Qaryut, Occupied Palestine – Settlers from the illegal colony of Shilo set fire to land belonging to the nearby village of Qaryut. Around 25 families own land in this area. The land contained wheat crops and olive trees and is next to land previously stolen by settlers, which they had been cultivating for themselves only two days before.
Illegal Shilo settler Moshka takes pictures of his handiwork, torching Palestinian land (Photo by Qaryut villagers)
Red Crescent paramedics went to the scene of the fires at around 6pm, where many villagers had already arrived hoping to put out the fires. However they were prevented from doing so by four settlers and half a dozen soldiers who had turned up to protect the settlers. Villagers were made to stand and watch their future harvest go up in flames. With the fires building up they had nothing to do but argue in vain with the soldiers about the gross immorality of the situation.
The settlers present also prevented the fire from spreading on to the annexed land they have been cultivating. It was clear to see the fires had been deliberately lit as there were many separate fires in a close range, rather than one large fire spreading on the overcast and wet day. Villagers witnessed Moshka, one of the settlers – (who is a regular problem causer; his son is a patrolman for the settlement too) – use a lighter to set fire to their land. The fire was only put out by the arrival of heavy and atypical rain from a thunderstorm an hour later.
Two days prior to this attack the settlers had started ploughing stolen land and cut down four trees. They have been expanding the settlement on the Palestinian side of the highway to Ramallah and Jerusalem. Fifteen dunams of land was torched. Meanwhile two dunums of wheatfields had been burnt in the South Hebron Hills earlier that day.
A familiar sight, soldiers and settlers working together (Photo by Qaryut villagers)
- Tree planting met by tear gas and settlers’ death threats (palsolidarity.org)
- Witnesses: Settlers open fire at Palestinian homes in Hebron village (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Settlers Attack Palestinian Property, Graves, Near Nablus (imemc.org)
As Israeli justice minister, Tzipi Livni, met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday, the Israel Civil Administration approved a plan to build 296 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beit El; an Israeli newspaper reported.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon approved the construction of the new housing units in line with a promise the government had made to settlers. A previous Israeli government had promised to build 90 new housing units in the settlements in an attempt to prevent clashes during the eviction of the Ulpana settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously made undertakings to stop further settlement construction until next June when he met with Kerry, angering heads of settler groups.
According to the newspaper, Ya’alon met with heads of Jewish settlers on Tuesday and told them that construction would indeed continue. Netanyahu confirmed that there were delays in issuing construction bids due to errors, but that they would be issued soon.
Settlers hoped that the approval of new housing units would mean the beginning of further settlement plans in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In Rome, Livni hoped that “enthusiastic and determined” Kerry would move the peace process forward after four years of stalemate.
“We believe that re-launching the negotiations and achieving an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is in the Israeli interest, but yet there is a need for Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to create something new after four years of stagnation,” Livni said.
Kerry has been holding talks with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab officials for months. The Israeli newspaper said that he is expected to meet Netanyahu and Abbas separately later in May.
The US Secretary of State said, “I think it is fair to say that we are working through threshold questions and we are doing it with a seriousness of purpose, which I think Minister Livni would agree with, has not been present for a while.”
Stressing the importance of achieving something as soon as possible Livni said, “We all believe that we are working with a short time span. We understand the imperative to try to have some sense of direction as rapidly as we can.”
Kerry has been mobilizing Arab support for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in case he is obliged to offer concessions to Israelis in order to reach a peace deal. Kerry also hopes to set up foundations for a wider peace with the Arab states.
Recently, he achieved a diplomatic victory when the Arab league delegation in Washington announced an agreement to accept that a land swap deal could be reached between Palestinians and Israelis based on the 1967 borders.
Jewish settlers raided a West Bank village near Ramallah on Saturday night, attacking several houses and prompting clashes between residents and Israeli forces, Ma’an news agency reported.
Israeli forces were standing guard as hundreds of settlers stormed the village of Ras Karkar, reportedly barring ambulances from entering the village before allowing an ambulance to take only two people to the hospital.
Eight residents of Ras Karkar were wounded as Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. Live bullets were also fired into the air to scare the residents and prevent them from defending their property.
Rubber-coated bullets hit one Palestinian in the eye, one in the head and another in the chest. Four others sustained bruises and fractures from the attack by settlers and Israeli troops, locals said.
According to local sources, three houses in Ras Karkar were attacked and set on fire, as well as a number of olive trees.
One settler was wounded after being hit by a stone.
Settlers were also gearing up to attack another village near Ramallah on Sunday, Ma’an reported.
According to a witness, dozens of settlers were being escorted by Israeli troops and police officers near the village of al-Janiya in northwest Ramallah.
Residents of al-Janiya were trying to close the road to the village with rocks, only to be met with stun grenades and tear gas. Activists used the village mosque’s loudspeakers to urge residents to defend their village.
Settlers routinely attack Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli forces regularly turn a blind eye or even assist settler crimes.
According to figures compiled by Israeli group Yesh Din, nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.
(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar, Photo Credit – Ma’an)
A Palestinian man stabbed dead an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, the Israeli ambulance service and police said, in what may have been a response to a violent settler attack on a nearby village one day earlier that left two elderly Palestinians hospitalized.
“The Palestinian suspect stabbed an Israeli sitting at a bus stop. He died,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, adding that the incident took place near a major junction which lies south of the city of Nablus.
It was the first time an Israeli has been killed by a Palestinian in the West Bank since 2011.
Israeli media said the attacker was standing at a bus stop used by settlers, Israeli soldiers and Palestinians when he stabbed the Israeli, a man in his 20′s.
The suspect then seized a gun carried by the settler. He began shooting at security services who arrived on the scene, Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said, adding that the man was in custody.
The Palestinian, a resident of the northern town of Tulkarem, was injured and admitted to an Israeli hospital.
The incident may have been motivated by a settler attack Monday in Nablus that left two elderly Palestinian men with severe head injuries.
Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that three settlers from the Itamar outpost raided Beit Furik and attacked residents with “sharp tools.”
Fawzi Nasasra, 60, and Abdul Rahman Khatatba, 50, were taken to hospital to be treated.
Settler attacks against Palestinians and their property is routine in the occupied West Bank and rarely punished by Israeli authorities.
Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.
The Israeli internal security service, Shin Beit, has said that during 2012 no Israelis were killed in the West Bank. In March 2011 two settlers and three of their young children were stabbed to death in their home.
Nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of the year in various attacks, mainly in clashes that have risen sharply in recent months.
According to B’Tselem, an Israeli Information Center, an estimated 520,456 settlers live in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
There are over 121 settlements and around 100 “settlement outposts.” There are around 12 settlements in Jerusalem in areas annexed from Palestinian neighborhoods. Settlements in the West Bank are connected by Jewish-only highways.
Israel has come under widespread international criticism for ramping up its construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories, notably in occupied east Jerusalem.
All Israeli settlements on Palestinian land beyond the so-called 1949 Green Line are considered illegal under international law.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar, Ma’an)
- Settlers plant trees in Palestinian fields near Nablus (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Israel demolishes West Bank homes, water wells (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A Catholic monastery and convent in a secluded valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the building of Israel’s apartheid wall on its land on Friday, according to its lawyers.
The Society of Saint Yves, a Catholic human rights group which argued the case on the monastery’s behalf, said an Israeli appeals court had endorsed a plan to expand the barrier it had built in the area.
The apartheid wall would surround the convent on three sides and cut it off from most of its land, Saint Yves said in a statement.
Salesian monks and nuns tend lush vineyards and olive trees on terraced hillsides under the gaze of Israeli settlements there. A convent school teaches 400 local children.
Israel started building the barrier, a mix of metal fencing, barbed wire and concrete walls, in 2002. It claims the apartheid barrier keeps its citizens safe from militants.
Saint Yves said “that the plan would violate international law and conventions protecting religious minorities and the right to education and freedom of religion”, said Anica Heinlein, its advocacy officer.
Around 50,000 Palestinian Christians, including 17,000 Catholics, live among 4 million Muslims in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza.
They say Israel’s checkpoints and apartheid barrier cut them off from their neighbors and holy places in Jerusalem.
Some 90 percent of Palestinian Christians live in a 20-km stretch from Ramallah and East Jerusalem to Bethlehem – an area locked in a labyrinth of Jewish settlements, Israeli-only roads and a drab concrete walls.
Built mostly within occupied land and not on the “Green Line”, which was the de facto border before the 1967 War, the apartheid barrier inside the West Bank is deemed illegal by the UN’s International Court of Justice.
The Palestinian Authority says the Christian population in the West Bank has shrunk over the last three decades due to emigration, but it lacks accurate figures.
“The occupation hurts Christians and Muslims both, but affects the Christian community more because it’s a smaller percentage of the population,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a diplomat in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
“This is a matter of their survival, as this is one of the last pieces of land the community owns,” he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres will meet the newly elected pope next week during a visit to Italy.
The two men are due to discuss ties between Israel and the Vatican and improving relations between Christians and Jews. It was not immediately clear if the new pontiff would raise the issue of the monastery.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – There are growing concerns for the safety of non-violent Palestinian activist and organiser Issa Amro, following a recent letter to Israeli security forces from Israeli settlers of Hebron, accusing Amro of terrorism and incitement, and warning that a failure of the Israeli authorities to remove him “could be costly”, and threatening “bloodshed”. This is the latest in a long line of threats and attacks against UN human rights award winner Amro.
In the letter, the mayor of the Jewish “Hebron Municipal Council” and the director general of the “Hebron Jewish Community” insist that army commanders “use administrative detention until you are able to find a long-term solution to completely end this hostile and dangerous activity” referring to Amro’s extensive work with various human rights groups. The full letter can be read here.
Amro has been violently attacked by this same community of Israeli settlers many times in the past – his nose and wrist have been broken and he received five stitches to his head. He and his family regularly receive death threats from the settlers of Hebron over the phone, continuing their campaign of threats and violence against him.
Despite having received numerous death threats and abuse from settlers over a period of many years, Amro is particularly concerned about the letter of the 20th March, because of the status and influence of its authors. Various Zionist websites have since issued calls for his execution, publishing various pictures of his face marked by red circles. Despite Amro’s long dedication to non-violent principles he is constantly identified as a terrorist by these websites.
You can see examples of this here :
Amro states “I have been arrested and detained on too many occasions to count, but I have never been charged with anything.” He says that he is regularly abducted by soldiers from his home, blindfolded and driven around for several hours before being left back at his house. On other occasions, he has been beaten by soldiers who have threatened to kill him and his family. During his most recent arrest in March 2013, Amro was stripped naked and made to stand outside for three hours.
On the 27th of March 2013 there was an arson attempt against the Youth Against Settlements community centre in Tel Rumeida – Amro was verbally abused and humiliated by police officers when he attempted to file a complaint and was ejected from their office twice before the complaint was filed. There has yet to be any investigation by the police.
Issa Amro has been involved in founding many non-violent organisations in Hebron, working peacefully against the occupation. This includes the Hebron branch of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Arab Non-Violence Network, Youth Against Settlements and the Hebron Defenders. He won the One World media award in 2009 for his involvement B’tselem’s “Shooting Back” project, which provides media training and distributes cameras to Palestinians to document settler and military abuse for Palestinians. Amro’s work with these organisations, as well as numerous other projects intending to document and non-violently resist human rights abuses and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements led to his winning of the UN OHCHR ‘Human Rights Defender of the Year in Palestine’ award in 2010.
- Zionists attempt to intimidate International Solidarity Movement (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Journalists detained in Hebron, leading to two arrests and threats to restrict Palestinian movement (alethonews.wordpress.com)
At the precise moment US President Barack Obama’s Air Force One touched down at Ben Gurion Airport on March 20, persisting illusions quickly began to shatter. And as he walked on the red carpet, showered with accolades and warm embraces of top Israeli government and military officials, a new/old reality began to sink in: Obama was no different than his predecessors. He never had been.
On the day of Obama’s arrival, Israeli rights group B’Tselem, released a disturbing video. It was of Israeli soldiers carrying out a ‘mass arrest’ of nearly 30 Palestinian children on their way to school in the Palestinian city of al-Khalil (Hebron). The children plead and cried to no avail. Their terrified shrieks echoed throughout the Palestinian neighborhood as they tried to summon the help of passersby. “‘Amo’ – Uncle,” one begged, “for God sake don’t let them take me.” Nonetheless, several military vehicles were filled with crying children and their school bags. But what made the release of the video truly apt is the fact that it was released on the day president Obama was meeting Israeli children at a welcoming ceremony at the home of Israeli President Shimon Peres.
“Their dreams are much the same as children everywhere,” he said, referring to Israeli children, of course. “In another sense though their lives reflect the difficult reality that Israelis face every single day. They want to be safe, they want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools.”
Many Palestinians immediately pointed out the moral discrepancies in most of Obama’s statements throughout his stay in Israel. Still, his visit was ‘historic’ declared numerous headlines in the US and Israeli media.
However, aside from the fact that it was his first trip to Israel as a president, it was barely momentous. His unconditional support for Israel has been tedious and redundant, predictable even. Those who have followed his unswerving pro-Israel legacy – including his visit to Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, his talks before the Israeli lobby group AIPAC and many other examples – could barely discern a shift, except perhaps, in the total disinterest in political sensibility and balance.
He truly delivered in Israel. This was to the total satisfaction of the Israeli Prime Minister and his pro-settler government which was assembled shortly before Obama’s arrival. Obama spoke as if he were entirely oblivious to the political shift to the extreme right underway in Israel. Indeed, the new Israeli government is more right-wing than ever before. The extremist Jewish Home party has three important ministries, including Jerusalem and Housing and the ultra-nationalists of Yisraeli Beiteinu have been awarded the tourism ministry. It means that the next few years will be a settlement construction bonanza, ‘ethnic cleaning’ and greater Apartheid.
“It’s good to be back in The Land (Israel),” Obama said in Hebrew, at the Tel Aviv airport. “The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.”
It is believed that for four years, Obama has failed to live up to the nearly impossible expectations of Israel. Israel requires a president with good oratory skills – for example, to emphasize the ‘eternal’ bond between his country and Israel, as Obama did – who is able to sign big checks and ask few questions. Obama has of course done that and more. Aside from the 3.1 billion dollars in financial support, he has rerouted hundreds of millions of US funds to bankroll Israel’s air defense system, the Iron Dome, whose efficiency is questionable at best.
Obama’s past transgression, as far as Israel is concerned, is that he dared ask the right-wing government of Netanyahu to temporarily freeze settlement construction as a pre-condition to restart the stalled – if not dead – peace process. Of course, there is the widely reported matter of Obama’s lack of fondness of Netanyahu, his antics and renowned arrogance. But that matters little, since Israel’s illegal settlements continued to thrive during Obama’s first term in office.
Expectedly, Netanyahu was gloating. He has managed to assemble a government that will cater mostly to extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank and also masterfully managed to humble the US president, or at least quash his ambitions that the US is capable of operating independently in the Middle East, without Israeli consent or interests in mind.
Now that Jewish colonies are flourishing – with occupied East Jerusalem area EI being another major exploit – Netanyahu is once more aspiring for a war against Iran, one that would not be possible without US funding, support and likely direct involvement. “Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while standing near the mostly US-funded Iron Dome. “Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself, by itself against any threat.”
Obama did in fact spare a few, although, spurious thoughts for Palestinians. “Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes,” he said to an Israeli audience. “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.”
One would even applaud the seeming moral fortitude if it were not for the pesky matter that the US had voted against a Palestinian state at the United Nations last November and tried to intimidate those who did. And of course, much of the horror that Palestinian ‘eyes’ have seen throughout the years was funded and defended by US money and action. If Obama is trying to resurrect the myth that the US is a well-intentioned bystander or an ‘honest broker’ in some distant conflict, then he has utterly failed. His country is fully embroiled in the conflict, and directly so. Many Palestinian children would still be alive today if the US government had conditioned its massive support of Israel on ending the occupation and ceasing the brutality against Palestinians.
In a joint press conference in Ramallah, alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama even demanded Palestinians drop their condition (proposed by Obama himself) of a settlement freeze in order to return to the so-called peace talks. “That’s not to say settlements aren’t important, that’s to say if we resolve the (main) problems, then settlements will be resolved,” he said. “If to begin the conversation we have to get everything right from the outset … then we’re never going to get to the broader issue,” Obama added. The broader issue, according to the US president is “how do you structure a state of Palestine,” which again, Obama voted against last year, and passionately so.
Aside from resounding rhetoric about peace, Obama is finally towing the Israeli line exactly as Netanyahu and the lobby would expect of him, or of any other US president. He has little to offer Palestinians, or Arab nations, but much to expect from them. Arab states must seek normalized relations with Israel, and Palestinians must “recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security,” he lectured in Jerusalem on the second day of his trip, reported CNN online. The obvious danger here lies in the fact that Israel oftentimes conflates ‘security’ and its ‘right to defend itself’ by mass arresting children on their way to school in Hebron, or by inflicting or supporting wars against other nations – Lebanon, Iraq and now Iran.
Obama will eventually get back to his Oval Office desk, ready to resume work as usual. This will include the signing of many papers concerning additional funds, loans, military technology transfers and much more for Israel. Palestinians meanwhile will carry on with their long fight for freedom, without his noted oratory skills.
Meanwhile, the families of the 30 children kidnapped by the Israeli army in Hebron will have many days ahead of them in Israeli military court. But that, of course, is a different matter, of no concern to Obama and his many quotable peace antics.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.
- Obama Gives Up on Peace (nationalinterest.org)
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – In the afternoon of the 24th March, two Palestinian Al Jazeera journalists arrived into Hebron to interview a Palestinian family living near the illegal Israeli settlement in the area of Tel Rumeida. When they arrived, settlers called the Israeli military and police, who arrived and confiscated the journalists’ ID cards, despite having seen their press credentials. The Al Jazeera reporters had their ID cards returned after around an hour, but two Hebron Palestinians who attempted to intervene on their behalf with police were arrested and removed in a police car. Their status is currently unknown and no reason was given for their arrest.
After the journalists were apprehended, police and settlers arrived into the area with rolls of barbed wire, informing another Palestinian resident that his primary access to the main road would be closed. Hashem Azzeh and his family live underneath the Tel Rumeida settlement, with their access to the main road running directly next to the settlement. This path has been repeatedly closed by the Israeli authorities since 2000, and was only opened most recently in late 2012 after extensive legal battles in the Israeli courts.
The police and settlers claimed today that the path would be closed because unapproved people had been walking along it. According to the Israeli authorities, only Hashem, his family and guests walking with them have permission to use the path. Hashem states that he has no knowledge of strangers using this route to access his house.
Without the path, Hashem and his family have to travel a much longer, rock-strewn and hazardous route to leave their home. Hashem said today, “I think they will close my access now, they will say it is for security reasons.” He thinks that the settlers used the arrival of the journalists and the subsequent confusion as a pretext to close his path and restrict his family’s movement, in further attempts to drive them from their home – they already face regular hassle from Israeli authorities and attacks from the settlers, including on Hashem’s young children.
JERUSALEM – Last month, an international fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council found that settlements constituted a violation of international human rights and humanitarian law and called on Israel to stop all expansions immediately and withdraw from settlements.
A controversial Israeli plan, known as E-1, to build thousands of housing units and hotel rooms near the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, has garnered much attention in the media because it would sever Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. (See IRIN’s briefing on E-1 here.)
But at the same time, Israel has been moving forward with equally controversial settlement plans under less scrutiny and with unusual speed.
As US President Barack Obama prepares to visit the region this week, IRIN takes a look at some of the details that have been overlooked in the discussion.
What’s the Giv’at HaMatos plan?
According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim (“City of Nations”), which works to preserve Jerusalem as a home for both Jews and Palestinians, one settlement plan of “critical importance” is Giv’at HaMatos.
In a sense, Giv’at HaMatos does in the south what E-1 does in the east. The planned large housing and hotel complex at the southern perimeter of Jerusalem would further disrupt the contiguity of land between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank required for a future Palestinian state, seriously impeding a two-state solution, research and rights groups say. It would also mark the first new settlement construction in Jerusalem since 1997.
“All construction is problematic but there are several plans that are, in our view, more dangerous if implemented,” Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli NGO Peace Now, told IRIN. “Giv’at HaMatos is the most dangerous plan that is now approved.”
Part of the plan – to build 2,612 units – was approved by the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee on 19 December.
Most of Giv’at HaMatos is currently uninhabited, but according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), which recently released a two-part report on the future of East Jerusalem, its build-up would cut off Arab neighbourhoods in southern Jerusalem, like Beit Safafa and Sharafat, rendering them “Palestinian enclaves”.
Giv’at HaMatos would connect the dots of several other planned or expanding settlements along southern Jerusalem – including Giv’at Yael in the southwest; and Har Homa and East Talpiyot in the southeast – forming “a long Jewish continuum severing Bethlehem’s urban continuum from Palestinian Jerusalem”, ICG said. Last year, the Israeli government also approved more than 2,000 new units in neighbouring Gilo.
This kind of attachment to Jewish expansions could make peace negotiations even harder.
“From an Israeli public opinion perspective, Giv’at HaMatos is in the municipal border of Jerusalem,” Ofran said. “It’s considered a legitimate part of Israel.”
Barak Cohen, the Jerusalem Municipality’s adviser for foreign affairs and media, told IRIN Giv’at HaMatos is part of Jerusalem’s “natural and much-needed growth”, allowing both Arab and Jewish landowners to develop their properties.
Indeed, part of the Giv’at HaMatos plan, approved on 18 December, allows for the building of 549 units for Palestinians – though Betty Herschman, director of international relations and advocacy at Ir Amim, points out much of it retroactively legalizes building that has already been completed. The figures, she added, amount to just over one-fifth of the Jewish expansion.
“For many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost.”
Still, Cohen insisted, the development would benefit Jerusalem as a whole: “Not planning and developing Jerusalem neighbourhoods ultimately harms all residents and landowners – Arabs and Jews alike.”
Last year, Israel also issued tenders for the construction of 606 new housing units north of East Jerusalem, in the Ramot settlement, just north of the Green Line marking the border between Israel and the West Bank, and approved another 1,500 units in the neighbouring settlement of Ramot Shlomo, according to Ir Amim.
What other settlements are planned?
Beyond Jerusalem, there was movement on a number of other settlements projects in disputed areas, according to Settlement Watch.
In June 2012, the Israeli government announced it would build 851 new units in the West Bank, including more than 230 in the controversial settlements of Ariel and Efrat. Like Giv’at HaMatos, these two settlements make a contiguous Palestinian territory impossible, Settlement Watch says.
Overall, settlements expanded much faster than usual last year.
In 2012 the Israeli government approved the construction of 6,676 settler housing units in the West Bank, compared with 1,607 in 2011 and several hundred in 2010, according to Peace Now.
For plans that were already approved, it issued more than 3,000 tenders to construction contractors – more than any other year in the last decade, Peace Now said. Construction has actually begun on 1,747 homes.
Regardless of the settlements, Palestinians, especially in Area C, are under immense pressure. Recent weeks have seen a considerable upswing in demolitions of Palestinian structures. According to the Displacement Working Group, a grouping of aid agencies helping displaced families, Israeli forces destroyed 139 Palestinian structures, including 59 homes, in January – almost triple 2012’s monthly average. The demolitions occurred in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – with a majority taking place in Area C – and left 251 Palestinians, including over 150 children, displaced.
The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories (COGAT) told IRIN there was no connection between the removal of unauthorized buildings and the construction of Israeli settlements. “All construction in the West Bank is subject to building codes and planning laws and unauthorized constructions are dealt with accordingly,” the office said in an email.
What are the knock-on effects?
Settlements are often discussed through the lens of their illegality under international law or as obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But everything associated with the settlements – including Israeli-only infrastructure, the separation barrier, military checkpoints, restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, suppression of freedom of expression and political life, and control of Palestinian natural resources – causes a ripple effect through Palestinian society, adversely impacting the people.
The UN estimates there are now 520,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with 43 percent of the land there allocated to local and regional settlement councils. According to the UN Secretary-General, Israel has transferred roughly 8 percent of its citizens into OPT since the 1970s, altering the demographic composition of the territory and furthering the Palestinian people from their right to self-determination.
Baker, of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, said a future Palestinian state should include a Jewish minority. “The assumption behind this… is that Jews have no right to live in the West Bank, an assumption that we reject. In fact we see ourselves as the true indigenous people of this land.”
But Israeli settlements have violated Palestinian rights to equality under the law, to religious freedom and to freedom of movement, according to the UN fact-finding mission. They have also eroded Palestinian access to water and to agricultural assets, and the ability to develop economically, it said.
Photo: OCHA – View larger version of map here
For example, Bedouins from the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, northeast of E-1, cannot sell their dairy products at their traditional Souq Al Ahmar market any more. Because of movement restrictions (they hold West Bank IDs and lack the proper permits to enter East Jerusalem), they cannot get there.
The UN secretary-general has said that Palestinians “have virtually no control” over the water resources in the West Bank, with 86 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea under the de facto jurisdiction of the settlement regional councils.
There is a statistical correlation between Palestinians’ proximity to settlements and their rates of food insecurity, according to a UN and government survey, which found that one quarter of Palestinians who live in Area C, home to the largest number of settlements in the West Bank, are food insecure. In Areas A and B, the average rate of food insecurity is 17 percent.
In addition, “all spheres of Palestinian life are being significantly affected by a minority of settlers who are engaged in violence and intimidation with the aim of forcing Palestinians off their land,” the mission said.
Operation Dove, an international organization working in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills, reported that Palestinian children have a very hard time going to school due to settler attacks.
The UN and rights groups say radical settlers use violence against Palestinians with impunity and their illegal outposts are often recognized and retroactively legalized by the government.
Since the occupation began, Israel has detained hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, some of them without charge, and some of them children. Most of the minors are arrested “at friction points, such as a village near a settlement or a road used by the army or settlers”, the fact-finding mission said.
Israel uses what they term “administrative detention” when it considers the detainee a threat to the security of the state.
Ir Amim’s Herschman says Israel is also attempting to create a “greater Jerusalem” through additional means, for example: the Israeli separation barrier, planned national parks, and the construction of highways dividing villages, dispossessing Palestinians of their land and making it harder for them to access services like schools and mosques.
In recent weeks, residents of the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa have been protesting against the planned extension of the Begin Highway that would divide their village in order to connect major Israeli settlement blocks outside the city to Jerusalem.
The planned root of the separation barrier, in addition to a potential national park around the perimeter of the barrier would also close off nearby Palestinian village al-Wallajeh.
The planned route of the barrier extends all the way around and far beyond Muale Adummim and in other areas south and north of Jerusalem. “These lines are a unilateral declaration of a much greater Jerusalem, a unilateral expanding of the boundaries, an exponential increase,” she told IRIN.
Or as the ICG put it, “for many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost.”
On 16 March 2013 the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee built a tent to protect school children from Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed while they wait for their military escort. Hours after the ceremonious construction of the tent — attended by villagers, school children, internationals and various media outlets — was over, the Israeli military demolished the tent and arrested one of the internationals present.
The schoolchildren coming from Tuba and Maghayire Al Abeed walk between the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the outpost of Havat Ma’on in order to get to school in At-Tuwani. Since 2001 settlers have repeatedly attacked the children along this route, preventing most of the children, who feared for their safety, from being able to attend school. In 2004 volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Operation Dove began accompanying the children along the path, but the violent attacks continued. These attacks brought the matter to the attention of the Children Rights Committee of the Knesset, which established in November 2004 a military escort to protect the children.
Since November 2004, CPT and Operation Dove have constantly monitored the military escort, documenting the failures of the Israeli army as well as settler violence toward the children. During the school year 2011-2012, the volunteers of Operation Dove and CPT published a report, The Dangerous Road to Education, which found that in 35% of cases the military escort was late. In addition, in 48% of cases, the military escort arrived late after school, forcing the children to wait for a total time of about 21 hours. There is nothing to shelter the children, some as young as six years old, from the elements as they wait for their unpunctual military escort.
The Popular Committee wanted to give the children a tent to shelter them while they wait. The event had around one hundred in attendance. These included some of the children whom the tent was being made for, teachers and administrators from the school, CPT and other international organizations, Palestinians from At-Tuwani and surrounding villagers and the media. The crowd was immediately met by soldiers who filmed all the attendees and took down Palestinian flags that children had put up around the building area. The children played and chanted in front of the soldiers while settlers on the next hilltop yelled down at them, “Kill all the Arabs.” The tent was completed and christened “Michele’s tent” after the late daughter of the Italian woman who funded the project.
As the afternoon wore on the crowd started to leave. Two hours after the tent was build the Israeli military demolished it and arrested one of the international volunteers who had remained there. The volunteer was released, but must leave the West Bank for two weeks. The Popular Committee plans to rebuild the tent, but as for now the schoolchildren will have to wait out in the rain when they return to school on Sunday.
- Israeli forces demolish in two villages, damage a crucial road in South Hebron Hills (palsolidarity.org)
- P/R: Palestinian village under demolition threat, Firing Zone 918 (ramyabdeljabbar.wordpress.com)
- Soldiers Kidnap Several Palestinian Children in Hebron (nsnbc.me)
- Palestine: Israeli soldiers wreak havoc in Jordan Valley village & confrontations (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
- Jenba, the Frontline. (gregsrole.wordpress.com)
- 12 year old boy beaten by soldiers in Azzun (palsolidarity.org)
Israel on Monday will begin segregating certain buses in the occupied West Bank to appease Jewish settlers who say they are afraid of sharing a ride with Palestinians, Israeli media reported.
Buses operated by the Afikim bus company that transport passengers from the Eyal checkpoint into central Israel will now have separate lines for settlers and Palestinians.
Unnamed sources from Israel’s transportation ministry told Ynet that the project was developed to calm the nerves of settlers who say that Arabs pose a security threat.
But officially, the ministry has billed the controversial move as a plan to “improve services.”
“The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing,” Ynet quoted a ministry statement as saying.
- Israel must remove all Jewish settlers from occupied West Bank – UN inquiry (alethonews.wordpress.com)
An internal report by the European Union has come down hard on Israel’s decision to continue settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem, threatening to end economic projects that involve the Jewish settlements.
The harshly worded 15-page report provides recommendations to the 27 member-states for responding to Israel’s activities in the occupied territories – which the document described as “systematic, deliberate and provocative” – and endorses a strategy that aims at “making it impossible for Jerusalem to become the capital of two states.”
Seven of the report’s 10 recommendations propose slapping tough economic sanctions on organizations directly involved in construction projects in the Jewish settlements, Israeli daily Haaretz reported. The report also called on the EU’s 27 member-states to “prevent, discourage and raise awareness” about doing business with companies that work in the disputed settlement zones.
It advised EU states to work to ensure that products exported from the settlements not receive an unfair advantage through “preferential tariffs,” and to give consumers an opportunity to make an “informed choice” through clear labeling of products’ origins.
The report advocated “closer supervision” of technological research and development programs between the EU and Israel. The measures would work to ensure that “no research grants, scholarships or other technological investments assist settlements, either directly or indirectly,” or be provided to agencies working in the settlements.
Haaretz, which obtained a copy of the report, called the sanctions “particularly severe” compared to earlier EU reports.
The annual report, compiled by EU consuls in Jerusalem and Ramallah, does not require member-states to implement the measures – the document’s recommendations serve as a guidepost for individual EU states in dealing with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In December, several EU countries, including the UK, France and Sweden, summoned their Israeli ambassadors to voice disapproval of the ongoing construction projects.
The report expressed frustration with Israel for its late-November announcement of new settlement construction projects, shortly after the UN General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state – a move strongly condemned by Israel and the US.
The implementation of the Israeli government’s so-called E-1 project “would effectively divide the West Bank into separate northern and southern parts,” the report explained, adding that it would also “prevent Palestinians in East Jerusalem from further urban development and cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”
Israel is “systematically undermining the Palestinian presence” in East Jerusalem through controversial strategies, including “restrictive zoning and planning, demolitions and evacuations, discriminatory access to religious sites, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care, the inadequate provision of resources,” the report said. … Full article