Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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July 5, 2019
- With a Sledgehammer in Silwan, U.S. Officials Legitimize Radical Settler Agenda & Offer De Facto U.S. Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty over East Jerusalem
- For the Second Time, Jerusalem District Court Accepts “Market Regulation” Principle as Basis For Seizing Privately Owned Palestinian Land for Settlements
- Settlers, Anticipating Victory on Area C Annexation Push, Expand Annexation Campaign to Include (de facto) Extension of Israeli Control Into Area B
- U.S. Owners of “Duty Free Americas” Are Sending Millions to the Settlements/li>
- U.S. Envoy Greenblatt Prefers to Call Settlements “Neighborhoods and Cities” Because International Law is Not “Clear Cut”
- Bonus Reads
Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a Sledgehammer in Silwan, U.S. Officials Legitimize Radical Settler Agenda & Offer De Facto U.S. Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty over East Jerusalem
In a gratuitous political stunt that represented an unprecedented statement of U.S. support for Israel’s assertion of sovereignty over East Jerusalem, as well as for agenda of radical right-wing Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Special Representative Jason Greenblatt participated in a highly provocative ceremony at an archeological site in East Jerusalem. The ceremony marking the “opening” of what Israel has dubbed the “Pilgrim’s Road”- an excavation project initiated by the radical settler group Elad beneath the Wadi Hilweh section of Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem adjacent to the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif.
In response to widespread condemnation of his role in the ceremony (which, among other things, was protested by the anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now), Friedman made his support for Israel’s claim over East Jerusalem even more explicit. He said:
“The City of David brings truth and science to a debate that has been marred for too long by myths and deceptions. Its findings, in most cases by secular archaeologists, bring an end to the baseless efforts to deny the historical fact of Jerusalem’s ancient connection to the Jewish people. It brings to life the historical truth of that momentous period in Jewish history. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians must be based upon a foundation of truth. The City of David advances our collective goal of pursuing a truth-based resolution. It is important for all sides of the conflict…The City of David is an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel. It would be akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty.”
Peace Now said in a responded:
“This is no less than American recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the sensitive area of the Holy Basin, contrary to the American position throughout the years since 1967. The Trump Team chooses to strengthen the hold of the settler fringe in the sensitive area of the Holy Basin instead of advancing a conflict-ending peace agreement. The tunnel, the way it was dug and its geo-political ramifications, are trampling on the reputation of Jerusalem as a city sacred to all religions and belonging to all its inhabitants. It is part of the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing in Israel and the United States – just steps from the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount.”
Raising the ignored (by Friedman, Greenblatt, et al) issue of the project’s impact on Palestinians living above the excavation site, the Haaretz Editorial Board wrote, in a piece entitled “Settlers in the White House,”:
“The participation of American diplomats at an event sponsored by a right-wing group in East Jerusalem constitutes de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem’s historic basin…This recognition doesn’t just put the American administration on the extreme right of the Israeli political map – thus undercutting the claim that American can be an unbiased broker between Israel and the Palestinians – but it also ignores the complicated reality in Silwan, East Jerusalem and the entire region. The tunnel, which was excavated using controversial methods from a scientific standpoint, harnesses archaeology to politics while ignoring the nuances of Jerusalem’s ancient past. But the main problem is that excavating under the street blatantly ignores what’s happening at street level. In Silwan alone there are 20,000 Palestinians without citizenship or civil rights, who justifiably feel that this archaeological project is aimed at forcing them out of their neighborhood. Surrounding Silwan are another 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, also without rights.”
Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh – a group of expert archaeologists – said in a statement:
“The use of archaeology by Israel and the settlers as a political tool is a part of a strategy to shape the historic city and unilaterally entrench Israeli sovereignty over ancient Jerusalem. It is a process which is likely to produce devastating results for both Israel and the Palestinians. It is inexcusable to ignore the Palestinian residents of Silwan, carrying out extensive excavations of an underground city and to use such excavations as part of an effort to tell a historic story that is exclusively Jewish in a 4,000 year-old city with a rich and diverse cultural and religious past.”
Greenblatt – who is not an archeologist, punched back with a tweet suggesting that Emek Shaveh “NGO seems to misunderstand the meaning of ‘archeology.’”
The Palestinian Authority said in a statement:
“We consider the participation of (US Mideast Envoy) Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman to be criminal collusion in the commission of a war crime that must be condemned as well as universally and unequivocally confronted.”
Elad launched its excavation of the “Pilgrim’s Road” in 2007, with the full support of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). For more background on the tunnels and how radical Israeli settlers have exploited excavation, tourism, and the ancient character of Jerusalem in order to serve their ideological agenda – see the comprehensive reporting by Emek Shaveh.
For the Second Time, Jerusalem District Court Accepts “Market Regulation” Principle as Basis For Seizing Privately Owned Palestinian Land for Settlements
In June 2019, Judge Carmi Mossek became the second district court judge to accept the “market regulation” principle as a valid legal basis for retroactively legalizing settlement buildings that were built on land that even Israel recognizes is privately owned by Palestinians. The case in question revolves around four buildings in the Alei Zahav settlement that are partially built on Palestinian land, as revealed by the results of a land survey in 2016 by the Israeli “Blue Line” team (a team whose purpose is to survey the West Bank in order to find more land onto which Israel can expand settlements).
According to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit – who first promoted the use of the “market regulation” principle – the principle can only be applied to cases in which all parties involved in the “accidental” construction can demonstrate that they acted in “good faith,” – e.g., with support from the State and without knowing the land in question was privately owned Palestinian land (an argument which of course ignores Israel’s responsibility under international law to protect the property rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation).
In this latest case, the state argued that the “market regulation” principle provides a basis for legalizing settlement construction that was “accidentally” built on privately owned Palestinian land in the Alei Zahav settlement. The judge accepted this argument, despite the fact that the High Court of Justice is still considering the validity of “market regulation” as a legal principle. Depending on how the High Court rules, the “market regulation” principle could pave the way for Israel to expropriate Paelstinian land across the West Bank instead of returning it to its legal owners in order to retroactively legalize as many as 3,000 settlement units. In her ruling, Judge Mossek agreed with the State that the settlers’ “good faith” entitles them to be recognized as the legal owners of the land. Jude Mossek gave the state until September to complete the administrative process of retroactively legalizing the houses.
The first case the state of Israel brought forward to test the “market regulation” principle, relating to the Mitzpe Kramim outpost, made clear that “good faith” is in the eye of the beholder, and that when the beholder is the state of Israel, there is a readiness to stretch and twist the meaning of the term “good faith” well beyond any reasonable understanding of the term. That case is the one currently being considered by the High Court of Justice.
Settlers, Anticipating Victory on Area C Annexation Push, Expand Annexation Campaign to Include (de facto) Extension of Israeli Control Into Area B
Settlers recently sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asking him to stop Palestinian construction taking place in Area B of the West Bank, arguing that the construction is too close to Israeli settlements in Area C. As defined in the Oslo Agreements, Area C is 60% of the West Bank that Israel retained civil and security control over; Area B constitutes 22% of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has civilian control, but Israel exerts control over all security matters.
This new plea from the settlers is a dangerous – but predictable – extension of the settlers’ success in pushing for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Area C, a demand which is increasingly validated in the official discourse of both the Netanyahu government and the Trump Administration. It is consistent with a tactic that has, for decades, served the settlers well: as settlements (by various means) expand ever-closer to Palestinian built-up areas, and ever-deeper into the West Bank, settlers complain that the close proximity of Palestinians threatens their security, and demand that the IDF take action (leading to road closures, land seizures or closures for “security reasons,” “temporary” seizures of homes for IDF use, etc).
In their plea to stop Palestinians from building on land that even Israel recognizes belongs to them, and that under Oslo is under Palestinian civilian control land, the settlers argue:
“This is a construction that seriously harms the personal security of every Israeli living in the communities of Gush Shilo and especially in Amichai, and the public expects the cabinet to wake up, take responsibility and stop this thing immediately.”
An Associated Press investigation revealed that family that owns the highly profitable and ubiquitous retail chain “Duty Free Americas” is a major source of financial support for some of the most radical settler groups in Israel. According to documents uncovered by the Democratic Bloc, the Florida-based Falic family is the single largest donor to Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and has given over $5.6 million to settler groups over the past decade. These donations have included:
- $1 million to projects associated with the radical group Ateret Cohanim, which is focused on taking control of property in East Jerusalem, especially in the Old City, including by means that are morally and legally questionable;
- Roughly $600,000 to “Hachnasat Orchim Hebron,” an organization that brings tourists to visit radical settlers living in downtown Hebron enclaves. The group was founded by Baruch Marzel, who served as an aid to the ultra-nationalist and racist leader Meir Kahane; Marzel is still listed by name in the CIA World Factbook as a leader of Kach/Kahane Chai, which are U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In addition to bringing tourists to the settlers, the group also distributes snacks to Israeli soldiers who protect the radical enclaves;
- Funding to organizations that call for Israel to take control over the Temple Mount, tear down the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and build a synagogue in their place (the “Third Temple”);
- Support for a winery inside the Psagot settlement. The Psagot winery – as is the case with other settler-run wineries in the West Bank and the Golan Heights – is complicit in advancing and normalizing the settlements through tourism;
- A biblical theme park inside of the Shiloh settlement;
- In 2014, the Falics donated to the construction of a synagogue and mikveh (a ritual bath) in the unauthorized Kerem Reim outpost. Since then the Israeli government retroactively legalized the Kerem Reim outpost;
- $50,000 to an organization that acts as a fundraising arm on behalf of Lehava, an extremist, openly-racist Israel organization that advocates against Jewish-Arab couples and assimilation in Israel. Lehava is often is accused of using intimidation and even violence.
While the Falic family’s tax records disclose many causes their family foundation supports, when it comes to most of their donations to Israel-based groups, that money appears to be channeled via Panamanian-based companies, through the family’s Israel-based Segal foundation (whose name is a Hebrew acronym based on the Falic brothers’ first names). This arrangement – which the family states is because one of the Falic brothers lives in Panama – allows for next to zero transparency regarding where the money ends up.
Ran Cohen of the Democratic Bloc, an Israeli NGO which did key research for the AP investigative story on the Falic family, told FMEP:
“Unfortunately, the Falic family story is just another example in a wider picture of private American funding that goes to support racist and anti-democratic trends in Israel. Many of these supporters maintain a public face as Israel-loving philanthropists, when in fact, they fuel some of the most dangerous, extreme, and racist agendas in Israel. We at the Israeli Democratic Bloc, took upon ourselves the mission to research , educate and systematically expose those who threaten Israel’s democratic space”
MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash-Ta’al) said:
“The Falics donate to racist organizations preserving the ‘purity of the Jewish race’ and to the most violent segregationists settling in Hebron and East Jerusalem. The settlements cannot exist without the support of extremist capitalists from the US, these donors must be exposed.”
This revelation is the latest in a growing body of investigative work into previously secretive channels of U.S. money flowing to Israeli settlements and extremists. In January 2019, the American NGO T’ruah investigated and revealed that U.S. donations were finding their way to Kahanist groups in Israel. A December 2018 investigation by Haaretz revealed that Christian groups have given up to $65 million in projects in the “Biblical Heartland” over the past decade, in addition to non-financial donations like volunteer laborers. In October 2018, journalist Josh Nathan-Kazis reported that the San Francisco Jewish Federation was using an Israeli organization to channel funds to organizations fighting to stifle criticism of Israeli policies and punish activists who engage in such criticism, particularly on college campuses. A 2017 Haaretz investigation revealed that millions of tax-deductible donations to the Jewish Federations of North America go to fund West Bank settlements.
U.S. Envoy Greenblatt Prefers to Call Settlements “Neighborhoods and Cities,” Claiming International Law is Not “Clear Cut”
U.S. Special Representative Jason Greenblatt told the audience at a conference on U.S.-Israel relations hosted by Sheldon Adelson’s “Israel Hayom” media outlet that:
“International law, UN resolutions and internationally recognized parameters are not always clear cut. They are interpreted differently in good faith by different parties and they do not provide an executable solution to this conflict…[To resolve the conflict, people have to stop] pretending that settlements, or what I like to call neighborhoods and cities, are the reason for the lack of peace.”
In fact, international law is clear. According to Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” [It is worth re-reading the whole thing to grasp the scope of Israel’s violations of international law in its conduct in the territories it occupied in 1967). Amnesty International also notes that:
“The extensive appropriation of land and the appropriation and destruction of property required to build and expand settlements also breach other rules of international humanitarian law. Under the Hague Regulations of 1907, the public property of the occupied population (such as lands, forests and agricultural estates) is subject to the laws of usufruct. This means that an occupying state is only allowed a very limited use of this property. This limitation is derived from the notion that occupation is temporary, the core idea of the law of occupation. In the words of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the occupying power ‘has a duty to ensure the protection, security, and welfare of the people living under occupation and to guarantee that they can live as normal a life as possible, in accordance with their own laws, culture, and traditions.’ The Hague Regulations prohibit the confiscation of private property. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of private or state property, ‘except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.’”
In addition to Greenblatt’s fawning over the settlements, Dr. Miriam Adelson also drew headlines for her speech in which she speculated that there might eventually be a “Book of Trump” added to the Bible in recognition of what Trump has done for the state of Israel. Adelson got the love right back, in the form of a remarkably candid comment from former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley (who many speculate is the Adelsons’ chosen candidate to succeed Trump). During a public interview in Jerusalem conducted by Miriam Adelson, Haley noted: “A lot of the strength the U.S. is showing for Israel, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson played a very big part in” [As noted by FMEP’s President Lara Friedman: “If a critic of Israel said this, they’d be instantly accused of antisemitism…”]
- “How TripAdvisor is Fueling Human Rights Violation is Khirbet Susiya” (Amnesty International)