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Winter 2006

photo of demolition of houses in Jerusalem

1. A major obstacle
2. Separation wall
3. Stunning Gaza
4. Back to the routine
5. Thorn in the Heart
6. Visit to Hebron
7. Israel's State Land
8. All in the Details?
9. Khallet Zacharia

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 Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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[1] 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 elimination.[2]

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 relatively
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.[3]

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.[4] 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. National
oppression inexorably leads to national struggle - the very opposite of resolution.

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 rights.

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 national rights.

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 Israel.

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.


[1] See my article Is it Apartheid?, November 2004; posted in various websites e.g. www.pamolson.org/ArtApartheid.htm

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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 Conflict!

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:

Stunning Gaza!

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 into panic.

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 evening.

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 writing.

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
B. Michael

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 Temple Mount.

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.

Settler-controlled areas

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.[1] Elad's official publications reflect pride in having seized more than 55% of the area of 'Ir David'.[2] 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 territory.

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.[3]

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 obtained.

Private developers

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.

Government sources

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 wall.

'Green' settlements

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 [4]. 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.[5] 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.

Targeted areas

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 their intention.

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.[6] 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 properties:

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.[7] 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...

Settler ideology

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."[8]

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."[9]

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 values.

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.[10] After seizing sixteen houses in Silwan, a member of Elad said that the association's plan is "to unite Jerusalem with deeds, not words".[11]

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.[12]

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".[13] 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.

Funding sources

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.[14] 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.[15] 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".[16] 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.[17] 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.

October 2005

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 Hebron.

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 the soldiers.

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 on them?

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 task…

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 does wonders.

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 this area."

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 benefits."

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 the property."

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 damaging mingling."

All according to a master plan

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 and helplessness.

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.

Khallet Zacharia

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 (02-274 7603).

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 every checkpoint.

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 life.

Further details, including village contacts and photographs, please contact ICAHD:

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Action Advocacy Officer 02-672-8771 or 0547-366393