Zionism - A Major Obstacle
Moshé Machover - September 2005
In this article I would like to explain why Zionism,
as a political ideology, is a major obstacle to resolution of the
Let me stress that I am concerned here with Zionist
ideology rather than with the practice of the Zionist project. That
the latter is an absolute obstacle to resolution of the conflict
is self-evident: it is a
colonizatory project, an implantation of settlers, which has - necessarily
- been implemented at the expense of the mass of indigenous people
and by denial of their national rights. Indeed, the Zionist project
is the root cause of the conflict.
Zionist ideology is clearly unacceptable from
the perspective of the Palestinian Arab people. But here I propose
to consider the case against Zionism from a somewhat less obvious
perspective - that of the settler nation.
How may the conflict be resolved?
Let us first ask ourselves what we mean by 'resolution
of the conflict'.
I have argued elsewhere that the Zionist colonization
of Palestine - unlike the colonization of southern Africa, for example
- was not based on exploiting the labour power of the indigenous
people, but has aimed, quite consciously and deliberately, at their
In several other settler states belonging to the
same species of colonization, the settlers have succeeded in eliminating
the entire indigenous population or in reducing it to small and
insignificant remnants. The conflict between colonizers and colonized
ended with the overwhelming and virtually total victory of the former,
and was in this sense 'resolved'.
Such an outcome is very unlikely in the case of
the Israeli settler state. To be sure, the historical record suggests
that Israel's Zionist leaders will exploit any opportunity (she'at
kosher in Zionist parlance) for
further territorial expansion and ethnic cleansing. Moreover, the
more daring among them will attempt actively to create such opportunities.
But however far this process may realistically be pushed, Israel
will always find itself surrounded by Arabs, by the Arab nation,
of which the Palestinian Arab people is a constituent part.
In the end, the conflict in this case can only
be resolved by accommodating the two national groups directly involved:
the Palestinian Arabs and the Hebrews. And no accommodation can
be a true resolution unless it is based on equality of group (collective)
rights between these two national
groups (as well as equality of individual rights to all). This is
a minimal necessary condition because its absence means, by definition,
that one of these groups will be underprivileged and oppressed.
oppression inexorably leads to national struggle - the very opposite
Note that I am not specifying any state-institutional
framework for an equality-based resolution. In principle, many alternative
frameworks are possible. I do not wish to enter here into the controversy
between those who support the so-called 'two-state solution' and
those who advocate a single 'secular' state. In my opinion, this
controversy, in the way it is actually conducted, is a diversion.
Given the present balance of power, no true resolution is possible
in the short or medium term. In these
circumstances a 'two-state' settlement is bound to be a travesty:
a nominally independent Palestinian 'state' that is in reality a
disconnected set of Indian Reservations policed by corrupt elites
acting as proxies for a dominant Israel - a regional hegemonic nuclear
super-power, in its turn a local hatchet man for the global hyper-power.
A one-state setup will be no better: an extension of direct military
occupation and subjugation.
The regional context
But no balance of power lasts forever. A proper
resolution will become possible in the longer term, given a radical
socio-political transformation of the Arab world and some form of
unification of the Arab nation (of which the Palestinian Arab people
is a component). In such circumstances a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict will necessarily be embedded in a regional constellation,
a confederation including the entire Arab East. For this reason
it is, in my opinion, an error to think of a
resolution of the conflict within a framework confined to the borders
of Palestine/Israel (whether as a single state or as divided into
two states) in isolation from its regional context.
The impossible as enemy of the difficult
Let me return to the main theme: an accommodation
of the two national entities, based on equality of collective national
We must not underestimate the enormous difficulty
of such accommodation.
The Hebrew nation will have to give up its long-standing
dominance and the privileges that go with it. That this is just
doesn't make it easy. Indeed, it can only become realistic given
a balance of power very different from the present one.
But precisely in such circumstances it will be
very difficult for the Palestinian Arabs to accept that the Hebrew
nation, created in the Palestinian homeland as a consequence of
Zionist colonization, ought to be accommodated and granted equal
The great difficulty that this represents for
mainstream Palestinian nationalism is made clear by arguments put
forward by Fateh (the dominant component of the PLO led by the late
Yasir 'Arafat) as far back as 1970, advocating its call for a 'Secular
Democratic Palestine'. By that time, mainstream Palestinian nationalism
was coming to terms with the painful realization that the Israelis
were there to stay, and had to be accommodated in a future free
Palestine. But it denied the highly inconvenient fact that Zionist
colonization had given birth to a new Hebrew nation - a fact that
is indeed an enormously complicating factor in the conflict. The
adjective 'secular' in the formula 'Secular Democratic Palestine'
encoded this denial. In a programmatic article - unsigned, but to
my certain knowledge written by Nabil Sha'ath (then one of the main
Fateh ideologues and now a senior minister in the Palestinian Authority)
- Fateh explicitly rejected the idea of a bi-national Palestine
as a 'misconception': '[t]he call for a non-sectarian Palestine
should not be confused with a bi-national state'. It argued that
in the reality of
Palestine 'the term bi-national and the Arab-Jewish dichotomy [are]
meaningless, or at best quite dubious'. Moreover, the article stresses
that '[t]he liberated Palestine will be part of the Arab Homeland,
and will not be another alien state within it'; and looks forward
to '[t]he eventual unity of Palestine with other Arab States'.
In the programmatic formula 'Secular Democratic
Palestine' proposed at that time by Fateh, the adjective 'secular'
was inserted not in opposition to 'theocratic' (a theocratic democratic
state is in any case a nonsensical concept) but in opposition to
'bi-national'. The intention was to present the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict in religious terms and to propose a future Palestine in
which Jews would have individual equality and freedom of religious
worship in a country whose nationality would be Arab.
Yet without accepting the fact that a Hebrew nation
exists, and without according it national rights equal to those
of the Palestinian Arab people, the conflict cannot be resolved.
Let me repeat: inequality is oppression, the opposite of resolution.
It will be the delicate task of the most progressive political forces
among the Palestinians (and in the region as a whole) to persuade
the Palestinian masses of this.
It is at this point that Zionist ideology constitutes
a major obstacle. For Zionism - like a father denying the existence
of his unwanted child -- denies the existence of a Hebrew nation,
newly created in Palestine/Israel. It shares this denial with mainstream
Palestinian nationalism (as illustrated by the programmatic article
quoted above), but for a very different reason. According to Zionist
ideology, all the Jews around the world constitute a single nation.
The true homeland of every Jew is not the country in which s/he
may have been born and in which his or her family may have resided
for generations. The homeland of this alleged nation is the Biblical
Land of Israel, over which it has an ancient inalienable - indeed
God-given - national right. Non-Jews living in the Jewish homeland
are mere foreign interlopers. Zionist colonization is justified
as 'return to the homeland' - a right possessed by Jews but denied
to those foreign interlopers, the Palestinian refugees, who have
been legitimately evicted from the Jewish homeland. There is no
Hebrew nation but merely members of the worldwide Jewish nation
who have already returned to their homeland, an advance guard of
their brethren in the Diaspora, who have a right - indeed a sacred
duty - to follow the vanguard and be 'ingathered' in the Land of
Now, my argument is quite simple. In an eventual
accommodation, in the framework of a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict, the Hebrew nation can legitimately claim acceptance as
an actually existing nation. The only justification of this difficult
claim is the pragmatic one, that otherwise the conflict cannot be
resolved. But it cannot possibly make and justify this claim while
it is in thrall to an ideology that denies its own national existence
and instead claims a right over the whole Land of Israel on behalf
of an alleged worldwide nation. No accommodation, no resolution,
will be possible so long as Israelis subscribe to a claim that demands
from the Palestinians (and from the Arab nation as a whole) not
only retroactive legitimation of past Zionist colonization, but,
in effect, an acceptance of
an alleged continuing right to future further 'ingathering' - which
implies further colonization and expansion. Such an impossible claim
precludes a true resolution of the conflict.
 See my article Is it Apartheid?, November
2004; posted in various websites e.g. www.pamolson.org/ArtApartheid.htm
 In Zionist parlance, this ethnic cleansing
is referred to as 'transfer'. On its planning and early stages,
see Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of 'Transfer'
in Zionist Political
Thought, 1882-1948, Washington, 1992.
 This is quite different from the case of,
say, the US, which was able to fulfil its 'manifest destiny' by
occupying and ethnically cleansing the whole space from the Atlantic
to the Pacific.
 The latter are commonly called 'Israeli
Jews'. I have long preferred the term 'Hebrews', because 'Jew' is
an ambiguous term, which can denote religious rather (or as well
as) ethnic affiliation. On the other hand, the Hebrew nation is
most clearly characterized by its use of the Hebrew language as
a common means of everyday and cultural discourse.
The Separation Wall in the occupied territories is illegal and perpetuates
The State of Israel is erecting the
Separation Wall on Palestinian land out of "security considerations,"
while the true objective is to annex land west of the Wall into
Israel. This provocative act is being conducted against the ruling
of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, as well as the
resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations which accepted
the ruling of the Court. This act is being carried out with all
the oppressive and violent means at the disposal of the occupying
IDF forces - through shooting and killing, serious injury, beating
and threats, closures and curfews, and fear and intimidation tactics.
This aggression is currently faced by a growing non-violent opposition
to this land grab and denial of Palestinians' human rights to exist
and live freely on their native land.
Israeli and international activists for peace and human rights are
expressing their opposition to this act through joint demonstrations
and protest campaigns.
Up until now the State of Israel has built 180km of the planned
620km of the Separation Wall, appropriating tens of thousands of
acres of private land, uprooting tens of thousands of olive and
fruit trees, and destroying the entire fabric of life of hundreds
of thousands of people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The village of Bil'in is a small and peaceful village near Ramallah,
whose 1,700 residents gain their livelihood through agriculture
and occasional external employment. The Separation Wall is appropriating
50% of the village lands and about 70% of its cultivated area.
The real objective of the Wall's route in this area, as in others,
is the expansion of the massive settlement of Upper Modi'in Illit.
This settlement has already 35,000 residents, and according to the
plans of the Ministry of Housing, will number, in 2020, 150,000
people. The expansion of Modi'in Illit has been, and is being, done
at the expense of the seized lands of Bil'in and neighboring villages.
We are launching the petition campaign with the intent that the
Israeli government will retrace its illegal land grab practices
and restore the annexed land to it's proper owners, the Palestinian
residents of Bil'in.
To sign the petition, go to:
In the last days, Gaza was awakened from its dreams
of liberation with horrible explosions which have shattered our
skies, shaken our buildings, broken our windows, and threw the place
We are being bombed since Friday 23 of September
day and night. Usually between 2:00-4:00am, between 6:30 - 8:00
in the morning school going time, and in the afternoon or early
The explosions are heard and felt all over the
Gaza Strip with the same intensity. These explosions were used alongside
the usual routine of killing and destruction which the Israelis
forces are familiar with.
This new cycle of terror started with Israel assassinating
four people in the West Bank town of Tolkarem. In the same day Islamic
Jihad retaliated from Gaza by sending rockets to the Israeli village
of Sdirot. In the same day 19 people were killed during a military
parade of Hamas. Apparently the cause was the mishandling of explosives,
but Hamas blamed Israel and joined Islamic Jihad in sending rockets
to Sdirot where five people were injured.
Hamas quickly retracted and announced that it
would stop all military operation from Gaza. Islamic Jihad followed
with an assertion that it would abide by the truce. The Israeli
campaign of bombing continues. Last night I, with all Gazans, were
awakened by horrible noise twice, at 3:30am and 7:15am, I I was
hardly able to sleep in between. Five more explosions were directed
at us in the last four hours, one has shaken my desk while I am
Gaza is in a state of panic, children are restless,
crying, frightened and many are wetting their beds. Some children
are afraid leaving home, and they refuse to go to school. Many are
dazed, pale, insomniac and have poor appetite.
Some pregnant women reported colics and some were
admitted to hospital with precipitated labour. Many people complain
of ear pressure. All are stunned.
The new method of exploding sonic bombs in our
skies was obviously never used before the disengagement so as not
to alarm or hurt the Israeli settlers and their children.
Israel is inducing learned helplessness
to the Palestinians in Gaza with the aim of making the whole population
captive to fear and paralysis. This is a war crime and this is a
racist crime. Israel must be stopped.
Back to the Routine
Translated from Yediot Aharonot, Sept. 30 Instead
of our own assessment of the past week.
At last we are back to normal, to the good old
routine. The withdrawal is over, the evacuation is over, the quarrel
with Bibi is over, all the exciting extraordinary things are over.
Back to the normal routine.
The routine of assassinations. Of killings. Of
bombing Gaza. The routine of a selective memory which can sharply
focus only on falling Qassam missiles, and is somehow utterly unable
to recall that all too often they had been preceded by assassinations.
In this case it was some quick slayings at Tulkarm. (Of course Colonel
Roni Numa, commander of the Nahal Brigade, announces with complete
confidence that all of those killed had been terrorists - but past
experience justifies some scepticism at such announcements). But
the memory which goes back to routine does not dwell on such trivia.
We have come back even to the routine of the televised
voice of Defence Minster Mofaz, a man of few words in days without
violence, celebrating the return to the routine of making bald threats,
and promises of mayhem, and muscled pronouncements, and the other
rampant male manifestations of which he is so fond.
We have also come back to the routine of "oblique
retaliation" to which we have become so used in the years of
the Intifiada: that is, it is Hamas which shoots and the Jihad which
kills, but routine demands that very much of the retaliation be
directed at Fatah. Or at the Palestinian Authority's police. Or
just at the Palestinian Authority itself. Or to the head of the
PA. For after all, the byword of the routine is to preserve the
routine of "no partner", the routine of "the weak
Palestinian leader who may want but can't do anything". For
that is the only way to preserve also the routine of doing nothing
positive, and the routine of the occupation, and the routine of
a quiet ethnic cleansing here and
And there is routine of "the settlement blocks",
that plausible mantra which is sure to cut off any real effort at
dialogue. These amoeba-like blocks or blobs, whose boundaries and
limits nobody ever described or defined (why should they?), are
the best instrument for the most important aspect of routine at
all - making it possible for an aggressive and land-grabbing prime
minister to speak of "painful concession". ("Oh,
yes, I just want to keep a few settlement blocks here and there,
no more than that. Is that really too much to ask? Just a block
or two or three?"
Yes, we have come back to routine. Just
one more routine week: Mofaz is bombing, and Diskin is liquidating,
and Sharon is constructing, and the world is applauding, and the
suckers believe everything they are told. Oh, what a wonderful routine!
Like a Thorn in the Heart: Settlements and Settlers in East Jerusalem
Since the Occupation of the West Bank began in
1967, Israeli governments have made incessant efforts to change
the Arab character of East Jerusalem, eradicate all sign of Palestinians
or their symbols, and engender a Jewish mass that would in turn
create a new geopolitical reality. That process is aimed at assuming
control not only of the physical space of the city's eastern half
but also of its local identity, and so "Judaise" East
Jerusalem at the expense of its Palestinian heritage.
Successive governments have tried to implement
that aim by integrating two forces that operate in tandem and feed
off each other. One is the official state organ that expropriates
land and builds Jewish neighbourhoods and enterprises, while the
non-official organ is comprised of settlers who perform what the
state is unable to do, for legal reasons. The settlers' amutot (non-profit
associations) are the long arm of government, moonlighting contractors
for the Israeli government - each and every government. They flourished
and developed with government backing and sponsorship, and are warmly
embraced by every legal authority, from the Municipality to the
police. A close, almost symbiotic relationship has formed between
them and state representatives, to the extent that occasionally
it is unclear who is running whom - the state the settlers, or the
settlers the state.
This article focuses on actions by settlers in
the very heart of East Jerusalem's Arab population. It does not
deal with the neighbourhoods built in the eastern half of the city
that Palestinians call 'settlements', which is a well-known and
thoroughly documented phenomenon, but with the compounds of houses
being built in the midst of the Arab population, in Jerusalem's
Old City and neighbourhoods bordering it. The settlers' endeavours
are shrouded in secrecy, but in spite of their attempts to cover
their tracks we have collected enough material to assemble a reliable
and almost exhaustive picture of their efforts.
In the wake of the Oslo Accords and later peace
plans, the settlement project in East Jerusalem achieved greater
impetus, in light of the possibility that Jerusalem might be divided
as part of an overall peace agreement. Israel's government and the
Jerusalem Municipality work on the assumption that the Western powers
will eventually enforce a diplomatic arrangement in the form of
a 'road-map' featuring some sort of division. When that time comes,
the deployment of settlements will determine the city's boundaries,
just as in 1948 the map of settlements was used to chart the new
state's borders. As a result, both the state and the Municipality
are making tremendous efforts to create 'facts on the ground' that
will rule out any future division of the city.
The settler project is a well-thought-out and
deeply dangerous attempt by right-wing Israelis to thwart future
peace-plans. Quietly and furtively, Israel's government is using
the settlers to seal up the last loopholes through which peace can
conceivably find its way, and is creating significant facts which
are liable to bury the peace process. It is uncertain whether the
string of settlements will manage to modify East Jerusalem's character
but what is certain is that they are liable to sabotage any form
of agreement. Both the government and the Palestinians are aware
that East Jerusalem will not be able to function eventually as the
capital of Palestine when a belt of settlements encircles it and
settlers have taken possession of sites that are holy to Islam.
These settlements are a recipe for disaster, a time-bomb which,
if not defused in time, might cause an appalling explosion.
Several settler associations operate in East Jerusalem:
the most notable are Elad, Ateret Cohanim, Atara L'Yoshna, Beit
Orot and Shimon Ha'Tzadik. Pivotal figures in these associations
are Matti Dan, Benny Elon, Avi Maoz, Meir Davidson, Rabbi Elhanan
Bin-Nun and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Their chief efforts are focused
on the Old City in the area of Silwan, which they call "Ir
David" (City of David) and neighbourhoods surrounding the Old
City - from Wadi Kadum in the south to Sheikh Jarrah in the north.
All collaborate in a framework known as the Jerusalem Forum, which
links up all organisations working to "Judaise" East Jerusalem,
including messianic groups hoping to build the Third Temple on the
Geographical spread and settler statistics:
a settlement typology
In terms of formal affinity, Jewish areas within
East Jerusalem consist of three principal groups - settler-controlled
ideological groups, real-estate ventures by businessmen and government
initiatives. We do not have clear information about the number of
properties in the possession of settler associations, since they
have not yet occupied some of the properties and Arab middlemen
are living in others. At any rate, a reliable picture can be put
together from the information we have, even if it is partial.
Within the Old City's walls, operations are co-ordinated
by Ateret Cohanim. In the Moslem and Christian quarters it controls
31 buildings where 60 families reside, comprising 300 people. Most
of the buildings are grouped along Haggai Street near the Damascus
Gate; the most famous is the home of Ariel Sharon. Ateret Cohanim
has gained possession of St. John's Hostel, a large building close
to the Holy Sepulchre: a legal dispute is still pending over the
hostel. More recently Ateret Cohanim purchased, by dubious means,
two hotels near the Jaffa Gate - the New Imperial and the Petra
hotels, over which legal proceedings continue. The association also
operates outside the walls of the Old City; it is behind the unlicensed
construction of a seven-storey building in the area known as the
Yemenite neighbourhood on the outskirts of Silwan, and also behind
plans - discussed below - to build a Jewish enclave close to Herod's
Gate. To all of these must be added several yeshivas, kollels and
Talmudei Torah which serve the purpose of staking out a presence
in every Arab part of the Old City. The most notable are the yeshivas
of Ateret Yerushalayim, Shuvu Banim, Aderet Eliyahu, Ateret Cohanim,
Torat Haim, and Hazon Yehezkel.
There is a total number of almost 80 Jewish buildings
and institutions scattered throughout the Christian Quarter and
Moslem Quarter, and plans exist to add a further 33 housing units
near Herod's Gate.
Silwan and the surrounding area is the focus of
the Elad Association. Elad was founded in 1986, and entered the
first two homes in the Ir David area in 1991. Today there are ten
buildings in Ir David, where 27 families live. The association owns
another twenty buildings, most of which were seized in February
- April 2004, and 23 families now live there. In all, there are
around 50 families living in Silwan, whose family members are thought
to total close to 250. Elad's official publications reflect pride
in having seized more than 55% of the area of 'Ir David'. We
believe that many more buildings are still inhabited by Arab citizens,
and that the association is waiting for the most suitable moment
- in political terms - to take possession of them or "go public".
A seven-storey building in the Silwan area is under the control
of Ateret Cohanim, despite the fact that Silwan is considered Elad's
In the Sheikh Jarrah area, the Shimon Ha'Tzadik
Association has established a strong presence in what is known as
the Shimon Ha'Tzadik neighbourhood; it has taken over seven buildings
that house around 40 people, as well as a yeshiva where another
50 young people study. Across the road are four or five buildings
to which the association claims ownership - they are also the subject
of legal proceedings. The association claims ownership of seventeen
dunams in the area, purchased by an American company named Nahlat
Shimon International: the relevant plans call for building a complex
of 160 housing units.
The Beit Orot yeshiva is also a settlement to
all intents and purposes, because of its members' ideological profile.
It was founded by Rabbi Benny Elon in the early 1990s and 80 yeshiva
students are now housed there. When Benny Elon was Minister of Tourism,
he made a point of transforming the area near the yeshiva into a
national park - known as Ein Tzurim - and the Municipality has recently
approved Building Plan No. 4904/A which relates to public buildings
and housing units on an overall area of 10 dunams. The plans were
submitted by Irving Moskowitz.
The Shepherd Hotel Area
In November 2005 a construction file was opened
regarding the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah, on the road up to
Mount Scopus. Again, Irving Moskowitz is the developer, and the
trail leads to Ateret Cohanim. The plans address the construction
of close to 90 housing units; this development is one of the links
in the chain that connects the Shimon Ha'Tzadik neighbourhood to
the government complex in Sheikh Jarrah.
In Ras-al-Amud there is a large complex known
as Ma'aleh Hazayit, extending over 15 dunams, with 132 apartments:
the plans were approved in 1998, and the project financed by Irving
Moskowitz. Aryeh King, Moskowitz's son-in-law and his personal representative
in Israel, is a prominent figure in this context. Although King
maintains that all the apartments have been purchased, our assessment
is that the place is partially occupied, with no more than 60 families
actually living there. At any rate, the complex is in the throes
of a surge of expansion and an adjacent building, housing the Israel
Police headquarters of the Judea & Samaria branch, was recently
purchased. Once King obtains possession of the building, it will
extend the boundaries significantly.
On the outskirts of Abu Dis is a thirty-dunam
plot, where the Kidmat Zion complex, consisting of 340 housing units,
is to be built. Moskowitz has financed this project as well. Although
the plans were approved in 2002 and passed all the statutory committees,
construction is on hold due to American
pressure (it is near the site of the Palestinian Legislative Council
building which will be built in Abu Dis). Nevertheless, it is not
impossible that the plans will ultimately be implemented. The settlers
have seized possession of two buildings - one which they obtained
from its Palestinian owner, and another that they have built from
scratch. Both are intended to stress their presence and safeguard
the land from 'invaders'.
There are also several isolated buildings dispersed
throughout East Jerusalem, including buildings in Abu Tor, Jabel
Mukaber, one opposite the Nablus Road U.S. Consulate and so on,
where a few families live and offices operate - we believe that
there are around ten various housing units. We are aware of other
properties throughout the eastern half of the city, for example
in the Shuafat-Beit Hanina area, intended for use as bargaining
chips in exchange deals with people living in areas that interest
the settlers, such as Silwan and the Old City. The settlers' assumption
is that Palestinians living in highly congested areas where building
permits will not be granted will gladly exchange their homes for
more spacious ones in areas where building permits can be easily
As well as the ideological settlements, there
are several building projects initiated by business entities unconnected
with the settlers. When the time comes, however, settlers could
enter them in a massive way. The largest is the Nof Zion complex,
owned by Jacques Nasser and Abie Levy, bordering on Jabel Mukaber.
It extends over 115 dunams and will eventually contain 350 housing
units, a 150-room hotel, a synagogue and service buildings.
Another area in this category is in Shuafat. A
twelve dunam plot, it is owned by millionaire Ezra Bellilios. Plans
lodged with the local planning and building committee show that
he intends to construct five buildings of four or five storeys each,
and a commercial centre.
There is a plan for a five-storey building at
the entrance to Silwan, on what is known as the Givati site, on
an 11.5 dunam plot. Among planned facilities are a banqueting hall,
a commercial centre with a view towards the Western Wall plaza,
and an underground car-park. In June 2005, the plan was approved
by the local planning and construction committee. The developer
is the Ma'aleh Beit David company. At this stage we do not yet know
for sure who are the entrepreneurs are, but persistent rumours maintain
they are members of Elad.
Several complexes are planned for construction
in East Jerusalem at the government's initiative, generally that
of the Housing Ministry.
A new neighbourhood comprising 1,500 homes will
soon be built in the Givat HaMatos area, currently a caravan site
housing new immigrants. Although the site has been occupied for
over a decade by new immigrants and disadvantaged families, it is
presented as a completely new project, part of which lies on land
belonging to Beit Safafa.
A vast development which is partly a Jerusalem
neighbourhood and partly a settlement named Givat Yael, is planned
for construction near the village of Wallajeh - half of which is
under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, while the other half is in
Judea and Samaria. Givat Yael will be the largest settlement in
the Jerusalem area, with 3,500 homes. It is destined to be the link
connecting Jerusalem with Gush Etzion.
Near the Mar Elias monastery on the Bethlehem
Road, the Housing Ministry is planning the Har Homa C complex, which
will connect Har Homa with Gilo, while Har Homa D will be built
on land close to Khirbet Mazmoriya-Nuaman. Together with the Housing
Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality is drawing up a framework plan
to augment the Jewish presence in the city's south-eastern part,
with the objective of creating a Jewish buffer zone to prevent contiguity
between Beit Sahur, Sur Baher and the Palestinian neighbourhoods
to the south of the city.
A complex that involves all these actors is planned
for construction near Herod's Gate. Although a government initiative,
it is designed for the settlers of Ateret Cohanim. Plans show that
33 buildings will be erected close to the Western Wall, together
with a synagogue that will soar seven metres above the Old City
Another method used to boost Jewish presence in
East Jerusalem, at sites where residential construction is not an
option, is by transforming extensive swathes of land into 'green',
tourism areas with a strong Jewish flavour. Transforming open space
into parks is initially aimed at preventing a Palestinian presence
or - as the state calls it - the Arab takeover of the land. In the
ensuing stage it is likely that Jewish institutions and housing
for Jewish residents will be built there. But even if no institutions
or homes are being constructed, public parks are enough to reinforce
the Jewish hold over the site. The signposts, guards and paths create
contiguity between Jewish sites, and the architectural style contributes
to an extensive network of Jewish sites with political significance
and weight. We consider this another aspect of the pattern for seizing
control of physical space and demonstrating a presence there. Note
that for the past two years, the Public Parks Authority in the Jerusalem
District has been managed by Evyatar Cohen, who lives in the settlement
of Ofra, and is a former employee of Elad. Even Cohen's peers consider
him an extremist. One only has to track the explanations given by
state sources to realise that their discourse is the same as the
settlers', and their goals are one and the same.
Heading the process in the Moslem Quarter is the
Company for Rehabilitation and Development of the Jewish Quarter
- a subsidiary company of the Municipality and of the Government.
In 2001 it published a grandiose plan to build hundreds of homes
in the Jewish Quarter and on Mount Zion on an overall area of 225,000
square metres, as well as several tourism projects - near Mount
Zion, in Silwan, Herod's Gate and the Dung Gate - at a cost of 36.4
million dollars . In the brochure's introduction, the objective
of the project is defined as "returning a strong Jewish presence
to the Old City". The trend is to create contiguity between
the Old City and the rest of the city by augmenting the Old City
with hundreds of housing units for Jews and thus 'improving' the
demographic balance in the Old City. A tunnel will be excavated
so that the rest of the city will be linked with the Western Wall,
and a residential and business centre will be built on a seven-dunam
plot. The present car-park of the quarter will be replaced by an
underground car-park serving 600 vehicles. A promenade is to be
built over the roofs of the market, connecting the Jewish Quarter
with the other islands of Jewish presence scattered throughout the
Moslem and Christian quarters. Public buildings are planned for
construction on Mount Zion, enabling the vacating of offices and
institutions now located in the Jewish Quarter; afterwards they
can be rezoned as residential areas.
Another project that uses natural and scenic values
to bolster the Jewish presence in the Old City has been passed to
the East Jerusalem Development company (EJD) - (another of the Municipality's
subsidiaries), for execution. The project entails laying out a national
park composed of fifteen separate areas, located from Abu Tor via
the King's Valley (Silwan), the Sultan's Pool, the Lions' Gate,
Mount Zion, and up to the foothills of the Mount of Olives, all
connected by a network of paths: it will cost 75 million shekels.
A brochure outlining the project demonstrates the merging of tourism
with the political considerations underlying this extravagant project.
It states that, due to the deteriorating situation of tourism infrastructure
as a result of wide-scale illegal construction and squatters, rapid
action is necessary to preserve the area's status as a tourist attraction.
The government has defined the project as a 'national mission',
and clearly when it invokes this phrase it means more than planting
trees and placing park benches - something far more political and
ambitious. When interviewed by a local newspaper, the spokesperson
of EJD used the phrase "the battle for Jerusalem", which
has the covert goal of preventing construction by Palestinians in
the most sensitive areas in Jerusalem. These projects should
therefore be considered as constituting further tools for the takeover
of the city, and as an integral part of the overall settler project.
Sites at immediate risk
Three East Jerusalem sites are considered as being
at high risk:
(1) The al-Bustan area in the village of Silwan,
where the Municipality has tried to accomplish the destruction of
88 buildings in order to build an archaeological park. International
pressure has caused the project to be suspended, but the danger
has not vanished and the Government is apparently waiting for the
right time to implement their plan.
(2) The Tel al-Ful area, where the Israel Lands
Administration claims ownership of 200 dunams of land and is pressuring
for the vacating and demolition of the existing buildings; and
(3) The centre of Silwan, in the Yemenite neighbourhood,
where Elad members are planning a large Jewish complex.
The settlers are working for the return of land
they claim is 'state land', as well as land privately owned by Jews.
Aryeh King - one of the most prominent people in settler circles
and chairman of the Jerusalem branch of Moledet - provided information
that we were unable to verify via any other official source; he
maintains that the state owns 3000 dunams in East Jerusalem and
a further 702 dunams are privately owned by Jews. For the most part,
the state land is owned by the JNF, with the majority in the north
of the city - in Atarot, Kalandiya, Neve Ya'akov and Kufr Aqab.
The privately-owned land is in Anata, Beit Hanina, Shuafat and Abu
Dis. King maintains that the much of that land is in separate blocs
registered at the Land Registry - for example, a 160 dunam plot
in the Beit Hanina area, bequeathed to the Hebrew University by
a Jew named Nahum Hoenig. Only 96 dunams of that land have been
identified. King is working energetically for the destruction of
houses on land he maintains is state- owned, and for what he terms
"fulfilling Jewish sovereignty in those areas". As stated
previously, efforts to identify Jewish land stem not only from the
desire to build more Jewish settlements but also to exploit them
in exchange transactions with owners of land in more sensitive areas,
on the assumption
that a Palestinian prefers to exchange land in an area where he
is not permitted to build for another, larger plot where he will
obtain a building permit.
The spatial spread is not random, and complies
with a crystallised strategic programme with both religious and
political implications. Examining the map of Jewish settlement in
East Jerusalem reveals that the settlers' plan is to create a ring
of Jewish localities around the Old City, which will fulfil two
roles: first, territorial contiguity between the north and south
of the city will be severed, and second, the Old City will be enveloped
by Jewish 'islands' that will rule out any possibility that Jerusalem
could function as the capital of the Palestinian state once it is
declared. This is clearly visible when one locates those Jewish
islands on the map: from the south, there is a broad belt that starts
in the City of David complex, continues towards Ras al-Amud and
Kidmat Zion, from where it may be continued towards the disputed
E1 area and Ma'aleh Adumim.
Once the ploy is recognised, we can distinguish
what lies behind the Municipality's plan to destroy 88 homes in
the al-Bustan area, an important link in the plan to extend the
Jewish ring around the Old City. On the other hand, north of the
Old City, the strip takes on a broader and more 'statist' aspect,
and is composed of a combination of settler areas and public state
institutions. There, the strip starts with the Workers Council (Moetzet
Hapoalim) building in Sheikh Jarrah, passes through the Shimon Ha'Tzadik
neighbourhood, to the Shepherd Hotel, the Border Police headquarters,
the National Police headquarters, to the Ministry of Housing and
from there to the Beit Orot yeshiva, the tunnel leading to Ma'aleh
Adumim, after which it connects up to area E1 and Ma'aleh Adumim.
The settlers' strategy is transparently clear.
They intend to create a situation in which future diplomatic agreements
to divide Jerusalem will be impossible. It is clear to them, as
it is to the Palestinians, that peace will not come to the Middle
East without a just arrangement in Jerusalem - and this is exactly
Methods for seizing property
Arab properties in East Jerusalem are seized by
settlers using two methods - taking over absentee property, and
through the making of dubious deals.
A major source for seizing such properties is
the Custodian of Absentee Property, a body subordinate to the Justice
Ministry. The ties between the Custodian and the settlers were revealed
in 1992 when Yitzhak Rabin's government set up a state commission
headed by Haim Klugman, then Director- general of the Justice Ministry.
It investigated the Custodian's illegal activity and in the process
discovered that the financial sources derived originally from the
Finance Ministry. The outrageous behaviour was stopped. According
to the Commission's report, in the 1980s the Custodian regularly
and clandestinely transferred properties belonging to Arab absentee
owners to the settlers. First the Custodian would declare the properties
absentee-owned buildings, on the basis of doubtful information and
documents given him by the settlers themselves - documents whose
veracity was not thoroughly examined by the Custodian - and then
transferred them in a circuitous process to the settlers. For
example, in 1982 a building owned by the Abassi family was transferred
by the Custodian, after its owners died and their heirs were declared
absentees, to the Development Authority, which then transferred
it to the settlers under a protected rent. To some extent, this
conduit for transferring property to the settlers was blocked following
the Klugman Report, but it has not been completely eradicated.
A regular pattern is visible in the purchasing
method used by these associations. There are three types of purchased
a) Properties where a member of the family is
embroiled in criminal cases and is willing to sell everything he
can for financial gain. People such as these are easy prey and can
be tempted without special effort. That was the fate of the Ajlouni
family's home, which was seized in February 2004 after a son who
was entangled in drugs and criminal activities sold the family's
two-storey home, without being authorised to do so, and four housing
units, even though they were registered in the names of his four
brothers. The home of the Dana family was also sold to settlers
after a son was involved in the murder of another villager and had
to leave home for fear of retribution. A plot of land belonging
to Muhammad Maraga, who had incurred heavy debts, was sold in the
same way: the settlers built a seven storey building on the plot,
without a building permit.
b) Properties where a demolition order is soon
to be carried out. The owners face the alternative of selling their
home to settlers and at least saving their money, or losing everything.
In similar cases it can reasonably be assumed that municipal inspectors
pass on information to the associations concerning homes about to
be demolished and dispatch an Arab 'straw' broker who closes the
deal on the settlers' behalf. We know of an inspector, responsible
for the Silwan area, who maintained close ties with the settlers
and internal sources in the Municipality. Matti Dan, chairman of
the Elad Association, was instrumental in foiling plans for the
inspector's transfer to a different area.
c) Properties of families who have fallen into
debt and must sell in order to remain solvent. This has been a common
phenomenon over the past few years, particularly since the Second
Intifada when the economy slowed down and many workers in the construction,
hotel and service sectors lost their jobs. Trade and tourism both
slumped due to the security situation, severely harming the livelihood
of many families in East Jerusalem.
The settler associations are able to pinpoint
and exploit any weakness in a village. As noted, we do not know
for sure how many buildings have fallen into their hands, apart
from those already seized. In an operation carried out in February
2004, settlers simultaneously entered sixteen buildings that had
been acquired over the previous two years. Silwan residents assess
that some 20 to 30 buildings have changed hands in recent years;
their estimates are based on inside information originating in their
extended families. There is a fixed pattern to the seizure of buildings
that repeats itself in every case. When a building is occupied by
a new resident, usually not from the village, a single man or a
family in economic straits that seems unable to buy or even rent
a reasonably sized home, the new neighbour is likely to be a resident
working for the settlers. In most cases, the settlers operate in
this way to avoid implicating the seller's family with suspicions
that they sold the house to Jews. The new resident continues living
in the building until the settlers decide the time is ripe to take
over the building themselves. Until then, the temporary residents
live rent-free, and in many cases move from one apartment to another.
There was a case of a family whose financial situation deteriorated
after its house in the Tel al-Ful area was destroyed. A villager,
known to be a collaborator, suggested that the family move into
a large house in the village free of charge. The head of the family,
who understood the offer's significance and what was concealed behind
the generosity, turned down the proposal despite his dire
situation, in order not to incriminate his family.
Over the past decade, another source of real-estate
transactions has been the Greek Orthodox Church. Although this distinctly
sensitive issue has not been thoroughly clarified, it seems that
the anarchy that resulted from internal disagreements at the Greek
Patriarchate enabled church property to be sold off for personal
gain. In the Old City, a dubious transaction was forged in connection
with St. John's Hostel, near the Holy Sepulchre, with the Imperial
and Petra hotels, close to the Jaffa Gate, and with a string of
shops in close proximity to the Jaffa Gate. The transaction was
executed by a straw company headquartered in the Virgin Islands,
Richard's Marketing Co-operation, which is represented in Israel
by attorney Yossef Richter. Church sources also sold a large building
in the Abu Tor neighbourhood to settlers, and there are rumours
concerning the sale of a substantial plot of land near the Mar Elias
Monastery on the Bethlehem Road, between Har Homa and Gilo.
It is not difficult for settler associations to
lay their hands on Arab property. All they must do is find families
in economic straits or a criminal seeking easy money, then purchase
property from them via a 'straw' Arab middleman, and then wait for
the right moment to take over the property openly. Finance is not
a problem. There is an endless supply of American Jews willing to
donate on condition that the recipients maintain a low profile and
do not arouse the anger of non-Jews. Accordingly, they buy properties
by unscrupulous methods, introduce collaborator tenants and also
initially refrain from registering the property in their own names
until the politically appropriate period arrives.
A case in point - Muhammad Maraga, Silwan
In order to understand the centre's modus operandi,
Muhammad Maraga's case is most illustrative. The affair was exposed
in a comprehensive article by Meron Rappaport, which appeared in
Haaretz on 1April 2005.
Muhammad Maraga was induced - by vast amounts
of money, good times overseas, casinos, limousines and prostitutes
- to forge documents and sell a plot owned by his extended family.
He was a man with a rather weak character and a criminal record,
and was targeted by settlers, who exploited him to the full. He
started buying property for the settlers, chiefly in the Yemenite
quarter of Silwan; first he bought the home of the Asla family for
Ateret Cohanim, and received brokerage fees of $10,000. Later he
bought a plot from his uncle Hamdan Maraga and was paid 20,000 Dinars
as well as receiving package-deal holidays in Antalya, and sessions
with call-girls in Jerusalem's finest hotels. Muhammad was promised
that once the building was constructed on the plot, he and his family
would be helped to emigrate to Canada. He then bought two other
buildings in the Yemenite neighbourhood, one belonging to the family
of Ahmed Faraj and one in his own family's possession: for those
deals he was paid $30,000 and a visit to Atlantic City. At this
point, however, the building's owners filed a complaint with the
police and said that the documents by which the transaction had
been undertaken were forged. At this point Maraga realised he was
in danger and began planning his disappearance from Israel. Once
the transaction was completed, the settlers offered him a $150,000
fee and a plane-ticket overseas. Ultimately, Muhammad Maraga was
forced to flee Silwan, and hid out for a period in Eilat until he
disappeared in August 2005. There is no trace of him...
The ideology that motivates the settlers in East
Jerusalem is a combination of messianic and nationalist ideas, and
thus differs from settlers elsewhere in the West Bank. Their primary
goal is to redeem the land in East Jerusalem and hand it back to
the Jewish people. An Ateret Cohanim advertisement defines its goal
as engaging in "Buying, renovating and introducing new Jewish
tenants into houses and properties in and around the Old City, plot
by plot, home by home, step by step, a little at a time". Their
endeavours are fuelled by religious commandments, and since a divine
plan guides their work, they are positive that time is on their
side and that 'the Eternal One of Israel does not lie'. They therefore
consider their work in East Jerusalem as a mission, a task that
not only fulfils the nation's supreme goals, but Divine Will as
well. It is a belief that imbues their life with significance and
fills them with pride. Those sentiments were borne out by a woman
settler from the City of David complex who reported that "Living
here is a huge privilege! It means living in a place with immense
value, not only archaeologically and historically, but a place with
inner spiritual value, it really is the Holy Land. Living here means
being plugged in to eternal values."
As a result, they are ready to sacrifice what
is most precious to them for the sake of the overarching goal. That
integration of nationalist and Messianic ideas engenders a highly
inflammable situation, with strong potential to set off a conflagration.
"Those concepts are malignant ideological growths that tend
to spread lawlessness and destruction on those who cling to them
- and on many others who do not."
In the settlers' world of metaphors, the idea
of the Kingdom of Israel has a central role, despite their commitment
to the State of Israel and its institutions. From the study hall
of Rabbi Kook, they are actively planning to establish a Kingdom
of Israel in which Jewish law will supersede secular law and democratic
Beyond religious motivations, the underlying political
intentions are clearly visible. They want to create 'facts on the
ground' that will render impossible any future compromise of the
Jerusalem question. They are well aware that just as the West Bank
settlements forestall any genuine peace agreement in the region,
so will the East Jerusalem settlements sabotage any option for territorial
concessions in and around the city. The website of Ateret Cohanim
states this openly - "Determination and collaboration with
the authorities have proven the old method of Zionism - it is Jewish
settlement that determines the borders of the state!" As far
as they are concerned, expansion into the Arab neighbourhoods of
East Jerusalem will prevent the city from ever being divided. Aryeh
King, one of the initiators or instigators of the Ras al-Amud complex,
has remarked that its construction was aimed at protecting Jerusalem
by creating a buffer on its eastern side. After seizing sixteen
houses in Silwan, a member of Elad said that the association's plan
is "to unite Jerusalem with deeds, not words".
The Messianic Plan
In tandem with the physical Jewish presence itself,
there are 'educational' and 'informative' activities, including
tours, lectures and seminars, that are only part of the battle for
hearts and minds, because the settler associations are involved
in another activity with a strong potential for danger. These are
the archaeological digs taking place in and around the Old City.
Of these, arguably the most dangerous of all is the dig being carried
out in the Moslem Quarter near the mosques of Haram al-Sharif. Intended
to reveal traces of Jewish history, the excavations are damaging
traces of other periods that do not match the ideological aspirations
directing the work. Even more dangerous are the constant attempts
to reach the remains of the Temple. Ateret Cohanim has recently
been carrying out an extensive archaeological project on Haggai
Street, around 60 to 80 metres from the mosques, a project liable
to plunge Jerusalem into violence. The settlers do not conceal their
opinion about what should happen on the Temple Mount, and are generating
personal ties with messianic organisations intent on destroying
the mosques and building the Third Temple. For the settlers, a war
between the Moslem world and the State of Israel following damage
caused to the mosques is considered as a phase in the War of Gog
and Magog which will hasten redemption. They dream of bringing it
closer by whatever means, so that the coming of the Messiah, Son
of David, will expedite the establishing of the Kingdom of Israel.
As a result, the presence of settlers in the Old City's Moslem quarter
poses an immense danger to the public order.
Seizing the Space
The entire Jewish presence in East Jerusalem -
whether a single house or an entire neighbourhood - rapidly becomes
a fortified site, in the finest colonial traditions of the nineteenth
century. Every Jewish site in East Jerusalem requires a security
fence, guard-posts with armed security personnel, projectors, and
often closed circuit cameras, and of course a provocative flag.
In their wake come Border Police jeeps that patrol the site and
are a constant irritation to residents. Whenever Jews leave their
home in the Old City, they are escorted by a pair of armed security
guards, attesting to the foreign nature of the settlers, and the
artificial, provocative nature of their presence there.
Each Jewish enclave in East Jerusalem automatically
becomes a ghetto, in the literal sense of the word - a closed community
within itself, fenced off, detached and alienated from its surroundings.
But unlike the ghettos in Europe where the Jews were afraid of the
Gentiles, the Jewish ghetto of East Jerusalem causes fear and distress
to the neighbours. There is no more irritating example of the fact
that the settlers are driving Jewish history backwards. The Zionist
movement dreamed of establishing a state to extricate the Jewish
people from ghettos, and now the settlers are willingly closing
themselves off inside modern ghettos. Superiority marks their attitudes
towards their Arab neighbours, as disclosed on the Ateret Cohanim
website where they describe what would have happened in the Old
City if the Jews had not redeemed the land: ".the presence
of dozens of dedicated, brave Jewish families and yeshiva students
prevented the growth of nests of terrorists and drug dealers as
in Gaza, Nablus and Ramallah". A settler in the City of David
made similar statements, indicating the advantages Jews bring to
the Arab environment - ".the quality of life has improved since
the Jews settled here. Whenever we enter a new part of the village,
the residents say they are waiting for it to become clean and tidy
there too," as if the Jews carry the message of cleanliness
and tidiness, implying that Arabs are just the opposite.
A woman settler in the City of David presents
herself as deeply interested in maintaining proper relations with
the neighbours ".our next-door neighbour, Daoud, really knows
us. When there's a power-cut on the Sabbath, he knows exactly what
he has to do. I also pass on old clothes to another neighbour, Mustapha,
for his daughter". That is how she defines "neighbourly
relations". By the same token, other settlers claim that they
enjoy good relations with their neighbours: the Arabs make a living
from the Jews' presence. "The Elad association now employs
around 40 Arab residents of the village in archaeological excavations,
in renovations and maintenance of the houses.we prefer to employ
villagers here. It creates a shared interest in peace and quiet
in the village. Altogether, the village Arabs earn their living
from us, not only the ones we employ..the store owners and taxi-drivers
enjoy the fact that we're here, that visitors and tourists come
here, they earn much more". Another woman settler, named Reginas,
claims on the Shofar website, as the Speaker of the Elad Association,
that her Arab neighbours are very happy because they make money
from the settlers and in fact ".they would be glad if more
Jews came to live here". Between the lines we can identify
her satisfaction that Arabs can be bought with work, that by creating
employer-employee relations, industrial peace can be achieved.
Both state and private sources fund the settlers'
operations in East Jerusalem. The government sources are clouded
in secrecy, and pass through various government ministries under
confusing names. Until 1992, the state transferred absentee property
and vast sums to the settlers through different ministries, especially
the Housing Ministry. The Klugman Report estimated that the government
transferred around $8.2 million to the settlers in order to buy
buildings, and passed on an additional $12.8 million for renovating
old buildings. The report also disclosed that the Jewish Quarter
Renovation Company transferred $1.7 m. to the settlers, in the form
of monies originating in the Housing Ministry. A $7 million transfer
was also made to the Imanuta Company to facilitate the acquisition
of St. John's Hostel in the Christian Quarter. However, that
pipeline was cut off following the Klugman Report's recommendations.
Currently the state provides support to the settlers in two ways
- it finances the security companies at an annual cost of 24 million
shekels, and also employs many of them as security guards and in
managing the City of David archaeological site.
Regarding the purchase of the Petra and New Imperial
hotels, it is noteworthy that the state refuses to disclose to the
church's legal counsel the transaction's financing sources; this
raises concerns as to whether state funds are still making their
way to the settlers. It is equally hard to distinguish the private
donors because they demand anonymity. Best-known of them all is
Irving Moskowitz, who has become the patron of the East Jerusalem
settlers. A group of Jewish millionaires from the United States
has formed around Moskowitz, and they support the settlers generously.
Another figure who is well-known to us is American billionaire Ira
Rennert of Brooklyn who is a major supporter of the Ateret Cohanim
Association, and inter alia funded the opening of the Western Wall
Tunnel. On several
occasions, state organisations have actively helped to raise funds
for the settlers' associations - Ehud Olmert, while serving as Mayor
of Jerusalem, addressed an event organised by Moskowitz, which was
aimed at raising funds for building projects in Ras al-Amud.
Illegal construction by settlers: Silwan
as a case in point
Silwan is one of the locations around the Old
City where it is close to impossible to receive a building permit.
Because of its archaeological sensitivity, building is not allowed,
neither on plots of land nor as additions to existing buildings.
Arab residents who wanted to enlarge their homes by building all
kinds of annexes on land that they own or on the roofs, are dealt
with forcefully by fines and the total demolition of the additions.
In contrast, over the past few years several Jewish enclaves which
have never received building permits have sprung up, but surprisingly
the Municipality has not exercised its authority to halt the construction
or reverse the situation. Three recent cases throw light on the
institutionalized discrimination employed against Arabs in fabvour
of Jews in the same village, and is symbolic of the discrimination
applied throughout the whole of Jerusalem.
The affair of the seven-storey building is a good
example of blatantly discriminatory enforcement. Its construction
began in early 2002, but was only 'discovered' in June the following
year when the building was occupied by the Ateret Cohanim association.
There are strong suspicions that the oversight did not stem from
technical reasons. City-hall inspectors visit the area regularly
and swoop down on any building divergence but for some reason, they
overlooked the seven-storey monster built on a plot of 800 square
metres. The inspectors were well aware who owned the building that
was being built in the middle of Silwan. Though registered in a
local resident's name, the plot had been sold previously to Ateret
Cohanim settlers and it was they who paid for the construction work.
Meron Rappaport of Haaretz newspaper published his thorough investigation
of the case, featuring among others a conversation between the Arab
seller and Yaron Elias, who is in charge of city inspection in East
Jerusalem; the latter expressly stated that he avoided dealing with
the building for eighteen months ".because I know their connections"
an unsubtle hint to his ties with the settlers from Ateret Cohanim.
In the same breath he hinted about co-ordination between the Municipality
and the settlers and possibly with other agencies that provide support
to the settlers "How did I know it belonged to you? I have
friends from all sorts of bodies and authorities". Moreover,
when the offence was discovered, the Municipality could have applied
official sanctions such as issuing a vacating order or by sealing
off the building, but instead left matters as they were, citing
the somewhat surprising grounds that it was not clear "who
the owners of the building were" - an unfounded answer since
who if not Elias knew that the building was owned by settlers. From
2003 until March 2004, City Hall investigated the matter and refrained
from filing any charges against any of the tenants. In the same
period, it issued dozens of demolition orders against Arab citizens
and brought them to trial. In the same way the Municipality refrained
from charging the building's tenants any arnona (municipal tax)
payments. The manager of the Billing Division wrote in March 2005
that no records were even kept at the Municipality concerning the
building: this contravenes internal procedures, which require city
inspectors to report any new building to the accounts division,
so it can be invoiced for arnona - even if the building is illegal.
The second case is a special one since the criticism
levelled against it emanated from the legal establishment. Justice
H. Lahovtzky, presiding over the District Court, revoked an administrative
demolition order against a building owned by Arabs, because the
Municipality used discriminatory behaviour by failing to file indictments
against Jewish neighbours for the very same offence. The affair
reveals the discrimination in its full ugliness. Reading the indictment,
we learn that as soon as it was discovered, the Arab-owned building
received an administrative demolition order. In contrast, the other
building, which was intended to serve as an Elad Association yeshiva,
with three storeys extending over 345 sq.m., only received a cease
work order. The judge dismissed, one by one, the charges filed by
the Municipality and commented that while the two offences were
identical, the Municipality applied the most stringent procedures
permitted by the law against the Arab-owned building - an administrative
demolition order. Against the Jewish-owned building, however, "the
Respondent chose to act in a more lenient judicial way' - by issuing
an order to cease work on the building. Taking into account that
disparate behaviour, the judge revoked the demolition order against
the Arab-owned building, and concluded his summing-up with severe
remarks: "Whatever the ownership of the two buildings, and
whatever the designated purposes of both buildings, the difference
in the procedures applied by the Respondent (the Municipality -
MM) towards the two is discordant and insufferable to such an extent
that the court can no longer disregard it", and ".having
been satisfied that there was no room to apply the law inequitably
between the two buildings, and that there is no good explanation
for the Respondent's refraining from doing so, I find that there
was a material flaw in the administrative act that justifies the
order's revocation. It behoves the Respondent to use against one
building the same procedures as it applies against the others .and
I therefore impose revocation of the order".
The third case is connected with an open space
on the way to the Pool of Shilo where, in 1998, a mini-settlement
started to grow, composed of containers, caravans and guard posts.
Though temporary in nature, such construction is also prohibited
under the Planning & Building Law. If Arabs place caravans on
sites, they immediately receive vacating or demolition orders. Nevertheless,
for years the Municipality refrained from issuing any type of order
against this sort of procedure. In 2001, when I served as a member
of the City Council, I approached the Administration for Construction
Supervision and asked what steps the Municipality had taken against
that compound. The answer was that no steps had been taken but the
matter was being dealt with. A file was in fact opened in February
2002, and in October 2004, after far too long, the District Court
handed down its ruling. Then, at the last moment, the settlers'
attorney produced a document stating that the compound was not in
fact owned by Elad, but by an Arab named Yussuf Gamal, who holds
a British passport, and the indictment should be in his name, not
the settlers. The municipal prosecutor did not express any objections,
and the judge deleted the name of Elad Association from the indictment
and the Chair of the association, David Be'eri, and sentenced Yussuf
Gamal, who is a UK resident. Even if it is claimed that the judge
was not aware of the situation and acted in good faith, the ploy
of registering a property in the name of Arabs is an old trick at
the Municipality, and the City Prosecutor should have made things
clear. Even if we cannot prove it, the Municipality's behaviour
raises worrying thoughts about the solid ties between the settlers
and the municipal authority.
Report on a Visit to Hebron
Friday 28 October 2005
We were a group of around 80 people, that set
out in two buses from Jerusalem to pay a visit to Hebron. The visit
was coordinated in advance with the IDF and the police. These are
my subjective experiences, from my personal perspective.
Hebron – a city without law and order, lacking
any semblance of humanity. A city with a massive military and police
presence, hordes of settlers and violence in similar proportions.
A city where the Occupation is most faithfully reflected. On our
way to Kiryat Arba, the terror wrought by settlers was already palpable.
A new outpost had been established the night before. Ten youths
had built a hut, seized a small shoe-factory, and the army naturally
immediately came to guard them, although the IDF spokesperson reported
that the outpost had been evacuated (possibly a virtual evacuation).
We saw those scruffy, brainwashed youngsters, full of hate for other
human. Full of themselves. The ‘heroes’ outpost’
was alive and well. In the early morning, once they’d finished
building the outpost, they took a break to carry out a pogrom among
the neighbours whose shoe-factory they had expropriated. Their house
was destroyed, windows smashed by stones thrown by those appalling
young people. Graffiti was sprayed on the walls ‘Muhammad
is a pig’, ‘Kahana lives…” and other repellent
slogans. As we made our way up the dirt track from the bus towards
the outpost, the youngsters noticed us and phoned ‘their forces’.
We had told the police that we’d arrived.
And of course, complying with our advance coordination, we had no
plans to demonstrate against the situation, but just to express
solidarity with the Palestinian population. We came to learn about
The outpost is on the way to the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Yet another step by the settlers to seize control of the land in
Hebron. To ‘purify” the road to the holy site. The shops
lining the route have been closed down under a military order, to
avoid ‘endangering’ Jews who live there and ‘must’
use the street the doors and windows of Arab-owned houses close
to the settlements have been welded, and the Palestinians are only
permitted to leave their homes via a ‘detour’.
Absolute separation. Real apartheid. And ethnic
cleansing, as well…many Palestinians have abandoned hope and
left the city. Many residents remain without any source of livelihood
because of the separation policy, and receive parcels from the Red
Cross; it’s only their source of food.
Teams of observers from Europe and Turkey are
on the spot, writing reports that may not be published. As a condition
for issuing authorisations for the observers’ presence in
Israel (the authorisations must be renewed every three months) the
Foreign Ministry requires that the reports are submitted to it alone.
(This set off a powerful longing to break into their offices, remove
the reports and publish them…)
Neither the IDF or the police intervene in cases
of settler violence towards Palestinians. It’s always open
season. A settler child who uses violence is a minor, so the police
and the army don’t touch him, while a Palestinian child who
picks up a stone is a terrorist who may be immobilised or even killed.
The police blocked our approach to the Tomb of
the Patriarchs site, detained us, and ultimately the army declared
Hebron to be a closed military area. All because of the settler
youth in their outpost, who threatened to attack us if we were permitted
to continue. The army did everything to avoid a conflict with the
settlers. It’s much easier to spit at Arabs and simpler to
remove the left-wingers because obviously they won’t attack
While it overlooks youngsters who set up an ‘illegal’
outpost (which clearly the state allows and the army backs up),
the army is incapable of confronting a population that breaks the
most fundamental humanitarian laws, invoking the name of their god
of vengeance, and refuses access to law-abiding citizens intent
on visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs… We weren’t looking
for a fight nor did we plan to hold a demonstration. Possibly the
only way to see Hebron is by taking on settler attributes –
a long skirt, hateful slogans on a T-shirt, brainwashed, and clutching
a Bible ….
The policeman announced that we had ten minutes
to leave the site. Once the ten minutes were up, they started removing
us on the grounds of ‘unlawful assembly’…while
the ecstatic settler children looked on from the illegal outpost
that had been (virtually) evacuated. So they pushed us around a
little, arrested three of us, and expelled the rest of us in a manner
that insults democracy.
Most humiliating and hurtful of all was the fact
that the army insisted on accompanying us as we left. Why this concern?
The population with whom we wanted to show our solidarity had to
stand to the side, so we could walk in ‘safety’. A soldier
with a cocked rifle facing off a group of small children, causing
them to freeze in place, just not to disturb the Jews walking by.
It was appalling.
On our way out, we met a group of Palestinians
and started talking to them. We told them the meaning of the situation,
that our military entourage was forced on us. One of them plucked
up courage and spoke to us openly about the bleak situation. Within
seconds a police photographer appeared and took a picture of his
features. Afterwards two army officers turned up, took the man to
one side and made him stop talking.
In fact we underwent this humiliation so that
- heaven forbid - we wouldn’t arouse the settlers’ anger
by walking past their homes. The army knows that the settlers are
violent and don’t think twice about using force. It is also
aware that in terms of the prevailing policy in Israel, it is “permitted,
possible, and advisable” for the Palestinians to be oppressed.
While the settlers are lords and masters, left-wingers are widely
known to be ‘worse than the Arabs’, so why waste effort
Naturally, as we were pushed along (they pushed
the people who didn’t keep pace), the attitude of most policemen
was violent and repellent: they seemed to have forgotten their original
And all because of a group of violent youngsters.
It’s vital to go to Hebron as much as possible,
to demonstrate our presence in the face of the power-driven settlers.
It’s vital to go to Hebron so we become ‘facts on the
ground’ for the police and the army.
It’s vital to go to Hebron to support the Palestinian population
that lives out an unending horror film, with a screenplay written
by someone with unlimited powers for generating evil.
And it’s vital to alert Knesset members – their intervention
Palestinian property into Israel's state land
Akiva Eldar - Ha'aretz - 27/12/2005
Ehud Barak likes to compare the
State of Israel to a villa in a jungle. It would be interesting
to know whether he means that the areas of the settlements in the
territories are a legal veranda of the villa or part of the jungle.
Right under the noses, in the best case, of prime ministers, chiefs
of staff and GOCs of the Central Command, who are responsible for
"Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank), among them Barak
himself, the State of Israel has imposed the law of the jungle on
those territories. The Civil Administration, with the blessing of
the State Prosecutor's Office, has been a key partner in a system
of real estate deals, of which the description "dubious"
would be complimentary.
Building companies owned and managed
by settler leaders and land dealers acquire lands from Palestinian
crooks and transfer them to the Custodian of Government Property
in the Israel Lands Administration. The custodian "converts"
the lands to "state lands," leases them back to settler
associations that then sell them to building companies. In this
way it has been ensured that the Palestinians (under the law in
the territories, the onus of proof is on them) will never demand
their lands back.
A year and a half ago, when this
became known to him, Brigadier General Ilan Paz, then the commander
of the Judea and Samaria district, issued a written order to shut
down the lands laundry. He reasoned that even if this was legally
correct, it smelled bad. These lands have already served for the
establishment of dozens of Jewish settlements and others are awaiting
purchasers. Some of these lands, for example the lands of the village
of Bil'in - now known thanks to the determined struggle against
the separation fence - are adjacent to the 1967 border. The Defense
Ministry has seen to it that the route of the fence will "annex"
them to the "Israeli" side and the entrepreneurs are hastening
to establish facts in concrete.
Two weeks ago it was first published
here that adjacent to Bil'in, in the Jewish settlement of Matityahu
East, a new neighborhood of Upper Modi'in, hundreds of apartments
are going up without a permit. The lawyer for the inhabitants of
Bil'in, attorney Michael Sfard, sent the State Prosecutor's Office
a copy of a letter that Gilad Rogel, the lawyer for the Upper Modi'in
local council, wrote to the council's engineer. Rogel warned that
entrepreneurs are building "entire buildings without a permit,
and all this with your full knowledge and with planning and legal
irresponsibility that I cannot find words to describe."
In a report that he sent to the Interior
Ministry, the council's internal comptroller, Shmuel Heisler, wrote
that the construction in the new project was being carried out contrary
to the approved urban construction plan and deviates from it "extensively."
The Justice Ministry has confirmed
that "apparently illegal construction is underway in the jurisdiction
of the locale Upper Modi'in, and that the Civil Administration in
the area of Judea and Samaria has been asked to send its statement
on the matter."
The Civil Administration spokesman
has said that "in light of the fact that at this stage, too,
construction work is being carried out there, it is the intention
of the head of the Civil Administration to examine as soon as possible
the legal means of enforcement at his disposal, in order to bring
about the stoppage of the building that is being carried out in
On the ground, the work is proceeding
as usual. Documents in the possession of Haaretz show that building
violations are just the very tip of an affair that is many times
more serious. The first document is a sworn statement by attorney
Moshe Glick, the lawyer for a settlers' association called The Society
of the Foundation of the Land of Israel Midrasha, Ltd." On
June 16, 2002, Glick declared to attorney Doron Nir Zvi: "I
hereby submit this sworn statement in the place of the mukhtar [headman]
of Bil'in. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Muhammad `Ali Abed al
Rahman Bournat is the owner of the plot known as Bloc 2 Plot 134
in the village of Bil'in."
Never set foot
On November 16, 2003, Glick signed
another sworn statement. The new statement was aimed at explaining
the strange phenomenon of an Israeli attorney swearing under oath,
a procedure that is parallel to sworn testimony in a court, in the
place of the mukhtar of an Arab village. From the new statement
it emerges that Glick has never set foot on the lands to which his
statement relates. "This sworn statement comes in place of
a statement by the mukhtar of the village of Bil'in, as because
of the security situation there is a real danger to the life of
any Jew who tries to enter the village of Bil'in (and needless to
say when it is a matter of the issue of the purchase of land). Moreover,
there is a prohibition by the authorities that forbids citizens
of Israel to enter Areas A and B."
The spokesman of the Civil Administration
confirmed yesterday that the village of Bil'in is located in Area
B, which is under Israel's full security control, and that Israeli
citizens are allowed to visit there.
On the same day that Glick signed
the sworn statement, the well-known land dealer Shmuel Anav appeared
before him and also signed a sworn statement pertaining to that
same plot. Anav, too, explained that the reasons it was impossible
to bring an authorization by the mukhtar are the "security
situation" and the prohibition on entering areas A and B.
In the section for "detailing
the evidence" on which the Land of Israel Midrasha Foundation
is basing its demand to register the plot in its name, Anav declared
that "the owner sold it to his son and the son sold it to the
Society of the Foundation." The owner died several years ago.
His son, Sami, who according to inhabitants of Bil'in forged their
signatures, was murdered in Ramallah at the beginning of 2005. Had
the police taken the claim of the Bil'in inhabitants seriously and
examined the propriety of the sworn statements given in their mukhtar's
name, with a dubious security excuse, the police would have found
that the name of Anav has been linked to land deals that have turned
out to be land theft.
He starred in the affair of Nebi
Samuel, the neighborhood that hit the headlines 10 years ago during
former minister Aryeh Deri's trial. Plia Albeck, for years was the
director of the civil department at the
Justice Ministry, testified that a building company owned by settlers
called Moreshet Binyamin had purchased from Anav 200 dunams of the
land in the area of northern Jerusalem, and that he had purchased
them from an Arab named Shehada Barakat, who testified that he owned
the lands - but it turned out that he had sold lands that belonged
to his relatives. Three years earlier Anav was convicted of soliciting
donations from land dealers for the Likud's election campaign, "with
the condition and expectation that in return the donors would receive
The Justice Ministry has responded
that "property will be considered government property as long
as the opposite has not been proven. Hence, it is possible to declare
that privately owned land is government property, only if the owners
of the land have asked the Custodian of Government Property to manage
Michael Ben Yair, who was the attorney
general in Yitzhak Rabin's government, has told Haaretz that he
never approved turning private lands into government lands, and
that this is the first time he has heard of this procedure.
Attorney Talia Sasson was also surprised
to hear that the Civil Administration has served as the settlers'
land laundry. This is not to say that the author of the report on
the illegal outposts does not know that the Civil Administration
serves the settlement project in the territories. In a lecture at
University of Haifa, which dealt with the non-implementation of
the recommendations of the outposts report (the chairman of the
committee for implementing the recommendations, Justice Minister
Tzipi Livni, has not yet found time to submit its recommendations
to the government), Sasson related yesterday to the contribution
of the Israel Defense Forces and the Civil Administration in particular
to the establishment of the settlements in the territories.
"The Civil Administration was
established because under the international law that applies in
the territories, the commander of the area is obligated to take
care of the `protected' population in the area, that is to say the
Palestinians who were there when the IDF entered the territory,"
the attorney explained. "Over the years the Civil Administration
became the main body that dealt with all the matters of the Israeli
settlement in the territories, not mainly the Palestinians, but
in fact the Israelis," she said. It allocates lands to settlers,
declares lands to be state lands, approves the connecting of water
and electricity to the settlements and more.
Sasson said: "In effect, it
is the Civil Administration that enables in practice the acts of
the Israeli settlement in the territories."
Sasson emphasized that the Civil
Administration is subordinate to the IDF - on the one hand to the
GOC and on the other to the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories,
who wears a uniform. "It emerges that the body by means of
which the governments have been acting over the years concerning
the implementation of settlements is a body that is subordinate
to and run by the IDF (and at its head is a brigadier general).
This mingling of the IDF and the settlement project is a bad and
All according to a master
In the process of preparing a new
report that deals with the expansion of settlements under cover
of the separation fence, researchers from B'Tselem, The Israeli
Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories,
and from Bimkom, Planners for Planning Rights were able to lay their
hands on the map of "The Master Plan of the Upper Modi'in Area"
for the year 2020. The map confirms that it is not only security
issues that interested the planners of the route of the fence in
the area of the battles for Bil'in. They were so hungry they "forgot"
that security needs make it essential to keep a suitable distance
between the fence and the nearest Jewish locale. It turns out that
in addition to the usual master plans, at the initiative of the
Construction and Housing Ministry and in cooperation with the planning
bureau of the Civil Administration, in 1998 the Upper Modi'in local
council and the Matteh Binyamin regional council drew up a master
plan for the whole bloc. The plan does not have statutory validity,
but it is a guiding document in the framework of which the planning
policy is determined for a given area, and in the light of which
the master plans are formulated. The report points out that under
the master plan about 600 dunam adjacent to the plan for Matityahu
East, which are owned by families from the village of Bil'in, are
slated for the construction of 1,200 new housing units. Less than
two months ago inhabitants of Bil'in discovered that a new road
had been cut through from the Matityahu East neighborhood to a large
grove of olive trees that is located in the area.
The village council filed a complaint
with the Shai (Samaria-Judea) police about the uprooting of about
100 trees and their theft. The cutting through of the road reinforces
the suspicion that under cover of the fence, there is a plan for
a takeover of the land adjacent to the East Matityahu neighborhood,
which is already in the process of construction.
Similarly, cultivated lands owned
by the villagers of Dir Qadis and Ni'alin on an area of about 1,000
dunams, adjacent to the plan for Matityahu North C, have been added
in the framework of the master plan to the plan for the neighborhood.
The authors of the report note that
the master plan for Upper Modi'in arouses a strong suspicion that
one of the covert aims of the fence is to cause Palestinian inhabitants
to stop cultivating lands that are intended for the expansion of
the Jewish settlements, to enable the declaration of them as state
lands. Hence, as described above, the way to the building companies
is very short.
It's not all in the details
Amira Hass - Ha'aretz on 28/12/2005
Each detail described here, every shred of reality,
is liable to be considered as a whole, which would dim its severity.
Detail: Hundreds of people gather each morning at three narrow steel
revolving doors, and the gates do not turn because some unseen person
has blocked them by pushing a button. The number of people crammed
behind them grows and grows, and they wait for an hour, and the
anger at another day being late for work or for school is piled
on top of previous residual tensions brought on by anger, bitterness
However, it is not the crowdedness and waiting and anger that define
the checkpoints and roadblocks, or in this specific instance, the
new Qalandiyah checkpoint. Nor is it the crowdedness and compressed
atmosphere of the rest of the inspection route, before the magnometers
and the closed rooms in which the soldiers sit and inspect documents,
or the other revolving doors. Or even the other "details":
the cameras that make the soldiers and commanders seeing and unseen,
the snarling voice in the speaker that issues commands in Hebrew,
the terrifying concrete wall above and around, and the devastation
left by Israeli bulldozers and planners outside the cage that Israel
calls a "border terminal," in what was once, and no longer
is, a continuous stretch of residential neighborhoods, soft hillsides
and the Jerusalem-Ramallah road.
Nor are the 11 "detainees" at the inspection route's exit
an adequate detail: nine teenage boys aged 18 and under, one adult,
and a 23-year-old university student, all of whom committed a serious
crime on Monday: After waiting in vain for the steel gates to turn,
which would lead them to the inspection route, on their way to classes
and work, they decided to jump over the fence - one hoping to get
to an English test on time, the other fearful of being fired if
he again arrived late to the printing press where he works. But
they were caught. The student was handcuffed from behind, and was
sat down next to a guard booth in the closed military compound.
The other ten were placed outside the compound, in the mud that
became thicker with every drop of rain. And the soldiers demanded
that they sit down. They could not sit, because of the mud, and
only went into a kneeling position. After half an hour, the bent
knees begin to hurt more and more, and the pants are soaked with
water and grow tight over the knee. The hands turn cold, but the
soldiers don't change their tune: "Sit, I told you. Sit."
But the cold and the rain are not the story, nor is the soldier
eating his combat rations and watching the detainees apathetically,
nor the telephone calls by this writer until after two hours they
are permitted, how compassionately, to stand up, nor their release
- including that of one individual whose frozen hands are imprinted
by deep red cracks from the handcuffs, nor the fact that the 14-year-old
in the group had to wait another 20 minutes after his release until
the soldier who took his birth certificate (after all, he does not
yet have an identity card) could be found. The question of whether
the detention would have continued longer had the writer not been
present is also marginal.
Also of secondary importance is the decision to open the "humanitarian
gate" (which is intended for the passage of those in wheelchairs,
parents with baby strollers, and Palestinian cleaning workers
employed by a contracting firm), in the morning to women and men
above the age of 60. Another detail that in itself diverts one's
attention from what is important.
What is important is that the army and the Israeli citizens who
design all of the details of dispossession - and the roadblocks
are an inseparable part of this dispossession - have transformed
the term "humanitarian" into a despicable lie.
Through the checkpoints, road closures, movement ban, and traffic
restrictions, through the concrete walls and barbed wire fences,
through the land expropriations (solely for the purpose of security,
as the High Court of Justice, which is part and parcel of the Israeli
people, likes to believe), through the disconnecting of villages
from their lands and from a connecting road, through the construction
of a wall in a residential neighborhood and in the backyards of
homes, and through the transformation of the West Bank into a cluster
of "territorial cells," in the military jargon, between
the expanding settlements - we Israelis have created and continue
to create an economic, social, emotional, employment and environmental
crisis on the scale of a never-ending tsunami.
And then we offer a little turnstile in a cage,
an officer who is briefed to see an old man, a bathroom and a water
cooler - and this is described as "humanitarian." In other
words, we push an entire people
into impossible situations, blatantly inhumane situations, in order
to steal its land and time and future and freedom of choice, and
then the plantation owner appears and relaxes the iron fist a bit,
and is proud of his sense of compassion.
However, even the important matter - that is, the humanitarian deception
- is only one detail in a full set of details in which no single
detail is representative in itself. Isolated fragments of the reality
are read as being tolerable, or understandable (security, security),
or may make one angry for a moment and then subside. And among all
the details, the reality of colonialism intensifies, without letup
or remission, inventing yet more methods of torture of the individual
and community; creating more ways to violate international law,
robbing land behind the legal camouflage, and encouraging collaboration
out of agreement, neglect or torpor.
On Thursday, January 19, ICAHD (AG-G) was present
at Khallet Zacharia, to investigate the plight of this Palestinian
village, marooned inside a triangle of Israeli settlements (Alon
Shvut, Rosh Tzurim, and Kfar Etzion, with Bat Ayin also nearby),
which had received multiple demolition orders. The village has a
total of 70 families, i.e. 300 people, living in it, most of whom
belong to an extended hamula, and it is spread out over three sites,
one near Alon Shvut's school, one by Road No. 60, and one reached
by an access road through Alon Shvut.
The lawyer retained by the village is with the
Society of St. Yves, Catholic Human Rights Legal Aid Centre of Bethlehem
In December, 11 demolition orders were received,
as was a stop work order on the uncompleted school which the village
has been building. The three village wells also have outstanding
demolition orders on them, as does their donkey "shed".
The village has experienced serious problems during
Closure, since the children could not get to school; otherwise it
is an extremely independent and self-supporting community, living
largely off agriculture, including herds of goats, sheep and cows,
which produce milk, cheese and meat products. Bread is locally made;
the animals are given feed and remain in sheds, as most village
land has been absorbed by settlements, so no natural pasture is
available. The village receives no food aid, and most villagers
are farmers. Under "normal" circumstances, when there
is no closure, the village buys its supplies in nearby Al Khader.
There have been no specific problems from settlers, but police visit
the village around the clock, carrying out general observation.
Until now, the children have all gone to Beit Fagar school (12 children),
with 26 children (1st - 6th grade) recently attending the village's
school. That school is part of the crisis now faced.
"We just want to live like other human beings,"
said one of the villagers we met. "These people have a request
from the Israeli state (which supports democracy and human rights).
To have a house to live in. We aren't asking for much, we aren't
asking to be equal to Israelis. Just a home to live in." According
to villagers, if the 11 homes are demolished, they have no alternative
place to go.
The village is in Area C, and therefore the Civil
Administration (the IDF) is the local authority, with nothing that
can be achieved by the Palestinian Authority, although it does supply
the school's four teachers) because Area C falls under Israeli security
and administrative control. All Area C is zoned as agricultural
land, and therefore no building permits are ever given. All West
Bank settlements (except Hebron's H2 Old City compounds) are situated
on Area C.
In 2003, during the al-Aqsa Intifada, Closure
prevented the children from reaching their school, so the villagers
rented two rooms in order to teach them there. A collection was
made amongst those whose children were involved, and a decision
was made to build a school. The Planning Office of the DCL issued
a Stop Work Order on this building, so the villagers stopped it.
They appealed to Gush Etzion DCL, inviting the army to come and
see why they had started building the school. A Druze officer (Azhar)
came to the village, and promised to help them, but apparently did
nothing. In September 2005, there was an extended general Closure
of many weeks because of the Israeli high holydays, so prior to
the beginning of the new school year a decision was made to continue
building the school and it was indeed almost finished (costing some
160,000 shekels -- $35,000), when the army confiscated all the workers'
tools, while recording the ID numbers of all five workers building
it, some of whom were not local villagers. When this happened the
children were actually in the school, in class. The DCL
officer (Nir Cohen) told villagers they could complain in Court,
but they chose not to make a fuss. The villagers tried to explain
that it was too dangerous for small children to cross the dangerous
road, and it was too far for them from Beit Fagar. They said to
the army officer that the school was a humanitarian issue, not touching
the security of the State of Israel. (It should be noted that from
the village windows can be seen a huge school building in Alon Shvut,
a swimming pool part of its compound. Alon Shvut is built on Artas
village land.) The workmen were each fined NIS1,000 but a lawyer
acquaintance advised them not to pay, as that would be interpreted
as an admission of guilt. So none paid. The file is still open,
despite the villagers having asked the Civil Administration to send
a letter to the police to close the file because without closing
it those five men are liable to be stopped on security grounds at
After two months, the police detained one of the
five workmen, a taxi-driver (who lives in Tarqumia) at the Idna
Junction, and took him for questioning to Kiryat Arba police station.
He was told an investigation was being carried out as to building
without a permit in Zacharia village. He telephoned the village,
and one of the villagers spoke with the police, stating that the
man being held was simply a volunteer builder at the village, not
responsible for the project, and so that worker was released, on
the understanding that the villager in charge must go to the Kfar
Etzion police station. The police reported that Nir Cohen had gone
to court, accusing them of building illegally. The school has four
rooms, is nearly completed and only some wall painting and final
work on the toilets and kitchen remain outstanding.
In December 2005 nine demolition orders on village
houses were received for the part of the village where there is
a total of 35 homes (two had been received eighteen months previously).
It should be mentioned that over fifteen of the houses are extremely
ancient; the village also has many caves in its precincts, as well
as the ancient tomb of Zacharia and its adjoining mosque (which
has an unfinished minaret, as villagers were prevented by the Israeli
authorities from building a minaret). In the past, the IDF has demolished
some of the caves. The villagers have the tabu deeds for their land,
which date to Ottoman days.
The village also has an ongoing land case outstanding,
which Adv. Mohammed Dahle is conducting on their behalf; 705 dunams
of village land on the other side of the road are in dispute, being
absorbed by all the Gush Etzion settlements in that area, and with
an accusation that 73 dunams was sold, which the villagers deny.
The Wall as planned will isolate this village
inside the settlement area of the Etzion Bloc, and presumably cut
off the villagers from their source of supplies and any other outside
Further details, including village contacts and
photographs, please contact ICAHD:
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Action Advocacy Officer
02-672-8771 or 0547-366393