Israel’s growing settlements force stark choices about its future

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(Graphic: The Economist)
The country cannot remain Jewish and democratic while controlling the entire Holy Land.

By Staff | The Economist | Feb 2, 2019

As Palestinians lose hope for a state of their own, some favor a ‘one-state’ deal: a single state on all the land with equal rights for Jews and Arabs. Israel would have to give up its predominantly Jewish identity. That is because, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, the overall number of Arabs has caught up with that of Jews, and may soon exceed them.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen. President Donald Trump’s plan for the “deal of the century” has been put off. The subject is absent in campaigning for the Israeli election in April, which focuses on looming corruption charges against Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.

The Oslo accords of 1993 created a crazy quilt of autonomous zones in the lands that Israel captured in 1967. They also kindled the hope of creating a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. After much bloodshed, though, most Israelis are wary of this “two-state solution.” Today Palestinians are mostly shut off by security barriers, and divided. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank refuses to negotiate with Israel but co-operates on security. Its Islamist rival, Hamas, which runs Gaza, dares not risk another war, for now.

Besides, the growth of Jewish settlements makes a two-state deal ever harder. Establishing a Palestinian state would probably require the removal of settlers in its territory. Israel had trouble enough evicting 8,000 Jews from Gaza in 2005. There are more than fifty times as many in the West Bank. Even excluding East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, the number of Jews east of the “green line” (the pre-1967 border) has risen from 110,000 in 1993 to 425,000. New home approvals nearly quadrupled from 5,000 in 2015–16 to 19,000 in 2017–18, according to Peace Now, a pressure group.

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The real beneficiary of US recognition of the settlements is not Israel

Israeli soldiers overlooking East Jerusalem. (photo: Getty Images)
It’s not clear what benefit America derives from this move, but Russia’s occupation of Crimea gains immediate legitimacy.

By Alex Zeldin | Forward | Nov 18, 2019

Whether the move is a correct reading of international law or not, it’s not clear what American national interest is advanced by claiming Israeli West Bank settlements are legal.

Most days, you could be forgiven for not paying attention to shifts in diplomatic policy stances. But on Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a policy change with potentially far reaching implications. He announced that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”

The announcement will shift little on the ground. Its effect is more rhetorical than practical. But the primary beneficiary of this rhetorical flourish is not Israel but another country entirely: Russia. And the real loser is not just the Palestinians but America.

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US says West Bank settlements do not violate international law

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, Nov 18, 2019. (photo: Andrew Harnik / AP)
More than 700,000 Israeli settlers have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war. Both areas are historic Palestinian territories currently under Israeli military occupation.

By Karen DeYoung, Steve Hendrix and John Hudson | The Washington Post | Nov 18, 2019

‘The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere. We conducted our review, and this was the appropriate time to bring it forward.’
— Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the Trump administration had determined that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law, a decision he said had “increased the likelihood” of a Middle East peace settlement.

Pompeo said the Trump administration, as it did with recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, had simply “recognized the reality on the ground.”

The move upends more than 40 years of U.S. policy that has declared Israeli expansion into territories occupied since the 1967 war a major obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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How Israel redefines international law as a cover for its Gaza crimes

Friends of 15-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub, who was shot and killed by Israeli army along the Israel-Gaza border, sit by his grave in a cemetery in Beit Lahia on 21 April, 2018. (photo: AFP)
Israel’s approach to international law can be summed up as ‘If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it’.

By Ben White  |  Middle East Eye  |  Nov 5, 2019

…Israel has been working hard to develop, and promote, interpretations of international law that provide cover for its policies and tactics in the Gaza Strip.

Since removing settlers and redeploying its armed forces to the perimeter fence in 2005, Israel has subjected Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to numerous devastating assaults, a blockade, and routine attacks on the likes of farmers and fishermen.

Many of these policies have been the subject of substantial condemnation – from Palestinians, of course, as well as Israeli and international human rights groups, and even world leaders and politicians – albeit, critically, with little concrete action at the state level.

Israel, however, has sought to thwart even the possibility of meaningful accountability. Its approach has been very simple: in the face of criticism for breaking the law, change the law.

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When a whole society supports a terrorist organization


Palestinians flee with their belongings from the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City to the center of town to seek refugee at a UN school, on August 19, 2014. Warplanes bombed the strip after Palestinian rockets smashed into the country’s south. (photo: Ezz al-Zanoun)
A look at the role of the Israeli military in collective punishment of a group of people.

By  Jonathan Ofir |  Mondoweiss  | Nov 12, 2019

Terrorization has been a consistent means of the Israeli state and army vis-à-vis Palestinians.

After the 2008-9 Israeli onslaught on Gaza that took 1500 lives, a UN fact-finding mission concluded that the three-week campaign was “a deliberately disproportionate attack, designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.” Note the word “terrorize.”

But was this an isolated incident? Not at all. Israel has a long and sordid history of state-terrorist activity. There was the pre-state terror, which eventually served as a means of ethnic cleansing, known as the Nakba of 1948. Those Palestinians who tried to return were shot by the thousands, most of them unarmed.

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American Jews and Israel in the Trump Era: Polarization and Protest, 2019 Benayora Lecture

American Jews and Israel in the Trump Era: Polarization and Protest, 2019 Benaroya Lecture

Please join our brothers and sisters at the University of Washington Stroum Center for Jewish studies for a look at the changing landscape during the Trump presidency.
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Kane Hall 110, Univ of Washington
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free
Event Details

In his 2016 book “Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel” (Princeton University Press), Dov Waxman argued that the age of uncritical and unconditional American Jewish support for Israel is over, and that Israel is now becoming a source of division in the American Jewish community. In this talk, he will discuss how the presidency of Donald Trump has deepened American Jewish divisions over Israel, heightened communal concerns about antisemitism, and mobilized a new generation of Jewish activists. As a result, American Jewry’s relationship with Israel, and American Jewish politics, is being reshaped.

More information here →

Panic over BDS reaches fever pitch

A protester holds a placard reading ‘I boycott Israel but not Jews’ during a Palestine solidarity event in Berlin. (photo: Fabrizio BenschReuters)
Painting BDS as anti-Semitic is primarily a tactic to legitimize the occupation.

By Barry Trachtenberg  |  The Electronic Intifada |  Oct 30, 2019

In the United States, anxiety over BDS is just as palpable and extends to any perceived slight against the Jewish people.

The Czech parliament’s decision to pass a resolution condemning the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as anti-Semitic last week is only the most recent example of how the panic over BDS has reached a fever pitch.

This latest round of attempts to stop public criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians began in Britain in May. Jeremy Hunt, at the time foreign secretary and running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, attacked supporters of BDS by declaring that “boycotting Israel – the world’s only Jewish state – is anti-Semitic.”

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US Jewish organizations warn against West Bank annexation

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu points to a Jordan Valley map. (photo: Getty Images)
Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intent to extend Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, the Progressive Israel Network released their opposition to annexation.

International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) | Nov 11, 2019

‘It’s vital for Israeli leaders to recognize that whatever the dangerous and deluded policies of the Trump administration, the vast majority of Americans and American Jews are strongly opposed to annexation,’
— Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of Progressive Israel Network

A coalition of American Jewish groups has sent a letter to leaders of Israel’s political parties, warning them against full or even partial annexation of the occupied West Bank.

The letter, written by the Progressive Israel Network, asks Israeli politicians to oppose the annexation plan being pursued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even if US President Donald Trump gives it a green light.

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Join Betty McCollum on International Day of the Child

Children participating in the 2017 International Day of the Child celebration hold signs calling for peace. (photo: Manuel Elias / UN Photo)
Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children — A briefing featuring Christian leaders in support of HR 2407.

Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019
Time: 10:30–11:30 am
Location: US Capitol Visitors Center, 200 Auditorium, First St NE, Washington, DC  20515
Information: This briefing is hosted by Rep. McCollum and supported by the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy and Churches for Middle East Peace
Tickets: Event is free to the public

Join U.S. Representative Betty McCollum and Christian faith leaders on the International Day of the Child as they advocate for the rights of Palestinian children who are detained, prosecuted and incarcerated by the Israeli military in the West Bank.

In speaking about H.R. 2407, faith leaders have noted that their faith commitment calls them to pay particular attention to the rights of vulnerable communities, including children. Wherever children are held in detention, whether in the context of U.S. detention centers or Israeli military prisons, there is an obligation to act to protect children’s rights.

“Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act” (H.R. 2407) prohibits any U.S. taxpayer funds from contributing to the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of children by any country, including Israel.

Christian denominations including The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Alliance of Baptists have passed national resolutions in support of Palestinian children’s rights. Speakers from some of these denominations and other Protestant and Catholic organizations will join Rep. McCollum at the briefing.

This briefing is hosted by Rep. McCollum and supported by the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy and Churches for Middle East Peace.

Please write to your representative or call their office to voice your support for this important bill.

The unbearable heaviness of finding freedom outside Gaza

A Palestinian family sits in their destroyed home in the At-Tuffah district of Gaza City, which was heavily attacked during last Israeli offensive, September 21, 2014. (Anne Paq/
A Palestinian family sits in their destroyed home in the At-Tuffah district of Gaza City, which was heavily attacked during last Israeli offensive, September 21, 2014. (photo: Anne Paq /
The conditions in Gaza are leaving a trail and legacy of trauma and mental health issues for those able to leave.

By Salsabeel H. Hamdan |  +972  |  Nov 5, 2019

‘I have developed a strange belief that things might go wrong. I am afraid that I will be questioned or stopped. I am seriously unable to believe that I have the right to move.’
— Ahmed Almassri, 25, studying in Australia

For a Palestinian, Gaza is a place from which escape is nearly impossible. Israel has, for the past 13 years, denied all but a tiny number of applicants the right to travel outside the congested, blockaded strip of land that is often described as the world’s largest open-air prison. For those fortunate few who manage to attain a permit to depart, the extreme shock of life outside Gaza is almost unbearable. Freedom is painful: it triggers the release of long-suppressed emotions, and the realization that a lifetime of unending psychological trauma has rendered them unable to normalize the understanding that their lives can be free of fear, scarcity, and helplessness.

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