HOLY SHIT, Haaretz gets copy of Israeli settlement database

UN Map of the West Bank settlements 2006I hope the implications of this event don’t get buried in other news, because this stands to blow the settlement project’s lies out of the water for good: Haaretz reports it has a copy of the Israeli government’s database of settlement construction — including Palestinian land appropriation, building violations, and illegal settlements. Read the lengthy Haaretz article and a report from the database (Hebrew).
Among the information revealed:
–  In about 75 percent of settlements, construction occurred without permits or contrary to the permits that were issued.
–  In more than 30 settlements, “extensive construction” — roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas, and even police stations — has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents. (Approx. 120 full settlements exist, plus 12 East Jerusalem settlements, and over 100 outposts, according to Peace Now.)
This contradicts the government’s claims, mainly “Israel’s actions relating to the use and allocation of land under its administration are all taken with strict regard to the rules and norms of international law – Israel does not requisition private land for the establishment of settlements.”
The settlement legitimacy question has changed, and thank God it’s less of a question.
The article reports that the government found itself unable to address questions from Peace Now and the US Government, both of whom had more comprehensive data. Over two years, the government drew on Civil Administration (the military department which manages civil governance in the territories) documents and orders not available to the public to compile a Geographic Information Systems-based database. How this was leaked to Haaretz was not disclosed.
Land allocations were made by the Civil Administration and the housing ministry. Construction then proceeded by acts of multiple government ministries, the World Zionist Congress’ settlement department, and the Gush Emunim settler’s organization. (And how many of you knew the WZO had a department for building settlements?)
The sudden burst of transparency has vast implications.
Palestinian land claims are verified both in concept and in vast numbers of specific cases. Suits against the settlements could proceed in huge numbers. The scope of settler dependence upon government support is widely apparent. For example, a media tiff between Peace Now and the settlement of Ofra has grappled with whether the entire settlement is built on illegally appropriated land — that debate is now laid to rest: almost all of it is. And the implication most damning for all concerned with Israel’s relationships with the Obama Administration, the Palestinians, and the international community, the Israeli government has been exposed as liars.
This is great for ending the occupation. This means that not only has some semblance of transparency been imposed on the political actors, but also the question of settlement legitimacy has been brought back home. While Israeli officials (and their Jewish defense parrots in the US) assert that the settlements are not in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, they surely must admit now that huge chunks of them are illegal by Israel’s own law and that the government did so knowingly.
As Obama’s envoy Mitchell has stated in past missions to the region and will likely state again, a settlement freeze is crucial to peacemaking and stabilization. Meanwhile, Bibi campaigns on not freezing any settlements.
There is going to be a showdown between Israel’s respect of its own rule of law and its own settlement beligerence — which will win? I’m out of time for more in-depth speculations, but this bodes well for a seachange in ending the occupation.

31 thoughts on “HOLY SHIT, Haaretz gets copy of Israeli settlement database

  1. you know what else would bode well for a seachange in ending the occupation? No more terrorism by Palestinians. I’m just saying…

  2. Yeah JP, you are just saying, instead of thinking about how millions of people being held defenceless by overwhelming military force while being slowly stripped of their homeland over the course of decades inspires that terrorism.
    Anyway, the Harretz article really doesn’t provide any notable information that hasn’t already been available elsewhere, most Israelis an Americans are just too busy pointing their finger at the evils of terrorists to pay any mind to the far greater evils committed by the tyrants who perpetuate this conflict from our side.

  3. A call for an end to terrorism is met with this response:
    “how millions of people being held defenceless by overwhelming military force while being slowly stripped of their homeland over the course of decades inspires that terrorism….Anyway…”

  4. Kyleb, I think the report is pretty groundbreaking in that it reveals how much the Israeli government (a) didn’t know what it was doing until Peace Now and the US government had better information than they did and (b) did know in recent years. Peace Now is suspect as a lefty group, the US is bound by strategic interest to withhold damaging information from the public. The source of this data is not in doubt, thankfully.
    I just realized now that it explains a lot of history. The settlement apparatus knew it was stealing land, but it’s debatable how much the right hand knew what the left hand was doing (a la the conclusions of the 2005 Sasson Report) Combine negligence and corruption in different agencies.
    On the upshot, it abrogates partially the claims that the Zionist conspiracy meets in a room and takes orders from the Prime Minister’s cabinet on what land to take. Israeli governance appears to operate by accident and not design.

  5. Hmm yourself. Kyleb was merely pointing out that things have causes. Eliminate the cause, and you eliminate the effect.

  6. Also, I might be the only one optimistic about all this. That Israel is keeping tabs on what’s legal and illegal (instead of turning a blind eye), which means it might take action in the future. Hopefully positive, NEGOTIATED (and not unilateral) action, at that.

  7. “Israeli governance appears to operate by accident and not design.”
    Yes, governance is mostly one big bumbling accident of willful ignorance, not just in Israel but over here in the US too, and across much of the world to greater or lesser extent. Consider the WMD arguments against Iraq, where even long after it is obvious there never was anything approaching an imminent threat, people still cling to the propaganda that lead the initial charge to war. Most even now refuse to admit it was never anything more than smoke and mirrors, and still dismiss anyone who did point out the chicanery in the WMD argument as misguided pacifists and such.
    In the case of Israel, the fact that much of the settlements are built on land privately owned by Palestinians was admitted by Israeli government nearly a year ago:
    And that is just official admission, anyone caring to pay attention had noted as much long before. However, hardly anyone does, and instead most cling to the idea that Peace Now and such are terrorist hugger, the UN is full of Judophobes, colonizing the West Bank will bring salvation, and a whole bunch of other nonsense building on nonsense. All that continues to pile up to obscure the reality that we have been actively working against the two-state solution for decades, all while pointing the finger at anyone but ourselves.

  8. “Hmm yourself. Kyleb was merely pointing out that things have causes. Eliminate the cause, and you eliminate the effect.”
    Wow. Thanks, I didn’t realize that Palestinian terrorism – the brutal murder targeting thousands of civilians over the years going back to the Hebron of 1929 incident – had a simple cause-effect relationship, that is “occupation -> terrorism”.
    That really it’s all because of the settlements. I, in my foolishness, thought that it was an amazingly complex phenomenon, a combination of religious encouragement, frustration with the failure of Arab governments to help solve the problem, failure of Arab governments to provide a better economic situation for their own peoples, and their failure to provide more hope to their lives, COMBINED with rage over Israeli actions, which range from the fact that Israel exists, to the construction of settlements, the erecting of checkpoints, and more than anything else, the killing of a lot of people.
    So in the end, how dare anyone simply call for an end to terrorism, because really, when you think about it, Israel is completely responsible for the death of its own people.
    So, pardon my hmmmm…I was just contemplating how simply it must be to end the conflict. Just pull out of the West Bank and violence will end.

  9. “”
    Getting right to work on this as a result of Ha’aretz’s article Friday, Yesh Din, an Israeli leftist advocacy group which fights for the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories, said Friday that it was starting a campaign to help Palestinians sue the state of Israel for its use of their privately owned lands for Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

  10. It’s suspect that this leaked to Haaretz (go figure) right before an election, and that (the eternally counterproductive) Peace Now is cited as interpreting what it means, and any violations. Also odd, that this magically corroborates the endless accusations made before this complex data was revealed, and Peace Now are the source of it’s conclusions.
    The reality is both sides have continued to build, without much regard for the mythical green line (the one nobody ever agreed on) and are in equal violation of construction, settlements, etc. in disputed territory. Between the two sides of Palestinian Arabs and Israel, only one is a sovereign entity, and that’s Israel. Palestinians are currently squators with privileges granted in accordance to agreements they’ve breached. If you’re going to hold Arabs to the same standard you’re holding Israel too, there should be no Gaza City, or for that matter a single brick built by Palestinians in the West Bank.

  11. It’s an interesting publication that offers no fundamentally new information. The only point that should matter here is that, no matter what the pretense of the confiscation, is that the Geneva Conventions prohibit the transfer of the Occupier’s civilian populace into Occupied Territory. There is no ambiguity. Everything else is interesting in the details as to how the confiscation is done and how the Occupation works, but it matters not to the internationally-recognized rights of the Palestinian people.

  12. “Wow. Thanks, I didn’t realize that Palestinian terrorism – the brutal murder targeting thousands of civilians over the years going back to the Hebron of 1929 incident…”
    If you didn’t realize that even back then Palestinians were under occupation while their homeland was being colonized out from under them, you aren’t paying attention.
    “The reality is…”
    What you are rambling is just one big mass of disillusion perpetuated to vindicate Israel’s conquest over what little of Palestine is left while pretending the victim is asking for it. It is psychopathy on a national scale.

  13. I totally disagree with downplaying the significance of this data. We *know* the government did it, but we didn’t know comprehensively where, how much land, what types of illegality, and which government agencies were complicit at which sites. And those who compiled any data previously were dismissed as lacking total credibility by those who didn’t want to believe. This is monstrously useful in bringing suits, not to mention PR value.
    Has anyone seen this on any other news sites yet?
    And Jason, I agree that terrorism is a complex brew. But if you’ve been to the territories at all, appropriation of land (security, settlements, bypass roads) is one of those more furious complaints. I acknowledge your points, but don’t downplay the severe importance of settlements either.

  14. “the one nobody ever agreed on”
    Completely false, and you know it. The UN recognizes them as the boundaries, and the Palestinians who aren’t clamoring for a return to 48 (e.g. the PLO and Hamas, yes, HAMAS) use them as a basis for a settlement, and FFS, all the Arab countries recognize the Green Line as THE Line. The only one who doesn’t agree on this? Guess.

  15. And speaking of the counterproductive – the Israeli government, which clamors for survival on one hand and allows policies that lead to its destruction on the other, ISN’T counterproductive, but Peace Now IS?!

  16. ugh-
    That is the most preposterous reasoning I’ve heard. The Palestinians are not “squatters,” but the rightful residents of the occupied territories. They have a right to build on their privately owned land–they are not entering Jewish owned property and building Arab-only communities. A settlement is, by definition, in contravention of the Geneva Convention as Jimmy pointed out above.
    What really makes me tired is that we Jews hate it when we hear Palestinians and their supporters place 100% of the blame on Israel, because that is patently false. Why, then, do we Jews tolerate it when folk like ugh and Jason try so hard to place 100% of the blame with Palestine, something also patently false.
    You want peace people? Acknowledge the wrongs of the side you support, don’t just explain them away. It’s getting old.

  17. When did I ever place 100% blame on the Palestine here, or in any other thread, EVER on Jewschool or anywhere else Justin? I don’t know if you have me confused with someone else or not, or are simply misinterpreting what I’ve written here. I’m simply saying that there is not simple solution to the conflict from either side, but imo ESPECIALLY from the Palestinian side, because of numerous reasons. And, that there’s no one reason why terorism exists, but rather it’s a combination of a lot of things. KFJ, I did not mean to belittle the settlements’ effect of Palestinians – I think they hate them with every sinew of their body, and they create rage among successive populations, without even mentioning the legal problems that harm Israel – morally, economically, politically and militarilly. But Justin, as I THOUGHT I was stating above, I just don’t think that’s the ONLY reason for terrorism, nor the conflict. And Israel is absolutely to blame for the actions it takes, and the consequences for those actions, whether I think some are the responsible decision to take at a time. So that is why I initially responded above – that when someone requests that terrorism IS also stopped, along with settlements (and other acitivites of the occupation), and recieves a response that simply gives a full rationalization for that terrorism, yes, that bothers me. Does that make me a right-winger? Or anti-peace?
    No need to answer, I don’t really care anyway what you think.

  18. Not caring what other people think and trying to undermine other people’s positions with strawmen like “Israel is completely responsible for the death of its own people” makes you an anti-peace zealot.

  19. The vast majority of the information published about confiscation of “private” Palestinian land (using quotes because the definition of what is private Palestinian land in the report is quite limited) and settlement construction in this report was previously made public in the Sasson report in 2005. It’s not that significant. And those who won’t listen to any source but the Israeli government aren’t to be taken too seriously anyway.

  20. The vast majority of the information published about confiscation of “private” Palestinian land (using quotes because the definition of what is private Palestinian land in the report is quite limited) and settlement construction in this report was previously made public in the Sasson report in 2005.
    No way. The Sasson Report only dealt with outposts constructed without government assistance. This report deals with settlements sanctioned by government orders. This is, effectively, the other half of the equation.
    It’s not that significant. And those who won’t listen to any source but the Israeli government aren’t to be taken too seriously anyway.
    Again, I politely disagree. Most involved American Jews take their cues (or hear by transmission through the defense agencies) from Israeli governmental proclamations. The official line from the government has been that those charges are lies or a tiny minority. Now those parrots have to eat their hats. I *hope* it sparks widespread self-doubt in the minds of those who trusted the Israeli government to be an honest dealer. The far-right, you correctly speak, are not worth the time. But most American Jews are innocently mislead, well-intentioned believers. I want to believe this will change the credibility debate on the future of the settlements. Peace Now, J Street and Brit Tzedek better leverage this for all that it’s worth.

  21. I actually read both reports. The substantive difference is one you yourself are choosing to make, between “outpost” and “settlement” though the new report again, focuses predominantly on the settlements. There is no legal difference between these in any court in the world, not even Israel’s, though the latter for bad reasons (the High Court here normally acting as an arbitrator between the State and settlers, not as an enforcer of rule of law on these matters). And again, if you read the report, you’ll see that the land it characterizes as “private” Palestinian land is still a “tiny minority” of overall settler land. There’s nothing in either report that criticizes the freezing of Palestinian land registration in 1967 that keeps Palestinians lacking Jordanian titles to their land from registering it in the tabu. Since Jordan had no proactive land-registration effort for the majority of its occupation it means most Palestinians do not have the “proper” title to their land, possessing only British and/or Turkish documents, and thus it can be declared state land. This is the dominant mechanism of justifying settlement construction and land confiscation.
    And I don’t think “most involved American Jews” are to be taken seriously. If we’re seeking to make change here our job is to organize unorganized constituencies, or engage those organized communities and constituencies (students, unions, environmental groups, many Christian denominations, etc.) that are not already engaged in the issue. Those communities already engaged in the issue (in a principled, as in based on a set of ethics, or partisan, pro-Israel/pro-Palestine manner) either already have a good position or will change theirs when the context around them changes. That seems to be how change is quite often made anyway. A change in the surrounding context opens a voice for internal critics that is currently peripheral.

  22. Jimmy, without casting disagreement on the heart of your point about the freeze on land registration, I’m surprised you chose to paint the two reports with the same brush. I also studied both reports. I understood there is an important difference between the settlements and the outposts in Israeli law. The outposts were erected without permission from the Prime Minister’s office, though frequently with complicit help from government agencies. Their existance is illegal, whereas this report chronicles settlements given permission by the government but built by way of illegal means.
    That is an important distinction, because whereas Israel will likely *never* deal with registering older land deeds, violations of Israeli law can be challenged in court and deliver results.
    To your bigger point, I think readers need a clarification: much of Palestinian land being expropriated is not owned by individuals but is state land, so I don’t want readers to be confused that “private” land is not being used here, because that’s a whole separate issue from the taking of public lands held in trust by the government of Israel (ostensibly) on behalf of local Arab municipalities. Both are taking Palestinian land.
    Just a clarification.

  23. “Under Israeli law” doesn’t matter because there is generally little enforcement of it on those very rare occasions when the court rules against settlers. Again, more often then not, the court acts as an arbitration unit between the government and settlers, not something to enforce the law (which are very bad laws anyway and shouldn’t be given legitimacy). What normally happens with “outposts”, if anything happens at all, is like this from today’s paper Goodbye outpost, hello new settlement.

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