Fruit of ‘US-backed colonization’: Israel to DOUBLE Jewish population in West Bank’s Hebron

Two weeks after the US announced that it did not consider illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be in breach of international law, Israel announced a plan to double the Jewish population of Hebron.

The plan announced by Israel’s newly appointed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday will involve demolishing a wholesale market in Hebron and replacing it with a new neighborhood. At the moment, there are an estimated 200,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Jews living in the city.

The statement touted the move as ensuring “territorial continuity” between the existing Jewish Avraham Avinu neighborhood and the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site, as well as the restoration of historic justice. The market area was owned by Jewish residents of Hebron since the early 19th century. But the deadly riot and pogroms of August 1929, in which dozens of Jewish residents were killed by Arab extremists, forced the evacuation of several Jewish neighborhoods.

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Control over the area switched hands along with the rest of the West Bank until going back to Israel after the 1967 war. The Palestinian wholesale market in Shuhada Street was constructed after that and remained a major gathering site until the 1990s. In 1994, a right-wing American-Israeli extremist opened fire at Palestinian worshipers, who had gathered to pray at a mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs compound. He killed 29 people and injured over a hundred before being overpowered and beaten to death. The incident led to Palestinian riot, to which the Israeli administration responded by shutting down Shuhada Street to Palestinians, effectively stifling business. Access has since been partially restored, but the marketplace shops were never allowed to recover due to remaining restrictions.

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The news was hailed by Jewish settlers in Hebron, who said it will bring justice “for which the Israeli nation has been waiting for 90 years.” Others were highly critical of the decision.

Dr Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official and a former chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, said the Israeli move was the first tangible result of Washington’s decision “to legitimize colonization” two weeks ago. He was referring to the much-criticized announcement by the Trump administration that the US no longer considers Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be in violation of international law. Erekat called on the international community to impose sanctions against the Israeli settlements.

Criticism also came from Tamar Zandberg, a member of Knesset for the opposition Democratic Union. She branded Bennett “a messianic” and called Hebron “the capital of Israel’s apartheid,” referring to the separation of Jewish and Arab populations in the West Bank city.

The Bennett office said the redevelopment plan will respect the ownership of Palestinians to ground floor properties.

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Palestinian teen shot dead by Israel in southern Gaza Strip

Ramallah, November 29 (RHC)-- A Palestinian teenager has been killed and five others wounded by Israeli fire in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.  According to Gaza's ministry of health, 16-year-old Fahd al-Astal died after he was shot in the stomach by the Israeli army east of Khan Younis.

Weekly border protests along the Israeli frontier were officially cancelled this Friday.  But local residents said a small number of mostly young Palestinians still approached the fence, an area in which Israel's military enforces a "no go" zone.

At least 348 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since weekly protests began in March 2018, more than half during the demonstrations.  Others were killed by air attacks or tank fire.

The protesters are calling for Israel to ease its blockade of the coastal area and for Palestinians to be allowed to return to their ancestral homes now inside Israel.

About 70 percent of Gaza's two million Palestinians are registered refugees who were originally expelled from their homes by then Zionist armed groups before the founding of Israel in 1948.

Edited by Ed Newman
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‘Israel has lost even pretense of respect for international law’ – expelled HRW official to RT

A top Human Rights Watch official recently deported from Israel spoke to RT about his expulsion, warning that the world will hear about more rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian lands if it doesn’t act.

Omar Shakir, an American citizen and Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for Israel and Palestine, was deported earlier this week under the pretext of calling for a boycott of the Jewish state. He told RT that evicting a HRW official for his professional activity was a telling move.

“This is without doubt an effort to muzzle down Human Rights Watch and to muzzle advocacy for Palestinian rights,” Shakir proclaimed.

Israel is regarded a Western-style democracy, but free expression there actually excludes campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, Shakir pointed out.

This move shows the degree to which Israel has lost even the pretense of respect for basic international norms. If Israel, despite criticism from much of the world, deports me as it did earlier this week for my rights advocacy, how it will ever stop abusing rights?

By throwing out a representative of “one of the world’s largest human rights organizations,” Israel is trying to warn other rights groups that “your work documenting rights abuses could result in facing new punitive sanctions.”

The 41-year-old official was told to leave Israel last year after being accused of engaging in Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement activities – that’s due to a controversial 2017 law that barred foreigners who publicly call for a boycott of Israel from entering the country.


HRW appealed the Interior Ministry’s decision not to renew his working visa, but finally, Shakir was put on a flight out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday.

It is “on the international community now to act because if they fail to do so, their criticism will look toothless,” Shakir concluded.

Also on ‘Chilling message to all critics’: HRW slams Israel’s decision to deport its regional director
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Israeli settlement products must be labeled as coming from occupied lands, top EU court rules

Any produce made in Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements must be labeled as such so that the European consumer isn’t misled by the generic ‘Made in Israel’ tag, a top EU court said in a landmark ruling.

European Union member states must now mark products originating from Israeli settlements, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday. Such labels are to help consumers make informed choices relating to some “ethical considerations,” the ruling reads.

The reasoning is that simply indicating that product is ‘Made in Israel’ – as it is usually done – could be misleading because, in fact, it comes from an occupied territory. Labeling settlement products will now state explicitly that the Jewish state “is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”

The case was pitched up to the court after an Israeli settlement-based winery challenged France’s application of a previous 2018 ECJ ruling on the labeling. That decision also enforced the use of identifying labels but wasn’t legally binding.

Israel began settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem shortly after it seized both areas during the 1967 Six-Day War in the Mideast. Today, almost 700,000 people live there, amounting to nearly 10 percent of the country’s Jewish population.The illegal occupation of the West Bank is recognized internationally; the EU, for its part, does not accept it as part of Israel.

READ MORE: ‘Illegal & an obstacle to peace’: EU slams Israel’s plan to build new settlements in East Jerusalem

Israel, in turn, doesn’t consider those areas occupied, instead referring to them as “disputed.” Back in 2012, a three-member committee headed by former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy wrote in a comprehensive report that Israel's presence in the West Bank is not an occupation in the legal sense. The report was widely condemned outside Israel.

Israel is carrying on building Jewish settlements on occupied lands despite international condemnation. Earlier in June, Israeli officials published construction tenders to build more than 800 new units in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot and Pisgat Zeev.

Brussels responded to the news with a strongly-worded statement, pointing out that settlement construction and expansion in the area “continues to undermine the possibility of a viable two state solution with Jerusalem as the future capital of both.”

Also on France orders clear labeling of goods from Israeli settlements


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U.N. investigator says expectations low for Trump's peace plan

Expectations for the success of the Trump administration’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear to be very low, UN special investigator Michael Lynk told reporters at the United Nations in New York ahead of US special envoy Jared Kushner and his assistant Avi Berkowitz.

Kushner, who has taken the lead on the Trump peace plan, is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz to discuss the plan. Kushner’s assistant, Avi Berkowitz, is expected to join as well.
No date has been set for the release of the political component of the plan, but it is presumed that it would only be published after the formation of a government.

“There seems to be a very low expectation that [the peace plan] would have much meaningful impact on the ground, if and when it ever winds up getting released,” said Lynk, who is the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

He spoke with reporters on Thursday about the plan as part of a press conference he gave about the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its continued “occupation” of the West Bank. Right-wing Israelis hold that Area C of the West Bank, and certainly the settlements located there, should be annexed to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would annex the settlements, should he become prime minister. It is widely believed that the Trump peace plan would allow Israel to retain the settlements.

Lynk holds that settlement activity is a war crime. Both he and the UN support a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines, a move that would have to include the evacuation of some 130 settlements that are home to more than 430,000 Israelis.

Lynk said that any peace plan put forward by the United States must adhere to international law, a move which he holds would make it impossible for it to include the settlements.

In a report he presented to the UN in New York last week, and in his Thursday press conference, Lynk said that international pressure is the best way to halt settlement activity and force an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

In particular, he said, the international community and the UN must ensure compliance, particularly with the 30 to 35 UN Security Council resolutions, that have been approved with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967.

The international community has long promised to hold Israel to account and it has the power to do so, Lynk said.

The starting point for compliance is a “complete ban on all goods and services produced in whole or in part [in] the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem from entering the international market,” Lynk said.

Secondly, he called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to complete her database of businesses operating over the Green Line, which her office has worked on since 2016.

This database could become a template for other global conflicts, he said.

Should those mild measures not work, Lynk said, harsher measures could be employed, such as an arms embargo, travel bans and international arrest warrants. Countries or entities, such as the European Union and the UN, could refuse to ratify agreements with Israel until it ended its settlement enterprise, he said.

The UN General Assembly could ask the International Court of Justice at The Hague for an advisory opinion on the “legality of the occupation,” Lynk said.

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Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike to protest administrative detention

Ramallah, October 18 (RHC)-- Over 6000 Palestinian prisoners are languishing in Israeli jails. Hundreds of these inmates are held without any charge or trial under what’s known as administrative detention deemed illegal based on international law.  Now, six Palestinian prisoners are refusing food to protest the policy.  Among those six protesters there is Heba al-Labadi, a Palestinian-Jordanian national who has been on a hunger strike for over three weeks. 

Among other detainees protesting their unlawful incarceration and the horrific conditions in Israeli prisons, there’s Ahmed Ghannam, who began his hunger strike in July. Human rights groups say Israel should either prosecute those prisoners or release them.  But Tel Aviv insists that they were arrested on secret reports which are inaccessible to prisoners and their lawyers.

Experts say Israel uses the policy of administrative detention to silence the voices of Palestinians but lacks any concrete evidence that could be presented in an open, military court. Palestinians say administrative detention is a whole other level of injustice. 

Israel’s administrative detention law allows it to imprison Palestinians for renewable periods without trial or charge.  Administrative inmates in Israeli jails say going on hunger strike is one of their few options to make their voice heard and to force Tel Aviv end this illegal policy. 

Several Palestinian prisoners have gone on hunger strike in recent months over Israel’s administrative detention.

Edited by Ed Newman

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Palestinian resistance fighters shoot down Israeli drone in Gaza

Gaza City, September 10 (RHC)-- The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement has shot down an Israeli drone in the Gaza Strip, a day after the regime carried out a fresh wave of air raids against the besieged coastal enclave.

Palestinian media reported that Hamas resistance fighters intercepted and downed the quadcopter drone east of Rafah in southern Gaza Strip on Monday night.  The Israeli military has confirmed that a drone fell in southern Gaza Strip, saying that an investigation into the incident is underway.

The aircraft’s remains are now in the hands of the resistance fighters, according to media reports.  This is the second unmanned aerial vehicle the Israeli army has lost over the past 24 hours.

The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah said its air defense forces had shot down an Israeli military drone outside the southern town of Ramyah early Monday, amid heightened tensions between the group and the Israeli military.  The downing of the drone in Rafah area comes amid a series of exchanges between Israel and Gaza.

Palestinian news agencies said late on Saturday that Israeli airstrikes had targeted positions allegedly held by Hamas inside the enclave. Health officials said there were no casualties from the attacks that lasted close to an hour.

Israeli sources said the attacks had hit Hamas naval facilities on the Mediterranean and two military compounds run by the group in central Gaza. There was no confirmation from Hamas and its affiliated groups.

The relentless Israeli bombardment came after Hamas launched a drone operation targeting Israeli military equipment stationed along the border with the occupied Palestinian territories following a wave of Israeli aerial assaults.

Hamas’ raids have come in response to the regime’s killing of Palestinian protesters marching along the fence separating Gaza from the Israeli-occupied territories.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.  Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

Edited by Ed Newman
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Palestinians slam Netanyahu for pledging settlement annexation

Ramallah, September 3 (RHC)-- Palestinian leaders have slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for pledging annexation of all illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Nehru’s reiteration of annexation pledge was a  "continuation of attempts to create an unacceptable fait accompli."  He added that the move would "not lead to any peace, security or stability.”

The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said, "Those who claim concern after every Israeli settlement announcement should face reality: Israel's PM is announcing further annexation of occupied territory.”

"Enough impunity: There's an international responsibility to impose sanctions on Israel after decades of systematic crimes," he added.

Netanyahu told an audience at West Bank settlement Sunday that he would annex all illegal settlements.  "With the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities, as part of the [biblical] Land of Israel, and as part of the state of Israel," he said. 

More than 400,000 Israelis live in the illegal settlements in West Bank and around 20,000 live in occupied East Jerusalem.   The prime minister’s comments come amid Israel’s elections due for Sept. 17. After elections in April, Netanyahu’s Likud Party could not secure enough support to form a government coalition and another snap election was called.

According to the polls, the prime minister is running in a very close race with his main rival Benny Gantz from the centrist Blue and White party.  In addition to that, his far-right Likud party needs to come out with a decisive lead in the ballot or Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might decide to appoint another candidate to form a ruling coalition.  It is in this context that he is seeking to draw support from the voters of the right-wing parties close to the influential settlement movement.

Edited by Ed Newman
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