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February 7, 2017

New land grab law unjust and dangerous 

Canadian Friends of Peace Now utterly condemns the outrageous new law passed by the Israeli Knesset which legalizes illegal settler construction on private Palestinian land.

The measure retroactively allows outright theft by settlers, giving post facto authorization to 55 West Bank settlement outposts that were illegally built by settlers on land recognized by the State of Israel as privately-owned by Palestinians.

The legislation contradicts commitments of successive Israeli governments to remove illegal settler construction and to not establish new settlements. It gives settlers a green light and an incentive to expand settlements not only on the approximately 50% of the West Bank that Israel has previously found “legal” ways to take control of, but also on land that Israel recognizes as privately owned by Palestinians.  And it confirms that Israel does not respect the basic right of Palestinians to own property, when that property is coveted by the settlers.

We salute Peace Now, which, together with other progressive Israeli organizations, will petition the Supreme Court to overturn this dangerous legislation.

As Peace Now in Israel puts it “this law..makes theft on official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books. By giving a green light to settlers to build illegally on private Palestinian land, the legalization law is another step towards annexation and away from a two state solution. In light of this madness, we must act as the responsible adults and turn to the Supreme Court in order to strike down this dangerous law.”

February 2017

Introducing Peace Now activists

Teen group leader undaunted by uphill slog

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Last summer, 17-year-old Aaron Schorr, a neophyte to political activism, stepped into the lion’s den. He volunteered for aPeace Now information stand in downtown Jerusalem, where the mood these days is tense, hawkish and generally hostile to left-wing messages. As Aaron handed out anti-occupation literature, two Haredi (ultra-orthodox) teens confronted him. Wasn’t he ashamed to belong to such a traitorous movement, they scolded. How could he talk about Palestinian rights? After all, Torah taught Jewish supremacy over the gentiles.

Though Aaron was bare-headed and looked typically secular, to the Haredi boys’ astonishment, he countered their Jewish supremacy “nonsense,” as he calls it, with quote after quote after quote from Biblical sources. His opponents went away marvelling that a lefty could be so conversant in scripture. Little did they know that though he’d left religion, Aaron had been raised orthodox. De-bunking their stereotype was a tiny victory perhaps, but still, for Aaron, a step forward in the long, uphill slog to change Israeli attitudes.

“Even just convincing people we’re not the enemy is progress,” he says.

Healthy outlook
Despite his youth and inexperience (he’s been a Peace Now volunteer only for nine months), Aaron has developed a wisdom beyond his years, a healthy blend of idealism and realism.

“Growing up in Israel, it’s drilled into you that war is a given, that you can’t makepeace with the Palestinians, that their culture sanctifies death, and so on. But I don’t believe that. England and France were at war for 1,000 years and they get along now. We made peace with Egypt, which wanted to destroy Israel. I believepeace with the Palestinians is both possible and absolutely necessary. I’m not under the illusion it will come soon. Neither side is ready for it. But maybe in my lifetime, if both sides try to make it happen. That’s what keeps me going through the tougher bits of what we’re doing.”

Born in Jerusalem to left-leaning orthodox parents who’d emigrated to Israel from America, Aaron was raised with a social conscience. By seventh grade he regularly read newspapers and took part in family discussions. He went to a religious high school in Jerusalem and it was there that he began to grow a thick skin, for his liberal views collided with those of his peers. He lost friends, received threats, was called “every conceivable name on earth.” The experience seems to have been good training for Peace Now work.

Last summer, Aaron answered the call for recruits to the newly established youth department at Peace Now. He began attending chat groups and meetings. He volunteered for those information stands in the middle of town. In September 2016, when the head of the fledgling youth group had to leave for army service, the leadership position was offered to Aaron. Though he’d never done such work before, he leaped at the chance. For the past five months, he has facilitated meetings and activities – many online – and nurtured contacts with Israeli high school students from across the country. The teen group is small, with only about 30 members, a number Aaron constantly tries to increase through person-to-person outreach. He fits in this volunteer work with his first-year studies at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, where he enrolled last semester. Bringing the Peace Now message to high school students is a Herculean task, Aaron well knows, both from his own experiences and those of the young people he coaches. Israel has turned sharply right in recent years, especially among youth, and peer pressure is tough to withstand. Still Aaron remains undaunted, grateful for those small successes. He’s thankful too for the practical skills he’s attained while withPeace Now, the insight he’s gained into Israel’s political system and society, and the opportunity to contribute to a cause he fervently believes in.

However, soon these efforts will go on hold. In March, Aaron will start his army service, which means both his studies and volunteer work will have to wait. PeaceNow will have to appoint a replacement to the youth group leadership position. That’s just how things are in Israel. It’s just one of the realities Peace Now takes in its stride. But the youth activists aren’t necessarily “lost” forever. In their post-army lives they may end up serving the movement in some way. For example, one of Peace Now‘s former activists has become a Ha’aretz reporter who specializes in civil society issues. And as the story below shows, military service can transform some Israelis into ardent doves.

 Eran Nissan: combat soldier turned peacenik

Eran Nissan with Peace Now’s settlement map.

Though there’s no such thing as a typical Israeli, Eran Nissan, 26, might be considered one. With a father from Iran and a mother from a European, post-Holocaust family, Eran’s background embodies the Israeli melting pot and also the trauma baggage of both Mizrachi and Ashkenazi Jews. Plus, like so many Israelis, he measures his young life against conflict reference points: the first Gulf War, the second Intifada, the various Gaza campaigns. Like most Israelis of his generation too, he grew up in a state of both acute awareness and denial: aware of security threats and the need for a strong army, but only dimly conscious of Palestinian realities across the Green Line, just a few kilometres away from his home town near Kfar Saba.

It was army service that opened his eyes.

Called up in 2009, Eran became a combat soldier in the Canine Unit, pursuing terrorist threats on the northern and southern borders and as well as in that borderless place, the West Bank. He was proud of helping keep his country safe and even signed up to stay an extra year, so that he completed four full years of service instead of the usual three. However, during his details on the West Bank, he grew increasingly uneasy with the “futility of the conflict.”

“I participated in a lot of arrests, going into Palestinian villages…violent clashes with the population. I became convinced we don’t belong there. I realized it’s not healthy to occupy by force a population that is 95% non-combatant. Yes, there are real dangers [from terrorists], but most Palestinians just want to get on with their lives. Every Israeli and Palestinian deserves to live in dignity and peace.”

The occupation was breeding hostility, Eran felt, creating a never-ending cycle of violence. To his dismay he saw the settler movement and the “ultra-right, messianic, racist forces” gaining momentum. About three years ago, shortly after completion of his army service, he decided to join Peace Now. He was attracted to the movement because it had been started by soldiers (in 1978) and because it had a clear end-game agenda: the two-state solution.

Dedication
Now a second-year student at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Eran acts as head of field operations for Peace Now in the southern region. He helps organize protest rallies, group discussions — especially among students — and other activities to educate the public. He works with a small but dedicated cadre of volunteers.

When asked whether he’s successful, or whether he just hits a brick wall with his educational efforts, Eran says “both.” Often people “warm up” after encounteringPeace Now‘s well-researched, well-presented data on settlement growth and the attendant consequences. He draws heart from the fact that opinion polls consistently show a majority of Israelis favour a two-state solution. Still, he doesn’t underplay the right-wing trends in the country or the deep mistrust, on both sides, that he feels is at the heart of the conflict. What’s needed is a process of confidence building measures, he says. Instead the opposite is happening with settlement expansion, annexation of Palestinian land and desperate Palestinian acts in response.

In no way does Eran condone violence, but he asks those who put all the blame on the Palestinian side: “What would you do if you were in their shoes?”

He is sure that “when we declare a sincere wish to negotiate and stop the settlement enterprise, we will find counterparts on the other side.”

Eran believes many of his fellow citizens realize the status quo cannot go on indefinitely. He intends to do everything in his power to help persuade them that, after 50 years of occupation, it’s time for Israel to choose a more sustainable future.

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January 26, 2017

New settlement announcement spells dangerous folly

Canadian Friends of Peace Now decries the folly of the Israeli government’s latest settlement expansion announcement, made January 24, 2017. The government statement promised construction of approximately 2,500 new housing units in the settlements, the largest such expansion since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to re-start negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

While Israeli officials as well as settler spokespersons stated that these units would be located within the so-called existing “blocs” – settlement clusters near the Green Line that Israel would hope to keep through land swaps in any eventual peace deal with the Palestinians – the reality is quite different. Peace Now‘s Settlement Watch program points out that the housing units promoted are in fact located in areas that are very problematic for a future agreement. The vast majority are located beyond border lines that international consensus would regard as the essence of a bona fide two-state solution.

At a Knesset session on January 25, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised that this was just a taste of things to come now that the Obama administration is gone and the Trump regime has begun. But unbridled settlement growth is the last thing Israel needs. It jeopardizes chances for a future resolution of the conflict and brings Israel closer to a disastrous one-state reality.

As our parent organization, Peace Now says:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking advantage of the presidential transition in the United States in order to appease the settlers, a small minority of the Israeli public, and score political points with his right flank. Instead of jeopardizing the two-state solution, it is time for Netanyahu to take responsibility for the future of Israel by halting settlement construction and assuring the future of Israel as both Jewish and democratic.”

January  2017

Young “ambassadors” take up torch for peace

Shalom Achshav/Peace Now has been pushing back against right-wing trends in Israel through a wide-ranging campaign to enlist the talents and passion of young people. After all, they are the ones who have the most to lose if their country continues down its current road towards a violent one-state reality and who could potentially help turn things around.

To engage youth, our sister organization in Israel has revived branches at every important university campus in the country, recruited thousands of new activists and held training programs on how to effectively advocate for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Part of these efforts has been the Youth Ambassadors Project, proudly funded by Canadian Friends of Peace Now.

During the $25,000, six-month project, Shalom Achshav recruited about 100 youth with leadership potential for a program designed to increase their participation in Israeli civil society and give them the knowledge and tools to promote peace and democracy in Israel. Activities included lectures, tours and monthly meetings with peers.

Much of the recruiting focused on university students. Once a critical number of “ambassadors” had signed up, they were divided into four groups, based in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beer Sheva, and a leader selected for each group. Shalom Achshav staff led initial meetings, but afterwards participants carried the ball, holding meetings on their own and inviting friends to join them.

The groups also heard from high-calibre speakers. Nir Hasson, a journalist at the Ha’aretz daily, spoke to the Jerusalem group on the lives, legal status and struggles of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Shimri Segal, formerly with the Meretz party and now spokesperson for a religious freedom movement gave a lecture to the Tel Aviv group on how ordinary citizens can make a difference to the democratic process. Yossi Tzabari, a media personality, spoke on how to expand the peace camp in Israel. Settlement Watch director Hagit Ofran covered political and legal issues related to the illegal outpost of Amona. Nadav Eyal from Chanel 10 News addressed global trends and how they relate to the political reality in Israel.

In addition to these talks, there were six tours designed to give insight into realities beyond the Green Line. The East Jerusalem tour included a visit to the neighbourhood of Silwan, which is experiencing upheaval because 100 Palestinians are being evicted from their homes, to be replaced by settlers. A tour of the Bethlehem area focused on land issues in the West Bank, their different categories and legal status, along with a primer on the role of the Supreme Court. A second tour demonstrated issues related to the separation wall/fence and the settlements in the Northern West Bank. The Jordan Valley tour focused on access to land, freedom of movement and division of resources. A separate tour was devoted to Amona, which has been the centre of a political storm lately. Participants learned about the history of this illegal outpost and illegal outposts in general, the legal cases around Amona, and the impact of its evacuation on the two-state solution. A sixth tour dealt with the impact of Jewish settlement and Israeli control over territory in the Hebron area.

Throughout the program the young ambassadors used what they learned to bring peace and democracy messages to the general public. They created their own video promoting civic participation, set up stands to engage the public in various cities, organized lectures and held other activities. Shalom Achshav plans to stay connected with these youth and to keep them engaged in such civil society endeavours.

Thank you to our donors for helping make such great programs possible.

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January 2017

Paris Peace Conference hits the mark

Canadian Friends of Peace Now joins with our sister organization,Peace Now/Shalom Achshav, in welcoming the international peaceconference held in Paris on January 15. The initiative is an important step in preserving the two-state solution and keeping it on the international agenda. The conference illustrates, yet again, the global consensus around the two-state formula — the only path towards an end to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Just like the UNSC resolution 2334 and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech, the Paris Conference is a way of supporting Israel while opposing the occupation and the settlements which lead to human rights violations and endanger the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

As Peace Now/Shalom Achshav states:: “It is absurd that the International community is more concerned than Israel’s own Prime Minister about the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Instead of supporting the French Initiative, Netanyahu continues his line of refusal and preaches about an international fraud. Yet the fraud here is Netanyahu’s, who states he supports a two-state solution and does everything in his power to prevent it on the ground. Instead of taking constructive steps toward a resolution of the conflict, Netanyahu is continuing to isolate Israel and is leading it towards a dangerous messianic path.”

December 2016

Peace Now calls on Israeli government to embrace UNSC resolution

Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) in Israel has welcomed the resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict passed on December 24, 2016, by the United Nations Security Council. The Peace Now statement says:
“Today the world has said yes to Israel and no to the settlements. While Prime Minister Netanyahu is harming the Zionist vision by expanding settlements and promoting the legalization law [legitimizing hitherto illegal outposts], the UNSC resolution supports a Jewish and democratic Israel. The global consensus shown today regarding the two-state solution is essential for the future of both Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli government must embrace this resolution instead of giving in to extremists.”
Canadian Friends of Peace Now fully supports this stance by our sister organization in Israel.
Peace Now is the largest, most influential peace movement in Israel. A Zionist movement, Peace Now advocates a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on negotiations towards two states for two peoples.
December 2016

Peace Now fights the “grand land robbery” of proposed new law

unnamedPeace Now has been unflagging in its protests against a bill before the Israeli Knesset that would legalize hitherto illegal outposts and serve to expropriate private West Bank lands from Palestinians.

The proposed legislation, known as the “regularization law” is a blatant circumvention measure. It was put forward in the wake of a High Court ruling which ordered the removal of the illegal outpost of Amona, deep in the West Bank, by the end of December 2016. If passed, the new legislation would retroactively legalize Amona and similar outposts and construction. As the Israeli daily Haaretz put it in an editorial, this would be “a law that legalizes law breaking.”

Peace Now has dubbed the regularization law a “grand land robbery” which severely jeopardizes an eventual resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

As part of its protest campaign,Peace Now published a detailed report exposing the bill’s wide-ranging implications. It would lead to the retroactive legalization of 55 illegal outposts and of approximately 4,000 housing units in settlements and illegal outposts located on about 8,000 dunams,Peace Now data show. Furthermore, the law would allow for the future expropriation of another 3,000-plus dunams of private Palestinian lands, which are currently in legal limbo. All told, such wide-ranging land seizures would have a devastating impact on the potential for a two-state solution.

In addition to disseminating its report, Peace Now has put pressure on Knesset Members to kill the bill. These actions included a barrage of text messages to Mks by activists, an address to the key Knesset committee by PN staff and a demonstration in front of the home of Naftali Bennett, a leading force behind the bill. A scheduled November 30 vote on the bill was postponed for a week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself is uneasy about the legislation and warned his ministers that it could lead to prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Peace Now will continue its struggle against this regularization law to prevent a dangerous new assault on the two-state solution.

PN shows Israeli youth the reality beyond the Green Line

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After Israel’s Ministry of Education approved tours to Jewish settlements for high school students, Peace Now decided to offer Israeli youth a different perspective. In late November, Peace Now took 100 young people on tours of Hebron so that they could see the reality on the ground with their own eyes and understand the consequences of the ongoing occupation.

How will Trump era affect peace prospects?

With the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, speculation is running high in regard to Washington’s policy on Israeli settlement construction and the future of the Middle East peace process. Peace Now’s Director of External Relations, Anat Ben Nun, examines the issues in an article published in Newsweek: Read Article

Continuing the Struggle for The Evacuation of Amona

Nov.7-This morning all Knesset Members of the Mertez party joined Peace Now on a your to Amona in order to call the government to fulfill the High Court’s verdict and evacuate the illegal outpost of Amona.

Amona is considered, even according to Israeli law, an illegal outpost. It is located deep in the West Bank and will never be a part of Israel in a framework of an agreement. Its lands are stolen private lands of Palestinians from the villages nearby. The High Court ruled that it must be evacuated by December 24th of this year. The Amona settlers refuse to be evacuated despite the High Court verdict. The government on its part, instead of offering them alternative housing in Israel, is establishing an entirely new

settlement for them (although they currently refuse to move there) in the heart of the West Bank and with many more housing units (98 with a potential for 300, whereas 41 families live in Amona). Our exposure of the government’s plan for the new settlement resulted in a harsh condemnation by the US, and for the first time tied the military aid package to settlement developments.

Last week, due to settler pressure, the government requested to postpone of the evacuation of Amona for “security reasons.” By doing so, it sent a dangerous message that the threat to use violent can change a High Court ruling. Meanwhile forces within the government are trying to pass what is known as the regularization bill. This bill seeks to legalize settlement construction on private lands across the West Bank by offering alternative lands to landowners without them having a say in the matter. This is contrary to international law and might allow settlers to build anywhere and then legalize it later, even if the land is privately owned.

The government must evacuate Amona by the date set by the High Court. Not doing so will compromise Israel’s rule of law, its relations with the United States and the possibility for a two state solution in the future and all for the sake of 41 families who stole private lands.

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21 Years to the Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Nov.6- Last night tens of thousands attended the Rally in commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv. Tens of thousands called for the continuation of Rabin’s path a path to two states and peacewith our Palestinian neighbors. Tens of thousands protested against the current government policies and the incitement against those opposing them. Thousands of Peace Now‘s activists and supporters helped fill the square with our messages and reminded those forces within the government that try to change the narrative around the assassination, that Rabin’s murder was political and that his memorial rally has to be political as well. The tens of thousands in the square convinced us, yet again, that our path Rabin’s path will eventually prevail. Until then, we will work every day to increase support for two states among the Israeli public, and ensure the two state solution remains possible on the ground.

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Shooting the messenger

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Lara Friedman at the UNSC on Oct. 14.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out viciously against two NGOs that spoke against Israeli settlement building before a session of the UN Security Council last week. The special meeting was called “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution.” The presenters were Americans for Peace Now – sister organization to Shalom Achshav in Israel and counterpart to CFPN in the US – and B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. (Shalom Achshav was invited to, but declined to make a presentation.)

Netanyahu accused the two organizations of “joining a chorus of slander” against Israel. Slander is defined as making false statements in order to harm the reputation of another. Was this really slander? Or another case of Netanyahu attempting to shoot the messenger?

Lara Friedman of APN began her address to the UNSC by noting it wasn’t easy for her to be there because some of the very member states that had called for the meeting had abysmal human rights records themselves and some still refused to recognize Israel. She also noted an increasingly poisoned environment for civil society groups like Peace Now in Israel, which are being branded by the right as traitors. Nevertheless, APN chose to let neither concern silence its important testimony.

Friedman then laid out the problematic facts Peace Now has been documenting for many years.

Since 1993, the settler population in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, has almost quadrupled: from 116,000 to 390,000. In East Jerusalem, the Jewish population has gone from 146,000 to 210,000.

“This population explosion could not have happened without Israeli government support and encouragement,” Friedman said. “…there is an entire machine of Israeli policies, active and passive, that is constantly working to support the expansion and entrenchment of settlements.”

These settlement policies deepen an Israeli military occupation that involves increasingly harsh violations of Palestinian rights. The policies are also a threat to Israel’s security and to Israel’s very existence. Israel has the military capability to address its external security threats. But there is no effective or moral military answer to a civilian population reacting to perpetual occupation. If not rolled back, the settlement enterprise will destroy the chances of a two-state solution and be the end of Israel as a democracy grounded in the Jewish values expressed in its Declaration of Independence.

Netanyahu’s accusation of slander seems based on the assertion that APN (and B’Tselem) “recycled the false claim that the ‘occupation and the settlements’ are the reason for the conflict.” But Friedman said no such thing. Instead she made a strong case that settlements are a huge component of the conflict and one of the largest obstacles to two-state solution.

“With every day that passes, Israeli settlement policies further cement a one-state reality on the ground, making the two-state solution harder to imagine, let alone achieve.”

Netanyahu does all he can to divert the Israeli public from such self-evident truths, whether by hair splitting or with absurd suggestions that the removal of settlers would amount to “ethnic cleansing.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department has rebuked Netanyahu’s attacks against APN and B’Tselem, saying: “We believe that a free and unfettered civil society is a critical component of democracy….We believe it is important that governments protect the freedoms of expression and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.”

UNESCO’s wrong-headed resolution

A UNESCO resolution, spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority, catalogues and condemns Israel’s alleged violations of Moslem rights at Moslem holy places, primarily in the Old City of Jerusalem. Though the document acknowledges that Jerusalem is sacred to three religions, it consistently only uses the Arabic name for the holiest site of all – the Temple Mount (Haram Al-Sharif in Arabic). Nor does the resolution anywhere mention Jewish ties to the site, including to the Western Wall. The omission has been widely seen as a deliberate denial of a Jewish historical and religious connection to Jerusalem. It echoes assertions Yasser Arafat apparently made during the Oslo process, that there never was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount and similar statements by Mahmoud Abbas.

The resolution unnecessarily throws fuel on an already incendiary situation in Jerusalem, with religious sentiments on both sides at a boiling point. The absurd denial of Jewish history reinforces the conviction in many minds of an anti-Israel bias. Right-wingers are making much hay of the outcry. But Jews across the political spectrum are deeply offended, and rightly so.

Peter Beinart, one of the most outspoken critics of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, put it well:

“To protest Israel’s denial of Palestinian religious rights while simultaneously denying Jewish religious rights is hypocritical and perverse.”

Even the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, felt the need to distance herself from her colleagues’ decision. “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

There are legitimate concerns in the UNESCO resolution. For example, groups of ideologically motivated Jews, not content with the huge Western Wall plaza below, have insisted on going up to pray on the platform of the Al Asqa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Under a status quo agreement established after 1967, Jews are officially barred from prayer on the Temple Mount. And in the past, the Chief Rabbinate forbade any visits by Jews on the site for fear of their inadvertently treading upon the Holy of Holies. But a growing protest movement, which includes Israeli Mks and even a cabinet minister, periodically flouts the ban. Their provocative actions reinforce the Moslem fear that the Jews want to completely take over this holy site. (And some undoubtedly do and have said so openly to the point of talk of building a third temple.)

Working out arrangements that respect the needs of all three religions in Jerusalem is a delicate and weighty challenge. Israel has much to answer for. But the one-sided UNESCO resolution will do nothing but discredit UNESCO.

Peace Now‘s whistle-blowing finds echoes in Washington

unnamed-1On Oct. 2, 2016, Peace Now exposed a plan being promoted by the Israeli government for a problematic new settlement deep in the heart of the West Bank. In the wake of Peace Now‘s whistle blowing, the U.S. Administration sharply criticized the move, calling it a violation of Israel’s commitments.
The new settlement would be east of Shiloh and would allow the residents from the illegal outpost of Amona, who are under eviction order by by the Israeli High Court, to re-establish themselves on adjacent private land. Peace Now has vehemently protested the plan, arguing that it violates private property rights in the West Bank and would set a dangerous precedent that could lead to a proliferation of more settlements.
Amona has a contentious history, with a first demolition order in 1997 and an evacuation attempt that turned violent in 2006. Peace Now has spoken out against this outpost for years.
The current plan’s go-ahead came shortly after the U.S. approved a $38 billion security assistance package to Israel. This constitutes a slap in the face to President Obama, Peace Now contends, and shows that Netanyahu’s “commitment to settlers who stole private lands is more important to him than the true interests of the State of Israel – a two-state solution and a strong relationship with Israel’s most important ally.”
The White House and State Departments apparently agree. Both issued unusually harsh condemnations of the Amona announcement.
On Oct. 5, spokesman Josh Earnest said the decision constitutes the violation of a commitment undertaken by the Israeli government to the U.S. Administration.”We had public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this new announcement – so when you talk about how friends treat each other – this is a source of concern. There is a lot of disappointment and great concern here in the White House,” he said.
The New York Times has also lambasted the Amona plan. Its editorial of Oct. 6, titled “At the boiling point with Israel” states:
“If the aim of the Israeli government is to prevent a peace deal with the Palestinians, now or in the future, it’s close to realizing that goal. Last week, it approved the construction of a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank, another step in the steady march under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build on land needed to create a Palestinian state.”

The editorial goes on to urge a United Nations Security Council resolution “to lay down the guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states.” President Obama should put his weight behind such a resolution the NYT piece concludes.

Relentless settlement construction undermines potentialpeace
Peace Now‘s Settlement Watch data show that settlement construction in the West Bank quadrupled over the past year, belying Israel’s presumed commitment to the two-state solution.
The peace organization’s monitoring data show that 2,168 new housing units have moved forward since Sept. 2015. This number takes into account everything from initial plan submissions to final authorizations and is a four-fold increase over last year’s 553 units.
In an article Oct 7, based largely on Peace Now data and an interview with Settlement Watch director Hagit Ofran, Ha’aretz reporter Judy Maltz discusses some of the troubling aspects of this surge.
Much of the growth is taking place in two large settlements – Ariel and Efrat – which are considered part of the Israeli “consensus,” i.e., places that most Israelis view as a permanent part of Israel. Ariel is far from Israel’s internationally recognized border, or any likely future border. The larger it grows, the harder it would be to dismantle it in favour of a peace agreement. Thus it would stand as a significant obstacle to a viable Palestinian state. Efrat is much closer to the old border. But it extends over Route 60, the only north-south highway in the southern West Bank, and thereby encroaches on the development of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The accelerated growth also continued in many smaller settlements deep within the West Bank.
In addition to the above-mentioned 2,168 new units, 1,170 units built without permits in previous years received retroactive approval. Not included in the list is a plan to expand Jewish settlement in Hebron for the first time in over a decade, and tenders for housing in East Jerusalem. Plus, the government has declared its intentions of legalizing six illegal outposts.
Even this does not tell the whole story. Much construction is moving forward without tenders being issued. And there are many plans from previous years that have yet to be acted on.
“The message it [the government] is sending the settlers is that they don’t need to worry about breaking the law, because eventually everything they build will be legalized rather than demolished,” Ofran told Ha’artz.

For the full article : Click here

Settlers push into Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan

With government sanction, Israeli settlers are steadily moving into a Palestinian neighbourhood in the heart of Silwan, which is just outside the Old City walls and is one of the most sensitive and volatile areas in Jerusalem.
The incursion is documented in a new joint report by Peace Now and the Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim. The report is called: Broken Trust: State Involvement in Private Settlement in Batan Al-Hawa, Silwan.
Since 2001, the report says, the Ateret Cohanim settler organization has been working to transform Batan al-Hawa into a large Israeli settlement through sales without tender, questionable acquisition of Palestinian properties, forced eviction and removal of Palestinian families who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades. If the settlers are successful, Batan al-Hawa will become the largest settlement compound in a Palestinian neighbourhood in the Historic Basin of the Old City. And it will significantly tighten the emerging ring of settlements around the Old City, creating,”an irreversible reality” which severely undermines the possibility of a future two-state solution.

The attempted settler takeover threatens to displace 100 families – roughly 600 Palestinians – from their homes.  By the end of 2015, The settler organization Ateret Cohanim had quadrupled the number of housing units in its possession, taking over a total of some 27 units in six buildings in the neighbourhood. In addition, 12 currently pending eviction claims threaten an additional 51 families.  This well organized Ateret Cohanim campaign represents not only the displacement of an entire community but also the complicity of the Israeli government in facilitating private settlement in the Historic Basin.

The report reveals that the government has acted through the General Custodian and the Registrar of Trusts (both under the Ministry of Justice) to facilitate settlers’ seizure of Batan al-Hawa, as well as providing roughly one million shekels each year to fund private security to radical settlers in the hearts of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.  At the same time, the State’s privatization of national parks around the Historic Basin to settler organizations enables the co-optation and politicization of archeology, the erasure of Palestinian history and neighbourhoods, and the dissemination of a one-sided, nationalist, narrative to hundreds of thousands of Israelis and tourists each year.  This trend must also be understood as an essential component of the settlement enterprise.

The emerging reality is disastrous not only for the residents of Batan al-Hawa, but for the possibility for a political solution to the conflict.  All efforts must be taken to halt this trend – a mechanism being used to pre-emptively plant new facts on the ground, further crippling opening conditions for negotiating a two state solution.

For the full report: Click Here

And on the other side of the equation….

UNESCO resolution denies Jewish ties to Temple Mount
 
A UNESCO commission has adopted an anti-Israeli resolution that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.
Twenty-four countries of the 58-member commission voted in favour of the decision, while 6 voted against, 24 abstained and 2 were absent. The U.S., Britain, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution. Canada is a member of UNESCO, but not of the commission that passed the motion nor of the executive board that is expected to ratify it.
Israel made efforts to block the resolution or at least soften it, but succeeded only in swaying the positions of a few member states.
The resolution, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. The draft resolution asserts that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, it includes a special section dealing with the Temple Mount, which says the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to the Jews as well. In fact, it mentions neither the Hebrew term for the site – Har HaBayit – nor its English equivalent, the Temple Mount. The site is referred to only by its Muslim names – Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif.
Also, the resolution calls the Western Wall plaza by the Arab-Muslim name al-Buraq plaza. Only afterward does the Hebrew-Jewish name “Hakotel Hama’aravi” appear in quotation marks.
Both the Israeli prime minister and the opposition leader have condemned the resolution, as have a number of major Jewish organizations, including ARZA, a branch of the Reform movement of America.