Posts Tagged ‘west bank’



June 25, 2010

So, one thing I realized soon after moving over here to Ramallah is that Palestinian guys LOVE cars and they love to drive them fast. Most of my close friends are or were at some point racing in the rallies, so every few months we all go to watch the rally in one of the West Bank cities.

This time, the rally was right outside of Ramallah, in Betounya district in a parking lot right next to Ofer Checkpoint. The wall –or fence since its unfinished right now– is right beside the rally, complete with razor wire and watch towers. It provides a certain type of atmosphere I guess, ha.

The whole rally, there were three Israeli army and police jeeps with about a dozen people watching from the other side of the fence.  I dont know whether they were there –for security reasons– or there to watch, but Im pretty sure they were enjoying it.

The rally drivers come from all over the West Bank and some Palestinians who live in Israel. The most impressive cars have doors that open vertically, make the most noise, or have the most stickers on them–and they get surrounded by teenage boys taking pictures and videos with their phones.

A friend of mine was driving in the race so my roommate and I went to find him. He had already done his first turn and would go again in half an hour so we watched the other cars race.

In the background, dabke music was blasting.

The drivers have to follow the course marked with cones–they drift, do donuts, and try not to hit any of the cones because they would get a 3 second penalty. There was a group of girls racing called Speed Sisters. They beat a lot of the guys who were racing and got most of the western media attention.

On the way out after it finished, the winners sat on the tops of their cars with their trophies, blasting music, and getting photographed by the media and teenage boys.


From Jail to Jail: Life of a Palestinian Mother

May 29, 2010

From Jail to Jail: Life of a Palestinian Mother:

photo by lazar simeonov

Omm Ahmad Khadeash is a mother and grandmother who has spent most of her life living in Balata Refugee Camp, near Nablus in the West Bank.  She is around 70 years old and has seen everything from the Nakba in 1948 to the brutality of the second Intifada. 

Omm Ahmad was born in a village called Ejzem, near Haifa.  Her village was expelled and destroyed by the Israeli military in 1948.  Her family fled to Huwarra, near Nablus, and then moved to the Balata Refugee Camp when it was created in the 1950’s.

Balata Refugee Camp is known for being very political, the heart of the resistance.  Many Fatah resistance leaders in the Intifada came from the camp.  For this reason, the Israeli military has been especially hard on the people of Balata.  Imposing curfews, conducting nightly raids of the camp in which they break down doors to the houses and destroy things inside, beat people—men and women, arrest, and sometimes kill people for being active in the resistance.    

Omm Ahmad married at 15 and has seven sons and five daughters.  Every one of her sons has been imprisoned.  She has never experienced a time where all of her sons were at home together. 

At the moment, she has six sons out of prison.  One was released two months ago and another, Khaled, is still in prison—with a sentence of over 1000 years for being one of the Fatah leaders in Balata.  He has four children, the youngest, Aboud, was born on the day his father was imprisoned.

Now Omm Ahmad takes care of Khaled’s wife and family—just as she has taken care of all of her sons’ families while they were imprisoned. 

Omm Ahmad is well-known in Balata for intervening when the Israeli soldiers raid the camp and try to arrest anyone.  She will run out and get in the middle of the fight; screaming, and saying “this is my son! This is my son!”—no matter who it is that they are trying to arrest.

She will “give the signal” to the other mothers around the camp and they will all run down and scream at the soldiers, and others will join in; screaming or throwing stones. 

One time, Omm Ahmad saw Israeli soldiers running after a young girl.  They caught her and started beating her. 

“I began screaming and brought all of my daughters with me to where the soldiers were.  Some other women heard us and joined us, screaming.  We created a big chaos and the soldiers left the girl.”

Another time, Omm Ahmad saw soldiers running after a teenage boy who was carrying a flag.  When he ran past her house she grabbed him and took him inside.  When the soldiers came to the door she blocked them from getting in, and started screaming.  Soon, other women started screaming and people began throwing stones. 

She had a real fight with the soldiers and even took a gun from one of them.  But because there was so much chaos around them from the screaming women and kids throwing stones, the soldiers decided it wasn’t worth it and left.

During the second Intifada, when the Israeli soldiers would impose a curfew on the camp for being active in the resistance, Omm Ahmad would ignore the curfew and take food and other supplies around to all her sons and daughters and their families. 

“It was dangerous, but I did not care”, said Omm Ahmad.

Omm Ahmad has spent most of her life traveling from one prison to another visiting her sons. 

“I have never had all of my sons at home at the same time.”

Her only son in prison now, Khaled, has a sentence of over 1000 years.  His only chance to be released from prison is if the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel is successful.  Hamas, who is holding the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, is trying to reach an agreement with Israel.  In exchange for releasing Shalit, Hamas is asking Israel to release 450 Palestinian political prisoners—the prisoners who have consecutive life sentences—and Khaled is on that list. 

Omm Ahmad was only recently given permission to visit Khaled; once a month—before that she was not allowed to visit because she is known as a “trouble-maker” by the soldiers.  Khaled’s wife is only allowed to see her husband once or twice a year.

Visiting her sons in prison is like a “trip to hell”.  Khaled’s prison is in southern Israel, on the border with Egypt.  So when Omm Ahmad makes the trip to visit her son, she must get up before 3am and go to the special bus station in Nablus that has buses specifically for taking family members to different prisons.

The visitors must go through many checkpoints, getting rigorously searched at each one.  Another humiliating process they must go through before they can visit their family members is being stripped naked. 

The trip is exhausting, humiliating and takes an entire day.  After all of this, Omm Ahmad is allowed to see her son for less than an hour.

Recently, Omm Ahmad and all of the families of the prisoners on the exchange list received more bad news.  The talks between Hamas and the Israeli government failed, once again.   

Hamas requires that all of the prisoners are released to the West Bank or to Gaza.  But Israel has rejected some of the prisoners on the list and has also said that the only way they will release the remaining prisoners is by deporting them to other Arab countries.  Omm Ahmad is worried that Khaled may not be released while she is alive.

“They took our sons.  They took our land.  They stole it from us…they have this belief that this is their land and we should not be here.” 

These days, Omm Ahmad does not intervene when the soldiers come to the camp.  She says that the soldiers do not care whether they beat a child or an old woman anymore. There is nothing she can do to help, and she said she is losing faith that things will change.

“We have tried everything.  We tried the non violence in the 1st Intifada—just throwing stones.  In the 2nd Intifada we tried violence, with the guns.  It was very brutal.  Now we have tried the negotiations—the peace process.  Israel does not respond to anything.  Why must the Palestinians respect the agreements, but not Israel?  We have tried everything and each time we make a little progress but in the end we are always back at zero.”

And every time the Palestinians actively form a resistance, peaceful or violent, they always end up losing something in the end.  More Palestinians are expelled, more settlements, and the wall are built. 

“It’s too much”, says Omm Ahmad.  “The Palestinians are arguing with each other over power! For what? For a chair?  For a state that actually does not exist?  We are in a very difficult situation.”

“Release the prisoners, let our sons come home! Take Palestine, we don’t want it anymore.  We just want to live our lives—this is not life”, says Omm Ahmad.  “At the end it’s really not worth it.  I’m tired; I’ve spent most of my life going from jail to jail.  There was never a time when all of my sons were at home together.  It’s too much!”

As Omm Ahmad tells her story, she also makes sure to explain that this is not just her story.  This is the story of many other mothers in Palestine.  Boys are imprisoned for consecutive life sentences.  Their parents die, waiting for their children to be released from jail.

In the end, it sounds like Omm Ahmad has lost hope for a solution to her problem, or for Palestine.  But she says, “The hope remains, it is always there, like our faith in God.  But I am a human being, a woman, a mother.  I have a right to feel this way.  I have to take care of my grandchildren and the wives of my sons while they are in prison.  It’s too much.”


Life in Area C…..

May 27, 2010

Oslo Accords and the Creation of “Area C”

After the 1993 Oslo Accords, the final status of the West Bank was deemed to be subject to “upcoming” agreements between Israeli and Palestinian leadership. In the meantime, the authority of the West Bank was divided between Israeli and Palestinian through the creation of three different types of “areas”—A, B, and C.

Area A, which makes up 17% of the land in the West Bank, and is home to 55% of West Bank Palestinians, was put under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B, 59% of the land and 41% of the Palestinians, was put under joint Israeli-Palestinian control—civil authority for the PA and security for the Israelis. Area C makes up 59% of the land and 4% of the Palestinians, is under full Israeli control. There are 150,000 Palestinians living in Area C and 400,000 Jewish settlers living in 120 official settlements and 100 illegal outposts.

Area C contains all of the Israeli settlements, settler roads, security buffer zones, strategic areas, and Israeli military bases and zones. The places in the West Bank that make up most of the Area C are the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and the Judean desert.

While the majority of the Palestinian population lives in Area A and B, much of the land around these Palestinian built-up areas, villages, and cities is defined as Area C. Therefore, many Palestinian communities have lost farmland—vital to the economy of many villages, and the land that their communities would naturally expand into as the population increases. The Israeli military retains full control of the land, roads, water, airspace, security and borders for the land in Area C.

Ethnic Cleansing Via Bureaucracy

Life is made almost impossible for any Palestinians living in or near Area C because of the complex bureaucratic system the Israelis set up for that very reason. Palestinians in Area C need a permit from the Israelis in order to repair their own homes and infrastructure, to build new homes on their own land, to access water, and to access their own farmland. Needless to say, these permits are not given out in a timely manner, if at all.

The Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, especially the bedouin communities, have been facing the most intense Israeli policies aimed at cleansing the area of Palestinians so that Israel can take over full control of the resources there. Another Israeli aim in taking over the Jordan Valley (30%  of the West Bank territory) is to unilaterally establish an eastern border of the West Bank that would isolated it inside Israel–without any borders leading to other, more friendly countries.

Since 1967, Israel has been carrying out a “creeping” ethnic cleansing on the residents of the Jordan valley through its permit system and other policies–taking the Palestinian population down from 320,000 to only 56,000 today. 

One example of the irrationality of the permit system is in Jiftlik, a village in the Jordan Valley—which is almost entirely Area C. In Jiftlik, they have had to put electricity poles in concrete blocks which are placed above the ground instead of digging a hole for them because according to the Israelis, digging holes more than 40 cm in the ground is illegal.

Sometimes you will see corrugated tin roofs camouflaged with plastic covering because building a roof out of metal counts as “building a second storey” in the Israeli system. And of course, they would need an impossible-to-get permit for that.

“Breathing is the only thing we don’t need a permit for—yet!” Said Abed Kasab, one of the residents of the village.

Economic Damage in Area C

The economies of the villages and cities in or near Area C have been very negatively affected by the restrictions placed on them. It is the same for Palestinians living in communities near the Separation Wall—which has isolated them from other cities making economic trade and travel to access services such as health care almost impossible. By 2008, over 3,000 businesses were forced to close in the West Bank because of the Separation Wall’s construction through or near their communities.

Qalqilia and Tulkarem

In Qalqilia,  the Separation Wall has completely surrounded the city, leaving just one Israeli-controlled gate to allow any people and goods in or out. The isolation of Tulkarem due to settlement blocs and the Wall has also been significant. 37% of the West Bank agricultural land is found in the Jenin, Tulkarem, and Qalqilia governorates.

The damage done to the land in these areas by the Separation Wall is severe. At the beginning of its construction, 83,000 olive and other fruit trees, 615 dunams of irrigated land, 37 km of water networks, and 15 km of agricultural roads were destroyed systematically.

In addition, 238,350 dunams of land were isolated between the Green Line and the Separation wall, 57% of which was cultivated and is now almost inaccessible to the Palestinian farmers.  The worst effect of this land confiscation is poverty—by isolation and fragmentation.


Economically, Nablus has been under siege since the beginning of the Second Intifada. Huwwara checkpoint, just outside the city of Nablus, was the only way to get in or out of the city. This made trade and business almost impossible for years, strangling the economy.

To make matters worse, the Israeli military would arbitrarily close the checkpoint for different amounts of time—causing normal life to stop in Nablus. When Huwwara checkpoint is operating “normally” the line of cars waiting to leave or enter Nablus can be kilometers long, and the people must wait for hours.


In Hebron, the Israeli settlers took over apartments right in the middle of the city. This area is now referred to as H2—and has caused extreme damage to the economy of Hebron because it is located in the central market of the city. Here, around 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians.

The settlers’ presence has been slowly choking the economy of Hebron. The settlers are protected by the Israeli military—who have set up checkpoints throughout the marketplace to ensure the safety and freedom of movement for the settlers while denying both to the Palestinian residents.

More than half of the shops in the central marketplace have been forcibly shut down, or gone out of business due to the presence of settlers, military, and checkpoints in the market. Palestinian shop owners have to put chain link fencing above the alleyways outside their shops because the settlers, who have taken over the upstairs apartments, routinely throw garbage, glass bottles, and even sewage water down on the shops and people below.

Violent Effects of Settlements on Area C Palestinians


The settlers in Hebron are the most violent in the West Bank, they systematically attack their Palestinian neighbors with complete impunity. Of course, they are allowed to carry automatic rifles and are protected by the IDF, so they can beat any Palestinian they want, or rip the veil off of any woman with no consequences.

South Hebron Hills

In the South Hebron hills, which are in the middle of Area C, the settlers constantly attack the Palestinian villagers. Sometimes they send dogs on the Palestinians, other times settlers wearing hoods or masks wait for the school children or shepherds to walk home where they stone them, beat them, or steal from them.

Recently, a 6 year old child who was grazing his sheep in an area isolated by the barrier near the settlement of Shani, was physically assaulted by a settler. Also, the settlers destroy olive and fruit trees as well as burning entire agricultural fields.


Nablus is surrounded by settlements—which are built on the tops of the hills around the city. These settlers are constantly attacking the Palestinians in villages near settlements. Recently, West Bank settlers have been following a “Price Tag” policy in response to international pressure on Israel to freeze settlement construction and dismantle illegal outposts.

This policy requires that for every outpost or building in a settlement demolished, the settlers will organize an attack on neighboring Palestinian communities. This policy has been very obvious in the Nablus area.

Recently, Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement entered Huwwara village near Nablus and vandalized the municipal park—damaging the park lights, sound amplifiers, children’s toys, and olive trees near the park. They also threw stones at a nearby house, breaking several windows.

In addition, on May 4th, settlers set fire to a mosque in Lubban Al Sharqiyya—one day after the Israeli civil administration demolished 5 structures under construction in the settlement of Shave Shomron; a clear Price Tag policy attack. This was the 3rd act of vandalism targeting mosques reported in the northern West Bank since December 2009.


In Salfeet, a city which is surrounded by 17 settlements (built on land confiscated from the city and villages around it), the settlers prefer to send wild boars down on the Palestinians below. These wild boars are huge and very dangerous—in addition to destroying farmland and agriculture, they could also seriously injure or kill anyone who gets in their path.

Environmental Damage Caused by Settlements

What’s more, the surrounding settlements are causing a great deal of environmental damage in the West Bank. Israeli factories that are not within the standards of environmental and health protection of Israel move to the West Bank to bypass these regulations.

Near Salfeet, settlements and factories are causing major environmental damage. They dump chemical waste from factories onto Palestinian fields—which contaminates the produce. The settlers also drain their sewage water into nearby villages and land—causing severe health effects on the people.

Water War

Water availability is another complex issue in Area C. The wells in Area A & B are not completely under Palestinian control, and the ones located in Area C are not available at all to Palestinians. Israeli use of West Bank water is 7 times what the Palestinians use. Area C contains 280 out of 597 wells, and of these only 51 are owned by Israel.

Yet, somehow, Israel’s annual yield of water equates to over 66% of the total water yields in Area C. This is why the Israeli settlements have green grass in every yard, swimming pools, etc…while in Palestinians cities and villages, people can go weeks without water in their homes–especially now, during the summer.


Ban of Settlement Goods in the West Bank

May 23, 2010

According to the Karama Pledge, the purchase of  settlement goods by Palestinians in the West Bank has been officially made illegal by the PA. Anyone caught dealing in settlement goods will be sentenced to 2-5 years imprisonment and up to a $15,000 fine. Youth supporters of the settlement goods boycott have been running a Door-to-Door Campaign around the West Bank handing out information about the boycott, including a list of over 500 banned settlement goods to avoid in the stores.

Surprisingly, Palestinians spend 3 billion dollars annually on settlement goods. Because of this, the boycott has already made a huge impact on the settlement economy–promting settlers to call this move “economic terrorism.”   Since the beginning of the boycott campaign, at least 17 companies in one of the largest illegal Israeli settlements, Ma’ale Adumim, have been forced to close.

The Israeli government claims that the PA is violating its economic trade agreements (according to the Oslo Accords), and the decision has put a strain on the proximity peace talks that recently restarted. However, the move to boycott settlement goods has been supported by the international community, and does not violate the Oslo Accords because the ban is not against Israeli goods in general, but just those produced in illegal settlements.

The main drawback of the boycott for Palestinians is the fact that it is also illegal for them to work in the settlements now–which means thousands of Palestinians will be unemployed. Adding this to the already high unemployment rate in the West Bank will be problematic but Palestinian leadership counters that this boycott is part of a larger, nonviolent resistance to the occupation, and that the effect on the settlements’ economies will be worth the sacrifices.

(President Abbas has just declared his home free of settlement goods, ha.)


“Unoccupied” Israeli Settlements

May 18, 2010

Although more and more people in the West are hearing about illegal Israeli settlements in the media and the problems they are causing for the peace process, most people don’t know that there are reasons other than political and religious ones for occupying someone else’s land.

“Quality of Life” Settlers

This term is used for those Israelis who decide to move to settlements for economic reasons, instead of political or religious ones. They tend to live closer to the Green Line (the internationally recognized 1967 border between the West Bank and Israel).

Ideological Settlers

Israelis who use religious and nationalist reasons to defend living in West Bank settlements—most of these live right in the middle of Palestinian territory and cause the most problems for their Palestinian neighbors.

Ultra-orthodox Settlers

Could be under the category of “quality of life” settlers, because they live in West Bank settlements because of the cheap and segregated (ultra-orthodox only) housing that is close to the Green Line. (Ultra-orthodox housing in Israel is expensive and overcrowded).

Short History of the Settlement Movement

The settler movement was started, as would be expected, by religious ideologists who were and still are fanatically attached to “reclaiming” the biblical Land of Israel as a state for Jewish people. What Israel consists of right now is only a small part of the larger “Land of Israel”—who’s border varies according to which ancient scripture you read but could extend as far as the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River in Iraq.

Shortly after the settlement movement began, the Israeli government began to heavily subsidize the settlements for political reasons, to cater to settlement leaders and to support the right-wing national-religious groups inside Israel. Ideologically, the subsidization of settlements supported the settlement of key areas in the West Bank that had historical connections in Judaism (including the Etzion bloc) and that were in strategic locations (Jordan Valley and anywhere that is high elevation).

Because there weren’t enough fanatical Israelis to populate the necessary areas inside the West Bank for purely ideological reasons, the government decided to motivate settlers economically. Because of this, a new group of Israelis became  drawn to the settlements because they could find cheap housing, tax breaks, subsidies on transportation, education, etc…

“Unoccupied” Settlements

According to a Peace Now survey, about 77% of the almost 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank said they had moved there mainly for economic reasons. There is a large percentage of these “quality of life” settlers who register themselves with the government as living in West Bank settlements, but who do not actually live there full time.

If you visit some of these types of settlements during the middle of the day, you will find that the schools and streets are empty. There are actually not many people who live there full time. Instead, they enjoy the economic benefits of being registered as living there without the hassle of commuting from Israel to the settlements for work and without the security risk of living in occupied territory.

Palestine Monitor ( is currently working on a story to find out how many settlements are actually inhabited full time. So watch for the story in the next couple of weeks.



Summary of Israeli Actions in Bil’in in 2010:

May 10, 2010


 (While most international and Israelis who are detained are released after a few hours of questioning, the Palestinian detainees, especially from the village, usually are held without being charged for 5 or more months before being released on 10,000 shekel bail.)

1.Ranu Ayub

2.Mohammed Ali Yasin

3.Mohammed Khateeb (Popular Committee member)

4. American activist, “Stormy”

5.Hamdi Abu Rahmeh (Israeli Arab, B’tselem volunteer)

6. Ashraf Abu Rahmeh

7.Haitham Al Khateeb (cameraman, B’tselem volunteer)

8.Muheeb Al Barghouthi

 (Al Haya Al Jadida photojournalist)

9-14. 6 other unidentified protestors detained during same protest

15. Unidentified Israeli woman

16.UnidentifiedPalestinian male

(3) Al Jazeera Crew members:

17.Majdi Banura

18.Nader Abu Ze

19. Unidentified Irish crew member

20.Unidentified female Israeli  activist

21. Ashraf Abu Rahmeh (2nd time)

22. Abed Al Fattah Burnat

23. Haitham Al Khateeb (2nd time)

24. Roy Vackner (Israeli)

25. Uri Baytman (Israeli)

26. “Stormy”, US activist (2nd time)

Home Raids:

 There are Israeli raids in Bil’in almost nightly, here are the reported home invasions since January 2010:

 –Home of Ranu Ayub (twice)

–Home of Muhammed Ali Yasin (1, multiple raids in last half of 2009)

 –Home of Muhammed Khateeb (twice)

  –Home of Abed Al Fattah Burnat

 Masked Soldiers enter the village at night and post signs declaring  Bil’in a “closed military area”—meaning it is illegal for any International or Israeli activist to be at the location of the protest on Fridays…effectively making protests illegal and arrest likely.

Injured Palestinians:

 (other than teargas inhalation…which is dozens of “injuries” per week)

At least a dozen unidentified protestors were struck by teargas canisters and rubber coated bullets without being reported.

 1.Abbas Al Maimuny (journalist, struck by teargas canister)

2.Dr. Rateb Abu Rahmeh

(Popular Committee member, struck by teargas canister)

3.Fadi Aljause (cameraman)

4.Haron Amira (reporter)

5.Bassem Ahmad Yassin

6.Ibrahim Burnat

7.Nayif Ghazi

8.Harun Amaieyarah (Palestine TV correspondent)

9.Fadi Al Jayusi (Popular Committee member)

10.Samir Burney (Popular Committee member)

11. 70 year old Palestinian man struck with teargas canister

12.Haitham ___ struck in chest with teargas canister

Injured Israelis: 

Half a dozen unidentified Israeli activists were struck by teargas canisters or rubber coated steel bullets without being reported.

 1.Eydo Medix

2.54 year-old Israeli solidarity activist

3.Emad Rezqa (from Jaffa—shot in the forehead with a teargas canister)


Since Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed after being shot in the chest with a high velocity teargas canister over a year ago, there have been no fatalities in Bil’in.


 In the last half of 2009, 5 members of the Bil’in popular committee against the wall (including Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, Adeed Abu Rahmehwere arrested on charges of “incitement”, stone throwing, and collecting exploded teargas canisters shot at them by the IDF

In addition, over 30 other residents of Bil’in were arrested, 94 residents of Ni’lin were arrested in 2009. Seen as part of an arrest wave that targets activists and organizers throughout the West Bank

Jamal Juma, Wael Al Faqee and Mohammed Othman of the Stop the Wall NGO have also been arrested—both are being held without being charged and on “secret evidence”


“A Cloud Over Jerusalem”—Uri Avnery

May 6, 2010

EVERYONE HAS the right to change his or her mind. Even Danny Tirzeh.

Colonel Tirzeh was responsible for planning the wall that “envelopes” Jerusalem – the one that cuts the city off from the West Bank in order to turn it into the United Capital Of Israel For All Eternity.

And now, suddenly, Tirzeh pops up as the main opponent of the wall he himself planned. He wants to move it, so as to leave the lands of al-Walaja village on the “Israeli” side.

The Colonel has ceased acting on behalf of the Israeli army and now represents private entrepreneurs who want to build 14 thousand housing units for 45 thousand Jewish souls. All this, of course, for the greater good of Zionism, the Jewish people, Israel’s Eternal Capital, and many tens of millions of shekels.

COLONEL TIRZEH is not just anybody. He is a symbol.

For years I kept meeting him in the halls of the Supreme Court. He had become almost a fixture: the star witness, the expert and the moving spirit in scores of hearings dealing with the Separation and Annexation Wall.

He knows everything. Every kilometer of the Wall and the Fence. Every hill, every stone. He always carries with him a large bundle of maps which he lays before the judges, earnestly explaining why the Wall must pass here and not there, why the security of the state demands that the Palestinian villages be separated from their land, why leaving an olive grove in the hands of its owner would expose Israeli soldiers to mortal danger.

Generally, the judges are persuaded. After all, he is the expert. He is the man who knows. How can they take upon themselves the responsibility for changing the route of the Wall, if this could result in Jews being killed?

There are exceptions. At Bil’in village, the court was convinced that the Fence could be moved a few hundred meters without causing the security of the state to collapse and heaps of Jewish bodies to litter the landscape.

So the Supreme Court accepted the plea of the villagers and decided to move the Fence and — nothing. The Fence has remained where it was. The government and the military just ignored the court order.

In vain did the President of the Supreme Court admonish them that her decisions “are not recommendations”. Like dozens of other court decisions concerning the settlers, this one, too, is gathering dust.

The case of Bil’in is especially conspicuous, and not only because protesters – Palestinians, Israelis and others – have been killed and injured there. It is conspicuous because the motive trying to hide behind the Fence is so striking.

Not Zionism. Not security or defense from the terrorists. Not the dreams of generations. Not the vision of Theodor Herzl, whose 150th birthday is being celebrated now.

Just money. Lots of money.

The area lying between the present Fence and the alternative path has been earmarked for the Orthodox settlement Modi’in-Illit. Giant corporations are to build many hundreds of “housing units” there, a business worth many millions.

Everywhere, the areas stolen from the Palestinians immediately turn into real estate. They pass though mysterious channels into the jaws of land sharks. The sharks then build huge housing projects and sell the “housing units” for a fortune.

HOW IS this done? The public is now receiving a lesson in the form of the Holyland affair, a lesson in installments – every day new details emerge and new suspects turn up.

On the site of an old and modest hotel by this name, a giant housing project has sprung up – a line of high-rise apartment buildings and a skyscraper. This ugly monster dominates the landscape – but the part of the project which can be seen from afar is only a fraction of the whole. The other bits have already received the blessing of all the relevant municipal and government authorities.

How? The investigation is still going on. Almost every day, new suspects are being arrested. Almost everybody who has had anything to do with the authorization of the project, up to the highest level, is suspect – ministers, senior government officials, the former mayor, members of the municipal council, and municipal officials. At present, the investigators are trying to trace the bribe money all over the world.

Holyland is located in West Jerusalem (in what before 1948 was the Arab neighborhood of Katamon).

The question naturally arising: if things are done this way in the West of the city, what is happening in the East? If those politicians and officials dare to steal and take bribes in West Jerusalem – what do they allow themselves in East Jerusalem, whose inhabitants have no representation in either the municipality or the government?

ONLY A few minutes drive separate Holyland from the village of al-Walaja.

One could write volumes about this small village, which for more than 60 years has served as a target of abuse.

Briefly: the original village was occupied and annexed to Israel in the 1948 war. The inhabitants were expelled and founded a new village on the part of their land which remained on the other side of the Green Line. The new village was occupied in the 1967 war and annexed to Jerusalem, which was annexed to Israel. According to Israeli law, the houses are illegal. The inhabitants live in their own houses, on their own land, but are officially considered illegal residents who can be evicted at any time.

Now the land sharks are ogling this succulent piece of land, which is worth a lot of money for building projects. They follow the proven Zionist routine. First of all, the Arab name of the place is replaced with a pure Hebrew one, preferably from the Bible. Much as nearby Jebel-Abu-Ghneim became Har Homa, before the eyesore monster housing project was erected there, thus al-Walaja has now become Giv’at Yael. Clearly a place called Hill of Yael must belong to the Jewish people, and it is a divine duty to build another settlement there.

So what if this necessitates the moving of the Wall? One can always find a used army officer who will justify this on security grounds.

FOR YEARS now I have been suggesting that this side of the settlement enterprise should be examined more closely.

The public debate was always about lofty ideals. The divine promise as against the human vision. Greater Israel as against the Two-State solution. Zionist values as against the value of peace. Fascism as against humanism.

And somebody was laughing all the way to the bank.

The settlements are growing rapidly all the time. All over the West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements spring up like toxic mushrooms, poisoning the prospects of peace. In this matter there was never any difference between Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and Binyamin Netanyahu.

Among the settlers there is a hard core of ideological zealots. But many of the builders are just clever businessmen, whose only god is Mammon. They easily make friends with the leaders of Likud and the chiefs of Labor, not to mention the Kadima crowd.

The massive settlements in East Jerusalem – those already existing and those still planned – are proceeding along the same lines as the monster on Holyland hill, and they need the same permits from the same municipal and government authorities. Jerusalem, after all, has been united. Therefore, the same dark cloud is hanging over them.

What is needed is a judicial board of inquiry to investigate all the permits issued in Jerusalem in recent years, certainly from the beginning of Ehud Olmert’s term as mayor. Olmert fought like a tiger for the establishment of Har Homa and the other large settlements in East Jerusalem. All for the sake of Zionism and Jewish rule over the Holy City. Now he is Suspect No. 1.

Everything must be investigated from the beginning. And every new project must be stopped until its propriety has been established beyond any doubt.

THESE THINGS are grave enough in themselves, and they are even more serious when they are located at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israel-US crisis.

For the sake of the Israeli housing projects in East Jerusalem, the Netanyahu government is endangering our lifeline to the US. The extreme-right mayor declares that he doesn’t give a damn for government orders and will continue to build all over, whatever Netanyahu may or may not say. The Palestinians understandably refuse to negotiate with the Israeli government while building activities in East Jerusalem go on.

Shall we endanger the future of Israel for generations, just so that land sharks can make more millions?

Do the patriots who are sharing out East Jerusalem include elected and appointed officials hoping for large bribes from the builders?

Is there a connection between the rampant corruption, of which the Holyland affair is only the tip of the iceberg, and historic national decisions?

In short, will we allow the future of the holy land be sacrificed on the unholy altar of the profits of corruption?