Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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September 20, 2017
- Israel Moves to Forcibly Transfer West Bank Community [A War Crime]
- Normalizing Settlements in the Name of Peace – The WINEP Approach
- NEW REPORT: Yesh Din on Systematic Land Theft by Israeli Quarries in the West Bank
- NEW REPORT: Human Rights Watch on Israeli Banks’ Financing of Settlement Expansion
- Updates: Al-Walajah, Ras al-Amud, Halamish, Hebron
- Bonus Reads
Comments, questions, or suggestions? Email Kristin McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
B’Tselem reports that the Civil Administration is set to soon forcibly relocate the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, a war crime under international law. Haaretz confirmed the Israeli government’s intention to carry out the plan. Khan al Ahmar is located in an area that is considered key for Israel’s desired expansion of the Maale Adumim settlement and construction of the new “E-1” settlement.
Last week Israeli officials went to Khan al-Ahmar to tell the residents that their only option was to relocate to a site in the nearby Palestinian city of Abu Dis, next to the Abu Dis garbage dump. The village’s lawyer was not present at the time of the officials’ visit, despite Israeli authorities previously committing to not meet with the residents without their lawyer present.
Khan al-Ahmar’s residents settled in their current West Bank location in the 1950s, by Israel – after having been forced off their lands in the Negev (i.e., inside Israel proper). Israel subsequently declared the land of Khan al-Ahmar to be “state land” and over the years have repeatedly threatened the total demolition of the community. For years, international pressure – which importantly included a strong stance by the Obama Administration specifically regarding the E-1 area – has prevented Israel from going ahead with the demolitions and relocation. The Trump Administration has not commented on this specific matter to date.
Btselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad has penned an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu articulating why the forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar would constitute a war crime under international law. The accompanying press release notes:
Demolition of an entire community in the Occupied Territories is virtually unprecedented since 1967. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel is obliged to respect in all its actions in the West Bank, this amounts to forcible transfer of protected persons, which constitutes a war crime.
B’Tselem has long documented Israel’s routine harassment of the Khan al-Ahmar community. The harassment has included: In 2015, the Israeli Civil Administration confiscated 12 solar panels donated by an international humanitarian group and that served as the sole power source for the community. In 2016, Israel demolished 12 homes, leaving 60 people homeless. In February 2017, Israel issued demolition orders for every structure in the village and that same month, Israel demolished a mobile home, leaving an elderly woman homeless. Settlers from the Maale Adumim settlement have filed petitions (starting in 2011) demanding that the Khan al-Ahmar school – a school that serves not just the Khan al-Ahmar community but others nearby – demolished.
The Israeli High Court of Justice (the equivalent of the Supreme Court) is set to hear petitions and decide on the community’s future on September 25th. Settlers have petitioned to expedite the demolitions, and Khan al-Ahmar community members have petitioned against the demolition orders.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is set to launch a new portal with “up-to-date, granular information” about settlements in the West Bank. [Editor’s note: If you are looking for up-to-date, granular information about Israeli settlements, Peace Now, Terrestrial Jerusalem, Ir Amim, Yesh Din, and many other Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations host it their websites currently. Contact FMEP for additional resources.]
The yet-to-be-revealed portal and its architect, David Makovsky, were given an early endorsement by the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl, in a piece this week entitled “How Trump could save Palestinian statehood.” The article, quoting Makovsky extensively, promotes the notion that Trump can save the hope for peace by adopting a policy according to which, “Netanyahu stops building in areas beyond the West Bank fence, and Abbas stops paying off militants and their families.”
For people who follow the work of Makovsky and his WINEP colleague Dennis Ross, this logic should sound familiar; it is nearly identical to what Ross has been proposing, over and over, since 2013 (see also, for example: March 2015, Feb 2016, Nov 2016, Jan 2017). At the core of this logic is the notion that Israel getting U.S. backing to, in effect, unilaterally annex around 10% of the West Bank – including areas that obstruct the contiguity of a future Palestinian state and that will prevent the possibility of any viable Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem – should be seen as a generous Israeli concession to the Palestinians and a down-payment on a peace agreement.
FMEP’s Lara Friedman deconstructed these arguments back in 2013 – that analysis has not changed. As she noted back in 2013, this approach:
“…is a recipe not for strengthening the two-state solution, but for imposing a unilateral Israeli vision of a Greater Israel extending beyond the Green Line, adjacent to a balkanized Palestinian entity. Such an outcome may be appealing to Benjamin Netanyahu and his U.S. apologists. It will never be acceptable to the Palestinians and the international community, and it certainly shouldn’t be mistaken for a “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
In its new report, “The Great Drain: Israeli quarries in the West Bank: High Court Sanctioned Institutionalized Theft,” the Israeli non-governmental organization Yesh Din documents how Israel’s mining and quarry activities in the West Bank constitute economic exploitation of the occupied West Bank for Israel’s exclusive profit, in violation of international law. In 2008, Yesh Din petitioned the High Court to stop all such activities; that petition was rejected.
Key findings in the new report include:
- Since the High Court of Justice ruled against Yesh Din’s 2008 petition, Israel has dramatically expanded its mining and quarrying activities in the West Bank.
- Over 20% of the State of Israel’s general consumption of gravel now comes from the quarries in the Occupied Territories.
- Official documents indicate that the Israeli authorities have a long-term plan to rely on the mining potential in the West Bank for at least the next 30 years.
Yesh Din concludes: “Decades of Israeli looting of natural resources in the West Bank are the embodiment of colonialism. In practice, the High Court ruling has rendered meaningless the acceptable interpretation of international humanitarian law, leaving in place the continued, irreversible exploitation of the occupied territory for the Israel’s economic purposes.”
In its new report, “Israeli Law and Banking in the West Bank,” Human Rights Watch document how Israeli banks are failing to respect international humanitarian law by providing services to and in settlements. In doing so, the banks contribute to the expansion and entrenchment of settlements, at the expense of Palestinians.
Key findings of the report include:
- All five of Israel’s largest banks, as well as the Bank of Israel (Israel’s central bank) are operating in settlements. These five largest banks are: Bank Leumi, Hapoalim, Bank Discount, Mizrahi Tfahot, and First International Bank of Israel.
- The Israeli Association of Banks claimed to be legally obliged to offer financial services in and to settlements under Israel’s Anti-Discrimination Law (5761-2000), but the Association did not explain how refusing to provide services to settlements would constitute discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, religion, or political views. (Israel’s Anti-Discrimination Act was recently amended to require businesses, including banks, to notify customers if they decline to provide services to settlements. However, the amended version of the law does not require businesses to provide services to settlements.)
- Israel’s domestic “Banking Law” is applied to settlements via military order, which violates international humanitarian law.
- The Banking Law only prohibits banks for unreasonably refusing to provide three services: receiving deposits, opening and managing a checking account, and issuing bankers’ checks. No other services are required/obligated under the Banking Law.
The report concludes, “Human Rights Watch does not believe it is possible for businesses to operate in the settlements in compliance with their international responsibilities, due to the inherent international humanitarian law and human rights violations that characterize settlements. Human Rights Watch is calling for banks, like other businesses, to comply with their own human rights responsibilities by ceasing settlement-related activities.”
- In Al-Walajah, Israelis and Palestinians marched together in protest of a wave of pending home demolitions and the imminent completion of the separation barrier which will completely encircle the village. Israel resumed construction of the wall in April and has issued dozens of demolition notices to the residents since then. In early August, al-Walaja residents formed a human barrier to prevent Israeli bulldozers from demolishing one of the threatened homes. Since then, Israel has not attempted to execute another demolition.
- Israel demolished a two-story apartment building in the Ras al-Amud, a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem. B’Tselem reports that Israel has demolished 45 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in 2017.
- In the area near the settlement of Halamish (where several members of an Israeli family were brutally murdered earlier this year), Kerem Navot has updated reporting on how road closures and plans for a new bypass road are leading to the settlement’s expansion and takeover of the Umm Saffa forest, a nature reserve.
- In Hebron, the Israeli settlers who broke into and illegally set up residence in the disputed “Machpela House” continue to remain in the house, under the protection of the Israeli army. They even received a visit from the Israeli Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri (Shas), this week. The High Court of Justice has not made a decision on the ownership of the house, and has granted the settlers’ wish to delay their evacuation from the house, going against an order from the Israeli Attorney General.
- “Law But Not Justice in Sheikh Jarrah” (Times of Israel)
- “WATCH: Settler attacks left-wing activist” (+972 Magazine)
- “Have Amona ‘refugees’ found recipe for post-evacuation success?” (Times of Israel)
- “Drowning in the Waste of Israeli Settlers” (Al Jazeera)
FMEP has long been a trusted resource on settlement-related issues, reflecting both the excellent work of our grantees on the ground and our own in-house expertise. FMEP’s focus on settlements derives from our commitment to achieving lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, and our recognition of the fact that Israeli settlements – established for the explicit purpose of dispossessing Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem of land and resources, and depriving them of the very possibility of self-determination in their own state with borders based on the 1967 lines – are antithetical to that goal.