Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
To subscribe to this report, please click here.
November 5, 2021
- Sheikh Jarrah Families Reject Court-Proposed “Deal” with Settlers; Eviction Orders Expected Soon
- Supreme Court Rules Sheikh Jarrah Businesses – Built on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land But Near Settler Sites – Will Be Demolished
- Israel Demolishes East Jerusalem Muslim Cemetery, In Order to Make Way for Public Garden (& Increase Israeli Control Over Old City Perimeter
- Israeli Court OKs Refusal of Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties to Disclose Extent of Control Over Palestinian Properties
- New Report from HaMoked: The ‘Seam Zone’ & Israel’s Ongoing Dispossession/Annexation
- Bonus Reads
On Tuesday, November 2nd, four families facing imminent eviction from their longtime homes in Sheikh Jarrah in favor of settlers released a statement rejecting a Court-authored “compromise” that would have allowed the families to temporarily remain in their homes as “protected tenants” paying rent to settlers, whose ultimate ownership over the properties would be made official (but technically – though not realistically – still open to legal challenge by the Palestinians). You can review the full terms of the deal here.
The Court ordered both parties to respond to the “deal” by November 2nd. It was only after the Palestinians put forth their statement that we learned that the settlers reportedly accepted the terms, as relayed by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King, a staunch supporter and prolific financier of settlements in East Jerusalem, to the AP (this information remains unconfirmed, as the settler-submitted position has not been published).
It’s important to point out — as the Palestinian families note in their statement — that the Court’s handling of the case neatly constructed a lose-lose scenario for the Palestinians. If they had accepted the deal they would have been painted as legitimizing the theft of their property and the claims of the settlers. When they instead refused it, they were immediately painted as rejectionists, in contrast to the settlers who — having waited for Palestinians to reject the deal — positioned themselves as the “reasonable” party in the eyes of the Court.
Both parties were under pressure from the Court to accept the deal. According to Terrestrial Jerusalem, the Court has previously indicated that if either party rejects the deal, the Court would move to swiftly issue a final decision on the cases. Peace Now’s analysis of the Supreme Court’s position predicts that the Court will now rule in favor of the settlers (leading to the eviction of the Palestinian families), like lower Courts have done.
Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann also predicts that the Court will rule against the settlers, further speculating:
“There will likely be an eviction verdict [against] the Palestinians soon. Bennett/Lapid will say “we won’t carry out the eviction”. They will likely be sincere – and wrong. One coalition crisis, one terror attack and they will be evicted. This is very bad indeed.”
The statement of rejection from the Palestinians families (the El Kurd, Jaouni, Abu Hasna, and Askafi families) is worth reading in full:
“We reject the ‘proposal’ by the ‘Israeli Supreme Court’ which would have rendered us ‘protected tenants’ at the mercy of settler organizations. We stand firm in our refusal to compromise on our rights despite the lack of institutional guarantees that would protect our presence as Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.
The Israeli justiciary is circumventing its duty to adjudicate the case and is forcing us instead to choose between our own dispossession or submitting to an oppressive agreement. Naturally, we refuse to commit someone else’s crimes.
Such ‘compromises’ create the illusion of the ball in our court, fabricating a farming in which we reject a ‘generous deal,’ in a situation where our dispossession would still be imminent and our homes would still be regarded as someone else’s. Such ‘deals’ distract from the crime at hand: ethnic cleansing perpetrated by a settler-colonial judiciary and its settlers.
The international community has long maintained that settler expansion and forced expulsion in Sheikh Jarrah are war crimes. Thus it must respond to grave international law violations with real diplomatic and political repercussions. The culture of inaction and impunity must not be maintained.
It is time for our Nakba to end. Our family deserve to live in peace without the looming ghost of imminent dispossession.”
On November 10th, Ir Amim is hosting a briefing with MK and lawyer Gaby Lasky on the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan cases. RSVP here.
Supreme Court Rules Sheikh Jarrah Businesses – Built on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land But Near Settler Sites – Will Be Demolished
On October 31st, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals of Palestinian business owners seeking to save their establishments located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood from demolition. The businesses – a bus parking lot and a carwash – are now cleared to be demolished in order to make way for a “public garden” as well as a driveway that will service an as-of-yet-unbuilt Israeli hotel in the neighborhood. Notably, the businesses are located very close to the tomb of Shimon the Righteous, which is a religious site closely associated with the settler enclave in Sheikh Jarrah.
The Jerusalem Municipality previously expropriated the land — which was privately owned by Palestinians – on which the businesses exist. The land was expropriated “for public use,” a tactic that Israeli law permits the State to use in order to confiscate even privately owned land ostensibly to benefit the “public” (a “public” that it seems never includes Palestinians in East Jerusalem), if the State finds it necessary.
Offering critical context, Peace Now raises several absurdities regarding the land expropriation order:
“The decision to expropriate raises several questions. First, the timing. As far as we know to date, no application has been opened for a construction permit for the construction of the hotel. That means there do not appear to be any procedures for starting construction of the hotel soon. The designation for open public space is directly related to the hotel, so it is not clear why it was urgent for the municipality to act right now. We will also mention that the State Comptroller recently remarked to the Ministry of Transportation about the severe shortage of hundreds of parking spaces for buses in Jerusalem, and now the Municipality is cancelling parkings of dozens of buses.
Another issue to wonder about is the proximity of the area to the area of the tomb of Shimon the Righteous (Shimon Ha’tzadik), which is a pilgrimage site for Jews, especially ultra-Orthodox, throughout the year. It is possible that the municipality’s desire to carry out the expropriation is related to the desire to act for the benefit of Jewish visitors to the neighborhood and to allow the Israeli grip of the neighborhood to expand, even if it is formally an open public space intended for the entire Israeli and Palestinian public. Another issue to wonder about is the proximity of the area to the area of the tomb of Shimon the Righteous (Shimon Ha’tzadik), which is a pilgrimage site for Jews, especially ultra-Orthodox, throughout the year. It is possible that the municipality’s desire to carry out the expropriation is related to the desire to act for the benefit of Jewish visitors to the neighborhood and to allow the Israeli grip of the neighborhood to expand, even if it is formally an open public space intended for the entire Israeli and Palestinian public.”
While the court case that will lead to the demolition of the Palestinian businesses in Sheikh Jarrah is not formally linked to the ongoing effort to forcibly dispossess four Palestinian families of their homes in this same neighborhood, radical Kahanist Itamar Ben Gvir did not shy away from making the (obvious) connection between the two cases, commenting that the demolition of the businesses is a:
“necessary step, and now is the time to also evacuate the families of Sheikh Jarrah.”
Israel Demolishes East Jerusalem Muslim Cemetery, In Order to Make Way for Public Garden (& Increase Israeli Control Over Old City Perimeter)
For over ten consecutive days, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli Parks and Nature Authority have been demolishing parts of the Yusufiya cemetery near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to turn the area into yet another “public park”. The area in question includes a monument to, and graves of, Palestinians and Jordanians who fought in the 1967 war. Palestinians, many of whom fear that their relatives’ graves will be demolished and exhumed (fears that the Jerusalem Municipality has sought – and failed – to assuage) have protested and clashed with Israeli authorities as they attempt to stop the desecration of the cemetery, the erasure of Arab history, and denial of Palestinian life in the city.
Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at the Ir Amim, explained:
“The park in question is part of a series of government-funded projects which aim to link settler compounds in the Old City Basin…Similar projects are taking place on the Mount of Olives, [in] Silwan and [in] Sheikh Jarrah…The incidents at the Yusufiya Cemetery are an extreme example of the Israeli government’s lack of respect toward Palestinian property rights, heritage and holy places and its determination to make over the Old City Basin.”
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, told Al-Monitor:
“The cemeteries are part of the identity of the holy city and its narrative, and evidence of the Arab and Islamic presence in the city for thousands of years. Obliterating the city’s landmarks is in the interest of the Jewish settlement project and the Israeli narrative, which is embodied by changing the names of Arab cities, neighborhoods, and streets, and the Judaization of public places and landmarks.”
Hamza Quttaineh, a lawyer advocating for the Martyrs’ Cemetery before the Israeli courts, told Middle East Eye:
“There are huge machinations undertaken by the occupation municipality, along with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the judicial system, that provide the legal coverage needed for the Judaisation project encompassing the historical wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.”
Israeli Court OKs Refusal of Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties to Disclose Extent of Control Over Palestinian Properties
Haaretz has in-depth reporting on a recent freedom of information case relating to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties. The Custodian of Absentee Properties is a government body within the Israeli Finance Ministry that has possession of properties in East Jerusalem that under Israel’s “Absentee Property Law” were “abandoned” by Palestinians during and after the 1948 war, becoming the property of the Israeli state.
In response to a freedom of information request, the Custodian refused to disclose the number of “absentee” properties that it currently controls. The Custodian – Ronen Baruch, who has held the position since 2005 – gave multiple excuses for refusing the request, asserting at different points that his office doesn’t know how many properties it controls, that the process of gathering that information is too complicated, and that revealing this information may compromise the country’s foreign relations (ultimately the winning argument).
During the subsequent Court hearing on the freedom of information request, a senior official from the Israeli Foreign Ministry was granted permission to privately brief the judge, after which the judge ruled against the freedom of information request – a ruling the petitioners intend to appeal. The judge wrote,
“I have been convinced that the disclosure of the requested information may jeopardize the state’s foreign relations…I am satisfied that delivery of the information will cause an unreasonable allocation of resources… Which may disrupt and even paralyze the Custodian’s work.”
The two Israeli lawyers who filed the freedom of information request (Amir Adika and Ram Cohen) told Haaretz:
“What harms the state’s foreign relations? Revealing the information, or the very existence of the law, over 70 years after the country’s founding?…This law is very powerful in regard to the state’s authority over people’s private property…There is public and economic importance in knowing how it conducts itself with this power, how many such properties there are, how many they release, how many they sell. This is a very unconventional law. The impression is that they’re either presenting a very imprecise picture, or that they’re not managing at all.”
As a reminder, Israel’s Absentee Property Law affords Jews the right to reclaim property they owned in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the period before Israel became a state in 1948, and that they were forced to abandon as a result of the 1948 War. Israel’s law affords no such right to Palestinians who as the result of that same war were likewise forced to abandon property inside what became the State of Israel. After the war, Israel designated such properties “absentee properties” control over which was transferred wholesale to the Israeli state. Use of the Absentee Property Law by settlers organizations with the willing participation of the Israeli government is a key legal mechanism behind past, present, and future evictions of Palestinains from the most sensitive areas of East Jerusalem (like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan) where Palestinians are facing mass eviction.
In a new report, entitled “Creeping Dispossession: Israeli Restrictions on Palestinian Farming Beyond the Barrier,” the Israeli NGO HaMoked takes an in-depth look at the Israeli military bureaucracy which governs – – and systematically infringes upon — the right of Palestinian landowners and farmers to access and effectively cultivate their land which falls in the “Seam Zone” (i.e. the West Bank land that, when Israel constructed its Seperation Barrier along a route that cuts deeply into the West Bank, was left on the Israeli side of the wall/fence).
This important topic shows just how Israel’s policies work to systematically dispossess these Palestinians of their land. The report sarts with an important reminder about the “original sin” involved in this dispossession — Israel’s choice to build its separation barrier not along the 1967 Green Line (which, at the time of the barriers conception in 2002 was an internationally agreed upon divider between Israeli territory and occupied territory) but instead along a route that, for the sake of keeping settlements (and land upon which to expand settlements) on the Israeli side of the barrier, de facto annexed some 9.4% of West Bank land to Israel. [map] The West Bank lands which fell on the Isareli side of the barrier – the “Seam Zone” – were declared “closed military zones,” requiring Palestinians who live on the other side of the barrier to traverse a complicated Israeli bureaucracy in hopes of obtaining access their land (or the land upon which they are employed to cultivate). The matter gets even more complicated from there.
HaMoked writes in conclusion:
“Nearly two decades since the construction of the Barrier, we see the logic of a creeping dispossession – more and more restrictions on Palestinians trying to access areas trapped between the Barrier and the Green Line, and as a result, fewer and fewer people willing to navigate the permit bureaucracy Israel has put in place. Any agricultural community will tell you that land is not merely functional. The land is a source of produce and income, but its benefits cannot be quantified solely in monetary terms. The land is also a site for family and community events, and connection to the land is integral to the local culture. For dozens of Palestinian communities, and tens of thousands of people, all of this has been destroyed by the Separation Barrier. Even those who receive permits to cross the gates during their limited opening hours cannot have a picnic with their family or a spontaneous outing to their land as they once did.
The permit regime reverses the basic logic of international law, that individuals enjoy freedom of movement within their own country, and that movement can only be restricted with just cause. For Palestinians living near the Separation Barrier that Israel built on a route that cuts through the West Bank, free movement is the exception, and the restriction on movement is the rule. And whereas initially Israel promised access to lands behind the Barrier except when security needs warrant precluding access, now no security need is required to deny access. Instead, the premise of the permit regime is now that only Palestinians who prove a need to enter these areas will be allowed to do so. Furthermore, the military periodically amends its definition of “need” to be more and more narrow.
HaMoked has had success in overcoming some of the restrictions: individuals who were denied permits eventually received them following litigation; some restrictive policies have been reversed and others are still under judicial review. However, none of this changes the overall picture emerging from this report: steadily increasing restrictions on Palestinians’ access to the areas of the West Bank known as the Seam Zone have decimated the livelihoods of individuals, families and entire communities.”
- “Israel OKs Palestinian homes after advancing settlements” (AP)
- “Israeli forces demolish Palestinian-owned house in occupied Jerusalem” (Quds News Network)
- “Thirty Years On: The Ruse of the Middle East Peace Process” (Inez Abdel Razek for Al-Shabaka)
- “Israel Moves to Silence the Stalwarts of Palestinian Civil Society” (Zena Agha in The New York Times)