Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

In the Hebron Hills, the settlers are the lords and the IDF does their bidding

A new booklet by Breaking the Silence compiles dozens of accounts by former Israeli combat soldiers who served in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank. 

Text by Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg

In 2012, two Israeli residents of Mitzpe Yair, an unauthorized settlement in the Hebron Hills, spontaneously attacked an elderly, unarmed Palestinian man, beating him so badly that he was hospitalized. Since Israel is, according to the Oslo Accords, obligated to regulate all aspects of civilian life in the occupied territories, soldiers from a nearby army base were deployed to search for the perpetrators.

The search was desultory and unsuccessful; the soldiers were ordered back to base within a couple of hours. During a debriefing the next morning, one of the soldiers asked his commanding officer what they should do if the reverse happened — i.e., what if they saw two Palestinian residents of the same area spontaneously attacking an unarmed Jewish settler? The officer’s curt response: “Shoot to kill.”

One of the soldiers at that briefing recounted the incident, which received almost no coverage in the Israeli media, to Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli combat soldiers that works to raise awareness about the occupation. His account is one of 41 collected from former combat soldiers who served in the area; they are compiled in a new publication called The South Hebron Hills: Soldiers’ Testimonies, 2010-2016.

The purpose of the book is set out in the introduction, which presents the organization’s mandate: by collecting the data Breaking the Silence seeks to present a clear picture of the “systemic and institutionalized” discrimination between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents that defines Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank. They believe that by recording and presenting this information to the public, they will raise the awareness that is a first step toward ending the occupation.

The report shows the effect of discriminatory law enforcement, with settlers treated as privileged citizens while Palestinians have almost no rights at all. Not only does this policy perpetuate the occupation and oppress the Palestinians, it also allows settler riots like the one that occurred in mid-October, with settlers from Yitzhar attacking volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights while they harvested olives with Palestinian farmers.

Reading the testimonies is a harrowing experience; in the aggregate, alongside the data, they make...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Tracking Israel's support for illegal outposts

The Israeli government has been quietly authorizing illegal settlement outposts in recent years. A criminal activity, the trend also exposes Palestinians to increased violence and harassment from settlers.

Text by Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg

Illegal settlement outposts have become increasingly regularized during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure, according to a recent report from Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now. In a trend largely kept hidden from the Israeli public, these unauthorized outposts enjoy unwavering support from the government, despite their clear illegality. According to the report, 15 such outposts have already been legalized, with at least 35 more on the way to authorization.

The goal is permanency; the strategy is “facts on the ground.” Starting out as ostensibly temporary settlements, courts find themselves unable to enforce demolition due to outpost leaders’ clever legal tactics.

One such method involves settlers using various code words and phrases in official correspondence: “The preservation of state lands” means the removal of Palestinian presence from the area, for example. Another strategy sees outpost leaders using trucks on wheels for housing rather than buildings, as vehicles do not require building permits. In this way, the outposts evade court demolition orders.

In recent years, settlement organizations have employed a new method of rapidly expropriating large swaths of Palestinian land with little investment, by setting up agricultural farms. As the report explains, initial takeovers of land for outposts are often carried out by a handful of people, perhaps a couple of families with children, who take over stretches of land for “land cultivation” or grazing.

To the naked eye, these farms look like individual, local initiatives, and because outposts are illegal, it is difficult to establish “who is behind their establishment, where the money originates, and what portion have the various authorities contributed to them.” Yet Peace Now’s research shows that these outposts are an organized and well-funded project backed by non-governmental bodies such as the Amana movement, a private organization promoting Jewish settlement on occupied lands, and the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization.

The report emphasizes that the most significant assistance comes from the government itself, which sends a clear message to the settlers: “You may establish facts on the ground illegally, and we will expunge your crimes.” Most of the time, the Israeli authorities remain passive and simply refuse to enforce the law, thereby turning a blind eye to the...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Choosing annexation over development

A new report compares and contrasts two of of Israel’s largest and most important settlement projects: development towns built before 1967 and the settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Text by Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg

There are many ways of calculating the “cost” of the occupation. Since 2008, the Adva Center, a leading Israeli progressive think tank that monitors social and economic developments in Israel has for years published annual reports outlining the burden of the occupation on Israeli society.

The organization’s latest report, “Annexation Trumps Start-up Nation,” tell the story of two Israeli settlement projects: the “development towns” established in far-flung areas of the country before the 1967 war, and the settlements built in the occupied West Bank ever since.

While both involve significant public expenditures, and both are part of the Israeli government’s strategic aim is to encourage people to settle the land, that is where the similarities end. As the report notes, successive Israeli governments may have wanted Jews to settle in the development towns, generally far away from the corridors of political, economic, and cultural power, yet the state never really made them a priority of national importance. Inhabited disproportionately by Jewish immigrants from North Africa, development towns have seen systematic underinvestment, coupled with decades-long institutionalized racism against Mizrahim by Israeli authorities.

The same cannot be said about West Bank settlements that have sprouted up since 1967. According to Adva, West Bank settlers, particularly in ideological settlements, enjoy massive housing and infrastructure subsidies, including exemptions from tenders and convenient mortgages.

But the big money being spent on settlements, says the report, has little to do with standard of living. Rather it is spent on providing military and police protection for the settlers — all in order to mitigate the threat of Palestinians.

While development towns connote the promise of Israel joining the developed world, says the report, the settlements carry a different, hyper-politicized message: maintaining Israeli control over the Palestinian territories conquered in 1967 by chopping up the territory into separate enclaves, eating away at whatever Palestinian land is left.

The report also demonstrates how government support has turned West Bank settlers into a hugely powerful lobby in Israeli society whose political power goes far beyond their electoral clout. Development towns, on the other hand, have never succeeded in attaining such immense political power. The report concludes: “The settler right constitutes a key factor in the determination of the entire national agenda: the constant...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Exploiting Palestinian land to treat Israeli waste

A new B’Tselem report reveals that a significant portion of Israel’s waste treatment system is located outside its sovereign borders, in the West Bank. Because Israel has set out less stringent environmental regulations for industrial zones in settlements and even offers financial incentives such as tax breaks and government subsidies, it is now more profitable to build and operate waste treatment facilities in the West Bank than inside Israel. The lax regulatory standards there increase potential environmental and health hazards for West Bank residents.

B’Tselem research has found that there are at least fifteen Israeli waste treatment facilities in the West Bank.

B‘Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories works to end Israel’s occupation in acknowledgment of the fact that ending the occupation regime is the only way to forge a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all persons living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: The systematic abuse of Palestinian teens in East Jerusalem

Affidavits collected from 60 Palestinian teenagers reveal how they are pulled out of bed in the middle of the night, handcuffed, interrogated in violation of their rights, and kept in custody under harsh conditions, sometimes for extended periods of time by Israeli authorities. A new report by Israeli human rights groups HaMoked and B’Tselem reveals the broad, systemic human rights abuses against hundreds of Palestinian teens arrested every year in East Jerusalem.

View article: AAA
Share article

Everything you need to know about tensions at Jerusalem's holiest site

Over the last week a series of escalating events on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif has threatened peace and security at the holy site and for Jerusalem as a whole. Ir Amim have created the following primer to help make sense of these rapidly spiraling events and to raise the call for a swift, agreed resolution of the current conflict.

By Ir Amim

The catalyst

The current escalation of events at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound (also known as Al Aqsa compound, the Noble Sanctuary, the Esplanade, the compound) began last Friday with a heinous attack that claimed the lives of two Israeli police officers. The three perpetrators, who descended from the compound, fled back to the Mount, where they were shot and killed by security forces. The government then issued orders to close the compound entirely for two consecutive days.

Security concerns

The fact that events took place in and around the most sensitive and highly contested site in Jerusalem – itself a core issue of the conflict – clearly heightens security concerns and creates a situation meriting special consideration. “Appropriate measures” is naturally a relative concept and Israelis and Palestinians clearly diverge on how they perceive the situation. Of central concern is the degree to which security measures may or may not disturb the fragile status quo at the site. The anomalous closure of Al-Aqsa for two consecutive days may largely be interpreted as a security measure for Israelis. For Palestinians, it is a severe abridgment of their religious rights and an upending of the status quo.

The status quo

The status quo in place since 1967 concerns management and security arrangements on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif that were recognized in the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994. Three critical considerations are: 1) the primacy of Muslim prayer rights, e.g. over the right of Jews to visit the site; 2) the division of management authority, which stipulates the Muslim Waqf (religious trust) will manage the inside of the compound and its holy sites while Israel maintains authority for security around the perimeter; and 3) entry arrangements. Determining when the status quo has been breached is tricky, particularly given that it is not written down and in light of the delicacy of how to develop an appropriate security response at times such as these. What is important to underscore is that perception matters and all events that happen on the...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: The impact of the siege on women in Gaza

A report by Gisha addresses the effects of Israel’s policy toward Gaza’s workforce from a gender perspective. It focuses on women who managed to break through the glass ceiling only to be met by the concrete ceiling of the Israeli-imposed closure.
                                                                                                                                                                                
The report examines the specific ways in which the closure on Gaza affects women from different professional fields: consultancy, banking, hi-tech management, civil society organizations, education, and entrepreneurship. Each one of the women interviewed has overcome social obstacles and limitations but is still faced with the severe Israeli restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza. These restrictions affect both their personal and professional advancement, and the possibility of contributing to the development of Gaza’s economy.

Gisha is an Israeli non-profit organization founded in 2005 whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents.



View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Israel's refusal to compensate Palestinians

Over the past 20 years, Israel has taken measures to guarantee a nearly blanket exemption from its obligation under international law to pay compensation to Palestinians harmed by its security forces. In this report, B’Tselem traces the development of this practice and illustrates how it has led to a major drop in the number of claims for damages Palestinians filed in recent years. Israel’s policy reflects how little value it places on the lives, bodies and property of Palestinians living under its control. 

View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Fact-checking Israel's most stubborn illegal outpost

The state will ask the High Court to, once again, delay the demolition of Amona. Here are a few myths surrounding one of the most stubborn outposts in the West Bank.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

In recent months the residents of Amona and right-wing politicians have been waging a campaign designed to prevent the evacuation of this unauthorized outpost and to continue seizing the lands that belong to the residents of the Palestinian villages Silwad, Taybeh and Ein Yabrud. However, the High Court of Justice ordered the outpost be evacuated by the end of December 2016. It is crucial for the public to know the truth, especially in light of the vast misinformation on the subject. Here are a few of the most baseless arguments we’ve heard in the media recently (followed by our responses).

“There is no landowner who is a concrete petitioner claiming ownership of the lands of Amona.” (Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Nissan Smolianski, August 3, 2016).

The land on which Amona stands on and the surrounding area is regulated private Palestinian lands, registered in the Tabu. Ten Palestinians petitioned the High Court of Justice (you can see their names listed in the petition) to demand the outpost be evacuated and to allow them to return to their land. Their names are displayed on the petition, they gave interviews to the media and the High Court ruled in their favor. Does it get any more concrete than that?

“Amona’s land was purchased from the Palestinian owners.”

Settlers first made this argument in the 1990s, but never provided evidence. The Civil Administration rejected the claim definitively in 2004 and issued demolition orders in Amona. Later on, residents of Amona presented the High Court with documents that claim they have proof of land purchase. The police determined that some of the documents were forged. The High Court determined that the illegal construction could not be authorized, even if small portions of the land were in fact purchased.

In addition to the purchase claim, the founders of the outpost tried to argue from the beginning that it was built on land that had a military seizure order on it. The High Court ruled in the past that a military seizure order could not be used to establish settlements. When Amona was first established, the Attorney General in the West Bank determined that...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: The Whitewashing Procedure

The Israeli bodies responsible for investigating the events of Operation Protective Edge are engaged primarily in creating the false impression of a functioning system that ostensibly seeks to discover the truth.

In the meantime, those actually responsible for violations are not even questioned, and the investigations have been confined to superficial inspections of a number of isolated incidents, divorced from any context.

This is the conclusion reached by the human rights organization B’Tselem in a new report. Entitled The Whitewashing Procedure: The Ostensible Investigation of the Events of Operation Protective Edge, the report summarizes a period of over two years since the end of the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Read more on this report: With no justice on the horizon for Gaza, what comes next?

 

B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.

View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: The myriad failings of Israeli military investigations

After 25 years of assisting Palestinian victims of Israeli military violence file complaints with the IDF’s investigative bodies, human rights group B’Tselem decides to stop cooperating with the army’s investigations. ‘The experience we have gained, on which we base the conclusions presented in this report, has brought us to the realization that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators.’

Read more here about how and why B’Tselem’s decided to stop referring complaints to the Israeli military law enforcement.

B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.

View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Displaced in their own city

A new report by Ir Amim reviews of various aspects of Israeli policy, from 1967 to the present day, that have created the current reality in which tens of thousands of Jerusalem residents have been sundered from the city since the establishment of the Separation Barrier and are virtually ignored by both the local and central governments.

The findings of the report present a stark warning. The reality it describes constitutes a disaster for the Palestinians and will cause grave damage to the stability of life in Jerusalem, the foundations of Israeli society and to any future political resolution.

Ir Amim (“City of Nations” or “City of Peoples”) is an NGO which focuses on Jerusalem within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Ir Amim seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it.

View article: AAA
Share article

Resource: Faced with settler violence, the IDF stands idly by

A new report by human rights organization Yesh Din about how IDF soldiers act when offenses are committed by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The phenomenon of “standing idly by” refers to incidents when soldiers witness violence by Israeli citizens against Palestinians and their property and do nothing to prevent the harm while the action is ongoing; refrain from detaining or arresting the perpetrators after the event; fail to secure the scene to allow the collection of evidence; or fail to testify about the event to the police.

According to the provisions of international law as well as repeated rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court, the IDF is obligated to maintain law and order in the West Bank. Therefore, upon the occupation of the West Bank its forces were given policing powers. However, the report shows how over the years the army has avoided fulfilling that duty and tried to impose it on the Israel Police.

Yesh Din is a volunteer organization working to defend the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation.

View article: AAA
Share article