Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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September 6, 2019
- In Countdown to Election, Bibi Doubles Down on Settlements, Annexation
- 100+ Human Rights Organizations Demand Publication of UN Database of Businesses Operating in Settlements
- Bonus Reads
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Two weeks out from election day, Prime Minister Netanyahu has continued escalating his all-out efforts to shore up the right-wing settler vote, in two events in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu Promises “Jewish Sovereignty” Over All Settlements & Outposts
Speaking at a grade school in the Elkana settlement on September 1st, Netanyahu said:
“With the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities, as part of the [biblical] Land of Israel, and as part of the state of Israel.”
The Yesha Council – the umbrella group that represents all settlements in the West Bank – head Hananel Durani praised Netanyahu for the statement, saying:
“This is another step on the road to the application of sovereignty. Sovereignty is the settlement vision, one that we have dreamed of for years and which would be happy to see come to fruition as soon as possible.”
Netanyahu’s now routine call for annexing all of the settlements (outposts included) was insufficient for the “Sovereignty Movement” – a radical and increasingly influential right-wing Israeli advocacy group which started as an offshoot of “Women in Green” – said that Israel must annex the entire West Bank. In a statement, the group’s leaders suggested that anything short of total annexation of the West Bank would allow for the Palestinians to create a state, and that:
“such an entity would pose a security and strategic threat to the heart of the State of Israel, and in particular would be a serious blow to the Zionist-Jewish vision to which Israel has yearned for in its years of exile, i.e., the restoration of Israeli sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s remarks drew a sharply critical response from other quarters, for very different reasons – including the fact that this was the first time Netanyahu called for “Jewish sovereignty” (elevating a racial/religious framework for annexation) as opposed to “Israeli sovereignty” (a national framework for annexation). MK Ofer Cassif (United Arab List) responded:
“Netanyahu did not talk about Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in the Occupied Territories, but about Jewish sovereignty. Make no mistake about his intentions. The prime minister has publicly declared that he is interested in apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”
A spokesperson for Netanyahu later clarified the remarks to foreign media, stating that Netanyahu did not mean to endorse the application of religious law, but of “Israeli national law.”
For first time in 21 years, Netanyahu Goes to Hebron
Netanyahu and several senior leaders in his Likud Party went to Hebron on September 5th to speak at an event commemorating the 90th anniversary of the 1929 violent riots in Hebron during which 67 Jews were murdered. The much-hyped event – hosted by the Hebron settlers — marked Netanyahu’s first visit to Hebron since 1998, and he became the first Israeli Prime Minister in history to speak at a ceremonial event at the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Haram al-Ibrahimi Mosque.
The overarching message of the visit was support for the settlers and Israel’s control over Hebron, including in a grandiose speech in which Netanyahu promised to never remove settlers from Hebron:
“we are not strangers in Hebron and will remain in the city forever. We are not here to disinherit anyone, but no one will disinherit us (from here). We have come here to unite in memory, to express victory over bloodthirsty rioters who committed this horrific massacre 90 years ago. They were sure that they uprooted us for good, but they made a huge mistake.”
In anticipation of the event, settlers called on Netanyahu to use the visit to announce a new settlement in the wholesale market of Hebron. In parallel, Peace Now outlined seven compelling reasons why Israel should not build a new settlement in the Hebron marketplace, and provided a detailed history of Palestinian and Jewish histories in Hebron. Peace Now wrote:
“The irony is that the settlers claim that the 1929 massacre led to the expulsion of the Jews from the land on which the wholesale market stands, but under Israeli rule, the 1994 massacre (of the settler Baruch Goldstein) led to the expulsion of the Palestinians from the wholesale market. It now emerges that, according to the Defense Ministry’s legal advice, because of their massacre, the Palestinians are losing their rights.”
Although Netanyahu disappointed the settlers (by not announcing the new settlement), Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein – a senior figure in Netanyahu’s own political party (Likud) – did not hedge on promising annexation of Hebron. Edelstein said:
“it is time to impose sovereignty. We did not return in all out might to this place, a place where out legacy lies and where Jews have dreamed about for generations. It is time that the Jewish settlement in Hebron grows by the thousands.”
Likewise, Miri Regev, also a member of the Likud party and the current Minister of Culture, told the crowd:
“There is no better time to announce Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and no better place than here, Hebron and the Tombs of Forefathers & Mothers – the place of the first purchase of Abraham in the land of Israel. There is no better time to announce Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and no better place than here, Hebron and the Tombs of Forefathers & Mothers – the place of the first purchase of Abraham in the land of Israel.”
100+ Human Rights Organizations Demand Publication of UN Database of Businesses Operating in Settlements
More than 100 organizations penned a letter to Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, demanding the publication of a database listing businesses operating inside Israeli settlements, in contravention to international law. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on March 24, 2016 mandating the creation of the database listing the business enterprises that “have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”
The signing organizations write:
“In the OPT, as in other cases of belligerent occupation, the absence of accountability has enabled the Occupying Power, Israel, to engage in activity in violation of international law in the occupied territory with near total impunity. This has allowed many private actors, including businesses, to contribute to and benefit from, sometimes unwittingly, gross human rights violations. The 2013 report of the UN commissioned International Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the human rights of the Palestinian people, found that ‘business enterprises have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements’. This has detrimentally affected the lives of millions of Palestinians, depriving them of their fundamental human rights. In light of the aforementioned, and your undertaking in your letter of 4 March 2019 to the HRC President to finalize the mandated activity ‘in coming months,’ the undersigned organizations urge you, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to fully implement the mandate provided in HRC resolution 31/36, by releasing and transmitting the data including the names of companies involved in the specified activities, to the Human Rights Council, so that it may be considered at the Council’s 42nd session in September 2019, and by annually updating the Database.”
The database is meant to assist UN member states in complying with their legal obligations under international law. International legal scholar Valentina Azarova explained:
“The UN database is a mechanism to document, report, and engage primary interested parties. It does not have the mandate to adjudicate the responsibility of concerned parties, nor to act as a coercive tool of law enforcement. Thus, commentators who refer to it as a “blacklist” misrepresent it and undermine its legitimacy.”