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Palestine: record number of messianic US Jewish migrants move to illegal settlements

Israeli security forces block the entrances to the West Bank village of Burqah, near the illegal Israeli outpost Homesh, ahead of a protest by Israeli settlers on December 23, 2021 [JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli security forces block the entrances to the West Bank village of Burqah, near the illegal Israeli outpost Homesh, ahead of a protest by Israeli settlers on December 23, 2021 [JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]

The number of American Jews who moved to Israel's illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank last year was the highest in more than ten years according to figures compiled by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. The bureau is responsible for collecting, processing and publishing statistical data on Israel's population, economy and society.

A breakdown of the figures published in Haaretz show that 333 American Jews took up residence in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2021, which represented an increase of 73 per cent over the previous year. The Israeli newspaper noted that even if a comparison with the 2020 figure is not a good benchmark because of the global pandemic, there has been a 57 per cent increase since 2019 of American settlers occupying Palestinian territory.

Nearly one in 10 Americans —9.6 per cent — who migrated to Israel in 2021 are said to have moved to an illegal settlement, the highest since 2015. Among the new immigrants to the US-subsidised apartheid state — which allows foreign-born Jews to settle in parts of historic Palestine in defiance of international law — American Jews are said to have the greatest preference for moving to Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.

In contrast, less than 2 per cent of new Jewish immigrants from Russia and Ukraine — two groups of migrants that account for the majority of foreigners travelling to Israel — move into illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Unlike their non-Jewish fellow citizens, Jewish Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion of the country are granted automatic citizenship and can settle anywhere, including settlements for Jews only. This racist practice has been a source of extreme controversy recently, with thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Israel.

Among French immigrants, 2.5 per cent moved into settlements. They are said to prefer Israel's coastal cities, while Russians and Ukrainians are particularly fond of Haifa, Ashdod and Beersheba.

READ: 50 Palestinians thrown out of Israeli bus after 3 Jewish settlers refused to travel with non-Jews 

The pull factor mentioned for why more Americans move to illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is ideology. American Jews tend to align themselves with the messianic settler movement and hold extremely radical right-wing Jewish supremacist views, such as that all of the territory from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea was granted to Jews by God.

Another reason is that the Jewish organisation subcontracted to handle the logistics of immigration from the US is the private Nefesh b'Nefesh, which is said to encourage American Jews to settle in the occupied West Bank. About a quarter of the communities highlighted on its website are located in illegal settlements, such as Efrat, Ma'aleh Adumim and Elkana. It makes no mention of the fact that these places are not within Israel, nor that all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

The ugly reality of the takeover of Palestinian land by settlers arriving from the US grabbed international attention earlier this year when an American-born Israeli, Yaakov Fauci, was captured on video trying to evict the Palestinian El-Kurd family from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem. "If I don't steal it, someone else is going to steal it," said Fauci in a video that went viral and sparked international condemnation. He was born in Long Island, New York, and was recruited by Nahalat Shimon International, a US-based settler organisation seeking to change the demographics of occupied East Jerusalem.

It's not clear why the US allows its own Jewish citizens to reside in stolen Palestinian territory. A 1978 State Department legal opinion stated that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are not admissible under international law, a position which is accepted universally. US presidents have tried ever since then to water down this legal principal and allow for "natural growth" of the illegal settler communities.

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