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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.

This week, Alpher discusses Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt's trip to the Middle East, during which they will not meet with the Palestinian leadership or release an “ultimate deal” peace plan; whether Israel, the Palestinians, and other Arabs should be pleased or concerned with Trump’s performance in Singapore; whether bringing investments to Gaza’s two million inhabitants will be good for peace; Hamas and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas's anti-Semitic gospel; Netanyahu's meeting in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II; how tuned in the Israeli public is to all this maneuvering; and current events in Gaza.

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My Jewish Journey, My APN Story

Stephanie Breitsman

As I get ready for Middlebury College’s summer Hebrew immersion course in preparation for beginning rabbinical school in fall 2019, I am reflecting on my APN story.

For pretty much everyone I grew up with, my Presbyterian parents in particular, my decision to become a rabbi comes as a surprise. A few years ago, before I came to work at APN, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it myself.

I began attending Hillel events in college at the same time that I started studying Arabic and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Initially, I found it difficult to embrace conversion wholeheartedly because of the conflict between my spiritual and cultural attraction to Judaism and my strong criticism of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

While I was living in the West Bank in the summer of 2014, the IDF set off sound bombs and tear gas outside my window as it raided Ramallah at 3 am every night for a week. That first night, I was more afraid than I had ever been, but the next day at work I realized this was normal for my Palestinian colleagues. While strongly committed to Jewish values, I was deeply conflicted about embracing Judaism when I saw, up close, such abuses committed by the Jewish state. And as a person committed to ending the occupation, would I be accepted by the Jewish community?

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Whose side are you on?

Take a look at this photo.

It shows an Israeli police officer suffering a head injury yesterday in the West Bank, just south of Bethlehem. Who attacked him? A Palestinian? Hamas? No. Rock-throwing Jewish settlers. 

These hoodlums were part of a crowd of hundreds of right-wing zealots who gathered at Netiv Haavot, an illegal outpost, to protect buildings that settlers built on stolen land, privately owned by Palestinians.

Yesterday’s clashes went on for hours. Settlers gathered in the structures and on roofs, pelting police officers with rocks, bottles, and paint canisters.

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Don’t Blame Argentina, Blame the Occupation

By Elana Kravitz, APN intern

When you think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the first thing that comes to mind usually isn’t soccer. But this week, a soccer game in Israel became a highly symbolic political pawn used by the Palestinians, and specifically the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, against Israel.

The match, scheduled for Saturday in Jerusalem, was intended to be a “friendly” warm-up game between the Argentine and Israeli national teams before the World Cup next week. Palestine Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub pressured Argentina to back out of the match, even going so far as to encourage Palestinians to “burn their Messi [jerseys] and pictures and renounce him.” In the wake of this encouragement, Argentine soccer players, especially Messi, received numerous threats, leading the team to pull out of the match citing concerns about safety.

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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.

This week, Alpher discusses whether Kim Jung-un will show Iran how to fool Trump on nuclear issues; how the nuclear summit and its outcome in Singapore directly affect the US approach to Iran; where the so-called Libya precedent comes into the picture; and Trump's comment that abandoning the Iran nuclear deal is already paying off.

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Peace Now: Hearing on Sunday, 10 June on the petition of Palestinians against the settlement in Batan al-Hawa (Silwan)

On Sunday, June 10th, the High Court of Justice is expected to hear a petition filed by 104 residents of Batan al-Hawa (Silwan) against the Custodian General demanding the cancellation of the transfer of their land to radical settlers. The petitioners are all representatives of Palestinian families against whom there are pending eviction lawsuits, based on a discriminatory law that permits Jews to reclaim properties in East Jerusalem that they lost in the war in 1948. The petitioners' main arguments are related to the question of ownership of the 19th century Jewish trust that the settlers are claiming to represent today.  

The evacuation claims against the Palestinians in Batan al-Hawa are part of a campaign of eviction lawsuits against entire neighborhoods in East Jerusalem (Batan al-Hawa, Umm Haroun and Karem Ja'ouni in Sheikh Jarrah).  

See Background here, or read below:

The Systematic dispossession of Palestinian neighborhoods in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan

For many years, there has been an organized governmental effort to take properties in East Jerusalem from Palestinians and to transfer them to settlers. In the past it was mainly through the Absentee Properties Law, but today the efforts are done mainly by the use of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. Until recently, this effort was disastrous for individual families who lost their homes, but now the aim is entire neighborhoods (in Batan al-Hawa and Sheikh Jarrah). Since the horrifying expulsion of the Mughrabi neighborhood from the Old City in 1967 there has been no such move in Jerusalem.  
 
In recent years there has been an increase in the threat of expulsion hovering over the communities of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in East Jerusalem. A wave of eviction lawsuits is being conducted before the courts, with well-organized and well-funded settler groups equipped with direct or indirect assistance from government agencies and the Israeli General Custodian. 

  • Sheikh Jarrah - Umm Haroun (west of Nablus Road) - approximately 45 Palestinian families under threat of evacuation; At least nine of them are in the process of eviction in the courts and at least five others received warning letters in preparation for an evacuation claim. Two families have already been evacuated and replaced by settlers. See map
  • Sheikh Jarrah - Kerem Alja'oni (east of Nablus Road) – c. 30 Palestinian families under threat of evacuation, at least 11 of which are in the process of eviction in the courts, and 9 families have been evicted and replaced by settlers. See map
  • Batan al-Hawa (Silwan) - about 100 Palestinian families under threat of evacuation; 84 of them are in the process of eviction in the courts; 14 families were evacuated and replaced by settlers. See map 

The basis for all claims is the same: the Legal and Administrative Matters Law enacted in 1970 by the Knesset determined that owners of properties in East Jerusalem that in 1948 were transferred to the control of the Jordanians, can receive it back from the Israeli General Custodian. The law was not applied to Palestinian land owners who lost properties in the same war and in the same circumstances in West Jerusalem, thus only Jews can reclaim their properties while Palestinians cannot.   
 
Examination of the protocols of the legislative process indicates that the legislators viewed a situation in which Jews would be able to return vacant assets, while in cases where the assets were occupied, they would receive financial compensation. The legislators took into account the personal connection of an individual to his property, but in practice, the law is being used by settlers who have nothing to do with the original owners. In the end, a mechanism was created by the government and the Custodian General to exploit the law in order to take control of Palestinian populated areas and to transfer them exclusively to settlers. This is a government move, and an attempt to present it as a personal conflict of property restitution is nothing more than feigning innocence. It is important to note that the Jewish owners of the properties received double compensation: through alternative housing received from the state in 1948, and financial compensation received from the settlers in recent years, aimed at serving the settlers' ideological agenda. This contradicts that legislators' original purpose. The individual right that the law sought to protect was made by the settlers and with the assistance of the General Custodian to the right of one (Jewish) collective at the expense of another (the Palestinian) collective.

1. The court hearings: When the field is crooked, the result is crooked
After the decision to annex some 70 square kilometers to Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government was required to deal with the anomalous situation of the residents of East Jerusalem, who found themselves under Israeli rule. This anomaly brought to some legal fictions that in practice are detached from reality.
 
For example, the status of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as permanent residents of Israel was regulated by the Entry into Israel Law, as if they had recently come to Israel and had not lived here for years, and Israel was the one to “come” to them; or the Absentee Property Law applied to assets in East Jerusalem whose owners live in the West Bank, sometimes only a few meters from the property they own.
 
The same applies to tenants living in properties that were owned by Jews prior to 1948: the ruling in courts determined for many of them that they enjoy the rights of protected tenants, and the proceedings before the court are conducted as if an ordinary civil dispute is taking place between a landlord and a tenant. There is nothing far from this, since this is an organized governmental effort that does not have any connection to the purpose of the Tenant Protection Law. Only by turning a blind eye can one ignore the real context of the proceedings.
 
 
A discriminatory law: The circumstances of the legislation of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law (1970)
The Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970 was legislated in order to deal with many different issues concerning the areas and people annexed to Jerusalem in 1967. One of those issues was the status of properties owned by Jews before 1948.
 
In the 1948 war some 20,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in West Jerusalem, and about 2,000 Jews fled or were forced to leave East Jerusalem, mainly from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The Law and Administrative Matters Law was intended to correct what it considered to be a historical injustice by restoring the property to its original Jewish owners. However the law was not applied to Palestinian properties, and it turned out that in one city, as a result of one war, two populations lost property, yet only one national group is entitled to repair the historical injustice and return its property, while the second population cannot, even if some individuals live just a few hundred meters from their properties in the western part of the city. This is the original sin of the law and of the settlements in Batan al-Hawa and Sheikh Jarrah.
 
The law was not meant to be applied to inhabited properties
Examination of the protocols of the legislative process indicates that the legislators viewed a situation in which Jews would be able to return vacant assets, while in cases where the assets were occupied, they would receive financial compensation.
 
In the words of Acting Knesset Constitution Committee Chairman MK Haim Tzadok (5/8/1968):

  • “If at the time the Israel Defense Forces entered Jerusalem these assets were already in the hands of an individual who purchased them directly or indirectly from the Custodian of Enemy Property, we will not intervene in that ‘Title.’” 

Attorney General Moshe Ben-Ze'ev detailed:

  • “Properties for whom there are those who claim to have acquired it in good faith - we did not include him under this section and we left it to the possible litigation in court.”

In the first reading of the bill on July 29, 1968, the Minister of Justice concluded:

  • “We discussed the return of an asset that was found and remains in Jordanian hands, but if the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property in East Jerusalem sold a house to someone and received money, this house will not be returned.”

2. The policy of the government and the General Custodian at the service of the dispossession
The Custodian General plays a central role in the systematic evacuation of Palestinians from their homes and their replacement by settlers. The Custodian General assists the settlers in a variety of ways, and also issues lawsuits to evict Palestinian tenants from their property. The basic and longstanding policy of the Custodian General is to take first and foremost the rights of the original owners. The Palestinians who live in the property more than 50 years are viewed as having a conditional right, at best.
 
Assistance of the Custodian General - In Um Haroun (Sheikh Jarrah) for example, in past years the representatives of the Custodian General (CG) made tenants sign contracts claiming they are no longer protected tenants. The CG interprets the Protection of Tenants Law in a strict way using every opportunity to take the protected status from the tenants. In the last two years the CG issued several eviction lawsuits and sent letters threatening to evict Palestinian tenants.
 
In Batan Al-Hawa, the Custodian General issued a certificate of release to the settlers who took over the management of the Jewish trust in 2001. In 2014 the settlers lost an eviction lawsuit against the Abu Nab family, because they failed to prove the borders of their property. At the time between the verdict and the appeal's hearing, the General Custodian issued a revised release certificate detailing the precise boundaries of the plot. Thanks to the new paper given by the Custodian, the settlers managed to win the appeal and the family was evicted from the house. Since the amended release certificate was issued in 2015, the settlers have filed another 9 claims against dozens of families.
 
In addition, it turns out that in December 2005, the Custodian General sold to the representatives of the Jewish trust four additional plots that were owned by other Jews in Batan Al-Hawa, without a tender and at a low price. If the Custodian was indeed interested in selling the assets in good faith, he would have had to make a tender and offer the Palestinian residents of these properties the right to purchase them. But instead the custodian transferred under the cover of darkness four plots on which dozens or even hundreds of Palestinians live in the Batan Al-Hawah neighborhood to settlers who seek to evict the Palestinian residents and settle Jews there.
 
The government has several ways to prevent the evictions and the injustice:
 

  • Immediately: instruct the police not to secure the eviction - the police are entitled, for reasons of public safety, to refrain from sending police to carry out the evacuation, thereby preventing it. In the past, the police postponed many evictions of Palestinian families for reasons of public peace, and this was approved more than once by the attorney general. 
  • Change in the General Custodian's policy - The Attorney-General may instruct the General Custodian to act differently, in view of his role as responsible not only for the original owners but also for the tenants living in the properties:
    • Assist tenants to continue to be protected tenants - For example, to ensure proper renovations of the properties, not to raise rental rates disproportionately, to stop eviction activities and to grant the status of protected tenants to tenants.
    • Transfer rights when there is no owner - When no owners or heirs are found, the General Custodian can act to enable the Palestinian residents to purchase the rights of the property (this could be tricky if the General Custodian sells it to third parties).
    • Stop assisting the settlers, either indirectly or directly, not in locating the properties, not in releasing them, nor in assisting in evacuation lawsuits. Stop using the settlers' services as lawyers or land-locating experts.
    • Condition the release of the property on the undertaking of the heirs to reside in it for at least five years, In accordance with the legislator's intention to allow the return of assets and to prevent the exploitation of the law for the purpose of deporting Palestinian residents and replacing them with Jews.
    • Defend justice - The Attorney General can instruct the State Attorney's Office to join as a party in any proceeding initiated by the Custodian General and to defend justice in favor of the residents. The legal advisor must express his opinion on the abuse of tenant protection laws which are completely alien to the real circumstances of the cases before us, and anchor the rights of the residents with remedies of justice.
    • Establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the General Custodian conduct in recent years and its cooperation with the settlers. 
  • Expropriation - since 1967 the government of Israel expropriated about one-third of the annexed areas in Jerusalem (24 square kilometers) in order to build housing on which 55,000 housing units have been built for Israelis. The expropriation of a few dozen dunams for Palestinian housing needs can be justified. 
  • Change of legislation - the Knesset can change or cancel the sections of the law that allow the return of assets. 

(The last two options are unlikely under the current government and Knesset.)

 

Hard Questions, Tough Answers (June 4, 2018) - Lessons from Gaza, Oslo and Amman

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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.

This week, Alpher discusses last Wednesday’s informal ceasefire agreement with Hamas and this week's attacks on Israel with rockets, mortars and incendiary devices; the bottom line for Gaza; new proposals on the Palestinian issue as a whole; old options that are resurging and whether they are still relevant; and recent widespread public unrest in Jordan and its effect on Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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Today, the Ramallah-based Palestinian daily al-Ayyam is publishing an article I have written as a guest writer for the column of my friend Hassan al-Batal, a leading Palestinian analyst and an outstanding writer.  

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News Nosh - Best available source of information about Israel/Palestine

From Barbara Green, long-time APN supporter and activist:

Every morning, like many of you, I open my e-mail and groan: so much spam, so many unwanted messages and advertisements. It makes you want to kick the computer. But there's one item I never skip. In fact, I welcome it every day in my Inbox -- and that's APN's News Nosh. It's the very best available source of information about Israel/Palestine.

Orly Halpern, a brilliant journalist in Jerusalem, excerpts the news from an array of Israeli newspapers from left to right and gives it to us in a concise readable format. I don't read every article, but those of special interest to me are right there in my inbox every morning.

Orly is on the scene,­­ so by the time I get to my computer in the morning she has already posted News Nosh and I start the day with information that hasn't even made it to the daily newspapers here in the States.

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APN Opposes Anti-Semitism Awareness Act

Washington, DC - Touted as a means to stem the resurgence of anti-Semitism on college campuses, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (ASAA) would imperil free speech on American college campuses in order to quash constitutionally protected criticism of Israel. 

With white supremacists emboldened on campus and off, rising anti-Semitism in the United States is indeed a concern. The chief focus of the ASAA, however, is Israel-related criticism and activism on campuses – including but not limited to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The bill would cynically exploit claims of anti-Semitism to delegitimize and silence such Israel-related free speech.

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