Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to this report, please click here.
May 13, 2021
- Knesset Advances Three Key Annexation Bills
- Israel’s Official Maps of Jerusalem Land Expropriations — Discrepancies and Room for Interpretation
- Israel Advances Plan to Build On the Ruins of Lifta, a Historic Palestinian Neighborhood in West Jerusalem
- In Victory for Settlement Companies, Canadian Appeals Court Reverses Settlement Product Labelling Ruling
- <New Campaign in Norway Pushes for State Pension Fund to Divest from Occupation
- Bonus Reads
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Notwithstanding surging protests and violence across Israel and the territories it belligerently occupies, the Israeli Knesset voted on May 10th to give preliminary approval to three incendiary bills: one would grant retroactive legalization to 70 unauthorized outposts; a second would rescind the 2005 Disengagement Law, thereby allowing Israel and its settlers to re-establish four settlements in the northern West Bank which were dismantled under that law; and a third bill would empower the Knesset to override decisions by the Israeli Supreme Court and reinstate laws the Court ruled to be unconstitutional (like the Settlement Regulation Law, which is the key target of this legislative effort). FMEP has previously explained these bills here. Ahead of the vote, Defense Minister Benny Gantz asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to intervene to delay the bills, citing the rising violence and unrest.
With the vote to advance the bills on May 10th, the Knesset will need to pass the bills through three more readings. The three bills have long been high on the wish list of many Israeli politicians who support Israel’s annexation of West Bank land.
Following years of advocacy by the Israeli group Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, the official maps drawn by the Israeli government when it annexed (illegally) lands around Jerusalem have been released in their entirety for the first time. Though bits and pieces of the maps had been released in the past by the Israel Lands Authority in response to specific inquiries related to land expropriations, the state had kept the maps hidden from the public until now.
With the maps in hand, Bimkom has launched a website where the maps can be analysed. On the significance of the maps and the ability of the public to access them, Bimkom writes:
“The original expropriation maps were drawn by hand, as was customary at the time. The manual drawing and the passage of years however, have led to defects and distortions in the original paper documents. In many places there is a discrepancy between the hand-drawn maps and contemporary mappings made with the latest technology, and their reading leaves room for interpretation. Hiding the expropriation maps from the public allowed the state authorities to be the sole interpreters of the maps. But now, with the help of the interactive on-line tools offered on Bimkom’s new site, interpretation of the maps will be in the public domain.”
Israel Advances Plan to Build On the Ruins of Lifta, a Historic Palestinian Neighborhood in West Jerusalem
On May 10th (Jerusalem Day), the Israel Lands Authority announced that on July 4, 2021 it will open bidding on construction plans to build a new neighborhood on the ruins of the Palestinian neighborhood of Lifta, located in West Jerusalem. While FMEP’s settlement and annexation report focuses on settlement building in areas located over the 1967 Green Line, the story of Lifta – and of other Palestinian villages forcibly depopulated by Israeli forces in the 1948 – is another facet of the Israeli government’s policy of erasure of Palestinians via the establishment of Jewish Israeli communities. You can read one Palestinian’s account of forced her forced displacement from Lifta, here.
Lifta is the last Palestinian village in Jerusalem to remain partially intact. Israel has prevented Palestinian refugees and landowners from returning to it, but has not yet demolished all the original structures (55 out of the original 400 structures still remain), or opened up the area for Israeli re-development. In 2017 the ruins of Lifta were named by the World Monuments Fund as one of 25 at-risk sites around the world.
The plans being advanced call for the construction of 259 apartment units, a luxury hotel, and other commercial buildings. Former-Jerusalem Municipality council member Yair Gabbai told the Jerusalem Post that a synagogue will be added to the development plan – leaving no doubt about for whom the housing is intended.
In Victory for Settlement Companies, Canadian Appeals Court Reverses Settlement Product Labelling Ruling
On May 6th, a Canadian federal appeals court reversed a 2019 ruling that had prevented Israeli companies based in settlements from labelling their products as “Made in Israel.” The new ruling by the appeals court found that the 2019 decision had been made “improperly,” and sent the case (which was initiated by the Psagot settlement winery) to Canada’s Food Inspection Agency – which had previously allowed the products (wine) from settlements to be labelled as “Made in Israel.”
Psagot Winery is a willing legal test case, as part of an ongoing international campaign led by Israel and its defenders to erase any/all distinction that foreign countries might want to make between the territory recognized by the world as the sovereign state of Israel, and Israeli settlements built in the occupied territories, which are illegal under international law. By convincing countries to treat settlements products as products of the state of Israel, this campaign seeks to secure de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty over its settlements.
For a deep dive in the history of the Psagot settlement and the significance of former Sec. of State Mike Pompeo’s visit there in the waning days of the Trump Administration – check out this FMEP podcast with Dror Etkes, Fadi Quran, and Lara Friedman.
This week two well-respected organizing groups in Norway – the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees and Norwegian People’s Aid – have launched a campaign calling on the Government Pension Fund (the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world) to exclude from its investment portfolio 64 companies that are “involved in activities that support and profit from illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the occupation economy, in general.”
The campaign website explains:
“The campaign aims to shed light on how investments made by the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), popularly known as the Norwegian oil fund, can contribute to the occupation…Businesses play a key role in supporting the construction, maintenance and expansion of the illegal settlements. International and Israeli companies are found in many business sectors, including banking, tourism, security, technology, construction, real estate, extractive industries, telecommunications, agriculture, transport and industry. Various UN bodies have stated that the close link between settlements and violations of human rights and international law make it practically impossible for a company to do business with the settlements and be compliant with international law and international standards for business and human rights. For this reason, some of these companies have already been excluded by other Norwegian and international financial institutions. We believe that the oil fund should do the same. The oil fund has recently taken steps to look more closely into portfolio companies that operate in high-risk conflict areas. Despite this, investments in companies with activities in occupied Palestinian territory have increased.”
- “EU Court Backs Group Opposed to Imports From Israeli Settlements” (Reuters)
- “Co-existence in Jaffa Could Cost Arab Residents Their Homes” (Haaretz)