Apart from the political dimension, one can’t really find the right words to describe the scandal of PA willingness to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on protecting the security of Israeli settlements in the West Bank when more than 70% of Palestinians live under the poverty line.
Israel builds settlements, PA guards them
By Khalid Amayeh in Occupied Jerusalem
PLO official Nabil Shaath threw a bombshell this week when he told Israeli reporters in Ramallah that the Palestinian Authority (PA) spends a large portion of its meager budget on guarding Israeli colonies against possible attacks by Palestinian resistance fighters.
Shaath, who is known for his honesty and candidness, said the PA was spending more funds on protecting Israeli settlements than it was on education and health in the occupied territories.
Fatah spokespersons said Shaath was trying to tell the Israeli public that the PA was doing all it could to keep the peace and honor signed agreements with Israel .
This is really a shocking, though not surprising- admission which should embarrass all Palestinians, especially those still giving the PA the benefit of the doubt and thinking that the PLO is still the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
We all know that the PA is filling the ether with never-ending complaints about Jewish settlement expansion. So one wonders how the world will take the PA seriously ever after this scandalous revelation, which really illustrates the moral and political schizophrenia overwhelming the PLO-PA leadership. Others, who are less diplomatic, would not hesitate to consider the matter a brazen treason to the Palestinian people and their aspiration for independence and freedom.
The PA used to call itself “the Palestinian National Authority.” Now, The State of Palestine” is replacing the PA as the official name of the semi-autonomous regime. Unfortunately both names are devoid of substance as the Israeli occupation continues to control every street and neighborhood in the West Bank .
It is really disgraceful that the PA regime always strives to appease the Israeli occupiers, not only by allocating hard-earned or politically-motivated aid money for protecting Jewish colonies but also by continuing to arrest and round up Palestinians deemed supportive of Islamic groups.
This is actually more than disgraceful. In the final analysis, we are protecting child-killers, land-grabbers, and terrorists who vandalize our mosques and torch our grain fields and live orchards.
As to terrorizing Palestinians on behalf of Israel, it shows that the PA is decidedly at Israel’s beck and call, which means that the PA is actually answerable to the Zionist regime, its whims and vagaries when the Ramallah regime ought to be responsible to the Palestinian people.
Apart from the political dimension, one can’t really find the right words to describe the scandal of PA willingness to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on protecting the security of Israeli settlements in the West Bank when more than 70% of Palestinians live under the poverty line.
More to the point, the PA, including the new government headed by Rami Hamdallah, lacks the courage to tell the truth to the Palestinian masses about its umbilical subservience to Israel.
Instead, the PA continues to indulge in cheap rhetoric and lies about Palestinian statehood when even the most casual observers have come to realize that establishing a viable and territorially contiguous state is no longer a realistic possibility in light of the massive expansion of Jewish settlements and the adamant rejection by Israel of any compromises that would allow the Palestinian people to reclaim even a small part of their usurped rights.
In fact, the PA is not only deceiving the Palestinian people. It is also deceiving Arab states and the Muslim public opinion by insisting that donated Arab aid would enhance Palestinian steadfastness and thwart colonialist Zionist schemes. Well, the truth, the naked truth, is that Arab and non-Arab aid money is used to enhance the security of Jewish settlements, not Palestinian steadfastness.
Well, the next time a PA official comes to ask for more money from Arab states; he should be asked how much money the PA spends on education as opposed to protecting Nazi-like Jewish settlers hell-bent on ethnically cleansing our people from our ancestral homeland.
The Palestinian people, thoroughly exhausted by an economic meltdown and cheated by the world community as well as its own leadership, should also bring the PA to account and ask it about the merits of keeping up and funding 70,000 security personnel whose main job is protecting Israeli settlement security.
This week, PA economy minister reportedly met with his Israeli counterpart and agreed on more “economic coordination.” This shows that the PA never learns from its mistakes.
Following the hapless Oslo Accords, the PLO promised the Palestinian people that the West Bank and Gaza Strip would soon become the Hong Kong and Singapore of the Middle East. The truth of the matter, however, is that the occupied territories effectively became the Somalia of the Arab world as poverty, economic depravity and unemployment skyrocketed as never before.
The former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad eventually reached the conclusion that it was impossible to build a prosperous economy under a sinister foreign military occupation.
Now, the new government in Ramallah is walking in the same path, which proved catastrophic, thinking that Palestinians can achieve economic prosperity in the absence of Palestinian sovereignty and freedom of movement.
Politically, the PLO-PA establishment is behaving like Alice in Wonderland. PA officials, including Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, continue to make daily statements claiming that there is still a chance for reaching a peaceful settlement for the protracted conflict when every observer and every pundit, Palestinian and Israeli alike, know well that time has passed peace by, due to massive settlement expansion.
So why is the PLO-PA refusing to see the obvious? Are they blind? Are they drunk? Are they stupid?
Israel effectively barring tourists from West Bank by neglecting to explain mandatory permit
To visit Palestinian-controlled areas, some foreign nationals need military entry permit that Israel doesn’t explain how to get.
Since the beginning of 2013, Israel has forbidden tourists from the United States and other countries to enter the territories under Palestinian Authority control without a military entry permit – but it has not explained the application process to them.
Haaretz has learned of a recent case where clerics from the United States had to sign a declaration at the Ben-Gurion International Airport, promising not to enter Area A without permits from the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories.
The clerics signed the declaration, but representatives of the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority did not explain to them how to get the permits.
Not every tourist who is planning to visit the West Bank is required to sign the declaration, and no criteria have been published for how people are selected to do so.
The American clerics, who spoke with Haaretz on condition of anonymity, were sent by their church to work with Christian communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As a result of the declaration they signed and their inability to decipher the procedure for obtaining the permit, they have been unable to meet with the members of Christian communities in West Bank cities or visit holy places, like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
One of the signers, who turned to the United States Consulate in Jerusalem for help, told Haaretz that the consulate employees are unaware of the existence of the declaration.
The text of the English-language version of the document reads:
“1. I understand that this permit is granted me for entry and visitation within Israel only, and it has been explained to me that I am unable to enter the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority without advance authorization from the Territory Actions Coordinator and I agree to act in accordance with these regulations.
“2. I understand that in the event that I enter any area under the control of the Palestinian Authority without the appropriate authorization all relevant legal actions will be taken against me, including deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to ten years.”
In the Hebrew version, there is also a clear statement that unauthorized entry to the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority is a transgression of the law. This is omitted from the English version.
The English version does not use the official and common English title “Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories,” but translates the Hebrew as “Territory Actions Coordinator,” raising doubts as to whether the coordinator’s office has seen the form.
The spokeswoman for the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, Sabine Haddad, wrote to Haaretz that the Entry into Israel Law authorizes the interior minister to decide on the entry of foreigners to the State of Israel, but in the case of Judea and Samaria, the Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff makes the determination – with a permit from the coordinator’s office required by security legislation.
“When a tourist/foreign national arrives at the international border crossings and it is believed that he wants to enter Judea and Samaria, he should be informed [of the procedure] and asked for his promise to receive a permit from the coordinator’s office before his entry – a permit that constitutes an essential condition [of entry to the Palestinian Authority controlled areas],” said Haddad.
Haddad did not reply to Haaretz’s request for explanation of the pertinent clauses of the law, nor did she provide Haaretz with information about the department in the coordinator’s office from which to request the permit. On the English website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – a military unit that carries out and implements civilian policy in the territories – including the part dealing with ties with international organizations, there is no mention of the existence of such a procedure. In reply to an inquiry by Haaretz, the spokesman for the coordinator’s office said the matter of the procedure and the form is being examined.
About seven years ago, there was a report of a similar declaration that tourists were required to sign, but the practice was discontinued and renewed only at the beginning of this year. Several years ago, the Interior Ministry also began to limit the freedom of movement of tourists with work and family ties in the West Bank and to prevent their entry into Israel by means of a permit with the stamp “For the territories of Judea and Samaria only.”
Attorney Adi Lustigman turned Haaretz’s attention to a legal decision from August 2010 by Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Yoed Hacohen, which dealt with the appeal she filed against preventing the entry into Israel of an American citizen. Hacohen ruled that even according to the Oslo Accords, which the Interior Ministry occasionally relies on to explain restrictions on the movement of tourists, citizens of countries that have diplomatic ties with Israel need only an entry permit for Israel and a valid passport to enter Palestinian Authority territories. They are not required to have visiting permits from the Palestinian Authority, which are granted with the approval of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (as is required of citizens of countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel, and citizens from Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan).
Lustigman believes the policy behind the declaration is illegal because it discriminates between foreign citizens whose destination is the settlements and those whose destination is Palestinian areas. The form itself, Lustigman says, “is not legal because it was formulated for an improper purpose – isolating the occupied territories – and in an improper manner. It makes the assumption that people who arrive in Israel as tourists, as clerics and for other purposes want to act in contradiction to the law, which may not even have been explained to them clearly.
“There is no reason to threaten foreign citizens, to turn them into suspects and to make them sign, as a condition for entering Israel, a form whose wording and content are unclear … If there really is such a procedure, it should be publicized in a simple, clear and accessible manner, and instead of handing out a threatening sheet of paper, they should hand out a paper containing an explanation and procedures for making the request. Because the Interior Ministry does not do so, and as far as I know neither does the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, it seems that there is no operative procedure, nor any procedure for submitting a request. We are left only with a prohibition, which, as we have mentioned, is invalid.”
The spokesperson for the U.S. Consulate did not answer Haaretz’s question as to whether Israel has informed the American authorities about the restriction and the obligation to sign, and did not explain the viewpoint of the U.S. Department of State on the issue.
Palestinians have globally touted an array of rights that Israel systematically denies. There is the right of return, the right of freedom of movement, the right to water, the right to education, the right to enter(not to be confused with refugees’ right to return) and so on.
But the right to receive visitors, or lack thereof? This is the most recent addition. The prohibition on freely receiving foreign visitors is as disturbing as it is shocking, especially for a country that claims to be the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East.
Yes, you read correctly. Israel is threatening to refuse to allow Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory to receive visitors from abroad. We are not talking here about visitors such as the 5 million Palestinian refugees whom Israel has refused to allow to return to their homes after being expelled by force and fear when Israel was founded in 1948. Rather, the issue now is that foreigners who desire to visit the occupied Palestinian territory are being denied entry into Israel.
Remember, there is no other way to get to the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is under military occupation by Israel, except by passing through Israeli-controlled points of entry such as Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv or one of Israel’s sea ports or land crossings. The entry point to the Gaza Strip from the West Bank requires passage through Israel as well.
So, more than 300 international activists plan to arrive in Tel Aviv during the week of 8 July at the invitation of 30 Palestinian civil society organisations, to participate in an initiative named “Welcome to Palestine“. Delegations from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, the USA, Japan and several African countries are expected.
Upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport, the invited guests, all from countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, will make no secret of their intent to go to the occupied Palestinian territory. This nonviolent act, a civil society tsunami of sorts, only comes after Israel’s restriction of movement and access to and from Palestine for Palestinians and foreigners has exhausted all established channels that carry the responsibility to uphold international law first and their domestic laws second.
The greatest inaction has come from the US state department, even though it has put on record, multiple times, the fact that Israel is discriminating at its borders against US citizens.
It is also worth noting that the 1951 Israel friendship, commerce and navigation treaty explicitly states: “There shall be freedom of transit through the territories of each Party by the routes most convenient for international transit …” and persons “in transit shall be exempt from … unreasonable charges and requirements; and shall be free from unnecessary delays and restrictions.” So much for respecting signed agreements.
Israel, as a state and previously as a Zionist movement, has gone to every extreme to fragment and dispossess the Palestinian people. It has had accomplices every step of the way, starting with Great Britain and continuing to this very day with the US and the flock of UN member states that act more like parakeets to the US than sovereign states when it comes to Palestine.
Well, the game of inaction is coming to an end. When states fail, people take over. It is these people, like those coming to Palestine this week, or those attempting to reach the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip by sea, or those living in Palestine and resisting the occupation day in and day out, who will prove to historians once again that history is made of real people who have a keen sense of humanity and the courage to sacrifice.
Supreme Court hears proposal for ‘green’ fence along Green Line
Israel’s nature authority says a chain-link fence with security systems would balance environmental and security concerns in a West Bank area that could soon be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but environmentalists and Palestinians disagree.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority on Wednesday proposed to the High Court of Justice that the Defense Ministry erect a simple chain-link fence backed by security systems instead of the concrete wall the ministry wants to build near the West Bank village of Batir, south of Jerusalem.
The ministry is planning the 500-meter segment of the separation barrier to protect the train line to Jerusalem, which passes close to a school and several houses in the village.
At issue is a petition that was filed against the wall by residents of Batir and Friends of the Earth Middle East, a regional environmental organization. They are arguing that a barrier would irreparably damage the agricultural terraces in the region, which may be declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization when that body meets next month.
At a hearing in February, the Defense Ministry proposed to the court that it erect a heavy chain-link fence instead of the wall. The Nature and Parks Authority, which joined the petition, presented the court with an alternative of its own – to build a relatively simple chain-link fence that would be reinforced with high-tech security warning systems on one side and hedges of sabra cactus plants on the other. The proposal also rejects the paving of a patrol road along the fence.
This, the authority said, would minimize damage to an area whose agricultural terraces served farmers for thousands of years and continue to be cultivated to this day.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the attorney for the petitioners rejected both proposals. Batir residents submitted their alternative, which is to move the fence westward onto Israeli territory. Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, argued that there is no way to build any kind of barrier in the area without destroying the unique structure of the terraces.
At UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting next month, the terraces at Batir will come up for recognition as a World Heritage Site. The terraces are watered by an ancient system of springs, pools and wells. In addition to destroying the watering system, residents say, the part of the barrier in the Refaim streambed next to the Green Line, or pre-1967 border, could separate the villagers from 740 acres of their land.
Video: As Obama lands, Israeli soldiers violently arrest Palestinian 8-year-olds on their way to school
Video posted by the Israeli organization B’Tselem shows Israeli occupation forces, armed and financed by the United States, violently arresting Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron today as US President Barack Obama arrived for a visit to Israel.
The video shows harrowing scenes of young children clinging to parents as heavily-armed Israeli occupiers drag them away.
According to B’Tselem:
B’Tselem this morning urgently contacted the Army’s Legal Advisor for Judea and Samaria, demanding his emergency intervention regarding the detention of numerous children, including some as young as 8 to 10 years old, by the Israeli military this morning in Hebron. Preliminary information received this morning indicates that Soldiers detained or arrested over twenty minors on their way to school. About ten of them were released. The video was filmed by an international activist.
Video .. “Love in the Time of Israeli Apartheid”
Israeli forces on Saturday broke up a wedding procession organized at a West Bank checkpoint to challenge Israeli laws preventing Palestinians in the West Bank and Israelis from marrying.
Two buses left from Jaffa and Ramallah to meet at opposite sides of Hizma checkpoint, northeast of Jerusalem, for the wedding of Hazim, from Abu Dis and his bride, who is from Nazareth.
Both buses were stopped by Israeli forces before reaching the checkpoint and Israeli forces fired sound bombs at guests who had begun singing and dancing on the West Bank side of Hizma, an organizer told Ma’an. “While they were dancing and singing for the groom, Israeli occupation forces started throwing sound bombs and pushing people back. They then fired tear gas, forcing people to run away,” organizer Najwan Berekdar said.
Over 200 people participated in the wedding, including founder of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouthi and Palestinian author Rima Nazzal Kitana.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said that “100 rioters at Hizma threw stones at security services, who used riot dispersal means, including tear gas, to disperse the riot.”
The wedding was organized by the “Love in the Time of Apartheid” campaign, a grassroots initiative set up by Palestinian youth to challenge the Citizenship and Entry into Israel law, which denies residency status in Israel for West Bank Palestinians married to Israeli-Palestinians.”This Israeli law challenges Palestinian national unity and prevents Palestinians from even considering marrying another Palestinian from the other side,” Berekdar says.
“It divides Palestinians not only geographically but nationally, socially and culturally and has a severe economic and psychological affect on Palestinian families.
“We are calling for international pressure from the UN and civil society groups to put pressure on Israel to revoke this racist law, which interferes with basic human things like choosing a future life partner,” Berekdar says.
The Citizenship and Entry into Israel law was enacted by the Israeli Knesset in 2003, and prohibits granting residency or citizenship to Palestinians from the occupied territories who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel, Adalah says.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website says the temporary order is “security orientated” and enacted after people took advantage of Israeli identity to carry out “terrorist attacks.”
Human Rights Watch has said that “the law violates Israel’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which applies not only to race but also to national or ethnic origin.”
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2003 called on Israel to revoke the law.
Watch: EI writer Ben White, Mustafa Barghouti trounce Israeli occupation functionary over segregated buses
The show, anchored by Mike Hanna, discussed Israel’s decision to implement segregated buses for Palestinian workers, a move compared to Jim Crow in the United States or apartheid in South Africa.
Responding to Roman’s claims that Palestinian workers were happy with the new system, White said:
It’s pretty rich for a defender of Israeli apartheid like Mr. Roman to exploit the economic desperation of an occupied, colonized people. This is a classic strategy and discourse in many colonial regimes. Mr. Roman probably doesn’t realize that he sounded very similar to the South African apartheid spokespersons in days gone by when he praises the economic opportunities afforded by the benevolent colonial power to the occupied people.
During the program, Mr. Roman identified himself as a former member of the “civil administration” meaning he was in fact a former functionary of the Israeli occupation regime in the West Bank, however he also denied the existence of occupation.
Viewer Kgaile Benjamin Mogoye commented during the show, “This brings back very painful memories of what Apartheid was to us as South Africans. We know the fallacy of ‘this is an improvement to your condition very well.’ Shame on the Israeli regime, and more shame on the US openly continuing to protect such a ruthless regime.”
Transportation Ministry sets up designated bus lines for Palestinian passengers in West Bank; insists lines are for general public, but only Palestinian villages have been advised of their existence
Racial segregation or transportation mitigation? The Transportation Ministry announced that starting Sunday it will begin operating designated lines for Palestinians in the West Bank.
The bus lines in question are meant, according to the ministry, to transport Palestinian workers from the West Bank to central Israel. The ministry alleges that the move is meant to ease the congestion felt on bus lines used by Jews in the same areas, but several bus drivers told Ynet that Palestinians who will choose to travel on the so-called “mixed” lines, will be asked to leave them.
‘Buses meant to improve service’
Still, the ministry eventually decided to launch the lines, which will run from Eyal crossing – near the West Bank city of Qalqilya – to Israel.
UN panel concludes Israeli settlements are illegal
Fact-finding mission’s report says settlements exist exclusively for Israeli Jews’ benefit creating system of total segregation
A UN fact-finding mission says the Israeli government’s settlementpolicy has clearly violated the rights of Palestinians and breaches one of the Geneva Conventions.
The panel’s report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva – the UN’s first report on the subject as a whole – says the settlements exist for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews, creating a system of total segregation.
“Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT (occupied Palestinian territories),” said a report by the inquiry led by French judge Christine Chanet.
The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it said.
In December, the Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit further “war crimes” by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de factoUN recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable.
Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including east Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.
The independent UN investigators interviewed more than 50 people who came to Jordan in November to testify about confiscated land, damage to their livelihoods including olive trees, and violence by Jewish settlers, according to the report.
“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” it said.
About 250 settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been established since 1967 and they hold an estimated 520,000 settlers, according to the UN report. The settlements impede Palestinian access to water resources and agricultural lands, it said.
The settlements were “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” it said.
After the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians status at the world body, Israel said it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – areas Palestinians wanted for a future state, along with the Gaza Strip.
The UN human rights inquiry said that the International Criminal Court had jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer by the occupying power of its own population into the territory.
“Ratification of the (Rome) Statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims,” the UN report said, referring to the treaty setting up the Hague-based UN tribunal which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
AP and Reuters contributed to the report
Crowd Control: Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank
Crowd control weapons are supposed to be non-lethal, enabling authorities to enforce the law without endangering human life. In fact, however, they are dangerous weapons that can cause death, severe injury and damage to property if used improperly.
This report details the crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).
Tear gas is a chemical irritant that severely affects the eyes and the respiratory system. It is the predominant crowd control weapon in use by Israeli security forces and is dispersed through several types of grenades manufactured in the United States: A rubber tear-gas grenade (known as “400″ or “skittering grenade”), which can be hand-thrown or fired from a launcher mounted on a rifle, and a 40mm aluminum canister (known as “gas rocket”) which is fired from a launcher. In East Jerusalem security forces also use the splitting tear-gas grenade which separates into three sub-canisters. 40mm-caliber canisters are fired from several different types of launchers. Some are mounted on soldiers’ rifles and can be fired one grenade at a time. Others are stand-alone launchers which can fire from one to six grenades in quick succession. Israeli security forces also have at their disposal a jeep-mounted system that enables firing salvos of grenades, which can cover a large area with tear gas.
Stun grenades are also a predominant crowd control weapon. They are a diversionary measure, whose explosion emits a bright light and a thunderous noise. The grenades are designed to cause panic, thereby enabling security forces to overpower people. Like the tear-gas grenades in use by Israeli security forces, the stun grenades are also manufactured in the United States.
Rubber-coated metal bullets are utilized primarily against stone-throwers. Security forces use two types of bullets made of a metal core coated with either rubber or plastic, and fired from launchers mounted on rifle-barrels. These so-called “rubber” bullets are manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd. The Orr Commission prohibited the use of rubber-coated metal bullets within Israel’s borders. In East Jerusalem, since the prohibition, Israel Police has been using 40mm-caliber sponge rounds imported from the Unites States.
The Skunk is a foul-smelling liquid developed by the Israel Police for the purpose of dispersing demonstrations. It is sprayed from truck-mounted water cannons. The odor is so offensive that it forces any person in its vicinity to back off. The report also details the relevant orders of the military and the Israel Police which regulate the use of these weapons, and which the security forces refuse to divulge. In addition the report surveys the implementation of the regulations in the field and the detrimental results of violating them.
This report has found that there are two main problems with the use of crowd control weapons in the West Bank. First, the wording of the open-fire and safety regulations is ambiguous, and in some cases the regulations cannot be properly followed. Second, when security forces in the field violate the regulations, even systematically, practically no action is taken to put an end to this wrongful conduct. Senior-ranking officers deny that violations of the open-fire regulations are the norm and classify injury to civilians from improper use of crowd control weapons as “exceptions to the rule”. Furthermore, even in the rare instances in which investigations into such incidents are conducted, most are closed without the perpetrators or their superiors being held accountable. Following are some of the report’s findings:
The unlawful use of crowd control weapons by Israeli security forces is accompanied by further restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of speech and their freedom to protest the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. These restrictions include the arrest and prosecution of demonstration organizers; the dispersal of demonstrations using force, even when demonstrators were not violent in any way; and the deportation of foreign nationals participating in the demonstrations. Areas in the West Bank where demonstrations are held every Friday are declared closed military zones for the time scheduled for demonstration. Specific orders designating closed military zones enable security forces to keep Israeli activists from taking part in the demonstrations and to make them liable for arrest and prosecution. These disproportionate restrictions deviate from the instructions issued by the Legal Advisor for the West Bank, which prohibit the declaration of an area a closed military zone to a specific group, such as activists at demonstrations.
Members of the security forces who are faced with stone throwers, sometimes in large-scale events, have the authority to use the various weapons detailed in this report. However, the authorities must ensure that the troops on the ground obey the open-fire regulations and use crowd control weapons within the parameters that keep them non-lethal. It follows that every soldier, officer, or police officer violating these rules must be prosecuted. In addition, B’Tselem demands that Israeli security forces:
a rope, in an area known as E1, near Jerusalem January 11, 2013.
Israel blocks activists from returning to E1 protest camp
E1 (Reuters) — Israeli police, using stun grenades, blocked about 50 Palestinian activists who tried on Tuesday to reoccupy a tented protest camp they pitched last week in the West Bank.
Israel has drawn strong international criticism over plans to build settler homes in the area, known as “E1″, which connects the two parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank outside Palestinian suburbs of East Jerusalem.
On Sunday, hundreds of police officers evicted the protesters from the “Bab al-Shams” encampment, and activists said six were hurt in the process. The large, steel-framed tents remained standing at the site pending the outcome of Israeli Supreme Court hearings on Israel’s intention to remove them.
Protesters who tried to return to the tents on Tuesday were confronted by police officers who told them the site had been designated off-limits by the army.
One activist wore a white bridal gown and their cars were decked out in bright ribbons, making the protest look like a traditional Palestinian wedding.
“The protesters continued to make their way up. Police pushed the protesters back down the hill,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. “Two stun grenades were used to disperse the protesters and prevent attempts to climb back up.”
Twenty Palestinians were detained for questioning, he said.
For years Israel froze building in E1, after coming under pressure from former US President George W. Bush to keep the plans on hold.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans late last year to expand settlements after the Palestinians won de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations General Assembly in November.
Jewish settlement building in areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war are illegal under international law. World powers have slammed the E1 settlement plan, echoing Palestinians concern such construction could deny them a viable and contiguous state.
E1 covers some 4.6 sq miles and is seen as particularly important because it not only juts into the narrow “waist” of the West Bank, but also backs onto East Jerusalem, the capital of the promised independent Palestinian state.
Ma’an staff in Bethlehem contributed to this report
Making history in Bab Al Shams
A group of local activists, Palestinian and international, informed me of a protest camp we would set up to help community members in Jericho and give support to the surrounding areas. We were told to be prepared to face armed Israeli soldiers. But even so, the instructions were vague. None of us knew exactly where we were going.
At 5am on Friday morning, 11 January, 50 activists took a bus to an area we called Bab Al Shams. One of the group leaders of the camp told us that we were on private Palestinian land termed by Israel as “E-1.” Israel was planning on constructing settlements here, he told us, and our mission would be to camp out in defiance of the occupation forces.
He told us that we were all informed that we would be heading to Jericho, but this was only meant to keep the plan as secretive as possible. “If you’d like to stay, you can. If not, we understand, and you can return with the buses,” he told us after explaining the risks associated with what we would soon be doing.
We started to build tents. After a few hours, four more busloads of activists arrived at the scene. Together, we erected even more tents. By noon, after finishing with the tents, we held Friday prayers for the first time in Bab Al Shams.
Not long after, we were met by Israeli border police and soldiers who arrived at the location to hand out eviction notices to the residents of this new village. Bab Al Shams, having been founded just hours earlier, had already posed a risk to the Israeli government. The police threatened to return and demolish the tents shortly if we didn’t take them down ourselves. Needless to say, we stood our ground.
Luckily, we had already been prepared for such an occasion. We petitioned against the threatened demolitions to the Israeli high court which then issued a warrant delaying any eviction or demolition for six days. The court would use this time to further assess the situation there. It is important to remember, though, that Bab Al Shams was erected on private Palestinian land.
So there it was. The village of Bab Al Shams with a Palestinian flag standing tall at the highest point of the village.
But the village was quickly put under lockdown. Nothing was going in and nothing went out. We were short on mattresses, blankets and food. Everybody understood the situation and shared whatever they could with one another.
The night was cold and people were freezing in their beds. Thank God for the paramedics who were on site to help us. We also our own security guards in the village who stayed up all night protecting everyone and making sure nothing happened. Bab Al Shams was looking more and more like a village.
The second day, a little after noon, some of the activists who were feeling unwell made the decision to return home for treatment and rest. They walked to the nearest streets where Israeli occupation forces quickly escorted them away from Bab Al Shams. But at the same time, another hundred or so activists arrived from another set of buses to bolster our presence. They brought with them supplies and helped renew our spirits in the cold weather.
As the population grew in size, so did the imminent threat of an Israeli raid designed to stop all activity in Bab Al Shams. At 11pm on Saturday, more than 500 Israeli forces — soldiers and police — surrounded the village. We could see them approaching from all sides as they aimed their bright lights at us.
The armed Israeli forces climbed the hillside up to us and completely encircled us. They were ordering us to leave. Many of the activists tied themselves to the tents. Others put their hands together and sat down in the middle of the small village while chanting in Arabic, “With soul, with blood, we’ll protect Palestine.”
We were outnumbered. Plus, we could see the soldiers burning various items in the village. Soon enough the Israeli forces began their assault on us specifically. Everyone in the village was rounded up and arrested. Many were hit with the butts of Israeli weapons. Others, including myself, were dragged through the sand and dirt and thrown back onto buses.
The buses started their engines about an hour after they were filled. We didn’t know where we were going but we assumed we were going to an Israeli prison.
But we later found that Israeli hummers were escorting the buses to the Qalandiacheckpoint, where we were greeted by other Palestinians and activists in high spirits. We had made history with Bab Al Shams and we continue to refuse to let Israeli construct settlements on Palestinian land.
Abbas Sarsour is a 21-year-old Palestinian from Ramallah currently living in the United States. He is active in various student and community organizations dedicated to Palestinian rights
The Palestinians may be moved physically, but Palestinian villages, old and new, will never die so long as they remain alive in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people and all their supporters worldwide…
Bab Alshams – We Shall Not Be Moved
250 men and women from across Palestine establish this morning
a new Palestinian village named “Bab Alshams” (Gate of the
Sun). Tents were built in what Israel refers to as area E1 and
equipment for long-term living was brought.
The group released the following statement:
We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout
the land, announce the establishment of Bab Alshams Village
(Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the
occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today
because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it.
A few months ago the Israeli government announced its
intention to build about 4000 settlement housing units in the
area Israel refers to as E1. E1 block is an area of about 13
square km that falls on confiscated Palestinian land East of
Jerusalem between Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which lies on
occupied West Bank Palestinian land, and Jerusalem. We will
not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of
our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village
of Bab Alshams to proclaim our faith in direct action and
popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand
steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right
to build on their land.
The village’s name is taken from the novel, “Bab Alshams,” by
Lebanese writer Elias Khoury. The book depicts the history of
Palestine through a love story between a Palestinian man,
Younis, and his wife Nahila. Younis leaves his wife to join
the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon while Nahila remains
steadfast in what remains of their village in the Galilee.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Younis smuggles through
Lebanon and back to the Galilee to meet his wife in the “Bab
Alshams” cave, where she gives birth to their children. Younis
returns to the resistance in Lebanon as his wife remains in
Bab Al Shams.
Bab Alshams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab
Alshams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab Alshams is the gate to
our to our return.
For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the
International community remained silent in response to these
violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the
game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land.
This action involving women and men from the north to the
south is a form of popular resistance. In the coming days we
will hold various discussion groups, educational and artistic
presentations, as well as film screenings on the lands of this
village. The residents of Bab Al Shams invite all the sons and
daughters of our people to participate and join the village in
supporting our resilience.
This is what happened…
Although established on privately owned Palestinian lands, Israel forcefully expelled residents of the village in a pre-dawn raid this morning. Six required medical attention Shortly before 3 AM, hundreds of Israeli cops and soldiers staged a raid on the newly founded Palestinian village of Bab Al Shams (Gate of the Sun), violently evicting its 150 inhabitants. Use of police brutality is even more objectionable in light of the passive resistance offered by the residents. No arrests were made, and all persons detained were released shortly after.
In light of harsh international criticism over the plan to expand the Maaleh Adumim settlement, and in an attempt to draw away attention from the case, eviction took place early this morning. Following its arrival at the scene, a massive police force began by removing journalists from the residents’ immediate surroundings and proceeded to drag people away, beating some of them. Six Palestinians later required medical care at the Ramallah Hospital.
Following his release, Mohammed Khatib of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said, “We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land. Bab Al Shams is no more, but during its short days it gave new life and energy to all who passed through it. Israel continues to act in violation of every imaginable law and human decency. In establishing Bab Al Shams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves.”
Last night the state appealed to the High Court to withdraw an injunction prohibiting the eviction. The state argued, among other things, that the very existence of the village may occasion rioting, despite its remote and isolated location. The state further argued that the village was established by the Committees to Resist the Wall (a body which does not exist), also behind a blockade of Route 443 in October 2012. This claim, backed only by an affidavit signed by an Israeli police chief, has never been supported by any indictments or arrests for the questioning of individuals.
The village of Bab Al Shams was established last Friday by Palestinian activists, on privately owned Palestinian lands, in an area between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim, which Israel refers to as E1. After the acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state to the UN, Israel announced the approval of a plan to expand the Maaleh Adumim settlement by building some 4,000 residential units in this area. Such construction would effectively bisect the West Bank and effectively cutting it off from Jerusalem.**
Palestinian sources said that the outpost’s inhabitants sat on the ground as an act of passive resistance when the forces arrived at Bab al-Shams.
Security forces evacuate E1 outpost
Some 150 Palestinians evicted from Bab al-Shams outpost in area E1, without violent resistance, injuries. At least two Palestinians arrested, including Mustafa Barghouti
The Palestinians were placed on buses and taken to theQalandiya checkpoint. Palestinian National Initiative director Mustafa Barghouti was arrested during the eviction as well as at least one other person, according to the Palestinians.
One tent was torched by the outpost’s inhabitants who had complained that officers attacked Arab and Palestinian journalists.
Palestinian sources said that the outpost’s inhabitants sat on the ground as an act of passive resistance when the forces arrived at Bab al-Shams.
Forces evict Palestinians (Photo: Reuters)
There were no indications of violent resistance and no injuries were reported during the incident.
“Thousands of Israeli officers surrounded the tents and arrested the inhabitants one by one,” Barghouti told the French news agency. However, police stressed that the Palestinians were “escorted out of the area” and were not arrested for violating the closed military zone order.
The IDF spokesman ordered officers to prevent journalists from entering the outpost as per the cabinet’s orders. However, Arab and Palestinian journalists were allowed to get close to the outpost prior to the eviction.
Palestinian cleared from outpost (Photo: Reuters)
Forces after the eviction (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
“An urgent evacuation is required due to a pressing security need,” the State said in a petition filed with the High Court of Justice late on Saturday.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said in the document that the State has issued orders to define the outpost as a closed military zone and to remove squatters from its land.
Weinstein argued that the encampment was set up in order to provoke riots “of national and international consequence,” citing up-to-date intelligence information.
According to the petition, most of the tents have been pitched on the State’s lands, and allowing the protesters to stay where they are will create friction with settlers and could trigger widespread unrest.
The State “indents to act urgently to fulfill the right to evacuate everyone from the area,” Weinstein wrote. The State will then examine whether the law requires the tents to remain or be removed.
Bab al-Shams on Saturday night (Photo: AFP)
The document was filed in response to a temporary injunction issued by the High Court in order to bar the State from removing the protesters from the outpost as long as there isn’t an emergency warranting an evacuation. In the meantime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the routes leading up to the outpost to be closed to traffic, rendering the area a closed military zone.
A group of 200 Palestinians, backed by foreign activists, created the encampment, whose name means “Gate of the Sun,” near Ma’aleh Adumim on Friday, setting into motion a series of legal exchanges between the Palestinians’ representatives and the State.
The outpost (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
On Saturday, the government ordered the leaders of Bab al-Shams to immediately vacate the premises.
The outpost’s leaders then petitioned the High Court to block the warrant, claiming that the encampment was set up on their own private land and it is part of the village of At-Tur, where they reside. The tents, they claimed, where meant to act as a tourist center spotlighting Bedouin heritage. The decision to evict them went against zoning laws because it did not give them a chance to voice their arguments, they said.
The leaders said that if Israeli security forces were to make them leave, they would do so with only passive resistance.
Mahmoud Zawara, of the Popular Palestinian Committees, told Ynet that the 30-tent outpost was set up as part of the “Palestinian struggle” against Israel’s planned construction in the area.
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The screenshots prove it: New York Times altered headline to remove words “Israeli-occupied”
Cached image of New York Times story before headline was changed to omit words “Israeli-occupied West Bank.”
A New York Times headline accidentally told the truth today about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, before it was ‘fixed.’
The original headline read “Palestinians Set Up Camp in Israeli-Occupied West Bank Territory.” Later, the headline was altered to remove the words “Israeli-occupied.” It now reads “Palestinians Set Up Tents Where Israel Plans Homes.”
The website Newsdiffs.org shows that the original headline was posted at 1:09 PM EST. It was discovered to have been changed at 7:10 PM EST.
A key goal of Israeli propaganda is to eliminate the term “occupied” from media coverage of Israel’s, well, occupation. Many media have adopted terms like “disputed” that grant false legitimacy to Israeli claims to the land which are totally null and void in international law.
The Times article still describes the area as “hotly contested piece of Israeli-occupied West Bank territory known as E1.” And yes, I’ve taken a screenshot in case they decide to change that too.
How the headline appears after the change.
Thanks to Twitter user @JamieSW for spotting.
Group of 200 Palestinians pitch tents in disputed area connecting Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim. Organizer: Encampment part of non-violent resistance
A group of 200 Palestinians, backed by foreign activists, have been erecting an outpost in the disputed E1 zone, near Ma’aleh Adumim, since the early hours of Friday morning.
He said “we chose this specific area because it is conquered Palestinian land and places a wedge between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.”
Building ‘Bab al-Shams’ (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Zawara said the camp will be used by the Popular Palestinian Committees during activity in the Jordan Valley area in the coming days. “I hope the encampment will be permanent and remain in the E1 area,” he added.
‘Day without violence.’ Palestinians at camp (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
“According to international law, and even Israeli law, the Israeli army cannot prevent us from pitching tents.”
‘Conquered Palestinian land’ (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Zawara said it was possible that IDF and Israel Police forces would eventually evacuate the Palestinians, but expressed hope that “today will be a day without violence.”
A little more than a month ago the Israeli government approved plans to advance construction in the E1 zone, which connects Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, as a response to the UN’s recognition of “Palestine” as a non-member observer state.
The move drew harsh criticism from the West, including the US, with European countries summoning Israeli ambassadors to express their condemnation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to move settlement construction ahead in E1. However, the Right has accused Netanyahu of postponing the construction plans.
ON 22 January, Israel will hold general elections which pundits predict will produce the most extremist and anti-peace government ever since the creation of the Jewish state more than 64 years ago.
The new government, expected to comprise the most jingoistic and Talmudic-minded elements of the Israeli right, will conceivably kill whatever remaining chances for salvaging a peace deal with the Palestinians based on the two-state solution vision.
Prospects for reaching such a deal look quite bleak as Israel has taken a plethora of decisions aimed at making the Palestinians’ goal of establishing a viable state in the West Bank utterly unrealistic if not outright impossible.
In recent weeks, especially in the aftermath of the recent UN General Assembly resolution, which recognized Palestine as an observer non-member state, the Israeli government announced plans to build thousands of settler units in occupied Arab East Jerusalem as well as the rest of the West Bank.
One of the settlement enterprises being discussed is the creation of a “mega settlement” between Arab-East Jerusalem and the colony of Maale Adumim, 4 kilometers eastward.
The new colony would effectively cut off the West Bank’s northern half from its southern part. It would also hermetically separate Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territory. In other words, the planned colony would put an end to Palestinian hopes for a territorially-contiguous state, especially one with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel has already established so many Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank that very few serious observers still see the possibility of establishing a truly viable Palestinian state.
Israel has also embarked on a rabid campaign of house-demolitions and land confiscations in parts of the West Bank especially in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Jewish commentators argue rather convincingly that it would be highly unlikely to expect any prospective Israeli government to dismantle settlements, a sin-qua-non for any successful rehabilitation of the moribund peace process. This state of affair is further enforcing by the fact that the Israeli Jewish society is moving steadily to the right.
Lying like breathing
Notwithstanding, Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, never stop claiming a sincere commitment to peace with the Palestinians. However the utter mendacity of such claims is exposed by Israel’s actions on the ground, actions that have drawn strong condemnation by the entire international community, including Israel’s traditional allies in North America and Europe .
Israel claims to really desire and strive for peace. However, the Jewish state aspires to translate this alleged desire for peace by building hundreds of colonies on Palestinian territory, inhabited by the most virulent, racist, and genocidal Jewish elements anywhere.
A few years ago, a settler leader by the name of Daniela Weiss told settlers in Hebron that the proper way of dealing with the Palestinians and non-Jews in general was the Biblical way.
For those who don’t understand the phraseology of the Jewish-Zionist lexicon, the Zionist leader was alluding to genocidal ethnic cleansing, including the physical extermination of men, women and children.
Daniella Weiss and those likely to dominate Israel’s political scene for several years to come, including the explicitly fascist party, Habayt hayehudi, or the Jewish home, offer the Palestinians three choices”: First, enslavement to the Chosen people or Master Race as water carrier and wood hewers. The Second choice is expulsion to the Arabian Desert. And if the Palestinians refuse the two previous choices, then they would have to face the “Joshua option”, namely physical annihilation.
This is not Palestinian propaganda aimed at besmirching the good image of the “only democracy in the Middle East.”
Israeli leaders never really lost an opportunity voicing their nefarious designs against the Palestinian people. Take for example Israel’s former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The former Moldovan immigrant was quoted on several occasions as calling for blanket-bombing Palestinian population centers while leaving the border crossings with Jordan open. He also urged the Israeli army to drown Palestinian political and resistance activists in the Dead Sea.
Interestingly, Lieberman is already the number-2 leader at the Israeli political arena. In a few weeks, the thuggish politician’s powers are expected to increase significantly as a result of the elections.
With the two-state solution reaching real dead-end, the only alternative would be the continuation and escalation of the conflict. The Palestinian Authority is unlikely to survive the recalcitrance of the upcoming Israeli government, especially if the recently-approved settlement projects are implemented.
This means the Palestine question will return to square one, with the Palestinian people languishing under the sinister –Israeli military occupation as they were before the conclusion of the hapless Oslo Accords.
Needless to say, the Palestinian masses would once again resort to passive and active resistance against the longest occupation in modern history. Israel, for its part, would behave characteristically by violently and bloodily repressing any new uprising.
Eventually, there would be a tremendous public pressure on those Arab states that maintain peace treaties with Israel -Egypt and Jordan- to unilaterally cancel these treaties under public pressure. After all, the ordinary man and woman in the streets of Cairo and Amman wouldn’t content themselves with watching their Palestinian brothers and sisters being mercilessly murdered by the ruthless Zionist machine of death.
In fact, Israel has no logical solution for resolving the Palestinian problem, apart from offering Palestinians a deformed state on a small part of their ancestral homeland. But the Palestinians wouldn’t accept the de facto liquidation of their national cause even under the rubric of a state that is not worthy of the name.
Eventually, Israel would resort to a malignant form of apartheid, one designed to drive them away.
However, as 65 years of de-facto apartheid utterly failed to get the Palestinians to leave, the Israeli policy would eventually prove self-defeating. Besides, apartheid and repression in Palestine could pose a heavy moral and political burden to Israel’s guardian-ally, the United States, and might even create a serious rift between Israel and world Jewry.
More to the point, with the possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian state virtually nonexistent due to settlement aggrandizement, the Palestinian would start demanding equal rights in a democratic, unitary and bi-national state extending from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean.
This is anathema for most Israeli Jews since it would make Israel lose its Zionist Jewish identity. And in light of already existing demographic realities, where for the first time since 1948 the Palestinians have a demographic numerical advantage over Israeli Jews, Israeli leaders would have to make really hard choices.
Some of those preferring to see the half-full glass rather the half-empty one might argue that the international community would not allow the conflict in Palestine to deteriorate into a perpetual showdown between Jews and Muslims.
Nonetheless, and given the experience of more than 60 years of peace-making efforts, it is safe to argue that the US and Europe lack the ability to force a manifestly arrogant and fascist Israel to give up the spoils of war.
Indeed, the Jewish domination of American politics is too strong to allow any American administration to say “No” to Israeli whims and vagaries without committing political suicide.
In the last analysis, the US government cannot even force Israel to stop demolishing a single Arab home in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, let alone compel the Jewish state to give up the territories that Israel occupied in 1967.
In a post yesterday I used a German term ‘Lebensraum‘. Read the following to see what I was talking about …
Palestinian owners barred from Jordan Valley land, while Israeli farmers profit
Thai workers from the Israeli settlements are allowed across the border fence into the area, while the Palestinians are not; IDF spokesman also refuses to let Haaretz reporters tour the area.
Settlers in the Jordan Valley are farming more than 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private Palestinian land located between the border fence and the actual border with Jordan. They received the land from the World Zionist Organization in the 1980s.
The original owners, some of whom fled in 1967 and returned to the West Bank after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, are still not allowed to access the land because of a military order preventing them from entering the border area.
After the Israel Defense Forces entered the West Bank in 1967, it issued Order 151, which defined the area near the Jordanian border as a closed military area. Later the border fence was erected, which in some places is up to two kilometers from the Jordan River, the natural border of the Jordanian kingdom.
Until 1994, the area was completely abandoned, including the ancient churches in the area, because of a large number of minefields in the region. At the beginning of the 1980s, the government decided to encourage farmers to work the fields in the area to create a buffer zone along the border and prevent infiltration from Jordan. The WZO was given the private Palestinian land and leased it to the settlers.
In July 1987 then-general in charge of Central Command, Amram Mitzna, instructed the brigade commander in the sector to prevent Palestinians from entering the area. A document from then that Haaretz has obtained states: “There is no doubt that from a security standpoint, it is unthinkable to let someone who is not part of the security forces or an armed veteran enter the area.”
The situation was never reexamined or changed, even after Oslo and the peace treaty with Jordan, said IDF sources. Today, Thai workers from the Israeli settlements are allowed across the border fence into the area, while the Palestinians are not. The IDF spokesman also refused to let Haaretz reporters tour the area.
The amount of land farmed has increased 110 percent in recent years. Based on aerial photographs from the IDF, the amount of land farmed in 1997 was 2,380 dunams, while in 2012 this reached 5,064 dunams. Most of the land is planted with date orchards, a particularly profitable business.
The WZO said that only state land or that defined as “absentee property” is being farmed. Absentee property is the legal term for land belonging to Palestinians who fled the region in 1967 and did not return. A source in the IDF Central Command told Haaretz that much of the land being farmed is privately owned by Palestinians. While many Palestinians returned ot the region after 1994, the WZO and IDF have made no efforts to determine if any of the absentee property owners are among those who returned, and there are no maps showing which land in the area belongs to whom.
The IDF spokesman said the matter would be checked. The head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, David Alhayani, said all the land was being farmed with the permission of the WZO.
Likud’s most far-right figure proposes paying each Palestinian family in West Bank $500,000 to move to West
Despite being instructed by the Likud campaign not to give interviews, Moshe Feiglin made controversial statements during a conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
The Women in Green conference was attended by several Likud officials who discussed operative ways to impose Israeli sovereignty beyond the Green Line.
Feiglin, who earlier on Tuesday was detained by police after trying to pray at the Temple Mount, proposed paying Palestinians to leave Israel.
“The State of Israel is paying 10% of its GNP every year for the two-state solution and the Oslo Accords. It’s paying for separation fences, Iron Domes and a guard at every café. Soon we’ll have to place Iron Domes in every school in Tel Aviv.
“With this budget we can give every Arab family in Judea and Samaria $500,000 to encourage it to immigrate to a place with a better future.
“You may say, ‘But no one will have them.’ That’s not true because the Western nations are shrinking due to low birth rates. The question is whether the world will have Sudanese migrants who can’t build or migrants from Judea and Samaria who do know how to build.
“Polls conducted in Gaza and Judea and Samaria show that 80% (of Palestinians) in Gaza and 65% (of Palestinians) in Judea and Samaria want to immigrate. We have here the perfect solution. “
During the conference Minister Yuli Edelstein endorsed a gradual process of imposing Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. MK Yariv Levin expressed similar views but admitted the chances of imposing Israeli law beyond the Green Line were not high.
Zeev Elkin proposed imposing sovereignty in the Jewish-populated areas first and then in the Palestinian areas.
A Likud official said, “These radical statements are good for Netanyahu from an election standpoint. They help get back rightist votes that shifted to the Habayit Hayehudi party. No one is going to annex the territories. It’s a good election slogan.”
He noted that Netanyahu will not publically condemn the statements.
Israeli Forces Attack School, PSP Activists in Another Invasion Following Funeral
Bethlehem Christians feel the squeeze as Israeli settlements spread
Amid plastic bags snagged on gorse bushes, rusting hulks of cars in a breakers yard and a few shabby trailers, traces of a biblical landscape are still to be found on a hillside between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. A couple of donkeys are tethered to a gnarled olive tree; nearby, sheep and goats bleat as they huddle against the chill December air.
But this terrain will soon be covered in concrete after the authorisation last week of the construction of more than 2,600 homes in Givat Hamatos, the first new Israeli settlement to be built since 1997.
It lies between two existing settlements: Gilo, home to 40,000 people, sits atop one hill; to its east, on another hill, stands Har Homa, whose population is around 20,000, with further expansion in the pipeline. Both are largely built on Bethlehem land.
Givat Hamatos will form a strategic link between these twin towns, further impeding access between Bethlehem and the intended capital of Palestine, East Jerusalem, just six miles away.
Israel considers these and other settlements across the Green Line to be legitimate suburbs of Jerusalem, which it claims as the unified, indivisible capital of the Jewish state. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and official bodies have announced a spate of expansion plans in recent weeks.
In the birthplace of Jesus, the impact of Israeli settlements and their growth has been devastating. In a Christmas message, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Bethlehem was enduring a “choking reality”.
He added: “For the first time in 2,000 years of Christianity in our homeland, the Holy Cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem have been completely separated by Israeli settlements, racist walls and checkpoints.”
Bethlehem is now surrounded by 22 settlements, including Nokdim, where the hardline former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman lives, and Neve Daniel, home to public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein.
The city is further hemmed in by the vast concrete and steel separation barrier, bypasses connecting settlements with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Israeli military zones. With little room to expand, it is now more densely populated than Gaza, according to one Palestinian official.
In Beit Sahour – the site on the eastern edge of Bethlehem where, according to Christian tradition, angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in a field – William Sahouri is feeling the squeeze. Ten years ago, he moved into a housing project designated for young Christian families, which overlooks fields and hills where sheep once grazed.
Now most of that land is on the other side of the separation barrier, inaccessible to Palestinians. Har Homa – which, like all settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, is illegal under international law – is rapidly spreading down the hill. Cranes are at work on new apartment blocks; bulldozers are flattening land for new roads and buildings.
In contrast, Sahouri’s home, along with others in the neighbourhood, is under an Israeli demolition order. It was issued in 2002 soon after the apartments were built without a permit, which is almost impossible to get in areas of the West Bank under full Israeli military control. After protests, the order was frozen but not lifted.
“It’s like sitting on a bomb,” says Sahouri, who estimates his family’s presence in the area stretches back more than 300 years. “We don’t know when it will be blown. At any moment they could come with bulldozers and heavy machinery and everything will be gone.”
But, he adds, gesturing across to Har Homa, “the Israelis can build 1,000 homes in three months. In 10 years, they build a city, while we have to build stone by stone.”
Residents of Beit Sahour – whose 15,000 population is 80% Christian – say settlers have targeted another nearby spot. A former Israeli military base at Ush Ghurab is visited almost weekly by hardliners from settlements deep in the West Bank, who have repainted the abandoned buildings, planted trees and raised Israeli flags. The site is now known as Shdema to the settlers, who hold regular meetings and activities on the hilltop.
Local Palestinians fear that the visitors will begin to sleep at the former base, then expand the site with additional caravans, followed by the provision of services – electricity, water, roads – and eventually permanent homes. This is a familiar pattern of how radical settlements, unauthorised by the Israeli state, take shape.
“This area is being highly targeted,” says local Palestinian activist George Rishmawi. “Experience tells us this is how settlements start – with the actions of fanatics.”
On the other side of Bethlehem, another mainly Christian community is also facing a battle, this one against the planned route of the separation barrier. Under present proposals it will cut off 58 families, plus a monastery and convent, from their land. The monks and nuns of Cremisan have joined forces with residents to fight a legal battle over the route, which will be decided in the Israeli courts early next year.
“The wall will confiscate nearly all our land,” says Samira Qaisieh, whose house on the edge of Beit Jala was built by her husband’s family almost a century ago. Its vine-covered terrace looks across the valley to Gilo, the Israeli settlement, built on land she says was owned by her grandfather. “Israel says it is doing all this in the name of security. But really they just want a land without [Palestinian] people.”
Qaisieh is thinking of leaving unless the barrier is re-routed. “There is no work here. If we lose our land, what is there to stay for? What is the future for my children?”
About two-thirds of the 400-mile West Bank barrier is complete; 85% of its route runs inside the West Bank, swallowing almost 8.5% of Palestinian land. In 2004, theInternational Court of Justice ruled it was illegal and that construction must stop.
The wall already snakes around most of Bethlehem, its 8m-high concrete slabs casting a deep shadow, both literally and metaphorically. At the Christmas Tree restaurant, where there are almost no takers for the “Quick Lunches” on offer, business has slowed to a standstill since the wall blocked what was once the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem road. Scores of shops along the closed-off artery have shut down altogether.
A few hundred metres along from the empty restaurant, a long steel-caged corridor leading through multiple turnstiles to a checkpoint is the main exit from the city for Palestinians wishing to go to Jerusalem. The Israel Defence Forces issues thousands of extra permits to Christian Palestinians to allow them to visit holy sites in Jerusalem over Christmas, but the lack of routine access has had a dire impact on businesses and employment rates.
Bethlehem has one of the highest rates of unemployment of all West Bank cities, at 18%, says Vera Baboun, who was elected as its first female mayor in October. “We are a strangulated city, with no room for expansion due to the settlements and the wall.”
In a booklet to mark Christmas 2012, Kairos Palestine, a Christian alliance, says: “Land confiscation, as well as the influx of Israeli settlers, suggest that there will be no future for Palestinians (Christian or Muslim) in [this] area. In this sense, the prospect of a clear ‘solution’ grows darker every day.”
Over recent decades Christians have left Bethlehem in their thousands, and now are a minority in a city they once dominated. In 2008 Christians accounted for 28% of Bethlehem city’s population of about 25,000. The daily grind of living under occupation, with few opportunities, little hope and the violence of the Palestinian uprising 10 years ago are cited as the chief reasons for departure. But in the past few years the flood of emigrants has slowed. “We are here, and we will remain here, to help our new state become a reality,” says Nora Carmi of Kairos.
In Beit Jala, parish priest Father Ibrahim Shomali, who leads open-air prayers under olive trees at sunset every Friday to protest at the planned route of the barrier around the Cremisan monastery, fears its construction could lead to a fresh wave of Christian departures. “People are leaving,” he says wearily. “But some of us will stay, to pray and resist.”