Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘two-State solution

Who are the US taxpayers funding illegal Israel settlements?

How American taxpayers are funding Israeli settlements?

At 2 a.m. a group of Israeli settlers, protected by riot police, moved into 25 apartments in 7 Palestinian-owned buildings in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

Some of these apartments were vacant or recently constructed.

In other cases, residents were away from home for the night.

In one case, a young man had purchased an apartment to move into with his bride following their wedding.

Instead, the couple is now enmeshed in a legal struggle with the settlers who have set up residence in their marital home.

The biggest surprise of all? You,  American taxpayers, may have helped fund this takeover.

A Rabbi explains it according to Jewish law:

In the Talmud, the students of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai ask why the Torah deals more severely with a burglar than with a mugger.

Their teacher’s response:

A mugger, who robs face-to-face, fears neither human beings nor God. But a burglar, who sneaks in when no one is looking, is afraid of human beings but shows no fear of God.

In its use of subterfuge, shadow companies, and dead-of-night incursions, Elad represents the worst kind of thief.”

Elad, the settler group that organized this incursion, raises $6 million a year in the United States through the Friends of Ir David Foundation.

As a nonprofit, donations to FIDF are tax deductible: Funders can write off their gifts, which means that all of us who pay U.S. taxes helped subsidize the new settlement.

That’s in direct opposition to official U.S. policy, which seeks a two-state solution and prohibits American aid to settlements over the Green Line.

Even more directly, if you’ve travelled to Israel (as nearly half of American Jews, and a staggering number of Neocom Evangelical American Christians, have), you may have visited the Ir David archaeological site, which includes Hezekiah’s tunnel and other finds from Biblical Jerusalem.

A huge percentage of its 500,000 annual visitors are American, and it’s a hallowed stop on tours organized by synagogues, churches and schools.* That $15 admission fee paid by all those people?

Money for settlers.

Even the excavation of Ir David has damaged or destroyed Palestinian homes, while infuriating archaeologists who complain that Elad prioritizes politics over responsible archaeology.

Elad has a long history of working to transform Silwan from a Palestinian neighborhood into a Jewish one.

The idea is to make “facts on the ground,” in the parlance of the conflict, that will obstruct the possibility of any two-state solution that includes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Elad evicts Palestinians from their homes by exploiting legal loopholes or incomplete property records, it builds entirely new settler compounds, it uses archaeological sites to establish Jewish claims to certain strategic parcels of land, and it even erected a new visitors’ center on a contested piece of real estate.

New fortified buildings topped by Israeli flags tower over the homes of longtime residents. Settlers walk through the neighborhood carrying guns, accompanied by armed guards.

Meanwhile, the municipality virtually always denies Palestinians permits to build new homes or to renovate their old ones.

Those Palestinians who dare to build anyway have their homes demolished, and—to add insult to injury—receive bills for the demolition and the cleanup of rubble.

In this case, Elad claims to have purchased the apartments legally, via a U.S.-based shadow company.

The Palestinians dispute these claims.

While it will take some time to sort out the legal issues, we can say this: A person who has legally purchased a new home does not generally move in under cover of night, flanked by riot police.

And Americans, Elad donors and pilgrims to Israel, are, in some indirect but important way, complicit.

Jewish law strongly forbids aiding or abetting a thief.

In one of the most important guides to Jewish law, Moses Maimonides rules that

It is forbidden to purchase stolen goods from the thief. . . for anyone who does such things or similar ones strengthens the hands of sinners. . . it is [also] forbidden to derive any benefit from a stolen object.”

Jews in Israel agree on ethnic cleansing. Statistics might be higher for Jews Not living in Israel?

Note: re-edit of the article of 2016 “Nearly half of Israeli Jews believe in ethnic cleansing, survey finds”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the findings a ‘wake-up call for Israeli society’

Lizzie Dearden @lizziedearden 

Almost half of Jewish Israelis believe Arabs should be “expelled or transferred” from Israel, a survey has found. (Is that why Israel built Walls of Shame around its borders that its constitution never delimited?)

A study carried out by the Pew Research Centre found that around one in five adults questioned “strongly agreed” with the controversial statement, which amounts to ethnic cleansing under some definitions.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the act as “attempting to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic group”, while a United Nations report in 1993 additionally specified the use of “force or intimidation”.

(Actually, the Palestinians are Not different ethnically, and yet they have got to be transferred for economic reasons in order to acquire free lands and resources)

(Most of the Jews in Israel are from various ethnic background, so how this definition can stand if Not believing in religious myths and acquired privileges?)

Pew-Research-Israel.jpg

In Pew’s survey, 48 per cent of Jewish respondents said Arabs (Israel and Western colonial powers that established Israel try Not to say Palestinians in order Not to give them an particular identity) should be removed from Israel, while a similar share disagreed with the statement.

While 54 to 71% of Jews who defined themselves as ultra-Orthodox, religious or “traditional” supported such a step, only about 36% of the secular community did (They have vested interests in cheap labor?).

“While religious identity influences Israeli Jews’ views on the expulsion of Arabs, the survey finds that even after taking this and other demographic factors into account, Jews’ views on the expulsion of Arabs are most strongly correlated with their political ideology,” the Pew Research Centre report noted.

“The further to the left on the political spectrum, the more Jews are likely to oppose the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, just rhetorically.”

Those supporting the cleansing tended to be Russian-speaking, rather than Hebrew or Yiddish, male, and with a Jewish education to secondary level or below.

(Racist behavior emanating from internal feeling of Not being to the level)

Pew-Research-Israel-2.jpg

Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, called the findings a “wake-up call for Israeli society”.

“It pains me to see the gap that exists in the public’s consciousness – religious and secular – between the notion of Israel as a Jewish state and as a democratic state,” he added. (This President would have liked that 99% of the Jews agree on the transfer of the Palestinians?)

“A further problem is the attitude towards Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Israeli Arab is the Israeli government’s definition of non-Jewish citizens and many members of the minority, who are predominantly Muslim, identify as Palestinian.

In the same survey, almost 80% of Jewish Israelis said Jews deserved preferential treatment in Israel, while a similar proportion of Israeli Arabs claimed they had seen discrimination against Muslims (and Christians).

The research appeared to show that all religious and ethnic groups had lost hope for a two-state solution, with half of Palestinians saying co-existence was possible compared to 40 per cent of Jewish Israelis.

The most recent round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014, just before a 7-week war in Gaza, and tensions have worsened in recent months with a resurgence of violence that has seen an estimated 28 Israelis and 172 Palestinians – mostly attackers – killed.

Pew conducted through face-to-face interviews in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian with more than 5,600 Israeli adults from October 2014 to May 2015 for the research.

The survey used the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics’ definition of the Israeli population, which includes settlers living in the West Bank as well as Arab residents of East Jerusalem.

Note: Another urgent survey is needed, after the Trump pronouncement on Jerusalem and the realization of the Israelis that No effective preemptive wars are feasible anymore

If all these countries oppose Israel settlements, then settlement never abate?

EU, Turkey condemn Israeli settlement plans in West Bank

Israel’s settlements undermine viability of a two-state solution and the possibility of lasting peace, states say.

Houses under construction are seen in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim [Baz Ratner/Reuters]
Houses under construction are seen in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

The European UnionUnited KingdomFrance and Turkey have condemned Israel’s latest approval to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

On December 25 and 26, Israel’s Higher Planning Committee approved the construction of 2,191 housing units in Israeli settlements.

The EU stressed that Israel’s decision undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the possibility of lasting peace in a written statement on Thursday.

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law,” the statement reads.

France on Thursday condemned the move and called on the Israeli administration to reconsider the decision which “heightens tensions”.

“The settlements endanger the two-state solution, which is the only solution that would allow for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The UK said the recent decision is “unacceptable and disappointing” and urged Israel to cease such actions.

“Such actions are illegal under international law and call into question Israel’s commitment to any future peace agreement with the Palestinians,” Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said.

196 illegal settlements

Early on Friday Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting Israel’s “illegal decision” saying that it “carelessly continues to violate international law, especially the relevant United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to the UN, which forbids states from transferring their citizens to occupied land, as well as a presumptive war crime under the 1998 Statute of Rome that set up the International Criminal Court.

Israel’s Planning Committee approved the nearly 2,200 new housing units a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced early elections for April 2019.

Israel ‘moving rapidly’ towards annexation: UN envoy

Plans for 82 new homes in the Ofra settlement near Ramallah – where a shooting attack occurred earlier this month – have also reportedly received the green light.

According to Palestinian figures, roughly 640,000 Jewish settlers now live on 196 settlements (built with the Israeli government’s approval and funded by the US funds) and more than 200 settler outposts (built without its approval) across the occupied West Bank.

The vast majority of the international community considers the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and consider Israeli settlement-building activity there to be illegal.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process collapsed in mid-2014 due to Israel’s continued refusal to halt West Bank settlement building and accept pre-1967 borders as a basis for a two-state solution.

While Israel’s settlement projects have regularly drawn condemnation from Palestinians and in Europe, the US administration under President Donald Trump has taken a largely uncritical public stand.

According to Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel has refused to comply with more than 40 UN Security Council resolutions and about 100 General Assembly resolutions.

MORE ON PALESTINE

Two-State Solution and the Differentiation Strategy

Note: I wrote many articles on this existential issue. As long as the extremist Evangelical Zionists in the USA believe firmly that the Second Coming will happens when Jerusalem is totally Jewish, reason and rational policies are irrelevant for any feasible strategy, except military re-conquest of Palestine.

Apparently, there are about 50 million of those deplorable Evangelical Zionists in the USA who don’t believe a Palestinian exist. At best temporary residents. And many European States have these kinds of extremist dogmatic religious affiliations. Evangelical Zionist foundation preceded Herzl by 50 years, and it the US supreme judge in 1915 who pressured Wilson to obtain from Britain and Balfour a declaration on a Jewish homeland before joining England in WW!

In an attempt to maintain their legitimacy through International Law compliance, the European Union has continued to support the parameters of the Oslo Agreement and a Two-State Solution.

(Oslo Agreement is the peace deal that Clinton signed with Arafat and Rabin in 1992. After Rabin assassination, the US reneged on its signature and every clause in the deal. Congress went even further and pronounced that Jerusalem is Capital of Israel in 1996)

However, by doing so, it has failed to adjust to the changing realities on the ground and half-measures designed to ensure the geopolitical readiness of the East Side of the Green Line have ultimately failed to move the Middle East Peace Process any closer to a final agreement. (East Side of the Green Line? Explain)

The reasons behind this cautious EU approach to the conflict are complex and, at its crux, revolves around a lack of unity among EU member states; a reluctance to instigate any major confrontation with Israel and their limited power if acting unilaterally without US backing.

With the purpose of understanding the role and limits of the European Union in the Israel/Palestine conflict resolution, this paper places emphasis on the EU Differentiation Strategy and its symbiotic relationship with the Two State for Two Peoples paradigm.

(Paradigm? But the Palestinians lived in Palestine for thousands of years. It is accepting the Zionist Jews, who came from everywhere, as a people that is the new paradigm)

On the basis that the EU’s Strategy aims to build the foundations of a future Palestinian State, it will be argued that the Differentiation Strategy is insufficient to achieve a Two-State Solution as it fails to understand the roots of the settlement policies and the lack of sovereignty in the Occupied Territories as the main obstacle to peace. (Wrong. the institutions knew these facts ever since Israel was recognized as a State, and the European people too)

The European Union has played an important role in the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) being both a supporter of a Two-State solution and a legitimising agent of the Palestinian State –meaning Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem[1].  I

ts role in legitimising a more pro-Arab framework of negotiations has been key to normalising issues such as the Palestinian rights back in the 70’s when only Arab states had hitherto mentioned the word Palestinians or a Palestinian Homeland.

Cognisant of the fact that a unified voice was essential to gain credibility and weight in the world’s International Affairs[2], the European Community further formalised its pro-Arab approach through the Venice Declaration in 1980 by calling for the PLO involvement in the Peace negotiations and the Palestinian right to self-determination[3].

Further to this, the already established European Union committed to the recognition of a Palestinian State in the 1999 Berlin Declaration “when appropriate”[4] and recognised Jerusalem as the capital for both states later in 2009[5].

In this spirit, it has been largely argued that the European Community had set the grounds for the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993[6] which defined the Oslo parameters making the EU the “middle ground” party in the negotiations[7].

Since 1980 it has consistently advocated for a Two-State solution, and the Green Line as the border between Israel and Palestine[8] serving as a normative example internationally[9]. Hence, being this ‘definer’ of normality confers on the EU a certain political weight in international affairs- a fact that should not be overlooked[10].

The European Union, as the largest donor to the Palestinians, has strongly committed economically to the Palestinian state-building enterprise in a belief that occupation will perish under strong institution building[11].

With the final aim of achieving Palestinian statehood, the EU has been supporting the Palestinian Authority institution and infrastructure building[12]. Again, the EU has also taken an economic lead in the Palestinian right to self-determination and demonstrated its commitment to the Two-State Solution by strengthening future Palestinian state infrastructure.

As the Secretary-General, António Guterres affirmed earlier this year[13]-“A two-State solution is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and secure a sustainable solution to the conflict”.

The most recent example of the European Union’s legitimising role in framing the conflict’s terminology and drawing red-lines has been the 2013 Differentiation Strategy. This Strategy has further underlined the European understanding of Israeli boundaries disregarding the “Greater Israel” conceptualisation and set the grounds for Palestinian self-determination[14]. (Actually, even now, Israel refuses to have in its constitution any definite borders for the State)

Although there are precedents of EU´s differentiation between the State of Israel and the West Bank, the Differentiation Strategy has been understood as the crystallisation of these efforts in a more unified policy and a consequence of the European Parliament (EP) and activists groups’ pressure together with the European Commission frustration after the many failed attempts to end the conflict[15].

The Differentiation Strategy needs to be taken in the context of the post-Lisbon era and the increasing power of the European Parliament which has criticised the EU’s hesitant attitude to condemning Israeli unlawful action[16].

Given its less institutional character, the EP has held a more critical view and proof of this is its acknowledgement of the necessity to recognise Palestinian statehood concurrently with the Peace Talks and not as the consequence of these.[17]

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) defines the EU Differentiation Strategy as a “variety of measures taken by the EU and its member states to exclude settlement-linked entities and activities from bilateral relations with Israel” as a means to deter settlement construction[18] and a reminder of Oslo parameters.

When signing the Free Trade Agreement, Israel had to agree to exclude any products originated in settlements, thus, becoming unable to export them to Europe, as well as excluding settlement entities from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme -which provides research grants.

These guidelines prevent settlement entities from accessing EU funds and, presently, 18 EU member states have issued advisories which aim to warn EU businesses of the legal and economic consequences of dealing with such entities[19].

As the EU’s Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, put it: “The EU said it will accept mutually agreed changes to the pre-67 lines, or whatever the parties can agree on. However, until such an agreement is reached, it will continue to differentiate between Israel within internationally recognized borders and the settlements outside those borders”[20].

The problem emerges when the EU Differentiation Strategy is not consistently applied – as many states have preferred to comply with the guidelines through EU institutions but not bilaterally[21].

The discord among EU member states became even more apparent when in 2015 the European Commission issued an interpretative notice[22] on labeling settlement products to prevent them from having the same preferential treatment Israeli products have in the EU[23] -which provoked strong opposition from countries such as Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic[24].

Israel responded fiercely to this policy and accused the labels of being anti-Semitic since, contrary to the 2013 strategy, the labeling involved action from the Israeli exporters and not only from Europe[25]: Netanyahu declared, “we remember history and we remember what happened when the products of Jews were labelled in Europe. The labelling of products of the Jewish state by the European Union brings back dark memories”[26].

Eventually, the product labeling was not equally applied among member states[27] and sparked strong criticism.

Whilst EU Law aimed to unify EU’s foreign policy on trading and funding issues, it has also evidenced the difficulty of getting a consensus among the 28 member states, given the disparity of their interests and their historical backgrounds –e.g. the tendency of a more pro-Israeli predilection of Eastern European countries[28].

Acting effectively given the divisions among EU member states and their own national and regional priorities as well as interests has been a daunting task thus far. The ascent of Euro-Scepticism after the economic crisis has contributed to the rise of populists and right wing leaning governments which tend to be more pro-Israeli[29].

As a result, any agreement will be based on the “lowest common denominator” [30] explaining the EU’s moderate approach and preventing any drastic measures such as the labelling to be equally implemented or realised.

This lack of unity among member states is also exemplified in the recognition of the State of Palestine. (Actually, far more States recognized Palestine than Israel was recognized in 1948)

When the Palestinian Authority presented its candidature in the United Nations in 2011 and despite a UN report which endorsed Palestinian readiness for statehood,[31] European members could not reach a consensus.

Contrary to what was expected, Sweden’s recognition of the Palestinian State in 2014 was not mirrored by others; the remaining states who today recognise Palestinian statehood did so whilst part of the Soviet Union, and some of these same states, such as the Czech Republic, are now close allies of Israel[32].

The Berlin Declaration which established that the recognition should be realised “when appropriate” is again another illustration of the EU’s overly-cautious behaviour, reluctant to take stronger measures and ´rush into´ Palestinian sovereignty.

As the Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister, Margot Wallström, upheld: “Some will state this decision comes too soon. I am afraid, rather, that it is too late.” (Nothing is too late, as long as the Palestinians are marching every Friday to Return home)

There is no unanimity among European member states on whether the EU should recognise Palestine collectively or bilaterally[33]. Yet, the problem is rather whether it will ever be appropriate: sovereignty should be a priority in the State-Building enterprise but it is undermined by the facts on the ground which are not properly condemned or addressed creating in a vicious circle.

As Lovatt argues[34], the statehood readiness that the EU considers necessary to recognise Palestine can hardly be achieved amid the limitations that the stem from territorial fragmentation in the West Bank. (Settlements in occupied lands are contrary to UN resolutions and should never be a handicap)

The European Union is a heterogeneous actor: to many member states national interests are still more powerful motivators than achieving a common EU foreign policy, making major decision-making on international relations both convoluted and treacherous.

Attempts to promote a more coherent foreign policy by, e.g. the Lisbon Treaty and the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS), have proven to have limited scope for action or effectiveness[35].

On the top of that, instability in the European community -Brexit, the Ukraine crises and the rise of populism, among others- has increased the EU’s challenges[36] deprioritising the MEPP[37].

This heterogeneity hampers the diffusion of its normative discourse and the creation of a single identity. Normative power if not internalised within local institutions loses its full capacity to cause an impact[38].

(And why a few extremist Right wing Eastern European governments, like Hungary, Check republic, Poland..have to officially celebrate in Jerusalem with Ivanka? Is it the trend that every chauvinistic government in East Europe is supposed to lick USA ass in order to bypass EU frustrations with their racist policies?)

In this vein, major condemnation of the settlement policy would entail recognising Israel’s direct responsibility, thus, the EU’s differentiation strategy tends to understand settlements as a separate entity.(This statement is Not clear)

Even when the EU´s infrastructure has been demolished or seized by Israel due to their settlement policies in the West Bank, European foreign policy has always avoided imposing sanctions to Israel [39]which could be partially explained by the cooperative relation between the two actors.

In addition to the individual state alliances, the EU maintains strong economic and research links with Israel, being its main trading partner[40] -cooperation materialised through the “Association Agreement” in 2000[41]and further integrated Israel within the EU market via the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2005[42].

Not only does Israel’s trade with Europe amount to a third of its total trade but also, Israel is one of the most significant trading partners to the EU in the Mediterranean Area and has been ranked as its 24th partner globally in 2016 [43]. Institutional and economic links between Europe and Israel could have reached an “everything without membership” status in 2013 through a partnership offered by the EU if Peace Talks had not failed a year later[44].

In sum and as Freedland well puts it “if one reason for Israel to end the occupation and make peace with the Palestinians was to improve its international standing, that motive has lost its urgency[45]. (Only sanctioning and boycotting Israel is the main pressure effort to rehabilitate the racist and apartheid policies of Israel)

It seems that maintaining trade relations with Israel is still more profitable than promoting its identity with consistency[46]by being more critical of the settlement activity. Still, the EU has continued to place emphasis on its compliance of International Law and in its “middle ground” normative role.

The Differentiation Strategy, or the “New Approach” as coined by Harpaz[47] is based on “‘[T]he respect of EU positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967’”[48] reinforcing its understanding of the conflict.

As stated previously, coherence and continuity confer actors’ legitimacy and, thus, leverage in International Affairs. “EU’s self-identity”[49] is grounded on its “consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions”[50] as well as “strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter”[51] as established in the Lisbon Treaty.

European normative power may provide external legitimacy by being consistent with International Law[52], but it does not lead to major changes on the ground. In other words, not rewarding the State of Israel for its settlement policy –referring to the Differentiation Strategy[53] does not halt the settlement policy itself.

Furthermore, if more drastic measures to condemn Israel policies vis-á-vis the occupied territories were to be taken, they would require prior US backing. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, could not be clearer in that respect: “Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone”[54].

The US is the only capable actor of exercising effective pressure on Israel and even if the EU were to make use of all its leverage on both parties, this would not necessarily result in a compromise between the PA and the Israeli government[55]. US approval, as well as support, is required to lead the MEPP[56].

The EU Differentiation Strategy has been insufficient to pressure Israel and failed to force any recognition of Israeli state responsibility as the perpetrator and driving-force of increased settlement activity, by only tackling non-governmental actors based in the settlements[57].

Yet the EU is still cognisant of the dangers this activity presents to achieving a Two-State solution and the danger of reaching a one-state reality. As recently acknowledged by António Guterres: “Negative trends on the ground have the potential to create an irreversible one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national, historic and democratic aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians” (This statement is a tacit encouragement for Israel to continue its settlement policies).[58]

The EU has been managing rather than resolving the conflict which proves once again the urgent need for a new “new approach”.[59]A non-confrontational attitude[60]towards Israel is certainly not a strong enough tool to force Israel to reconsider its policy vis-á-vis the occupied territories.

The EU’s relation with Israel is based on a policy of incentives which places the country in a privileged position in trade relations and turns any effort to differentiate Israel from Greater Israel almost purely normative. There is a misconception in understanding settlements as a separate entity from the State of Israel as the Differentiation Strategy does. Notwithstanding that the EU has taken the lead in establishing the red lines of the conflict, these appear to be far too unambitious to properly threaten the settlement expansion.

The European Differentiation Strategy can, thus, be taken as an example of the limits of the European role in achieving a Two-State Solution. Due to the lack of unity among member states, the strong economic and institutional ties with Israel and the difficulty of pursuing a stronger policy unilaterally at odds with the US, the European Union has chosen to take a cautious approach.

Maintaining the current bilateral and multilateral relations with Israel bears more fruit than any benefits reaped from an overt confrontation. Avoiding confrontation still allows the EU to maintain its coherency and, thus, to some extent its external legitimacy.

On the one hand, the Differentiation Strategy can be seen as an EU attempt to preserve its legitimacy internationally since the time for abandoning the Two-State Solution is not ripe after all efforts invested in it and given the unpopularity of the alternatives. On the other hand, it also proves the urgent need for a real shift in the EU’s thinking.

By tackling the consequences of settlement activity instead and disregarding its roots, the conflict has reached a stalemate which has not actively contributed to reaching the sovereignty required for Palestinian statehood and, thus, the achievement of a Two-State Solution.

Despite the fact that a halt or decrease in the settlement activity has not come to reality, the Differentiation Strategy can still be understood as an active approach towards the conflict resolution strengthening the role of the EU as the middle ground party.  Moreover, after the US confirmed its budget cuts to UNRWA, the European Union has pledged additional funds directed to the UN agency and the Palestinian institution-building enterprise[61] which, together with the Union’s rejection of the US latest decision on Jerusalem, can serve as confidence builders for the Palestinians towards the EU.

(The same process with Iran nuclear deal: EU will have to shoulder the compensation for US reneging on the deal)

Amid the difficulties and limitations previously described, the EU has recently taken a more active role in the conflict with the purpose of reactivating the Peace Talks. Its engagement on the ground is now under the scrutiny of the EU foreign ministers who are committed to reviewing the modalities applied thus far. Mogherini clarified in her declaration: “The purpose of this review, that will be conducted mainly by our colleagues in the European Commission, will be exactly to make sure that all the modalities of our engagement will be as efficient and as effective as they can be to reach the goal of the two-state solution.”[62]

At an Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) extraordinary session hosted by the EU earlier this year, the Union has committed to engage in further multilateral talks with the Quartet, Norway and the Arab partners[63].  Further to this, Abbas’s decision to hold an International Conference by mid-2018 which aims to re-address the conflict multilaterally –meaning the Middle East Quartet and the Arab League- was particularly well-received by France and Russia[64].

This new impulse to reactivate and re-address the talks could provide the EU with the space to translate its normative and financial power into significant changes on-the-ground. It remains to be seen what 2018 will bring for the MEPP but the one thing is clear: the EU continues to have a legitimising role in the negotiations despite the limitations.

 

 

Recognizing Palestine, BDS and the survival of Israel

Joseph Massad, in The Electronic Intifada, posted this 16 December 2014

141216-gaza-attacks.jpg

The horrors the Netanyahu government is visiting on the Palestinian people are unmasking the ugly reality Israeli liberals have tried for decades to conceal. (Anne Paq / ActiveStills)

What is happening in European parliaments?

In the last month and a half, the UK House of Commons, the Spanish, French, Portuguese and Irish parliaments have all recognized Israel’s eternal “right” to be a racist state via a much-touted recognition of an alleged Palestinian state within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the areas of Palestine Israel occupied in 1967.

These moves followed the lead of Sweden’s new center-left government which decided shortly after taking office to “recognize the State of Palestine” as part of the “two-state solution.”

As there is no Palestinian state to recognize within the 1967, or any other, borders, these political moves are engineered to undo the death of the two-state solution, the illusion of which had guaranteed Israel’s survival as a Jewish racist state for decades.

These parliamentary resolutions in fact aim to impose a de facto arrangement that prevents Israel’s collapse and replacement with a state that grants equal rights to all its citizens and is not based on colonial and racial privileges.

Unlike Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes he can force the world to recognize a greater racist Israel that annexes the territories Israel occupied in 1967 de jure, the European parliaments are insisting that they will only guarantee Israel’s survival as a racist state within Israel’s 1948 borders and on whatever extra lands within the 1967 territories the Palestinian Authority (PA) — collaborating with Israel — agrees to concede in the form of “land swaps.”

Denmark’s parliament and the European Parliament itself are the latest bodies set to consider votes guaranteeing Israel’s survival in its present form within the 1948 boundaries only.

Even neutral Switzerland agreed, upon a request from the PA, to host a meeting of signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss the 1967 Israeli occupation only. Expectedly, in addition to the Jewish settler-colony, the world’s major settler colonies — the United States, Canada, and Australia — are opposed to the meeting and will not attend.

These moves are unfolding as international support for the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has begun an accelerated move to the mainstream in the US and Western Europe.

Academic associations calling for support for BDS include the Association for Asian American Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the American Studies Association and the American Anthropological Association (which voted to defeat an anti-BDS resolution).

An exception is MESA, the Middle East Studies Association, whose members most recently voted to grant themselves the right to debate BDS, and in the process unwittingly granted the Zionists one full year to lobby and prepare to defeat a BDS resolution on which members may be asked to vote next year.

Even the Columbia University Center for Palestine Studies — which had insistently refused in April 2011 to host and sponsor a talk and book-signing by Omar Barghouti, and instead hosted a speaker on 4 April 2013 (in a closed, invitation-only event) who attacked Barghouti in an attempt to delegitimize PACBI — reversed course recently and invited Barghouti himself to deliver a lecture this month. Barghouti is a co-founder of PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

What do all these moves mean?

Israel’s liberal racists exposed

The context of these steps has to do with the recent conduct of the Netanyahu government whose impatience is exposing Israel’s liberal racist politicians — those who prefer a more patient approach to achieving the very same racist political goals — to embarrassment.

The situation has become so untenable that ardent American liberal Zionists led by none other than Michael Walzer, emeritus professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, have felt compelled to act.

Walzer, notorious for justifying all of Israel’s conquests as “just wars,” and a group of like-minded figures calling themselves “Scholars for Israel and Palestine,” recently called on the US government to impose a travel ban on right-wing Israeli politicians who support annexation of what remains of the West Bank.

Whereas successive Israeli governments have shown an unyielding determination to strengthen Israel’s right to be a racist state over all of historic Palestine, they have done so through the ruse of the “peace process,” which they were committed to maintaining for decades to come without any resolution.

This strategy has worked very well for the last two decades with hardly a peep from the Palestinian Authority, which owes its very existence to this unending “process.”

More recently, Hamas’ political leadership, especially the branch in Qatar, where the group’s leader Khaled Meshal is based, has also been looking for the best way to join this project.

But as the ongoing Netanyahu policies of visiting horrors on the Palestinian people across all of the territories Israel controls — policies that have exposed the “peace process” for the sham it always was as well as Israel’s claim to being “democratic” as a most fraudulent one — the international consensus that Israeli liberals have built over the decades to shield Israel’s ugly reality from the world has been weakened, if not threatened with collapse altogether.

Israeli liberals realize that what Netanyahu is doing is threatening their entire project and the very survival of Israel as a racist Jewish state. It is in this context that European parliaments are rushing to rescue Israel’s liberals by guaranteeing for them Israel’s survival in its racist form through recognizing a nonexistent Palestinian state “within the 1967 borders.”

It is also in this context that European governments in the last year or so have begun to speak of BDS as a possible weapon they could use to threaten the Netanyahu government if it continues in its refusal to “negotiate” with the Palestinians (the Europeans use of the threat of BDS is limited to a threat of boycotting only the products of Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied territories), that is, to maintain the illusion of an ongoing “peace process.” Herein lies the dilemma for those who support BDS.

BDS: A means or an end in itself?

The Ramallah-based PACBI has always been clear that BDS is an instrument, a means to be used to achieve strategic goals — namely an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands during and since 1967, an end to Israeli institutionalized racism inside the 1948 boundaries of Israel and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their lands and homes.

In recent years, however, BDS has been transformed from a means to an end unto itself. Many of those in solidarity with the Palestinians have begun to articulate their positions as ones that support BDS as a goal rather than a means.

The recent votes by academic organizations are a case in point. While three academic organizations that voted for BDS have declared their support for the end of the 1967 occupation, only two, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and the Association for Asian American Studies, explicitly opposed the racist policies of the state of Israel against its own Palestinian citizens.

Only NAISA’s resolution questioned Israeli racist laws and structures. The American Studies Association, by contrast, only cited the occupation of the 1967 territories, while the Modern Language Association merely censured Israel for denying Palestinian academics and students their academic freedom without condemning the occupation or Israeli state racism. MESA’s resolution did not even mention any of the goals of BDS at all.

While these resolutions are a step in the right direction, and in many cases are the result of long and fierce battles waged by members deeply committed to all Palestinian rights, they mostly fail to articulate positions that accord with all the explicit goals of BDS.

Indeed, not one of these organizations mentioned the third goal of BDS, namely the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, which Israel continues to deny in defiance of UN resolutions and international law in order to safeguard a Jewish majority in the country.

As European politicians have recognized, BDS can now be used as a means to achieve ends that those who adopt it can decide on. Palestinians’ monopoly on decision-making through PACBI and the Boycott National Committee and on determining the goals of BDS is not guaranteed.

Different parties, declaring solidarity with the Palestinians, can and do dismiss PACBI altogether as only one of many international organizations that support BDS, arguing that each supporter of BDS can determine on their own whatever goals they deem fit.

In short, the expanded support of BDS in the US and Europe is not necessarily an expanded support for the goals of ending Israeli racism, Israel’s occupation and the Palestinian refugees’ exile, but rather simply support for the use of BDS as a means to achieve whatever the party using it determines as the sought-after goal.

As I have written and explained since the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, all the “solutions” offered by Western and Arab governments and Israeli and PA liberals to end the so-called “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” are premised on guaranteeing Israel’s survival as a racist Jewish state unscathed. All “solutions” that do not offer such a guarantee are dismissed a priori as impractical, unpragmatic and even anti-Semitic. The recent attempts to co-opt BDS for that very same goal are in line with this commitment.

This explains the sudden downgrading of the threat of BDS from something that is untouchable by European and American officials and liberal academics and activists — who understood its ultimate goal as one that not only refuses to guarantee the survival of Israel as a racist state, but also aims specifically to dismantle all its racist structures — to something increasingly safe to adopt by most of them, as it now can be used to secure Israel’s survival.

Palestinians and their supporters must be vigilant about this co-optation of BDS, and must recognize that with the achievement of mainstreaming also come serious risks. Unless they reaffirm that support for BDS is support for the explicit goals that PACBI had initially set, then this recent and apparent “transformation” in attitudes, which in fact is no transformation at all, will usher in a slippery slope — the end goal of which is, alas, too familiar for Palestinians to revisit yet again.

Due to the continued absence of an independent, representative and unified Palestinian liberation movement capable of articulating a coherent strategy and leading the struggle for liberation, BDS will continue, contrary to PACBI’s stated goals, to be utilized at best as a “threat” to Israel to end its 1967 occupation.

This is nothing short of a smokescreen to perpetuate Israel’s other forms of colonial control over historic Palestine and the Palestinians and to preserve its institutionalized and legal racism.

Rather than call on the international community to adopt BDS without an explicit commitment to its goals, Palestinians must insist that those in solidarity with them adopt BDS as a strategy and not as a goal, in order to bring about an end to Israel’s racism and colonialism in all its forms inside and outside the 1948 boundaries.

Otherwise, BDS can and will be used to strengthen the Jewish settler-colony and the Israeli liberal project that backs it.

Joseph Massad is professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. His latest book is Islam in Liberalism (University of Chicago Press).

Is Israel risking to turn into an ‘apartheid state’? Only now does John Kerry realize a 65-year-old evidence?

Finally, the Palestinians recovered their senses:  Fateh and Hamas buried the hatchet and decided to form a coalition government as a preliminary step toward an election.

It is the turn of Israel to lose its senses and blow its top: Israel is behaving as an irrational State that has no idea what to do next. Except punishing the Palestinians for uniting during a crucial negotiation that is dragging for an indefinite period.

Israel is now claiming that it cannot sit with Hamas, but still insists on a purely Jewish State and refuses to delimit borders.

“If a two-state solution isn’t agreed upon soon, Israel will risk becoming an apartheid state” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday while speaking before a closed forum.

Kerry used the term while speaking at the Trilateral Commission before senior officials from the United States, Europe, Russia and Japan, The Daily Beast reported.

published this Apr. 28, 2014  in the Israeli daily Haaretz

It is the first time a U.S. official of Kerry’s importance has used the contentious term “apartheid” in the context of Israel, even if only as a warning for the future.

“A two-state solution,” Kerry said, “will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.

“Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”

Kerry considering unveiling his own peace proposal, telling sides to either ‘take it or leave it.’

Kerry in Washington. April 24, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement on Ukraine at the briefing room of the State Department April 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by AFP

Kerry also warned that a freeze in the peace talks could bring about a violent conflagration in the West Bank. “People grow so frustrated with their lot in life that they begin to take other choices and go to dark places they’ve been before, which forces confrontation,” he said.

During his talk, a recording of which was procured by The Daily Beast, Kerry also suggested that a change in the leadership of either Israel or the Palestinians could make a breakthrough more feasable. He also reiterated his conviction that both sides share the blame for the negotiations’ dead end.

Kerry harshly criticized Israel for plans to build 14,000  new housing units in the settlements advanced during the past 9 months of negotiations.

Kerry also said that at some point he might unveil his own peace proposal, and tell both sides to either “take it or leave it.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in response to the tape that Kerry was simply expressing his position, which is shared by many others, and that the two-state solution is the only way Israel could remain a Jewish state that lives in peace with the Palestinians.

Psaki added that similar positions have been expressed by Israeli leaders such as Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni.

“Zionism in crisis”? Is that still of any surprise?

David Shulman posted on May 9, 2012 “Israel in Peril” and he reviewed Peter Beinart’s book “The Crisis of Zionism(with slight editing):

“On April 15 of this year, I was returning to Israel on an Alitalia flight from Rome. About forty minutes before landing in Tel Aviv, the captain informed us that Israel had announced extraordinary security measures, constricting its air space in response to an unusual threat, and that from that moment on—we were still high above the Mediterranean—until we would be allowed to leave the terminal, all photography was strictly forbidden. We were to follow the instructions of Israeli security personnel on the ground.

My first thought was that Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to attack Iran, because of the seeming movement in the preceding days toward an effective and acceptable peaceful solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear project. On second thought, I decided that such an attack was still somewhat unlikely. So what was going on?

Upon landing we were diverted to the old, by now outmoded Terminal 1. After passport control, we were taken by buses to the new Terminal 3. There were police and border police everywhere and in large numbers. We soon saw them arresting a demonstrator and forcing him into a police van.

At this point it dawned on me that the extraordinary menace from the skies had to do with the arrival in Israel of a few dozen peace activists from Europe. They were trying to reach Bethlehem in the Palestinian territories in order to protest against human rights abuses by Israel.

In this photo, Zionist colons and army soldiers are maiming a Palestinian kid

These protesters clearly provided reason enough to call out the armed forces, as if a violent invasion were taking place. Some fifty were arrested; two managed to slip through the cordon and reach Bethlehem. Government spokesmen that evening proudly spoke of having warded off a threat of almost existential proportions. Their satisfaction was marred only by the fact that the TV news that day was full of one of those incidents that reveal in a flash the violent reality of the occupation.

Shalom Eisner, deputy commander of the army brigade stationed in the Jordan Valley and a settler himself, was filmed brutally, and without provocation, smashing a Danish peace activist in the face with his rifle. The ugly and horrifying scene was broadcast dozens of times.
 
I’m sorry to say that I’ve seen the likes of it rather often in demonstrations in East Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah, Ras al-Amud, Silwan) and in peace actions in the territories. Eisner has since been temporarily relieved of his command. If earlier cases are of any indication, he will probably be reinstated after a couple of  years in another post. Interviewed after the incident, he gave an honest statement of his moral stature: “Maybe it was a professional mistake to use the gun when there were cameras around.”1

Why should a handful of harmless demonstrators elicit so severe a reaction? Netanyahu, in his official announcement, said that if these people were so concerned with human rights, they should check out the situation in Syria, Gaza, or Iran—as if such sites of egregious abuse relieved Israel of any responsibility for what is going on day by day in the occupied territories.

The same logic—that of the endless war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness—underlies Netanyahu’s constant dwelling on the Holocaust in relation to Iran. Like many Israelis, he inhabits a world where evil forces are always just about to annihilate the Jews, who must strike back in daring and heroic ways in order to snatch life from the jaws of death.

I think that, like many other Israelis, Netanyahu is in love with such a world and would reinvent it even if there were no serious threat from outside.

Buried somewhere inside all this is a bad Israeli conscience about the treatment of Palestinians since 1948—a conscience repressed but still somehow alive (perhaps not in Netanyahu).

The rationalizing vision pasted over that bad conscience, a vision simple-minded, self-righteous, dangerous, and immoral, underlies the dilemma that Peter Beinart has eloquently and bravely stated in The Crisis of Zionism. Peter articulates it as a conflict, very familiar by now, between liberal, democratic values and a proto-racist, atavistic nationalism.

This conflict has created two Jewish States in the Middle East. As Beinart says, “To the west [of the Green Line, the pre-1967 border], Israel is a flawed but genuine democracy. To the east, it is an ethnocracy.”

By “ethnocracy is a place where Jews enjoy citizenship and Palestinians do not”. It is a mini-state run by settlers, some of them violent and fanatical, that disenfranchises a huge Palestinian population and continually appropriates Palestinian land in the interests of expanding and further entrenching the colonial project of the settlements. Inevitably, the ethos of the occupation, now in its 45 year, spills westward over the Green Line: “Illiberal Zionism beyond the green line destroys the possibility of liberal Zionism inside it.”

The evidence for this observation is overwhelming; Beinart discusses recent research that shows a dangerous erosion in the commitment by ordinary Israelis to basic democratic values and the concomitant rise of hypernationalist, racist, and totalitarian tendencies, some of them well represented in the ultra-right parties in the Knesset and in the current Israeli cabinet.

In the last year, we’ve seen a spate of antidemocratic, “ethnocratic” legislation all too reminiscent of dark precedents in the history of the last century.

We could describe simply what is happening as a takeover by the settler mini-state of the central institutions of the Israeli state system as a whole.

By now, Israeli policy is almost entirely mortgaged to the settler enterprise: almost every day brings some new, inventive scheme to legalize existing “illegal outposts” in the territories and to facilitate the appropriation of more and more Palestinian land.2 

The inevitable result of such policies is the imminent demise of the so-called “Two-State solution,” which would put a Palestinian state by the side of pre-1967 Israel (with whatever minor revisions of the old boundary the two sides would agree upon in negotiations).

By now, a huge portion of the West Bank has, in effect, been annexed, perhaps irreversibly, to Israel. No State can be constituted on the little that remains. I will return to this question.

Even apart from the disastrous political consequences of current Israeli policy, it is critical to recognize that what goes on in the territories is not a matter of episodic abuse of basic human rights, something that could be corrected by relatively minor, ad hoc actions of protest and redress. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The occupation is systemic in every sense of the word. The various agencies involved—government bureaucrats and their ministries and budgets, the army, the blue-uniformed civilian police, the border police, the civil administration (that is, the official Occupation Authority), the courts (in particular, the military courts in the territories, but also Israeli civil courts inside the Green Line), the host of media commentators who toe the government line and perpetuate its regnant mythologies, and so on—are all inextricably woven into a system whose logic is apparent to anyone with firsthand experience of it.

That logic is one of protecting the settlement project and taking the land. The security aspect of the occupation is, in my view, close to trivial; were it a primary goal, the situation on the ground would look very different.

Take a few routines, typical examples, drawn at random from an endless series.

In mid-January the civil administration sent its bulldozers, accompanied by soldiers, to demolish the ramshackle hut of Halima Ahmad al-Hadhalin, a Palestinian widow with 9 orphaned children living in the deeply impoverished site of Umm al-Kheir, adjacent to the large and constantly expanding settlement of Carmel in the south Hebron hills.

The bureaucrats claimed that the shack was built without a permit, which is no doubt true: Palestinians living in the West Bank “Area C” (Zone C) is under full Israeli control, only very rarely receive a permit to build from the committee, largely composed of settlers, that oversees such requests.

I saw Halima on January 28, on a freezing rainy day.  She was standing barefoot, still shocked and traumatized, in a neighbor’s tent. Such demolitions happen regularly at Umm al-Kheir and have nothing whatever to do with the rule of law; they are part of a malevolent campaign to make life as miserable as possible for the Palestinians there (who, incidentally, claim credibly to own the land on which Carmel sits today) in the hope that they will go away.

Precisely the same line of reasoning applies to a wave of demolition orders issued in February of this year against the project of electrification and the building of energy infrastructures in a set of some sixteen tiny Palestinian khirbehs spread over the south Hebron hills. The shepherds and small-scale farmers in this region live in caves, tents, or shacks, in abject poverty.

Volunteers and peace activists with technical know-how such as Noam Dotan and El’ad Orian, from the organization known as Comet-Me, have painstakingly built wind turbines and basic electric grids in many of these villages to serve a population of some 1,500 people.

The immediate change in the quality of life in this harsh region was dramatic.  My friend Ali Awwad from Tuba, proudly turning on a light bulb in the cave he inhabits, said to me, “For the first time in my life, I feel like a complete human being.”3 

Can these minimal infrastructures, entirely benevolent in intention and effect, funded mainly by European donors at the level of hundreds of thousands of euros,4 constitute a threat of any sort to Israel?

Apparently, they can. The civil administration is keen on destroying them, once again on the flimsy excuse that they were put in place without permits—as if a request for a permit would have been forthcoming.5 

Several electric pylons have already been destroyed and electric wires, undoubtedly worthy targets for the Israeli army, have been cut in some six villages. Pressure from European governments, especially Germany, has stayed the new demolition orders for the moment, but the danger that the bulldozers will turn up when opportunity arises remains very real.

Could the courts stand as a bulwark against such arbitrary acts by the authorities or the more severe instances of outright theft or violent attack by settlers? Occasionally, they do. In general, however, no Palestinian has the slightest chance of finding justice in an Israeli military court, and very few indeed have been justly treated in the civil courts over the last forty years.

Any case having to do with an attempt to establish or maintain Palestinian ownership over lands taken for settlement is, ipso facto, unlikely to end in a decision that goes against the settlers or the government, although there have been some exceptions to this gloomy conclusion. Palestinians who protest against the occupation and the loss of village lands are treated harshly, sometimes imprisoned for long periods, sometimes killed in the course of the demonstrations.6

It is such matters that make Beinart’s deliberately understated description of the occupation seem, from a local perspective in Israel-Palestine, far too mild. His book is clearly addressed in the first instance to an American audience, one perhaps not fully aware of the real situation inside the Palestinian territories.

The tone of the book is polemical, as one might expect: inevitably, Beinart has been bitterly attacked as naive—the worst, also the cheapest insult in the lexicon of those who defend Israeli policies—and as oblivious to the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.7 He is, in fact, all too aware of those complexities, far more so than many who claim to speak to or for American Jews (most of whom, as Beinart points out, have probably never met a living Palestinian).

Beinart mainly focuses on the situation as it is today, under this particular American president and this particular Israeli government. Possibly the most revealing part of the book is the detailed and persuasive description of the political maneuvers that allowed Netanyahu to humiliate Obama repeatedly, first over the issue of a freeze on settlements, and later in Congress, in 2010–2011.

The settlement freeze, in which the Obama administration had invested considerable effort, pressure, and prestige, was never more than a sham; according to the reliable count by Peace Now, construction of new housing units in the territories in 2010, the year of the “freeze,” was only slightly lower than in 2009 (1,712 units as opposed to 1,920).

In March 2010, on the day that Vice President Biden arrived in Jerusalem, the Israeli government announced that it was nearly doubling construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo—an obvious and probably calculated insult to the administration.

Even more outrageous was Netanyahu’s arrogant response to a key speech of Obama’s on May 19, 2011, in which the president stated clearly that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.” Netanyahu announced that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of US commitments made to Israel in 2004”—including acceptance by America of the annexation by Israel of huge chunks of Palestinian land in the so-called “settlement blocs.”

Note the word “expects,” as if Netanyahu were dictating to a submissive president what the latter should or should not say. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on May 24, 2011, a pastiche of myth and demagogic rhetoric of the extreme right, remained faithful to this tone, which Congress shamefully applauded.

Sadly, Beinart shows how Obama has consistently given in to pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby and other American Jewish establishment voices. He gives a withering critique of the leadership of central American Jewish institutions, by now blindly and rather crudely identified with the Israeli right and the Netanyahu line; he quotes Keith Weissman, formerly on the AIPAC staff, as saying that already in the mid-1990s dominant figures there “were sucking at the teat of Likud.”

 Beinart shows that this orientation, with its visceral aversion to the very idea of a free Palestinian state and its enthusiasm for the occupation, now largely dominates the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, the Presidents’ Conference, and a large part of the Orthodox rabbinical establishment as well.

Orthodox hypernationalism and its sometimes violently antidemocratic, even racist voices partly account for Beinart’s pessimistic prognosis for mainstream American Judaism and its relation to Israel.8 Beinart fears “American Zionism will become the province of people indifferent to liberal democratic ideals, and the American Jews most committed to those ideals will become indifferent, at best, to the Jewish State.”9 

He cites studies showing that younger non-Orthodox American Jews, conspicuously liberal in their values and politics, are less and less attached to Israel. Here is the American Jewish version of the conflict I have described in Israel between democratic ideals and tribal nationalism. Both my grandfathers, like most American Jews of their generation, at once Rooseveltian Democrats committed to strong notions of social justice and ardent Zionists, would have been horrified by what has happened in Israel and by the consequent need for American Jews to make such a choice.

shulman_2-060712.jpgJack Guez/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinian children walking past Israeli border policemen standing guard near a Palestinian house taken over by Jewish settlers in the center of Hebron, April 3, 2012

The book has a welcome pragmatic thrust to it, reflecting the urgency—and the immense difficulty—of generating change, but here again Beinart’s recommendations seem to me rather limited.10 He wants to strengthen liberal Jewish education in the US and to expand its funding basis; no one could take exception to this plea, though its potential effects on Israeli policy may be decades away.

More immediately, Beinart recommends a boycott by American Jews of products coming from Israeli settlements in the territories. This may seem a bold step in New York or Philadelphia, given the current climate in American synagogues and other Jewish institutions, though many of us have been doing it for years, publicly or silently, to no great effect.

I once threw a fit in a well-known Jerusalem restaurant when it turned out that they had in stock only wine produced by settlers or in wineries located in the territories. The owner eventually appeared and apologized profusely, promising that in future he’d have a wider selection. That’s about as far as we’ve got, although there is at least one case—that of the Barkan wineries—where pressure from outside, probably mostly from Europe, apparently led to the closure of the main production unit on the West Bank, near Banu Hassan.

Lest this example inspire inflated hopes, I should add that, according to recent studies, many if not most Israeli wineries process grapes grown in settlements.

By now, targeting settlers’ produce has a slightly anachronistic feel to it. Does it make sense to focus on wine from Hebron or milk products from the Susya dairy when the entire Israeli political system sustains the colonial project in the territories?

I should make it clear that I oppose the call for an across-the-board boycott of Israel, and in particular for an academic-cultural boycott, which, in my view, can only be counterproductive, strengthening the prevalent paranoid mythology and its strident spokesmen on the right. Although I spend a portion of my time in often quixotic gestures in the south Hebron hills, in general I’m not fond of the ineffectual.

What is needed is something far more effective—perhaps something that a second-term Democratic president could achieve if he had the courage to confront the stranglehold of AIPAC on American politics, partly described by Beinart. In the meantime, we could use the kind of idealistic and hardheaded volunteers whom Arnold Wolf, the charismatic liberal rabbi who was one of Obama’s mentors in Chicago, took to Selma, Alabama, during the civil rights struggle.

We need volunteers on the West Bank, to protect innocent Palestinian civilians from marauding settlers and the soldiers who invariably back the settlers up. Even a few hundred people would make a real difference.

But it may already be too late. Analysts like Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, have been saying for years that the idea of the two-state solution is no more than a fig leaf, to which both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships pay lip service, hiding the recalcitrant reality of what is already a single state between the Jordan River and the sea.

At the moment, this single state, seen as a whole, fits Beinart’s term—a coercive “ethnocracy.” Those who recoil at the term “apartheid” are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as “Bantustans.”

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they’re anything remotely like a “solution” to Israel’s Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down. In an optimistic version of the future, we may be left with some sort of confederated model that is more than one state but somehow less than two—and in which the Jews will soon become a minority.

I do not see how that can happen without a struggle, hopefully nonviolent at least to some degree, in which Palestinians claim for themselves the rights that other peoples have achieved.

How did we reach this point? Why do Israelis cling to a policy so evidently irrational, indeed suicidal? The simple—too simple—answer is: we’re afraid. We’ve been so traumatized, first by our whole history and then by the history of this conflict, that we want at least an illusion of security, like the kind that comes from holding on to a few more rocky hills.

Never mind that every inch of Israel is within range of tens of thousands of missiles currently stationed in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza, not to mention Iran, and that a few more square kilometers make no difference to that threat. We’ll still take over those West Bank hills, and we’ll even put a few rickety caravans on them for anyone crazy enough to want to live there, and we’ll station a few dozen bored soldiers on top of each of them and all around them, and we’ll connect them to the Israeli electricity grid and the water system, and we’ll build a big perimeter fence to enclose the new settlement and to provide land for it to grow on (usually many times the size of the settlement itself).

The land happens to belong to Palestinians, but that, clearly, is a consideration of no relevance here.

The fears of Israelis are no doubt real enough, and a generous interpretation of Israeli policy over the last four decades would give them due emphasis. As Ali Abu Awwad, one of the leaders of the new generation of Palestinian nonviolent resisters, often says: “The Jews are not my enemy; their fear is my enemy.

We must help them to stop being so afraid—their whole history has terrified them—but I refuse to be a victim of Jewish fear anymore.” He’s right to refuse. But I think the reality we inhabit and have largely created by our own actions has more to do with the story we Israelis tell ourselves about who we are—a powerfully dramatic story that, like many such mythic stories, has a way of perpetuating itself, at continually escalating cost to those who tell it. This story more and more coincides with the primitive Netanyahu narrative I mentioned earlier.

To get away from it, we need to recognize certain primary facts, however uncomfortable they may be for some of us. As has been the case in the past, there are always easily available diversions and distractions that mask the true basis of the ongoing struggle; in Israel today, the main such diversion is called “Iran.”

Along with such distractions we have the Israeli refusal to see the present Palestinian leadership in Ramallah for what it is, a more than adequate partner for Israel. Those who don’t agree should be thinking about men such as Marwan Barghouti, still biding his time in an Israeli jail. He’s no saint, to be sure, but he enjoys enormous authority among Palestinians, and he knows very well what is required to strike a deal.

There is good reason to believe that Marwan wants such a deal, along the lines that are by now recognized as reasonable by a majority on both sides of the conflict and, indeed, by most other nations. He has recently published a strong statement calling for mass nonviolent resistance in the territories and an end to the farce of a negotiating “process” that has allowed Israel to stall endlessly—and to hide its deeply rooted hostility to the very idea of coming to some form of agreement with the Palestinian national movement.

This profound antipathy to making a meaningful peace will undoubtedly continue to dominate the present Israeli government, now expanded by the entry of the Kadima party into the coalition. Kadima presents itself as “centrist” but is, in fact, hardly distinguishable from the Likud, from which it seceded under Sharon’s leadership, when it comes to Palestinian matters. The new cabinet will continue to entrench the occupation and to legalize the massive theft of Palestinian lands while loudly complaining that the Palestinians are responsible for the collapse of negotiations.

It is worth stating the self-evident truths: at the core of this conflict there are two peoples with symmetrical claims to the land. Neither of the two has any monopoly on being “right,” and each has committed atrocities against the other. One of these two sides is, however, much stronger than the other. Until the national aspirations of the weaker, Palestinian side are addressed and some sort of workable compromise between the two parties is achieved—until the occupation as we know it today comes to an end—there will be no peace. It is impossible to keep millions of human beings disenfranchised for long and to systematically rob them of their dignity and their land.

To prolong the occupation is to ensure the emergence of a single polity west of the Jordan; every passing day makes a South African trajectory more likely, including the eventual, necessary progression to a system of one person, one vote. Thus the likelihood must be faced that unless the Occupation ends, there will also, in the not so distant future, be no Jewish state.


adonis49

adonis49

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