No one in Israel knew they were committing a massacre

Palestinians mourn over the bodies of members of the same family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, Nov 14, 2019. (photo: AFP / Haaretz)
The Israel Defense Forces claims the target was an “unoccupied shack.”

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz | Nov 17, 2019

‘Why did they do this to us?’
— Mohammed Matar, who had worked in Israel for 30 years, and whose daughter, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren were killed in the bombing

The bomber pilot didn’t know. His commanders who gave him the orders also didn’t know. The defense minister and the commander in chief didn’t know. Nor did the commander of the air force. The intelligence officers who aimed at the target didn’t know. The army spokesman who lied without a qualm also didn’t know.

None of our heroes knew. The ones who always know everything suddenly didn’t know. The ones who can track down the son of a wanted man in a Damascus suburb didn’t know that sleeping inside their miserable hovel in Dir al-Balah was an impoverished family.

They, who serve in the most moral army and the most advanced intelligence services in the world, didn’t know that the flimsy tin shack had long since stopped being part of the “Islamic Jihad infrastructure,” and it’s doubtful that it ever was. They didn’t know and they didn’t bother to check — after all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Continue reading “No one in Israel knew they were committing a massacre”

Israel’s increasing violence against the media

Palestinian photojournalist Mu’ath Amarneh, seated on the left, moments after being shot in the eye by an Israeli soldier in Surif, West Bank on Nov 15, 2019. (photo: Palestinian Information Center)
2018 saw a 52 percent increase in the number of violations against Palestinian press.

By Delilah Boxstein | Mint Press News | Nov 25, 2019

‘I won’t stop being a journalist but now I feel unsafe. They could attack my other eye. It will be harder for me to continue what I am doing.’
— Palestinian photojournalist Mu’ath Amarneh

On November 15, Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh covered a demonstration in Surif, a West Bank city where residents were protesting against the theft of their land by Israeli settlers. Wearing a press jacket and helmet, Amarneh was shot in the head by an Israeli bullet while taking pictures on a nearby hill — about 330 feet from the soldiers.

“Everything just changed. I felt the whole world was circling around me. And I felt my whole life flash before me. I felt like I was dying,” Amarneh said, describing his reaction when hit.

With blood dripping from his eye, Amarneh was taken to a hospital in Hebron, West Bank. He was eventually transported to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem where his left eye was removed. He remains there awaiting further operations to have the bullet removed from his head. Continue reading “Israel’s increasing violence against the media”

Trump crushes Palestinian hopes — again

A Palestinian boy sits on a chair as Israeli authorities demolish a school in the village of Yatta, south of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, Jul 11, 2018. (photo: Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Images)
The U.S. Middle East peace plan may be in a coma. But that hasn’t stopped Washington from handing major diplomatic victories to Israel.

By Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer | Foreign Policy | Nov 18, 2019

‘You now have a complete package of efforts to make a traditional solution . . . to the Israeli-Palestinian problem virtually impossible, at least for the remainder of the Trump administration.’
— Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar Aaron David Miller

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Monday that the United States no longer considers civilian Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands a violation of international law. The move represents a historic decision that reverses decades of U.S. policy and represents the latest in a raft of pro-Israeli moves that could effectively quash hopes for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The conclusion that we will no longer recognize as per se inconsistent with international law is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances prevented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank,” Pompeo told reporters on Monday. He said that the decision does not mean the U.S. government is expressing views on the legal status of any individual settlement or “prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank.”

Pompeo’s statement rolls back a 1978 State Department opinion that formed the bedrock of U.S. legal opinion on Israeli settlements, asserting that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

The decision marks the latest way in which the Trump administration has undercut Palestinian claims of statehood in favor of its closest historic ally in the Middle East, handing another political victory to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he struggles to stay afloat after failing to form a coalition government.
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Zionism’s uneasy relationship with anti-Semitism

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The Israeli embrace of Christian evangelicals — whose plans for Jews are conversion or a fiery death — mirrors the warm relationship that Zionists had with antisemitic leaders in Germany and Italy.

By Alice Rothchild | Mondoweiss | Nov 19, 2019

[Herzl] would declare in his foundational pamphlet that ‘the Governments of all countries scourged by Anti-Semitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain [the] sovereignty we want’; and indeed that not ‘only poor Jews’ would contribute to an immigration fund for European Jews, ‘but also Christians who wanted to get rid of them.’
— Columbia University professor Joseph Massad

I grew up with a deep love for Israel, the redemptive, out-of the-ashes, kibbutz-loving, feisty little country that could do no wrong, fighting for its life in a sea of hateful Arabs and Jew-haters. I learned that Jews were a people dedicated to worship and the study of Torah and this identity kept us alive during the centuries of antisemitism in Europe. If I was not able to dedicate myself to the religiosity of my davening grandfather, tfillin and all, I understood that as a people, we were deeply committed to healing the world and working for social justice, an equally virtuous and inherently Jewish task. After all, we were naturally good, or as my mother explained, Jews bore the responsibility of being chosen for a uniquely positive role in this world.

As the decades passed, this mythology shattered against the hard rocks of reality. One of the most difficult contradictions I now face is understanding the perverse relationship between Zionism and antisemitism. I was sold the story that political Zionism developed as a response to antisemitism and as a modern, liberating movement in the backward Middle East. But in 1897 as modern Zionism was born, it adopted the trope of the diaspora Jew as a pale, flaccid, yeshiva bocher, a parasite, an eternal alien, a nebbish. That Zionism embraced the idea that this pathetic weakling (who was often to be blamed for antisemitism) needed to be Aryanized into the bronzed, muscular Hebrew farmer/warrior tilling the soil in the Galilee is a chilling realization. The evolution of Jews as a people who lived by Torah and its commandments into a biological race with distinct characteristics, (the money Jew, the ghetto Jew, the swarthy, hook-nosed Jew) mirrors the worst canards of anti-Semites, European fascists, and white supremacists.

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Don’t legalize the illegal

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Israeli settlers clash with Israel Police in West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, Nov 10, 2019. (photo: Hillel Mier / TPS)
International law has determined that the West Bank is governed as a territory captured in war, which makes it defined as a “belligerent occupation.”

By Gershon Baskin | The Jerusalem Post | Nov 20, 2019

The continuation of the settlement enterprise is Israel’s clearest expression that it is not willing to make peace with the Palestinians in any kind of equitable fashion.

I have some news for US President Donald Trump, and he may not like it, but here it is: Donald Trump is not the point of reference regarding international law. No unilateral declaration of the president or secretary of state of the United States of America can legalize the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law, they have been and will continue to be one of the main obstacles to reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It should be no surprise to anyone, but since at least 1977, when the Likud first came to power, Israeli governments have consistently stated that one of the main purposes of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, especially those in the heartland of the West Bank along the central mountain ridge, is to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. From that perspective, the Israeli settlement enterprise has been extraordinarily successful.
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UN Security Council rebukes US on Israel settlements

The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Wed, Nov 20, 2019, at United Nations headquarters. (photo: Mary Altaffer / AP)
“If we abandon international law, it will be the law of the jungle.”

By Edith Lederer | AP | Nov 20, 2019

‘Israeli settlement activities are illegal, erode the viability of the two-state solution and undermine the prospect for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.’
— Joint statement from the 10 non-permanent Security Council members

In a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration, the 14 other U.N. Security Council members on Wednesday strongly opposed the U.S. announcement that it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law.

They warned that the new American policy undermines a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The council’s monthly Mideast meeting, just two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement, was dominated by negative reaction to the new American policy from countries representing all regions of the world who said all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. Continue reading “UN Security Council rebukes US on Israel settlements”

Trump is systematically ending the viability of a future Palestinian state

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An Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. (photo: Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Images)
The Trump administration’s announcement about Israeli settlements was just the latest draconian measure targeting Palestinians.

By Joshua Leifer | The Guardian | Nov 19, 2019

This kind of refusal to enforce the overwhelming international legal consensus on Israeli settlements has been a hallmark of US policy on Israel-Palestine. Pompeo’s announcement is, without doubt, a step beyond what previous administrations were willing to consider. But the difference between this decision and previous US decisions to disregard international law is a difference of degree, not kind.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Monday — that the US will no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories a violation of international law — is, in many ways, a near-perfect encapsulation of the Trump administration’s approach to Israel-Palestine.

Couched in grotesque doublespeak, it claims to advance “the cause of peace” while signaling US approval of Israel’s brutal, perpetual military rule over the roughly 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. It is part and parcel of the Trump administration’s ongoing, concerted efforts to undermine international legal frameworks for addressing human rights violations (and not just in Israel-Palestine). And it is yet more proof, not that more was needed, that the Trump administration is actively pursuing a post-two-state-solution agenda. Continue reading “Trump is systematically ending the viability of a future Palestinian state”

The latest shot in the Trump administration’s war on Palestinian rights

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a statement on Israeli settlements in the West Bank during a news briefing in Washington on Monday. (photo: Yara Nardi / Reuters)
The administration has neither the right nor the agency to rewrite international law to suit its own biases and ideologies. Endorsing the results of crimes, such as the construction of settlements, amounts to complicity. It is unacceptable and unconscionable.

By Hanan Ashrawi | The Washington Post | Nov 20, 2019

Thousands of acres of private Palestinian land have been stolen or destroyed in order to make way for settlements and the roads and infrastructure that connect them. The regime has de facto control over nearly 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, and has separated Palestinian families from each other and Palestinian farmers from their land. Entire communities have been imprisoned behind a matrix of walls and Israeli-only roads, military bases and checkpoints.

On Monday, in a move that reversed more than 40 years of U.S. policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal. This latest gift from the Trump administration to the Israeli right is inconsistent with international law, United Nations resolutions and positions adopted by the rest of the international community. Although it has no legal validity, the decision undermines the most fundamental precepts of international law, including the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force. This will undoubtedly have far-reaching and global consequences.

Pompeo’s reckless announcement threatens to normalize and encourage Israeli war crimes and expansionism, while emboldening other states with expansionist agendas to take steps that would further unravel the world order. It is an overt green light for Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory and the permanent denial of the Palestinian people’s rights to freedom and self-determination.

The issue of settlements is not some abstract or theoretical legal argument. Israel’s illegal settlement regime has had dire consequences on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians. It is the single greatest obstacle to the realization of the two-state formula, which has been the centerpiece of international peacemaking efforts — however feeble — for decades.

Continue reading “The latest shot in the Trump administration’s war on Palestinian rights”

America legitimizes Israeli settlements in the West Bank

An Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank. (photo: AFP)
The intervention will have no immediate effect on the ground but will delight evangelical American voters and may have harmful consequences.

By Staff | The Economist | Nov 19, 2019

[I]t is easy to dismiss the administration’s switch of policy as largely an empty gesture, aimed at a domestic audience, and intended mainly to appeal to the pro-Israel evangelical American voters Mr Trump will need for re-election in 2020. But it could have harmful effects in the longer term.

The announcement on November 18th by Mike Pompeo, the American secretary of state, was unscheduled but not entirely unexpected. He said that, following a legal review by the State Department, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.” This is the latest in a series of such gestures by the Trump administration over the past two years, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and accepting its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

Looked at more broadly, the change of policy is also wholly in tune with Donald Trump’s tendency to disregard accepted diplomatic norms. Despite some dissenting views, the wide international consensus for decades has been that the settlements Israel has built in the territories it captured in the war with Arab states in 1967 are indeed illegal. They are deemed to contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

For over four decades, this has been the view even of Israel’s allies, including most American administrations (with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s, cited by Mr Pompeo). However, Israel, undeterred, has clung to its own interpretation of international law. Over the past 52 years it has built hundreds of settlements, both in east Jerusalem, which it formally annexed in 1967, and in the wider areas of the West Bank (what Israel calls Judea and Samaria). Palestinians, and much of the rest of the world, regard these, as well as the Gaza Strip, as belonging to a future Palestinian state.

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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.

Continue reading “Israel’s growing settlements force stark choices about its future”