by Edwin Black
[This article is in 3 parts and posted here in its entirety.]
“Area C,” which comprises some 60 percent of the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria, is making news these days. This time, the hot button issue is illegal Palestinian settlements sprouting across the region, shredding the last vestige of the Oslo Accords, which, for a generation, propelled the “two-state solution.”
Most observers of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis are accustomed to hearing talk of “illegal Jewish settlements” on slivers of land comprising one to two percent of the West Bank, mostly near the green line of Israel proper. But, attention now focuses on an explosion of thousands of illegal Palestinian constructions: village clusters, agricultural tracts, water networks, roads, and general infrastructure crisscrossing Area C of the West Bank. All of this violates the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, which specify full Israeli administrative control in Area C. Under the international agreement, only the Israeli Civil Administration can authorize new construction in the zone—for Israeli and Arab alike. However, continuous waves of recent Palestinian settlements are being established without permits—often without even bothering to apply. One senior official of the Israeli security apparatus called it “the wild west.”
According to Israeli activist watchdog groups, such as Regavim, in the past half-decade, illegal Palestinian settlements and infrastructure have sprawled across more than 9,000 dunams in more than 250 Area C locations, supported by more than 600 kilometers of illegally constructed access roads and more than 112,000 meters of retaining walls and terracing. This massive works project is being conducted in broad daylight, often heralded by tall announcement placards and proud press releases.
When questioned, various Israeli government officials did not dispute the Regavim numbers. In exasperation, one military spokesman close to the Area C files located at Bet El estimated “close to 10,000” illegal construction efforts are now underway—adding they felt “powerless to stop them.” The rapid build-up is funded by hundreds of millions of euros annually, funneled by the European Union and individual European nations into scores of building and infrastructure projects.
Understanding the tortuous history that created the current sovereignty vacuum in Area C can be daunting and confusing.
Leaving out 99 percent of everything … the indigenous Israelites of Canaan were expelled starting in 70 C.E. by the Romans, who renamed the region “Syria-Palaestina”—or Palestine, for the Philistine sea invaders from the Greek Islands. In about 637 C.E., the Islamic invasion swept up from the Arabian Peninsula to conquer and convert. For about four centuries, the Turkish Ottoman Empire governed until its 1918 defeat in World War I. After WWI, the Allies dismembered Ottoman colonies throughout the Middle East and concomitantly encouraged self-determination for ethnic peoples across the Levant. The League of Nations, in association with 51 countries and competing nationalist groups, eventually established five modern Arab countries: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, modern Hejaz (Arabia) and post-colonial modern Egypt, plus one democratic and pluralistic Jewish State in Palestine. The original 1920 “Mandate” boundaries of the modern Jewish State extended from the Mediterranean Sea across the area now known as Jordan—a country which then did not exist.
The Arabs were shortchanged by the French in their quest for an Arab Kingdom in Syria. So, in recompense, the British modified the Palestine Mandate in September 1922 by virtue of an official memorandum, carving off some 70 percent of the intended Jewish nation to invent Trans-Jordan (now Jordan)—the territory extended from the Jordan River east to the borders of Iraq and what is now Saudi Arabia. For decades, co-existence between Arabs and Jews in the former Turkish colony could not be achieved. In 1947, the non-binding UN Resolution 181—known as Partition—recommended side-by-side Jewish and Arab states. In those days, the identity of the two peoples was “Arab” and “Jewish,” as local Arabs did not adopt the identity of “Palestinian” until about 1964.
Israel accepted Partition, but the Arabs refused. The surrounding League-created Arab nations attacked the newly declared Jewish State. In 1948, Jordan (created by the British memo) illegally invaded and annexed the area west of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem, thus coining the new term, “West Bank” for the still-disputed former Turkish colonial provinces.
In 1967, when Israel fought its preemptive Six Day War, expelling Jordan, the Jewish State occupied this same disputed former Turkish colonial region, still called the West Bank. In 1988, Jordan rescinded any claim of sovereignty, deepening the sovereignty vacuum.
In 1993 and 1995, after years of diplomatic wrangling, Israel and the avowed terror group Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords, envisioning a peaceful two-state solution. Under the complex Oslo Accords, and subsequent modifications at Wye, Sharm el-Sheikh, and elsewhere, the “West Bank” is divided into three separate administrative zones, Areas A, B and C.
Area A is reserved for Palestinian civil and administrative control and seats the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Area B is governed by Palestinian civil control under a joint Israeli-Palestinian security apparatus.
Area C —also called Judea and Samaria—comprises roughly 60 percent of the West Bank. It more closely resembles the Biblical and original international demarcation of a Jewish State during the initial League of Nations mandate—but is now considered occupied by the international community. The majority of Area C residents are Israelis—an estimated 325,000 alongside some 300,000 Arabs. In essence, Oslo normalized and structured the Israeli occupation and administration of the disputed former Turkish lands.
But by virtue of a cumulative multibillion-euro effort, European capitals are working hard to destabilize the last pillars of the Oslo Accords. Thus, these countries seek to create a Palestinian state along the 1948 armistice line — also known as the 1967 lines— without further consulting the Jewish State. This ensures the Palestinian Authority knows it need not negotiate with Jerusalem—even as the United States and Gulf countries make a daring dash to achieve peace.
As the urgency of Area C is becoming clearer, still murky is the source of the diverse European funding that enables this conflict and the routes those billions of euros take across the Mediterranean. What’s more, there is widespread fear that millions in funds are continuously funneled through entities openly accused of being affiliated with established terrorist organizations.
Who’s Funding Illegal Palestinian Settlements in Area C—Nearly 10,000 Cases – Part 2
“Area C,” which comprises some 60 percent of the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria, has become highly volatile again. In the past, debate has centered on Jewish settlements. Now, “illegal Palestinian settlements” sprouting across the region, are under the spotlight.
According to Israeli activist watchdog groups such as Regavim, during the last five years, illegal Palestinian settlements and infrastructure have sprawled across more than 9,000 dunams in more than 250 Area C locations, supported by more than 600 kilometers of illegally constructed access roads and more than 112,000 meters of retaining walls and terracing. This massive works project is being conducted in broad daylight, often heralded by tall announcement placards and proud press releases.
Israeli government officials contacted did not dispute the Regavim numbers. In exasperation, one military spokesman close to the Area C files estimated “close to 10,000” illegal construction efforts are now underway—adding they feel “powerless to stop them.”
In the 1990s, after years of diplomatic wrangling, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords, envisioning a peaceful two-state solution. Under the complex Oslo Accords, the “West Bank” is divided into three separate administrative zones, Areas A, B and C.
Area A is reserved for Palestinian civil and administrative control and seats the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Area B is governed by Palestinian civil control under a joint Israeli-Palestinian security apparatus.
Area C —also called Judea and Samaria—comprises roughly 60 percent of the West Bank. The majority of Area C residents are Israelis—an estimated 325,000 alongside some 300,000 Arabs. Under the Oslo Accords, only the Israeli Civil Administration can authorize new construction in the zone—for Israeli and Arab alike.
But in 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad introduced the so-called Fayyad Plan, well-described by a 2011 article in the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture as having “the potential to dramatically transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, by extension, the Middle Eastern political landscape.” The analysis adds, “The essence of the Fayyad plan involves establishing an internationally recognized demilitarized Palestinian state encompassing both the West Bank and Gaza, based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Since August 2009, Fayyad, with the help of the Barack Obama administration and the European Union, has been quietly building national institutions and physical infrastructure … in the West Bank.”
To create a de facto Palestinian State without further negotiation or even diplomatic consultation with the Israelis, European countries, individually and through the EU, have pumped hundreds of millions of euros annually into scores of illegal state-building and related projects—called Area C “interventions.” Just one cluster of the “European Union Area C Development Programme” boasts a €300 million annual commitment, and within three years, is budgeted to reach about €1.5 billion. A single 1650-meter roadnear Jenin in Area C was funded with a €500,000 allocation.
The Area C Palestinian boom advances without any coordination with Israelis about land use, security, environmental impacts, or close proximity to Jewish villages. The PA’s 2014 Roots Project greatly accelerated the entire process. Thus, European governments and the PA have completed the shredding of the already-weakened Oslo agreements.
Most of new Area C settlements are not natural Arab urban growth or urban sprawl. Rather, they are often strategically scattered to effectively carve up Area C, sometimes surround Jewish villages, and sometimes push onto Israeli nature or military reserves.
In many instances, Arab residents from Areas A and B are bused in, encouraged by incentives to relocate or start a second home in the new settlements. Some structures are makeshift festooned with the logo of the European Union. Some are multi-floor office centers. Other times, palatial homes are built. The gamut of construction styles can be seen.
In several cases, the illegal constructions are deliberately established on Israeli military reserves. Since the 1970s, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have maintained military training and firing ranges, such as Firing Zone 918. That zone now has illegal settlements.
One road, dubbed Smuggler’s Route, courses through the hills from the Palestinian city of Yatta all the way to the Arad Valley in the Negev.
In prior years, Israel’s Civil Administration boasted of its many Palestinian construction permits. A glowing report cites 328 projects authorized during 2011 and 2012. That number has drastically diminished because Area C Palestinians no longer apply for permits; they deny Israel’s right to issue them. Now, they just start building.
While the sudden development rush has been percolating into the Jewish and Israeli media, many Jewish leaders worldwide are completely unaware of this phenomenon. Many are incredulous that the Israeli government has not acted to block the illegal projects. But a security spokesman close to the Area C files located in Bet El blames the inaction on Israel’s complex legal system.
“When we discover something,” stated a security spokesman, “we give them a stop order, and if they don’t stop, they are summoned to an [adjudication] panel. But they don’t come. They go to court to enjoin us.”
These court cases are frequently financed and represented by well-funded NGOs, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The Gordian knot of legal principles to parse includes Ottoman land law from a long-dismantled empire, Jordanian law from the withdrawn 1948 illegal occupation, post-Six Day War military administrative law, and a library of international legal codes–all stoked and poked with competing maps, surveys, expert opinions, decrees, chronologies, and historical accounts.
“It can take years to decide, and without a court ruling, we cannot get close,” lamented the spokesman, adding, “Meanwhile, they are still building. We can’t do anything about it.” The spokesman continued, “Court can take half a year — or four years. There is no specific time. Each case is different. We have some cases that were opened 15 years ago.”
Once the court rules, if Israel takes enforcement action with bulldozers, the international headlines, EU accusations of war crimes, threats of sanctions, close-up photos of weeping people and global uproar makes being legally right a very unappealing political idea. The EU, the NGOs, and the illegal settlers know this process.
What makes the Palestinian settlements “illegal” is the thin wisp of Oslo that remains. The Accords have now been fractured so many times that what remains is only the preserved corpse of a long-deceased vision.
At the end of July 2019, when the Israeli cabinet voted to authorize an extra 715 permits, the Palestinian response was immediate. PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh declared: “We don’t need permission from the occupying power to build our homes on our lands,” adding, the Oslo classification of land into A, B and C “no longer exists.”
Before year’s end, the PA is expected to issue thousands of new permits further circumventing Oslo. As Palestinian expansion roils across Area C, the prospect looms of Gaza fence-style encounters coming soon to a hill in Judea and Samaria.
As Area C dynamics become clearer, still murky is the source and route of the diverse European funding that enables this confrontation. What’s more, there is widespread fear that millions in funds are continuously funneled through entities openly accused of being affiliated with established terrorist organizations.
Who’s Funding Illegal Palestinian Settlements in Area C—Terrorist Links – Part 3
Hundreds of millions of euros flow annually from European nations to fund illegal Palestinian settlements in Area C. Under the Oslo Accords, only Israel can issue construction permits. The current rapid expansion plan dispenses with any coordination with Israel.
According to Israeli activist watchdog groups, such as Regavim, during the last five years, illegal Palestinian settlements and infrastructure have sprawled across more than 9,000 dunams (9 square km) in more than 250 Area C locations, supported by more than 600 kilometers of illegally constructed access roads and more than 112,000 meters of retaining walls and terracing. This massive works project is being conducted in broad daylight. Palestinians no longer apply for permits in Area C; they deny Israel’s right to issue them. Now, they just start building, powered by millions of annual euros in joint projects with the EU.
How is the money routed? Among the many NGO recipients, one name keeps appearing: Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
A 2012 French Foreign Ministry report listing a €354,489 multi-year water development project states: “The first action proposed under this Action Plan is being carried out by the Union of Agriculture Work Committees,” adding, “UAWC … is responsible for project management.” Agence Francaise de Dévelopment (AFD) committed €130,000 to the UAWC, also in 2012, according to a2012 Ernst and Young audit of the NGO Development Center. In February 2019, AFD also announced, “Union of Agricultural Workers Committees and relevant stakeholders … [would be] granted by AFD amounts up to 232,000 euros out of a budget of 650,000 euros.”
In 2010, German governmental and foundation sources included the UAWC in a series of €630,000 Palestinian grants extended to anti-Israel boycott and activist groups, according to the 2010 annual report of the health rescue group Medico, which channeled the money. Medico annual reports in 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2017 also list the UAWC as a recipient. An additional 2010 Medico grant of €180,000 euros funded UAWC in a program to assist “the fight against repression by the Israeli administration.” The UAWC was also included in Medico’s 2012 grantof €1.2 million euros to establish “kindergartens for unrecognized villages.”
In 2016, Spanish governmental agencies extended grants totaling €184,000 to the UAWC, according to a 2016 official Spanish governmental bulletin. In 2017, the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah announced an $11.2 million water project with the UAWC.
The UAWC’s financial reports are hard to come by, but its 2014 total income reached more than $43.1 million. The group’s income streams are diverse, from governmental units and foundations. Its key involvement in illegal Area C infrastructure is salient.
Yet, for decades, open allegations have been publicly aired alleging links between the UAWC and the Popular Front for the Liberation Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is one of the most notorious of Palestinian terrorist groups, so designated for decades by the US, the European Union, and other nations. Yet, foundations and governments continue to robustly fund UAWC.
Accusations that the UAWC is directly linked to the PFLP are no secret.
In May 1993, USAID’s Democratic Institutions Support Project “took a political economy lens” to popular movements in the Middle East, according to Prof. Glenn E. Robinson, who has frequently consulted for USAID. Back in the 1990s, Robinson’s field work in the West Bank included interviews with leading personalities of the UAWC and the PFLP. His report, Palestinian Institutional Configurations in the West Bank and Gaza, declared, “The PFLP’s agricultural extension services are provided by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC).” That USAID report became the basis for a book titled Building a Palestinian State—the Incomplete Revolution, published by Indiana University Press. The Middle East Studies Association’s book review lauded it: “powerful and compelling … scholarship impeccable.”
Contacted at the prestigious Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California, Robinson recalled that his research showed the UAWC was indeed “linked and affiliated” and also “shared resources with” the PFLP. USAID still distributes Robinson’s original report online.
A 2012 Fateh organizational chart at www.FatehOrg.ps purports to list all PFLP units. It includes an entry for the UAWC, under “Affiliated Institutions.” The web page has since been deleted but an Internet Archive has preserved it. A translation from Arabic to English of the purported key listing midway down the document can be seen here. The words “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” can be located in Arabic in the middle of the document as a subhead just above the date “11/12/1967.” Robinson examined the archived page, and confirmed, “Each of the main four factions in the 1980s had essentially the same list of linked groups and competed with each other as part of the broad political mobilization of Palestinian society.”
Former senior PFLP leader Bashir Kairi functioned as UAWC’s president for years. He signed the UAWC’s annual reports until about 2009. As far back as 2003, CNN reported that Kairi had been arrested as a key figure in Israel after a major assassination, stating, “Palestinian sources said those arrested included Bashir al-Khairi, head of the PFLP political bureau.” In 2012, UAWC was prominently accused of terrorist links to the PFLP by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal group. Shurat HaDin demanded that World Vision and the Australian government cease funding UAWC. Australian authorities and World Vision refused.
In July 2018, Amnesty International issued an “Urgent Action” notice, which begins, “Abdul Razeq Farraj, Finance and Administration Director at the Union of Agricultural Work Committees … was released from Ofer prison.”
The statement described Farraj as “the Finance and Administration Director at the Union of Agricultural Work Committees … for more than 30 years.” The next paragraph adds, “In addition, he has served a six-year sentence in an Israeli prison after being convicted of affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” Farraj appended a personal statement to the public notice, “I would like to express my deep gratitude, for your continuous support to the Palestinian people and to UAWC.” Farraj’s current LinkedIn self-lists him as “UAWC administrative manager.” His listing at the Addameer prisoner support organization’s website indicates Farraj has repeatedly been in prison on terrorism charges, yet also “Director of Finance & Administration at Union of Agricultural Work Committees.”
In 2017, Israel’s Shin Bet security service notified the UAWC, “The information we have indicates that the organization ‘Union of Agricultural Work Committees,’ based in the Gaza Strip, operates under the auspices of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” according to a copy of the confidential security document obtained.
Over recent years, articles publicly accusing or reporting on UAWC’s alleged terrorist links have periodically appeared in the JNSnews service, Times of Israel, Jewish Press, and Jerusalem Post. NGO Monitor, which tracks anti-Israel NGO misconduct, maintains a page filled with links, recently updated and confirmed, documenting UAWC’s connection to the PFLP.
“It’s clear from the evidence that the UAWC is closely linked with the PFLP,” concludes Caroline Turner, director of UK Lawyers for Israel, who has studied the UAWC. Yifa Segal, director of The International Legal Forum, active in litigation involving UAWC, asserts, “I would say that it’s an inherent part of the PFLP—that doesn’t mean that they are the same legal entity, or that each organization doesn’t have its own leadership.” Attorney Andrew Hamilton, who has also filed legal actions involving UAWC, comments, “Based on my extensive research since 2012, it is quite clear that the UAWC is an arm of the proscribed terrorist group, the PFLP,” continuing, “It is controlled by and acts in the interests of the PFLP.”
Despite, the growing body of public information about the UAWC and the PFLP, there is no indication that any of its donors intend to reduce the millions they are sending the UAWC for illegal development projects in Area C.
The UAWC and its defenders have repeatedly stressed that it has no ties to the PFLP. Repeated documented efforts to reach the UAWC and its leaders, including Bashir Kairi and Abdul Razeq Farraj, as well as the PFLP, for comment were unsuccessful.
Edwin Black is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust, Funding Hate, and the journalist who in Financing the Flames documented the terrorist salaries now known as “Pay to Slay.”
The author can be found at www.edwinblack.com.
©Copyright 2019 Edwin Black
All Rights Reserved
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