Settlement Report: July 19, 2018


Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.

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July 19, 2018

  1. It’s the Settlements, Stupid: Documents Reveal Israel Planned Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin Removal for 40+ Years
  2. New Law Puts West Bank Legal Matters under Domestic Israeli Jurisdiction
  3. Since 1967, Israel Gave 99.76% of “State Land” in the West Bank to Settlers (But Blames Palestinians)
  4. Birthright & the Settlers
  5. Jordan Valley Settlement Council Confirms Participation in (Illegal) Outpost Activity, Refuses to Release Any Details
  6. Huge Expansion Approved for Pisgat Ze’ev; Jerusalem Expert: this is “Natural Response” to Trump’s Jerusalem Policy
  7. Bonus Reads

Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at

It’s the Settlements, Stupid: Documents Reveal Israel Planned Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin Removal for 40+ Years

A recently discovered document from the 1970s confirms that the removal of Bedouin communities from the Maale Adumim/E-1 area east of Jerusalem (like Khan al-Ahmar) has been planned for decades and is directly connected to plans to expand Israeli settlements and annex West Bank territory.

The document, entitled “A proposal to plan the Ma’aleh Adumim region and establish the community settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim B,” was written by settler activist Uri Ariel (who is currently serving as Israel’s Agricultural Minister). It lays out a plan to create a “Jewish corridor” of settlements connecting the coast to the Jordan River, recommending that Bedouin be evacuated from the area east of Jerusalem in order to build a new settlement: “Maale Adumim B.”

Haaretz reports that “a large part of the plan has been executed, except for the eviction of all the area’s Bedouin,” adding “Today, under a government in which [Agricultural Minister Uri] Ariel’s Habayit Hayehudi party is so powerful, the open expulsion of Bedouin is possible.”

Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann adds:

“the story of Khan Al-Ahmar is not only about the tragedy for the village and its inhabitants, or about Israel’s readiness to carry out an ostensible war crime in the face of the world. It is also about Israel’s determination to clear the entire area of the West Bank east of Jerusalem, and located within the line of the built and planned barrier, of any Palestinian presence. This clearing will prepare the ground for the future construction of E1 and de facto annexation of this so-called bloc, which extends well beyond the built-up area of Maale Adumim.”

New Law Puts West Bank Legal Matters under Domestic Israeli Jurisdiction

On July 16th, the Knesset voted 56-48 to pass a law that, in effect, further extends Israeli sovereignty into the West Bank, suspends even the pretense that Israel’s justice system is interested in protecting the rights of Palestinians living under occupation, and strengthens the hand of settlers and their supporters.

Specifically, since 1967, the court of first jurisdiction for cases related to Palestinians living in the West Bank — where Palestinians can legally challenge State actions (and inactions) regarding planning and construction, travel permits, freedom of information, and freedom of movement — has been the Israeli High Court of Justice, reflecting the extraordinariness of Israeli judges issuing, in effect, extra-territorial legal rulings.

The new law strips Palestinians of this direct avenue to the High Court of Justice. It compels Palestinians living in the West Bank to file petitions with the Jerusalem District Court (located within Israel’s sovereign borders). The High Court of Justice will only hear Palestinians’ cases on appeal from the district court, adding more time and higher costs to any potential appellant. The bill has been championed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), whose three-fold rationale for the bill explicitly states its purpose: to help settlers take more Palestinian land and shut-down Palestinian challenges to such thefts.

Shaked celebrated the passage of the bill, saying:

“The High Court petition party of Palestinians and extreme left organization against the settlements in Judea and Samaria is over today. From now on they will have to go through the judicial hurdle like any other Israeli citizen [note: Palestinians living in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens and as such do not enjoy the same rights or privileges as settlers in an Israeli court].”

Reiterating her call for annexation of the settlements, Shaked added that:

“Hebron, Ra’anana, Elon Moreh and Kiryat Arba [all but Ra’anana being places located deep inside the West Bank] are all inseparable parts of the Land of Israel.”

With the passage of the bill, the Israeli Knesset has further revealed – with startling honesty – its intention to treat the occupied territories as if they are sovereign Israeli territory. The bill is part of the legislative body’s broader effort to erase all remaining distinctions (legal, judicial, economic, and otherwise) between sovereign Israel and the occupied territories, distinctions which allowed Israel to preserve the guise of respect for rule of law, and good intentions, for the last 50 years. Lara Friedman points out:

“…this [the passage of the new law] is good news, further removing the pretense that Israel’s justice system protects Palestinian rights. For 50yrs the High Court’s rulings have at BEST dealt Palestinians pyrrhic victories that have systemically legitimized occupation & rule by law.”

FMEP tracks the application of domestic Israeli law over the occupied West Bank (the de facto annexation of the West Bank) on its Annexation Policy Tables, which are regularly updated.

Since 1967, Israel Gave 99.76% of “State Land” in the West Bank to Settlers (But Blames Palestinians)

On July 17, Israel’s Peace Now published a new report (covered in the New York Times) showing that Israel has allocated 99.76% of “State Land” in the West Bank to Israeli settlers, and just .24% to the local Palestinian population living under Israeli occupation. Israel has declared a total of 16% of land in the West Bank – including nearly half of all land in Area C – as “state land,” a method of land confiscation Israel has exploited to take control of West Bank land. This works out to around 260 square miles (674,459 dunams) of West Bank land granted to the settlers, and less than 1 square mile (1625 dunams) granted to the Palestinians.

Adding insult to injury, the 1 square mile of land granted for Palestinians was mostly for the purpose of establishing Israeli settlements and for the forced transfer of Bedouin communities off other land coveted by Israel (as in the case of Khan al-Ahmar).

The data upon which the report is based was furnished to Peace Now and the Movement for Freedom of Information in response to a two-year old freedom of information request to the Israeli Civil Administration (which is the sovereign governing power over the West Bank and is obligated under international law to protect the rights of the occupied people). In its response to the request, the Civil Administration suggested that Palestinians are to blame for the stark inequality, since they have refrained from applying to use the land. A statement from the Civil Administration reads:

“Applications for the allocation of state land are routinely submitted by all the population, both Palestinian and Israeli. It should be emphasized that the number of requests submitted by Palestinian residents is generally very low.”

With this argument, the Civil Administration has constructed a classic “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” argument. If Palestinians apply to use the land, they would legitimize Israel’s authority to  declare West Bank land “State Land” in the first place as well as Israel’s authority to grant or deny its use, whether to Palestinians or settlers. If Palestinians don’t apply, they are blamed for Israel’s decisions on allocating virtually all of the land to settlers. This argument also ignores the fact that the the pattern of allocation of “State Land” revealed in this report is not an exception to, but an illustration of, the rules according to which the Civil Administration has run the West Bank for the past 51 years – rules that overwhelmingly favor the settlers over the Palestinians, most blatantly when it comes to land and construction.

More fundamentally, setting aside the question of whether Israel has abused its authority in declaring so much of the West Bank to be “State Land,” the Civil Administration’s response completely ignores the fact that Israel has a legal responsibility under international law regarding stewardship of “state land” held under its occupation. As the Association for Civil Rights in Israel explains:

“Israel holds state land in an occupied territory as a trustee, and must do everything possible to preserve and develop it for the benefit of the local Palestinian population. The very use of state land for the purpose of building settlements and/or developing infrastructure and industrial zones not in favor of the Palestinian population constitutes a violation of international law. ”

The New York Times observes, correctly:

“The lopsided allocation is hardly surprising. Israeli legal experts say the whole point of seeking out state lands, the bulk of which were designated in the 1980s, was to aid the growing settlement enterprise, which most of the world considers a violation of international law. But the paucity of land allocated to the Palestinians shows the extent of competition over territory, and the effort Israel puts toward building the settlements.”

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.”

The Peace Now report shines a harsh spotlight on a key facet of Israel’s decades long effort to confiscate land and transfer it to the settlers, particularly in Area C, and it comes at a time when Israeli lawmakers are loudly and clearly calling for the unilateral annexation of Area C – all of which FMEP documents in its Annexation Policy Tables.

Birthright & the Settlers

Adding to the swirling coverage of participants leaving Birthright trips to learn about Palestinians and realities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Birthright (an organization which organizes free trips to Israel for young Jews around the world) has come under the spotlight this week for two settlement-related reasons: the harassment of Birthright participants who left the trip to tour Hebron, and Birthright’s partnership with the radical settler group Elad.

First, cameras caught settlers harassing a group of Birthright participants who left the trip to tour Hebron with Breaking the Silence. The tour guide, a former IDF soldier, was attacked by the settlers. Breaking the Silence regularly takes groups to Hebron to observe the apartheid-like reality that exists there, “sterile streets” (an Israeli military term for streets which Palestinians are forbidden to access) and all. Part of that reality is daily settler violence, as Breaking the Silence explains:

“Near daily occurrences of abuse of the Palestinian population by settlers, including humiliation and physical attacks, are part and parcel of the lives of those Palestinians who still live in H2. Even worse, twisted norms of law enforcement in which two different populations are subject to two different sets of laws – one military and one civilian – creates a situation of selective law enforcement at best, and complete lack of law enforcement over the residents of the Jewish settlement at worst.”

Second, Birthright’s partnership with the radical Elad settler organization was exposed when a second group of youth left a Birthright trip during a tour of Silwan (aka the City of David) with Elad, which manages the City of David National Park (which was declared on Silwan land). Elad is engaged in a range of activities to enact their extremist political agenda, at the expense of Palestinians. The group left the Birthright tour to join a Peace Now visit with the Palestinian Sumreen family, who are under threat of eviction from their Silwan home because of the actions of the Elad and the JNF.  Birthright responded by accusing the participants who left the trip of seeking to advance a “political agenda,” and defending itself as an “apolitical” organization. Birthright’s response is especially ironic given Birthright’s own choice to ally itself with Elad — an organization that explicitly exists to promote an extremist political and ideological agenda (for further irony, see this proud announcement by a former Birthright participant noting that it was her experience with Birthright that inspired her to become a settler).

Peace Now later said in an email:

“Peace Now has no fight with Birthright. What we oppose are government (or any other) efforts to insert political programming into trips like Birthright’s that intentionally conceal the occupation, such as Elad tours. Elad’s far-right, one-state agenda is well-known, and it is involved in the legal acrobatics underway to evict Palestinian families from their homes.”

Jordan Valley Settlement Council Confirms Participation in (Illegal) Outpost Activity, Refuses to Release Any Details

The Jordan Valley Settlement Council, which represents the majority of Israeli settlements located in the West Bank section of the Jordan Valley, has admitted that it supports illegal outposts in the area, but declined to provide information on its activities. The admission came in response to a freedom of information request made by an Israeli lawyer representing the anti-occupation group Machsom Watch and the coexistence group Combatants for Peace.

In the written refusal to divulge information about the Jordan Valley Settlement Council’s involvement with outposts, staff member Oshra Yihye said that its refusal is based on the fact that the parties requesting the information are critical  of settlers living in the Council’s jurisdiction. Yihye also claimed that revealing the information will interfere with Council’s operations. Some Jordan Valley settlers are known to violently attack Palestinian farmers and their property, and settlers have been repeatedly caught on video attacking Israeli activists trying to assist the Palestinians.

Israel has effectively annexed 85% of land in the Jordan Valley, through ongoing settlement building and the declaration of “closed military zones” on vast swaths of farmland. A recent report by B’Tselem documents how Israeli settlers were allowed to establish two new outposts in the Jordan Valley last year. In recent months, Israel has delivered eviction notices to entire Palestinian communities near Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Simultaneously, settlers have been allowed to continue construction on a tourist project  – a car race track built in a closed military zone (land expropriated from Palestinians ostensibly for security purposes), despite a court ordered stop-work order.

Huge Expansion Approved for Pisgat Ze’ev; Jerusalem Expert: this is “Natural Response” to Trump’s Jerusalem Policy

On July 2nd, the Israeli Housing Ministry deposited for public review plans for 1,064 units in the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement in East Jerusalem. Jerusalem expert and founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, Danny Seidemann, recently punctuated the significance of the move, explaining:

“Politically speaking, this approval signals a clear statement by Israeli authorities. These plans received initial approval from the Planning Board in July 2017, as [Terrestrial Jerusalem] reported in detailed here. While the approval of these plans at this time, after a year’s delay, is indeed in large part the normal course of events in the  bureaucratic decision, the publication could not have taken place without the advance knowledge and blessing of Netanyahu. As such, this is yet another component in Netanyahu’s systematic effort to tighten Israel’s grip on East Jerusalem, his natural response to Jerusalem having been ‘taken off the table’ by President Trump.”

While pointing out that the Pisgat Ze’ev plans are the first East Jerusalem settlement plans to be deposited for public review this year, Seidemann says:

“This should by no means lead to the conclusion that until now there has been a de facto settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. Before the Pisgat Ze’ev approvals, other settlement activities were proceeding apace, including ground being broken for the expansion East Talpiyot and deliberations on a major new plan in Southeastern Gilo (Master Plan 125195).”

For more analysis from Terrestrial Jerusalem on the Pisgat Ze’ev plans, see here.

Bonus Reads

  1. “How a West Bank Highway’s Road Sign Captures the Israeli Psyche” (Haaretz)
  2. “Bulldozers In The West Bank: How recent Israeli Settlement Expansion Jeopardizes the Peace Process” (Forbes)
  3. “Israel Accelerates ‘Greater Jerusalem’ Plan” (Ahram Online)