Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
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Ori Nir 0:09
Hello, everyone. Welcome to this webinar. This is our Americans for Peace Now webinar. I'm Ori Nir and with me behind the screens is my colleague Claire Davidson Miller, who's going to help me navigate this, this this webinar. Our topic today is settler violence, and we're going to discuss it with two leading experts on this issue. I'll introduce them in a moment. Before that, our usual housekeeping comments. I'd like to remind you that this webinar is being recorded. A video recording will be posted to our YouTube channel later today. And an audio recording will be posted to APNs podcast, PeaceCast, along with a written transcript. Also reminding you that you're encouraged to ask questions. And as you know, you do that using the q&a tool that is at the bottom of your screen on the right on the left hand side, I think our guests today are probably familiar faces for most of you. They're good friends, whom I admire greatly. Hagit Ofran is the co-director of Settlement Watch project at Israel's Peace Now/Shalom Achshav movement. She's widely recognized as one of Israel's foremost experts on anything and everything related to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And Lior Amihai is the executive director of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that monitors, researches, and conducts legal and public advocacy regarding violations of human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank. Before joining Yesh Din, Lior was co director with Hagit of Peace Now's Settlement Watch project. So in the words of Sister Sledge, we are family. Halas, my daughters are going to kill me for making a you know, a disco reference in this.
If you if you follow the news from Israel, you have undoubtedly noticed that there is a serious uptick in in in reporting on settler violence targeting Palestinians. We wanted to shed some light on this trend. And this this is a trend with the help of these two experts who are out there and actually know the lay of the land and closely follow the dynamics on the ground. If you're interested in reading up a little more about this issue, we have a new article on this written by our great intern Kate Sosland. She wrote a piece that is on our website right now. And after the webinar when we send out when we send out the post webinar email, there will be a link to that article in that we are lucky to have a presentation that Hagit has prepared for us. So we'll let her go first and show her presentation. And then she will pass the baton to Lior who will make some comments, and then we'll open it to questions. So Hagit, the floor is yours.
Hagit Ofran 3:30
Thank you very much Ori, thank you APN for organizing this. And congratulations for the 40th anniversary for our kind of movement. It's not it's not a party, that we exist 40 years, we wanted this to end before to achieve our goals before. And like I say when many Israelis would would say to me, what are you talking about peace now there is no peace now. So he said because of that we need peace. So our depressing subject of today is the settler violence. And I would like to, to try to tell you a little bit about what we see on the ground and maybe some of the try to find some explanations to why is it so wide and more than just to say that it's inevitable when you have ongoing occupation when you're controlling other people, that violence will be part of it. So I wanted to introduce to you with a trend that is ongoing in the last I would say be Four years or five years. And it is the farm outposts. This is a map of the farms that we know of and are working we saw in the last four years is 46. Five outposts that were established throughout the West Bank, that's a lot in terms of new settlement points. And what does it mean? And how does it connect to settler violence issue? So first of all, what does it look like? It's a small, usually a small farm with several youngsters, usually one family young couple, with maybe some children and volunteers who come and help them out in their farming, usually it's about the sheep or cattle that they grow. And what they do every day is to go around with their sheep. And to make sure that the land around the outposts are Israeli controlled. They would, all of them would have an old truck that is used for housing. And I think they do it so that it's less permanent. When they you you don't see it as a structure when it comes to into the site. So you cannot just order a demolition order. But it is a structure and soon after it's there. It's connected to the ground, and they they enlarge it and everything. But that's an anecdote. But it also means that it's illegal, I mean, the construction of those structure. Without permits, they will bring sheep, as I said, and how do they make sure that the surrounding of the area are controlled by Israelis? Here, I would like to share with you some things that the head of Amana, said in symposiums that were arranged by Amana in February, and they call it the battle for state land. It's part of the discourse that is very strong now in our issue, that the settlers are talking about the battle over area see the battle over state land, which means that they want to kick out Palestinians from those areas. And he describes this new phenomena of establishing
those farms and saying and settlements and I'm reading what what the quote, the settlements seizes in effect about 100 square kilometres. That's what it's in our hand and this development is insignificant. Construction is always on little land due to the financial consideration, which are expensive, and therefore we have arrived at 100 square kilometres after 50 years. And he's talking about the standard historical settlements, where they bring a group of people to live on a hill and to have a settlement. And those settlements only in his words, take 100 square kilometres of the West back, the shepherding farms However, in the past three years, today, they cover close to twice the land, that the build up communities cover. Meaning that they managed with much, much less investment instead of you know, bringing a group of people to settle in a place to build all the infrastructure in houses and everything services. Now they only need youngsters and Some sheep and light construction. And there you go, you take over a huge amount of that. And how would they work and in this says symposium, we were lucky that the COVID started and they did it on zoom. And we could register because usually they do it on closed doors, and it's much harder to, to go in. But they didn't introduced the way they work. And there were some people who live on such a farm, explaining how they do our thing every morning, they start with taking out the drone around the area to see if there's anybody approaching. And if they see a Palestinian Shepherd or farmer that is going near to what they see as their land, which is state land, either officially or not officially. And they would call the army and say that Palestinians here are not supposed to be here. But if the army comes fast enough and and kick out the Palestinians, they're satisfied. And if not, they would go there to to, to kick to scare them away. And some of those farms or those settlers are more polite, and would use more the army and some are more violent, and they will use more violence. So this is a drone from last few weeks in the Jordan Valley, for instance, sometimes they use the drone to scare the the herds away, to scare the the sheep away. Sometimes, this is from last week in in the Jordan Valley in this video, there was the settler of who has such a farm near a settlement called him that he ran with this car to kick out the the goats here in this area of Palestinian growth. or in another place also this picture is from two months ago. There is a spring, also in the Jordan Valley, where the cows of this Palestinian Shepherd would drink every day from this spring. And settlers came and put this fence so that the cows cannot go have access to this spring. It's illegal. And someone gave them all the money in the facility in order to put it up. And it's a fact now although there is the militia in order to dispense I don't know if it's already. I don't I don't know that it was implemented. I don't think it was implemented.
And this phenomenon of I said 46 farms brought to a very big increase in the friction or in the violence of the settlers against Palestinian farmers in order to try to pick them out as instead from the what they see as what should be controlled by Israeli nursing. And then we have another kind of violence which we are familiar for many, many years. The you know, cutting down cutting of trees. This is a picture from this week. On Sunday it was in Tuwana sounds heavy on us that the olive trees cut. This picture from yesterday is from malda, a Palestinian village in the heart of West Bank near sand feet, where the settlement of Uriel is built. You can see the car Palestinian cars spray painted and the tires are cut. These attacks usually happen in your night but few youngsters such as youngsters, we have attacks on that. You have settlers not coming in the night and making damage to something but coming in the day organized going down to the village and throwing stones, this picture is on the roof, and some solar panels are damaged. And the way it would look like would be that you see a group of settlers going down on a stair village, and they are escorted by the Israeli army. And why the Israeli army the IDF is going with them because their job is to protect the Israeli civilians in the West Bank. So when the senses go down on a, on a village, they would go with them to protect them. And if the settlers are during the attack, that usually they will not stop them. Or if they try to stop them, it will be in only by saying stop it stop it, but not with the serious tools to really prevent it. And then, when the Palestinians retaliate, and throw stones at the settlers, the automatic reaction would be to throw the tear gas at the Palestinians. So the picture, eventually, is that we have Israeli military, escorting the group of settlers to attack the things. And that's something that we see again and again. And it's horrible, and I believe that people from from outside of Israel cannot understand how come the army is protecting such acts. And it got to a very, very extreme situation in recent months. This picture is from June with a settlers with a military gun. In cell phone use. This picture is from May were together with the military forces, you had settlers who got the the gun from the army. And in this specific case near Nablus with a Palestinian was shot dead. At the same day, there were three of those attacks around the West Bank, it was organized was at the same time, at two o'clock in the afternoon. In many places around the West Bank, settlers went to attack the Palestinians band jointly with the army and army actually acted as if they have this, the status as relations with them.
And this escalation is very much problematic. The settlers are arranging this we're talking about 1000s of people a part of of those attacks. And maybe later I would try to elaborate a little more of how or why.
Ori Nir 18:41
Thanks Hagit. Lior, the floor is yours.
Lior Amihai 18:47
Thank you Ori and thank you Hagit. Thank you APN and Peace Now this is this does feel like a family or home. So thank you for inviting me and for this awful, dreadful topic to speak about. In a word I'll just say about Yesh Din. It's an Israeli human rights organization that was founded in 2005. In order to deal specifically with settler violence, and the way it deals with this is by helping Palestinians assisting Palestinians to file complaints to the police in cases that they want to do so and doing it in massive numbers for the purpose that we'll be able to be a guardian in the sense of it will be an expert body can talk about how law enforcement is being played out in the West Bank on the issue of settler violence. We've duplicated that also to criminal offenses by Security Force personnel so they soldiers and police officers and also deal with the issue of land equal land grab the land test, the fact that settlers into their bodies and the government in the military take over Palestinian lands, and we assist Palestinian land owners to get access to their land or to get back their property. He writes. Now, I want to say to begin and end by just saying that settler violence is a form of violence in the occupied territories. It's one of the uglier sorts of violence that we see in the occupied territories, part of the occupation. Of course, it's not the only one. But it is it is one of the uglier ones. And the sort of thing that I want to argue with it yesterday and argues for so long is that settler violence is a tool for achieving political aims. It's a tool that serves the government service, the government is the policy of taking over land, and therefore it is flourishing, therefore, it is successful. The second sort of argument says that the law enforcement bodies institution police, the military, that the courts, there are few feeling in their position, and that encourages settler violence. So you've got this is one of them is that the purpose of the settler violence is actually in the same sort of goals of the settler institutions bodies where leadership was leading this, and then the law enforcement bodies sort of follow through and fail. There is some optimism maybe we'll end with that. Maybe there's a shift that we can sort of discuss at the end. But it's it's tricky. So what is the purpose of settler violence? It's there's two, I guess, two that we see we have enough to see versus his land takeover. And indeed, as you know, and as you read from Hagit's reports, there are so many ways of taking over lands, right, you can build settlements, outposts, you can declare land, state lands, and then elevate them to settlements, national parks, touristic sites, archaeological sites, so many different ways. And settler violence is just one of those tools. It is being used for the other tools are not being played out. And that's when we see it. Now. The the second sort of, in you know, what, maybe I'll say that the the governments of Israel and and I'll say this sort of goes to the first argument, support the sticking over of land. And it's not only the government, it's also a look at Trump's plan, for example, right? We maybe forgot it, but just last year, Trump's plan basically stated out that the last home that the settlers will be able to capture will be the border of the State of Israel. Now this is an incentive to take over more and more or less, this is an incentive there for for settler violence. So this is how these two sort of correlate so you maybe feel here leadership's you know, the leaders will condone cetera, et cetera. But in fact, it does play out and bait sort of a good point.
Ori Nir 22:49
The second sort of goal is intimidation. It's to terrorize the Palestinian communities and again under the occupation there's so many other ways to intimidate the Palestinians you've got military trainings and checkpoints and invasions developed in homes and you've got the Secret Service a Shin Bet and cameras and you know, the bureaucracy of the occupation and that the permit regime right, but unlike other sorts of intimidation, settler violence is not institutionalized and and the second thing that maybe mix up their own style The difference is that it has sort of a message to the Palestinians and that message is very very clear. But also it has a message to the military and to the state to the state the settlers are saying don't mess with us right you'll you'll you'll destroy one you know 1/10 that we captured one agricultural farm one home we'll show you we were messing with you know we will fight this is this is our war to the military this thing you know, you guys are serving us. This is about us when you're not doing your role is how we see it, then we come in we will attack these Palestinians because you're not doing it enough. And of course to the Palestinians, it's get out this is not your place. This is ours. This is given to us, you're not welcome here. This the land that you're living on is actually Ireland's now it is done through instagift mentions, you know, sort of categorized sorts of settler violence and shooting and strong stoning and damage to trees. You're seeing attacks inside Palestinian communities more and more so, and of course the graffiti the hate crime and you know, you see it anyway. You're You're very much aware of the dreadful images. Now that intimidation just like settler bonds also serves the main goal right of the correlates with the state sort of position here, because they're saying it allows sort of the courts To argue it allows the states to argue that these are the settler violence are extreme, they are marginal. There are a minority, they don't serve us and the last us to make this differentiation, right, so it's them and not us. It's only these minority we're dealing with. It's only 100 settlers, we do this sort of balance, but not us. And that how it plays out with sort of the, you know, whites in the in the state's interest is continuing, right? Because it allows us to say, Oh, no, we're tackling settler violence. But then the, the main purpose continuous, right, it's it allows the service to say, oh, we're good, we're okay, it's only benefited the bad ones. Now, more concretely, and when we talk about the sort of the stick and why this is flourishing is the goal of the law enforcement institutions. And this is what we follow very, very closely at this theme. And I'll start with the military. And that picture that good showed terrific picture that you saw, saw the soldiers standing right next, it was military police standing right next to the border police standing right next to the sensors. We see it all the time. And there's so many footages of that, that you see soldiers standing idly by next to Palestinian and next to settlers while they're attacking Palestinians. Now, they don't do enough, they don't do they don't do anything to stop the surveillance they're supposed to. Now according to international law, according to minimum, the lowest standard of moral duty, you're supposed to protect those who are under occupation, they are protected population, thousands don't have any other party to protect them. And they are expected to stop, you know, once there is a criminal offense being committed, the soldiers are in the shoes of the sovereign, they're the people we're supposed to be responsible for the situation. And they're supposed to hold the settlers while they're attacking to prevent them from doing so to arrest them to stop them, even until the police come but they are the people who are supposed to do it. It's the suit. It's the soldiers role. It's the soldiers authorities, it's their, you know, there's they're obliged to do so. And they have the responsibility and authority to do so. Now.
Lior Amihai 27:12
And I'll just say something about the police, just because we have best amount of data about this. And just this week, it was published in Haaretz, some data, some more information, just to show you the grass of the quantity about this. In 2019, the military sort of counted for 363 incidents of settler violence. In 2020. 507. In 2021, in the in the first half of 2021. We're already at 416. And that was that earlier this week. So that's why we're talking about this because of the spike that already referred to because of this escalation. Look at these figures. So in 2019, in the year that 363. That's an incident today, in 2020 507. In first half, we're already at 80% of 2020. Yesterday, we documented in three and a half years, much less because we don't document all incidents of stuff around you just documents the ones that we deal with that we take testimonies, and we documented for 543 years, and some statistics. So out of these 540 302 cases, that's 56%. Palestinians chose not to file a complaint. And the reason they did that is because they're intimidated by the system. They fear that if they'll file a complaint, then the institutions will retaliate. They will revenge them, that military will take them others will attack them that she bet will not approve them working permits to come in Israel. And maybe first and foremost, they just don't trust the system. They don't trust that they will provide justice and why should because out of the 540 cases we we counted for in 238,000 did choose to file a complaint. Now 72% of these are still under investigation. So that's one of the problems right, these investigations could take for months and years and they're not efficient and the police don't do what they're supposed to do only 12 that's 12 of 238 cases of files or complaints out of 540 cases that we accounted for and over maybe 1500 of what was documented in ours. We've got 12 indictments filed in the rest 173 the cases were closed. So meaning out of the 238 cases that were filing complaints 94% the police chose to file a complaint and 86% of them. It's admittedly by the police because they are saying we fail. They're saying a criminal offence happened occurred. But we failed investigation, we couldn't find the person who did it. These sorts of stuff. Now, I think, you know, we can talk more about other sorts of stuff, and also reasonings. But I think so this presentation was so thorough. So maybe I'll end here and, and you know what? Yeah, I'll end here. And maybe we'll we'll open up some other things in the q&a. I think that's enough.
Ori Nir 30:31
Great, thanks, Lior. So just just to clarify, so the really a small, small minority of indictments. And then the question is of those indictments, how many cases have actually reached fruition with, you know, finding people guilty?
So we don't have statistics for that. But we do see a problematics with that as well, first of all, we are talking about a very low number for the first place. And then often there is very or much easier or softer sort of punishment. It's unparalleled, of course, to Palestinians. Right. And that's that's what I was sort of hinting at saying, you know, maybe talk about the conclusion, and what we sort of came up with a legal opinion, discussing the situation in the West Bank, referring to an apartheid sort of crime of ours is in place. And it's evident through this, because you see that the courts are very soft, when Israelis attack this students very harsh was the other way around. And so they're Yes, your point taken? Yes, absolutely. The courts do also have a role in this as a law enforcement institution, and they're failing to.
So I'd like to ask you both. We already have some questions. In the q&a. I'd like to encourage people to ask more, we'll, we'll we'll get to them in a moment. But the one thing that I wanted to ask you to underscore this is, you know, it's a topic that we have addressed in the past. We're trying to to underscore, what are the changes? What are the trends? What is new about what we've seen in recent months, and maybe years? In settler violence, Hagit pointed out one phenomenon, which is the agricultural farms, which create much more friction. But what else do you see that you think is has changed? And how would you characterize the change?
Do you want to go ahead, or should I say something?
Hagit Ofran 32:34
Ori Nir 32:35
I'll be very quick, I think, three things that we've noticed. One is we saw an increase since the pandemic, from March last year, we saw immediately that violent sectors were taking usage of the restriction of movement that were imposed to the COVID pandemic. So that's one sort of when we sort of noticed that, but I think the main is, sort of when we started singing in sort of parallel together with the Trump plan, in the sense that this is a set of violence is a political tool, right? It's it's the user to achieve political ends Atlantic or right intimidation. And when the Trump plan came out, and we saw that they were fighting back, and they we saw that this was, you know, they understood that they need to take as much in many more places as possible. And I think that gets the point, the explanation, the very detailed the clarification of what these solar farms, the agricultural farms that we're seeing, this is it this is now they're talking about the battle for state land battle from area See, this is the latest terminology of how they refer for taking more lens. This is this tool. And so this is what we're noticing in recent years, at least.
Hagit Ofran 33:53
I would like to point out another trend about that, I think is deepening although it was always there, and I think it's the the involvement of the military and the settlers. I think the it was always very much connected. You know, in the past, before the establishment of Israel, civilians in in settlements, at the borders were the fighters were there to protect the borders. And they copied it into the way the Israeli army is working in the West Bank, and the settlers are part of the military forces there. I don't have time to go into details of that. So that's like very much working together and when they are He comes to a place and they could they, you know, they do like three months in an area. The settlers will tell them, here is where we are at this is the place like they are they are. They care the knowledge, too, some extent. So it's very much goes together very closely. And also I think that the trend within the Israeli military that is becoming more and more national religious people that are sending settlers see the army as one of the important places for them to be. And this the army, the people in the army are changing and becoming more and more settlers and repairs effect
Ori Nir 35:58
I'm going to start taking questions from our attendees. We have quite a few questions here. The first kind of cluster of questions that we were asked has to do with the issue of the agricultural farms and people are asking, Who is funding them. So maybe in general, we can talk a little bit about the funding, not of so much of the official settlements, but more the the outposts, which, if I understand correctly, for the most part are the origin of a set of, of secular violent acts. Who's funding them?
Hagit Ofran 36:44
Because it's illegal. They don't really tell. And but we see that there is a lot of public money, mainly through the local authorities of the settlers, they get funds from the government to give all the services to the settlers, and they use those money. Also, to help set up those outposts. We have the Amana organization, which is very strong, we have a very long report trying to explain how the funding of all this works. But eventually a lot of it is from public money. And they also have some donations, and sometime even fundraise, you know, with crowdfunding. But mainly it's the public money. And I also wanted to say that there are ways the government supported, for instance, by funding organizations who are sending volunteers to those areas.
Ori Nir 38:02
Got it. There's another question that we were asked, which I think is probably more directed that Lior, which has to do with legal action. So we we've heard from you, Lior, that there are people who complain, people don't complain. The question is whether organizations, nonprofit, Israeli organizations, or others, can take action themselves be proactive in trying to take the settlers to court? If so, how can it? How can it be done? Is it being done at all?
Well, yes, and no, in the sense that there are two sort of legal avenues one of them is to an in both we do at Yesh Din and also Peace Now does some. The first is to assist Palestinians to file complaints, that's the only way for the police to investigate because the police won't investigate otherwise, in most cases, in almost all cases, the problem is that when they do investigate, they often that if not, in most cases, nine out of 10 cases will close the case. Now that enables us to appeal against it, but it doesn't work. So we will appeal and it doesn't work. But the main sort of reasoning behind this is to expose because it's very important for the State of Israel, to tell you, the American public to tell itself maybe internally, and that, you know, they are law, there's law and order, right that we respect the law and if somebody is assaulted, then she has a legal Avenue, etc. But it doesn't work. It doesn't work if you're a Palestinian under decrepit territories. And this is what Yesh Din's data shows the other sort of route is to attack the like illegality of the structure, right? That's also very, very difficult. And I'll say more than difficult in the sense of not going into the details, I'll say that the governments of Israel are putting all their efforts in order to make it difficult. So you see these agricultural farms that's a good showed us, many of them are illegal. It's, it's hard, it's hard to tackle them. You see, these outposts are all illegal according to Israeli law, and they're still there. And it requires activists and it requires money. And it requires an NGO. And it requires a serious legal battle and a public pressure and international pressure. And the governments of Israel are standing behind them and doing all using all their efforts in order to prevent it. And on the contrary, providing money and support etc. So the legal battle are very important in order to expose in order to allow us to organize and to challenge it. But this is this is not a legal battle. At the end of the day. It's a political battle. And it's very difficult. So the legal battles of the department.
So since it's it's mostly a public policy battle, we have another question here that we that that has several questions that we would have to do with a, what is it that organizations like you, like yours, do within the context of the Israeli public to try to rally support for fighting this, this phenomenon? And the other question, which we always get, and we always, you know, wants to answer is, what can Americans do? Maybe you want to start to get?
Hagit Ofran 41:34
Yeah, well, you know, we are one of organizations like Yesh Din and Peace Now and others, we are there to, to bring the issue in the public debate all the time, and not to let go of it. This is why we have the Settlement Watch, to know to all the time, speak about settlements, and to bring it to the media and to make sure the information is there and to make sure that there is some kind of public debate about it. We try to put political pressure. Now with this new government, we have some allies within the coalition that help us who can be address for our appeals doesn't mean that this government is at all moving anywhere, in our direction, or in the direction we want it to go. But at least we have some more leverage or more who to turn to so we put more efforts within the Knesset and the government. And of course, there is the public activity and the media, the social media. We are demonstrating we all participated in this week in the Knesset, in the debate about the settler violence. And we will continue with that.
Ori Nir 43:11
Lior, do you want to add something?
Lior Amihai 43:16
Yeah, I just want to add about the things to do. And I think Hagit summarized it great what we're doing and what I'll just say tactically, why there is a hope for optimism. And it's because settler violence is so ugly, and settler violence makes anyone who lives in Israel ashamed. Because it's, it's it's pogroms, right, it's citizens of the states attacking non citizens, backed by the state, because the what we saw the pictures of the soldiers because there's no accountability, because there's no law enforcement, etc. And what we were trying to argue is that this it correlates with the same purpose, right? It's, you know, it's taking over lead to success, it's another tool. So if we manage to stuff that advance, maybe we'll be able to, at least really limit it will will change in the policy of towards the occupation at large. And I think we should utilize this moment where we're seeing this horrific pictures. And the, you know, Israeli politicians and leaders need to answer, this is not acceptable, and they need to stop it. So I do think that we should take this moment and put our efforts in order to shame and to embarrass and to ask the Israeli government to stop this. Now. I think this is what's our goal should be to make sense of it. This is a political issue. Right? So when American diplomats meet with their Israeli colleagues, we should talk to them about settler violence. When your representatives in the states talk to their Israeli leaders or whatever they're speak with. They should discuss with them settler violence and demand that they stop now. What you'll hear from is really powerful. That this is a marginal issue. It's it's extreme. It's not widespread. It's It's bigger than what these lefty organizations are making. But that's not good enough. Because you see the pictures, you see the data, and it's very severe. So I think we should take this moment where it's so hard to, to demand more from the state of ism.
Ori Nir 45:20
And I guess, as you said before, we'll you know, politicians tend to talk about bad apples. But we should always remember that those bad apples are all in the context of a bowl, if you will. That is corrupt itself, which is the occupation that is violent as it is, as you pointed out. We have a lot of questions that have to do with details and all sorts of details that had to do with the stats that we all mentioned with agricultural farms and so on. And what we'll try to do is in that post, webinar email, include some links to reports that that both Peace Now and Yesh Din and have about these issues, because some of them are just we just can't answer now. In fact, we probably have time for one more issue to this desert, one more. topic. We've had a few actually quite a few questions regarding Israeli government policy. It's something that you've touched upon before, but I thought that because so many people asked about it, maybe we should go into it a little a little more detail. The main question is whether this new government that we have, which yes, is headed by Naftali Bennett, but also has some parties that are more moderate. Has this this government shown that it intends to take some kind of a different policy, different attitude toward the issue of settlements in general, and law enforcement on settlers in particular?
Hagit Ofran 47:02
Unfortunately, the policy, it's becoming more and more clear to me that the policy towards a settlement and issues of the conflict and not really changing, it's maybe the music that sounds a little different, since Netanyahu and and it's more like, less anti Palestinian, but it's not at all changing anything on the ground. You, I believe most of you heard that the E1 plan which is considered to be lethal for potential two state solution and for the potential development of a pristine state is promoted by this government in the hearing of the objections to the plan will take place on Monday. And that the beginning of December, the plan for Atarot for 1000s of over units in between Ramallah and East Jerusalem is going to be discussed in the planning committee. And it's dramatic, and it's taking place and maybe even because it's the new government, we take it less seriously, or we tend not to shake it too much, because it's a fragile, coalition, etc. So here we have a lot of work to make a real fight within the government. I think it's one of the biggest challenges for us.
Ori Nir 48:50
Lior Amihai 48:52
Absolutely, second every word Hagit said. And just to say that this government is working under the illusion or sort of compromise, that they're single dealing with everything, but not the occupation, we're dealing with everything that's about the peace process or two state solution. And this is only afforded because they're the government right now doesn't, you know, it's only afforded because they're sort of dismissing, right, it's unbelievable. And what does that mean, right? What does that mean that we're not discussing the occupation, we're not discussing a two state solution means that what its internal capacity is we'll just wait. And and that's, I think, what we should push this government and push the leadership's in the states and stuff to push these really go on. It's how what do you mean when you don't deal with the occupation that you don't deal with trying to end it with a two state solution or whatever? Does it mean that this is eternal? And if it's a tournament, what does that mean? And I think that's a stuffed point that the Israeli government needs to hear Because internally it works. They're not feeling the pressure enough. Of course, you have peace now. And they're a great work to try to push them on that. But other than that, it's it's it's not strong enough. And we need to think joint forces to try to challenge them on that. What does that mean that you're not dealing with the occupation?
Ori Nir 50:18
with Hagit Ofran and Lior Amihai
Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!
By: Ori Nir
Why Is Israel at War With the Palestinian Flag?
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Israeli obsession with the Palestinian flag is a good example.
Then, once the demonstrators took out a handful of tiny postcard-sized flags, the kind that you hold between your thumb and index finger, the police officers indeed went on to shove the demonstrators, beat them, then break and confiscate their flags. They even arrested one of the activists, on charges of waving the flag. A Jerusalem court later dismissed the charge, ruling that flying the Palestinian flag is not illegal.
In fact, the status of the Palestinian flag under Israeli law is still vague. And based on past experience, this issue is certain to reemerge.
No permit was ever issued, and young Palestinians used to sit in prison for months for waving their flag. The colors of the flag, however, were not outlawed, so Palestinians found creative ways to celebrate in public the black, white, green and red of their flag, such as through their clothing and as shop displays.
The practice became so iconic that years later, after the Palestinian Authority took control of West Bank towns, a large monument, a sculpture showing a Palestinian teen climbing a pole with the national flag, was strategically placed in downtown Ramallah, at Yasser Arafat Square.
The war against the symbol of the Palestinian national movement was waged not only in the occupied territories. In 1986, an Israeli Jew from Ramat Gan, a member of the Israeli Council for Israel-Palestine Peace, a small peace organization, was the target of a police investigation for wearing a tiny lapel pin on his shirt crossing the flags of the State of Israel and the Palestinian national movement.
The first intifada ended. Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and negotiated political accords with it, which were supposed to lead to Palestinian statehood.
Did the obsession with the Palestinian flag end? Not quite. While the Palestinian flag made its way to international institutions, even to the Knesset, it was still the cause for action against demonstrators, on both sides of the Green Line, and sometimes even for arrest.
In 2001, the Israeli civil rights organization Adalah asked the Attorney General’s office to clarify the policy. Adalah pointed out that in 1993, following the Oslo accords, then Chief of Police Raffi Peled wrote in a letter to the Knesset that, since the PLO was no longer considered a terrorist organization, waving its flag "is not illegal."
Indeed, through the mid and late 1990s, Israeli authorities hardly bothered with the flag. Two Attorneys General during that period determined that there was no public interest in pursuing flag-wavers.
But the PLO still appears in Israeli government official documents, even today, as a terrorist organization. Therefore, waving the PLO’s flag, as the Attorney General’s office opined in 2001, could be interpreted as identifying with a terrorist organization, which is a crime.
The test, according to the AG’s office then, was whether the flag-waver had "criminal intent," whether he or she "saw himself as identifying with the PLO as a terrorist organization."
The question of intent, the flag-waver’s intent, was the chief rationale that Jerusalem Police offered for taking action against flag-bearing demonstrators in recent months, referring to the intention to identify with terrorists or to incite violence. Can a law enforcement officer determine what a demonstrator’s intent is?
Today, in the Palestinian arena, Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Liberation Organization is the last to still endorse a compromise peace deal with Israel. Its agents in the West Bank cooperate with Israel’s security agencies to confront and thwart anti-Israel terrorism, actions which, seen as collaboration with the occupier, consistently diminish popular support for the institution and its leaders.
As Palestinians justifiably view it, the pursuit of the flag-wavers is an expression of Israel’s hostile attitude toward Palestinian nationalism. It’s an expression of the zero-sum attitude toward sovereignty and national rights in the land that lies between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean.
It is fuelled by the same exclusivist, uncompromising jingoistic spirit, which is driving Israel toward becoming a binational state that is neither politically democratic nor ethically Jewish.
At its 40th anniversary gala on October 7, Americans for Peace Now’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind welcomed six new members to the organization’s Board of Directors. The six are: Larry Gellman, Debra Katz, Marilyn Katz, Joshua Malina, Abby Rapoport, and Randi Weingarten.
A three-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Bakr Hussein, was hit in the head with a rock while sleeping at his home in the South Hebron Hills on September 28, 2021. This escalation started when Israeli settlers attacked a shepherd in the Palestinian village of al-Mufakara. Other Palestinians joined to retaliate against the settlers, prompting over 100 settlers from nearby illegal Israeli outposts of Avigail and Havat Maon to join, according to eye-witnesses. Hussein, who was taken to the hospital in moderate condition, is among a dozen injured Palestinians. Villagers threw rocks in retaliation, injuring three Israelis.
According to reports and video documentation, Israeli settlers damaged 10 cars at Mufakara, destroyed water tanks, and threw stones at Palestinians homes. A Palestinian and two Israeli settlers were arrested by Israeli Police. The settlers were released after one night in detention. Recent events demonstrate the sharp increase in both the numbers and the severity of settler violence.