Israel Pushing Settlement Expansion

Fans of Scottish team Celtic raise Palestinian flags during a game against Israeli team Hapoel Beersheba last year
Fans of Scottish team Celtic raise Palestinian flags during a game against Israeli team Hapoel Beersheba last year

ISRAEL is pushing forward with its plans to construct over 100 new settler units in southern West Bank! This is in grave contravention of international law and a United Nations Security Council resolution against the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation and settlement expansion policies in occupied Palestinian lands.

Meanwhile sports brand Adidas has been given an ultimatum by 130 Palestinian football clubs and sports associations: Stop sponsoring Israeli settlers or face a boycott. According to a detailed plan published on the Israeli Interior Ministry’s website, a total of 102 new housing units will be constructed at Nigot settlement west of Dura city, located eleven kilometres southwest of al-Khalil (Hebron), on an area of 291 dunums. The project will be overseen by the so-called Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organisation.

Israeli authorities have reportedly erected caravans and started the construction of a road to pave the way for the new project. Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to ‘immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem’ al-Quds.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

There have been regular anti-US protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since December 6, when Trump declared that Washington recognised Jerusalem al-Quds as the ‘capital’ of Israel and was moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. Many say Trump’s move has effectively killed any chances of further negotiations.

However Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated to the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday his commitment to the peace process and the two-state solution. Speaking at a press conference with Heiko at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, Foreign Minister Riyad Malki said Abbas briefed his German guest on the latest in the developments on the ground, particularly following the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which he said led the Palestinians to reject a US role in the peace process with Israel.

‘Palestine supports the two-state solution and is committed to direct negotiations with Israel,’ President Abbas told Heiko. But this has to come through a multilateral peace conference to push for negotiations based on United Nations resolutions. Malki said President Abbas expressed Palestine’s appreciation for Germany and its support for the Palestinians and the peace process.

Haiko said Germany supports the two state solution and negotiations, stressing that ‘it will be difficult without a role for the US on the table.’

Meanwhile Israeli forces detained on Monday at least 19 Palestinians including minors across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, local sources said.

Israeli forces detained eight Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiyeh, including an entire family identified as Basil Mahmoud, his wife Amina, and their sons Momen and Mamoun. In addition, forces detained two brothers from the Obeid family and two youths from the Attieh family. Israeli forces also detained three Palestinians from the village of Anata, east of Jerusalem, and three from Hebron, in the south of the West Bank, including two minors aged 16 from Arroub refugee camp.

Israeli forces raided Dheisheh refugee camp to the south of Bethlehem, detained a Palestinian after they raided his home and ransacked it, beat two people and seized surveillance cameras.

From the northern governorates of Qalqilya and Jenin, Israeli forces detained a youth from Kufr Qaddoum after raiding his home in the town and three from Jenin, including two ex-prisoners.

• 130 Palestinian football clubs and sports associations have vowed to boycott the Adidas sport brand if it does not end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association.

This is because of its inclusion of teams based in settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law.

The German sportswear giant received the warning in a letter this week signed by 130 Palestinian football clubs and sports associations.

The letter cautions Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted that as the main international sponsor of the Israel Football Association (IFA), ‘Adidas is lending its brand to cover up and whitewash Israel’s human rights abuses’ and give ‘international cover to Israel’s illegal settlements.’

Adidas is one of the top sponsors of teams in European leagues, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

In other regions Adidas also seeks to raise its profile by backing top clubs. For example in South Africa, Adidas sponsors the Orlando Pirates and Ajax Cape Town, both of which play in the country’s premier league. In a 2016 report, Human Rights Watch detailed how world football governing body FIFA profits from serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by allowing the Israel Football Association to conduct games in West Bank settlements.

Palestinians and human rights defenders campaigned for several years to get FIFA to exclude the settlement clubs.But despite promising to address the issue, FIFA repeatedly bowed to Israeli pressure.

Last May, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino effectively rigged a vote in the body’s congress to protect Israel from sanctions. In October, FIFA made what appeared to be the final capitulation, giving Israeli teams a green light to continue playing on occupied land, in violation of FIFA’s own policies barring one member association from holding matches on the territory of another without permission. Palestinians now appear to be targeting their campaign directly at sponsors.

The Palestinian clubs warn Adidas that continued complicity with Israel’s settlements ‘may expose it to consumer-led boycott campaigns in the Arab world and globally.’ The Palestinian clubs caution Adidas that its involvement in the settlements makes it eligible to appear in a UN database of companies that profit from Israel’s illegal colonisation of Palestinian land.

Backing the call, former Palestinian national team player Mahmoud Sarsak stated that ‘Palestinian footballers are routinely forced to endure Israeli military raids and tear gas on our fields, denied by Israel our right to travel to matches, and have seen our teammates killed and our stadiums bombed.’

Sarsak himself was jailed by Israel for three years without charge or trial and only released after a three-month hunger strike that brought him to the edge of death.

‘Adidas’ sponsorship of the IFA prominently places its iconic logo on Israel’s abuses of our rights,’ Sarsak added. ‘The company must immediately cut ties with the IFA.’ There is a growing consensus among human rights defenders and legal experts that any business activity in the settlements is incompatible with respecting human rights and violates international law.

Human Rights Watch has called on businesses to end all activities in or with Israeli settlements. Amnesty International has called on governments to ban the import of all settlement goods. In February, Honda abandoned a motorcycle racing event that had been scheduled to take place in an Israeli settlement after appeals from human rights defenders and warnings from Palestinians that the Japan-based multinational could face boycott calls.

While race organisers blamed safety concerns and the weather, Israeli media credited the impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for the cancellation. The football clubs point out that Adidas previously ended its sponsorship of Israel’s ‘Jerusalem marathon’ after widespread protests against the race, which passed through occupied East Jerusalem.

Hind Awwad from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel noted too that in 2016 Adidas ended its sponsorship of the International Association of Athletics Federations, citing doping and corruption scandals plaguing the organisation as a breach of contract. ‘Surely involvement in Israeli settlements built in violation of international law should be grounds for ending sponsorship’ of the Israeli association, Awwad stated. ‘Adidas has a responsibility to do the right thing and heed the call from Palestinian football clubs to end its sponsorship of the IFA.’