Peter Myers Digest: Arrest warrant on Netanyahu, Campus Protests

(1) Israel enlists Biden to head off ICC arrest warrant on Netanyahu
(2) Gaza Protestors Defy Columbia Deadline To Leave Campus
(3) White House Urges ‘Peaceful’ Campus Protests After Hundreds Arrested
(4) Jewish Students on both sides of US Campus Protests
(5) US Budget bill funds Israel, and blocks funds to Palestinians
(6) Settler attacks aim to drive Palestinians out of West Bank

(1) Israel enlists Biden to head off ICC arrest warrant on Netanyahu

US says ICC lacks jurisdiction amid potential arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials

Media reports that began circulating on Saturday said Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israeli Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi could soon face ICC arrest warrants.

April 23, 2024 at 3:55 pm

Israel is making a concerted effort to head off feared plans by the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials, an Israeli government source told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

The National Security Council is leading the campaign, according to the source.

The Foreign Ministry is also involved. “We are operating where we can,” said an Israeli diplomat.

The first source said the major focus of the feared ICC allegations will be that Israel “deliberately starved Palestinians in Gaza.”

Israel Defense Forces international spokesman Nadav Shoshani offered a rare briefing on Shabbat for foreign reporters about Israel’s support for the temporary humanitarian pier off Gaza, underscoring the country’s efforts to blunt the ICC campaign.

The official confirmed earlier reports from Hebrew-language media that the United States was part of a last-ditch diplomatic effort to prevent the ICC from moving forward.

Writing for the Walla news site, analyst Ben Caspit said Netanyahu was “under unusual stress” over the prospect of an arrest warrant against him and other Israelis by the United Nations tribunal in The Hague, which would constitute a major deterioration in Israel’s international status.

Netanyahu was leading a “nonstop push over the telephone” to prevent an arrest warrant, focused especially on the administration of US President Joe Biden, Caspit reported.

Haaretz analyst Amos Harel reported that the Israeli government was working under the assumption that the ICC’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, may this week issue warrants for the arrest of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

Amid the reports, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Sunday that Israel “expects the court to refrain” from issuing arrest warrants.

“There is nothing more twisted than trying to prevent Israel from defending itself against a murderous enemy that openly calls for the destruction of Israel,” said Katz in a statement. “If the orders are issued, they will harm the commanders and soldiers of the IDF and give a boost to the terrorist organization Hamas and the radical Islamic axis led by Iran against which we are fighting.”

Katz stressed that Israel adheres to “all the laws of war,” and instructed Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world to prepare for a severe wave of antisemitism if the ICC issues arrest warrants.

Israel is not a member of the court, based in The Hague, and does not recognize its jurisdiction, but the Palestinian territories were admitted as a member state in 2015.

Netanyahu said on Friday that any decisions by the ICC would not affect Israel’s actions, but would set a dangerous precedent.

“Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the International Criminal Court in The Hague to undermine its basic right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Telegram.

“While decisions made by the court in The Hague will not affect Israel’s actions, they will set a dangerous precedent that threatens soldiers and public figures,” he said.

One of Israel’s leading television news outlets, Channel 12, reported last week that Israel was increasingly worried by the possibility that the ICC would issue arrest warrants. The report said that the Prime Minister’s Office held an “emergency discussion” on the issue. A government spokesperson did not respond to questions on the television report or its details.

Khan, the ICC prosecutor, said in October that the court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas terrorists in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

Khan has said his team was investigating any crimes allegedly committed in Gaza, and that those found to have breached the law will be held accountable.

On October 7, Hamas led an attack on Israeli military bases and communities in which some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and 253 were taken as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the war, but the number cannot be independently verified, and it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.

The IDF has also lost 261 soldiers since it launched the ground invasion in late October, bringing the number of soldiers killed since October 7 to 604.

The war, now in its seventh month, has displaced most of the blockaded Palestinian territory’s 2.3 million people and created a humanitarian crisis.

With 124 permanent members, the ICC can prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression.

The investigation at the ICC is separate from the genocide case launched against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also based in The Hague.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is a UN court that deals with disputes between states, while the ICC is a treaty-based criminal court focusing on individual criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israeli Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi could soon face ICC arrest warrants

Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Israeli Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi could soon face ICC arrest warrants

(2) Gaza Protestors Defy Columbia Deadline To Leave Campus


04/29/24 AT 2:36 PM EDT

Student demonstrators at Columbia University on Monday defied an ultimatum to disperse or face immediate suspension, as tensions rose at the epicenter of pro-Palestinian protests that have erupted at US colleges.

Police arrested around 275 people on four separate campuses across the United States over the weekend, with the White House calling on the demonstrations to remain peaceful.

Authorities at Columbia in New York issued a statement on Monday saying the protestors’ encampment must be cleared, and adding that the university would not divest financial holdings linked to Israel — a key demand of demonstrators.

But student protestors pushed back, vowing to defend their camp on the prestigious institution’s main lawn, despite threats of suspensions and disciplinary action after a 2:00 pm (1800 GMT) deadline.

Protests against the Gaza war, with its high civilian death toll of Palestinians, have posed a challenge to university administrators trying to balance free speech rights with complaints that the rallies have veered into anti-Semitism and hate speech.

For almost two weeks now a wave of protests against Israel’s war in Gaza has swept through US university campuses from coast to coast, after around 100 protesters were arrested at Columbia on April 18.

Footage of police in riot gear summoned at various colleges to break up rallies have been viewed around the world, recalling the protest movement that erupted during the Vietnam war.

At University of California, Los Angeles skirmishes broke out Sunday between pro-Palestinian protesters and supporters of Israel.

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, in her statement announcing talks had broken down, said that “many of our Jewish students, and other students as well, have found the atmosphere intolerable in recent weeks.

“Many have left campus, and that is a tragedy.”

“Anti-Semitic language and actions are unacceptable and calls for violence are simply abhorrent,” she said.

“One group’s rights to express their views cannot come at the expense of another group’s right to speak, teach, and learn.”

Protest organizers deny accusations of anti-Semitism, arguing that their actions are aimed at the Israeli government and its prosecution of the conflict in Gaza.

They also insist some incidents have been engineered by non-student agitators.

One student protest group called for demonstrators “to protect the encampment” as the deadline to clear the tents or face disciplinary action passed.

The university had been in talks since last week with protest leaders over clearing the encampment but “regretfully we were not able to come to an agreement,” said Shafik.

The university said it offered to speed up a review of student proposals for divestment and to improve transparency.

Columbia classics professor Joseph Howley told AFP the school’s statement amounted to yielding to outside political pressure.

He said Columbia is “affirming the false premise that the mere presence of political speech on behalf of Palestine is a threat to Jews like myself.”

He called such a position “absurd and dangerous.”

The Gaza war started when Hamas militants staged an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that left around 1,170 people dead, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Palestinian militants also took roughly 250 people hostage. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed almost 34,500 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

(3) White House Urges ‘Peaceful’ Campus Protests After Hundreds Arrested

By AFP News

04/28/24 AT 10:57 AM EDT

The White House insisted Sunday that pro-Palestinian protests that have rocked US universities in recent weeks must remain peaceful, after police arrested around 275 people on four separate campuses over the weekend.

“We certainly respect the right of peaceful protests,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ABC’s “This Week.”

But, he added, “we absolutely condemn the anti-Semitism language that we’ve heard of late and certainly condemn all the hate speech and the threats of violence out there.”

The wave of demonstrations began at Columbia University in New York but they have since spread rapidly across the country.

While peace has prevailed in many campuses, the number of protesters detained — at times by police in riot gear using chemical irritants and tasers — is rising fast.

They include 100 at Northeastern University in Boston, 80 at Washington University in St Louis, 72 at Arizona State University and 23 at Indiana University.

Among those arrested at Washington University was Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who faulted police for aggressive tactics she said provoked the sort of trouble they are meant to quell.

“This is about freedom of speech… on a very critical issue,” she told CNN shortly before her arrest Saturday. “And there they are, sending in the riot police and basically creating a riot.”

College administrators have struggled to find the best response, caught between the need to respect free-speech rights and the imperative of containing inflammatory and sometimes violently anti-Semitic calls by protesters.

At the University of Southern California, school officials late Saturday closed the main campus to the public after pro-Palestinian groups again set up an encampment that had been cleared earlier, the school announced on X.

With final exams coming in the next few weeks, some campuses — including the Humboldt campus of California State Polytechnic University, have closed and instructed students to complete their classes online.

The activists behind the campus protests — not all of them students — are calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas, and want colleges to sever ties with Israel.

Hamas militants staged an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that left around 1,170 people dead, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Palestinian militants also took roughly 250 people hostage. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,454 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

(3) Amid Campus Unrest, White House Aims To Curb Biden’s Graduation Speeches

By Litty Simon

04/27/24 AT 6:00 AM EDT


The White House plans to scale back President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s involvement in delivering traditional spring commencement addresses.

Biden’s upcoming speaking engagements include addresses at Morehouse College and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May, while Harris is scheduled to deliver a graduation speech exclusively at the Air Force Academy.

According to <>NBC News, two White House officials pointed out that the number of speeches planned for both Biden and Harris is comparable to the figures from the past two years. Biden campaign officials emphasize that despite the media attention on campus protests, public polling and their own research indicate that young voters are prioritizing other issues over these demonstrations.

Pro-Palestinian protests have surged across college campuses in the United States, posing a challenge for school administrators who are struggling to quell the unrest. Since October 7, there has been a notable rise in reports of antisemitic acts across America, particularly on college campuses, alongside a surge in Islamophobia. The recent wave of protests has further exacerbated these tensions, prompting campus leadership to grapple with the delicate balance between upholding free speech and addressing threats to campus safety. The wave of protests kicked off at Columbia University in New York City, which has emerged as the focal point of nationwide demonstrations, as students established a tent encampment last week.

On April 18, police tried to dismantle it by arresting over 100 protesters, but students responded by constructing a larger encampment in another section of the campus, reported <>CNN. Following the arrests at Columbia, hundreds of students at other prominent institutions have similarly joined in protests.

Student protesters have urged universities to sever financial connections with Israel and Israeli companies, particularly those profiting from the conflict in Gaza. Although the protests haven’t resulted in any divestments, the week of demonstrations has had significant repercussions, prompting the shift to online classes and disrupting graduation arrangements.

A senior official within the Biden campaign has revealed their intense dedication to exploring novel methods of engaging younger voters for months. The campaign emphasizes its early launch of a young voter program, preceding previous presidential campaigns, and has already initiated staffing efforts to establish a presence at colleges in strategically targeted states.

During the fall, Harris led a “Fight for Our Freedoms” tour across nine college campuses, engaging with a total of 15,000 students. Meanwhile, Biden has opted for smaller-scale events at colleges, with carefully selected and limited audiences.

(4) Jewish Students on both sides of US Campus Protests

Jewish Students Conflicted Over US Campus Protests

By Romain Fonsegrives, with Moises Avila in Austin and Maria Danilova in Washington

04/26/24 AT 1:21 PM EDT

Israel’s war against Hamas has sparked anger and division around the world, including on US campuses, where some Jewish students feel targeted and abused while others have taken leading roles in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

“A lot of people feel really unsafe,” says Eli Sanchez, a Jewish 20-year-old economics major at the University of California, Los Angeles, as pro-Palestinian protests upend college life.

“We’ve seen a lot of hateful rhetoric, anti-Semitic rhetoric. They’ve crossed that thin line very often,” he told AFP. “It’s not freedom of speech, it’s freedom to yell your opinion, and then not listen and not engage.”

Sanchez — who stresses he wants peace in the Middle East — said some Jewish students are afraid to wear kippahs, the small Jewish headcovering.

“We got people on the group chats asking: ‘Can someone walk with me to class? I don’t feel safe.’ And that’s really sad,” he said.

While protests have been peaceful at UCLA, at some schools, police have carried out large-scale arrests, at times using chemical irritants and tasers, and university administrators have struggled to balance free expression on campus with complaints that the rallies threaten some students.

Some in-person teaching has been halted, and commencement and graduation ceremonies have been canceled at some colleges, as protests range nationwide from Yale in Connecticut to the University of New Mexico.

Columbia University late Thursday backed off its latest midnight deadline for protesters to leave their encampment on the prestigious institution’s main lawn in a deepening stalemate.

“I support the liberation of Palestine,” said Etai, a Jewish student at the University of Texas at Austin who preferred not to give his surname.

“What I don’t support is chanting ‘From the river to the sea,’ which is all of Israel. They want Israel to be eliminated and wiped off the planet.”

At George Washington University in the US capital, philosophy student Skyler Sieradzky, 21, said she was spat on when she carried an Israeli flag.

“I think that the freedom of speech and freedom of expression are important but not when it calls for violence,” she said.

“There are students and faculty standing by messages of hate, and standing by messages that call for violence, but I’ve also never felt more proud to be Jewish.”

Other Jewish students take a different tack.

Soph Askanase, a Jewish pro-Palestinian protestor, has been suspended from Columbia and arrested for trespassing.

“Being uncomfortable is different than being unsafe,” Askanase said.

“We live in a country and we go to attend a university that extremely values free speech, open dialogue and rhetoric.”

Protest organizers deny accusations of anti-Semitism, arguing that their slogans and criticisms are aimed solely at the Israeli government and its prosecution of the conflict in Gaza.

They also insist the more threatening incidents have been engineered by non-student agitators.

The war began with the Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,356 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

During their attack, Hamas seized about 250 hostages, 129 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Far from the bloodshed and suffering in the Middle East, many students feel the experience of US high school and college has not been what they hoped for due to Covid, and now the protests.

“The seniors started their freshman year on Zoom and now they’re having to end it on Zoom,” said Noah Letterman, a student in a joint program of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.

“To me that’s really disappointing, because everyone says this is not what college should be like.”

(5) US Budget bill funds Israel, and blocks funds to Palestinians

“Netanyahu’s Colonial Project”. Appropriation of All Palestinian Lands. Israel’s Plan to Expand into A “Greater State”. Dr. Philip Giraldi

“Netanyahu’s Colonial Project”. Appropriation of All Palestinian Lands. Israel’s Plan to Expand into A “Greater State”

US support enables Netanyahu to ignore international pressure

By Philip Giraldi

Global Research, April 28, 2024

Israel’s plan to expand into an Eretz or “Greater” state incorporating large chunks of its neighbors’ land starts with eliminating the pre-1948 inhabitants of a place once known as Palestine.

That nearly all of those who think of themselves as Palestinians must be killed or otherwise removed is perhaps reduced to an aphorism, like “Israel has a right to defend itself,” to absolve the Israeli state and its rampaging army of any guilt in the process. […]

But if one really needed proof positive about who is in charge in the US-Israel relationship, one need only look at the recent omnibus federal government budget bill of $1.2 trillion.

Activist Pascal Lottaz has taken the time to go through the complete 1,012 page document detailing where the money goes and discusses his findings in a 9 minute podcast on YouTube. Lottaz has confirmed both the immediate cash payment of $3.8 billion in “tribute money” to Israel plus the already reported blocking of any federal government funding of United Nation Relief and Works Agency for Gaza (UNRWA) for at least a year. As UNRWA is the key humanitarian aid agency, the latter is a prohibition completely inconsistent with Biden’s expressed desire to confront the “surging” humanitarian aid crisis for the Gazans who are facing starvation in the context of an active genocide. The prohibition is in spite of the continuing lack of evidence to substantiate Israel’s claims of “terrorism support” leveled against the UN agency and despite the famine conditions already present in Gaza. In his review of the document, Lottaz has also discovered those and other specific benefits that involve Israel in 10 sections of the bill.

The bill also seeks to protect Israel from accountability under existing or new international law and to limit Palestinian efforts to resist or defend themselves. It requires any organization receiving US funding to show that it is actively taking steps “to combat anti-Israel bias” and it prohibits any funding to support Palestinian statehood unless it is shown that a list of specified conditions are met including satisfactory “cooperation with Israeli security organizations.” It prohibits any funding to the Palestinian Authority if Palestine is granted statehood status by the UN or any UN agency without Israel’s consent. It oddly prohibits any security support to the West Bank or Gaza unless it is shown that satisfactory steps are being taken by the Palestinian Authority to “end torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees.” It should be noted that the Palestinians, not Israel, are required to end abuse of detainees even though it is Israel that routinely engages in those practices. The detailed sections of the bill expanding on what is blocked or prohibited are as follows:

The bill forbids any US funding of the UN International Commission of Inquiry investigation into Israel’s unlawful occupation of Palestinian territory: Sec. 7848(C)(2) None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel.

The bill defunds the UN Human Rights Council unless the organization drops all inquiry into human rights violations by Israel: Sec. 7048(b)(2)(c) UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL. (1) None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available in support of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the Secretary of State determines and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that participation in the Council is important to the national interest of the United States and that such Council is taking significant steps to remove Israel as a permanent agenda item and ensure integrity in the election of members to such Council.
The bill requires any international organization, department, or agency receiving US funding to show that it is taking “credible steps to combat anti-Israel bias”: SEC. 7048. (a) TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY. Not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall report to the Committees on Appropriations whether each organization, department, or agency receiving a contribution from funds appropriated by this Act under the headings ‘‘Contributions to International Organizations” and ‘‘International Organizations and Programs”:

The bill prohibits funding of any support to Palestinian Statehood except under US State Department confirmation that its government meets specified conditions including that is is “cooperating with appropriate Israeli and other appropriate security organizations.”

The bill prohibits any support to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation: SEC. 7038. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to provide equipment, technical support, consulting services, or any other form of assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation.

The bill prohibits any funding to security assistance to the West Bank or Gaza unless the State Department reports on “the steps being taken by the Palestinian Authority to “end torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees”: 7039(C)(2) SECURITY ASSISTANCE AND REPORTING REQUIREMENT.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available by this or prior appropriations Acts, including funds made available by transfer, may be made available for obligation for security assistance for the West Bank and Gaza until the Secretary of State reports to the Committees on Appropriations on the steps being taken by the Palestinian Authority to end torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees, including by bringing to justice members of Palestinian security forces who commit such crimes.

The bill prohibits any funding of the Palestinian Authority if Palestine achieves recognition of statehood by the UN or any UN agency without Israel’s agreement or if the Palestinians initiate an investigation of Israel in the International Criminal Court: Sec.7401(k)(2)(A)(i) None of the funds appropriated under the heading ‘‘Economic Support Fund” in this Act may be made available for assistance for the Palestinian Authority, if after the date of enactment of this Act the Palestinians obtain the same standing as member states or full membership as a state in the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof outside an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians or the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.

The bill extends existing loan guarantees to Israel under the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act through September 30, 2029: SEC. 7034(k)(6).

The bill grants $3.3 billion in “Foreign Military Financing” to Israel, to be disbursed within 30 days: 7401(d) ISRAEL.—Of the funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘‘Foreign Military Financing Program”, not less than $3,300,000,000 shall be available for grants only for Israel which shall be disbursed within 30 days of enactment of this Act: Provided, That to the extent that the Government of Israel requests that funds be used for such purposes, grants made available for Israel under this heading shall, as agreed by the United States and Israel, be available for advanced weapons systems, of which not less than $725,300,000 shall be available for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and defense services, including research and development.
The bill authorizes half a billion dollars in military aid to Israel for “Iron Dome” and other missile defense systems: SEC. 8072. Of the amounts appropriated in this Act under the headings ‘‘Procurement, Defense-Wide” and ‘‘Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Defense-Wide, $500,000,000 shall be for the Israeli Cooperative Programs.

The bill has passed through Congress, is written into law, and is on its way for Joe Biden’s signature. In other words, the US is willingly complicit in thousands of deaths already plus the impending deaths of some tens of thousands more innocent people. It is funding Israel’s war of extermination against the Palestinians and is opposed to any attempts by the Palestinians to either defend themselves or their interests as a people. It is shameful and our government is behaving monstrously, controlled by a foreign power that has thoroughly corrupted it. And the rot is spreading throughout our political system to include the death of our own right to freedom of speech. Only last week Governor Greg Abbott of Texas boasted of new legislation to stamp out alleged antisemitism and as criticism of Israel or the behavior of Jews is defined as being antisemitic it is likely that students demonstrating against the Jewish state and in support of Gaza will be expelled from universities and even prosecuted. And it is also reported that the Israel Lobby in the US is busy assembling a war chest of $100 million to fund the removal of politicians and other public figures who are critical of Israel. This is serious stuff that will affect all of us. Time to wake up America!

(6) Settler attacks aim to drive Palestinians out of West Bank

Recent settler violence in the West Bank, explained

Recent settler violence in the West Bank, explained

Recent settler attacks against the villages bordering the Jordan Valley between Nablus and Ramallah aren’t random. They are part of a historic Israeli policy to annex the Jordan Valley and expel the Palestinian communities that live there.

APRIL 29, 2024

Violent Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank have skyrocketed ever since October 7. Before that, 2022 and 2023 were already setting <>record highs in settler violence, but the nature of settler attacks today is on an entirely different level. Settlers are now expelling entire Palestinian communities from their villages for the first time in decades.

According to the UN, Israeli settlers expelled about 1,200 Palestinians from some 25 rural communities across the West Bank, including seven communities that have been completely depopulated.

To say that this is historically unprecedented since the 1967 war would be an understatement.

In recent weeks, Israeli settlers ramped up their attacks on several Palestinian villages east of Ramallah. On April 11, following the disappearance of a teenage settler near the village of al-Mughayyir, hundreds of settlers launched a series of pogroms against neighboring Palestinian villages.

“Settlers came from the nearby settlement of Shilo up the hill and began to attack livestock barracks in the plain outside the village,” Abu Musa Bashir, a resident of al-Mughayyir, tells Mondoweiss. “They entered the village and began to shoot at houses, killing a young man who tried to defend his house with stones from his rooftop.”

“For two days, settlers wounded dozens of people, burned eight houses, five livestock barracks, and many cars,” he said. “This is not the first time they attacked al-Mughayyir, but in recent months, the settlers’ pressure on the village has increased, leaving everyone in constant terror.”

The location of the attacks wasn’t a coincidence. The Israeli teenager went missing near al-Mughayyir and was later found dead in the same area. But the attacks extended to the neighboring villages of Mazra’a Sharqiyyah, Turmusayya, Sinjel, Libban, Duma, and Aqraba, stretching from the northeast of Ramallah to the southeast of Nablus.

This line of villages, moving north to south between the two cities, overlooks the Jordan Valley to the east, at the edge of the semi-contiguous Palestinian demographic presence in the central West Bank.

The lands of these villages extend into the eastern slopes of the central West Bank — a semi-arid chain of valleys and hills that spill into the Jordan Valley. Palestinian villagers used to cultivate these slopes until 1967, when Israel declared most of them closed military zones. They are also the most fertile areas of the entire West Bank.

Bedouin Palestinian communities have lived on these slopes for generations, moving their livestock up and down the hills depending on the season and using the space for herding. In doing so, they have maintained a centuries-old lifestyle that is native to the region. The only thing standing in the way of the annexation of these lands by Israel are these Palestinian communities, which is why settlers and Israeli authorities have been gradually expelling them in a piecemeal fashion, as in the case of the slow ethnic cleansing of the <>Bedouin community of Ein Samiya in May 2023.

After October 7, everything changed. Israeli settlers expelled most of the Bedouin communities in the last six months. And now the geographic pattern of settler violence in the West Bank becomes clearer: they are pushing for the depopulation of the Palestinian villages bordering the Jordan Valley.

A legacy of displacement

On October 12, the largest Bedouin community on the eastern slopes of the central West Bank, Wadi Siq, ceased to exist. Armed Israeli settlers entered Wadi Siq at noon and told Palestinian families to leave and never come back under threat of death.

Abu Bashar Ka’abneh, head of one of the families in Wadi Siq and spokesperson for the community, crossed the Israeli road from the valley where the community stood, and moved less than three kilometers away to the west of the Israeli highway, settling with his and other families on the lands of the Palestinian village of Rammun.

“We are originally from the Naqab desert, in the south of historic Palestine,” Ka’abneh tells Mondoweiss. “Our parents were forced out of there in the Nakba in 1948, and settled in the southern tip of the south Hebron hills, known as <>Masafer Yatta.”

“The occupation army forced them to leave again after taking over in 1967, and they scattered along the Jordan Valley and the eastern slopes until, in the late seventies, some 40 families gathered in Wadi Siq and created the community.”

“We were always banned from building so we lived in trailer houses and tents because the entire Jordan Valley and the slopes are a part of area C. They just let us live there, although with a lot of restrictions, until 2020,” Ka’abneh recalled. “Settlers began to harass us, bulldozing land around the community with the excuse of preparing for a new settlement and banning us from herding near specific areas, but then they began to become violent.”

“When we were forced out, some settlers wore Israeli reserve army uniforms. Others went into the houses and kicked women out, while some men were arrested and beaten. Many were forced to leave without taking clothes or personal belongings, and some went missing in the valley before reaching the road,” Ka’abneh says, recounting the harrowing events of last October. “We are now in the same area, technically just across the road, but no longer in area C.”

Settler attacks on this area first began to take a deadly turn in 2015, when Israeli settlers torched the Dawabsheh family’s home in the village of Duma, killing an entire family, <>including 18-month-old Ali. The solve survivor of the family was 10-year-old Ahmad Dawabsheh, suffering serious burns.

A year ago, in March 2023, settlers tried to do the same to a farmers’ family outside of the village of Sinjel, halfway between Ramallah and Nablus. Settlers threw burning objects inside the house of the family from a small window opening. The family, including both parents and three children, escaped from a back door at the last minute, surviving but losing their home.

Allon, Sharon, and the new borders

“The first thing to note about the line of eastern villages is that it forms the natural edge of the Jordan Valley,” Khalil Tafakji, a top Palestinian expert on Israeli settlements and former head of the maps unit at Jerusalem’s Orient House, tells Mondoweiss. “And the first thing to remember about the Jordan Valley, as far as settlements are concerned, is the Allon plan of 1967.”

The Allon plan, devised by Israel’s then-labor minister Yigal Allon shortly after Israel’s occupation of the West Bank suggested annexing large parts of the West Bank by Israel and leaving the rest to Jordan. The portion of the West Bank whose annexation Allon proposed was the Jordan Valley. According to Allon’s plan, the demarcating line that sat on the edge of the prospective area to be annexed was the eastern line of villages that have been at the center of settler violence in recent weeks.

“The Jordan Valley is just too strategic for Israel, but it has nothing to do with security,” explained Tafakji. “The Jordan Valley is an economic asset, the main agricultural land [in the West Bank]. Without it, a Palestinian state would never stand a chance.”

“The expulsion of Palestinian communities in the eastern slopes guarantees for Israel an interruption to Palestinian demographic contiguity, cutting off the Jordan Valley from the central West Bank, while the villages themselves are meant to be the border,” Tafakji says. In doing so, he says that Israel intends to turn the main Palestinian cities in the West Bank, such as Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jenin, into isolated ghettos. “This was [also] the basis for the Sharon plan of the 1990s,” he notes.

Former Israeli Prime Minister and then-minister of foreign affairs Ariel Sharon designed a plan in the 1990s that complemented the Allon Plan. It included the expansion of settlements between the 1949 Green Line and the Jordan Valley in the very heart of the West Bank, cutting off the northern West Bank from its center. This was then later complemented by Sharon’s implementation of the annexation wall in 2004, which trapped Palestinians in non-contiguous and closed-off enclaves. Their eastern border was the line of villages overlooking the Jordan Valley.

“This was the entire purpose of dividing the West Bank into areas A, B, and C in the Oslo accords,” Jamal Jumaa, coordinator of the Palestinian Stop The Wall campaign, tells Mondoweiss. “The wall plan follows the Oslo division lines, completing the process of isolating Palestinian areas from each other, with the only connection between them being a series of tunnels, gates, and checkpoints that would make Palestinian life as a cohesive entity in the West Bank practically impossible.”

“But then the remaining Palestinians in area C would need to be removed, and that is where settlers’ violence comes in,” he added.

Demographics and ‘change of policy’

Israeli settler demographics in the West Bank have grown to more than 600,000 Jewish Israelis in recent years. But their actual presence in area C of the West Bank outside of the major settlement blocks hasn’t grown at the same rate.

According to a study published by a group of Israeli researchers at Reichman University in early March, Israel’s settlement policy in area C had “failed.”

Researchers argue that rates of Israeli settlers moving into the area are much lower than those leaving the area to go to major Israeli cities and settlement blocks. Moreover, the study asserts that Palestinians have continued to grow in numbers in Area C due to family property deeds and high birth rates.

According to the study, the ratio of Israelis to Palestinians in Area C has decreased from 81% in 2010 to 58% in 2023. The study concluded with a recommendation to “stop investing in a losing real estate project” and to “change orientation” in the West Bank.

“The change of policy orientation could mean many things,” Tafakji says. “Including settler violence, especially when settlers have become so influential in Israeli policy.”

“The fact that these areas are particularly targeted is no coincidence, and the fact that settler groups allied with Israeli politicians orchestrate these attacks is not a coincidence either,” he stresses.

At Rammun, Abu Bashar Ka’abneh reflects on his expulsion from the valley just across the Allon road, named after Yigal Allon, who drew its line on the map in 1967.

“We came to this side of the road after our lives were threatened, but we didn’t go far away,” he remarks. “I’ve lived all my life moving up and down the eastern slopes between these villages and Jericho. I can’t fathom how this road will cut us off and become a border. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, in al-Mughayyir, where villagers are still counting their losses from the latest settler attack, Bashir Abu Musa insists, “We are peasants, and our land is part of who we are.”

“They can kill everyone in the village, but we aren’t going anywhere,” he says.Qassam Muaddi
Qassam Muaddi is the Palestine Staff Writer for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter/X at <>@QassaMMuaddi.