Uzbek-Israeli multi-millionaire funds illegal settlements
A farmer from Jayyous watching the destruction of his land to make way for the new wall, 13 January. Photo by Mohammad Othman.
By Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada
February 18, 2013
Israel continued its colonization of Palestinian land with the erection of a new settler outpost on the land of a West Bank village at the end of last month.
The Palestinian village of Jayyous is situated close to the town of Qalqilya. The new outpost of seven caravans was immediately connected to the water system of nearby settlement Zufim which was constructed with financial aid from Africa Israel’s owner Lev Leviev [see below].
The settlers have erected the outpost in response to a lawsuit in which the farmers of Jayyous “regained” 6,200 dunums of the 8,600 dunums of fertile lands that were confiscated by Israel during the construction of the wall in 2002 (a dunam is 1000 square meters).
Ghassan Harami, head of Jayyous village council, told the WAFA news agency that the caravans were set up under the protection of the Israeli army. The land in the area was razed and the caravans were connected with electricity, according to Harami.
Illegal construction of new wall
Meanwhile, Caterpillar equipment was used to uproot olive trees to pave the way for the new wall on the land of Jayyous. This construction is a violation of international law.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice confirmed in its advisory opinion on the wall that the Israeli settlements and the wall built on Palestinian land are unlawful. The court ruled that Israel should immediately stop the construction of the wall in the occupied West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, and to immediately dismantle the wall.
The protests against the developments by the youth of Jayyous can be followed on this Facebook group.
Thanks to Mohammad Othman for his input.
By Adalah-NY, Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in New York City.
Shaya Boymelgreen and Lev Leviev: destroying communities and violating laws in Palestine and New York City.
Israeli American real estate developer Shaya Boymelgreen and Israeli businessman Lev Leviev are building destructive projects in New York City and in the Occupied West Bank in Palestine. Leviev and Boymelgreen are building strategic settlements in the Occupied West Bank which violate international law and aim to ensure Israeli control over key areas in the West Bank, rendering peace between Israelis and Palestinians impossible. In Palestine and in New York City they are committing similar abuses: expelling low-income, local residents from their communities, violating laws, and exploiting laborers
Leviev, one of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen, is building the Mattityahu East settlement on the lands of the village of Bil’in with partner Shaya Boymelgreen, the Zufim settlement on the lands of the village of Jayyous, and the strategic West Bank settlements of Har Homa and Maale Adumim around Jerusalem which divide the northern West Bank from the Southern West Bank. In Bil’in and Jayyous, Boymelgreen and Leviev are building settlements on village land despite intensive nonviolent protest campaigns mounted by the two Palestinian villages against the construction.
Leviev, a major diamond trader who mines diamonds in Africa and polishes them in Israel, uses some of these profits to help finance his illegal settlement construction. Shaya Boymelgreen, until recently Leviev’s partner in real estate development in New York City and still his partner in building Mattityahu East, has angered so many so many community members in New York City with his abusive developments that he has become the target of local organizing campaigns.
Zufim and Mattityahu East settlements, built by Leviev and Boymelgreen, are projects “that aimed both to establish enclaves in the Occupied Territories for wealthy, more ‘mainstream’ settlers, and to dissolve the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 border) by creating ‘facts on the ground’—linking the new settlements to communities inside the Line, while expanding the latter in the direction of the Territories.”
[Lev Leviev invested millions in illegal settlements]
By Gadi Algazi, Le Monde Diplomatique
August 04, 2006
Modi’in Illit was founded in 1996, under the name Kiryat Sefer. Unlike most settlements, usually founded by an alliance of state authorities, Zionist organisations and radical settlers’ movements, it was founded by private entrepreneurs after the Oslo accords, during the years of ruthless privatisation. It became an example of a new style of colonial settlement, led by private capital and backed by the state. The local council has accorded its powerful investors special treatment (Israel’s state comptroller revealed that it had ignored building regulations and reduced taxes). Thousands of housing units were built in violation of the law: the local council approved them and adjusted the zoning plan retroactively. In Israel’s Wild East, the political urgency of the colonisation process works together with investors’ attempts to secure quick profits and gives developers a free hand.
According to a 1998 investigation, the entire Brachfeld estate, built on the lands of Bil’in, had no construction permits. But no house was demolished. Much of the town’s sewage flows into the Modi’in stream, polluting water resources. This is not just corruption or mismanagement but a structural feature of the colonial frontier: unregulated settlement activity allows vast profits at the expense of the environment, human and natural.
The residents of Bil’in face a powerful alliance of political and economic interests. Two neighbourhoods will be built on their stolen lands. The Green Park project is being constructed by Dania Cebus, a subsidiary of Africa-Israel Corporation, a real-estate investment firm owned by one of Israel’s most powerful businessmen, Lev Leviev. It is a massive project, a $230m enterprise with 5,800 apartments. The revenues of Africa-Israel recorded a sharp increase in 2005 and its operating profits grew by 129%. All these investments depend on the route of the wall, which will make the new neighbourhoods safe and raise the value of land investments, but divide the villagers of Bil’in from their lands, completing the annexation process.
The developers who claim to be the legal owner of the lands on which a new neighbourhood is being built are Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property and the little-known Land Redemption Fund. The custodian, a government body entrusted with the management of absentee land, has played a key role in taking possession of Palestinian land . The fund, established 20 years ago, coordinates the takeover of Palestinian land in key areas earmarked for the expansion of the settlements. Its founders include ideological leaders of the settlers, as well as Era Rapaport, a leader of the settlers’ terrorist network that operated in the occupied territories in the early 1980s. He served several years in prison for his involvement in an assassination attempt on the mayor of Nablus, Bassam al-Shak’a, who was maimed in the attack.
The fund’s acquisition methods are described in an investigation by Israeli journalists : “The fund’s intelligence network is made up of former [Palestinian] collaborators who were discovered and returned to their villages, retired Israeli General Security Services operatives who are information contractors for pay, and former military governors”, who use their “connections in the villages”. Arabs act as mediators in the deals, usually posing as buyers, while the lands are purchased “funded by money from rightwingers such as Lev Leviev and the Swiss tycoon Nissan Khakshouri”. Similar methods were used to take possession of the lands of Bil’in.
The project is inextricably both economic and political. The fund’s donors include capitalists who are settlement builders, and real estate investors. Their considerable donations to the radical settlers’ fund are made less from political conviction than for profit. The same alliance exists elsewhere in the West Bank, for example in the settlement of Tzufin, where an 11-fold expansion is under way. The developer is a company controlled by Lev Leviev.
The areas on which the fund has chosen to focus are also significant:
Its main project is to blur the Green Line [Israel’s pre-1967 border] by linking the settlements [in the West Bank] to communities inside the Green Line and expanding communities inside the Green Line in the direction of the territories . . . to create facts on the ground.
Shosh Mula and Ofer Petersburg, “The Settler National Fund”, Yediot Aharonot, Tel Aviv, 27 January 2005.
These settlements are part of a larger project, begun in the 1980s, to dissolve the Green Line by creating middle-class settlements for non-ideological settlers close to Israel’s economic centres. The second intifada halted this but it resumed gradually in 2003 with the completion of parts of the separation wall, leading to the de facto annexation of areas of the West Bank between the wall and Israel. Higher living standards were promised in a space made safe for investors and settlers, as Palestinian communities were made to disappear behind the wall: discreet ethnic cleansing.
So Israel’s settlements near the Green Line and adjacent to the wall have a strategic significance. Even before the last election there was a broad pro-wall coalition which has now crystallised around the political legacy of Ariel Sharon, an alliance of devotees of gradual annexation (“Israel should keep the settlement blocs”) and “reasonable” colonial expansion (compared with the “bad” ideological settlers), united under the banner of ethnic separation and economic privatisation. This alliance promises Israelis not peace, but unilateral pacification and partial annexation as the West Bank is broken into walled enclaves.
It took some time for the Fence Coalition to take political shape, and its adherents go well beyond Kadima (Forward), the party formed around Sharon and his designated heir, Ehud Olmert. But on the ground, on the hills of the West Bank, the coalition has been evolving socially and economically for some time. At its core is an unholy alliance between settlers and state agencies subsidising the walls, real-estate companies and hi-tech entrepreneurs, the old economy and the new. The settlements now being built or expanded near the separation wall are the place where these important alliances are forged.
These settlements are not based on messianic fervour alone, but offer answers to social needs – quality of life for the upper middle class, jobs and subsidised housing for the underprivileged. They broaden the social base of the settlement movement and link it to additional constituencies, particularly the real wall profiteers: contractors, capitalists and the upper class seeking a grander life in gated communities, far from the poor and shielded from the Palestinians. They also tie to colonisation those searching for a way out of hardship, large families looking for cheap housing or new immigrants dependent on government subsidies and seeking social acceptance. These pay the price of the hostility and hatred that the wall generates, and are completely dependent on capitalists and politicians.
During the years of the Oslo peace process, settlements kept expanding and the number of settlers in the occupied territories more than doubled. Most of this massive expansion was in a few large settlements populated by non-ideological settlers: immigrants from the Russian Federation and Ethiopia channelled by state authorities, residents of poor neighbourhoods trying to better their lives, and large ultra-orthodox families seeking subsidised housing. They joined the colonial project reluctantly, only after the mid-1990s, no doubt because of the rapid privatising and dismantling of the welfare state within Israel. Two settlements of ultra-orthodox Jews, in Modi’in Illit and Betar Illit, together comprise more than a quarter of the West Bank settler population. Yet according to a recent survey, compared with Jewish communities within Israel and other West Bank settlements they are the poorest communities.
Residents of Modi’in Illit told Haaretz they did not consider themselves settlers (9). The housing shortage had pushed large ultra-orthodox families to the settlement where they receive government assistance and public housing not available in Israel. An expert on the ultra-orthodox said: “Their situation was so desperate, that they were prepared to move anywhere.” (Which is what settler leaders counted on.) “But even if they didn’t come here for ideological reasons,” said a spokesman for the Settlers’ Council, “they won’t give up their homes easily.” So the mechanism that incorporates people in colonialism and makes them settlers despite themselves is openly discussed. In 2003 the mayor of Betar Illit said the ultra-orthodox were sent to the occupied territories against their will as “cannon fodder”. Now, as the wall approaches, the settlers of Modi’in Illit and Betar Illit will set their hopes on it, seeking security in its shadow and identifying with the process of dispossession.
[Lev Leviev was born in the former Soviet Union and emigrated to Israel when he was 15. He maintains ties with Vladimir Putin and is President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS – the association of former, non-Baltic, Soviet states.].]