The Andes

Venezuela: indigenous leader assassinated

Sabino Romero, cacique (traditional chief) of the Yukpa indigenous people, who opposed extractive industries in Venezuela’s Sierra de Perijá, was assassinated in a road ambush.

UAE begins trial of 94 charged in coup plot

The United Arab Emirates began the trial of 94 charged with plotting to overthrow the government. The defendants are members of al-Islah, a nonviolent political association.

New York City


From Gothamist, March 4: Baby Whose Parents Were Killedin Williamsburg Hit-And-Run Has Died The infant who was delivered prematurely after his parents were killed in a Williamsburg hit-and-run has died, according to Orthodox community leader Isaac Abraham. The child had been listed… Read moreWHY WE FIGHT


Continued from node 10721

Greater Jerusalem Land-Grabs
February 2012 saw a new round of unrest over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The protest wave began after far-right Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin tried to make a publicized visit to the Temple Mount, and called on Jews to visit the site. Leaflets were distributed around the city calling for removal of “Israel’s enemies” from the site. Police finally blocked Feiglin from entering, and briefly closed the compound Feb. 12. Hundreds of Muslim worshippers clashed with police at the holy site on Feb. 24. Israeli authorities said that following Friday prayers, a large group of worshippers began hurling rocks at the Mughrabi Bridge leading to the Mount. In a rare move, Israeli police came to the entrance of al-Aqsa Mosque, using tear gas and stun grenades to scatter the protesters. The clash caused confusion amongst the large crowd of gathered worshippers, with several wounded—including police, authorities said. (Ha’aretzMa’an News Agency, Feb. 25; Ma’an News AgencyJewish PressTikun Olam, Feb. 24; YNet, Feb. 12; Jerusalem Post, Feb. 1, 2012)

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said of the new clashes: “This is a serious attack that intends to impose full Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa a prelude to the establishment of the supposed [Third] Temple.” The Palestinian Authority cabinet protested “continuous attempts by settlers and extremists to raid Al-Aqsa Mosque and conduct religious rituals on its campuses in a manner that provokes Muslim sentiments and creates a state of tension.” Tensions over the Haram al-Sharif sparked at least one clash on the West Bank, as protesters gathered near the Qalandia checkpoint outside Ramallah. A 25-year-old Palestinian protester died during surgery after being shot in the Qalandia clash. (Ibid)

Also Feb. 24, US representatives Elliot Engel and Jerald Nadler (both D-NY) were on tour of Mount of Olives Cemetery, along with American Jewish leaders Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents, and Abraham and Menachem Lubinsky of International Committee for Preservation of Har HaZeitim, when they were attacked by rocks in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in front of a mosque, damaging a vehicle. The tour was organized by New York’s arch-conservative Jewish Press. The Mount of Olives is also a disputed site, being partially enclosed by Israel’s West Bank “separation barrier.” (Ibid)

The war of words remained ongoing, with the usual lack of discretion on either side. Pro-Israel media touted comments by Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, who at a Ramallah celebration marking the 47th anniversary of the founding of Fatah in January, quoted a hadith (saying attributed to the Prophet): “The hour [of resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. Then the stones or trees will call, ‘O Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.'” Days earlier, Israel’s hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the Palestinians don’t want peace and had entered the talks unwillingly: “Anyone who talks about a breakthrough with the Palestinians has no idea what he’s talking about… The only way forward is to manage the conflict, and not to end the conflict.” (Jerusalem Post, Jan. 9, 2012)

But Lieberman himself had been criticized in a classified US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks entitled “SUBJECT: RIGHT-WING LIEBERMAN UNABASHEDLY ADVOCATES TRANSFER OF ISRAELI ARABS.” The cable read:

Right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman told the Ambassador January 31 that separation of Israeli Jews from Israeli Arabs is necessary in order to promote Israeli security and maintain Israel’s Jewish identity. To accomplish this, Lieberman proposes that Israel redraw its border with the West Bank through negotiations to place some Israeli-Arab population centers that are close to the Green Line within Palestinian territory, and to include some Israeli settlement blocs within Israel…

Lieberman underlined his view that to avoid conflict, a separation of Israeli Jews from Israeli Arabs must occur. He said his proposal for such a separation is based on the Cyprus model, where, he said, the island’s Turks are separated territorially from the island’s Greeks. Lieberman said that the roadmap makes a mistake by advocating a two-state solution, wherein Israel retains two peoples within its borders, Jewish and Arab, while the Palestinian state retains only Palestinians. Lieberman asserted that states that are composed of different “nations” continue to experience conflict. The Ambassador noted that the United States maintains its diversity without experiencing such conflict…. [MondoWeiss, Aug. 25, 2011]

Under pressure from UNESCO, Israel agreed in February to remove the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb—two Jewish holy sites on the West Bank—from its list of “National Heritage Sites.” This of course immediately sparked a backlash from Israel’s religious right, with Science and Technology Minister Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz calling the omission “like denying our elementary heritage.” (The Algemeiner, Feb. 1, 2012)

Following the clashes at the Temple Mount, Palestinian protesters also vented rage at the Rachel’s Tomb site Feb. 21, hurling stones and prompting closure of the compound. Jewish visitors were evacuated by the Border Guard. This again came in response to provocation; two days earlier, Israeli settlers sent out text messages calling for a mass Jewish convergence on the site, which is revered by Muslims as Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque (named for an Abyssinian who was the Prophet Mohammed’s first muezzin, or caller to prayer). (YNet, Feb. 21, WAFA, Feb. 19, 2012) 

Over the past year, far-right Israeli settlers had staged a series of militant occupations of Jewish holy sites on the West Bank. Rachel’s Tomb, closely enclosed by the “separation barrier,” was the target of an ongoing campaign to claim it as an exclusively Jewish site. In one April 2010 incident, the shrine was vandalized by presumed right-wing settlers, with a Star of David and other graffiti sprayed on a wall. (Ma’an News Agency, April 15, 2010)

The site’s inclusion on the “Israeli” side of the separation barrier violated the spirit (at least) of the Oslo Accords, which placed it in Area C—that under ostensibly “temporary” Israeli control pending transfer to the Palestinians. Provisions of the Accords also guaranteed the “free movement” of Palestinians to the site, now bottlenecked by the barrier. (POICA)

There was also violence at the Cave of the Patriarchs on Feb. 28, as Palestinians holding a procession commemorating the 1994 massacre at the site by an Israeli settler were set upon by Israeli security forces. Troops used special “non-lethal” crowd-control weapons, including the “Skunk”—a vehicle mounted with canons spraying a foul-smelling liquid. (YNet, Feb. 28, 2012)

On Feb. 27, Jewish settlers attacked peace activists of the leftist Israeli party Meretz during their visit to al-Khalil Old Town and the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. The activists were protesting the tours organized by the Israeli education ministry for Jewish students, ostensibly to acquaint them with ancient relics in al-Khalil—but actually aimed at building support for the settlement movement, the activists charged. Members of the organization Breaking the Silence accompanied the party officials, and explained to them the miserable living conditions of the Palestinians in the visited areas. A Meretz party official said that the Israeli soldiers did not interfere to stop the settlers’ attack. (Palestine Information Center, Feb. 27, 2012)

Israeli forces raided two Palestinian television networks on Feb. 29 in Ramallah, and briefly detained four employees. Soldiers confiscated computers used by editors and reporters in Watan TV’s newsroom and offices, as well as administrative and financial files. Troops also raided al-Quds Educational TV in al-Bireh and confiscated its broadcasting equipment. “This attack is nothing but piracy under a policy of systematic attack targeting Palestinian media organizations and journalists,” Watan TV said in a statement. (Ma’an News Agency, Feb. 29, 2012) Also Feb. 29, the chief justice of the Palestinian high religious court died of a heart attack two days after soldiers raided his home. Sheikh Fahmi Asaad Jaradat suffered his attack after soldiers occupied his home in the village of Zabuba, near Jenin, and took up positions on his roof, according to a Fatah statement. Fatah said it held Israel responsible for the justice’s death. (Ma’an, Feb. 29, 2012)

It came to light in Israel in March that Israel’s (military-run) “Civil Administration” in the West Bank had for years been covertly identifying and mapping available land, and naming the parcels after existing Jewish settlements—evidently, with an eye toward expanding these communities. The new outposts are mostly “illegal” under Israeli law (although all the settlements are illegal under international law). The Civil Administration released the maps in response to a request from anti-settlement activists under Israel’s Freedom of Information Law. In some places, the boundaries of the parcels outlined in the maps coincided with the route of the separation barrier. The Israeli state had argued before both its own Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice at The Hague that the route of the barrier was based on security needs. But the released Civil Administration maps and figures “suggest the barrier route was planned in accordance with the available land in the West Bank, intended to increase the area and population of the settlements,” wrote the daily Ha’aretz. A total of 569 parcels of land were marked out, encompassing around 620,000 dunams ‏(around 155,000 acres‏)—about 10% of the total area of the West Bank. Some 20 of the existing “unauthorized” outposts were built on land demarcated in the map, and the Civil Administration was endeavoring to “legalize” some of these outposts, including Shvut Rahel, Rehelim and Hayovel. (Ha’aretz, March 30, 2012)

Israel meanwhil that it would sever ties to the UN Human Rights Council after the UNHRC opened an investigation into West Bank settlements and their effect on the civil, political, economic and cultural rights of the Palestinian people. The US was the only country to vote against the investigation, called for by the Palestinian Authority. (Jurist, March 26, 2012)

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on April 2 that the prominent Palestinian Husseini family could not claim ownership of a landmark but decaying building in East Jerusalem, the Shepherd Hotel—opening the way for a Jewish housing project. The Shepherd Hotel, built in the 1930s, served as the home of Grand Mufti Haj Amin Husseini. It was declared “absentee property” after it was captured in 1967. The title was transferred to an Israeli firm, which sold it in 1985 to Irving Moskowitz, a Florida businessman and patron of Jewish settlers. In 2009, the Jerusalem city government approved a project to replace the building with an apartment block. “This property, which is legitimately ours, represents the Palestinians’ rights to their land and to Jerusalem,” said Mona Husseini, the Grand Mufti’s grand-daughter. In dismissing the family’s case, the court said too much time had passed since Israeli authorities had transferred the property to private developers for a legal challenge to be brought. The family said it had been unaware at the time that the site had been sold off. (YNet, April 2, 2012)

UN agencies on the West Bank said April 22 that Israel had destroyed 21 homes of Palestinian Bedouin refugees—leaving 54 people homeless, including 35 children. A joint statement from the refugee agency UNRWA and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs condemned the demolition of the structures at Khalayleh north of Jerusalem, along with the removal the same day of refugees from two houses in East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood. Jewish settlers reportedly moved into the homes the same day. A day later, Israeli forces demolished and confiscated emergency tents provided to the evicted Khalayleh families by humanitarian organizations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Relief and Works Agency said in a joint statement. “The forced eviction of Palestine refugees and the demolition of Palestinian homes and other civilian structures in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law,” UNRWA’s West Bank director, Felipe Sánchez, said in the statement. (AFPMa’an News Agency, April 22, 2012)

The evictions came as Israel’s Housing Ministry published tenders for the construction of 827 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. The new construction would significantly expand Har Homa to the south and east, bringing it closer to Palestinian towns Beit Sahour and Nuaman. (Ha’aretz, April 4, 2012)

There were also some moves against “illegal” settlers. An Israeli court in April ordered the eviction of six Jewish families from a Palestinian-owned home in the Tel Rumeida of Hebron. The Jewish families had lived there since 2005, and said that the property was purchased from its Palestinian owner by the (Jewish-owned) Tal Lebniya construction company. The Jerusalem District Court found that the home was owned by a Palestinian who left the property in 2001 after the Israeli military restricted the movement of Arabs in the area, and had been fighting since 2009 to reassert his ownership rights. The court ruled that the sale documents presented by the company were forgeries. The ruling came weeks after Israeli settlers were evicted by the Civil Administration from a home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron that they said they purchased legally. (JTA, April 22, 2012)

Israel’s Supreme Court on April 29 ruled that buildings of the Givat Ha Ulpana settlement outpost at Beit El on the West Bank, ordered destroyed because of a claim by Palestinian land-owners, would receive a reprieve. Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, which helped the Palestinian claimants file the petition against the outpost in 2008, slammed the government for failing to raze the 30-apartment complex, which was inhabited by settler families. The stay was intended to allow time to find an “alternative solution.” In subsequent weeks, hundreds of settlers and their right-wing supporters mobilized to Givat Ha Ulpana. (Arutz Sheva, June 10; Jewish Press, April 30; Jerusalem Post, April 29, 2012)

Over 80 people were injured in clashes with Israeli forces near Ramallah in a rally commemorating the Nakba on May 16, as troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. (Ma’an News Agency, May 16, 2012)

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed a European Union Foreign Affairs Council report on the West Bank issued in May. The report said Israeli settlement building and curbs on economic development jeopardized hopes for a Palestinian state. The statement by European foreign ministers accused Israel of accelerating settlement construction and tightening its control over East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinians, while also criticizing Palestinian “incitement.” Israel’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report as a “partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on the ground.” (Ma’an News Agency, May 16; Ha’aretz, May 13, 2012)

One of the last Palestinian farming villages still using irrigation systems from Roman times protested that its ancient way of life was in danger as Israel prepared to extend its separation barrier. The people of Battir village waged a legal battle to halt the wall’s expansion. Battir’s 6,000 inhabitants live in houses built into a hillside southwest of Jerusalem. On village lands, stone retaining walls transform scrubby hills into terraces of olive trees and vegetable gardens, watered by an ancient network of irrigation canals. UNESCO in 2011 awarded the village a $15,000 prize for “Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes.” Said local UNESCO official Giovanni Fontana-Antonelli: “The wall as projected so far will interfere with this ancient irrigation system by cutting part of the irrigation network.” The integrity of the terraces “will be totally dismantled.” (Time, May 11, 2012)

In June, Israel announced plans to “legalize” 13 of the 18 settlement outposts that had been challenged before the High Court of Justice: “Because the 13 outposts are not built on privately-owned Palestinian land, the legalization process could presumably make the petitions against them moot,” the court wrote. “The remaining five outposts cannot be legalized, because they are located on privately-owned Palestinian land, and so are slated for evacuation.” The first to go was be Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood, which the court has ordered dismantled by July 1. Next in line was Migron, an outpost near Ramallah, ordered dismantled by Aug. 1. (Haaretz, June 1, 2012) Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a decision June 2 to evacuate the Ulpana neighborhood, and to not endorse a bill to override the high court on the issue. Netanyahu proposed to relocate the houses to a military zone inside Beit El. He pledged: “For each demolished house, we’ll build 10 new ones.” (YNet, June 2, 2012)

The settlers were not appeased. In evident response to government’s decision to evacuate Ulpana, vandals punctured the tires of 14 parked cars in the Israeli village of Neve Shalom June 8—one of the few villages in the country with a mixed Jewish and Arab populace. The words “revenge,” “death to Arabs” and “regards from Ulpana” were spray-pained on the vehicles. Neve Shalom (Arabic: Wahat al-Salam) village was established in the 1960s by Israeli Jews and Arabs who favored co-existence, to promote it by example. (YNet, June 8, 2012) 

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk on June 27  demanded  Israel cease its demolition of Palestinian homes on the West Bank. Falk reported that the demolition of Palestinian structures—including houses, animal shelters, water cisterns and roadways—had risen by 87% over the past year, with a total of 536 Palestinians displaced, including hundreds of children. Falk charged that in some cases the ostensibly punative demolitions were coorindated to faciliate settlement expansion. (Jurist, June 28, 2012)

A proposal in South Africa to ban products from the West Bank received a boost in June from an unlikely source—Israel’s own former Foreign Ministry director-general and ex-ambassador to South Africa, Alon Liel. Writing in the South African Business Day newspaper, Liel endorsed the plan to ban “made in Israel” labels for imported products from the West Bank. Liel wrote: “I can understand the desire, by people of conscience, to reassert an agenda of justice, to remind Israelis that Palestinians exist. I can understand small but symbolic acts of protest that hold a mirror up to Israeli society. As such, I cannot condemn the move to prevent goods made in the occupied Palestinian territory from being falsely classified as ‘made in Israel.’ I support the South African government’s insistence on this distinction between Israel and its occupation.” (JP, June 28, 2012)

In July, a report in newspaper Ha’aretz revealed that Israel’s government had drawn up plans to start compiling land registry records of assets controlled by West Bank settlers. The registry would bypass the regular “tabu” land-listing process, denying Palestinians the right to appeal the validity of ownership titles. Haaretz obtained documents indicating the registry was to be overseen by the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration. Jewish settlements were established on lands originally “occupied for military reasons” and subsequently classified as “state lands.” These lands had still not been transferred to settler ownership. Instead, authorities granted “permission” to the World Zionist Organization or housing companies to make use of the land. These entities were now seeking to hand over title to the settler communities—but under the normal “tabu” registration process (adopted by Israel from the Ottoman legal code), previous owners would have the right to challenge the new titles. To avoid such challenges from Palestinians, Israel’s deputy attorney general Mike Blass evidently drafted the plan granting the power to issue summary titles. (Haaretz, July 3, 2012)

Palestinians reported July 7 that Jewish settlers attacked the West Bank village of Yanoun, beating residents and killing three sheep. Four villagers were hospitalized. IDF troops rushed to the scene to find the sides throwing rocks at each other, and used tear gas to disperse them. But the only one arrested was a Palestinian resident. (Haaretz, July 8, 2012)

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) announced in July 6 formation of a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. Israel said that it would sever ties with the organization and warned that members of the mission would be blocked from entering the Jewish state. “The establishment of this mission is another blatant expression of the singling out of Israel in the UNHRC,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. In fact, the UNHRC had over the past year acted on rights accusations in Syria, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and the United States. (Jewish Chronicle, July 9; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2012)

Israeli security forces evacuated the settlement of Migron Sept. 2, arresting eight who had holed up in their homes and refused to be moved, as their supporters gathered nearby and chanted “Jews do not expel Jews!” Some of the houses had been painted with slogans such as “Bibi is good for Arabs.” The evacuation followed years of legal battles that began in 2006 when Peace Now brought a petition for removal of the settlement, and the Israeli government conceded that Migron was built at least in partly on land privately owned by Palestinians. But those removed from Migron were taken to the nearby “legal” settlement of Ofra, which was set for expansion to accommodate them. (LAT, Sept. 2, 2012) Protests and judicial postponements of the Ulpana demolition continued for months. The evacuation was finally carried out in October, after the government similarly promised Ulpana’s settlers to provide them with new homes on the West Bank. A bill to override the high court on the Ulpana settlement was defeated by the Knesset. Seemingly to appease the right, Netanyahu and Housing and Minister Ariel Atias immediately approved 851 new housing units—300 for Beit El and 551 for four other settlements. (Ha’aretz, Oct. 24; YNet, June 6, 2012)

A panel commissioned by the Israeli government recommended July 9 that the state “legalize” dozens of unsanctioned West Bank settlements. By then, there were over 200 settlements and outposts on the West Bank, home to more than 500,000 Israeli settlers. (Jurist, July 9, 2012)

The panel also asserted that the territories taken from Jordan in 1967 are not legally under “occupation”—therefore stipulating that the Fourth Geneva Convention banning the settlement of citizens from the occupying country in occupied territories did not apply on the West Bank. The report argued that the Israeli presence in “Yehuda and Shomron” (Judea and Samaria, the term increasingly used in Israeli official parlance) was not a “military occupation” because no other legal entity had maintained sovereignty there since before 1967. The report asserted that Jordan’s presence there prior to 1967 was itself an occupation, not actual rule, and that the 1922 British Mandate called for the creation of “a national home for the Jewish people” in the territory west of the Jordan River. The panel was headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who vocally opposed Israel’s 2005 Gaza withdrawal. MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) boasted of the report: “It said that every Israeli government can build anywhere in Judea and Samaria and it said, in a very clear voice, that this is not conquered land when it comes to international law… Every community, every outpost is totally legal.” (Arutz Sheva, July 12; JP, July 11; APNYT, July 10; Yeshiva WorldCommentaryJP, July 9, 2012)

An Israeli court on July 10 cleared former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of the most serious corruption charges against him, including fraud, concealing cash gifts and double billing, but convicted him on a lesser count of breach of trust. (LAT, July 10) In an apparent coincidence, the same day in Washington, the House Subcommittee on the Middle East dedicated a large part of its hearing to a discussion on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ alleged corruption in a hearing titled “Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment.” (Haaretz, July 11, 2012)

Human rights groups and UN agencies charged in July that Israeli settlers on the West Bank had stepped up attacks on Palestinians in recent years, in a climate of impunity. “The Israeli government has not shown the political will to protect Palestinian civilians,” said Jessica Montell of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Montell and representatives from the UN Human Rights Council told a Ramallah press conference that settler violence against Palestinians was not random, but targeted at areas that settlers sought to take over, or intended as “price tag” attacks to deter the Israeli military from taking any action against settlements. Settler attacks on Palestinians causing injury or damage rose from 168 in 2009 to 411 in 2011, according to UN figures. Over the past decade, B’Tselem ahd submitted 352 complaints to the Israeli police on behalf of Palestinians. In 250 cases, an investigation was opened, but only 29 resulted in indictments, according to B’Tselem figures. (AP, July 11, 2012)

Early July saw West Bank protests repeatedly dispersed by the PA police. The protests were called to oppose a scheduled meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli vice prime minister Shaul Mofaz. Protesters called on Abbas to abandon peace talks with Israel altogether, holding signs reading: “No to negotiations with the murderer Mofaz.” (AlJazeera, July 3, 2012)

Israel’s Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria took what was hailed by settlers as an historic decision July 17, voting 11-2 to make the Ariel University Center of Samaria (AUCS) into the first full-fledged university intended for settlers. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz promised the AUCS would receive special funding over the next two years. (Haaretz, July 19; YNet, July 17, 2012)

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on July 22 ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the hills south of Hebron, saying the military needed the land for training exercises. A total of 1,500 residents were ordered evicted and their lands confiscated at the villages of Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba and Kharuba. Evacuation orders had been first issued in 1999, but were frozen by an injunction from the Israeli High Court of Justice. The Israeli military nonetheless claimed the land as part of its “Firing Zone 918,” viewing the Palestinians living there as illegal squatters. All of the villages in question had existed since at least the 1830s. However, all were in Area C, under complete Israeli control. (Ha’aretzIMEMC, July 23, 2012) Some lands taken over by the military on an ostensibly temporary basis wound up in settler hands. Settlers seized over 50 dunams of land in the Tubas area of the Jordan Valley, and began preparing to farm it, the village council head reported in late July. The land, which belonged to villagers, was previously used by the Israeli army as a tank yard. Settlers apparently took it over with no interference from the IDF as they abandoned it. (Ma’an News Agency, July 24, 2012)

It made international news in August when a Hamas spokesman offered ugly comments about a Palestinian official’s visit to the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Ziad al-Bandak, an adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, made the high-profile visit, laying a wreath at the invitation of a private Polish foundation working for tolerance, and prompting Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum to say: “It was an unjustified and unhelpful visit that served only the Zionist occupation.” He called the visit “a marketing of a false Zionist alleged tragedy….at the expense of a real Palestinian tragedy.” (Arutz Sheva, Aug. 2; Reuters, Aug. 1, 2012)

Meanwhile, winning practically no mainstream international coverage, Israeli soldiers and police on the night of July 28 invaded al-Aqsa Mosque, attacking several worshipers. Clashes were reported and two worshipers were “kidnapped,” in the words of the Waqf foundation that runs the site. During the Ramadan celebration, then underway, hundreds of worshipers spent the night in the Mosque, in defiance of Israeli authorities. The clash came when police tried to forcibly remove the worshippers, who had succeeded in staying at the Mosque for three nights. (AlReselahJewish Telegraphic Agency, July 30; International Middle East Media CenterThe Muslim News, July 29, 2012)

That same day, hundreds of Israeli settlers and right-wing Knesset members held a procession from West Jerusalem to the Old City, sparking clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police near al-Amoud Gate. The Temple Mount had been closed to Jews for Tisha B’Av, the Jewish holiday commemorating the destruction of the Second Temple, which overlapped with Ramadan that year. The move to bar Jews from the Mount was taken in response to fears that Jewish militants would create “provocations.” (Ibid)

Days later, Jewish settlers from Givat Ariel outpost vandalized Palestinian property in the village of Sinjil near Ramallah. Slogans left scrawled on walls included “Palestinians should die,” and “Stay away from our lands.” Settlers also left an improvised explosive device made from chemicals under a car. (Maan News Agency, Aug. 2, 2012)

Jerusalem on Aug. 17 saw a mob attack on Palestinian youths by dozens of Jewish teens, leaving one victim seriously hurt. Four minors between the ages of 13-15, including one girl, were arrested two days after the attack, which took place in the popular weekend hang-out of Zion Square. Eyewitnesses say about 40 young Israelis chased four Arab youths, while shouting racial insults and “Death to Arabs.” One of the Arab youths, Jamal Julani, fell as he try to fled, and was brutally beaten. He was in a coma for two days. “For my part he can die, he’s an Arab,” the lead suspect told reporters as he left court. “If it was up to me I’d have murdered him. He cursed my mother.” But Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin visited Julani  in the hospital. “It is hard to see you lying in the hospital because of an unimaginable, outrageous act,” Rivlin told Julani. “I came here in the name of the State of Israel, in order to apologize and express anger over what happened.” (JP, Aug. 23; NBC, Aug. 21; Haaretz, Aug. 20, 2012)

Unknown vandals sprayed the words “Migron Price Tag” on a mosque in the village of Imrish near Hebron in September, and unknown assailants burned the door of the Latrun Monastery (established by the Trappist order in the 19th century) and sprayed hate messages on the scene, including “Jesus is a monkey.” Shin Bet said that it had launched an investigation. (YNet, Sept. 12, 2012)

The Israeli government continued to fight in court to the right to build more than 40 settlements on private Palestinian land expropriated for military purposes. The case brought by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din challenged the non-enforcement of demolition orders for structures built in Beit El settlement. In a submission to the court, the State Prosecution acknowledged that some 40 settlements were erected totally or partially based on such military expropriation orders—a practice ostensibly barred after the Elon Moreh ruling of 1979, which stipulated that the army had power to confiscate land only for striclty military purposes, and not for civilian settlements. The state now argued that ruling “does not prevent exploiting the potential of these communities.” (Haaretz, Sept. 13, 2012)

The US electoral race was then underway, with the quesiton of Jerusalem providing an opportunity for controversy. Republicans accused Obama of throwing Israel “under the bus.” Perhaps in response to such criticisms, Obama at the last minute directed the Democratic Party to add text to the platform stating that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel [and] an undivided city.” Yet the text was contradictory, also stating that the future of Jerusalem “is a matter for final status negotiations.” (The Caucus blog, NYT, Sept. 5, 2012; Democratic Party Platform, 2012)

On Oct. 6, prominent rabbis, public officials and Knesset member Arye Eldad held a send-off at Shilo settlement for Zvi Struck, a settler about to start a 30-month prison term after being convicted of abusing a Palestinian youth in 2007. The pro-settler website Arutz Sheva posted video and a report of the party which featured live music, many children and families, and Struck himself warmly greeting people. In the video, supporters of Struck complained that “the judicial system believes the Arabs first.” Itzak Shadmi, a settler leader, said that he was fundraising to support Struck’s family. (Israel National NewsHaaretz, Oct. 7, 2012) 

A group of settlers attacked Palestinian farmers in the Ramallah town of Beitillu on Oct. 7, burning dozens of olive trees, witnesses said. Locals told official Palestinian news agency WAFA that settlers from nearby Nehaliel settlement attacked the farmers while they were harvesting olives and set fire to dozens of trees. Israeli forces finally intervened in the incident. Earlier that day, settlers uprooted around 40 olive trees in the nearby Ramallah village of Ras Karkar, village council head Riziq Nofel said. (Ma’an News Agency, Oct. 7, 2012)

UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry on Oct. 14 expressed his alarm at attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian farmers and their olive trees. In a press statement, he said Israel must do more to protect Palestinians and their property in the West Bank. Israeli rights organization B’Tselem counted 450 Palestinian-owned trees either damaged or uprooted since the harvest season began on Oct. 10. (AP, Oct. 14, 2012)  

Settlers and Israeli security forces clashed Oct. 31, after two “illegal” structures at the new outpost Hasruga were leveled near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. One Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) IDF soldier defected as a result of the demolition. (Haaretz, Nov. 1, 2012)

Israel in November announced plans to build hundreds of new homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Land Administration on Nov. 5 published notices for bids to build 609 units in Pisgat Zeev and 606 units in Ramot in East Jerusalem, as well as 72 homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. (CNN, Nov. 11; Reuters, Nov. 6, 2012)

Dozens of Palestinian olive trees were cut down in the northern West Bank by presumed settler attackers on Nov. 7. Farmers found 100 olive trees cut down with chain saws in al-Sawiya, south of Nablus, local authorities reported.. “Racist slogans” were found scrawled on barrels in the field. (AFP, Nov. 7, 2012)

Israeli athorities issued “closed military zone” orders for four West Bank villages  Nov. 11, barring 13 prominent activists in groups such as Anarchists Against the Wall, Ta’ayush, and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement from entering. (972, Nov. 11, 2012)

In a more critical move, the Israeli government announced plans Nov. 30 to build 3,000 settlement units in the so-called E-1 area of the occupied West Bank—a day after Palestine was admitted to the UN as an observer state in a vote opposed by the US and Israel. E1, lying between Jerusalem and the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc, was a particularly contentious area, as Palestinian leaders said settlements there would divide the West Bank and prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he intedned to “promote planning and construction” in the E-1 area.  (Ma’an News AgencyGlobal PostBBC NewsAl Jazeera, Nov. 30, 2012)

The US State Department issued requisite protest of the announcement. The Palestinian Authority reiterated that it will not resume peace talks unless Israel froze all settlement building, as it had agreed to as part of the 2003 “roadmap to peace.” Yet Israel accused the Palestinians of violating peace agreements by seeking their new UN status, and warned after the vote that it would respond accordingly. (Ibid)

In November and December, the Israeli military again delivered evacuation orders to some 100 of Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley ahead of an IDF training exercises. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said that at that time Israel had designated some 18% of the West Bank as closed military zones—an area roughly equal in size to Area A, the 17.7% of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control. Around 5,000 Palestinians lived in designated military firing zones in the West Bank, UNOCHA said, finding that since 2010, Israel had demolished the homes of 820 Palestinians located in lands designated as military zones. (Ma’an News AgencyIMEMC, Dec. 31, 2012)

Hundreds massed at the funeral of a Palestinian teenager killed in the southern West Bank on Dec. 13. Muhammad al-Salaymeh was shot dead by an Israeli border guard in Hebron’s Old City the day before, his 17th birthday. Hebron governor Kamel Hmaid and Palestinian parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik were among those who marched in the funeral procession. Israeli forces prevented sal-Salaymeh’s family from burying Muahmmad in al-Raas cemetery next to their home, as it was close to an Israeli settlement, Kiryat Arba. The procession instead headed to a cemetery at Limboa, in the north of the city. Five people, including four teenagers, were hospitalized following clashes with Israeli forces in Hebron after Muhammad’s death. The Border Patrol officer who fatally shot the youth said she had no regets over her actions, even as it emerged that Mohammed was armed only with a toy pistol. (Ma’an News AgencyJP, Dec. 13, 2012)

Thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Nablus Dec. 13—the first Hamas rally on the West Bank since the movement’s split from Fatah in 2007. The event followed similar scenes in Gaza in the wake of a new Israeli bombing campaign there (see below). (Ma’an, Dec. 13, 2012)   

Prime Minister Netanyahu said his government would press ahead with expanding Jewish settlements around Jerusalem despite Western criticism of its plan to build 6,000 more homes on Palestinian land. In addition to several thousand housing units that had just been announced, Israeli media said initial approval was granted Dec. 19 for construction of another 3,400 units in Jerusalem and in the West Bank. “We are going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents,” Netanyahu said in a meeting with foreign ambassadors. “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Imagine that you would limit construction in your own capital, it doesn’t make sense.” (Maan News Agency, Dec. 20, 2012)

Some 20 settlers rioted in the West Bank village of Jallud, near Ramallah, on Jan. 2, 2013, shattering windows, assaulting residents, and vandalizing vehicles before fleeing. The incident took place hours after a similar incident was broken up the IDF, leading to a clash between the settlers and soldiers. After the settlers arrived in Jallud and began pelting Palestinian reisdents with stones, IDF forces were dispatched to the scene and dispersed the rioters. But they were apparently allowed to return. A military statement said: “The IDF treats such public disordered very seriously, as they may destabilize the area and force the IDF to divert attention from its primary mission—protecting Israel and its citizens.” (YNet, Jan. 2, 2013)

On Jan. 3, an Israeli undercover force raided the city of Jenin, sparking clashes with Palestinian residents. Agents dressed as Palestinians, accompanied by army units, entered the city’s industrial zone and surrounded a bakery and number of shops. During a raid on the home of 93-year-old woman, who was alone in the house, she was attacked by Israeli army dogs, requiring hospitalization. In the subsequent clashes, the troops apparently used live fire; one young protester was wounded in the leg by a bullet. A similar incident was reported Jan. 1 in the nearby village Tamoun. At least 30 people were injured with live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas during the clashes, after undercover forces arrested a member of Islamic Jihad. (Maan News Agency, Jan. 4, 2013)

But the greatest new land controversy began when the Israeli government plan to create a “greenbelt” around Jerusalem. Mayor Nir Barkat said the plan, focused on archeological preservation, would boost tourism—but critics charged the parks amounted to a land grab aimed at consolidating Israel’s grip on East Jerusalem. The new national parks would link and expand areas under Jewish control, from the Old City to the settlement of Maale Adumim. A key link in the chain was to be Mount Scopus Slopes National Park—to be built on what nearby residents protested is the only land available for the expansion of the crowded Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiya. The neighborhood’s 15,000 residents currently lived on 150 acres—an area smaller than that of the planned park. Some 112.5 acres owned by Isawiya residents and 75 acres owned by residents of nearby al-Tur were slated to become part of the park without any compensation to the owners, who would technically retain ownership under an “easement” type arrangement. (CSM, Jan. 20; The Guardian, Jan. 17, 2012)  

Leading the national park scheme was Evyatar Cohen, head of the Jerusalem district for the National Parks Authority and a former staffer for Elad—a hardline settler group. The NPA nonetheless dismissed charges that the park was driven by any political motive. Peace Now, however, said the real imperative behind the park was to create Israeli contiguity between the Old City and the E1 area on the outskirts of Maale Adumim, connecting the two via the Tsurim Valley park. The E1 area was slated for a new settlement for about 14,500, although work was halted in 2004 after US objections. A 2011 European Union report, however, found strong indications—including orders for forced removal of 2,300 Bedouin Arabs from the area—that the plan was moving ahead. The EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem concluded that the EU should consider legislation to bar companies in member states from doing business that supports the settlement expansion. (Ibid)

Palestinian activists in January 2013 established a protest encampment in the E1 Corridor, the area slated for settlement development. Some 250 activists maintained the tent city, dubbed Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun). “We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our l