Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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November 19, 2021
- Israeli Government Advances A New Settlement Under Guise of Ariel “Expansion”
- In Order to Advance Construction of Givat Hamatos, Israel Court Rules For the First Time that Palestinians Can Apply to Live There Too
- IDF Evacuates Two Illegal Settler Outposts in the Shiloh Valley
- As Settler Terrorism Continues, Gantz Takes a Look at the Data
- Settler Participation in Israel’s Mass Surveillance of Palestinians
- Terrestrial Jerusalem Warnings & Predictions on Key East Jerusalem Settlement Crises
- New B’Tselem Report: Settler Violence Accomplishes State’s Goals
- Ir Amim: Israel’s 2040 Plan for Jerusalem Will Displace More Palestinians
- Bonus Reads
On November 15, Peace Now reported details on the Israeli Ministry of Construction’s issuance of tenders for a new settlement, called “Ariel West,” in the heart of the West Bank — under the guise of a plan to “expand” the Ariel settlement. Under the plan, 731 new settlement units will be built on a hilltop located 1.2 miles away from Ariel, in an area that is non-contiguous with the built up area of the current Ariel settlement. These tenders were issued on October 24th by the Construction Ministry, without public debate.
The scope and impact of the new project is only now coming into focus, and is just the latest illustration of how Israel systematically rewards unauthorized/illegal construction undertaken by settlers. In this case, settlers established an unauthorized outpost (i.e., illegal even under Israeli law) called “Nof Avi”on the hilltop where the new settlement is slated for construction. The Israeli government has allowed that outpost to remain, and restrict Palestinians’ access to agricultural lands they rightfully own, for the past year.
The hilltop and the Nof Avi outpost is located on land declared by Israel to be “state land” inside of the jurisdictional boundaries of the Ariel settlement, as authorized by the Israeli government. The jurisdictional boundaries of Ariel include several non-contiguous land areas — due to the fact that the area is dotted with land that even Israel recognizes to be legally owned by Palestinians (leaving Palestinian land in some places nearly completely surrounded by land given to the settlement).
The new settlement will further exacerbate the limitations that the settlements inflict on Palestinian agricultural workers in addition to the future development of the nearby Palestinian town of Salfit, as illustrated in this video by Peace Now. Even before the “expansion” plan, Ariel’s jurisdictional area was identified as a direct hindrance on the future development of Salfit.
With news of the new settlement, the Mayor of Salfit – Abdullah Kamil – explained to Haaretz:
“Salfit is slated for expansion. It has a university and there are plans to add 10,000 students over the next few years. The city’s master plan will have to be enlarged, and the site where the new settlement is planned is exactly the direction toward which we wanted to expand. This situation will explode. We also told the Israelis this; it will open a new front and it will harm Israeli security. It’s clear that part of the plan’s purpose is to eliminate any chance of a political solution.”
Peace Now said in a statement:
“It is hard to believe that this tender would have been published if it had been brought for government approval or to any public discussion. The Ministry of Housing took advantage of a plan approved 30 years ago to dramatically change the heart of the West Bank. The “Ariel West” plan is not just a plan for thousands of housing units, but it is a new settlement designed to block the town of Salfit and prevent the development of Palestinian space in the area. This is not only a severe damage to the lives of thousands of Palestinians in the area, but also to the chance of reaching peace and two states in the future.”
In Order to Advance Construction of Givat Hamatos, Israel Court Rules For the First Time that Palestinians Can Apply to Live There Too
In response to a petition filed by the Israel anti-settlement watchdog Ir Amim, the Israeli government updated key eligibility requirements related to future residents of the Givat Hamatos settlement in East Jerusalem. With this petition threatening to slow the project, the government elected to eliminate a discriminatory requirement and thereby make Palestinian permanent residents of East Jerusalem eligible, for the first time ever, to participate in a lottery for government subsidized housing in the new settlement, slated for imminent construction on the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem.
Until this point, all such housing lotteries were open only to Israeli citizens, in effect prevent the 90+% of Palestinian Jerusalemites – who Israel classifies as “permanent residents” – from eligibility. Some 40% of the 1,257+ settlement units awaiting construction in Givat Hamatos are designated as part of the relevant government-subsidized housing program.
Following the government’s offer to change the eligibility criteria for the subsidized housing program, the Jerusalem District Court dismissed Ir Amim’s petition. In dismissing the petition, the judge failed to require the government to acquiesce to two key demands of the Ir Amim petition: that the government reserve some of the new housing units in Givat Hamatos specifically for Paelstinian residents of Beit Safafa (a neighborhood which the new settlement will complete the encirclement of), and that the government be required to publish an Arabic language announcement regarding the change in policy. The judge on the case did, however, require the Jerusalem municipality to pay Ir Amim $1,600 in expenses.
On November 17th, the Israeli army removed two settler families from the illegal (even under Israeli law) outpost called “Guelat Zion,” located in the Shiloh Valley, demolishing the four structures standing there. Predictably, settlers reacted violently, resulting in the arrest of three settlers. This is not the first time the IDF demolished Geulat Zion, the last time being in 2018. Established in 2011, the outpost is adjacent to the new “Amichai” settlement, which Israel built as a pay-off to settlers it was forced by the courts to remove from the illegal Amona outpost.
Following the evacuation of the Geulat Zion outpost on November 17th, the IDF also razed the nearby Ramat Migron outpost. Five additional settlers were arrested for throwing stones and assaulting Israel troops.
On November 18th, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz – the man who recently designated six Palesitnian human rights groups to be “terrorist organizations” – held a meeting at the Defense Ministry to hear data on the rise of settler violence against Palestinians. Gantz – who referred to settler violence as “hate crimes” and “a grave phenomenon” – appointed Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster as the point person in a new Israeli effort to “address locations in the West Bank that are flash points of friction or that have been in the past” which can include the deployment of “special units to address the issue.” Haaretz reports that Gantz also called for the “forces on the ground to be provided with the necessary legal resources,” though it is unclear what that entails.
As a reminder, settler violence against Palestinians has been well documented for years, and continues on a weekly or even daily basis. Gantz’s plan to reduce friction does not address the core mechanism by which settlers are permitted to terrorize Palestinians – as detailed by the recent B’Tselem report entitled “State Business: Israel’s misappropriation of land in the West Bank through settler violence,” which is summarized below.
Incidents of settler terrorism in the past week alone include:
- On November 15th, Palestinians were attacked by settlers while attempting to access their land near the dismantled settlement of Homesh in the northern West Bank. Though the vacant site of the Homesh settlement is a closed military zone, settlers have continued to visit the site and maintain an outpost with a yeshiva there (though the IDF has intermittently intervened to clear them out). A group of 15 masked settlers launched a brutal attack on the Palestinians. As a reminder: Homesh is one of four settlements in the northern West Bank that Israel dismantled in 2005 under the Disengagement Law, which primarily removed all Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. After Israel removed settlers from these four sites, the IDF issued military orders barring Palestinians from entering the areas, let alone building in them. At the same time, settlers have regularly entered the areas and even repeatedly built a yeshiva at the Homesh site. Settlers have been openly obsessed with the desire to re-establish Homesh, hosting religious events and protests at the site of Homesh, some of which have been attended by Israeli MKs and politicians.
- On November 12th, a group of 12 settlers launched an attack on Palestinian olive harvesters and Israeli activitists near the settlement of Bat Ayn, located south west of Bethlehem. According to one of the Israeli solidarity activists, Gil Marshall, the Israeli IDF was present on the scene earlier in the day, but suddenly left which allowed the settlers an opportunity to attack. Afterwards, the IDF declared the area — a Palestinian olive farm — to be a closed military zone for one months time, which will require Palestinians (and, theoretically, the settlers) to request permission from the IDF in order to access the land – resulting in more land loss for Palestinian olive farmers. The attack resulted in injuries to three Israeli activists – including the prominent solidarity activists Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who wrote about the experience here. The Israeli military reportedly arrested three settlers in connection to the attack.
Basil al-Adraa, a Palestinian journalist for +972 Magazine and community youth organizer in the South Hebron Hills, wrote a new account of the settler terrorism he experienced on November 10th. In a piece entitled, “The soldiers got into their jeeps — and left us with a settler militia,” al-Adraa writes:
“Until that moment there were no casualties, and the army was still present in the area. In the darkness of the desert, I could count dozens of settlers. They were holding rifles, batons, and slingshots. They waved their rifles from behind the soldiers’ backs, as if to scare the Palestinians.
Then, suddenly, the soldiers got into their jeeps and left — leaving behind a militia of armed settlers. With the soldiers gone, the settlers advanced in our direction.
From that moment on, everything became blurry. I heard screaming and saw young people trying to block the settlers from advancing to the village with their bodies. Then the gunshots started. It took me several seconds to even realize they were directly firing live rounds in our direction…On the phone, Quamar Mashraqi-Assad, a Palestinian Jerusalem-based lawyer who helps the residents of the area, told me that she was in contact with the army, who were telling her that the soldiers were at Khallet a-Daba’. But it was a lie. A minute later, another young man was hit by settler gunfire. We were completely alone. Only after about 40 minutes of carnage did the army return to the scene. The settlers retreated and continued throwing stones, while the soldiers pushed and cursed the Palestinians…
The attack on Khallet a-Daba’ is only the tip of the iceberg. Residents, activists, and human rights groups have witnessed an alarming increase in settler violence in the West Bank in recent months. Most of these events are either not documented or filmed from a distance for safety reasons. In contrast to the settler pogrom that took place in the village of Mufagara in broad daylight in late September, this time in Khallet a-Daba’, the darkness prevented Palestinians from filming what took place. In the South Hebron Hills, the backing these attacks receive from the army is part of a concerted effort to create a sense of friction in the run-up to the High Court’s decision on the legality of the firing zone, in order to create a “justification” for military presence in the area.”
According to new reporting by the Washington Post, based on testimonies compiled by Breaking the Silence, settlers have been helping the IDF build a facial photo database of West Bank Palestinians. The database serves to buttress the facial recognition capabilities of the Israeli army, as part of its pervasive surveillance arsenal, including a growing network of cameras and smartphones.
As reported by the Washington Post, settlers use a smartphone app called “White Wolf” to scan the identification cards of Palestinians, and the data is then uploaded to the army’s surveillance system. The photos and information gleaned by White Wolf are then added to the IDF’s larger system, called “Blue Wolf,” which “captures photos of Palestinians’ faces and matches them to a database of images so extensive that one former soldier described it as the army’s secret ‘Facebook for Palestinians.’ The phone app flashes in different colors to alert soldiers if a person is to be detained, arrested or left alone.”
The “Blue Wolf” system is itself a mobile-friendly version of Israel’s even larger database of Palestinian faces and identities, called “Wolf Pack.” Former soliders told The Post that “Wolf Pack…contains profiles of virtually every Palestinian in the West Bank, including photographs of the individuals, their family histories, education and a security rating for each person.”
Breaking the Silence Executive Director Avner Gvaryahu said:
“Whilst surveillance and privacy are at the forefront of the global public discourse, we see here another disgraceful assumption by the Israeli government and military that when it comes to Palestinians, basic human rights are simply irrelevant.”
Roni Pelli of ACRI told The Post:
“While developed countries around the world impose restrictions on photography, facial recognition and surveillance, the situation described [in Hebron] constitutes a severe violation of basic rights, such as the right to privacy, as soldiers are incentivized to collect as many photos of Palestinian men, women and children as possible in a sort of competition… [the Israeli] military must immediately desist.”
In a new report, Terrestrial Jerusalem (TJ) reviews and analyzes the state-of-play regarding four key settlement issues that are quickly approaching decision points. Those issues and relevant insights from Terrestrial Jerusalem (TJ) are:
- Evictions in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan: Though not able to predict the outcome of the Court’s final judgement regarding the Dweik family case, TJ says the judgment can be handed down at any time.
- Construction of the Atarot Settlement: In anticipation of a key hearing on December 6th to discuss depositing the plan for public review, Terrestrial Jerusalem warns: “The deposit of the plan for public review marks the beginning of the serious stages of the planning process, turning what has been until now a distant concept into a an operational plan being seriously pursued. There is no room for complacency, and the earlier the Israeli authorities are engaged on this the greater the chances that such a dangerous plan can be stopped.”
- Construction of the E-1 Settlement: Ahead of the last and final hearing on E-1 scheduled for December 13th, TJ cautions: “After the hearings, we will be only one decision away from the final approval of the plan, which will basically rest on the Defense Minister’s decision to convene the Higher Planning Council.”
- Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah: Following the Palestinians’ choice to reject a Court-authored “compromise,” TJ writes: “Given the court’s pace in hearing the case until now, we believe a verdict is likely to be handed down before year’s end. While anticipating the content of future court rulings is fraught with dangers and uncertainty, it appears more rather than less likely that the Supreme Court will not overrule the rulings of the lower courts, and the eviction orders will stand. There is no further appeal.”
In conclusion, Terrestrial Jerusalem warns:
“If our analysis and projections are correct, by year’s end or shortly thereafter there will likely be a Supreme Court verdict against the Palestinian families in Silwan, and the sub-Committee of the Higher Planning Board will approve E-1. Thereafter, the evictions can take place at any time, and the only step required for the final statutory approval of E-1 is its ratification by means of the signatures of the Minister of Defense, both technicalities which can be performed within a matter of hours. In the weeks to come, we will likely hear from the senior members of the Bennett government: “don’t worry, we will not evict anyone in Sheikh Jarrah, nor will we build in E-1”. They will be very convincing, because they will likely be sincere. Yet, all it will take is a coalition crisis, a new election, or a terror attack with numerous casualties and the evictions will happen, and E-1 will be approved. The evictions in Sheikh Jarrah can be greenlighted at any time, and all it will take is one or two strokes of the pen – signatures on a dotted line by Defense Minister Benny Gantz – and E-1 will be approved. There will be no trip wire, no advanced warning.”
In a separate – and equally excellent – article dealing with these developments, in addition to several other key political elements (including the pending fate of reopening a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem), Terrestrial Jerusalem founder Daniel Seidemann writes:
“In the weeks to come, we will likely hear senior members of the Bennett-Lapid government deliver lines such as: “Fear not, we will not evict anyone in Sheikh Jarrah, nor will we build in E-1.” They will be very convincing, but dead wrong. It is enough to have a coalition crisis, a new election, or a terror attack for the government to move forward with its plans. All it will take is two strokes of the pen — signatures on a dotted line by Defense Minister Benny Gantz — and E-1 would be approved, and the expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah can commence. There will be no trip wire, no advanced warning.”
In a new report entitled “State Business: Israel’s misappropriation of land in the West Bank through settler violence”, B’Tselem details how systematic and ongoing settler violence is in effect a policy of the State of Israel, and a tool that the State uses to take over more and more land in the West Bank. The report presents five cases of settler violence – of lands in/near the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, Ramallah, and Nablus – and land takeover, drawing an alarming picture of how the State of Israel aids and abets settlers in their targeted violence, and then rewards those settlers with control over more land.
In a striking passage, B’Tselem writes:
“From the beginning of 2020 to the end of September 2021, B’Tselem documented 451 settler attacks on Palestinians and on their property – 245 were directed at Palestinian farmers. This figure excludes the Jordan Valley, where violence takes place on a daily basis. Of the 451 attacks recorded, in 27 cases settlers fired live ammunition, 180 included physical assault, 145 included damage to private property, 77 included attacks on homes, and 35 attacks on passing vehicles. 123 cases included damage to trees and crops, and in 59 settlers damaged farming equipment. The presence of Israeli security forces was recorded in 183 of these incidents: In 66 forces were present and did nothing, in 104 they participated in the attack, usually using rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades. In 22 incidents, security forces arrested Palestinians who had been attacked by settlers. In addition, five Palestinians were killed during joint attacks by settlers and soldiers.19 Rather than preventing violent actions against Palestinian farmers, the military has developed a “coordination” system that treats settler violence as a given. This system ostensibly enables Palestinian farmers to access their land, but in fact denies them almost any possibility to do so by limiting their access to a handful of days a year. Even on these days, if settlers violently prevent the farmers from cultivating their land, the military will remove the latter. Settlers, meanwhile, have unfettered access to Palestinian land all year round. Under this system, Palestinian farmers are consigned to partial cultivation of their land that keeps them from maximizing its potential, if they are able to extract anything from the land at all.”
And in conclusion, B’Tselem writes:
“Settler attacks against Palestinians are a strategy employed by the Israeli apartheid regime, which seeks to advance and complete its misappropriation of more and more Palestinian land. As such, settler violence is a form of government policy, permitted and aided by official state authorities with their active participation. The state legitimizes this reality in two complementary ways. It allows settlers to live, farm and graze livestock on land from which Palestinians have been violently ejected, and to that end pays for security, paves roads, provides infrastructure and supports financial enterprises in these outposts through various government ministries. At the same time, it gives settlers free rein to commit violent acts against Palestinians. The military does not confront violent settlers. It does not prevent the attacks, and in some cases, soldiers even participate in them. The Israeli law enforcement system does not take action against settlers who harm Palestinians after the fact and whitewashes the few cases it is called upon to address. “
In a new report, entitled “Planned Negligence: How Palestinian Neighborhoods Disappeared from Jerusalem’s Current and Future Urban Planning Policies,” Ir Amim analyzes how Israel’s “Jerusalem 2040 Strategic Plan” projects the continuation of decades-old policies of deliberate under-development and suppression of urban planning in Palestinian neighborhoods, in favor of the expansion and prosperity of Jewish Israeli neighborhoods. The report looks in detail at three planning policies adopted by Israel – for the benefit of Israeli Jews – in Jerusalem:
- The framework agreement between the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Land Authority, which provides funding for 23,000 housing units in Israeli neighborhoods, yet does not include construction in a single Palestinian neighborhood;
- The plan’s urban renewal project that outlines a potential for 30,000 more housing units, designated exclusively for Jewish Israeli neighborhoods; and
- The light rail densification project, which is estimated to provide an additional 25,000 housing units which by definition will be limited almost entirely to Jewish Israeli neighborhoods (because the current and planned routes of the light rail are either located in or pass almost exclusively through Israeli neighborhoods).
The report concludes that the implementation of the “Jerusalem 2040 Strategic Plan” will result in further displacement of Palestinians from the homes in East Jerusalem. In Ir Amim’s words, Israel’s plan has
“…essentially sentenced hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to the ever-worsening planning chokehold. The Israel 2040 Strategic Plan will drastically exacerbate the crisis beyond the already-astronomical cost that planning discrimination currently exacts from East Jerusalem’s residents.”
In conclusion, Ir Amim writes:
“Ongoing planning discrimination is creating a crippling housing crisis that is violating East Jerusalem residents’ basic right to a home, and is displacing them from the city. Those who are forced to relocate away from Jerusalem will face growing environmental problems, remain plagued by housing shortages and issues of inadequate infrastructure that continue to worsen. The government’s new planning policy is transforming the existing planning discrimination against East Jerusalem residents into a pre-determined, quasi-professional policy quagmire which will shape the planning landscape for decades to come. There is an essential and urgent need to act imminently to amend these government decisions to include tailored solutions for Palestinian neighborhoods and to provide for the housing needs of East Jerusalem residents.”
- “Israeli Defense Minister’s New Settlement Aide Isn’t a Settler, in First Since 2015” (Haaretz)
- “Sheikh Jarrah families ‘determined’ despite lingering uncertainty” (Al Jazeera)
- “EU-funded Palestinian school faces Israeli demolition” (Al Jazeera)
- “We don’t just live through one home demolition — we live through them all” (+972 Magazine)