Environmental Authority: Israel’s decision on nature reserves is a cover for settlement activity – WAFA

RAMALLAH, Thursday, January 16, 2020 (WAFA) -The Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority today condemned the declaration by Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett regarding recognizing seven new sites in the occupied West Bank as nature reserves, and said this declaration is nothing more than a step toward enhancing settlement construction.

“The decision comes in the context of a number of measures and methods by which Israel defrauds international law and the institutions of the international community by using the pretext of nature reserves as a feeble and meager argument to justify its theft and control over the Palestinian territories for the benefit of settlements and to serve the settlers,” it said in a press release.

It said this violates the provisions of international humanitarian law that prevents the occupying power from establishing any civilian facility intended to serve the citizens of the occupying power in the territory of the state under occupation.

The Environmental Quality Authority stressed that “this declaration is just another crime to be added to a series of environmental crimes committed by the occupation authorities in the occupied Palestinian territories and that as a whole constitute an environmental war crime in the sense stipulated in paragraph 4 of item 2 of Article 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

It said the declaration is clearly racist when it deprives the Palestinian citizen access to his land while turning it for the benefit of strangers, which is a crime that falls within the crimes against humanity stipulated in Article 7 of the Basic Law of the International Criminal Court. Accordingly, the Environmental Quality Authority will use all the means provided by international law and international institutions, including going to the International Criminal Court and the UN General Assembly and Security Council to address Israeli environmental crimes in the occupied territories, including the decisions to confiscate land under the pretext of the establishment of nature reserves.

It also called on the United Nations to assume its responsibilities to provide protection for the environment and natural resources of peoples under oppression, control and occupation and apply that to the Palestinian environment.

Ashrawi: Israel’s silent annexation of ‘nature reserves’ is reprehensible and criminal – WAFA

RAMALLAH, Thursday, January 16, 2020 (WAFA) – The decision by Israel’s so-called Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennett, to expand and create “nature reserves” in the occupied West Bank is a blatant act of annexation and land theft that violates international law and basic Palestinian rights, today said Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

“These so-called reserves are the practical application of Israel’s accelerated and de facto annexation, land grab, and colonization targeting Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. Israel is carrying out silent annexation of Palestinian land to ensure the permanent denial of the Palestinian people’s basic rights to freedom and justice. It is criminal as well as morally and politically reprehensible,” she said in a statement.

“Bennett made no secret of his intentions, which are to strengthen and entrench the illegal settlement regime. This is the very regime that is currently under review by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court because its establishment, expansion, and entrenchment is a violation of the Rome Statute. As such, Bennett’s announcement is an affront to the International Criminal Court as well as the international community, which rejects and opposes the acquisition of territory by force,” added Ashrawi.

“Israel’s policy of displacement and replacement in the service of the ‘Greater Israel’ agenda is in overdrive thanks to the partnership and blind ideological support of the current American Administration. This irresponsible alliance is emboldening Israel to make a mockery of the rules-based international order and to attempt to normalize its rogue behavior and encourage other rogue states with extraterritorial aspirations to disregard international law with impunity,” said the PLO official.

“Israel’s lawless behavior, impunity and expansionism threaten Palestinian rights and international stability. The international community has a standing legal obligation to put an end to such escalating and grave violations of international law. States must have the moral clarity and courage to ensure that Israel’s lawless behavior is confronted with real consequences, including sanctions,” Ashrawi concluded her statement.


Israel’s double standard position on nature reserves: No to Palestinians, yes to Israelis WAFA

By al-Hareth al-Hussni

JORDAN VALLEY, Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (WAFA) – Eleven years have passed since Diab Daraghma, from Khallet Samra, had to pay a fine of 1,500 shekels ($430) for herding in the Suwaida area in the northern Jordan Valley on the pretext that he was grazing in a nature reserve, as the Israeli occupying power claimed at the time.

Three years ago, a Jewish settler who raises cows came to that same area and occupied the top of the mountain. Despite his presence there, the so-called Israeli nature authority did not kick him out. Rather, it would go only after the Palestinian herders and prevent them from being there.

Today, it is possible to see dozens of signs on dirt roads with the word “nature reserve’ written on them in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

And today also, Israel’s Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett declared seven sites in the occupied West Bank as new “nature reserves”, and 12 others will be expanded.

Burhan Bisharat, a resident of Makhoul village who spent all his life in that part of the northern Jordan Valley that overlooks Jordan to the east, says that since the arrival of the settler in the summer of 2017, he and other herders have been unable to be in that place. “The rule of nature reserves applies only on us,” he said.

Daraghma said the same thing, saying that both he and Bisharat have been totally cut off from that area a few years ago except in very few cases but taken with great risk.

Mahdi Daraghma, head of al-Maleh village council, says: “The occupation and the settlers have agreed on one goal, to take actual steps to annex the Jordan Valley.”

But in order to do this, they have to get rid of its Palestinian residents first.

Bennett’s declaration today about the new nature reserves is a first in 25 years.

According to the Israeli rights center, B’Tselem, Israel declared about 20% of the Jordan Valley lands as nature reserves and national parks. It designated other lands for settlements.

“The occupiers have started actual steps to annex the Jordan Valley,” says Mahdi Daraghma. “There are tens of thousands of dunums that were taken over by the occupation on the pretext that they are nature reserves.”

He said that few months ago, Israeli soldiers seized several cows owned by his father in al-Suwaida area. The army told him that the area where the settler had set up his livestock farm was no longer included within the boundaries of the nature reserve.

In two decades, concerned parties have documented dozens of cases of detention and fines imposed on the Palestinians under the pretext of their presence in nature reserves.

But the Palestinians always wonder: Why is the nature reserve idea imposed only on them?

While they are always kicked out of the so-called nature reserves, the settlers roam these areas freely.

Mahdi Daraghma said: “They are crawling towards Palestinian communities to empty them of their residents by claiming that they are nature reserves. They are taking calculated steps to annex the Jordan Valley.”

Al-Maleh, which was included in the decision announced by Bennett today, is inhabited by people who depend mainly on raising livestock.

In nearby Mazouqeh area, Palestinians used to be found there, but, according to the herders, they stopped going there few years ago.


Foreign Ministry condemns Israeli ‘nature reserves’ settlements, takes the issue to ICC WAFA

RAMALLAH, Wednesday, January 15, 2020 (WAFA) – The Palestinian Foreign Ministry today condemned in a statement remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett in which he announced the establishment of what he referred to as “nature reserve” settlements in the occupied West Bank and said that it will take this matter up with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

“The Foreign Ministry condemns in the strongest terms Bennett’s colonialist and expansionist decisions and affirms that the so-called nature reserves are just another scheme for the appropriation and seizure of Palestinian land,” it said, adding that “this goes in the end for the benefit of shoring up settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

It said “it will approach the ICC to inform it of the legal dangers of Bennett’s declaration as part and parcel of the settlements file that will bring Bennett and others like him in front of the ICC.”

The ICC Prosecutor said recently that she will start an investigation into Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, which she said could be looked at war crimes.