Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to this report, please click here.
July 30, 2021
- Sheikh Jarrah Updates: Court Issues Delays for Three Cases; Bennett Reportedly Considering Delaying Four Others
- In First Since Settlement Regulation Law Was Overturned, Israel Announces Intent to Demolish Settlement Buildings on Privately Owned Palestinian Land
- Elad Settler Group Loses Control Over East Jerusalem Holy Site/Archaeological Park
- Knesset Votes Down West Bank Annexation Bill, Condemns Ben & Jerry’s
- State Allows (& Funds) “Farming Outposts” to Graze Huge Tracts of West Bank Land
- Outpost Activity Continues in the South Hebron Hills
- Israeli Army Let Settlers Stay at Abandoned Base Despite Knowing Plans for Illegal Outpost
- Bonus Reads
Comments or questions? Email Kristin McCarthy – email@example.com.
Sheikh Jarrah Updates: Court Issues Delays for Three Cases; Bennett Reportedly Considering Delaying Four Others
On July 29th, the Israeli Supreme Court issued notices delaying the forcible displacement of three families (Dajani, Hammad, and Dahoudi) from their longtime homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The eviction orders were set to become enforceable on Sunday August 1st, but the Court has halted the evictions while an appeal filed by the Palestinian families is dealt with.
Also sheduled for August 2nd, the Supreme Court is currently set to hold a final hearing to decide on the fate of four other Palestinian families (Jaouni, Iskafi, al-Kurd, and al-Qadi) facing forcible eviction in Sheikh Jarrah. According to press reports, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is considering delaying the final hearing (thus stopping the evictions for the time being). Notably, reports suggest Bennett is looking not to cancel the evictions but only to postpone a final decision on them – a postponement that could be reversed at any time at the whim of the Prime Minister (for example, when the world’s attention is elsewhere).
In an op-ed in The Guardian, Mohammad El-Kurd – whose family is facing eviction – powerfully wrote:
“On 2 August, the Israeli supreme court, whose jurisdiction over the eastern part of Jerusalem defies international law, is set to decide whether it will allow the appeal of my family and three others – a last legal obstacle before we can be expelled. There have been postponements before. Palestinians are accustomed to this kind of stalling; it tests our stamina. But we are as stubborn as anyone else faced with the prospect of losing their home – their life, their memories – to those using force, intimidation and biased laws. In the face of this cruelty, and despite teargas and skunk water, we are resisting. We cannot allow them to steal our homes once more, and we refuse to continue living in refugee camps while colonisers live in our houses. We cannot let them throw more of us on to the streets. We are tired of being turned into a refugee population, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, one home at a time. I have no faith in the Israeli judicial system; it is a part of the settler-colonial state, built by settlers for settlers. Nor do I expect any of the international governments who have been deeply complicit in Israel’s colonial enterprise to intervene on our behalf. But I do have faith in those people around the world who protest and pressure their governments to end what is essentially unconditional support for Israeli policies. Impunity and war crimes will not be stopped by statements of condemnation and raised eyebrows. We Palestinians have repeatedly articulated what kind of transformative political measures must be taken – such as civil society boycotts and state-level sanctions. The problem is not ignorance, it is inaction.”
In First Since Settlement Regulation Law Was Overturned, Israel Announces Intent to Demolish Settlement Buildings on Privately Owned Palestinian Land
On July 28th, the Israeli Attorney General’s office informed the High Court of Justice that within three years (!!) it plans to carry out the demolition of two buildings built by settlers on privately owned Palestinian land located inside of the Eli settlement, in the context of a petition filed in 2011 by Palestinian land owners with the assistance of Yesh Din and Bimkom. Notably, the underlying legal petition sought the demolition of a total of 20 buildings constructed illegally on private Palestinian land, 18 of which Israel granted retroactive legalization in February 2020.
According to the Jerusalem Post, this is the first instance of the Court resuming looking at a case of this kind since the Settlement Regulation Law was overturned by the Court in June 2020. Previously, all cases involving illegal construction inside of settlements had been frozen while the Court considered the constitutionality of the law, which sought to create a legal basis by which Israel would be able to grant retroactive legalization to outposts and settlement structures built on land that even Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians.
In resuming its consideration of the case, the Court first asked to be updated on the State’s reexamination of the status of the land in hopes of finding a means by which to retroactively legalize the illegal construction, despite the fact that a previous government effort confirmed that the two buildings fall outside of the boundaries of state-owned land. With no other avenue available to “legalize” the construction, the State informed the Court this week that it intends to demolish the structures after the three years, which it claimed was the amount of time required to provide new housing for the four affected settler families [demonstrating, as always, that settler law-breakers are never punished and always rewarded]. This long delay also suggests that the State will continue to look for new ways to avoid demolishing the homes.
Leaders of the Land of Israel Lobby in the Knesset, MKs Yoav Kisch and Orit Strock, told Israel Hayom:
“This week, the government informed the High Court of Justice that it agrees to demolish the homes of four families in Eli. This is a horrifying, shocking announcement. Rather than preventing the destruction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, the government is busy regulating the illegal construction crimes in the Bedouin sector. This is a badge of shame for the government, which is freezing construction, as well as going back on all its promises to regulate [settlements] and also demolishing Jews’ homes.”
Yisrael Gantz – who heads the Benyamim settler regional council – said:
“We are surprised that the government is falling in line with the Arab petitioners and announcing that it will, heaven forbid, demolish two homes where families have been living for years, which are part of a living, vibrant neighborhood. Razing a home whose status was legal and which a new review by the Civil Administration left outside the settlement’s borders is a new low in crimes against settlement in Judea and Samaria. These two homes are just a preview. We have hundreds of homes with similar status in the Binyamin settlements and thousands throughout the settlements as a whole that suddenly found themselves outside the new ‘blue lines’ drawn in the Civil Administration’s work. No normal country would demolish homes in a situation like this.”
On July 1st, the State of Israel re-asserted control over a significant and highly sensitive archaeological and holy site – the Davidson Archaeological Park – located just outside of the walls of the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif. The park, which includes most notably tunnels that run directly from the Western Wall plaza to the settler-run Davidson Center in Silawn – had been run by the Elad settler organization since 2018, when the State willingly transferred its authority to Elad to operate the park.
In 2015 the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh, which is made up of archeological experts, filed a petition against Elad’s role at the park, arguing that “it is highly problematic to place the running or management of a holy site that is situated alongside the Western Wall foundations in the hands of a private and politicized organization.” Emek Shaveh’s argument mirrored an opinion issued by Israel’s Attorney General which held that holy sites should be managed by the State.
Notably, the end of the state’s contract with Elad regarding the Davidson Park reduces but does not eliminate Elad’s role in managing key sites in Jerusalem. Elad continues to operate the nearby City of David archaeological park (just outside the Old City’s walls), where it has been advancing numerous settlement projects meant to strengthen its control over the area and displace Palestinians.
Emek Shaveh said in a statement:
“We are pleased that the authorities have put an end to a highly problematic arrangement whereby a private right-wing organization is operating an important site situated in perhaps the most sensitive place in the region. We hope that in the future the State will take full responsibility for additional sites which it handed over to the settlers’ foundation. The City of David is, no doubt, the next site that ought to be returned to full management by the State. Emek Shaveh’s case regarding the tunnel linking the Davidson Center to Givati is still ongoing.”
In a July 28th preliminary vote the Knesset rejected, by a relatively slim margin (64 to 50), a bill to annex the entire West Bank. Members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s ruling party, Yamina, voted against the bill. The bill had been submitted by members of the Likud party, which is now in the opposition after 15 years of being the most powerful party in the country and having had the ability to pass such a bill if desired. One of the bill’s cosponsors, Miki Zohar, said after the vote:
“You promised again and again that you will take action to bring about sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and you once again broke your word,” Zohar said. “You once again proved that you have no ideology and that no values are holy for you except for keeping your cabinet seats.”
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) responded, saying:
“I heard MK Mikki Zohar relating to the fact that in the last administration, Netanyahu wanted to apply sovereignty but Blue and White prevented him from doing so. And I was just thinking to myself, ‘How far from the truth can you get?’…So you, MK Zohar, party whip for the Likud in the last Knesset, could have brought this bill up in the last Netanyahu government, during the Trump administration, during the amazing window of opportunity – you could have submitted the sovereignty bill and had a majority in the Knesset.”
Around the same time this bill was voted on, 90 members of the Knesset, including Yamina members, signed a letter calling on Ben & Jerry’s to reverse its decision to end sales in the occupied West Bank. The letter refers to settlements as “towns and cities in Israel” – a statement tantamount to a declaration of de facto – if not official – annexation. Notably, 6 MKs – from Labor and Meretz – subsequently removed their names for the letter, claiming that they signed on without seeing the final wording, and that the final wording does not reflect their views.
In response to a Peace Now inquiry, the Israeli Agricultural Ministry revealed that it has granted permits to unauthorized (i.e., illegal under even Israel law) agricultural outposts to use over 2,000 acres (8,500 dunams) of land in the West Bank for grazing, in a program which entrenches and expands the outposts’ illegal presence across the West Bank.
And if that wasn’t enough of a scandal, the Ministry confirmed that it provided sizable grants – totalling over $800,000 (2.6 million NIS) over the past few years – to at least three settlement organizations for the purpose of bringing volunteers to these outposts – which, again, are illegal even under Israeli law – to work the land. Notably, these settler organizations publicly boast about their farming activities with respect to a total of 50 farming outposts, suggesting that settlers are making use of far more than the 2,000 acres permitted by the Ministry (the Ministry clarified that it funds activities only related to the areas where settlers are authorized to work — so apparently they see no problem].
Peace Now said:
“The Ministry of Agriculture takes millions of Shekels of public monies and give them to associations which are intrinsically linked to illegal activity. If the government wants to stop more outposts such as “Evyatar” from existing, and to stop the small group of ideological settlers who allow themselves to set facts on the ground that determines the foreign and security policies for Israel, it must change its ways immediately and stop supporting outposts and illegal activities”.
Two of the outposts to which the Agricultural Ministry awarded grazing permits are located in the south Hebron hills, on land that is privately owned by Palestinians. One of those outposts, established by a settler named Shavti Kohslaviski, has active demolition orders issued against it. A third outpost that received grazing permits is located near the Elon Moreh settlement, on a site that is partially privately owned Palestinian land that Israel has made inaccessible to its Palestinian owners but on which settlers regularly trespass .
Kerem Navot reports that on July 23rd, dozens of settlers were allowed to stay at an abandoned military base in the Jordan Valley with permission of the Israeli army. The Israeli Commander in charge of the area reportedly said that he granted permission for the settlers to hike in the area and spend one night at the army base – – despite the fact that the settlers openly declared their intent to establish a permanent presence there. The settlers left after two nights at the site, though a government source told Haaretz that the problem will continue to linger, saying “the minute the brigade commander allowed this one time, they will go up there regularly, when they feel like it, with or without permission, and the defense establishment will have to start dealing with it.”
Kerem Navot reports:
“The organization that is behind this current takeover attempt is called “Nahala.” Nahala is the same group behind the takeover of Mount Sbeih south of the village of Beita, upon which the outpost of Eviatar was founded two months ago, and operates behind a fictional NGO (which we wrote about not long ago- https://bit.ly/3763yJW). Yes, you understood that correctly: The same people who broke the law when they established the outpost Eviatar, are advancing a new aggressive takeover of lands that do not belong to them, instead of standing trial. Welcome to the West Bank.”
On July 25th, Palestinian media reported that settlers have begun reestablishing an outpost in the south Herbron hills, near the town of Yatta. Settlers had abandoned the outpost a few months ago under regular protests by Palestinians.
On July 27th, the Israeli government dismantled another outpost – called “Beit Dror” by settlers – in the south Hebron hills. There were seven families of settlers living at the outpost in pre-fabricated homes which were removed from the area by cranes. Following the evacuation, the settlers held a cornerstone-laying ceremony at the site, vowing to return and permanently build on the land.
- “Over 140 Palestinians hurt after Israeli troops attack anti-settlement protesters” (The New Arab)
- “A water spring in the occupied Jordan Valley targeted for takeover by Israeli settlers” (WAFA)
- “Palestinian teenager killed by Israeli troops in West Bank” (The New Arab)
- “Ben & Jerry’s Is Shunning Israeli Settlements. The U.S. Should Too” (DAWN)