NY Times removes quotation marks from Israeli ‘occupation’

The New York Times removed quotation marks originally used around “occupation” in one of its news stories.

The word appears in the phrase “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza” in the article published Wednesday about the Bernie Sanders-led push to change the Democratic Party’s stance on Israel.

The quotation marks were removed Thursday. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald had criticized the Times’ use of the quotation marks as “abject cowardice” Thursday morning.

“This is journalistic malfeasance at its worst: refusing to describe the world truthfully out of fear of the negative reaction by influential factions,” Greenwald wrote in an article on The Intercept.

The Times did not add an editor’s note to the article or offer an explanation. The print version of the article published in the A1 section of the Times’ Thursday includes the quotation marks.

The article — titled “A Split Over Israel Threatens the Democrats’ Hopes for Unity” and written by Jason Horowitz and Maggie Haberman — reports on the effort by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his representatives to “upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.”

Other journalists who are left-wing on Israel, including AlterNet contributor Adam H. Johnson and +972 magazine contributor Noam Sheizaf, seconded Greenwald’s criticism Thursday.

News articles in the Times, however, regularly use the term “occupation,” without quotes, to refer to Israel’s presence in the West Bank, as recently as May 24:

Israeli officials estimate that a few dozen hilltop youth are responsible for the most violent acts on the West Bank. But Dror Etkes, who runs Kerem Navot, a human rights organization that opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, said that there were about 100 far-flung outposts in the West Bank, with “many hundreds” of residents, and that large numbers of them participate in arson and vandalism of mosques, churches and olive groves.

The word also appeared in this article from May 16:

Mustafa Bargouthi, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, a nonprofit organization, said that the list of institutions struggling under occupation and other difficulties is lengthy. Among the groups that have suffered, Mr. Bargouthi said, are the Palestine National Orchestra, the Popular Art Center in Ramallah, dance groups across the West Bank, and road, agricultural and medical projects.

Disputed territories – undisputed double standard

With the latest paid anti-Israel screed carried by The Los Angeles Times accusing Israel of being an “Apartheid” state, among its other alleged crimes, and the  24/7 international focus on “Occupied Territories” in The Holy Land, we present some of the other areas around the world that are considered “disputed” or ”occupied.” 

Here is a partial list of disputed/occupied territories:

*China/Japan Territorial disputes between China and Japan in the East China Sea continue, with both sides claim as their exclusive economic zone.

China/Korea The Chinese-Korean historic dispute over land that was part of the ancient kingdom of Koguryo

Korea/Japan Two rocky islets off the eastern shore of Korea, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are disputed by the two countries.

Japan/Russia These two nations have not yet signed a formal peace treaty to end the hostilities of World War II due to the unresolved territorial dispute over the Southern Kuriles.

India/Pakistan Kashmir is claimed by India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris.

China/India In a dispute with deep historical roots, China does not recognize the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of Indian territory. 

India/China Aksai Chin, sometimes known as Aksayqin, is administered by China but also claimed by India.

China/Taiwan,/Malaysia/ The Philippines/Vietnam/Brunei The Spratly Islands—a group of more than 650 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands located in the South China Sea—are now claimed by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Philippines/China/Taiwan The Scarborough Shoal, near the Spratly Islands, is controlled by the Philippines, but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Japan/China A chain of remote, energy-rich islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and as the Diaoyu Islands in China, are the subject of a territorial and maritime dispute between the two powers.

China/Taiwan The territory of Taiwan is disputed between the Taiwanese government and the People’s Republic of China.

Australia/East Timor Australia and East Timor are in a dispute over the energy-rich Timor Sea. 

China/Tibet Freedom House regularly lists Chinese-controlled Tibet as the worst-rated disputed territory for civil liberties.

Malaysia/Indonesia According to Asia Times, a series of long-standing disputes recently exploded in Asia, including a maritime dispute in the Sulawesi Sea between Malaysia and Indonesia. 

China/Vietnam/Taiwan In the South China Sea, 130 small Paracel Islands, which have been “occupied” by China since 1974, are claimed by both Vietnam and Taiwan.

Indonesia/South Moluccas The South Moluccas (Republic of the South Moluccas) claims independence, but that is disputed by Indonesia.

China/Uyghurstan East Turkestan(Uyghurstan) is a region of China where Turkic peoples want independence.

Indonesia/West Papua West Papua is disputed by the Papuans and Indonesians.

Malaysia/Philippines Sabah or Northern Borneo is disputed by Malaysia and the Philippines. 

U.S./Marshall Islands Wake Island is controlled by the U.S. but also claimed by Marshall Islands.

United Kingdom/Argentina The Falkland Islands are controlled by the United Kingdom but claimed by Argentina.

Mauritius/United Kingdom The Chagos Archipelago is administered by the British Indian Ocean Territory, but the claim is disputed Mauritius.

Russia/Ukraine Crimea, which has a long history of contention, recently was forcibly annexed by Russia from the Ukraine. Additional areas are currently under assault by Russian-backed separatists.

Russia/Georgia After a 2008 “five-day war” with Georgia, Russia now effectively controls Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that once were firmly part of Georgia.

Serbia/Kosovo The Republic of Kosovo claims independence, but the claim is disputed by Serbia.

Moldova/Russia A tiny strip of land called Transdniestria, an unrecognized breakaway state that lies along Moldova's border with Ukraine, which had seceded from Moldova, is currently eyed by Moscow.

Azerbaijan/Armeniathe Armenia-backed Nagorno-Karabakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) claims to be sovereign, but Azerbaijan claims it is their territory.

Namibia/Botswana/Angola/Zambia/Zimbabwe The Caprivi Strip, sandwiched between Namibia, Botswana, Angola, and Zambia. and also very close to Zimbabwe, is much disputed. 

United Kingdom/Republic of Ireland There is no ultimate resolution of the status of Northern Island between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Spain/United Kingdom The Island of Gibraltar has been in dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain since the 1700s.

France/Comoros Islands Mayotte is ruled by France but claimed by Comoros Islands.

Syria/Turkey Hatay, a Turkish province bordering Syria, is still claimed by the Syrians.

Turkey/Republic of Cyprus Northern Cyprus is recognized by Turkey as independent, but the rest of the world considers it part of the Republic of Cyprus.

Spain/Portugal Olivenza and Táliga are still disputed by Spain and Portugal.

Syria/Kurds Syrian or Western Kurdistan is disputed between Syrians and Kurds.

Turkey/Kurds Turkish or Northern Kurdistan is disputed by Turkey and the Kurds.

Iran/Kurdistan Iranian or Eastern Kurdistan is disputed by Iran and the Kurds.

France/Madagascar/The Seychelles/ ComorosGlorioso/Glorieuses Islands (Archipel des Glorieuses) are operated by France as a nature preserve, but are also claimed by Madagascar, the Seychelles, and Comoros.

U.S/Colombia/Jamaica/Nicaragua/Honduras The U.S., Colombia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Honduras have all claimed sovereignty over the two small isolated, and uninhabited islets collectively known as Bajo Nuevo Bank (The Petrel Islands).

U.S./Haiti Navassa Island is disputed between the U.S. and Haiti.

Denmark/NativesThe Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic is controlled by Denmark but some of the islanders want independence.

Angola/Cabinda The Republic of Cabinda claims independence but this is disputed by Angola.

Somalia Somaliland claims independence from Somalia.

Spain/Western Sahara In 1975 an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was sought on whether Western Sahara, at the time of colonization by Spain was a “territory belonging to no one” (terra nullius). The situation was similar to the West Bank, which was terra nullius or owned by no one when captured by Israel in 1967. 

Speaking of the West Bank, it turns out that only this territory that was subject to an onerous labeling policy by the European Union and more recently by the Obama Adminidtration. To the best of our knowledge, no other disputed or occupied territory–anywhere in the world—has yielded any such policy.

Double Standard? You decide …

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Wiesenthal Center

EU, Russia condemn Israeli settlement expansion plans

The European Union and Russia on Friday denounced Israel's plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank and urged Israelis and Palestinians to take “bold and concrete steps towards peace.”

Israeli officials said this week they would press on with plans to build 6,000 homes for settlers on land claimed by Palestinians, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will damage already faint hopes for a peace accord.

“The European Union and the Russian Federation are deeply dismayed by and strongly oppose Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and in particular plans to develop the E1 area,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

E1 is a wedge of land between East Jerusalem and the West Bank where Israel had previously held off under U.S. pressure.

“The EU and the Russian Federation underline the urgency of renewed, structured and substantial peace efforts in 2013,” said the joint statement after an EU-Russia summit in Brussels.

Stung by de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty by the U.N. General Assembly last month, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Many countries deem the settlements illegal and have been especially troubled by Israel's declared intent to build in E1.

The EU and Russia, which together with the United States and the United Nations make up the Quartet of Middle East mediators, said the settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace.

“The EU and the Russian Federation will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” they said.

It was time to take “bold and concrete steps towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis”, they said, calling for “direct and substantial negotiations without preconditions”.

The EU and Russia called for the unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip, and urged Israel to avoid any step that would undermine the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority.

They urged the Palestinian leadership to use Palestine's new U.N. status constructively and avoid steps that would deepen lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Alistair Lyon

Israel faces European backlash over settlement plan

Israel faced concerted criticism from Europe on Monday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to expand settlement building after the United Nations' de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Britain, France and Sweden summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their respective capitals to hear deep disapproval of the plan to erect 3,000 more homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Ahead of a Netanyahu visit this week, Germany, considered Israel's closest ally in Europe, urged it to refrain from expanding settlements, and Russia said it viewed the Israeli moves with serious concern.

Angered by the U.N. General Assembly's upgrading on Thursday of the Palestinians' status in the world body from “observer entity” to “non-member state”, Israel said the next day it would build the new dwellings for settlers.

Such projects in the past, on land Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek for a future state, have routinely drawn almost pro forma world condemnation.

But in a dramatic shift that Netanyahu would have certainly realized would raise the alarm among Palestinians and in world capitals, his pro-settler government also ordered “preliminary zoning and planning work” for thousands of housing units in areas including the so-called “E1” zone east of Jerusalem.

Such construction in the barren hills of E1 – still on the drawing board and never put into motion in the face of opposition from its main ally, the United States – could bisect the West Bank, cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem and further dim their hopes for a contiguous state.

The settlement plan, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, would deal “an almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Britain made clear it would not support strong Israeli retaliation over the U.N. vote, which Palestinians sought after peace talks collapsed in 2010 in a dispute over settlement building.

“We deplore the recent Israeli decision to build 3,000 new housing units and unfreeze development in the E1 block,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “We have called on the Israeli government to reverse the decision.”

But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron played down talk of recalling Britain's ambassador in Tel Aviv.

“We are not proposing to do anything further at this stage,” the spokesman said. “We are continuing to have conversations with the Israeli government and others.”

France expressed “serious concerns” to the Israeli ambassador, reminding him that settlement building in occupied territories was illegal and an “obstacle” to reviving peace talks with the Palestinians.

A French Foreign Ministry official, responding to reports Paris might bring its Tel Aviv envoy home, said: “There are other ways in which we can express our disapproval.”


Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel could not have remained indifferent to the Palestinians' unilateral move at the United Nations.

In Europe only the Czech Republic voted against the resolution while many countries, including France, backed it. Netanyahu also plans to visit Prague this week to express his thanks.

“I want to tell you that those same Europeans and Americans who are now telling us 'naughty, naughty over our response, understand full-well that we have to respond, and they themselves warned the Palestinian Authority,” Steinitz told Army Radio.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said building in E1 “destroys the two-state solution, (establishing) East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and practically ends the peace process and any opportunity to talk about negotiations in the future”.

Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for the Hamas Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, said the settlement plans were “an insult to the international community, which should bear responsibility for Israeli violations and attacks on Palestinians”.

Only three weeks ago, Netanyahu won strong European and U.S. support for an offensive in the Hamas Islamist-run Gaza Strip, which Israel said was aimed at curbing cross-border rocket fire.

Favored by opinion polls to win a January 22 national election, he brushed off world condemnation of his latest settlement plans and complaints from critics at home that he is deepening Israel's diplomatic isolation.

He told his cabinet on Sunday that his government “will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places on the map of Israel's strategic interests”.

But while his housing minister has said the government would soon invite bids from contractors to build 1,000 homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem and more than 1,000 in West Bank settlement blocs, the E1 plan was still in its planning stages.

“No one will build until it is clear what will be done there,” the minister, Ariel Attias, said on Sunday.

Israel froze much of its activities in E1 under pressure from former U.S. President George W. Bush and the area has been under the scrutiny of his successor Barack Obama.
Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer, Dan Williams, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Jihan Abdalla in Ramallah, Sreve Gutterman in Moscow, Gareth Jones in Berlin, John Irish in Paris and Tim Castle in London; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Giles Elgood

Israel to expand settlements after U.N.’s Palestine vote

Israel plans to build thousands of new homes for its settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an Israeli official said on Friday, defying a U.N. vote that implicitly recognized Palestinian statehood there.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government had authorised the construction of 3,000 housing units and ordered “prelimiliary zoning and planning work for thousands” more.

The official would not elaborate. But Israeli media said the government sought to hammer home its rejection of Thursday's upgrade, by the U.N. General Assembly, of the Palestinians to “non-member observer state” from “entity”.

Israel and the United States had opposed the resolution, which shored up the Palestinians' claim on all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, saying territorial sovereignty should be addressed in direct peace talks with the Jewish state.

Those negotiations have been stalled for two years, however, given Palestinian anger at continued Israeli settlement. The Israelis insist they would keep West Bank settlement blocs under any final accord as well as all of Jerusalem as their capital.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the world body to issue what he said was its long overdue “birth certificate.”

This article has been edited by JewishJournal.com.  Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Israel’s Foreign Ministry tells diplomats to refuse mail with ‘problematic’ terms

Israel's Foreign Ministry has instructed its diplomats to refuse to accept any official mail that uses “problematic terminology” such as the “state of Palestine.”

The instructions come ahead of Thursday's scheduled vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the Palestinians' request to elevate their status to non-member observer state, Ynet reported.

Other problematic terms include “occupied Palestine,” “occupied Jerusalem” and “occupied territories.” Palestinian Authority territories is an acceptable term, according to Ynet, which cited Foreign Ministry employee Galia Levanon.

All the terms have appeared in official letters from international organizations and foreign ministries, according to the report.

Letters containing the unacceptable terminology should be returned to the sender with a request that it be revised, according to Ynet.

Meanwhile, the Israeli media is reporting that Israeli will not pull out of the agreements of the Oslo Accords if the request for upgraded U.N. status is passed, as had been threatened. Other possible responses include calling in the Palestinians' debts, according to the Times of Israel.

Israel angered by South African move on settlement goods

Israel accused South Africa on Thursday of behaving like an apartheid state by requiring Israeli goods made by West Bank settlers to be labeled as originating from occupied Palestinian territory.

The rhetoric is likely to strain Israel’s relations with South Africa, whose ruling African National Congress fought to end the apartheid regime.

The ANC had strongly backed the Palestinian cause while Israel was one of the few countries to have strong ties with South Africa’s white-minority government, which relinquished power in 1994.

Israeli trade with South Africa is modest but the impact of Pretoria’s decision on goods-labeling has raised Israeli concern that other states could follow suit and bolster calls by Palestinians to boycott Israeli products made in the West Bank.

The European Union grants a tariff exemption to imports from Israel but not to those coming from the West Bank and other territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it would summon South Africa’s ambassador to lodge a protest over the decision on labeling goods from Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“Unfortunately it turns out the change that has begun in South Africa over the years has not brought about any basic change in the country, and it remains an apartheid state,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in response to Pretoria’s move.

“At the moment South Africa’s apartheid is aimed at Israel,” added Ayalon, a nationalist hardliner in right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Ayalon did not elaborate on what he meant by associating the labeling decision with apartheid.

There was no immediate response from South Africa.

The South African government said on Wednesday the cabinet had approved a measure “requiring the labeling of goods or products emanating from IOT (Israeli-occupied territory) to prevent consumers being led to believe that such goods come from Israel.”

When Pretoria first proposed the measure in May, Israeli Industry and Trade Minister Shalom Simhon said it would be a problem if other countries did the same thing.

Israel criticized Britain in 2009 for advising supermarkets to label produce from Jewish settlements clearly, to distinguish them from goods produced by Palestinians.

The World Court has ruled that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law and Palestinians say they will deny them the viable state they seek in the territory and in the Gaza Strip.

Israel says the future of settlements should be decided through peace talks, which have been frozen since 2010, largely over the settlement issue.

Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza in 2005. About 2.5 million Palestinians and 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Capetown; Writing by Ori Lewis and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich

Delta removes ‘Occupied’ from Palestinian Territories on destination list

Delta Airlines removed the phrase “Occupied Palestinian Territories” from its list of Middle East destinations.

The destination “Palestinian Territories” remained Wednesday after the airline reportedly received e-mailed and tweeted complaints.

Links to the site were quickly spread Tuesday via Jewish bloggers. The list of Middle East destinations also appeared on the partner sites for Delta, including car rental companies. As of Wednesday afternoon, all appeared to have been changed.

There are no operational airports in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

Last summer Delta was embroiled in another controversy involving the Middle East after a Delta spokesperson suggested that because Saudi Arabian Airlines was joining the SkyTeam Alliance, Delta might have to refuse boarding to passengers with Israel stamps on their passports. The Saudi government requires that travelers disclose their religion, and American Jews and others with Israeli stamps in their passports have been refused visas to the country.

At the time, the Delta spokesperson said that the airline “must comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves” because it would face fines if a passenger arrives at a destination without proper documents.

Showdown in Hebron as IDF evicts settlers

UPDATE: Settler violence follows Hebron evacuation

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Settlers rampaged through Hebron following the evacuation of a disputed building.

Jewish youth entered the Palestinian areas of Hebron Thursday afternoon, setting set fires to cars, homes and trees, and throwing stones, according to reports.

The Israel Defense Forces declared all of Hebron a closed military area late Thursday afternoon in a bid to prevent other violent protesters from entering the area. Police used tear gas and stun guns to subdue the rioters, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported.

Television images showed a settler firing a rifle at Palestinians. Channel 2 reported exchanges of gunfire between Palestinians and settlers. Earlier Thursday, two Palestinians were injured when a Kiryat Arba man shot into a Palestinian crowd.

Settler youth in other areas of the West Bank also were rioting and throwing stones at Palestinian cars, Ynet reported.

The rioting has been called a “price tag policy” by the radical settler leadership, a “payment” for Thursday’s evacuation by Israel security forces of the Peace House in Hebron, a four-story building located between the Jewish community of Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Both the Jewish community of Hebron and a Palestinian landowner claim ownership.

A Jerusalem District Court has been charged with settling the question of ownership of the property, where up to 20 Jewish families have lived for the past year. The house was evacuated after Israel’s High Court of Justice upheld a government order to evacuate the house pending determination of ownership.

HEBRON, West Bank (JTA) — It looked like a modern-day version of a medieval siege: Israeli paramilitary border police wielding batons and shields burst from vans, charging their way into a house in this tense, divided city.

The violent eviction Thursday ended one standoff between Jewish settlers and the Israeli government but spurred another.

After more than 200 settlers were hauled away from the cavernous four-story building by security forces using stun grenades and tear gas, dozens of settler youths fanned out across Hebron attacking Palestinians and setting olive groves ablaze. One settler shot two Palestinians outside their family home. The footage was broadcast by Israeli TV stations.

Earlier in the day, David Wilder, a spokesman for Hebron’s Jewish community — an island of several hundred Jews living in fortress-like compounds in the midst of more than 150,000 Palestinians — warned that the house’s evacuation would not pass silently. He spoke as Israeli police nearby scuffled with a group of teenage girls during the final throes of the evacuation of the disputed house.

“The people here were brutal,” Wilder said of Israel’s police. “And I think there will be a price to pay for it.”

The notion of exacting a price for evacuation of settlers in the West Bank is the cornerstone of a new policy by some radical Jewish settlers to spread mayhem in response to any eviction attempt by the Israeli authorities. Dubbed “price tag,” the policy aims to spread thin and exhaust Israeli security forces.

At stake is nothing less than the future of the West Bank, Israel and the Palestinian state, settlers say, with some determined to oppose any Jewish withdrawal from the holy land — by force, if necessary.

“We are ready for battle and we are getting ready for battle,” said Baruch Marzel, the leader of a settlers’ resistance committee overseeing events at the disputed house, shortly before Thursday’s evacuation. “This battle is very important to us because it’s about the whole of the Land of Israel.”

Inside the house, called Peace House by the settlers, police uncovered a stockpile of blocks, bricks, potatoes spiked with long nails, and containers of acid and turpentine. Caught by surprise, the evacuees didn’t have time to use much of their arsenal.

Settlers say the house belongs to a Jewish buyer who purchased it for $1 million, and claim to have the documentation to prove it. But the Palestinian who sold the house to its Jewish owner — Morris Abraham, a New York businessman — says he reneged on the deal once he learned the buyer was Jewish. Israeli police say the settlers’ sales contract is forged.

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the settlers should leave the house until the question of forgery can be sorted out, and the court ordered Defense Minister Ehud Barak to begin an immediate eviction.

The home’s tenants, along with the hundreds of youth who had come to support them, said they were surprised by the speed of Thursday’s evacuation and that it came without warning.

“We were in shock,” said Aderet Shuavel, 24, her year-old son sleeping on her in a sling. “We had been sitting together eating lunch, and suddenly they jumped out of vans and burst into the house.”

In her hand, Shuavel held an onion to help ward off the sting of the tear gas-filled air. Just a few steps away from her, in the shadow of the house, scuffles between police and settlers continued. Ponytailed girls in long skirts clung to boulders on the side of a dusty hill, refusing to be escorted away.

Unperturbed by the chaos surrounding her, she sounded a defiant note: “We will return. We will not be broken.”

At the house, the police dragged out the settlers through the home’s large, red metal doors, many of the settlers thrashing and shouting. Above them was a huge poster with the word “criminals” displayed above the faces of Barak and Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch.

Barak defended his actions Thursday evening, commending the security forces for their work.

“A defense minister in Israel has no choice but to ensure that the law is upheld; without that we won’t have a state,” he said. “We are only a hair’s breadth from utter anarchy.”

Clash of ‘right and right’ festers in Jordan Valley

A tragedy, as defined by Amos Oz, one of the Israel’s most outspoken advocates of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is “a clash between right and right.” In the northernmost corner of the West Bank, Oz’s maxim holds true; it is a place where wronged are pitted against wronged. Where the Israeli forced from Gaza meets the Palestinian pushed from his West Bank home.

The tiny settlement of Maskiyot, with just eight families, lies on a gentle rise overlooking the Jordan Valley. Since the Israeli government announced plans to expand the settlement in late July, this settler outpost and one-time army training facility, established in 1982, has emerged as a central symbol for the intractable road to peace between Palestinian and Israeli.

Maskiyot is one of more than 20 settlements in the 75-mile-long Jordan Valley. Date farms, Bedouin shacks and small hamlets break up the brown-and-gold landscape of craggy hills and dry plains. The valley accounts for 28.5 percent of the West Bank land mass controlled by Israel after the Six-Day War. It is sparsely populated, with no more than 6,000 Israeli settlers and 47,000 Palestinians, most of whom live in the ancient city of Jericho.

It is a land where Bedouins shepherd their goats and Palestinian farmers cultivate olives and raise chickens. It is also a place where Israel Defense Forces soldiers guard Israeli settlements surrounded by electric fences, razor wire and lights that face outward.

But more than the physical barriers that separate them, the residents of this valley stand on either side of an unbridgeable ideological chasm. The Palestinians bent on seeing the Israelis go, and the Israelis unwilling to.

Fathy Khdirat is the head of Jordan Valley Solidarity, a Palestinian grass-roots organization that works to publicize the progress of the Israeli presence in the valley. Khdirat sits in a car traveling to a friend’s farm in Al Farsiya, a small community sandwiched between Israeli settlements and military land.

“It is like a needle in your body,” he says, while passing the sign for Maskiyot. “You have to get rid of it as soon as possible.”

However, if Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak signs off on a plan to build 20 more homes just outside the current perimeter fence — and he has not yet said whether he will — Maskiyot could become a northern Jordan Valley fixture for years to come.

The announcement of the expansion elicited condemnation from the United Nations and many in the international community. Maskiyot would be the first new settlement built by the Israeli government since 1999, in contradiction to the guidelines of the all-but-dead “road map” for peace. Plans to expand the settlement in 2006 were frozen after similar criticism.

Yosi Chazut, Maskiyot’s manager, sits at a picnic table at the edge of the six small, pre-fabricated homes that form the nucleus of the tiny settlement. His family, like six of the eight other families living in Maskiyot, was forced from Gaza during the Israeli pullout in the summer of 2005. And although the 29-year-old says he wants peace, his confidence in his Palestinian neighbors was shaken by their actions after the Israeli government took the significant step of moving 8,500 Jewish families from Gaza.

“I gave up my home there, and what did we get in return?” he says. “We got Qassam attacks on Sderot. This [the Palestinians] is not a people that want peace. The purpose is to kick us out of this land and send us somewhere else.”

But Chazut’s future plans lie firmly in Maskiyot. He sees the tiny outpost growing into a 500-family hub of Jewish life in the northern Jordan Valley within 10 years.

He looks out over the bowl of land that sits below the settlement, where settlers have already planted palm and olive trees. The afternoon winds have picked up, whistling through the homes and barracks, alleviating the intense heat that pounds the valley throughout the day. Because of the harsh conditions, settlement in the Jordan Valley has been slower than in the heavily settled areas in the center of Israel, primarily around Jerusalem.

“I didn’t come to live here to stop the future peace plans,” he says. “But if the Arabs don’t want to live with me in peace, it is their problem, not mine. I am the strong one here.”

The argument over the Maskiyot and the Jordan Valley is one at the core of the existence of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

For the many Israelis, the victory in 1967 and the expansion into the ancient lands of Judea and Samaria were the realization of the full Jewish state as described in the Bible: the Israel that the architects of Zionism had always dreamed of — one which extended from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

But with a larger Israel came a price, most notably the demographic question of the Palestinians — 2.35 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. If Israel were to annex the land, the Jewish majority would be lost to the new Israeli citizens: Palestinians who have a much higher birthrate than Jewish Israelis.

Despite the “demographic time bomb,” settlers like Ephraim Bluth, who lives in a large settlement near Ramallah, don’t see divestment from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley as an option. A native New Yorker, Bluth, moved to Israel 37 years ago. He has eight children, all of whom served in the Israeli army, a fact he alludes to with pride.

There are three different camps of opinion over the question of the land gained in 1967, particularly the West Bank, according to Bluth. One group sees the territories as a strategic asset to be traded for peace, another sees them as a strategic liability, which must be given up, and then there is his constituency.

“I am from the camp that says the land of Israel, including those territories captured in 1967, are in fact a gift from God … this is ours, has been ours and with God’s help, always will be,” Bluth said.

ALTTEXTBut just as Bluth is confident of Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank, Khdirat is sure of its end.

“When the Israeli military jeeps leave, he [Chazut and all the settlers] will leave before them,” Khdirat says with a chuckle. “He have experience leaving from many place to the other. He left his homeland in Morocco maybe, or maybe Europe, and he left Sina [the Sinai Peninsula], and he left Gaza, and he will leave the Jordan Valley.”

But until the settlers leave, he sees them as a constant threat. Khdirat visits the farm of Jasser Daraghmeh, who says that the Israeli government has ordered the demolition of his home because it does not comply with Israeli building code.

“Even if they destroy our home, we will build a new one,” Daraghmeh says. “We will never leave.”

Daraghmeh’s farm is at the bottom of a valley hemmed in by land reserved for the Israeli military to the west and a string of settlements along the ridge to the east, including Maskiyot.

As dusk gives way to the deep blue of coming night, Daraghmeh invites Khdirat to sit with his father and a neighbor for tea. They recline around a small table in plastic chairs set on a dusty patch of ground. The lights of the settlements on the hills above flicker on, as bats flit in and out of the growing darkness on the valley floor. The afternoon winds that come up the valley and over the hills have died down completely.

The men tell stories of their sheep being shot from helicopters and of a brother being killed by a mortar shell. They talk of kin being pushed off the land, of the ever growing radius of the settlers’ fences. Whether some of the stories are exaggerated or entirely fabricated, the truth of their pain is clear. This is the tragedy of the place.

“We have been patient, but I don’t know what my children will do,” says Daraghmeh’s neighbor, Faiq Spah. His allusion is to a future of violence. For these men, like those living in the settlements, true co-existence seems impossible — the threshold for peace long passed, despite leaders on either side who say they are working toward it.

In complete blackness, their stories come to an end. The lights of the settlements gleam on the hills, and the farmers on the valley floor retire to their homes, black without electricity.