Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to this report, please click here.
November 6, 2020
- Israel Moves Towards Destruction of 200+ Palestinian East Jerusalem Business to Make Way for “Silicon Wadi” Industrial Zone
- Israel Accelerates De Facto Annexation in Area C, Part 1: Israel Razes Entire Palestinian Community (a War Crime) on Eve of U.S. Election Drama
- Israel Accelerates De Facto Annexation in Area C, Part 2: Attorney General Approves Land Registration Process that Opens Another Door for Israel to Seize More Palestinian Land
- Israel Accelerates De Facto Annexation in Area C, Part 3: Tightening the Noose Around Khan Al-Ahmar
- Delayed for a Third Time, Israeli Government Silent on Givat Hamatos Tender
- Settler Campaign to Take Over West Bank Antiquity Sites/Objects Proceeds: Israel Fences Off More Land Near Herodium, Invades Sebastia Site
- Israel Begins Preparations for Construction of Settler-Backed Cable Car Line in Jerusalem, Despite Ongoing Court Case
- Knesset Land Caucus Plots Way Forward on Outpost Legalization
- Bonus Reads
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Israel Moves Towards Destruction of 200+ Palestinian East Jerusalem Business to Make Way for “Silicon Wadi” Industrial Zone
Palestinian media reports that Israeli authorities have formally issued eviction notices to dozens of Palestinian business owners in the Wadi al-Joz district of East Jerusalem, as plans advance to level the entire area and replace it with a massive new business district, dubbed “Silicon Wadi.” The eviction notices instruct tenants to vacate by December 30th, after which time Israel will proceed with demolitions. The Jerusalem Post confirms that as part of the plan, “about 200 Palestinian-owned industrial buildings will have their tenants evicted and be demolished.” The Silicon Wadi project is projected to cost $600 million for construction covering 350,000 square meters to house high-tech companies, real estate, shopping centers, and hotels.
A PLO Spokeswoman said:
“Israel‘s focused and systematic plunder of occupied Jerusalem persists unabated, in violation of international law and proclaimed positions of states worldwide. In addition to a sharp increase in home demolitions and the displacement of many families in Jerusalem during the COVID-19 pandemic, the illegal Israeli ‘municipality’ has unveiled its plans to demolish decades-old Palestinian industrial area in the Wad al-Joz neighborhood and replace it with a gentrified settler neighborhood with the flashy name of ‘Silicon Wadi,’ This is an outrageous and criminal plan that will devastate 200 Palestinian businesses in the area and deprive hundreds of Palestinians of their sources of livelihood. It is a massive scheme that brings Israel’s displacement and replacement policy against the Palestinian people into sharp focus, especially in Jerusalem.”
In June 2020, when plans of the demolitions were revealed to the press, the chairman of East Jerusalem’s Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kamal Obeidat, called the planned demolitions a “racist order” to to change the character of the Palestinian city and use the land to build Israeli structures.
Grassroots Jerusalem explains the history and current reality facing the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood:
“Overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Kidron Valley, Wadi al-Joz was once the city’s industrial zone until the First and then the Second Intifada. The area is under the jurisdiction of Israeli civil law under the Jerusalem Municipality. As with many neighbourhoods in the area surrounding the Old City, Wadi al-Joz is experiencing severe challenges with the 2009 approved ‘Master Zone Plan’ and the subsequent aggressive expansion of Jewish presence in the area.”
Israel Accelerates De Facto Annexation in Area C, Part 1: Israel Razes Entire Palestinian Community (a War Crime) on Eve of U.S. Election Drama
Late in the evening of November 3rd, Israeli forces arrived at and proceeded to demolish the Palestinian community of Khirbet Humsah in the northern Jordan Valley, rendering 74 Palestinians homeless (of which 41 are minors). Palestinians report that they were given 10 minutes to vacate their tents before the bulldozers razed the herding community, in its entirety, to the ground. Levelling 76 structures in total, this was the largest single demolition by Israel in the past decade. Even prior to this massive demolition, Israel had already broken its own record for the most demolitions of Palestinian structures in a single year, the total now stands at 869 demolished Palestinian structures.
Yasser Abu al-Kbash, a resident of Khirbet Humsah, told NPR:
“I am 99% certain this was taking advantage of the U.S. elections. … There were no journalists around…Our bed is the ground. Our roof is the sky. We hope people will come and see our situation. They will see that Israel, which pretends to be a compassionate country, is chasing us.”
B’Tselem said in a statement:
“While the world deals with the coronavirus crisis, Israel has devoted time and effort to harassing Palestinians instead of helping protected residents living under its control. Israel tries to justify the demolitions with feeble excuses such as “law enforcement” or “building and planning considerations”, while deliberately creating a Kafkaesque reality that leaves Palestinians almost no way to build legally. While Israel has formally given up on annexing the West Bank, the demolition figures indicate that on the ground, reality remains unchanged and the de-facto annexation continues. Israel continues to treat the West Bank as its own – which includes preventing Palestinian development throughout the area (including East Jerusalem) so it can take over more and more land.”
Detailing Israel’s ongoing campaign against Palestinian life in Area C, B’Tselem writes:
“In the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, more Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) lost their homes in the first 10 months of 2020 alone than in any full year since 2016 – the highest year on record since B’Tselem started collecting this data. As a result of Israel’s policy, 798 Palestinians have already lost their homes in 2020, including 404 minors who lived in 218 homes – compared to 677 Palestinians in all of 2019, 397 in 2018 and 521 in 2017….According to Civil Administration (CA) data, in the first 10 months of 2020 alone, the CA confiscated 242 prefabs from Palestinians, as opposed to six in all of 2015. In 2019, some 700 tractors and diggers were confiscated and about 7,500 trees uprooted in Area C. The CA even boasts that its figures show a decrease in international aid projects for Palestinians in Area C, such as setting up prefabs and laying infrastructure, to a mere 12 in 2019 compared to 75 in 2015.”
Yvonne Helle, a senior UN Development Programme official in the Palestinian territories, said about the demolition:
“So far in 2020, 689 structures have been demolished across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, more than in any full year since 2016; rendering 869 Palestinians homeless. The lack of Israeli-issued building permits is typically cited as a reason, even though, due to the restrictive and discriminatory planning regime, Palestinians can almost never obtain such permits. Demolitions are a key means of creating an environment designed to coerce Palestinians to leave their homes. Located in the Jordan Valley, Humsa Al Bqai’a is one of 38 Bedouin and herding communities partially or fully located within Israeli-declared ‘firing zones.’ These are some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, with limited access to education and health services, and to water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure. I remind all parties that the extensive destruction of property and the forcible transfer of protected people in an occupied territory are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. While assuring that the humanitarian community stands ready to support all those who have been displaced or otherwise affected, I strongly reiterate our call to Israel to immediately halt unlawful demolitions.
The European Union said in a statement:
“Such developments constitute an impediment towards the two-state solution. The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt all such demolitions, including of EU-funded structures, in particular in light of the humanitarian impact of the current coronavirus pandemic.”
Israel Accelerates De Facto Annexation in Area C, Part 2: Attorney General Approves Land Registration Process that Opens Another Door for Israel to Seize More Palestinian Land
Israeli news outlets report that the Israeli Attorney General supports a recent recommendation by COGAT – the Israeli authority responsible for coordinating civilian affairs in the West Bank – to resume the process of registering land in the West Bank. That recommendation came in response to an effort by MK Uzi Dayan (Likud), who contacted COGAT to push for the government to declare more of the West Bank as “state land.” In response, COGAT recommended the land registration process is a better option for taking control of more land, arguing that this would be faster, less expensive, and more final than having the state declare land in the West Bank to be “state land.” This is because declaration of state land can face legal challenges by Palestinians that may take years to resolve, whereas the land registration process affords Palestinians no such ability to challenge Israel’s decisions once they are made.
According to Israel Hayom, the Israeli land registration process would first require a survey of the land, after which time anyone claiming ownership could present documents to the Israeli government seeking to prove their ownership. In the case of land where Israel recognizes no valid ownership claims – including cases where Palestinians do not have documentation that Israel will accept – Haaretz reports that the process gives heavy weight to whomever currently controls the land (e.g., if a settler has built illegally on Palestinian land and lived there, under the protection of the IDF, the process will give weight to their claim absent overwhelming documentation, accepted by Israel, from the Palestinina owner). The registration decisions can be appealed, but once the claims are resolved by an Israeli official appointed to oversee the process, no further appeal is possible. Moreover, all “unclaimed” land – that is, land over which Israel does not recognize any legal ownership, will automatically become “state land.”
Shlomo Zacharia, a land lawyer working with Yesh Din, further explains how the process of Israeli-controlled land registration will dispossess Palestinians, saying:
“If a village has 30 plots, with [specific, documented] ownership claims on only 20 of those, the other ten automatically transfer to the state. If you haven’t filed a claim of ownership, it goes to the state. Period. The arrangement will primarily benefit the Civil Administration and the settlers, since most of the land allocated by the state goes to settlers, and because the arrangement process (in Israel and the West Bank) favors the person holding the land in practice.”
As a reminder, a 2018 report by Peace Now found that Israel almost exclusively allocates state land in the West Bank to Jewish Israeli settlers (99.76% of allocated state land) – meaning that Dayan’s push for state land declarations serves to benefit the expansion of settlement and settler infrastructure. At the time of is 2018 blockbuster report on Israel’s discriminatory land allocation, Peace Now said:
“The significance of the data is that the State of Israel, which has been in control of the West Bank for more than 50 years, allocates the land exclusively to Israelis, while allocating virtually no land for the unqualified benefit of the Palestinian population. Land is one of the most important public resources. Allocation of land for the use of only one population at the expense of another is one of the defining characteristics of apartheid. This is further proof that Israel’s continued control of the occupied territories over millions of Palestinian residents without rights and the establishment of hundreds of settlements on hundreds of thousands of dunams has no moral basis.”
On November 2nd, the Israeli state informed the High Court of Justice that it plans to delay carrying out the court-approved forcible transfer and demolition of Khan al-Ahmar (a war crime) for the coming months, asking the Court for more time to plan how the demolition will be implemented. The State was forced to file the affidavit in light of a petition by the Regavim settler group, which challenged the State’s delay in carrying out the demolition order, which was first issued ten years ago and then given the official greenlight by the Supreme Court in September 2018.
Notwithstanding the continued delay, the Israeli government said that it still “insists on the need to implement the demolition orders in the compound, and in this matter, there is no change in its position.”
Adv. Tawfiq Jabareen, the lawyer lawyer representing Khan al-Ahmar explained:
“The PM said they will try to negotiate with the village in order to evacuate them but if they have not reached an agreement within 4 months then they will begin thinking of evacuating them by force.”
Regarding the recent filing, the Globes news outlet reports (in Hebrew) that even though the filing was submitted jointly by the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office (signed by the Defense Ministry settler advisor Avi Roeh, who was previously found to have been funnelling government money to Regavim), there is a major disagreement between Gantz and Netanyahu on the matter. Perhaps surprising to those who expected Benny Gantz to moderate Netanyahu’s more extreme impulses, Gantz is reportedly pushing for the immediate demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, while Netanyahu prefers to delay.
B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli tweeted:
“the international community is serious about defending the vestiges of its beloved 2 state solution, it must internalize that MoD Benny Gantz will not act of his own volition to prevent the war crime of demolishing Khan al-Ahmar. Only the prospect of real consequences will do.”
In response to the delay, the Director of Regavim slammed the government saying in a statement:
“The alleged commitment on the part of the state to enforce the law and to hold talks with the residents is no different from the previous times in which the state declared the exact same things to the High Court. Each time, another card is drawn from the pile of excuses that prevents the implementation of the state’s declarations. We wonder if Netanyahu has confused ‘cannot’ and ‘don’t want to.’”
Ir Amim reports that, for the third time this year, the Israeli government refrained from opening bidding on the tender for the construction of the Givat Hamatos settlement, which had been scheduled for November 2nd. The tender was published in February 2020, but has yet to be made available online for bidding. Israeli authorities have not explained the delay or provided a new date for the tender to be opened.
In August, at the time of the second postponement, Ir Amim noted:
“Such recurring postponement of a tender is unprecedented. On the one hand, the delays are a sign that Israel is under strong pressure not to open the tender – which is seen as a red line by the international community; it may be that negotiations currently underway with Arab states under the auspices of the Trump administration are also a cause for the delay. On the other hand, the fact that Israel refuses to withdraw the tender and has repeatedly set new dates for its opening shows how determined the government is to begin construction in Givat Hamatos and therefore it is leaving the door open so that it can seize an opportunity once it feels able to do so.”
Givat Hamatos has long been regarded as a doomsday settlement by parties interested in preserving the possibility of a two-state solution. If the Givat Hamatos settlement is built, the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem will be completely surrounded by Israeli construction, severing its connection to the West Bank.
Settler Campaign to Take Over West Bank Antiquity Sites/Objects Proceeds: Israel Fences Off More Land Near Herodium, Invades Sebastia Site
Emek Shaveh reports that the Israeli Civil Administration is building a new fence around a section of the ancient site of Herodium, closing off the only available path by which Palestinians can freely access the site, located southeast of Bethlehem. Emek Shaveh has sent a letter to the Civil Administration requesting that the construction be stopped and that the new fence section be dismantled.
Emek Shaveh writes:
“The site is part of the fabric of their local heritage and residents of the villages used to tour the site freely and hold private and public events around the ruins. The fencing of lower Herodium follows closely after the expropriation of land at the sites of Deir Sam’an and Deir Kala’ northwest of Ramallah in September. These were the first expropriation orders for antiquity sites in the West Bank in 35 years. All of these developments attest to the increasing pressure by the settlers to clear Palestinians from antiquity sites in Area C of the West Bank.”
On November 5th, Palestinian media reported that Israeli soldiers accompanied by members of the IDF’s Corps of Engineers invaded the northern West Bank city of Sebastia, proceededing to close off the Sebastia archeological site. Shortly after, Israeli settlers visited the site. Sebastia is located in Area B of the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has a civilian authority, but Israel retains security control.
FMEP has covered the recent surge of settler pressure on the government to take control of archeological sites which are owned and/or controlled by Palestinians. Already racking up major victories, the Israeli Civil Administration issued expropriation orders for two archaeological sites in the West Bank located on privately owned Palestinian property northwest of Ramallah. The expropriations – the first of their kind in 35 years – come amidst a new campaign by settlers lobbying the government to take control of such sites, based on the settlers’ claims that antiquities are being stolen and the sites are being mis-managed by Palestinians. The settlers’ pressure is also credited as the impetus behind the government’s clandestine raid of a Palestinian village in July 2020 to seize an ancient font.The Palestinian envoy to UNESCO, Mounir Anastas, recently called on the United Nations to pressure Israel into returning the font to the Palestinian authorities.
A new settler group calling itself “Shomrim Al Hanetzach” (“Guardians of Eternity”) recently began surveying areas in the West Bank that Israel has designated as archeaological sites in order to call in Israeli authorities to demolish Palestinian construction in these areas. The group communicates its findings to the Archaeology Unit in the Israeli Civil Administration (reminder: the Civil Administration is the arm of the Israeli Defense Ministry which since 1967 has functioned as the de facto sovereign over the West Bank). The Archaeology Unit, playing its part, then delivers eviction and demolition orders against Palestinians, claiming that the structures damage antiquities in the area. As a reminder, in 2017, Israel declared 1,000 new archaeological sites in Area C of the West Bank. The new group is, not coincidentally, an offshoot of the radical Regavim organization, which among other things works to push Israeli authorities to demolish Palestinian construction that lacks Israeli permits (permits that Israel virtually never grants).
The new group has also raised public alarm about the Trump Plan, alleging that hundreds of biblical sites in the West Bank are slated to become Palestinian territory. The group’s leaders accuse the Palestinian Authority of mismanaging the sites and they accuse Palestinians of looting them. The group is demanding that Israel annex all the sites.
Israel Begins Preparations for Construction of Settler-Backed Cable Car Line in Jerusalem, Despite Ongoing Court Case
The Times of Israel reports that the Israeli government has approved the imminent implementation of two projects in preparation for the construction of a settler-backed cable car line slated to terminate in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem — despite the fact that an Israeli court has yet to make a final ruling on the fate of the cable car plan itself.
First, the Jerusalem Development Authority received permission from the Agriculture Ministry’s Forest Commissioner’s Unit to cut down trees along the future route of the cable car route. The approval was quickly appealed by Emek Shaveh, which requested that the tree removal be delayed until the High Court rules on the legitimacy of the plan.
Then, on November 4th the director of the cable car project, Shmulik Tzabari, told a meeting of stakeholders that the excavation work would “soon commence,” including the relocation of underground infrastructure (water, sewage, phone/internet lines).
The cable car plan, touted by the radical Elad settler organizations as a tourist and project, is in reality intended to further entrench settler control in Silwan, via archeology and tourism sites, while simultaneously delegitimizing, dispossessing, and erasing the Palestinian presence there. Emek Shaveh and other non-governmental organizations, including Who Profits and Terrestrial Jerusalem, have repeatedly challenged (and provided evidence to discredit) the government’s contention that the cable car will serve as a legitimate tourist attraction and/or address a transportation need in Jerusalem, and have clearly enumerated the obvious political drivers behind the plan, the archeological heresies it validates, and the severe negative impacts the cable car project will have on Palestinian residents of Silwan.
The Land Caucus – a committee within the israeli Knesset – met on November 2nd to strategize how to push forward the retroactive legalization of unauthorized outposts in the coming months, worrying particularly about how the result of the U.S. election might derail future annexation plans.
The result of the meeting was a declaration calling on Netanyahu to grant authorization to all the outposts, but the caucus did not decide on whether it should spend its energy on advancing legislation to that end (the position of Ayelet Shaked), or should push for Netanyahu to issue a declaration (the position of Bezalel Smotrich).
Speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin (Likud) urged the lawmakers to focus their efforts for the rest of the year on the 15 outposts located outside of the boundaries of Israeli annexation according to the Trump Plan.
- “Settlers Pray for Trump in Hebron” (The Times of Israel)
- “The Israeli Occupation Is Making the Most of One More Day of Trump” (Haaretz)
- “At the Foothills of an Israeli Settlement, Palestinians Are Used to Weekends of Terror” (Haaretz)
- “’I cry for my trees’: Israeli settler attacks wreck Palestinian olive harvest” (Haaretz)
- “A Small Palestinian Business Is Burglarized Over and Over, and Israeli Police Stand By” (Haaretz)
- “UN agencies and international NGOs call for the protection of Palestinian olive harvesters” (OCHA, OHCHR, AIDA)
- “Yossi Dagan: Sovereignty isn’t up to Washington – it’s up to us” (Arutz Sheva)
- “New chairman of Settlement Division prays at Temple Mount” (Jerusalem Post)