Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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April 17, 2020
- Abbas Warns that Israel & U.S. Will Annex While World is Dealing with Coronavirus
- Work of U.S.-Israeli Mapping Committee Continues, Israel Readying Requests for More Land and Roads in West Bank
- “Hilltop Youth” Settlers Attack Palestinians, Leave Quarantine Outpost with Stolen IDF Gear
- More Reports of Settlers Taking Advantage of the the COVID Shut Down
- Israel Prioritizes Undermining PA over Fighting COVID in East Jerusalem
- Who Profits Resource: VIRAL OCCUPATION
- New Analysis by Ir Amim: “Trump Plan” Accelerates Apartheid Reality
- Bonus Reads
Comments or questions – email Kristin McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called the heads of several Arab governments – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait – to beseesch them to intervene to stop possible annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel. Abbas called upon the governments to urgently express their opposition to annexation to their Israeli counterparts.
Another senior Palestinian official warned about moves to implement annexation while the world’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 crisis. PA Social Affairs Minister Ahmad Majdalani said in a statement:
“Uncovered reports that Washington and Tel Aviv are about to agree on the maps of annexation – at a time the world is preoccupied with the war on coronavirus – falls within the framework of the US plan to implement the ‘deal of the century”
Following Abbas’ calls, Secretary of the Arab League, Mr. Ahmad Aboul Gheit, sent letters to leaders around the world – including the United Nations Secretary General, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Britain, China and Germany, as well as the Foreign Policy Representative of the European Union (EU). The letters warned of severe repercussions if annexation goes forward, and urged the international actors to prevent it.
Work of U.S.-Israeli Mapping Committee Continues, Israel Readying Requests for More Land and Roads in West Bank
Ronen Peretz, the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s office, told a right-wing Israeli newspaper that the joint US-Israeli committee tasked with mapping Israel’s annexation of West Bank land as part of the Trump plan is continuing its work, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Peretz, who is a member of the joint mapping committee, said that the Israeli side is working on a set of proposed amendments to the U.S. conceptual map, seeking to expand the amount of land annexed by Israel.
For example, Peretz said that Israel will ensure that a new bypass road for settlers, planned to be built near the Palestinians city of Nablus deep in the central West Bank, is annexed to Israel. In the Trump Plan conceptual map, the area where the road will be falls within the borders a future Palestinian “state.” Approved for construction in April 2019, the Huwwara bypass road is designed by Israel to more seamlessly connect settlements in the Nablus area to Jerusalem. The road is built on land belonging to the Palestinian villages of Huwwara and Beita, which Israel seized for “security reasons”. Earlier this year, the Israeli authorities informed heads of the nearby Palestinian villages that construction was slated to begin soon.
Peretz also addressed the Trump Plan’s proposal to leave isolated Jewish outposts as sovereign Israeli enclaves within the Palestinian state, connected to Israeli borders by roads (that are also under Israeli sovereignty). Peretz rejected this proposal is unexceptable, assuring the right-wing interviewer:
“It is impossible for a settlement to be choked in the heart of Palestinian territory, it will not happen. We are working on these things now.”
Last week FMEP reported on the group of “Hilltop Youth” settlers for whom the IDF set up a special “temporary” outpost in the Jordan Valley for them to quarantine together, after the youth rioted en route to a regular quarantine facility inside Israel. This week, those same youth allegedly broke out of their quarantine to terrorize Palestinians in the area. The attack occurred on April 14th, when a group of masked Israeli settlers approached a group of three people (2 Palestinians, 1 Israeli) camping on land near the temporary quarantine outpost. The settlers threw rocks at the group and pepper-sprayed their victims, and then set fire to two cars before retreating.
An anonymous Israeli official commented:
“Terrorism against Border Police in Yitzhar, terrorism against innocent minorities tonight in Metzoke Dragot – this is how the ‘hilltop activists’ express their thanks to Israel for taking care of them during the corona crisisl.. [the episode is] more proof that this is a violent, radical, and racist group that carries out terrorism wherever they are. Security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice.’”
Subsequently, these same settler youth left the quarantine (apparently at the end of the required quarantine period), but absconded with some of the Israeli army’s tents used to establish the outpost.
Commenting on all of this, Defense Minister Naftali Bennet said in a statement:
“Vandalizing the compound set up by the military and setting ablaze Palestinian cars is an abomination, which has crossed every red line. This disgrace is unheard of, and we have no intention of letting this slide. I refuse to accept any act of violence, especially now, when the IDF and Israel’s defense establishment have enlisted to overcome the coronavirus crisis. We’ve instructed security forces to track down the suspects and bring them to justice, so that the following message is loud and clear: There’s a price for violence.”
Contrary to Bennett’s statement, this violence from the Hilltop Youth is not “unheard of.” Rather, violence towards Palestinians and their property is a key tool of settlers, both “Hilltop Youth” members and others.
The army told Haaretz that two suspects have been arrested over the theft of the tents, estimated to be worth tens of thousands of shekels. It is not clear if the IDF is pursuing any of the remaining 18 settlers who might have also been involved in the theft and the attack on Palestinians.
There are numerous reports of settlers taking advantage of the focus on the COVID-19 crisis to establish new facts on the ground in various parts of the West Bank. These include:
- The Palestinian Wafa news agency reports that settlers placed a mobile home on Palestinian land southeast of Nablus in a bid to establish a new outpost there. According to that same report, settlers in Hebron attempted to raid the offices of Youth Against Settlements, a Palestinian organization which mobilizes opposition to Israeli settlements in Hebron.
- North of Hebron, Palestinian farmers report that settlers are intentionally dumping sewage on their farmland.
- Outside of Bethlehem, settlers reportedly cut down 50 olive trees near the Palestinian village of al-Khader.
This week, the coronavirus has been confirmed to be spreading among Palestinian East Jerusalemites – with at least 80 confirmed cases. Around half of these cases are in Silwan, with others in the besieged neighborhood of Isawiyah, and one confirmed case – predictably and alarmingly – in the isolated, densely populated, and impoverished Shuafat Refugee Camp.
While the virus has been spreading, this week the Israeli government shut down a testing clinic in the Silwan neighborhood because the Palestinian Authority was reportedly involved in coordinating its operations. Israel prohibits any Palestinian Authority operations/presence in East Jerusalem, and recently arrested both the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem (a PA official) and the PA’s Minister for Jerusalem Affairs (both of whom are Jerusalem residents). In addition, on March 31st, Isareli authorities stopped a Palestinian food supply truck in East Jerusalem on the suspicion that the effort was organized by the Palestinian Authority. In fact, the supplies had been donated by Palestinians citizens of Israel for needy families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.
While denying hte PA any ability to help Palestinian East Jerusalemites, Israel has been heavily criticized for its failure to deliver aid to in these areas. Prior to a petition filed by Adalah, Israel had opened only 1 testing facility in East Jerusalem, in the Jabal al-Mukaber neighborhood. In response to Adalah’s petition, Israel announced that it intends to open three more testing clinics in East Jerusalem, in Silwan, Kafr Aqab, and the Shuafat Refugee Camp.
Notably, Jerusalem mayor Moshe Leon has been outspoken in his own criticism of the Israeli government’s neglect of East Jerusalem during the Coronavirus crisis, going so far as to write a letter to the Director General of Israel’s Health Ministry warning about “the serious shortage of medical equipment at the hospitals in East Jerusalem, particularly protective equipment and equipment to conduct coronavirus testing. This is despite repeated promises on the part of your [ministry].”
In a new dynamic, regularly updated resource entitled “Viral Occupation” the Israeli NGO Who Profits is compiling important reporting and analysis (its own and others) of how the COVID-19 crisis is playing out in the occupied Palestinian territories. In the accompanying introduction, Who Profits makes four critically important points:
- “COVID-19 is not operating in a vacuum. As it spreads through Israeli-occupied Palestinian and Syrian land, it is interacting with the structures of occupation which, while far from novel, are every bit as adaptive, resistant and continually mutating as any member of the corona family.
- “COVID-19 will not function as a ‘Great Equalizer’ – The myth that a pandemic does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, is patently false. An occupied and besieged population and a systematically de-developed economy are particularly vulnerable to both COVID-19 and the economic fallout.
- “Desperate times legitimize repressive measures. Declaring a state of emergency often provides the pretext for the introduction of new repressive and exploitative measures and the entrenchment and legitimization of existing ones.
- “What happens in Palestine does not stay in Palestine. A key reason Israel is continually looking to diversify its portfolio of repression is that it can later turn it outward for economic profit and political gains.”
In a new report, Ir Amim takes a close look at nine Jerusalem-related elements of the Trump Plan, examining the details as well as their political and human ramifications.
Ir Amim concludes in part:
“In close coordination with the current American administration, Israel is advancing a policy of annexation and separation of ‘Greater Jerusalem.’ A large portion of the Trump plan is not a basis for negotiation or peace, but rather constitutes a fleshed-out work plan, which both echoes and advances measures already being implemented on the ground. It likewise further entrenches Israeli control of East Jerusalem and the majority of the West Bank, while foiling any prospect for a just and agreed resolution to the conflict. As both US Ambassador Friedman and Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, an agreement has been reached between the US and Israel concerning the advancement of Israeli moves regardless of Palestinian position or consent. This policy will not only impact the future of Jerusalem, but also the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will consign both Israelis and Palestinians alike to an accelerating apartheid reality. In Jerusalem, the uprooting of approximately one-third or more of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem from the city and their confinement to neglected enclaves along with further isolation and suppression of those who remain within the city will fracture the urban fabric and liable to increase confrontation between the two populations of the city.”
- “Israeli annexation talks threaten ties with Arab world” (Al Monitor)
- “Abandoned by Israel, Jerusalem’s refugee camp is left to fight COVID-19 alone” (+972 Magazine)