Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to this report, please click here.
May 7, 2021
- Protests Against Dispossession Continue in Sheikh Jarrah, as Israeli Court Delays Decision
- Israel Has Been Conducting a Secretive Land Registration Process in Sheikh Jarrah, Excluding Palestinians
- Har Homa E Settlement Plan Granted Approval, With Minor Conditions
- Knesset Attempts Fast-Track Vote on Two Key Bills: One to Authorize Outposts; Another to Cancel 2005 Disengagement
- Bibi Reportedly Dismisses U.S. Concerns Over Settlements
- Construction Begins on New “Legal” Settlement in Southern West Bank, Foreshadowing More to Come
- Following Deadly Drive-By-Shooting, Settlers Establish New Outpost & Terrorize Palestinians Near Nablus
- Al Haq Report on Palestinian Workers in Settlements & the Complicity of Multinational Corporations
- Bonus Reads
Comments or questions? Email Kristin McCarthy – firstname.lastname@example.org.
On May 2nd, the date set by the Israeli Supreme Court for the forced dispossession of four Palestinians families from their longtime homes in Sheikh Jarrah in favor of Israeli settlers, the Supreme Court delayed the evictions and gave the parties four days (until May 6th) to consider a proposed “solution.” The Court’s suggested “solution” was that the Palestinians acknowledge Jewish ownership of the land, and in exchange be allowed to remain there as tenants – paying rent to the settlers – but only until the original tenant dies. At that time, the remaining family members would have to vacate the premises and the settlers would take control of the homes
In a powerful statement issued on May 2nd, the four families targeted for dispossession this week rejected that proposal outright, saying:
“We the four Sheikh Jarrah families firmly reject the terms of this agreement, for these are our homes and settlers are not our landlords. The inherently unjust system of Israel’s colonial courts is not considering the questioning of illegal settlers’ ownership and has already decided on the families’ dispossession.” This pattern of elongating the legal process is common practice to dull popular resistance and public opinion protesting these expansionist colonial efforts. As the threat of expulsion from our home remains as imminent as ever, we will continue our international campaign to stop this ethnic cleansing”
On May 6th, the Court once again delayed the dispossession, and said it would reconvene a three judge panel on May 10th to decide whether to allow the Palestinian families to continue appealing their eviction cases. Ir Amim reports that the likelihood of the panel ruling in the Palestinians’ favor is “slim.”
The date the Supreme Court chose for handing down its decision – May 10th – also happens to be Jerusalem Day. This is the day when as many as 25,000 Israeli settlers and fellow right-winger fanatics engage in an annual provocation against Palestinians, with a parade through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and neighboring areas of East Jerusalem to “celebrate” Israel’s capture of the city in 1967 (called “The Dance of Flags,” including racist chants and signs). Given the high tension in Jerusalem over the pending Sheikh Jarrah evictions, as well as over the recent protests over Israel’s closure of the area around Damascus Gate, the end of Ramadan, and the killings over the past two days of several Palestinains in the West Bank, Jerusalem Day poses a significant threat of escalation, and has already elicited warnings from the Israeli Chief of Police to reroute the parade. So far, those warnings appear to be falling on deaf ears.
To be clear: escalation has already begun. Shortly following the Supreme Court’s second delay, dozens of Israeli protestors marched through Salah Eddin Street (the major commercial thoroughfare in Palestinian East Jerusalem), and were reportedly “throwing stones at Palestinian cars and demanding the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah.” Not long after that, the head of the Otzma Yehudit party Itamar Ben-Gvir (a devotee of Kahanism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians) set up a tent-office in Sheikh Jarrah across from where Palestinians had prepared an iftar celebration. Settlers then began taunting the Palestinians sitting down for dinner, which escalated into clashes when a settler sprayed what appeared to be pepper spray. Later that evening, Israeli forces were seen protecting the “office” and the settlers there – including Jerusalem Deputy Mayor and settler empresario Arieh King, who was caught on video telling an injured Palestinian that the Israeli police ought to have shot him in the head.
On Friday morning May 7th, Sheikh Jarrah residents report that the Israeli police have cordoned off the neighborhood, and are checking IDs before permitting entry. Overnight raids and arrests of Palestinians also continue to be reported, with 15 arrested overnight on May 7th (settlers faced no arrests or punishments, despite being filmed shooting guns)
Prie Minister Netanyahu is reportedly proposing a permanent police presence in Sheikh Jarrah to protect the settlers — an arrangement much like the prevailing reality in Hebron
For a Palestinian view on what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah (and a plethora of additional resources on this topic), check out this FMEP webinar from May 6, 2021, and on Twitter you can follow #SaveSheikhJarrah for the latest news.
Israel Has Been Conducting a Secretive Land Registration Process in Sheikh Jarrah, Excluding Palestinians
Ir Amim and Bimkom report that Israeli authorities have been carrying out a secretive land registration process for the benefit of settlers in the Umm Haroun section of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and have already registered several plots of land to Jewish Israeli owners. Palestinian residents – inlcuding 45 families (40 houses) living on the plots of land secretly registered to the settlers – were not notified by Israeli authorities that the registraiton process was taking place, as is required by Israeli law. The stakes, as noted by Bimkom and Ir Amim, are high not only for Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who are being targeted at this time, but also for Palestinians across East Jerusalem, as any land registration process – let alone a secretive process undertaken for the benefit of Israeli Jews – can lead to “widespread Palestinian dispossession in the city.”
On May 2nd, Ir Amim and Bimkom filed an urgent petition with the Israeli High Court of Justice asking the Court to freeze the registration process and “expunge all invalid land registration as a result of this unethical procedure”. On May 3rd, the Israeli court issued a temporary injunction stopping the process at least until a ruling can be made on the case. The State has until June 3, 2021 to submit a response to the petition.
Ir Amim reports that the Jerusalem District Committee has granted its conditional final approval to a plan to build 540 new settlement units in the new Har Homa E settlement. The conditions outline a few minor modifications to the plan (like more clearly marking bike trails) which will not take much time. Once those modifications are made the plan will be formally approved via publication without requiring another meeting of the Committee.
Because the land on which the new settlement will be built is privately-owned, building plans will not be subject to a government-run tender process. Ir Amim reports that once the plan is published, building permits can theoretically be issued any time (though technical obstacles might delay things but not change the inevitability of construction).
Reminder: Although the Har Homa E plan is framed as merely an expansion of the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem, it is more properly understood as a new settlement since the buildings will be built in an open area that is not contiguous with the built-up area of Har Homa. The plan calls for 540 new settlement units to be built in the area between the Har Homa settlement and the site of the planned Givat Hamatos settlement (tenders for which were issued in January 2021). Meaning that the new construction is a significant step towards completing a ring of Israeli settlements on Jerusalem’s southern edge and encircling the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa.
Knesset Attempts Fast-Track Vote on Two Key Bills: One to Authorize Outposts; Another to Cancel 2005 Disengagement
On May 4th, the Knesset Arrangements Committee voted in favor of fast-tracking two settlement-related bills. The first would cancel the 2005 Disengagement Law, thereby allowing settlers to re-establish the four settlements in the northern West Bank which were evacuated under that law (which settlers have been attempting to do on their own, illegally but with significant political support, for years). The second would grant retroactive authorization (i.e., legalize) the nearly 70 outposts that Israel has failed to find any other way to legalize (because they were built on land even Israel recognizes is privately owned by Palestinians). Now on a fasttrack, the bills can be called for its first vote at any time after May 5th (to pass, all bills most be voted on three times in the Knesset and sent to committees for approval).
The fast-tracking of these bills at this time is an attempt to get the bills passed into law before a new government is formed or new elections are called, and to use the issue of settlements as a political weapon against parties that oppose the bills. The Times of Israel reports that internal politics will likely see the bills languish as parties jockey to form a new governing coalition. The bills are a source of division between parties that are currently deep in negotiations to form a governing coalition – led by Yair Lapid and the Yesh Atid party (which opposes the bill).
When asked for comment on the outpost legalization bill by the Times of Israel, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department gave its most substantive comments on settlements yet, saying:
“We are deeply concerned about the potential ‘legalization’ of outposts that have long been deemed illegal under Israeli law…As we have long said, it is critical that Israel refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions or take us further away from peace. This includes evictions, settlement activity and home demolitions, and certainly includes the legalization of Israeli outposts in the West Bank that have long been illegal even under Israeli law.”
According to a report by Israel’s Channel 12 News, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has on three separate occasions over the past month rebuffed U.S. diplomats’ concerns regarding Israel’s settlement activities.
The first communication was from Jonathan Shrier, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy (the ranking U.S. diplomat in Israel, in the absence of an Ambassador). Shrier was reported to have relayed U.S. concerns over the approval of the Har Homa E settlement plans earlier this month, but the concerns were dismissed.
The second communication came from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (a top official in the Biden White House), who reportedly expressed U.S. concerns over the approval of the Har Homa E settlement as well as settlement construction in the West Bank. The Times of Israel reports that Netanyahu responded, “Jerusalem is not a settlement, but the capital of Israel.”
The third communication came May 5th regarding the violence in Sheikh Jarrah; that communication was reportedly also rebuffed. Perhaps suggesting that there is growing frustration with the issue inside the Biden Administration, a day later, on May 6th, the U.S. the Department of State issued its most pointed public statement on Israeli settlement activity yet.
This week settlers celebrated the start of construction on 164 settlement units in the new (or at least, newly-legal under Israeli law) Ibei Hanachal settlement, located between Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank. This comes nearly one year after Israel began clearing the land to prepare for construction.
Ibei Hanachal was established illegally by settlers in 1999, but was granted retroactive approval as a neighborhood of the Ma’ale Amos settlement by the Israeli government in August 2019. Declaring illegal outposts to be neighborhoods of settlements – even outposts that are non-contiguous with the allegedly parent settlement, as is the case with Ibei Hanachal – is one of the legal mechanisms that Israel has found to retroactively “legalize” illegal outposts. In this way, Israel has not only been “legalizing” construction by settlers that violates Israel law, but has in effect been establishing brand new settlements – like Ibei Hanachal.
Elsewhere, construction has reportedly started on 164 units in the Neve Daniel settlement, located on the southwestern border of lands belonging to Bethlehem
The news of these new construction starts is a reminder that the massive number of settlement approvals the Israeli government granted during the Trump era will soon potentially translate into a massive number of settlement construction starts during the Biden Administration. The AP reported earlier this month:
“Israel has also laid the groundwork for a massive construction boom in the years to come, advancing plans for 12,159 settler homes in 2020. That was the highest number since Peace Now started collecting data in 2012. It usually takes one to three years for construction to begin after a project has been approved. Unlike his immediate predecessors, who largely confined settlement construction to major blocs that Israel expects to keep in any peace agreement, Netanyahu has encouraged construction in remote areas deep inside the West Bank, further scrambling any potential blueprint for resolving the conflict. Settler advocates have repeatedly said that it would take several years for Trump’s support to manifest in actual construction. Peace Now said that trend is now in its early stages and expected to gain steam. “2020 was really the first year where everything that was being built was more or less because of what was approved at the beginning of the Trump presidency,” said Peace Now spokesman Brian Reeves. “It’s the settlement approvals that are actually more important than construction.””
Following Deadly Drive-By-Shooting, Settlers Establish New Outpost & Terrorize Palestinians Near Nablus
In the wake of a drive-by-shooting at a junction in the northern West Bank that left one Israeli dead and two others injured, settlers have been exacting their revenge. In addition to raiding a village and allegedly setting fields on fire in Burin – settlers have also established an outpost south of Nablus, on a hilltop known as Jabal Sbeih.
The new outpost consists of a few mobile homes, which settlers were able to move into the area uncontested while the IDF enforced a closure in the Nablus area while hunting down the suspect of the drive by shooting.
In a new report entitled “Captive Markets, Captive Lives: Palestinian Workers in Israeli Settlements,” Al-Haq explains the circumstances that Palestinians who work in settlements face, including discrimination, dangerous conditions, violence, and shame. In 2019, Al Haq estimated there were between 23,000 and 34,000 such workers.
The report also briefly examines the activity of two multinational corporations in the settlement economy – Heidelberg Cement and General Mills. The report directly addresses and repudiates the claim put forth by settlers and these corporations that jobs are a net gain for Palestinians who would otherwise be unemployed if not for jobs in settlements.
“Palestinian labour rights in Israeli settlements are almost non-existent. The deliberate lack of regulation of labour rights by Israeli authorities empowers settlers by encouraging further violations of Palestinian workers’ rights with no accountability. Palestinians working in Israeli settlements in the West Bank are treated under the outdated Jordanian labour law while their Israeli counterparts are treated under Israeli labour law leading to a complete denial of access to social and health benefits. Many workers are denied health care when injured while on-duty. Workers with permanent disabilities due to work related injuries are not compensated. Meanwhile families of victims are not even compensated in the event of death on duty. As this report has shown, Palestinian workers are not provided with the necessary protective equipment and are constantly exposed to hazardous waste and material. At the same time, Palestinian workers’ unions are targeted by Israeli employers in an attempt to thwart unionization efforts. Accordingly, this report dispels the myth that international companies provide necessary work and benefits to the Palestinian workforce that justifies their illegal operations in the OPT. Instead, the ugly truth unfolds of international and Israeli companies exploiting a captive Palestinian workforce in a captive economy, in companies operating on unlawfully appropriated Palestinian lands, pillaging the natural resources and subsistence of the Palestinian people, and maintained by a lethal military occupation and apartheid regime under the wilful profiting eye of the international community.”
- “This Checkpoint Revitalized the Palestinian City of Jenin. Why Has Israel Refused to Reopen It?” (Haaretz)
- “Settlers to sue B’Tselem for alleging they set Palestinian fields ablaze” (Jerusalem Post)
- “Palestinian fears rise as settlers visit synagogue ruins in Jericho” (Al-Monitor)
- “Jerusalem’s Jewish majority hits new low” (Arutz Sheva)
- “Israel Blew Up Their Houses in 1966. Now It Claims Their Village Never Existed” (Haaretz)
- “Over 180 Israeli Intellectuals, Scientists Warn ICC: Don’t Rely on Israel to Probe War Crimes” (Haaretz)