Incriminating Minutes of an Israeli Knesset Panel on the West Bank

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Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against settlements near Tulkarm in the West Bank on August 20, 2020.

There are five ways to read the minutes of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, convening as the subcommittee for the spread of the settlements. They are there for all to see on the Knesset website. One way is not to bother. After all, who cares about a meeting that’s not about the ultra-Orthodox, the coronavirus lockdown and the future of our salaries? It’s enough to know that fine fellows are preparing more land for us for hikes and vacations minus the Arabs.

The second way is to read it as study material on the competition between bureaucrats over resources, that is, the use of our tax money. Representatives of the Civil Administration boasted to the MKs about their achievements in confiscation, destruction and uprooting of trees in recent years. The head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Ghassan Alian, spoke proudly of the victory in the battle against the European Union. But the budget is not enough, he said. He was alarmed by the proposal of some of the MKs to establish a special authority to do the same things. “I recommend that instead of establishing that authority, the money we’re going to invest and the resources and jobs go to the enforcement unit and that there be 30 inspectors and not 17,” he said.

Did the committee forget that a new government ministry for settlements, headed by Tzachi Hanegbi, is already breathing down the Civil Administration’s neck? On Thursday, his ministry was allocated 20 million shekels ($5.8 million) for mapping “illegal” construction in Area C. The squanderers of our tax money, it turns out, don’t know what Alian told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: that the Civil Administration has already mapped the construction and the mapping is quite accurate. They’re paying twice for the same work.

A third way to read the minutes is as a lesson in sadism. They’re sitting in the nation’s legislature and consulting each other on how to torture: Confiscate their tractor and their water pump for a year, former MK Moti Yogev from the settlement of Dolev advises the head of the enforcement unit in the Civil Administration, Marco Ben-Shabbat. “The financial loss will root out the phenomenon,” he explained. Ben-Shabbat assured him that he knows how to do this, and in the framework of the law.

Alian is proud of the 42,000 trees the civil administration has uprooted over the past 20 years (7,500 just last year). This was done on the Palestinian land that Israel, with its arsenal of legislative robbery tools, turned into lands for Jews only (by the whitewashed name “state lands”). The MKs are not happy. Amit Halevi (Likud) is astonished: Are 2,100 trees a lot in your opinion “in all those 3.5 million dunams?” Yamina MK Matan Kahana says sarcastically that that’s a glass one eighth full. Likud MK Shlomo Karhi figures that this is about one third of the trees, that is, there are more than 80,000 trees to uproot. The committee’s chairman, MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) remains courteous, noting that the intention is not to uproot trees on private land.

The committee’s members would certainly be overjoyed over this news: In honor of the opening of the school year, in the community of Ras a-Tin east of Ramallah, one target among many, Civil Administration inspectors confiscated 40 chairs and 24 desks, four surfaces built of blocks and about a dozen tin slabs intended for the school.

A fourth way is to read the minutes historiographically. MK Nir Barkat (Likud) and Meir Deutsch of the right-wing NGO Regavim said that the Palestinians have enough land to build in the enclaves of areas A and B (after all, they don’t need open space for hiking, green lungs or agricultural lands to develop). In fact, this is exactly what Israel has been doing for the past 30 years – while singing of peace, its officials and soldiers are working to turn about 61 percent of the Palestinian West Bank (minus East Jerusalem) into Israeli territory for all intents and purposes. And in it, the Indian reservations will be swallowed up.

The fifth way is to prepare the minutes as incriminating evidence in an international court for crimes of colonialism and apartheid.

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