Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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February 8, 2019
- Another Challenge to Israel’s Plan to Retroactively Legalize Adei Ad Outpost
- New Eviction Proceedings Against Two Palestinian Families in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City
- Higher Education Council Reverses Approval of Adelson-Backed Medical School in Ariel University
- Activists Ask High Court to Revoke Status of West Bank Nature Reserve Run By Settlers
- Settlers Threaten to Blacklist Palestinians Who Work with Human Rights Organizations
- Prominent Israeli Politicians Pledge To End Two-State Solution
- 40 Ambassadors to the United Nations Visit Settler-Run Tourist Site in Occupied East Jerusalem
- Settler Org Credits Trump for Growth in West Bank Settler Population & Death of Two-State Solution
- New B’Tselem Report Slams High Court for Role in Dispossessing Palestinians, Validating Occupation
- Video Compilation of Likud Candidates Touting Role of Tourism in Expanding Settlements
- EU Settlement Report Details “Unprecedented” Level of Settlement Advancements 2018
- Bonus Reads
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On January 31st, Yesh Din filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to reverse an expansion of “state land” boundaries in the Shiloh Valley that seized privately owned Palestinian land in order to retroactively legalize the notoriously (and recently) violent Adei Ad outpost.
In 2014, Palestinian landowners, in cooperation with Yesh Din, first petitioned the Court to evacuate the unauthorized Adei Ad outpost which was built on their land in contravention of both international and Israeli law. Instead of enforcing the law, the Israeli Civil Administration announced that it would “reexamine” the boundaries of state land in the area, an examination which found that Adei Ad was, according to the new Israeli mapping of the area, built on state land. To make the findings of the reexamination official, the Civil Administration used an entirely new procedure (a “declaration amendment”) to expand the boundaries of a previous state land declaration. In so doing, the Civil Administration found a way to avoid issuing a new state land declaration, which can be challenged in a court by Palestinians and legal groups like Yesh Din. For “declaration amendments,” landowners can only seek recourse through the Civil Administration. Objections filed to the expansion of state land in this case were all dismissed.
The new Yesh Din petition filed on January 31st challenges the secretive and unjust process by which the Civil Administration expanded the scope of state land to include the Adei Ad outpost. The petition reads:
“[…] Not only does the procedural structure for objection to the declaration, as stated in the procedure, substantially diminish the rights of the petitioners and other objectors who seek to receive their day in court before an independent and impartial judiciary (which is offered without exception to their neighbors, indicative of institutional discrimination), but even in substantive terms, the decision of the first respondent [the head of the Civil Administration] was carried out in violation of the law, in contrast to judicial decisions, in a manner entirely lacking transparency and conveying the arbitrariness that ultimately results from irrelevant considerations — the desire to legalize the outpost of Adei Ad at all costs.”
The new petition seeks to stop the implementation of the next step in the Civil Administration’s process to retroactively legalize Adei Ad, a plan that was announced in August 2018. Under the scheme, Adei Ad will be retroactively legalized by defining it as a “neighborhood” of the Amichai settlement – the first new government-backed settlement in 25 years, approved as payoff to the settlers who were evacuated from the unauthorized Amona outpost – located nearby.
In 2013, Yesh Din published a lengthy report about the Adei Ad outpost – how it was established and how the settlers who live there use violence to take over more and more land from nearby Palestinians.
Kerem Navot recently wrote:
“The outpost of Adei Ad has the hard-earned dubious reputation as one of the wildest and most violent outposts in the West Bank. Since its establishment in the late 1990s, settlers have initiated numerous violent incidents, all based on one simple rationale: take control of as much land as possible. As a reward for 20 years of wreaking havoc, the state is currently authorizing the outpost and has recently deemed it a ‘neighborhood.’ Guess whose: a ‘neighborhood’ of the settlement of Amichai that was established less than two years ago after the state granted “compensation” estimated at 300 million shekels, to the group of land thieves who were evicted from the outpost of Amona.”
Ir Amim reports that settlers are behind two new eviction proceedings against Palestinians in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
In the first case, the Abu Asab family received a notice that they must vacate their home in the Muslim Quarter by February 12th. The family has been renting the house since the 1960s, when the Old City was under the authority of the Jordanian government, which managed leases for vacant properties. In 2014, a settler-run trust – the Maisel Trust – petitioned to annul the family’s protected tenancy rights, arguing that those rights had been lost when the original tenants allegedly “abandoned” the property (the current residents are second generation relatives of the original renters). The Court ruled in the settlers’ favor in, and a subsequent appeal against the ruling was rejected.
In the second case, just 100 meters away from the Abu Asab family home, the Ghaith-Sub Laban family was warned that another settler-managed trust – the Gengel Trust – filed a new request for their eviction, arguing that the original tenants had abandoned the home and therefore forfeited their protected tenancy rights. The new eviction proceedings were initiated despite a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that held that Nora Gaith and husband Mustafa Sub Laban are legally allowed to remain in the apartment for 10 years), at which time their protected tenancy will be (prematurely) terminated and their children’s status as protected tenants annulled.
Ir Amim notes that there are a total of eight Palestinian families at imminent risk of eviction in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, all in close proximity to the cases detailed above.
On February 7th, the Planning & Budgeting subcommittee of Israel’s Higher Education Council voted 3-2 against the approval of a medical school in Ariel University, reversing the subcommittee’s previous vote to approve the medical school in July 2018.
The Israeli Attorney General’s office ordered the second vote after it was revealed that one of the members of the subcommittee should not have been able to vote in July 2018, due to a major conflict of interest (Ariel University had promised the individual a promotion in the event the school was approved).
Since receiving the approval in July 2018, Ariel University has taken significant steps towards opening the medical school this fall, despite multiple unfolding controversies surrounding the process by which the school was approved. In addition to addition to the controversy surrounding the July 2018 vote, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett is accused of violating government rules to secure a legal opinion in favor bringing the school under Israeli domestic laws (an act of de facto annexation). Bennett is also accused of inappropriately intervening to expedite the approval of the school.
In response to the vote Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, said:
“I do not intend to give up. I will fight the university cartel until we establish the Faculty of Medicine at Ariel University.”
Following the vote, the settler Yesha Council (an umbrella group which lobbies on behalf of the settlements) issued a statement saying:
“We expect the Israeli government to handle the matter and renew the permit in the coming year.”
As FMEP has previously reported, Ariel University became an accredited Israeli university in 2012, following significant controversy and opposition, including from Israeli academics. It has since been the focus of additional controversy, linked to what is a clear Israeli government-backed agenda of exploiting academia to normalize and annex settlements. In 2018, the settlement broke ground on the new medical school, with significant financial backing from U.S. casino magnate, settlement financier, and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson. In February 2018, in an act of deliberate de facto annexation, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that extends the jurisdiction of the Israeli Council on Higher Education over universities in the settlements (beyond Israel’s recognized sovereign borders), ensuring that the Ariel settlement medical school (and its graduates) would be entitled to all the same rights, privileges, and certifications as schools and students in sovereign Israel.
As a reminder, Ariel is located in the heart of the northern West Bank, reaching literally to the midpoint between the Green Line and the Jordan border. The future of Ariel has long been one of the greatest challenges to any possible peace agreement, since any plan to attach Ariel to Israel will cut the northern West Bank into pieces.
A group of Israeli human rights activists have petitioned the Israeli High Court to revoke the special status of the Umm Zuka nature reserve and firing zone in the West Bank, saying the Israel’s designation of the land as a protected area has only served as a pretext to remove Palestinians and allow settlers to take over.
The petition goes on to explain that Israeli settlers have built an unauthorized outpost on the land that is slated to be added to the existing nature reserve, and have essentially turned the wilderness area into a private settler park where Palestinians are not allowed to enter. Despite complaints, the Israeli Civil Administration has not removed the unauthorized outpost – which consists of several structures connected to the water, sewage, and electricity of a nearby army base. The Civil Administration spokesperson told Haaretz that it is undertaken unspecified “enforcement proceedings” against the unauthorized outpost.
Eitay Mack, a lawyer who filed the petition on behalf of the group, told Haaretz:
“the reserve and the firing zone have effectively become a private settler farm that receives personal security service from Israel Defense Forces soldiers and bars entry to the farm’s enormous territory on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, religion and political opinions.”
Settlers have taken to posting signs in Palestinian villages warning that Palestinians who cooperate with human rights organizations will be prohibited from working in of Israeli settlements. The posters threaten:
“Do you wish to keep working in the settlements? Do you want to provide a living for your families from the Jews? Whoever cooperates with any one of these individuals and organizations (Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights) will never be allowed to enter the settlements for work. Be warned!”
+972 Magazine reports that the settlers behind the posters have also distributed leaflets to business owners inside of the settlements which list names of Palestinians alleged to work with (or have family members who work with) human rights groups – ostensibly encouraging Israeli business owners to fire them.
An Israeli activist working with the Tayyush organization (which is named on the posters as a group Palestinians cannot work with) explained:
“These flyers are yet another reminder that we [Israeli human rights groups] are a target of far-right groups, which get their marching orders from the Israeli government. The goal is clear: to expel Palestinians from their Area C of the West Bank and minimize their ability to defend themselves.”
Observers have noted the similarity between these flyers and signs posted by the Ku Klux Klan in the US years back targeting Black Americans.
In the context of Israel’s current election campaign, dozens of Israeli politicians have signed a pledge to the “Nahalah Movement” which reads:
“I hereby commit to be loyal to the land of Israel, not to cede one inch of our inheritance from our forefathers. I hereby commit to act to realize the settlement plan for the settlement of 2 million Jews in Judea and Samaria in accordance with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s plan, as well as to encourage and lead the redemption of all the lands throughout Judea and Samaria. I commit to act to cancel the declaration of two states for two peoples and replace it with the stately declaration: The land of Israel: One country for one people.”
Among the most prominent signatories are Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud), Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (New Right) Education Minister Naftali Bennett (New Right), Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Communication Minister Ayoub Kara, Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Galant, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.
The petition was introduced and signed as the climax of the Nahalah Movement’s two-week-long protest outside of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. The activists were protesting what they portray as Netanyahu’s policy of severely restricting settlement construction. The Nahalah movement calls for unconstrained settlement construction and the establishment of new settlements. The Nahalah Movement released a statement saying:
“The signing of the petition opposite the Prime Minister’s Residence at the height of the Likud primary election campaign and at the height of the efforts to compile the [Knesset] lists in the right-wing and center bloc and in particular ahead of the coming election campaigns constitutes an ideological and ethical loyalty test for the various contenders.”
The settlement agenda promoted by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir – the one mentioned in the Nahalah pledge – was one of unrestrained growth and absolute opposition to compromise with the Palestinians and/or Arab governments in the region. Notably, Shamir’s promotion of the settlement enterprise was strongly opposed by then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who threatened to cut U.S. aid to Israel if settlement construction did not stop.
A group of 40 Ambassadors to the United Nations visited a tourist site run by the radical Elad settler organization in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. The delegation was led by Israel’s own Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, who appeared on video saying:
“We arrive today with nearly 40 UN Ambassadors to the City of David, Ir David, to show them the real truth about Israel….when the Ambassadors come here and they see for themselves the history of the Jewish people they understand why you cannot disconnect the Jewish people from our eternal capital Jerusalem.”
In the same clip, the President of Elad (aka the “City of David Foundation”) said:
“Why are they here? Far away from the halls of the United Nations building, here they will travel with us through the field and actually lift up the archaeological evidence and see the facts in front of their eyes. This is not a matter of fantasy and not only a matter of faith. Here we have facts that prove the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.”
As a reminder, the explicit ambition of the Elad settler organization is to increase Jewish hegemony across all of Jerusalem at the explicit and intended expense of the Palestinian East Jerusalemites. In Silwan in particular, Elad has undertaken a multi-faceted campaign to evict Palestinians and increase the number of Jewish settlers living there.
Intending to give a backhanded compliment to the visiting delegation, Eugene Kontorovich – who heads the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a right-wing pro-settlement organization – tweeted that the UN Ambassadors must not agree with U.N. Resolution 2334, which calls on the international community to differentiate between Israel and areas occupied by Israel in their dealings in the region. Kontorovich also told Jewish Insider:
“The Security Council resolution calls on countries to ‘differentiate’ between Israel and territories that came under its control in 1967. The resolution is of course not binding, and by going on in official state visit across the green line in the company of Israeli government officials, these UN ambassadors show that they are fully aware what a dead letter the resolution is.”
As a reminder, Kontorovich self-identifies as a key figure in the drafting of “anti-BDS” (but actually, anti-free speech/pro-settlement) laws in the United States. At the core of these laws is the conflation of Israeli settlements with Israeli proper, based on Kontorovich’s argument that Israel is not occupying Palestinian territory. Kontorovich has also testified multiple times to U.S. Congress, including in support of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; in support of Congress legislating U.S. foreign policy, including with regard to Jerusalem; on the impact of the BDS movement, and in support of U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
A settler-run organization has released an analysis of Israeli government data citing the Trump Administration as a key driver of a “surge” in the growth rate of the Israeli settler population in 2018, and predicted a larger surge to come. The group claims the settler population in the West Bank grew by 3.3% last year (449,508 – excluding East Jerusalem – as of January 2019), compared to a 1.9% increase in Israel’s overall population.
The director of the group, Baruch Gordon, told the Associated Press:
“Since the change of the U.S. administration, the atmosphere for construction permits has become much easier. They’re being given with greater ease. I think possibly the next report and certainly in the ones after that, I think we’ll start to see a huge surge in the numbers here….Those who continue to talk about a two-state solution, in my mind it’s just a sign that they’re removed from the reality and the facts on the ground.”
When another settler organization – the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria – published near identical data points in January 2019 (literally last month), the overwhelming response of the settler community was to blame former U.S. President Barack Obama for a slowdown in the population growth from the 2017 rate, which was at 3.4%. However, if Gordon is correct in his prediction of a settler surge to come, that surge will indeed by blamed on or credited to – depending on the source – U.S. President Donald Trump.
Peace Now has documented the sharp in increase in settlement advancements in 2018, which will eventually result in an increase in the population of settlers (by as many as 60,000 settlers) once those new units are built and sold.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the AP:
“The American support for settlements through silence is doomed to failure because there is no peace and stability without an agreement with the Palestinian people and its legitimate leadership.”
B’Tselem published an important new report entitled “Fake Justice: The Responsibility Israel’s High Court Justices Bear for the Demolition of Palestinian Homes and the Dispossession of Palestinians.” The report examines the role the highest court in Israel (and the only practicable avenue by which Palestinians can challenge Israeli policies and settler actions) has played in perpetuating the severe injustices inflicted upon Palestinians by the Israeli occupation and providing a guise of legality to for the Israeli policies behind them. Looking at its actions over the years as a whole, the report concludes that the court’s support of Israeli planning policy in the West Bank is tantamount to support for “forcible transfer” — a war crime.
The report’s executive summary explains:
“On the declarative level, Israeli authorities consider the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank as no more than a matter of illegal construction, as if Israel does not have long-term goals in the West Bank and as if the matter does not have far-reaching implications for the human rights of hundreds of thousands of individuals, including their ability to subsist, make a living and manage their own routine. The Supreme Court has fully embraced this point of view. In hundreds of rulings and decisions handed down over the years on the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, the justices have regarded Israeli planning policy as lawful and legitimate, nearly always focusing only on the technical issue of whether the petitioners had building permits. Time and time again, the justices have ignored the intent underlying the Israeli policy and the fact that, in practice, this policy imposes a virtually blanket prohibition on Palestinian construction. They have also ignored the policy’s consequences for Palestinians: the barest – sometimes positively appalling – living conditions, being compelled to build homes without permits, and absolute uncertainty as to the future.”
The report is available to read and download here.
The Israeli archaeological group Emek Shaveh produced a video compilation of prominent Likud candidates touting their role in driving settlement tourism projects – in statements made in anticipation of the Likud primary elections (which were held on February 5th). Snippets in the video include:
- Former Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat bragging about his work on behalf of settlement projects run by Elad in the Silwan neighborhood;
- Transportation Minister Yaariv Levin bragging on Facebook about the huge investments his ministry made into developing a settlement tourism industry, including doubling the amount of tourism to the West Bank in two years, funding two hotels in the Kiryat Arba settlement, and starting a grants program for tourist projects in settlements;
- Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin celebrating the opening of a “visitors center” in a settlement near the central West Bank city of Nablus.
Emek Shaveh writes:
“What was previously termed ‘hidden settlement’ has quietly transformed amid the Likud primaries into open policy. The extent of the Israeli government’s investments in the tourist settlement is now being exposed.”
There has been a growing awareness of – and opposition to – Israel’s overt investment in settlement tourism as means to expand and entrench Israeli settlements, most acutely in East Jerusalem. In February 2018, a leaked report by the European Union said explicitly that Israeli archaeological and tourism projects in East Jerusalem are “a political tool to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimacy and expand settlements.”
Emek Shaveh issued a statement elaborating on leaked EU report, saying:
“Archaeological tourism projects are favored by the settlers as a means of winning the hearts of minds of the Israeli, Jewish and evangelical publics. The EU now recognizes how archaeological sites in East Jerusalem are being used as a political tool to ‘modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimise and expand settlements’. The City of David in Silwan, the new cable car project, the national parks in Palestinian neighborhoods compliment evictions and house demolitions in marginalising and disenfranchising the East Jerusalem Palestinian public. The difference between ‘cultural projects’ such as the national parks or the City of David and house demolitions is that in addition to the physical displacement, the former also expropriate the narrative, dispossessing the Palestinians from their historical and cultural contexts. When it comes to Jerusalem, narrative is not an abstract issue because in Jerusalem history and questions of present-day sovereignty are intertwined. And when it will come to determining the final status of the city, the question of who ‘owns’ the history of the city will be crucial.”
On February 4th, the European Union issued its bi-annual report (pdf) documenting and analyzing trends in Israeli settlement activity from July through December 2018. It also provides a big picture summary of settlement activity in recent years, which found that there was a three-to-four-fold increase in settlement advancements in 2017/2018 (the era of U.S. President Donald Trump) compared to 2015/2016 (under Barack Obama).
The full report is available as a pdf here.