of the original owner or their substitute to regain possession of the property.
The brief reaches the conclusion that in the Duweik case, the occupants’ property rights and their right to housing supersede the right of the settlers acting on behalf of the pre-1948 original owners to receive possession of the property, based on the following:
1 – The fact that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are underprivileged, vulnerable and subjected to discrimination in every aspect of life, and particularly the fact that Israeli law on the restitution of property that changed hands due to wars, openly and deliberately discriminates against them;
2 – The fact that the family entered the property in good faith and/or in accordance with the law applicable at the time, and has developed a legitimate expectation to continue residing in it permanently and without interruption;
3 – The imbalance between the devastating harm the family would suffer and the minor damage the Benvenisti charitable endowment (represented by the settlers), which claims ownership of the property, would sustain, which clearly tips the scales in favor of the family.
In other words, according to the brief, even if the court finds the settlers do, in fact, have ownership, they are not necessarily entitled to remedy in the form of the families’ eviction from their homes, but rather to compensation from the state.”
Peace Now said in a statement about the amicus brief:
“There’s an elephant in the room, and the lofty legal debate in the Sheikh Jarrah and Batan al-Hawa eviction cases ignores it, producing a legal distortion and an egregious injustice. This is not just another real estate dispute between equal parties. This is an organized, programmatic effort, with ample governmental support, to dispossess hundreds of Palestinians from their homes and replace them with settlers. This amicus curiae brief can help the court see the bigger picture, deliver justice and avert the iniquity.”
Michael Sfard, one of the authors of the brief, said:
“For years, judges have been considering the eviction cases in East Jerusalem under the assumption that they involve a dispute between a landlord and a tenant and therefore, proof of ownership on the part of the settlers necessarily triggers a countdown to eviction. The brief reintroduces the context of the legal proceeding – dispossession by the stronger, dominant group against a vulnerable, discriminated community whose members, in some cases, entered the properties for lack of choice and always according to the applicable laws and with a legitimate expectation that the property will be their permanent home. I hope the court takes the opportunity provided by the brief to bolster and defend the occupants’ right to continue living in their homes – a right acknowledged by international human rights law.”
According to reports, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will soon decide whether to move forward with a deal negotiated by his predecessor for the “relocation” of the Khan Al-Ahmar bedouin community. Reportedly, the terms of the deal would see the Khan Al-Ahmar community agree to their relocation in exchange for Israeli residency. Under the reported terms of the agreement, the community would be allowed to re-establish their community several miles east of their current homes – at an empty site near Abu Dis. In expectation of that transfer, the government of Israel has already connected the area to water, electricity, and sewage.
Though the High Court had previously set July 2021 for the demolition and forcible relocation of Khan al-Ahmar, alternate Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid requested an extension in order to give the new government time to review the deal which was negotiated under the Netanyahu government, and decide whether to move forward with it. Calling the decision a “sensitive issue,” Lapid asked the Court for additional time “to examine the necessary conditions for the evacuation of the outpost and to conduct a significant and in-depth inquiry of all the legal and international consequences of the move.” The Court subsequently gave the government an additional six weeks – until September 5th – to make up its mind.
It must be noted that, if reports are correct, Khan al-Ahmar leaders signed the deal to be removed from their longtime lands after prolonged coercive circumstances. Previous allegations regarding the nature of the Khan al-Ahmar relocation – specifically B’Tselem’s accusation that it is tantamount to a war crime – have not necessarily been assuaged by the community’s agreement. Since the 1950s – when the community was forced to leave their land in the Negev during the 1948 war – the Khan al-Ahmar bedouin community has lived and worked the lands located just east of Jerusalem, in the shadow of the land marked for the construction of the E-1 settlement (which is once again in the headlines).
The settler group Regavim – which petitioned the Court to force the government to demolish Khan al-Ahmar last year, in the midst of a global pandemic – is upset that the demolition has once again been delayed. In response, the organization issued a statement saying:
“Lapid’s announcement is a political move intended to signal to Bennett and his partners that none of their election promises can be fulfilled. Not in the Negev, not in the Galilee, and not in Khan al-Ahmar.” [Regavim called on Bennett] “to show who’s in charge. We call on you to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar immediately!”
Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann has previously written:
“the story of Khan Al-Ahmar is not only about the tragedy for the village and its inhabitants, or about Israel’s readiness to carry out an ostensible war crime in the face of the world. It is also about Israel’s determination to clear the entire area of the West Bank east of Jerusalem, and located within the line of the built and planned barrier, of any Palestinian presence. This clearing will prepare the ground for the future construction of E1 and de facto annexation of this so-called bloc, which extends well beyond the built-up area of Maale Adumim.”
On July 18th, the Israeli High Court of Justice dismissed a petition filed in 2019 by Peace Now that sought to stop the transfer of state funds to the Amana settler group, which regularly drives unauthorized (i.e. illegal even under Israeli domestic law) settlement activity. In its ruling, the Court did not reckon with the fundamental problem of allowing state funds to finance illegal activities, but instead ruled on a procedural point that the State (specifically settler municipal councils) is only permitted to fund public institutions – and the Court determined that Amana meets the criteria to be deemed a public institution.
One High Court justice, Menahem Mazuz, issued a minority opinion dissenting from the Court’s ruling. Mazuz said that in his opinion Amana should not be eligible to receive state funds because Amana, though it voluntarily operates on a non-profit basis, is not actually a registered non-profit (it is a cooperative association) and is therefore not subject to the same legal requirements of transparency and supervision.
At the time of filing the underlying petition against state funding for Amana, Peace Now wrote:
“Amana and the regional councils in the territories have established a sophisticated mechanism to exploit the public coffers for illegal activity and to create facts on the ground. There is no limit to the chutzpah of the settlement heads. On one hand, they build outposts, with far-reaching diplomatic consequences, with public funds, and on the other hand, they cry to the government and ask for their criminality ==to be retroactively legalized. What a responsible and fair government needs to do is shut the spigot to Amana and immediately evacuate the illegal outposts.” And, “the regional councils and Amana go to great efforts to hide the information about their financial sources and illegal activities. Even with the legal process in Peace Now’s petition against granting support money to Amana, the councils have refused to provide basic information on the amount of funds transferred to Amana and their use. Amana received tens of millions of shekels from the regional councils every year, and the information received about the activities in Gush Etzion in 2018 and 2019 is just the tip of the iceberg. Peace Now uncovered the mechanism behind the illegal outposts in its “Unraveling the Mechanism behind Illegal Outposts” report which describes the operation by local authorities in the West Bank, together with Amana and the Settlement Division, to support illegal outposts and construction in the settlements, but not all financial sources have been clarified. The support by the Gush Etzion Regional Council is only a small part of Amana’s multi-million shekels operation in this illegal activity, with far-reaching ramifications for Israel’s future.”
New Docs Show the Israeli Government Uses the JNF to Take Control of West Bank Land for Settlements, & How the JNF Uses a Subsidiary to Hide Deals
Haaretz has revealed new documents that show the Israeli Defense Ministry directed the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to purchase privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank in order to expand settlements and retroactively legalize outposts. In some of the cases, certain JNF staff and the JNF’s subsidiary called Himunata acted to conceal the land purchases from the JNF’s Board of Directors. What’s more, with respect to a series of deals between 2018-2019, various irregularities call into question the validity of the land acquisitions.
According to Haaretz, the JNF’s board of directors has not yet reviewed or discussed the two reports, One report – the Yahav Report (written in 2020) – covers the land purchases in question. The second report – the Lamberger Report – details the lengths to which Himunata and its co-conspirators went to in order to hide the transactions from the JNF staff and Board of Directors.
The JNF’s active involvement in the settlement enterprise is not new, but the direct line between the government and the JNF in conspiring to find means by which to take possession of privately owned land that the government has not found other means by which to seize (and reminder: the Israeli government is very inventive and persistent in finding means by which to seize privately owned Palestinian land) is shocking, and new – showing the extent to which the government is supportive of settlement and outpost growth.
In response to a request made by the nonprofit organization Combatants for Peace, Israel’s consumer protection agency has said it cannot mandate that manufacturers based in the settlements label their products as settlement products instead of using the misleading “Made in Israel” label. The reason given by the agency’s lawyer: the agency does not have the authority to declare that the locations in settlements are “not in the country of ‘Israel’.”
Eitay Mack, the lawyer representing Combatant for Peace, said:
“Not consuming products from the Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank is no different from not consuming animal products, or consuming only organic products and free-range eggs, or consuming kosher or non-kosher products, all of which can result from reasons of conscience, religion, ideology or the politics of a citizen of the State of Israel. The misleading labeling of products from the Israeli settlements and outposts as Made in Israel creates unfair competition toward those same Israelis who genuinely (despite the difficulties involved in it) devote their lives to manufacturing within [the borders] of the State of Israel.”
The consumer protection agency has now waded into an ongoing legal effort led by activists across the world to insist upon a product labelling regime that accurately labels settlement products. This effort is pushing against the ongoing campaign by the Israeli government and its allies to erase the Green Line and assert sovereignty – de facto and increasingly, for all intents and purpose, de jure annexation – over the settlements.
A centerpiece of this battle is the case of the Psagot Winery, which has been a willing legal test case for the Israeli government’s efforts. In the waning months of the Trump Administration, the Psagot case was delivered a major victory when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new U.S. guidelines that require products made in all areas under Israeli control to be labelled as “Made in Israel” (or iterations thereof) when being exported to the U.S.
This massive and highly consequential shift in U.S. policy, which offers recognition of Israeli sovereignty not only over settlements (as the Trump Administration has previously done) but over all of Area C – some 60% of the West Bank, was – remains U.S. policy today, as the Biden Administration has not publicly reversed it. Notably, this policy, if focused on territory rather than on people, would in principle require even Palestinian-made goods originating from villages in Area C to be labelled as “Made in Israel”. Roughly 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C, where they are subjected to an escalating Israeli campaign to make life untenable for them via discriminatory planning policies and demolitions.
Coalition of Palestinian Orgs Launches Campaign for Revocation of U.S. Charitable Designation for Settlement Groups
A group of 150 Palestinian organizations, village councils, and activists have launched a campaign urging Americans to press the U.S. government to revoke the charitable designations of U.S.-based groups that finance Israeli settlement organizations. Since many of these organizations – including Elad, Israel Land Fund, and Ateret Cohanim – have fundraising arms based in New York, the campaign asks supporters to appeal to New York Attorney General Letitia James to revoke the licenses.
Sami Huraini, a Palestinian activist with Youth of Sumud, told WAFA:
“Israeli settler organizations have funneled US charitable money into a political campaign of displacement. Right now, over 100 homes and some 1,500 Palestinians in Silwan are facing displacement in favor of a theme park run on Palestinian lands by the settler organization Elad. Clearly, this is not the intended outcome of US charitable tax law.”
Hisham Sharabati of the Hebron Defense Committee told WAFA:
“Other campaigns seeking to challenge the flow of US charitable money have targeted the IRS and their complaints have been left unanswered by bureaucrats. This campaign is fundamentally different. Since US charities must maintain a 501(c)(3) status at the state level, the campaign targets one elected official who can be held accountable by her constituents – in this case, New York Attorney General Letitia James.”
Lara Kilani, Advocacy Officer of the Good Shepherd Collective, told WAFA:
“We can see the interest in joint struggle growing. The mobilization we saw in May to speak out against the eviction of families in Sheikh Jarrah and Israel’s bombing of Gazans illustrates that people want to be in solidarity with Palestinians. We’re offering a campaign that can advance liberation in real ways across movements. White supremacist groups like New Century Foundation exploit US charitable laws to finance violence against Black and Brown communities. If the New York Attorney General enforces the existing laws, it can help us cut the funding for these racist organizations.”
Newly published documents confirm that the Director-General of the Israeli Interior Ministry, Yair Hirsch, lives in an outpost (Kida) that is currently under demolition order because it was built without building permits. The documents were released thanks to a freedom of information request submitted by the anti-settlement watchdog Kerem Navot. The documents further show that the Israeli Civil Administration issued a stop-work order against Hirsch’s house in 2008.
Kerem Navot reports the story behind the Kida outpost and Yair Hirsch:
“Yair Hirsh lives in the illegal outpost of Kida, which was established in 2003 on a hill located about three kilometers east of the settlement of Shiloh. The outpost was founded on part of the historical lands of the village of Jalud, in an area where a team led by the attorney Plia Albeck implemented a large declaration of state land in 1991.
In 2000, about three years before the outpost was established, the Blue Line Team of the Civil Administration remapped Ableck’s declaration. The goal of the mapping was ostensibly to include as state land only the areas that had been “uncultivated” in the past, and to exclude from the declaration area lands that had been cultivated. But the inspection that we carried out revealed that this mapping was extremely negligently done (link to the aerial photos from 1980 and from 2020, in which the cultivated areas in the area can be seen, in the first comment).
Since 2000, the Blue Line Team has returned to map the state land that was declared for those outposts that the state wants to legalize, but for some reason, of all places, the outpost of the appointed Director General of the Ministry of the Interior was overlooked. The reason for this simple: if serious mapping were done in this place, it would become clear that most of the outposts’ houses were built on land that had been cultivated in the past, and therefore there is no way to legalize them.
This secret is well known in the Kida outpost. Therefore, its residents chose to up the ante, with the not-unreasonable assumption, unfortunately, that no one would dare to evict them. And so in recent years, what was once an outpost of modest caravans has become a neighborhood of luxurious villas, for which over each structure hangs a demolition order issued by the Civil Administration. This is how it is when one builds on looted land–a lot of money remains left over for building beautiful villas.
Yes, you got that right: the individual whom the Minister of the Interior selected to run the office that is responsible, among other things, for all of the local authorities in Israel and in the West Bank is someone who, along with all of his neighbors, built his home illegally on land that does not belong to him, and continues to live on it in spite of the demolition orders pending against him. Makes sense.”
Breaking the Silence has published a new collection of testimonies from former Israeli soldiers specifically highlighting how active duty soldiers are systematically complicit in settler violence. In 36 testimonies, you can read how the IDF teaches, positions, and incentivizes its soldiers to protect the settlers at all times and in all circumstances – even when the settlers are violent towards Palestinians and their property, and even when settlers are violent towards the Israeli army itself.
In releasing the report, Break the Silence writes:
“The testimony collection is titled ‘On Duty,’ which conveys a double meaning: firstly, that the soldiers are “on duty” to protect the settlers and to advance their political ideology on the ground, constantly remaining at the settler’s beck and call. At the same time, the settlers are “on duty” to advance and entrench the occupation and shape the reality on the ground, much of the time through the use of violence, none of which would be possible without the soldiers’ presence, protection, and even active help. ‘On Duty’ conveys the idea that both forces are constantly there, working to advance each other’s interests, and immediately available to each other. Video footage of this phenomenon is frequently documented by B’Tselem and other human rights groups, including this settler attack on Palestinain homes in the Nablus area, in which IDF soldiers were present and did not stop the attack, and this violent settler raid on ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, in which an IDF soldier killed 19-year-old Husam ‘Asayrah.
Beyond providing testimony to the occurrence of settler attacks on Palestinians and their lands, ‘On Duty’ offers an explanation of the system that allows them to happen, described from the point of view and in the words of the soldiers who took part in the enforcement of this system. Testifiers to Breaking the Silence describe settlers’ attempts to ingratiate themselves with soldiers through the provision of gifts, food, and hospitality, and when soldiers act against the settlers’ desires, testimonies describe violent attacks by settlers against IDF soldiers. In addition, soldiers describe receiving instruction that their mission is to protect the Jewish settlers, but many are unaware of any clear orders as to how they are to enforce the law on violent settlers. These conditions make it near impossible for soldiers to carry out their task impartially when they are required to prevent or halt the violent attacks against Palestinians.
‘On Duty’ presents testimonies from soldiers who served in different units and across the West Bankwhich unequivocally show that the phenomenon of settler violence is an inevitable consequence of Israel’s occupation and policy of settling the West Bank. Were it not for the IDF’s continuous control over and presence in the occupied territories, this violence would not be a possibility.”
- “Bedouin Shepherds Used Palestinian Land With Permission. Israel Seized Their Tents Anyway” (Haaretz)
- “New Israeli government’s land seizure – where’s the EU?” (EU Observer // Sarit Michaeli)
- “Israel imposed tight restrictions on Palestinians in Hebron to secure settler raids” (MEMO)
- “Jenin becomes flashpoint for Israel-Palestinian confrontations” (Al-Monitor)
- “What Israeli soldiers don’t demolish by day, settlers burn by night” (+972 Magazine)
- “Israel turns Silwan into closed military site” (Al-Monitor)
- “Palestinians Fear Eviction From Their Jerusalem Neighborhood To Make Way For A Park” (NPR)
- “Palestinian-Jordanian crisis erupts ahead of Abdullah-Biden meeting” (Jerusalem Post)
- “No one told this young soldier to protect Palestinians from settlers” (Ynet)