Israel’s Greater Jerusalem Bill: Settlers in, Palestinians out

Greater Jerusalem bill

By Issam Aruri

In recent months, the security and humanitarian situation in Palestine has deteriorated considerably. Palestinian human rights organisations have documented unprecedented settlement expansion, emboldened by the international community’s continued hand-wringing in the face of Israel’s violations of international law.

Just last week, 176 new settlement units were announced to be built in occupied East Jerusalem. Residency revocations for Palestinians in Jerusalem are on the rise, forcing people out of their lifelong communities.

And now, the Knesset is considering an unprecedented bill that would annex some of the West Bank’s largest illegal settlements to Jerusalem.

Demographic change

Dubbed the “Greater Jerusalem” Bill, it constitutes a de facto annexation of settlements built on occupied Palestinian land and regarded as illegal by international law and the European Union.

Among the settlements included in the bill is Ma’aleh Adumim, the largest settlement in the Jerusalem area and the Gush Etzion settlement cluster. The bill is sponsored by a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right–wing Likud party and enjoys his backing.

We must be clear that the Greater Jerusalem Bill is an exercise in demographic change through annexation. Under the Bill, the settlements’ over 150,000 inhabitants would be considered residents of Jerusalem, enabling them to vote in and sway municipal elections.

It will also downgrade the status of three Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, demoting the status of the approximately 100,000 Palestinians who live there – essentially creating Jerusalem’s own Bantustans.

The bill’s intention, according to its authors, Israeli Knesset Minister Yoav Kish and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, is two-fold: to increase the proportion of Jews to Palestinians in Jerusalem to ensure Jewish dominance of the city, and territorial expansion.

Katz openly expressed his intention for the bill to “ensure a Jewish majority in the united city and to expand its borders by adding 150,000 residents to the area of a greater Jerusalem,” adding that it would serve to challenge all who question the Jewish people’s right to the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of a Jewish homeland.

Netanyahu voiced his support for the bill in October, indicating that the bill will pass quickly and with the government’s blessing.

De-facto annexation

Demographic engineering is in clear violation of international law, as it uses manipulation of the makeup of the civilian population to accomplish political goals. Currently, Palestinians make up nearly 40 percent the population of Jerusalem.

If the bill passes, the addition of settler populations into Jerusalem’s census will reduce that percentage to 32 percent. It is a sinister way of ensuring that Jerusalem is washed of its Palestinian identity and, by extension, Palestinian rights and interests, while still calling itself democratic.

Enacting laws that are anti-democratic or violate international law, however, is not a rarity for Israel. This January, the Knesset passed a law that retroactively legalises Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

International calls to abandon the “Regularisation Law” proved futile as the Knesset rapidly moved to pass it.

Palestinian human rights organisations, including my organisation, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), are concerned that the Great Jerusalem Bill could face an eerily similar fate with public outcry and condemnations proving to be little more than lip service that only delays the inevitable.

Palestinians have had their human rights trampled upon systematically throughout the prolonged military occupation. We have lost huge swathes of our lands and had our communities fragmented. We have been warning for years that Israel’s actions amount to de-facto annexation.

With the passage of the Greater Jerusalem Bill, our warnings would become a codified reality.

Genuine action

This should sound an alarm to European officials. Not only do these actions undermine UN Security Council resolutions and EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions, they erode the potency of international law as a whole. More so, they destroy the prospects of peace.

Despite discussions about renewing the peace talks, and the Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo last month, measures like the Greater Jerusalem Bill undo any positive steps made toward solving the conflict.

On Sunday, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation delayed its vote on the bill to reportedly allow time for “diplomatic preparation”. European officials should seize the time offered by the delay to unequivocally condemn the Greater Jerusalem Bill and spell out the diplomatic consequences of its passage.

This time, we need more than measured consideration and public statements. We need genuine action.

There are very real steps officials can take to pressure Israel to act in accordance with international law. They include an end to preferential trade agreements so long as settlement activity continues and support for accountability mechanisms.

Given the serious prospect of annexation, the European Commission should immediately halt any discussion about holding the EU-Israel Association Council.

If the international community continues to remain silent in the face of Israeli violations, it will be very hard to undo the damage being done to the prospects of achieving justice and peace.

European officials must stand tall and take the lead to stop the Greater Jerusalem Bill.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Saudi Arabia says it intercepts Houthi missile close to capital

Screengrab from the unveiling of missile Qaher-M2 in Yemen, March 29, 2017

Screengrab from the unveiling of missile Qaher-M2 in Yemen, March 29, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s air defence forces intercepted a ballistic missile fired from warring Yemen over the capital Riyadh on Saturday, state news agencies reported.

The missile was brought down near King Khaled Airport on the northern outskirts of the city and did not cause any casualties, said Saudi state-owned Al Ekhbariya TV.

Rocket fragments fell near the airport grounds, but air traffic carried on normally, the Saudi civil aviation authority said on its official Twitter account.

Saudi Arabia is part of a coalition carrying out bombings of the Iran-allied armed Houthi movement in Yemen which has taken over the capital Sanaa and other parts of the country during its civil war.

Saudi Arabia, which supports the internationally-recognised Yemeni government based in Aden, has frequently intercepted missiles fired from its neighbour.

Opinion: Houthi’s ballistic missile attacks on Saudi should not be ignored

Residents of northern Riyadh reported hearing a single deafening explosion that rattled windows around 20:20 local time, followed by rumbling and other sounds.

“We heard an enormous loud boom and went outside, then heard a low rumbling noise like thunder and six to 12 smaller explosions,” one resident told Reuters.

The missile was fired into Saudi territory from Yemen at 20:00 local time, the spokesman of a Saudi-led military coalition said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Saba News, which is run by the Houthi rebels, reported that the missile was a Burkan H2 and that the airport had been the target.

Read: Drone shot down by Houthis suggests US support for Saudi coalition air strikes

US President Donald Trump commented on the missile interception during comments on US military hardware on Sunday. He told reporters on Air Force One en route to Tokyo:

A shot was just taken by Iran, in my opinion, at Saudi Arabia…and our system knocked the missile out of the air. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re seeing it all over the world

Saudi Arabia and its allies, which receive logistical and intelligence help from the United States, accuse the Houthis of being a proxy of Iran.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Turkey: Far-right, racist groups are Europe’s Daesh

Marine Le Pen (centre), the leader of France's far-right Front National political party, seen with Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders (right) during a press conference on the 'Scenarios of a new cooperation between European nations' at the European Parliament [EU]

Marine Le Pen (centre), the leader of France’s far-right Front National political party, seen with Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders (right) during a press conference on the ‘Scenarios of a new cooperation between European nations’ at the European Parliament

Turkey’s European Union affairs minister on Saturday compared far-right groups and racists to terrorist groups, warning of the threat they pose to everyone in Europe.

“Far-right groups and racists are tantamount to Daesh,” Omer Celik told news channel CNN Turk in an interview.

Celik said that if these groups grow stronger, it would be a “great threat to democratic, innocent people in Europe as well as to Muslims and Turks”.

The rise of right-wing populists across Europe, many of them espousing anti-Muslim and anti-migrant rhetoric, has alarmed Turkey in recent years.

Asked about recent European developments from Brexit to separatism in Catalonia, Celik said Europe’s prosperity and stability should be protected for Turkey’s national interests.

Opinion: Secessionist movements in Catalonia and Kurdistan must not be allowed to succeed

Celik also criticised European demands that Turkey change its anti-terrorism law as part of its EU membership bid, saying they are trying to impose an outside agenda.

“Instead of coming up with a proper proposal to Turkey under the name of ‘will to reform,’ they only come with a proposal from their own agendas. This prevents a will to reform from developing,” he said.

“Under these circumstances, there is no such thing as Turkey letting up in its fight against terrorism”, Celik added.

Read: Turkey does not need Europe but Europe needs us, says Erdogan

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Israeli forces detain Palestinian teachers on their way to school in Hebron hills

Hebron hills

Hebron hills

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Sunday detained an unidentified number of Palestinian teachers from the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, as they were on their way to school, according to official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency.Wafa reported that the teachers, from the al-Masafer school, were on their way to the school, south of the town of Yatta, when Israeli forces stopped their vehicle.Israeli soldiers reportedly detained the teachers for an unspecified period of time, and seized the vehicle.Wafa added that Israeli forces “chased civilians on nearby roads and prevented them from making any movements in (the) area, under the pretext that the area was declared a military zone.”An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into reports.The South Hebron Hills, known locally as Masafer Yatta, lies almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israel civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Israeli forces open fire on fishermen, raze lands in Gaza

Fishermen Gaza

Gaza fishermen

GAZA (Ma’an) — Israeli naval forces on Sunday opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the Gaza strip, while military bulldozers razed lands along Gaza’s border with Israel, according to official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency.Wafa reported that Israeli forces fired at fishermen off the northern coast of northern Gaza, forcing the fishermen to dock their boats in fear of getting shot. No injuries were reported.Meanwhile, in the southern part of the coastal enclave, Israeli bulldozers razed agricultural lands adjacent to the Gaza-Israel border fence, near Khan Younis city.An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into reports.Israeli military incursions inside the besieged Gaza Strip and near the “buffer zone,” which lies on both land and sea sides of Gaza, have long been a near-daily occurrence.The Israeli army also regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen, shepherds, and farmers along the border areas if they approach the buffer zone, as the authorities have not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sector of the blockaded coastal enclave, which has been under an Israeli air, land, and sea blockade for 10 years.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Israeli Soldiers Abduct A Palestinian Near Jenin

05 NOV
3:30 PM

Israeli soldiers abducted, Sunday, a young Palestinian man at a military roadblock, near Mabo Dothan colony, which was illegally built on Palestinian lands in Ya’bad town, southwest of the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

The Israeli army claimed that the man “carried a knife,” and that the soldiers believe he intended to stab them, or was on his way to the colony.

The soldiers also closed the military roadblock, before initiating an extensive search campaign in the area.

Earlier Sunday, the soldiers abducted three Palestinians, including two children, in Beit Ummar town, north of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and Shu’fat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, and injured several others.

In addition, the soldiers abducted seven Palestinians, from their homes, in different parts of the occupied West Bank, confiscated money, and briefly detained many schoolteachers.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Israeli Soldiers Abduct Seven Palestinians, Detain Schoolteachers, In West Bank

05 NOV
10:08 AM

Israeli soldiers abducted, earlier on Sunday morning, seven Palestinians, from their homes, in different parts of the occupied West Bank, confiscated money, and detained many schoolteachers.

The soldiers stormed and ransacked many homes in Jenin, in northern West Bank, before violently searching them, and illegally confiscated thousands of Shekels.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said the soldiers abducted  seven Palestinians in the West Bank, five of them  have been identified as:

  1. Adnan Ali Saleh, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus.
  2. Nidal Abu Fa’oor, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus.
  3. Amir Abu Shahin, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus.
  4. Ahmad Abu Zneid, from Shu’fat refugee camp, in Jerusalem.
  5. Walid Abdul-Mon’em Joudallah, from Nablus, but was taken prisoner from work, in Bethlehem.

The soldiers also summoned several Palestinians, including Wa’el Ka’bi and his son Nidal, for interrogation in Huwwara military base, south of Nablus, in northern West Bank.

In Jenin, in northern West Bank, the soldiers invaded al-‘Amarna and al-Ba’jawi neighborhoods, in the city, in addition to the villages and towns of Ya’bad, Rommana, Zabbouba, Ta’nak and Toura, and installed many roadblocks, before stopping and searching dozens of Palestinians and cars.

In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers invaded Masafer Yatta area, south of the city, and briefly detained many schoolteachers, after confiscating a car, owned by Suleiman Abu Sabha.

The soldiers closed the area, and prevented the Palestinians from entering or leaving it, after declaring it a “closed military zone.”

(Source / 05.11.2017)

190 Israeli settlers defile Muslims 3rd holiest site

190 settlers al-Aqsa

Dozens of Israeli settlers stormed on Sunday morning al-Aqsa Mosque—the third holiest site in Islam—in Occupied Jerusalem.

190 Israeli settlers, escorted by policemen, broke into al-Aqsa Mosque as part of the morning break-in shift and carried out a round of sacrilegious tours.

At the same time, the peaceful Muslim worshipers have been subjected to tough crackdowns and restrictions by the Israeli police near the main entrances to the site.

Dozens of Israeli settlers are expected to show up at the site in the next few hours, in a move feared to inflate tension across Occupied Jerusalem.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Israeli committee approves bill to sue boycott activists

Sue boycott activists

The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a bill that allows to sue Israel’s boycotters and ask for financial compensation.

The Hebrew TV channel Seven reported that the bill allows the Israelis who find themselves affected by the boycott campaigns to demand financial compensation without proof of damage.

The bill is set to be presented to the Knesset for final approval, which means that all lift-wing organizations calling for boycotting Israel culturally, academically and economically in the occupied Palestinian territories will be subjected to immediate judicial prosecution.

The original law was approved by the Knesset in 2011, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the clause related to claiming financial compensation without citing evidence of damage.

According to the new law, the institutions and bodies that encourage or advocate anti-Israel boycott campaigns will be fined 100,000 shekels ($29,000) if there is no evidence of damage and 500,000 shekels ($150,000) if the evidence is there.

(Source / 05.11.2017)

Thousands take to London streets over tragic upshots of Balfour pledge

London Balfour

Thousands of people marched through London on Saturday to call on Britain to apologize for the Balfour Declaration.

Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, protesters marched through the heart of London from outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to Parliament Square in Westminster.

Head of the Palestine Initiative Mustafa al-Barghouti and the Palestinian Ambassador to London, Emmannuel Hasasian, were in attendance.

London Balfour1

Some of the signs held at the London march included hundreds of “Free Palestine” placards and hand-written leaflets lashing out at the Balfour pledge.

The demonstration came as UK Prime Minister Theresa May this week celebrated the centenary of the controversial 1917 document which paved the way for the creation of the Israeli entity on occupied Palestinian land.

London Balfour2

The Balfour Declaration, which is dated 7 November 1917, is a 67-word letter from Balfour, the foreign secretary of David Lloyd George’s British government, to Walter Rothschild, the leader of the British Jewish community, which is considered by Zionists to indicate British support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.

While Israel reveres Arthur Balfour, naming streets and a Tel Aviv school after him, Palestinians decry his declaration as a promise by Britain to hand over land it did not own, which led to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland.

(Source / 05.11.2017)