Month: November 2016

Israeli bulldozers set to demolish Israeli Arab village to build Israeli Jewish town

Umm Al HiranEmboldened by the election of Donald Trump, the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to be sending his army’s bulldozers in at dawn today (Tuesday) to demolish this peaceful Bedouin village in Israel.

The Israeli government has long been planning to demolish the village of Umm Al Hiran and evict its inhabitants in order to build a Jewish village with the same name – Hiran – on exactly the same location.

For the last two years Netanyahu has been delaying the demolition because of international protests at this extreme case of ethnic cleansing, but now with Trump elected, he gave the go-ahead for the village to be razed.

The 500 Arab residents of the village have lived in the village for nearly 60 years and were ordered to move there by the Israeli military commander of the Negev who gave them a lease to build a village, farm the land and graze their sheep.

The village leaders say there is no need to evict them as the Jewish settlers can move onto a site nextdoor. “We are not against them living here, but we want to stay here too and live together with them as neighbours,” says Atwa Abu Alkia’n.

They point out that there is plenty of space – 3¼ million acres – in the Negev and the settlers don’t need to move to the one small acre of land where they have been living since 1956.

The Israeli state has made it clear that the new village is for Jewish residents only and the Arabs must move out.

Villagers say: ‘Why evict us when we can both live here? There’s plenty of space.’

This village is in Israel, not the Palestinian Territories. Its residents are full citizens of Israel. Yet they are treated as though they had no rights, no importance.

At the time of Israel’s war of independence in 1948 the villagers were thrown out of their ancestral village in a more fertile area in the Western Negev to make way for a Jewish kibbutz as part of the drive to “make the desert bloom”.

Eight years later they were forcibly moved again to their present location in the Atir valley in the less fertile northern Negev where they rebuilt their village and called it Um Al Hiran.

“It was a desert with no roads, water, houses or services. We built the village. We invested in the houses, the roads and the water pipes. Life has been tough, but we worked hard to develop this place into a beautiful and wonderful village,” said the village sheikh.

Like all the other “unrecognised” villages in the Negev, they were provided with no mains electricity, no paved roads, no water, no sanitation. They had to do their best buying water from tankers and using solar panels for intermittent power.

This is not because it was remote. On the contrary, the Jewish owner of a dog-kennel only 800 metres away is provided with all mod cons. The Israelis do this solely to make life difficult for Arab villagers so they will move.

And it is not a question of money. Often if the villagers try to pave the roads, army bulldozers break them up; if they install water pipes, they are disconnected; if they build stone houses, they are demolished. The Israelis want the buildings to look temporary, ramshackle, worthless.

This makes it easier for the Israelis to sustain the myth that the villagers are Bedouin nomads who originate from other countries. In fact, while they are all proud of their Bedouin heritage, it is historically verifiable that their families have lived in the Negev for hundreds of years.

And while a few of the villagers were still engaged in the traditional Bedouin occupation of sheep-farming, Umm Al Hiran also had lawyers, teachers and doctors among its 500 residents.

Last year the leader of the Jewish settlers came and drank coffee with the villagers to ask them, disingenously, why they were trying to block plans for the new Jewish village in the courts.

Salim Abu Alkia’n, Atwa’s brother, explained patiently: “To all the Jewish people who want to live in this town I say that people are already living in this town. We have been living here for 60 years and, even if they demolish our homes, we will stay here forever.”

Israelis can be excused for not knowing about the village, as it does not appear on Israeli maps. Even when the National Council for Planning and Building approved plans for a new Jewish town on the site in 2010, they submitted a map to the planning committee that made no reference to the fact that there was already an Arab village on the land.

When they applied for demolition orders, they claimed the buildings “had been discovered” by an inspection patrol and they had been “unable to identify or reach the people who owned the houses”.

When they applied for eviction orders, they described the villagers as “trespassers” squatting illegally on state land and the magistrate had to point out that they had lived on the land for years with the state’s knowledge and consent.

Aid suspension will undermine peaceful politicians and play into hands of Hamas


International Development Questions Wednesday November 16th 11.30 am

Mrs Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con) T2. I welcome the work the Secretary of State is doing to ensure that UK aid to the Palestinian Authority does not directly fund payments to terrorist prisoners, but will she assure the House that she is doing everything possible to ensure that they do not indirectly fund such payments by freeing up resources that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day PA activities?

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Rory Stewart) We have made it clear that our focus will be very much targeted on health, education and co-existence projects. We ensure that any support going in is carefully vetted, with an independent auditor; is directed to what will provide value for money; and, above all, will benefit the Palestinian people.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP) T5. Further to an earlier question, will the Minister commit to fast-track the review of aid for the families of Palestinian prisoners, in the knowledge that any reduction in that aid will bankrupt the Palestinian Authority, undermine politicians who are working for a peaceful solution and play into the hands of those, like Hamas, who want to pursue a course of violence?

Rory Stewart The Department remains entirely committed to the following principles. First, anything we do must encourage a two-state solution by ensuring that the Palestinian people are served with proper services. Secondly, we must make sure that the money goes in the right way to the right people. That is all about auditing, vetting and making sure that the real beneficiaries are there. Of course we will ensure that the review is done as efficiently as possible to serve the interests of the Palestinian people and the stability of the region.

Read this in Hansard

Knesset votes to retrospectively legalise settlements built on Palestinian land

Jerusalem Mayor threatens demolitions as revenge on Supreme Court

The decision of the Israeli supreme court to order the evacuation of 85 houses in an lllegal outpost by December 25 has started a battle for the soul of Israel.

All settlements are illegal in international law but the hilltop settlement of Anona considered illegal even by the Israelis. The Palestinian farmers who owned the land on which it was built went to court and for once the court found in their favour.

The response of the Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu was not to force the residents of Anona to move back to Israel, but to announce the building of a new illegal settlement at Shiloh in the West Bank so he can decant the evicted settlers from one illegal settlement into another.

Even this was not enough for the MPs in his right-wing coalition who voted on Wednesday November 16th by 58 votes to 50 to pass an emergency law that will retrospectively legalise Anona and all illegal outposts.

The reaction of the Mayor of Jerusalem showed scant respect for the rule of law: “Unless Amona is legalised, we’ll have to destroy hundreds or thousands of houses in Jerusalem too.”

In other words he is threatening to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in an act of revenge against the Israeli Supreme Court.

International law states clearly that an occupying power “shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Yet in 49 years Israel has transferred 650,000 of its own population into illegal settlements in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

One MP from the left-wing Meretz party said the Knesset vote “resembles legislation in third-world countries where laws are written retroactively to whitewash their crimes”.

Another MP from the mainly Arab Joint List party said: “Whoever wants more proof of the cruelty, immorality and violence of the occupation got it in this bill. It spits in the face of the law and the international community.”

The UK government (and all Western governments) have consistently condemned the settlement project as illegal, but have refused to take any effective action even to stop settlement expansion. The EU, as Israel’s major trading partner, could easily exert enough pressure.

The UK now needs to make representations to the Israelis over the announcement of a new illegal settlement at Shiloh, to encourage President Obama to use the period between the election and the inauguration to lift the US veto and pass a UN Security Council calling for an end to settlement building and a deadline for peace talks , and to support the French peace initiative and back whatever motion they move in the Security Council.


Six reasons to stop Israel’s illegal settlement project

Everyone who wants to end the Israel-Palestine conflict, from the President of the United States to your local peace campaign, agrees on one thing: the major injustice aggravating this conflict is Israel’s illegal settlement project.

For nearly 50 years now, since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Palestinians have watched helplessly as armed Israeli settlers, backed by the Israeli army, have built their homes on Palestinian land while Palestinians are denied permits to build on their own land.

Having been left with only 22% of historic Palestine after the creation of the Israeli state, the Palestinians have seen the land they control dwindle further as settlements grow. They could end up with just 8% of historic Palestine even though they are more than 50% of its population.


These settlements are regarded as illegal by every country except Israel. A motion calling on Israel to end settlement building was supported by 14 or the 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council in 2011, including the UK, France and Germany. Only the US voted against and that vetoed it.

President Obama now has a window of opportunity in the ten weeks between the US election and his successor’s inauguration on January 20 2017 to lift his veto and allow the international community to move towards a resolution of the conflict.

We are also about to start a year of unhappy anniversaries: March 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, June 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and November 2017 is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the letter written by British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour promising “to view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.


The Government has said it will ‘mark’ the centenary of this famous letter on November 2 2017. But anything that smacks of a celebration is in danger of leading to protests, if not worse. The Palestinians see this letter as the cause of their national tragedy. In any case Balfour’s promise was not just to support a homeland for Jewish people but to do so without “prejudicing the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – which it has clearly failed to do.
Can we allow the occupation of Palestine to enter its second half century without any serious attempt to bring it to an end? Can we allow the centenary of the Balfour Declaration to pass without any attempt to fulfil our national promise that the creation of national home for Jewish people would not be done at the expense of the rights of Palestinians?


We think of the conflict as insoluble, but it will be easy to resolve if the international community is working together. Settlements equate to just over ½% of Israel’s trade with the outside world and Israel is a small country heavily dependent on its major trading partners, the EU and the US. Only a hint of concerted international action will be enough to persuade most Israeli voters that they are better off without the settlements.

That is why all the major organisations campaigning for justice for the Palestinians have made their major policy objective over the next year to stop settlement building and settlement trade.

MPs have a crucial role to play in this. They can put this issue on the agenda and make sure the international community takes this opportunity. Or they can look the other way and let the Israeli government get away with the gradual takeover of the West Bank, sowing the seeds for another century of conflict.

1. Settlements are illegal

The Israel government always disputes this, but international law states quite clearly that an occupying country “shall not … transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” and the International Court of Justice confirmed in 2004 that Israel was breaching its obligations under international law by establishing settlements in the West Bank. Even the US has always opposed settlements on the grounds they are illegal, though they prefer the word “illegitimate”.

2. Settlements are growing fast

Many people’s image of a settlement is just a cluster of houses on the top of a hill. In fact, the largest settlement now has a population of 60,000. Five are over 40,000. The last official number for the total number of settlers was 547,000 but that was in 2013. The settlers themselves say it is now nearly 800,000 among a Palestinian population of 2.9 million.

3. Settlements are eating up the West Bank

The Israeli government will tell you settlements cover only 3% of the West Bank. This is misleading. Settler councils control 42.7% of the land area. The Israel army is in administrative control of 62% of the West Bank, known as Area C. Settlements are constantly expanding. Palestinians are refused building permits with almost no exceptions. One of the parties in the Israeli coalition government want Area C annexed to Israel, leaving the Palestinians in control of isolated pockets of land amounting to just 8% of historic Palestine.

4. Settlements are strangling the Palestinian economy

The Israeli government wants you to believe settlers are more successful because they are better at business. No, it’s because they take 80% of the water and all of Palestine’s natural resources to which they have no legal right. Palestinians’ freedom of movement is restricted by 490 roadblocks in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. A report by the World Bank in 2013 calculated that the restrictions in Area C cost the Palestinian economy £3.4 billion a year or 35% of its national income. A Palestinian report in 2010 calculated that the Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestine cost them 85% of nominal GDP.

5. Settlements are bad for Israel as well as Palestine

The settlements have cost an estimated £15 billion to build and cost £500 million a year to subsidise, which many Israelis think is a huge waste of money. But their government continues to offer subsidies to house prices and rents to persuade new immigrants to move there. Spending per citizen is double what it is in Israel, treble in isolated settlements. Religious settlers will never willingly move, but the majority are economic settlers, often locked in by negative equity on houses they cannot sell, and would willingly be bought out to live in Israel, where there is plenty of space. Exports from settlements do not benefit from lower tariffs under EU law and must be labelled as coming from settlements, not Israel.

6. Settlements are the main obstacle to the peace process

The Israeli prime minister says he is willing to enter ‘unconditional’ talks with the Palestinians. What he means is that he is willing to enter talks on condition that he can continue building settlements while talks are going on. The Palestinians are wise to this one. During the 20 years of Oslo talks, no progress was made towards peace but the number of settlers trebled. “It’s like negotiating shares of a pizza with a man who is eating the pizza as you negotiate so your share is always getting smaller,” they say. Obviously, settlement building has to stop before peace talks can resume.

Academia article

Wikipedia article 

World Bank information

Foreign Office Questions – November


Tabling Wednesday November 16th 12.30 pm
Questions Tuesday November 22nd 11.30 am
# Question Context Follow-up
What discussions he has had with the US government over a United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict
UN vote possible between US election (Nov 8) and inauguration (Jan 20) on resolution calling for freeze on settlements and/or setting out timetable for peace process
Will the UK support a resolution calling for freeze on settlements and for peace talks on the basis of “1967 borders”?
What action he will take in response to the announcement by the Israeli prime minister of a new illegal settlement at Shiloh in the West Bank
Netanyahu has announced 98 (eventually 300) new homes next to existing illegal Shiloh settlement to decant settlers evicted from Amona outpost on orders of High Court
When will the Foreign Secretary understand that it’s not enough to make “representations” about illegal settlements which are growing fast and action is needed?
Whether he will support a resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling for a freeze on building in illegal Israeli settlements on similar lines to the resolution of February 18 2011
14 out of 15 nations on UN Security Council voted for resolution calling for freeze on illegal settlements in 2011, including UK, France and Germany. Only US voted against – vetoing it. US may lift veto in re-run vote.
Will the UK maintain its support for this resolution? UK declaration of support would strengthen voices in US calling on Obama to lift veto and give UN a mandate to push talks forward. 
Whether he will offer his support to Hagai El-Ad of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem for his address to the United Nations Security Council on settlements 
After El-Ad’s speech calling for international sanctions against Israel, Netanyahu imposed sanctions on B’Tselem. A US government spokesman responded that all countries should “protect freedoms of expression”.
Will the UK join the US in praising the human rights work of B’Tselem and in opposing any attempts to silence them or sanction them for opposing illegal settlements and the occupation?
Will he express his concern at the threats from Israeli politicians to revoke the citizenship of Hagai El-Ad of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem for speaking to the United Nations Security Council session on settlements
A senior MP in the Israeli government coalition called for El-Ad’s Israeli citizenship to be revoked and a former Israeli Labour Party MP called for him to be charged with treason.
Will the UK continue to support B’Tselem and other Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations?
What discussions he has had over the timing of the UK’s recognition of the state of Palestine
Since 2012 the UK has been committed to recognising Palestine in principle “at a moment of our choosing” and the right time to “play the recognition card” will be when it has maximum effect.
Have any talks been held with the French or Irish governments on the timing of a statement on recognition?
What criteria he will use to determine the right time to recognise Palestine; and if he will make a statement
Ministers have implied the right time will be when it can be done  in co-ordination with other European countries
Since the UK has agreed in principle to recognise Palestine, what is to be gained by delaying an announcement?
Whether public bodies are covered by his advice on the UKTI website not to trade with illegal settlements in the West Bank 
The government trade website warns firms they “do not encourage or support” trade with illegal settlements but public procurement guidance to councils warns them against taking any decision not to trade with settlements.
Will the minister urge UK firms to follow the advice on the UKTI website not to conduct any business with firms of individuals in illegal Israeli settlements?
Whether the UK missions in Israel and Palestine purchase goods sourced in illegal settlements
Media reports have stated that UK diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem do not buy settlement goods.
If the UK missions consider it advisable not to buy goods from illegal settlements, why are they not following that advice? 
Whether he has discussed plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration with the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments
November 2017 is the centenary of British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour’s promise “to view with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people” provided it can be done without “prejudicing the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. 
Given that the first half of the Balfour promise was achieved but the second half was not, does he not agree that any celebration of this anniversary is in danger of inflaming an already tense situation?
What action he intends to take over demolitions in the village of Khan al-Ahmar 
Despite visits by many UK ministers and MPs, eight homes in the Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar were demolished in October to make way for expansion of an illegal settlement.
Since protests by ministers and MPs have failed to stop the planned demolition of this village, does the Minister agree that stronger action is now necessary?
What discussions he has held with the Palestinian Authority over the suspension of aid
International development secretary Priti Patel has suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority pending an inquiry into welfare payments to prisoners’ families.
Does he accept that if the Palestine Liberation Organisation stopped welfare payments to prisoners’ families, this would probably ensure a Hamas victory at the next Palestinian election?
What assessment he has made of the reputational risk to the UK government of failing to act against illegal settlements
In December 2013 the government website warned UK firms of the ‘reputational risk’ if they traded with illegal Israeli settlements.
Why doesn’t the Government do what it advises business to do and stop trading with firms active in the illegal Israel settlements? 
Whether he will protest to the Israeli government over their plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Umm Al Hiran in order to build a Jewish village of Hiran
The Government has only expressed ‘concern’ over the Netanyahu’s plan to bulldoze an Israeli Bedouin village so it can build Jewish-only village in its place.
Will he protest against the Israel government’s treatment of the Bedouin and Palestinian minorities inside Israel just as strongly as in Jerusalem and the West Bank?
What his advice is to UK banks that conduct business with illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories
The Government policy of “not supporting or encouraging” should also apply to banks that are financially active in settlements
What research has he conducted to discover which Israeli or UK banks are financially active in illegal settlements?
11 questions that MPs can ask the International Development Secretary
International Development questions

Tabling Thursday November 10th 12.30 pm

Questions Wednesday November 16th 11.30 am

Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con): What support her Department provides to projects facilitating peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Aid Minister Desmond Swayne): We support projects that bring Palestinians and Israelis together, to which end we have made provision for funding through our conflict, security and stability fund to support co-existence projects, but I am keen to identify what more we can do.

Stephen Metcalfe: Why do he and his Department think that it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to continue to support the Palestinian Authority?

Sir Desmond Swayne: The reason why we think it is a good idea to support the Palestinian Authority is that they deliver essential public services, not least healthcare and the education of 770,000 pupils. I believe that it is in our national interest to build up Palestinian institutions so that in a future Palestinian state, they can be reliable and effective partners for peace.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): Will the Minister join me in recognising the contribution to peaceful co-existence of Israelis who speak uncomfortable truths, whether that be the Mayor of Tel Aviv speaking out against occupation, the veterans of Breaking the Silence speaking out against the reality of occupation, or Peace Now mapping settlements that are undermining the chances of a two-state solution?

Sir Desmond Swayne: Yes, and I am concerned about any potential closing of space for non-governmental organisations.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Has he examined Save a Child’s Heart, an initiative by the Israeli Government to treat Palestinian children and save their lives?

Sir Desmond Swayne: Yes, I hosted a delegation of Members from across the House who brought this excellent organisation to my attention recently, and my officials are conducting due diligence.

Priti Patel freezes £25 million aid to Palestine Authority
The new International Development Secretary Priti Patel has frozen a transfer of £25 million out of the £72 million annual aid to Palestine – until the conclusion of an investigation into whether any of the money has been passed to the families of prisoners.

This follows questions from MPs from Conservative and Labour Friends of Israel targeting the UK’s aid programme to Palestine, which goes roughly in thirds to the United Nations refugee agency, the Palestine Authority and co-existence projects.

Both DfID and the Palestine Authority say none of the money from UK taxpayers is used to pay welfare benefits to prisoners’ families, but the MPs argue that UK aid allows them to use more of their own income to make these payments.

There are five answers to this:

The first is humanitarian. Welfare payments go to families of

prisoners, not prisoners. In answer to similar questions former