APN Explainer: The Pitfalls of the New York Executive Order on BDS

On June 5, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled: “Directing State Agencies and Authorities to Divest Public Funds Supporting BDS Campaign Against Israel.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) opposes boycotts of Israel. APN also opposes legislation (and the equivalent, like this executive order) that seeks to outlaw boycotts or other forms of legal, non-violent activism against Israel. We believe such initiatives are the wrong way to combat BDS. Our full policy is here.

Our brief explainer, laying out our objections to the new EO in New York (and which apply equally to similar legislation being considered/adopted elsewhere in the country), is below.

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Tomorrow the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee is expected to approve the construction of a large building for settlers in the heart of the Batan Al Hawa neighborhood in Silwan. The three story building will be located in one of the most densely populated areas in East Jerusalem, near the Yonatan House (see map). The land in the area was sold to the settlers by the Israeli General Custodian without any tender, together with three additional parcels in the neighborhood (Parcels 73, 75, 84, 97). The pretext for selling the land to the settlers was the fact that they already own two other parcels in Batan Al-Hawa (parcels 95-96) that were released to them by the General Custodian in September 2002 (see more here)

Peace Now: While PM Netanyahu and MoD Lieberman just backed the two state solution, on the ground they are supporting actions that are making a future compromise much more difficult. They government can still prevent the construction of the house by withdrawing from the deal of selling the four parcels to the settlers. By approving the construction on the Eve of Ramadan Netanyahu and Lieberman risk igniting the region and compromising Israelis' security for the benefit of extreme settlers.

Silwan-parcel73-map
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APN policy on BDS-Related Legislation (Federal & State)

On May 19, 2016, the Executive Committee of APN's Board of Directors unanimously adopted the following policy regarding ongoing efforts in the U.S. Congress and in various state capitals to pass legislation dealing with BDS and the occupation.

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As published May 9th in Haaretz following Peace Now's investigation, construction of a huge structure referred to as the “Amana House” has recently started in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. The structure is intended to serve as an office building for the Amana association - a private entity operating toward establishing and expanding settlements and responsible for many of the illegal outposts in the Territories. The structure is being built within the Palestinian neighborhood  of Sheikh Jarrah, and is adjacent to St. Joseph Hospital, which serves the Palestinian population of Jerusalem and the West bank.

Construction of the settlement is supported by a wide array of governmental institutions, headed by the Israel Land Authority (ILA). The ILA, in an illegal and misleading procedure and without a tender, expropriated private Palestinian land and handed it over to Amana, a right-wing, pro-settler organization that is politically and ideologically affiliated with the right-wing government.

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Earlier this week the Palestinian Media reported on a new expropriation order in the lands of the village of Al-Zawiya. This order was published based on the State's most recent publication procedure of the Blue Line Team's work. 

While the original declaration in this area included 1,264 dumans, the current order, following the work of the Blue Line Team, adds another 115 dunams that are now declared as state lands. The order also deducts 213 dumans that are no longer considered as state lands, and yet 30 of the 213 dunams have already been expropriated for the purpose of the "Cross Samariah" highway.
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Yesterday it was published that the High Planning Committee of the Civil Administration advanced plans in different stages for over 200 units in the settlements after receiving a green light to do so from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense. This is another indication of a shift away from the so-called "planning freeze" of 2015. For a list of all plans approved in 2016 click here.

While the government issued a statement arguing that all of the plans advanced were for already existing buildings except from those in Ganei Modi'in, Peace Now's aerial photos illustrate that this is not the case, and much of the planning is for new housing units.
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Peace Now Settlement Watch: Government declares another 596 dunams as state land

The Palestinian News agency Ma'an reported yesterday that the Civil Administration issued a new order determining state land boundaries in the settlement of Eli. 
The order is a result of the work of the Civil Administration's Blue Line Team which works to correct inaccurate state land declarations made during the 1980s. According to the new order, 2,781 dunams of the lands of the villages Lubban al Sharqiya, Karyut and Al-Sawiya are now considered state lands, 596 dunams of which were not considered state lands according to the old declaration. Additionally, 590 dunams were detracted from the old declaration.
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Peace Now Settlement Watch: The government declares 2342 dunams south of Jericho as state land

The Army radio exposed today that on March 10, 2016, during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel, the Civil Administration’s Head of the Government Property signed a declaration according to which 2,342 dunams (580 acres) south of Jericho are now government property. This declaration of state land comes two months after the Minister of Defense approved a declaration of 1,500 dunams as state lands in an area south of Jericho. It appears that the January approval by the MoD permitted the land declaration which is now being implemented. However, the size of the land declared is larger than what was published in January and includes 2,342 dunams. The declaration, which is in fact a confiscation, was meant for the expansion of nearby settlements as well as for trade and tourism projects operated by the settlers. This is one of the largest declarations in recent years, and it is another illustration of the government’s policy of land confiscation, including those far beyond the green line and the separation barrier.

 
Peace Now: This declaration is a de-facto confiscation of Palestinian lands for the purpose of settlement. Instead of trying to clam the situation, the government is adding fuel to the fire and sending a clear message to Palestinians, as well as to Israelis, that it has no intention to work towards peace and two states. Netanyahu proves yet again, that settler pressure is more important to him than the deteriorating security situation.

 

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Derech_Ha-Avot320x265Earlier today (March 7, 2016) the State updated the High Court of Justice on its position regarding Peace Now's petition for the evacuation of 17 structures in the outpost of Derech Ha'Avot. Due to the "request of the political echelon" and despite its previous commitments, the State announced that it seeks to work on the retroactive legalization of 10 of the structures built on private Palestinian land in the illegal outpost. The State hopes to do so by applying a "First Registration" procedure, a long complex procedure asking applicants to prove legal ownership of a land. This comes only two years after this land had been surveyed and was not declared state land, as it had clear owners. If the court accepts the State's position, in the best case scenario the evacuation of the illegal structures as well as the return of the land to its Palestinian owners will be postponed by several years, and in the worst case scenario, the State will find a way to retroactively legalize the structures. As for the remaining 7 structures, the state argued that it will evacuate them within two years.

Peace Now: The government's shameless legal acrobatics efforts meant to take over  lands in area C is putting the two state solution in danger. We hope that the High Court will deny the State's attempt to act against its previous commitments and demand the evacuation of the illegal construction in the outpost of Derech Ha'Avot.

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With Obama Signing Statement, the Conflation Campaign Must Stop

On February 24th, Congress sent HR 644, known as the “Customs Bill,” to President Obama's desk. As we has been reporting for the past year, this bill includes a provision that, while ostensibly about countering the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel, is in truth about legitimizing settlements and for the first time in history legislating U.S. support for and defense of Israel's settlement enterprise and the occupation that enables it. The provision achieves this by conflating Israel and the occupied territories, in effect requiring the U.S. to treat both as sovereign Israel.

As long predicted by APN, when President Obama signed HR 644 into law shortly after it reached his desk, he issued a signing statement observing (correctly) that the conflation of Israel and settlements contradicts longstanding U.S. foreign policy and violates the Executive's constitutional foreign policy prerogative, and declaring that this conflation would not be implemented.

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