Palestinian Autonomy: A Palestinian state in the making
When they look back in a hundred years’ time at the short and violent history of Israel how will the historians . . explain what went wrong. What they will surely ask, could have induced so talented a people to put their fate into the hands of a jack-in-the-box politician like Netanyahu; or to allow the future of Jerusalem to be decided by an alliance between an opportunist mayor and the proprietor of a Miami bingo parlour? [note: a reference to Irving Moskovitch, financial backer of extreme settler groups]
Going back further, surely they will wonder why a people so morbidly conscious of the wrongs done to themselves should so callously have destroyed the heritage of another people who had done them no wrong, and should have shown in the process such open disregard for opinion in the rest of the world. What will they make of the imposition by successive Israeli governments of an institutionalised form of apartheid, by which armed settlers were installed on land seized from its Palestinian owners, in defiance of international law and the resolutions of the United Nations ? What will they say about a judicial system which could formally sanction such acts and could justify imprisonment without trial of those who protested against them and could even give formal approval to the use of torture against them.
From the Editorial, Middle East International, 19 June, 1998
The test of morality is always what you do when you have power.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn
With the peace talks moribund (Eight months ago US Sec of State Albright warned that “time is kind of petering out”) the US gave Netanyahu until June 24 to respond to its proposal for a 13.1% redeployment – this date came and went without as much as a cheep from those concerned. Israel took steps to consolidate and expand her hold on Jerusalem. On June 21 she announced plans to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality to include West Bank settlements (adding some 30 000 settlers to Jerusalem’s population) and, to the west of the city, several Israeli towns (whose middle class residents oppose this move to bring them under the control of the Orthodox politicians who dominate the city). Included are plans to build more than 14 000 housing units – for exclusive Jewish use.
It is tantamount to a declaration of war on Palestinian self-determination.
Saeb Ereqat, Palestinian negotiator
Palestinian anger was predictable as was the Israeli government’s platitudes which succeeded in giving the US an excuse for toning down its criticism. After all, explained Netanyahu, this should not be construed as an attempt to further Judaise the city, merely a more efficient use of municipal services etc .
The plan will give the Municipality powers to license building and city planning in the settlements and represents a heavy blow against Palestinian sovereignty in the area. Already the city’s Arab districts have been encircled by six or seven large settlements. The plans, which have been on the drawing board since the 1980s, will enable these districts to be fragmented with “Jewish only” settlements in the heart of Palestinian population centres. Further ghettoising the Arabs areas. Beit Safafa, for example, is already cut into four quarters by two major roads and within these quarters the occupation authorities are demolishing Palestinian homes.
If carried through, the city’s municipal boundaries will encompass an area of 600 sq km, six times its present area. “Greater Jerusalem” will occupy one fifth of the West Bank. This will bring about a Jewish majority in the “city.” It will also cut the West Bank into two, leaving a narrow strip joining the northern and southern parts.
Palestinian aspirations received a much needed boost when, in the first week of July, the status of the PLO in the UN General Assembly was upgraded from being a mere “observer” to full member but without the voting rights The vote was 124 for, 4 against ( Israel, the US, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia – the latter two are even more dependent on US aid than Israel) with 10 abstentions. In the Security Council the Palestinians contented themselves with “a strongly worded and unanimous statement” on Israel’s plans for Jerusalem. To have tried for a resolution would have galvanised the US to use its veto.
Bilateral talks between the PNA and Israel began on July 19. Before they started the Palestinians had already rejected an Israeli proposal that 3% of the proposed 13.1% of the West Bank, earmarked for withdrawal by the occupation forces, should be turned into a nature reserve supervised by both sides with no planning or construction allowed.
The hopes for peace were then transferred to the shoulders of US peace envoy, Dennis Ross, who arrived in the area on 9 September. As it turned out, Ross acted as little more than Netanyahu’s “gopher”, conveying yet another basket of Netanyahu’s “security” demands.
The following day, the 10th, Netanyahu yet again demonstrated his contempt for the “peace process” and the US paltry efforts to assist. Israeli death squads carried out what appeared to be extra-judicial killings of two alleged Hamas activists in the Hebron area. This action brought about threats of revenge from Hamas and, on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, plunged occupied Palestine into yet another vicious “closure”, with all
movement severely restricted.
A far cry of five years previously when those Palestinians under occupation had taken to the streets to celebrate the much hoped for change in their lives. However, with the “peace process” in obvious jeopardy, Arafat took the first steps to gain support for the declaration of a Palestinian state on May 4th 1999 – the end of the 5 year interim period set out in the Oslo Agreements – when he spoke to the foreign ministers of Arab states on September 16 in Cairo.
Palestinian National Authority
On June 24 all ministers of the PNA tendered their resignation with a list of new ministers to be drawn up by the first week of July. A vote of no-confidence in the government was not taken. On August 5 the Palestinian Legislative Council was in an uproar when the new government was announced. The old cabinet was to remain in place, with a few minor changes, including the three accused of corruption. Two members resigned their new ministerial posts, Hanan Ashrawi and Saleh Abdel Jawwad. They both opposed the structure of the new government. Instead of streamlining the cabinet in the name of efficiency, it was expanded from its 22 membership to 30.
I feel very let down. To give a vote to this government is to legalise corruption.
Husam Khader, Fatah member and persistent critic
One interpretation of events was that President Arafat puts a higher premium on personal and factional loyalty rather than efficiency and honest government. That neither commissions nor legal accountability can make Arafat take decisions that he does not want to take. With regard to corruption “More of the same.” according to the rebellious Hanan Ashrawi. Members from Arafat’s own Fatah faction vented their cynicism “Since Abu Ammar [Arafat] has been a leader for 30 years, I propose that the Council declare him God of the Palestinian people.” commented Husam Khader, Fatah member for Nablus[who narrowly avoided physical assault for making the comparison].
It would seem that the gauntlet had been flung down by Arafat, to reject his cabinet was to reject Arafat. The large majority in favour of the cabinet was seen, by some observers, to confirm Arafat’s method of leadership – patronage, corruption, emotion and, at times, violence. In the words of one newly appointed minister, when questioned about his membership of the cabinet, “I have a family to support.”
Islamic Jihad sources reported that Islamic activist, Abdallah a-Shams, was arrested by Palestinian security forces for publishing an article critical of the new cabinet.
On 9 August, Walid al-Qawasimi became the 20th Palestinian to die in the custody of the PNA. Arrested about two weeks earlier by one of the 11 Palestinian intelligence services , no charges had been leveled, only rumours of selling real estate to the Israelis. Charges which he vigourously denied. Death was attributed to heat exhaustion, by the PNA, and torture (a brain haemorrage resulting from a fractured skull acccording to one witness at the autopsy) by others.
The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group believe that the reason may have been “financial.” Cases of Palestinian building contractors in the Hebron area were cited. Illegal detention, no charges, torture accompanied by accusations of tax evasion. Eventual release after payment of alleged arrears, with no receipt given. No evidence is available to indicate that this money was paid to the finance ministry. The Monitoring Group point to the number of Palestinians contributing to the work of the security services but not employed by any ministry. They have to be paid. The trappings of the PNA’s “officer class” – plush offices, BMWs and mobile phones – have to be financed [See Middle East International 18 Sept 1998 “Extortion and Torture: Behind the Territories’ other political economy.”]
During the last week in August, 5 members of the PLC, two journalists and a photographer were beaten up by Palestinian security personnel as they tried to enter the house of Imad Awadallah who had escaped from custody. Those responsible, the guards round the house, had placed everyone of the family under effective house-arrest, stopping even the youngest from going to the nursery. The resignation of Jibril Rajoub, head of PNA security, was called for by a “rowdy” PLC. [In the same week, the headmistress of Al-Nizamiyeh Girls School was assaulted, teachers threatened and the school vandalised by three attackers wielding swords and clubs. The three were demanding the promotion of one of the daughter’s of an attacker who had failed an English course.]
On 30 August, following a 45 minute hearing in front of a military tribunal two Palestinian brothers were executed by firing squad for the murder of two brothers of a feuding family. Two others were sentenced for life, and one was given a five year sentence.) All were employees of the Palestinian security service and members of Fatah, Arafat’s PLO faction. The executions had the support of many within the occupied territories where tribal and family feuds are becoming common place. The three daily papers lauded the act with one commenting “If we had had it like this from the very beginning, we wouldn’t have reached the dire state of affairs we face today.”
While it was felt in some quarters that Arafat’s swift reaction to events was more influenced by his fear of hostile street reaction, not a commitment to justice, the Israelis berated the PNA for the barbarity of the action.
On the 6th, allegations of torture were made against the Palestinian police following the death of 55 year old detainee, Hussein Abu Ghali. This was denied, with cause of death being attributed to heart complications.
On June 29, the European foreign ministers called for the full and rapid implementation of the trade and cooperation agreement signed with the Palestinian Authority. This backed recent Commission complaints that Israel prevents Palestinian exporters from selling their goods directly in EU markets. The 15 government representatives also supported the Commission’s efforts to ensure that exports from Israel’s illegal settlements in Gaza do not enter the EU with “Made in Israel” labels. They wanted “clarification” of Israel’s application of the “rules of origin” to see which products are entitled to duty-free concessions.
Business as usual
Hebronite, 54 year old Muhammad Abu Turki, was killed by young adolescent ,and acknowledged delinquent settlers, as they drove past him in their car on June 16. The settlers clubbed him with an iron bar as they sped past, killing Abu Turki instantly. The settlers, from the nearby settlement of Haggai, confessed that they had been “on a spree chasing Arabs.”
The director of the settlement’s youth centre called the planned murder “a silly act”, “a naughty deed by youngsters.”
While convenient for the occupation authorities to lay the blame at the door delinquents or at the lunatic fringe of settler society, encouragement from the government was very much evident. A few days prior to the murder, it was announced that the illegal settler radio station, Arutz 7 – which regularly spews out extreme racist propaganda with the intention to incite – was to be legalised. This followed an announcement of a government scheme to provide settlers with training and arms for their security on the settlements.
On June 16, despite appeals from international bodies, including the Red Cross, the Israeli army proceeded to hold manoeuvres in the Jenin area. This annual event has long been a source of concern to the Palestinian population in the area since it is the habit of the Israelis to leave military debris, including land mines, discarded in their wake. Since June of 1967, such debris has maimed or killed over 400 Palestinians, half of whom have been children.
There were protests at the death of Palestinian prisoner of 26 years, Yousef Thiyab Al-Araear in Ashkelon Central Prison following a heart operation carried out without his family’s knowledge. The Friends of the Prisoner and Detainee Society in Nazareth called for an international conference to deal with the issue of Palestinian and other Arab “Missing in Actions.” Israel refuses to reveal the details of hundreds of Palestinians – be they dead or alive. The remains of hundreds, killed in action against the occupation forces, lie buried in special cemetries in Israel (particularly Fayasel Cemetry near Jericho), unidentified.
One shot, one car backfiring, and everything would have exploded.
A confrontation, described as the most serious since September 1996 when the “tourist” tunnel was opened in Jerusalem, took place on July 2 in the Gaza Strip. PNA minister, Abd al-Aziz Shahin decided to drive from his home in Rafah to his office in Gaza City along the coastal road. In contradiction of the Oslo Accords the road, which passes through the Palestinian Mawasi district and runs close to the Gush Qatif settlement bloc, has been closed to Palestinians since February 1995 – except for the odd PNA official with VIP status. And on this day Shahin decided to forgo his VIP status.
At the checkpoint, he was told to “go to hell” when he tried to pass. Shahin and the occupants of 20 other vehicles reacted by staging a sit-down protest in front of Gush Qatif’s Palm Beach Hotel. All access roads to the coast were then closed by the occupation forces. The Palestinian reaction was swift and unprecedented.
Mawasi residents abandoned their trucks and cars at the main intersection to the Gush Qatif and Netzarim settlements, effectively besieging over 3 000 settlers for 12 hours. Palestinian police and other security personnel took up positions, with guns at the ready, to prevent any movement to and from the settlement bloc. The occupation forces moved in tanks and armoured personnel cars. The entire Gaza Strip was closed off to the outside world.
Following intense mediation by various foreign diplomats a deal was brokered. Palestinian cars could pass along the coastal road and Israel pledged to open “wherever possible” roads in Gaza currently closed for “security” reasons.
On the 4th, members of the Greek Orthodox communities – within Israel and the occupied territories – assembled at Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate to protest alleged land deals between the Patriarchate and the Israelis. Of particular concern was an alleged deal involving the leasing of one and a half acres of Church land in Jaffa to an Israeli company – for about 99 years. The deal was made in January with the laity only becoming aware of the transaction the previous month. One community leader observed “The problem with this is that the community can no longer use it . . . it is effectively a sale.”
On July 15 the Israeli settler movement acknowledged responsibility for two incidents where Palestinian Police were attacked. In the first, settlers used their government issue guns; in the second, a patrol vehicle was stoned causing it to crash. The previous day a bomb exploded in the vicinity of Orient House, the HQ of the Palestinian Peace Delegation.
Meanwhile, in West Jerusalem, on the day bilateral negotiations began, a van driven by a Palestinian driver and loaded with combustible household items, including bags of nail burst into flames. The incident was classified as a failed bomb attack although questions were raised, in Palestinian circles, as to the veracity of this interpretation of the incident. It certainly suited Netanyahu’s purposes.
On July 23, Israel’s Knesset passed a bill requiring a referendum and an absolute majority (61 Mks) before withdrawal from either the Golan or Jerusalem can be effected.
Nablus authorities accused the Israel Antiquities Authority of destroying a Muslim cemetry on Mount Gerizim. The comment was made that the Israelis want to forge history but all they will find are connections with the Samaritans, Byzantines and Muslims. The area has no Jewish past.
The Governor of Bethlehem warned of a water shortage, accusing the occupation authorities of diverting water to settlements and army camps on purpose. To the east of Bethlehem the village of al Rashaideh was raided with 40 people, including women and children injured. Three trucks were loaded with confiscated livestock. Apparently they would be returned if the residents signed a guarantee not to enter their land which the occupation forces required for military training areas. Described as just one of many recent incidents in relation to land where armed settlers and uniformed occupation forces have been attacking villagers in the West Bank.
Settlers from Efrat caused a car to crash when it was hit by stones and bottles in the village of Jouret al Sham’a. The same settlers have staged armed ambushes of Palestinians in the vicinity of the settlement.
A 32 year old prisoner died within days of his release from an Israeli prison on July 27. He was the second prisoner to die within days of release, recently, from a prison where urgent medical attention was denied.
On the 4th, two Israeli settlers from the extremist settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus, were killed. One was a religious student whose violent behaviour towards the Palestinians had been such that the Israeli Shin Bet had banned him from carrying arms. In retaliation, and in total contravention of the Oslo Accords, Major Gen Moshe Ya’alon, the new head of Central Command, allowed religious students and their friends to stay overnight at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. There then followed a stand-off with Palestinian police resulting in an imposed change of conditions for settlers entering the tomb. In addition, the settlement of Yitzhar was given permission to expand.
The Gaza Centre for Rights and Law criticised the occupation authorities for the harsh treatment of Gazan students wishing to study in the West Bank. Since the start of the academic year about 1 300 students have been prevented from pursuing their studies in the West Bank. Some students have to pass through two Arab countries to reach their college or university. Others, already in the West Bank, have not been home for two or three years. A protest took place at A Ram checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, on the 17th.
On the 16th the Israeli Inner Cabinet gave approval for the setting up of checkpoints along 10km of the Green Line. Ostensibly for the purpose of preventing car and agricultural theft, the decision was made in conjunction with current practice of fencing off about 20settlements.
Palestinian fear that this practice will lead to the confiscation of yet more land – effectively annexing Palestinian land to settlements. The Israeli right feared it could be a precedent for establishing borders and a de facto state of Palestine. Army units were to be reinforced with settlers doing their reserve duty.
With record temperatures, the highest in 35 years, throughout the occupied territories, the water supply imbalance between Palestinian and Israeli was even more pronounced. As usual, while the Israelis took advantage of the beach or their swimming pool, the Palestinians were left to bathe in their own sweat. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, particularly in the Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin areas were without water for periods of between two weeks and three months.
At an environmental conference four years ago it was reported that, excluding settlers, each Israeli consumes 370 cu m per year compared with an average of 107 cu m for each Palestinian. The settler, apart from being guaranteed a continuous supply of water, uses between 650 and 1714 cu m annually. While settlers enjoy a swim in their pool, Palestinian neighbours have to eke out the little water that can be carried home.
On the 5th, Muhammad Karaki died of a stroke in Shu’afat refugee camp. An Israeli medical team had arrived at the camp but, following an earlier High Court ruling, refused to enter the camp without a border guard escort. The border guard failed to turn up in time. This precipitated demonstrations against both the army and the medical team. After seeking refuge in a clinic, reinforcements were called to assist. This resulted in indiscriminate firing at the camps inhabitants. One woman was reportedly shot in the neck. Others were injured including five Israeli soldiers. In the days following, the camp was raided and houses broken into in an attempt to a apprehend stone and bottle throwers.
On the 10th, an Israeli army spokesman announced the killing of two alleged Hamas activists in the village of Tabiya, just outside the PNA controlled part of Hebron. It was an incident, the reporting of which changed in the following days. When the identity of the two murdered men became known – Imad and Adel Awadallah, both associated with the military wing of Hamas and accused earlier by the PNA of involvement in the murder of another Hamas activist – not only did possible complicity of the PNA become a topic of conversation but the gung-ho reporting of the murders by the Israeli army and press was immediately stifled.
No longer was there further boasting of the exploits of the Israeli intelligence services, the implanting of a bugging device into one of the brothers while he was in PNA custody, then allowed to escape and thus lead the occupation forces to his perceived more dangerous brother. All further speculation came to an end when the Israeli army instructed the High Court to impose a blanket of secrecy on further reporting.
What became clear was that the Israeli reports of the events leading to the deaths of the two men were questionable. Explosions or gunfire consistent with the details issued by the Israelis was denied by local residents, there was an absence of blood in the house. Indeed residents reported seeing soldiers carrying two objects enshrouded in white linen into the house where the killings were supposed to have taken place.
The two brothers were reportedly buried by the Israelis in an unspecified location. Family access was denied.
However the revelation of the killings were timed to coincide with the arrival of US peace envoy Dennis Ross. They gave Netanyahu the pretext, if one was required, to insist on further “security” requirements from Arafat as a prerequisite for taking the “peace talks” any further.
On the 15th, a 16 year old student from the village of Zaatara was shot and wounded by an Israeli settler. Several students were wounded when they retaliated by stoning Israeli soldiers. The following day Israeli soldiers raided the home of PLC member, Abbas Zaki. Doors, windows and furniture were broken during the raid. In his absence, two of his aides were arrested.
The 16th was opening day for the Oasis Casino in Jericho. Situated opposite the crumbling clay huts of Akber Jaber refugee camp, this would-be “mecca” for Israelis and foreign tourists is denied to all local Palestinians other than those employed in the building. The project has been a contentious one, attracting a lot of local opposition. The benefits to the local economy are dubious. The terms under which the license has been granted are unknown. Most of the clients will arrive and leave the area without encountering any local resident. Even the foreign employees will be housed in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. The settlement will thus be the recipient of any economic benefit.
On the 17th, Iyad Karabseh, a 17 year old student from the village of Ein Arik was passing a crossroads on the Tel Aviv road. A car driven by Avshalom Lidani, a settler from Dolev settlement, stopped at the corner. Lidani rolled down the window and with his army issue M16 shot bullet after bullet at Iyad and his friends. Two were injured and Iyad died in Ramallah Hospital. Lidani was released by Israeli police into house arrest in a Jerusalem hotel. The following day over 70 people, including a 10 year old boy, were injured during clashes with Israeli troops at the funeral. Rubber bullets were reported to be the main source of injury.
Israeli police refused permission for a peaceful demonstration against Jewish extremists in the village of Umm Al Faraj. The protest was against the destruction of the local mosque.
House demolitions and settlement construction
Five Palestinian homes were bulldozed in the Jerusalem area during the third week in June , two in Beit Hanina, three in Jabal Al-Mukabber (where 30 olive trees were uprooted in recently confiscated land) – all in the Jerusalem area. This brings to forty, the number of homes destroyed on the orders of the Jerusalem Municipality since the beginning of the year.
In Hebron, the previous week, the Atrash family – Yousef, Zuhur and their ten children – were made homeless for the third time, the two adults and two of their children being severely beaten by Israeli soldiers. Their house was first demolished 10 years ago then in March of this year when building material was confiscated.
In the village of Yatta, five homes were demolished by the occupation troops, in the third week of June. And, on the week that a protest tent – housing an exhibition highlighting the human tragedies resulting from Israel’s policy on house demolition and the expulsion of Bedouin communities – started to tour the West Bank, two homes were bulldozed in the Jerusalem area (at Anata and al Jib) and one in the village of Kharabath.
With Peace Now releasing the statistic of a 385% increase in house demolitions during the first 6 months of this year compared with the same period last year, the Jerusalem Times (17/7/98) featured an article on the village of Zaiyem. This village is squeezed in between the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Pisgat Ze’ev. Mass demolition orders were ordered against houses within the village following an Israeli helicopter survey over the village. The occupation authority’s zoning plan for the area does not, as usual, reflect the needs of the Palestinian villagers. So more demolitions are to be expected as bulldozers continue with the construction of a road to link the two settlements.
Peace Now also reported the start of 6 000 new settlement housing units in the West Bank. With a reported 3 000 empty units, such an action was interpreted as satisfying ideological needs only.
Houses in the village of Wadi Fokin near Bethlehem suffered damage as a result of the construction activities for the expansion of Netsarim Dir al Hawa settlement. In nearby Wadi Rahal, with settlement activity having started on the main road, armed settlers were now entering the village with the consequent attacks and provocations.
On 9 August, approval was given to a plan to open Road No 6 to link the settlements of Ramot Eshkol with Ma’ale Adumim. An estimated 53 acres of land in Sheikh Jarrah and Mount of Olives will be confiscated along with the demolition of three Palestinian houses.
Attention focused on the village of Burqin, near Nablus. Situated near the settlement of Ariel with its population of 20 000, Burqin stands in the way of the intention to expand an industrial zone. While Netanyahu gave his approval for the construction of another 360 housing units in the settlement, Palestinian families such as the Haroush family have been given notice to quit their own land which, together with their sheep and cattle, is their source of livlihood.
Towards the end of August Israel Radio announced that settlers had started the construction of a large tourist centre in Wadi Al-Qelt in Jericho. It will be connected to the settlement of ‘Anatot.
Israel announced plans to build nine hotels in the Bethlehem/ Jerusalem area with aim of diverting those tourists expected during the year 2 000 from Palestinian areas, according to Palestinian sources
The land to be used belongs to the village of Beit Safafa, “state” land and land belonging the Greek or Russian churches. The plan includes a settlement fence which separated Bethlehem from its surroundings.
On August 27th the tension in the Jerusalem area increased a notch or two. The go-ahead for the construction of a 132 housing unit settlement in the middle of the Palestinian neigbourhood, Ral al ‘Amud, near Jerusalem, was given by the occupation authorities.
On 8 September in the village of al Khader, south west of Bethlehem, the home of Mohammed Issa was demolished by Israeli bulldozers. The house had just been completed with the Issa family due to take possession the following week. The Hamdan family from Jerusalem suffered a similar fate. Forced to expand upwards to accommodate a growing family, and squeezed in by settlements, the family built an extra storey in 1993. For this offence, the head of the family (and suffering from a stroke), 82 year old Haj Ahmad was sentenced to a 1000 days imprisonment in Ramla Prison. The family refused to sell the house, an act which would deny them the right to reside in the city.
In the Negev, within Israel,the home of Husein Sawa’d was under threat of demolition for the second time in a year. On the first occasion no time was given for removal of furniture, including his daughter’s wedding dress.
The excavations at the Burj Al-Laqlaq site at Herod’s Gate, seized by settlers earlier, revealed remnants of a wall, Islamic in nature. The role of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which will use settler manpower, was condemned by the Palestinians who view its role at the confiscated site as political, not archaeological.
Israel’s internal security minister approved the installation of “security cameras” in the Old City.
In an action fraught with possible serious consequences, Israeli occupation forces raided Shu’afat Refugee Camp, in northern Jerusalem, at the end of June. Forty arrests were made with the camp closed off to the outside world. An Israeli police special forces team raided private homes, demanded names and, effectively, carried out a census. Over 30 homes were damaged with the windscreens of 20 cars smashed and 15 people wounded following the use of rubber bullets and gas canisters.
The fear was that, with the camps burgeoning population on is mind, forced eviction was on Israel’s agenda. Or even demolition of the camp – following statements from Jerusalem’s mayor, Ehud Olmert. Several cars bearing PNA issued plates were confiscated – a reminder that Israel objects to a PNA presence in the city and its environs.
With raids continuing well into the second week – under the pretext of tackling drug dealers and car thieves – the feeling increased that it was all politically motivated. Shu’afat stands in the way of the completion of the Eastern Gate settlement plan which would encircle East Jerusalem with settlements.
On the week that the Jerusalem Shopping Festival was launched, with the aim of stimulating trading activity in East Jerusalem, Israeli tax inspectors accompanied by border guards, raided scores of homes and shops in the area. Targeted were Silwan and Issawiyeh. The names of taxi passengers were taken.
During a visit to Turkey, PNA minister Faisal Husseini reached an agreement with the Turkey over access to Ottoman archives in order to help them prove that some of the land in Jerusalem was sold illegally to the Israelis. Meanwhile, Amidar, an Israeli government owned company, was reported to be selling the property of “absentee” Palestinians [property owned by Palestinians who, since 1948, have been refused to the right to return to their homes] in West Jerusalem. Some 45 acres worth was involved, residential houses and flats sold at knock-down prices to Jewish purchasers only.
At the beginning of August, alarm was expressed at an Israeli attempt to impose on Palestinian Jerusalemites the need to use an Israeli travel document when traveling to Jordan. It was feared that this imposition could be a new attempt to revoke thousands of Israeli ID cards currently in use. Jordan was being urged not to accept this new measure.
At the end of the month border guards attacked three Palestinian minors inside al Aqsa Mosque compound. This followed the introduction of police and border guards into the compound in order, it was said, to stop the area being used to launch “a political war.”
During the first week of September, the foundations of an Israeli settlement at Burj a-Laqlaq, at Herod’s Gate, were excavated. The Israelis insist they are still looking for archaeological remains.
The Israeli weekly, Yerushalayim,reported that the Jewish National Fund had acquired 24 acres of land between the village of Hizma and the settlement of Givat Ze’ev on the outskirts of Jerusalem at a cost of $500 000. Similarly, a further 50 acres had been acquired close to the Givon Hahadash settlement
Following allegations of attacks on the security of the 450 settlers ensconced in the Old City, the occupation troops carried out manoeuvres in the area – set up new checkpoints, issued a military order or two, bringing further Arab areas under full control of the Israeli army. A scenario which has run a good few times in the city.
Last January, following alleged throwing of petrol bombs, eight Palestinian homes were sealed off to enhance
the “security” of the settlers.
The lack of water in the city reached critical proportions, with two children in Alia Hospital dying, with dehydration being a factor. The hospital had been short of water for weeks. The PNA reported that while the consumption of water by a settler in the West Bank is over 570 litres per day, that of a Palestinian is 80 litres. Some outlying areas have had no domestic running water for three months.
Recently it has a acquired a new dimension with settlers fabricating attacks in order to justify the military actions. On June 22, settlers set fire to Israeli cars and organised the stone throwing of settlers’ homes in Tel Rumeida. One result – the establishment of a new checkpoint amid the graves in a Muslim cemetery.
Fifty acres of land, the property of several families in Hebron, were bulldozed level in preparation for the expansion of Kharsina settlement. The addition of hundreds of further housing units was given the green light at the end of June.
On July 3, three settler youths – one a religious yeshiva student – from Kiryat Arba descended upon a Palestinian neighbourhood on horseback. Using chains they assaulted passers-by, broke windows and smashed up cars.
Following a Military Order banning the renovation of Palestinian owned houses located near Israeli settlements, the house of Azmi Izzat Dandi was the target of a takeover by settlers. During the last week in July the house, located near Beit Romano settlement complex, was besieged four times by settlers trying to take possession. They gain entry from the roop which is overlooked by, and in close proximity to, an Israeli military vantage point.
Thirty five armed settlers attacked [and hospitalised at least 4 people] Palestinian families in the Khan Shahi area in an attempt to make them move from their property.
On August 19th the occupation authorities demolished eight houses leaving 40 people destitute and homeless. One, sited near Kiryat Arba settlement, belonged to the Jaber family. In the process 35 year old mother, Rudeina Jaber was badly beaten and hospitalised. Other family members were assaulted.
On August 20th, Rabbi Shlomo Ranaan was stabbed to death in the heart of the city. His house was set on fire. Despite circumstances that might suggest otherwise, the Palestinians were blamed. What followed was a virtual state of war with hatred roaming Hebron’s streets. The settlers reigned supreme, going on the rampage, accosting Palestinians at will. A curfew was imposed on the entire city. The estimated cost to the city was about $10 million. Denied permission to move about the city one baby died with the parents forced to bury the body in the garden. One expectant mother was forced to give birth in a car. After a journey through side roads, the baby was dead on arrival at the hospital.
Settlers from nearby Kiryat Arba set vehicles on fire and attacked dozens of Palestinians. Violent clashes took place with Israeli troops and Hebron’s government hospital went on emergency alert. An imposed curfew prevented students enrolling, food became scarce, ambulances were not allowed to enter particular areas.
Three days later the Israeli governement announced that the seven caravans which house extremeist settlers, including Baruch Marzel, head of the illegal Kach movement, would be turned into a permanent settlement in the heart of Hebron.
The Middle East International (21 August 1998) printed an article giving a rare insight into one of Israel’s rarely spoken about activities – biological research. It quoted from the Israeli tabloid Yediot Aharonot which took the very rare opportunity to report on the issue following an appeal by the mayor of Ness Ziona, to the Supreme Court, against planning permission for the expansion of the “Israel Institute for Biological Research.”
Apparently this “Institute” produces 43 different varieties of biological weaponry and complex toxins. This included anthrax bacteria and the lethal toxin used in the failed attempt to murder the Hamas leader, Khaled Mish’al, in Jordan.
According to the mayor of Ness Ziona, this “Institute” on its doorstep – with its high walls, electric fences and savage guard dogs – does not exist on aerial photos of the city. Non existent orange groves feature in its place. Its director, Markus Klingberg, was convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union. Klingberg disappeared in the early 1980s. Later it emerged that a secret trial had imprisoned him for 18 years. Now 80 years old he is still kept incommnicado in detention.
It has been suggested that it performs a “defensive” role – producing anti-dotes and vaccines for bacteriological weapons. However a question mark is raised over this when, during the last stand-off between the US and Iraq, and the threat of use of Iraqi biological warheads, the Israeli government appealed for urgent supplies of the requisite vaccine from the US.
The MK for the area, Raffi Ellul, has elicited replies that over the past 15 years there have been 3 deaths and 22 injuries at the plant The nature of the accidents have never been revealed. As a Knesset member, he is entitled to visit any location. His applications to tour the “Institute” have all been turned down.View all →