Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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November 3, 2023
- Sheikh Jarrah Eviction Case Scheduled for November 14th
- Settler Violence & Forcible Transfer Continues to Escalate
- IDF Launches Program to Formalize Settler Militia Unit
Ir Amim reports that the Enforcement and Collection Authority (ECA) has scheduled a November 14th hearing to discuss authorizing the forcible eviction of the Salem family from their home of 60+ years in the Umm Haroud section of Sheikh Jarrah. The Salem family is one of approximately 40 Palestinian families under threat of forcible displacement by settlers from the Um Haroun section of Sheikh Jarrah.
The Salem family has been fighting efforts by settlers to evict them from their home since 1988. The individuals behind the years-long effort to evict the Salem family are Yonaten Yousef, a Jerusalem city councilmember, and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Aryeh King. Yousef and King claim to have bought the house from the Jewish family that owned it before 1948 — based on an Israeli law known as the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. This law provides Jewish Israelis the right to “reclaim” properties lost in the 1948 War. In contrast, under Israeli law the Salem family lacks any legal basis to claim both its home in Sheikh Jarrah – where the family has lived since being displaced from their home inside the Green Line during the 1948 War – or to their original home inside Israel, which they lost in the 1948 War (Israel law recognizes no such property claims by Palestinians who fled or were otherwise absent from the areas that became Israel in the course of that war)/.
In February 2022 the Jerusalem Magistrate Court froze an impending eviction of the Salem family based on the family paying the court a $7,700 “guarantee”. Around that same time the Israeli government seized a piece of the Salem property, located adjacent to the home that is now under demolition threat. Itamar Ben Gvir (who is now serving as the National Security Minister, with authority over demolitions in East Jerusalem) subsequently set up a tent on that seized property and called it his parliamentary office – a deliberate provocation.
For further background on the Salem family’s case (including on the Israeli laws that were expressly designed to enable the eviction of Palestinians in favor of settlers), see reporting by Ir Amim and Peace Now.
According to 32 Israeli human rights NGOs in a joint report, at least 13 Palestinian communities have abandoned their homes under constant, ever increasing, and unchecked violence by settlers. In a letter to the international community, the consortium of human rights groups write:
“For the past three weeks, since Hamas’s atrocities of October 7th, settlers have been exploiting the lack of public attention to the West Bank, as well as the general atmosphere of rage against Palestinians, to escalate their campaign of violent attacks in an attempt to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities. During this period, no fewer than thirteen herding communities have been displaced. Many more are in danger of being forced to flee in the coming days if immediate action is not taken.
Palestinian farmers are particularly vulnerable at this time, during the annual olive harvest season, because if they are unable to pick their olives they will lose a year’s income. Yesterday Bilal Muhammed Saleh from the village of As-Sawiya south of Nablus was murdered while tending to his olive trees. He was the seventh Palestinian to have been killed by settlers since the current war began.
Unfortunately, the Israeli government is supportive of these attacks and does nothing to stop this violence. On the contrary: government ministers and other officials are backing the violence and in many cases the military is present or even participates in the violence, including in incidents where settlers have killed Palestinians. Moreover, since the war has begun there has been a growing number of incidents in which violent settlers have been documented attacking nearby Palestinian communities while wearing military uniform and using government-issued weapons.
With grave concern and with a clear understanding of the political landscape, we recognize that the only way to stop this forcible transfer in the West Bank is a clear, strong and direct intervention by the international community.”
This past week there have been severa reports on the extent and seriousness of what is happening across the West Bank, including a report by OCHA that warns “Israeli settler violence has increased significantly, from an already high average of three incidents per day thus far in 2023 to a current average of seven per day.”
There have also been many first hand accounts of settler violence published, and world leaders have begun to express worry about what’s happening in the West Bank. These testimonies include:
- Hamdan Mohammed Al-Huraini wrote in +972 Magazine about what is happening in the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, a region where many villages are under intense, imminent threat of displacement from the IDF and settlers. Al-Huraini describes how Susiya is blockaded by settlers and the IDF, so residents cannot reach nearby towns to buy food, water, medicine, or fodder for their flocks – – which threatens the income and survival of the community. He says, “If the closure of roads, the settler-soldier attacks and threats, and the lack of access to water and animal feed continue for much longer, the situation will devolve into a large-scale crime against humanity.”
- Amer Abjdullah (name changed for safety) described to Mondoweiss a raid on his community of Umm al-Khair in Massaffer Yatta. Masked men lined 17 Palestinians against a wall and threatened to shoot. Abdallah recounted one man saying, “I am not military, I am not police, I am nothing. I came here to punish you and to make you pay the price of what happened on October 7.” Further details about what is transpiring in the South Hebron Hills can be found in this spot report by FMEP and in this newsletter from Human Rights Defenders Fund.
- Hashem Saleh, who watched settlers shoot and kill his brother Bilal while they were harvesting olives in their groves in Al-Sawiya village near Nablus.
- Tariq Mustafa, who spoke to the Washington Post about his village Wadi Al-Siq, where over 40 Palestinians – including Tariq – have fled from under constant threats of violence. He said, “The war in Gaza gave the settlers the green light…Before, they would yell at us to go to Ramallah. Now they are telling us to go all the way to Jordan.”
Instead of bringing law and order to the West Bank, the Israeli government and military are further empowering and arming settlers to continue their terror campaigns across the West Bank. Haaretz reports that the IDF plans to formalize the role of settlers in its military control of the West Bank by recruiting settlers – even settlers with criminal records – to join a new “regional defense militia.” With three weeks of training, these settler-soldiers will be stationed at settlements.
- On November 9th, Americans for Peace Now is hosting “Meanwhile in the West Bank” featuring Hagit Ofran and Yonatan Mizrachi from Peace Now. Register here.
- Over the past week, FMEP has hosted three incredible webinars – which you can watch or listen to here:
- “Catastrophe in Gaza: What’s Next? Part 1“- featuring ft. Inès Abdel Razek (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy), Fadi Quran (Avaaz), & Lara Friedman (FMEP)
- “Catastrophe in Gaza: What’s Next? Part 2“- featuring Sari Bashi (Human Rights Watch), Amjad Iraqi (+972 Magazine) & Lara Friedman (FMEP)
- “Gaza, Israel and the 2023 War: Are There Any “Red Lines”?” – featuring Jamil Dakwar (Human Rights Lawyer & Adjunct Professor, New York University and Hunter College), Katherine Gallagher (Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional rights), Dr. Raz Segal (Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Endowed Professor in the Study of Modern Genocide, Stockton University), in conversation with Khaled Elgindy (MEI) and Lara Friedman (FMEP)