It came to light in Israel last month that the Civil Administration in the West Bank has 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, part of the Defense Ministry, released its maps in response to a request from anti-settlement activist Dror Etkes under Israel’s Freedom of Information Law. In some places the boundaries of the parcels outlined in the maps coincide with the route of the West Bank separation barrier.
The Israeli state has 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 Israel’s 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,” writes 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. Since the late 1990s, 23 of the existing “unauthorized” outposts were built on land demarcated in the map. The Civil Administration is endeavoring to “legalize” some of these outposts, including Shvut Rahel, Rehelim and Hayovel. (Ha’aretz, March 30)
Israel announced March 26 that it will sever ties to the UN Human Rights Council after the UNHRC opened an investigation into Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The UNHRC launched the independent investigation to determine the effect that Israeli settlements have had 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)
Ongoing violence and military harassment continues on the West Bank. 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 general offices as well as administrative and financial files, the network said. 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)
Also Feb. 29, the chief justice of the Palestinian high religious court died of a heart attack two days after soldiers raided his home, the Fatah movement said. Sheikh Fahmi Asaad Jaradat died after soldiers occupied his home in the northern West Bank village of Zabuba, near Jenin, and took up positions on his roof, the statement said. Fatah said it held Israel responsible for the justice’s death. (Ma’an, Feb. 29)
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. 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, claiming they are actually aimed at building support for the settlement movement. 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 savage settlers’ attack. (Palestine Information Center, Feb. 27)
A March 14 ceasefire meanwhile ended four days of renewed hostilities that saw air-strikes on the Gaza Strip and rockets fired from the Strip on southern Israel. Altogether, about 300 rockets were fired into Israel during the new hostilities. Of these, 56 were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, Israeli military authorities said. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that 26 Palestinians were killed in the course of the recent confrontation, of whom 22 were “terrorists” and four were civilians. (Ha’aretz, March 14)
See our last post on the struggle for Palestine.
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