The blimp over Beit El

This photo, taken and tweeted by @Falasteeniiya, and posted here, shows the Israeli surveillance blimp hovering right over the huge Beit El compound — which contains the main Israeli “Civil Administration” headquarters in the West Bank, as well as an IDF military base to guard it as well as a huge sprawling area where there are quite a large number of various types of housing for Israeli settler families.

The blimp arrived over Beit El as the evacuation of some homes in the Ulpana area which an Israeli court ordered evacuated by July 1.

Photo via @Falasteeniiya on Twitter

The court decided that these particular houses [small apartment buildings, apparently] were built on private Palestinian land…

Israeli attorney Michael Sfard, who represented the Palestinian owners of this particular patch of land land in court — Beit El, like the rest of the West Bank, is a patchwork quilt of legality, at least in Israeli eyes — told The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick this week that he “will not be satisfied until my clients get possession of this land back, and replant their vineyards”.  Michael Sfard’s comment to the WSJ is reported here.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense hired movers to assist in the operation, which saw some 15 [or is it 30?] families evacuated from homes which will reportedly be sealed [or is it demolished?]. The families will be moved to “containers” or mobile homes, as temporary lodging, in another area of Beit El, apparently in or near the IDF military base there.

@Falasteeniiya writes that: “It’s a big balloon that’s dropped to float around the city [meaning El-Bireh, a city now almost seamlessly merged with Ramallah], contains cameras & whatever else”…

But it’s arrival coincided totally with the Ulpana evacuation, and it’s clearly directly over head Beit El — it has never been specifically used over Ramallah/El-Bireh, and it doesn’t seem to be now.

This security /surveillance blimp has been  used previously in East Jerusalem [starting on Fridays in Ramadan 2007, then during expected protests] and a few times over Qalandia during protests [notably on May 15 Nakba Day protests in 2011] .

Our previous posts on the blimp can be seen here: – 16 May 2011 – 31 January 2009 – 2 January 2009 – first pictures – 21 September 2007 – 21 September 2007

    Meanwhile, back to the main issue.  Jessica Montell of B’Tselem wrote in Foreign Policy, here, that in the Ulpana evacuation story, “this whole episode was little more than a shell game. It kept Israelis’ eyes focused on the fast-moving developments of the story: Will the residents accept the government’s compromise to relocate them from private land to state land? Will Israeli extremists respond with acts of violence against Palestinians or against the military, as they have in the past? How much will this whole exercise cost us, the taxpayers? Meanwhile, the public lost track of the real story, which is the utter legal, political, and moral bankruptcy of Israel’s settlement policy. For starters, it’s important to understand that the whole distinction between private and public land in the West Bank is artificial. To obtain land for settlement construction, Israel manipulated, rewrote, and violated the relevant land laws to illegally declare huge areas of the West Bank as state lands. Almost all these state lands have been transferred to the control of the settlements, which now hold more than 40 percent of the West Bank. Yet even properly recognized ‘state lands’ in the West Bank do not belong to Israelis. The West Bank is not part of the State of Israel. We’re talking about occupied territory, where the Israeli military — not the Israeli parliament — makes law. According to international humanitarian law, which governs situations of occupation, the military is obligated to act solely on the basis of two considerations: its own security needs and the welfare of the local population. Any use of state lands, therefore, must advance one of these considerations.  But Israel’s settlement policy fails dismally on both counts. No one claims anymore that the settlements advance security — if anything, they are a security burden for the military. Likewise, no one could claim that settlements advance the welfare of Palestinians. In fact, settlements cause tremendous suffering for Palestinians, affecting all aspects of their daily life. The settlement project is the primary obstacle to ending the occupation and allowing Palestinians to build flourishing communities of their own. The settlements have resulted in a series of restrictions — checkpoints and other physical obstacles, restrictions on the roads, and a circuitous route of the separation barrier — which disrupt Palestinian movement within the West Bank and hinder access to jobs, hospitals, religious sites, and schools. Every day, they deny Palestinians access to land, water, and other natural resources to which they are entitled. Israel has created two systems of law in the West Bank. Israeli civil law, with all the rights and benefits of a liberal democracy, applies to the residents of the settlements. Palestinians are governed by military law, which does not recognize a whole host of basic rights like freedom of speech and assembly, and maintains a draconian military court system. This is the legal farce that the settlements have created: Two peoples, in some cases literally living side by side, are governed by two very different legal systems based solely on their ethnicity“.

It’s less astonishing that so many Israelis bought into the patchwork-quilt scheme that their political + military authorities created in the West Bank than that the country’s leadership confidently created it in the first place. Especially given that it’s a conflict situation, most Israelis believed in their government [and not what the hostile “others” said, including both the Palestinians and the “international community”].

It was a vast, deliberate and very successful deception.

But, as the Israeli government has not [yet] annexed the West Bank [except, in late June 1967, some three weeks after their conquest in the “Six-Day” War, the crescent of neighborhoods surrounding the Old City of East Jerusalem, which was then melded with West Jerusalem to become, unilaterally, the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality”], there is no legal basis for any claim to permanent title to land there.

There is just the temporary recognition [which is no longer temporary, after 45 years] of the doctrine of military necessity in administering the occupied territory. This may justify military bases, but it does not validate civilian settlements [which then require more military attention, and protection].

It is the Israeli military — and not the Prime Minister and the rest of his cabinet or his large political coalition — which rules the West Bank.

But, without batting an eyelash, the Israeli government allocated land for a spectrum of purposes including settlement building, and it constructed a vast infrastructure throughout the West Bank to service those settlements — roads, electricity including road lighting, water pipes and installation [though not sewage — no time!], telephone lines, and mobile telephone network connectivity]. All of this infrastructure is an extension of the Israeli grid. Private banks created financial schemes to construct and sell private Israeli housing in these settlements.

The military accepts all these “faits accomplis” or “facts on the ground” as somehow “legal”, and the Israeli Supreme Court by and large goes along with it as well.

The only opposition is from a small sector of the Israeli population scorned as “leftists” — which in Israel does not mean Marxists, Communists, or advocates of centrally-planned economies, but rather it means those who are against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. These few leftists are the advocates in Israel of the Two-State Solution that the “Quartet” has persuaded the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, and Secretariat to endorse. The Israeli political and military echelon may use the term and endorse the concept of a “Two-State Solution”, but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing as their own scorned “leftists”, much less the rest of the world.

The reality created by Israeli settlement in the West Bank is a more powerful reality to many Israelis than the faith- or ideology-based bibilical justifications cited by the religious-national settler movement who claim with near-messianic fervor: “It’s ours!”

Shaul Mofaz, leader of the Kadima opposition party who has just joined forces with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, said in a speech at the Washington Institute on 20 June that Israel should annex
the “settlement blocs” — which he left undefined, but he seems to mean more than the big three [Ariel, Maale Adumim, and Gush Etzion] that have been the subject of quasi-negotiations for the last decade. Beit El would certainly also be in Israeli possession under any such proposal [which would leave Ramallah
itself an isolated “Bantustan”]. Then, Mofaz said, these “settlement blocs” would be the new eastern boundary of the State of Israel. The Palestinians would agree to take the rest — 65 percent of the West Bank land, with 99 percent of the Palestinians living in the West Bank — in some kind of “entity or state”, Mofaz said in Washington…

    UPDATE: Amir Mizroch included this situation in his blog post today about “What Israelis Want“, published here. What Israelis want, Mizroch argued, is everything — and entirely their way:
    “the settlers want to ‘redeem’ all the land of Judea and Samaria [i.e., the West Bank] beyond the Green Line, and either expel the Palestinians living there, or live with them in a binational state [question to Mizroch, part of Israel?, or a second state possibly to be called “Palestine”???]. The settlers who built their homes on private Palestinian land want the courts to recognize the legality of their purchases. And if the courts won’t do that, the settlers want their politicians to come up with a law that overrules the courts, and makes their purchases legal. If that doesn’t happen either, and the government is forced to remove the illegally built homes, it will chop them up into 100 bits each and reconstruct them on state-owned land. The government does not want to do this again, ever, so it is setting up a committee to determine anew what is considered legal and illegal land beyond the Green Line, as the previous report [drafted by left-winger Talia Sasson] is abhorrent to the current government [even though Sasson’s report was commissioned by a Likud government under Ariel Sharon]”

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