Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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November 23, 2022
- Smotrich Asks for Finance Ministry & Extensive Powers Over the Settlements in Exchange for Forgoing Defense Ministry Post
- Settlers Attack Palestinians (and an Israeli Soldier) in Hebron
- New Report on Silwan/”City of David” & Elad
- New Report on the Ben Hinnom Valley
- “Insuring Dispossession”: New Report Examines Role of 5 Israeli Insurance Companies in Enabling Occupation
Smotrich Asks for Finance Ministry & Extensive Powers Over the Settlements in Exchange for Forgoing Defense Ministry Post
Israeli press is widely reporting that Bezalel Smotrich has agreed to back down from his demand to be appointed the next Defense Minister on the condition that he is named as Finance Minister and also that he will be given the authority to name a key official in the Defense Ministry who oversees policies related to the settlements. Settler media further reports that Smotrich has asked for the entire issue of settlements to be transferred from the Defense Ministry to the Finance Ministry – a move that would put the settlements under direct Israeli law (in effect, annexing them, even without any formal declaration of annexation). It is not clear at the time of reporting if Netanyahu has agreed to Smotrich’s demands.
What started ostensibly as a religious gathering of settlers in Hebron turned into a frenzied, violent mob composed of an estimated 32,000 settlers and their supporters. The mob marched through Hebron, attacking Palestinians, their homes, and their shops in the Old Market of Hebron. In anticipation of clashes, the IDF forced Palestinian shop owners to close their stores Prior to the march, and then provided protection and security assistance to the marchers. According to one account (and as documented in multiple videos), IDF soldiers little or nothing to protect Palestinians who were being chased, beaten, and harrassed by the Israeli crowd, or to hold the attackers responsible.
As a reminder, Hebron is the clearest example of Israeli apartheid in action. In the city where 99.6% of the population is Palestinian, the Israeli army and settlers together strangle Palestinian life through severe restrictions on freedom of movement, access to education, commercial opportunities, and basically every facet of life — all for the purposes of supporting the existence and constant expansion of settler enclaves in the city, and the freedom of movement and impunity for the settler residents.
The Haaretz Editorial Board published an incisive response to the events in Hebron:
“The police announced that they had prepared for the event in advance. But in a place where Jewish supremacy is anchored militarily (under “full Israeli security control”), preparations by the security forces mean only one thing – clearing swaths of the city of Palestinians to enable the Jewish masters to march through its streets…the incoming government not only isn’t interested in stopping this dangerous energy. It’s even riding it. The incidents in Hebron are emblematic of the spirit of the time. And from that standpoint, one can and should view these events as a preview of what is likely to happen in Israel and the West Bank under the rule of Benjamin Netanyahu, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.”
The clashes received media attention in Israel largely because those injured by the maruading settlers included a female IDF soldier (who was attacked by a settler with a stick – she was injured and briefly hospitalized) and an Israeli bodyguard of MK Itamar Ben Gvir. The injured soldier has pressed charges against the attacker, who turned out to be a 17-year-old. Additionally, an off-duty sareli soldier who participated in the mob was arrested in connection with the riot.
Al-Haq – the preeminent Palestinian human rights group that has been targeted by the Israeli government – has published a lengthy report (and a short video) on settler initiatives in Silwan, entitled “Finding David: Unlawful Settlement Tourism in Jerusalem’s so-called City of David.” The report provides legal analysis on how the ‘City of David’ – a Palestinian-populated area of Silwan that Israel has for years been actively working to transform into an archeological-tourist site, and management of which, in the service of this goal, has been given over to the Elad settler group – serves to “forcibly displace Palestinians from their homes, lands and properties in the context of Israel’s plan to organise a demographic change in Jerusalem.”
On Elad, Al-Haq writes incisively:
“Elad’s objective is to use the archaeological remains in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan to support Israel’s political claim over Jerusalem, Judaise the space and forge links with Jewish tourists through education and tourism programmes at the ‘City of David’ settlement. Presenting a Zionist Jewish tourism narrative operates in parallel with the State goals of inviting Jews to move to Israel and colonise unlawfully appropriated Palestinian lands.50 Elad concurrently operates a settlement programme deep into the heart of the picturesque Palestinian hilltop neighbourhood of Silwan and forcing the removal of Palestinian families. In doing so, the systematic erasure of the Palestinian past (through archaeology) and Palestinian present (through tourism) is an integral part of the colonisation and Judaisation of Silwan.”
In conclusion, Al-Haq writes:
“The ‘City of David’ is a political tool in Israel’s strategy to maintain and entrench its apartheid and settler-colonial regime over Jerusalem. The settlement exemplifies the importance of narratives in Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise, where the search for purported historical legitimacy becomes a national goal. At the illegal ‘City of David’ settlement, the Israeli state, archaeologists (both local and international) and settler organisations work to erase Palestinian presence; historically through the destruction and designation of the Palestinian artefacts and contemporaneously through the forced removal of Palestinians from their archaeologically rich lands. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of tourists stroll through the settlement each year, failing to see what happens around them.”
Emek Shaveh has published a new report surveying the myriad of settlement projects in and around the Ben Hinnom Valley of East Jerusalem, including their history and current legal status, which are controlled by the Elad settler group (in parallel to Elad’s control over projects in Silwan/”City of David”).
In previewing the report, Emek Shaveh writes:
“The developments described in this report underscore Elad’s control over a highly strategic area that links West Jerusalem to important sites in Silwan/City of David adjacent to the Old City walls. The new route provides access to the northeastern Sambuski Jewish Cemetery, where it descends toward the City of David site, the Elad Foundation’s flagship project in Silwan. At its eastern tip, the valley borders the al-Bustan neighborhood which, according to a municipal plan, will lead into a garden that simulates that of the biblical King David.
Activities in the Hinnom Valley are integral to the efforts to transform the Historic Basin of Jerusalem and force Palestinians out of the area. Together with the appropriation of Palestinian homes and lands, the creation of archaeological touristic attractions that tell an exclusive Judeo-centric story of the city serves to legitimize the settlement enterprise in the eyes of the Israeli and international publics. Needless to say, this process is highly detrimental to the prospect of a negotiated political resolution for the conflict.
This report will detail developments in the valley as documented by Emek Shaveh, and outline the mechanisms used to accomplish the Elad Foundation’s objectives including: Exploitation of legal and administrative mechanisms to promote Elad’s interests; Selective enforcement; Influence over planning institutions to promote plans that fundamentally change the character and demographics of the valley; Direct influence over State authorities – the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), along with links to the Ministry of Education, IDF, and other authorities – which serve to promote plans and activities that alter the Hinnom Valley’s landscape and undermine its heritage.”
“Insuring Dispossession”: New Report Examines Role of 5 Israeli Insurance Companies in Enabling Occupation
In a new report, Who Profits — and an independent research center dedicated to exposing the commercial involvement of Israeli and international corporations in the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands — examines the complicity of five key Israeli insurance companies in enabling the occupation by financing the construction of settlements, settlement infrastructure, Israeli military, and activities that exploit natural resources in the West Bank. Who Profits concludes that the five companies are among the “prime financiers of Israel’s economic and political agendas,” noting that the companies “are involved in widespread activities that work to entrench Israel’s prolonged military occupation and processes of colonial dispossession and control.”
You can read the report here.