Facts on the Ground Peace Index: Volume IV
(Covering Period: October 30, 2013 to November 30, 2013)
See here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.
NOTE: The Peace Index is focused on the actions of the Israeli government and military, and statements of Israeli officials. For the most part, it does not include frequent attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property and other non-official provocations and incitement, nor is it comprehensive in nature.
NEW SETTLEMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS & CONSTRUCTION
- On November 25, the Israeli government approved the construction of 831 new settlement units in five Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
- On November 14, the Israeli government approved the expedited construction of a “national park” on Mount Scopus in occupied East Jerusalem. According to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “At the end of September, an employee of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority was recorded admitting that the purpose of establishing the Mount Scopus park at a site between the [Palestinian] villages of Isawiyah and A-Tur is to block Palestinian development there, rather than to preserve nature.
- On November 12, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government had published tenders for the construction of more than 20,000 new settlement units – possibly the largest settlement announcement in history – including 1200 in the sensitive so-called E-1 corridor outside of occupied East Jerusalem. Following an international uproar and condemnation from the United States, Netanyahu canceled the E-1 plans and ordered Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, who is himself a settler, to “reconsider” the others. However, on November 29, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that the Housing Ministry never cancelled the tenders, prompting denials from Israeli officials, who assured the United States and Palestinian Authority that the plans were not moving forward.
- Also on November 12, the Israeli human rights group Ta’ayush reported that Havot Maon, a settlement “outpost” in the South Hebron Hills in the southern West Bank that is home to violent extremist Jewish settlers, has expanded at a "phenomenal rate" since the start of October. Like all other settlement “outposts” (nascent settlements built without official government approval), Havot Maon was constructed in violation of not only international law, but Israeli law as well, but continues to receive government services and protection from the Israeli army. Since the start of 2013, Ta’ayush activists have documented 13 incidents of Palestinian property damage caused by settlers from Havot Maon, 13 violent attacks against Palestinians, and 17 cases of intimidation against Palestinians and foreign observers.
- On November 9, Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry, which is headed by settler Uri Ariel, was attempting to force Israeli contractors to participate in the building of settlements in the occupied territories or be rendered ineligible for government contracts within Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 boundaries. One construction planner complained, “It’s clear that there’s a political intent in the structure of this tender… This is meant to give preference to planners of a certain political persuasion and to do without a large group of architects and planners who aren’t prepared to do this.”
- On November 26, the Israeli Bureau of Statistics released a report showing a rise of 132% in settlement construction starts since the beginning of 2013 over the same period in 2012. In contrast, the report showed there was a rise of only 5.5% in construction starts on housing projects inside Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders.
PROVOCATIVE MILITARY RAIDS & KILLINGS OF PALESTINANS
- On November 30, a 24-year-old Palestinian worker from a town near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Antar Shalabi Mahmoud al-Aqraa, was shot and killed in northern Israel by a volunteer with the Israeli Border Police. The police volunteer claimed that al-Aqraa, who was in Israel without a permit, tried to stab him while attempting to escape arrest. According to his family, al-Aqraa had been working inside Israel to raise money for his wedding, which was scheduled to take place just three weeks later.
- On November 28, 28-year-old Mahmoud Wajeeh Awwad died of wounds sustained during a demonstration in Qalandia in the West Bank in the spring. Awwad, who was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli soldiers, had been in a coma since being injured.
- On November 26, Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinians in two separate incidents near Hebron in the southern West Bank. Israeli authorities claimed the men, 22-year-old Moussa Pansha, 23-year-old Mohammed Nairuh, and 24-year-old Mahmoud Anjar, were militants planning an impending attack. Following an investigation, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights determined that the men were killed in extra-judicial executions.
- On November 13, Israeli forces raided the town of Abu Dis in occupied East Jerusalem. In the ensuing unrest, some 40 Palestinians, including students from nearby al Quds University, were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, according to press reports.
- On November 7, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 20-year-old Palestinian man at a checkpoint near Nablus in the northern West Bank. Witnesses said the man had shot a flare gun at the soldiers.
- Also on November 7, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 23-year-old Anas al-Atrash at a checkpoint near Bethlehem in the West Bank. The soldiers claimed al-Atrash attempted to stab them, but his brother, who witnessed the incident said he was shot without any provocation after he attempted to exit his vehicle.
- On the night of October 31 and the early hours of November 1, Israeli soldiers killed four members of Hamas’ military wing in two separate incidents in southern Gaza after five soldiers were wounded during an Israeli incursion into the tiny besieged coastal strip.
- Also on October 31, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 20-year-old Ahmed Tazazah Yusef, a civilian and vegetable seller, during a nighttime raid in a town near Jenin in the northern West Bank. At the time of his death, the Israeli army claimed that Tazazah was killed by a Palestinian assailant. However, on November 11, Israeli human rights organization B’tselem released a report concluding that he was shot with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers.
EVICTIONS & DEMOLITIONS OF PALESTINIAN HOMES & STRUCTURES
Note: Israel usually destroys Palestinian homes, both within Israel’s pre-1967 borders and inside the occupied territories, on the pretext that the structures were built without permission from Israeli authorities. However, as documented by the United Nations and human rights organizations, it’s nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits in areas under Israeli control. Meanwhile, the expansion of Jewish communities is encouraged in all parts of Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank.
- On November 30, Israeli authorities forced a Palestinian family to destroy two structures housing 12 people in occupied East Jerusalem, or be fined more than $50,000 (USD) for the municipality to demolish them.
- On November 28, Israeli forces demolished a home belonging to Ghanem Mahmoud Abed al-Karim in Salfit, in the northern West Bank.
- On November 25, Israeli forces destroyed a home and another structure in the town of Idnha near Hebron in the southern West Bank, leaving Ashraf Muhammad Yousuf al-Batran and his family of six homeless.
- On November 20, Israeli bulldozers destroyed a water tank and an agricultural structure in the town of Aqraba near Nablus in the northern West Bank.
- On November 19, Israeli authorities handed out demolition orders for several structures in a park located in a town near Nablus. The structures, including two rooms on a building and a bathroom, were donated by World Vision.
- On November 18, Israeli authorities handed out land confiscation orders to Palestinians living in the al-Kaabna area south of Hebron in the southern West Bank. Residents say the army told them the land was being taken for a military base. Israeli authorities have previously demolished homes, water wells, and other structures in the area, part of an effort to push the people off their land.
- On November 12, Israeli bulldozers destroyed a mobile home belonging to Afif Castero in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, even as Castero and his family attempted to disassemble the structure themselves to avoid a large fine for the demolition. Castero, his two brothers, and other relatives numbering 27 in total, had been living in the mobile home and another structure on top of the ruins of their previous home, which was demolished by Israeli authorities in February 2013.
- On November 4, Israeli authorities destroyed a home in East Jerusalem belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, displacing 14 Palestinians. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Tawwal, condemned the demolition, which he said was the first time Israel had destroyed property belong to the church, and accused Israel of "increase[ing] hatred" through its policies.
- On October 31, Israeli municipal authorities handed out demolition orders in East Jerusalem affecting hundreds of Palestinian families. According to local activists, as many as 15,000 people could be affected.
- Also on October 31, Israeli authorities handed out stop work and demolition orders against three homes and a dozen agricultural structures in the town of Idna near Hebron in the southern West Bank. Three days previously, authorities handed out stop-work orders against properties belonging to the Idna association for cooperation and livestock development.
- Also on October 31, an Israeli court issued a demolition order against a Palestinian home in the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. In recent years, Silwan has become a flashpoint as Israeli settlers have implanted themselves directly into the Palestinian neighborhood and Israeli authorities have built a controversial archeological site and tourist attraction called the City of David.
PROVOCATIVE STATEMENTS FROM SENIOR ISRAELI OFFICIALS
- On November 28, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Religious Services, Eli Ben-Dahan, attacked US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of encouraging “terrorism,” and promised that there would never be a Palestinian state. During the consecration of a new synagogue in a West Bank settlement, Dahan declared: "John Kerry, who warns us of an intifada does not understand the Middle East and he is not worthy to be a mediator when he goes back to his country. His words give legitimacy to this terrorism… [The construction of this synagogue] strengthens our hold on the country, and from here we reiterate: There will not be a Palestinian state."
- On November 17, newly reinstated Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that it will be impossible to reach a permanent peace agreement until Palestinian per capita gross national product reaches $10,000 (USD), stating: “First, we have to achieve security for Israelis and [create an] economy for the Palestinians… Only after that can we achieve a political settlement. It won't work the other way around… We can talk seriously about a political settlement with the Palestinians when their per capita GNP reaches $10,000 -- not a day before that. All other talk is detached from reality.” Palestinian per capita GNP is currently far below $10,000, largely because of Israeli policies designed to stunt and limit the Palestinian economy, making it a captive market for Israeli products and the Palestinian territories a source of cheap labor and natural resources for Israeli industry.
- On November 13, Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and alleged PA “incitement” for the killing of an Israeli soldier by a young Palestinian man on a bus in northern Israel, despite providing no evidence to back up the claim.
- On November 9, Orit Strock, a settler and member of parliament from the Jewish Home party, which sits in Israel’s coalition government, wrote an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry questioning whether Kerry was on the side of Israel, or of the “terrorists,” declaring: “we are not frightened by your threats...Your threats will not have the outcome that you intend, but they have already proved very effective in revealing exactly how unsuited you are to serve as an honest broker."
- On November 5, Yair Lapid, Finance Minister and leader of the Yesh Atid party, declared once again that Israel will never relinquish control over occupied East Jerusalem, and that if “Palestinians want a state, then they must know that this has a price and they will not get everything they want.” The international community, including the United States, does not recognize the legitimacy of Israeli sovereignty in the occupied eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Old City and its religious sites.
- On November 3, during a parliamentary debate on a bill that would allow Jews to pray in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, known as the Temple Mount to Jews, Knesset member Strock called Palestinians “savages,” stating: “When King David bought the Temple Mount you were savages in the desert. You have no rights on the Temple Mount, that’s a historical fact. Nothing will help you. Even now you are savages.”
- Also on November 3, more than 100 prominent Israeli rabbis on the government payroll published an open letter in Haaretz newspaper in support of the notorious extremist Dov Lior, the influential chief rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron and head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], after a member of Israel’s parliament criticized him on the anniversary of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. The letter praised the “great Rabbi Lior,” who many Israelis blame for Rabin’s murder because he issued a religious ruling deeming Rabin a traitor to the Jewish people and justifying his killing as an act of self-defense. The letter called Lior a “great teacher” and wished that “he live long and happily.” Lior’s most notoriously inflammatory statements include calling Baruch Goldstein, the Brooklyn-born settler who slaughtered 29 Palestinians as they prayed in Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, a “holier martyr than all the holy martyrs of the Holocaust.” More recently, Lior called US President Barack Obama a “kushi,” a derogatory term for people of African descent, and referred to Palestinians as “wolves,” “savages,” and “evil camel riders.” In January 2011, he told a women’s health conference that “Gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring." In June 2011, Lior was arrested and subsequently released without charge by Israeli police on suspicion of incitement after he endorsed The King's Torah, a book that condoned the killing of non-Jewish civilians, including babies and children. (See fact sheet here for more information on Lior and other extremist state-employed Israeli rabbis.)