Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Palestinian Ghettos Were Always The Plan

Amira Hass
Ha'aretz, Jan. 20, 2013

When Habayit Hayehudi party leader and rising political star Naftali Bennett calls for annexing Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civil control, he is following the logic of every single Israeli government: maximize the territory, minimize the Arabs.

2011 Map of Israeli-controlled AREA C in the West Bank, Palestine

Some may even interpret this as elections propaganda in favor of Habayit Hayehudi and endorse it warmly.
Bennett can propose annexation because every governing coalition since the Six-Day War - whether it was led by the Likud or Labor (or its precursor, Alignment) party, and whether its partners were Mafdal, Shas or Meretz - laid the spiritual and policy groundwork for him.
According to Bennett, about 60 percent of the West Bank - a.k.a. Area C - is annexable. What's important about Area C is not whether 50,000 Palestinians live there, as democratic, benevolent Bennett claims, while suggesting to naturalize them and grant them Israeli citizenship, or whether the number is around 150,000 (as my colleague Chaim Levinson reminded us earlier this week).
Don’t worry. Even if there are 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C and all of them agree to become citizens, the Israeli bureaucracy will find ways to embitter their lives (the way it does the lives of the Bedouin in the Negev), revoke their citizenship (the way it does the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem) and leave them without the little share of their land they still have (the way it did to the Palestinian citizens of Israel within the 1948 borders). This is why Bennett can allow himself to be munificent.
The true story behind area C is that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living there today; the villages have not expanded in accordance with their natural population growth; the number of residents has not grown; the herders can no longer graze their flocks freely; many of the inhabitants lack access to water, electricity, school and medical clinics; Israel has not been taken to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for destroying the cisterns; there are no paved roads in and between villages.
Many of the people have been living in tents and caves for 30 to 40 years - against their will and contrary to their hopes - and the Palestinian towns cannot expand properly and remove old industrial zones a reasonable distance from residential neighborhoods.

Village turned into a toxic waste dump

Olive trees
As I have said a million times and will say another million times: Area C is a tremendous success of Israeli policy and its implementers, the army and the Civil Administration. It is part of a farsighted, well-executed, perfectly thought-out policy that has succeeded precisely in that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living in the area. Bennett is probably decent/honest enough to acknowledge the debt he owes to the previous generations of Israeli politicians and military officials who warmed the country up for his annexation plan, ensuring its acceptance would be as effortless as a knife cutting butter in the sun.
Area C existed even before the Oslo negotiators invented the supposedly temporary division in 1995, distinguishing it from Area B, with full Israeli security control and partial policing authority and full civil authority for the Palestinians; and Area A, with full Palestinian civil and policing authority – albeit, as is often unappreciated, within an envelope of full Israeli security control.
When this division was being implemented, the media emphasized the difference between Area A, where armed members of the various Palestinian security forces could operate openly with license from Israel, and the rest of the Palestinian territories, where Palestinians would not be allowed to carry rifles. But in reality, the importance of Palestinian Authority policing powers is dwarfed in comparison with its lack of civilian authority over most of the land.
Area C, then, is shorthand for all the prohibitions that Israel imposes on Palestinian dignity of life, and it has existed before its invention. Live fire zones, military maneuver zones, security belts, fences, state lands, survey lands (where the state is in the process of declaring them as state lands, i.e. only for Jews), re-surveyed lands and post-surveyed lands and nature reserves. All these were aimed at concentrating them within narrow and meager Pales of Settlement (copyrights reserved for Imperial Russia and its confinement of the Jews). Unlike us, Arabs do not need space, land, resources, water, industrial zones, landscapes or recreational trips.

 The Palestinian enclaves are the other side of Area C. Area C, then, is a metaphor for the Israeli ghetto mentality flipped. I usually take care not to use terms like “ghetto” or “concentration camp” to describe the enclaves where Israel has gathered the Palestinians from both sides of the Green Line, or 1948 armistice line, including the Gaza Strip and the slums of East Jerusalem. The 12 years of the Third Reich cemented these terms as links/stations in the conveyor leading to the final goal - a systematic genocide.
Day trip to a Palestinian ghetto
In our case, in contrast, ghettoization is itself the aim, having been implemented for the past 65 years. In other words, the aim - unfolded with the advent of time -has been to concentrate the Palestinians in reserves, after most of their land had been robbed of them. And if they desert and move abroad, it's of their own free will. A direct planning and ideological line stretches between the enclaves in which the Palestinian citizens of Israel live and those of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
This is the real Israeli historical compromise. It is not with the Palestinians, but with the dictates of reality and among the various Zionist ideological currents. The crowded, offensive reservations - the creation of which is violence, pure and simple - are a compromise between the craving to eject the Palestinians from their land and the recognition that regional and international conditions do not permit it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Israel's Settlements

An Israeli boy looks out from his home in a settlement on Givat Hamatos May 17, 2012. (Newscom/Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told Secretary of State Colin Powell, "We learn a lot from you Americans. We saw how you moved West using this method."    
In mid-December, Israeli officials approved plans for the construction of more than 2,600 new homes to be built on Givat Hamatos, a hill on the outskirts of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. This settlement would be the first major new Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem outside of Israel's internationally recognized borders since 1997, effectively completing the encirclement of Arab East Jerusalem by cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank.

Like a number of other new settlements announced by Israel's right-wing government, this latest initiative appears designed to divide up the land in the occupied territory in such a way as to make the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

In face of near-universal international condemnation for this latest Israeli provocation, however, the United States rushed to Israel's defense.

All of the Israeli settlements outside of Israel's internationally recognized borders are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention -- to which both Israel and the United States are signatories -- prohibits any occupying power from transferring "parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." The United Nations, with such measures as Security Council Resolutions 446, 452, 465 and 471, has repeatedly recognized that Israel is in violation of this critical international treaty.

In addition, a landmark 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice also confirmed the illegality of the settlements.

On Dec. 19, however, the Obama administration blocked a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israel's announcement of the new settlement. The U.S. then blocked an effort for a joint statement by the Security Council president. In response, all 14 other members of the Security Council issued individual statements condemning the illegal Israeli actions.

Obama's efforts to undermine international law in regard to Israeli colonization are not new. In February 2011, a nearly unprecedented majority of U.N. members co-sponsored a Security Council resolution that reaffirmed previous Security Council resolutions acknowledging that Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands occupied since the June 1967 war were illegal and constituted a major obstacle to peace. Unlike these previous resolutions, however, which called on Israel to withdraw from already existing settlements, this resolution simply insisted that Israel cease additional settlement activity in Palestinian areas.

Despite the moderate wording, however, the United States vetoed the resolution. All 14 of the other members of the Security Council voted in favor, situating the United States as an extreme outlier in the international community and placing President Barack Obama to the right of the conservative governments of Great Britain and France.

Given that the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice enjoined the United States and other signatories to "ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law," the U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution attempting to encourage compliance indicates that Obama is willing to have the United States violate the decision by the World Court as well.

The official State Department position, in effect for nearly 33 years and never formally repealed, states categorically, "While Israel may undertake, in the occupied territories, actions necessary to meet its military needs and to provide for orderly government during the occupation, for the reasons indicated above the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories is inconsistent with international law." Obama, in vetoing this resolution, demonstrated his willingness to undermine even his own State Department.

Refusing to recognize the illegality of Israeli settlements at the United Nations was not always the position of the U.S. president. The Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations were quite willing to do so when Israel's colonization drive began in the 1970s. However, despite his distinguished legal background, Obama has demonstrated -- on this issue, at least -- that he has even less respect for the law than Richard Nixon had.

As late as the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the United States tried to pressure Israel to halt settlement expansion. However, under the Clinton administration -- with the backing of both parties in Congress -- the United States succeeded in blocking efforts by Israeli peace activists and the international community to freeze settlements, which at that time were only half as large as they are now. The United States even used taxpayer dollars to subsidize the settlements' expansion. These policies contributed directly to the collapse of the peace process in 2000 and the rise of extremist Palestinian groups like Hamas.

In 2001, the U.S. Mitchell Report called on Israel to "freeze all settlement activity, including the 'natural growth' of existing settlements," emphasizing that without such a freeze, "a cessation of Palestinian-Israeli violence will be particularly hard to sustain." Neither the Bush administration nor Congress pressured Israel to abide by this recommendation, however.

Similarly, when the George W. Bush administration -- along with Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- put together a three-part "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace two years later, the first phase included a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, "including natural growth of settlements." However, while the United States pushed the Palestinian Authority hard -- and largely successfully -- to live up to its obligations under the road map, both the Bush and Obama administrations have refused to go beyond mildly worded expressions of concern about Israel's settlement policy.

It is no secret where U.S. acquiescence to Israel's settlement policy will lead. As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told Secretary of State Colin Powell, "We learn a lot from you Americans. We saw how you moved West using this method."

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Coordinated Twitter Alert! Vote G4S Israeli-Prison contractor Worst Company

A message from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee...
START TWEETING: Tonight 9:30 am Pacific Time / 12:30 pm Eastern time/ 7:30 pm Palestine

G4S has been nominated for the infamous ‘Worst Company of the Year’ Public Eye People’s Award.

G4S is involved in running Israel’s prisons, checkpoints, police force and Apartheid Wall. Help us trend worldwide #VoteG4S (important NOT to use this hashtag in advance otherwise our trending chances greatly diminish. Follow @WaronWant for the word go!).

The most important part of this action is to push people to click and vote for G4S at this link:

The winner of the vote will be announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos – this is an important chance to expose G4S and their contracts with apartheid Israel (among many other human rights abuses internationally).

Voting does not close until midday on January 23rd. We will have a repeat of this action later on during the week, please keep tweeting the link even outside the action so we can gather as many votes to give the title to G4S.

Reason: G4S, the largest private military and security company in the world, has a contract with the Israeli Prison service and provides equipment and services to prisons at which Israel detains Palestinian political prisoners without charge and subjects them to torture and ill-treatment. Many Palestinian political prisoners remain on hunger strike to protest detention without trial including Samer Al-Issawi, entering critical stages of his hunger strike. More information on G4S complicity with Israel here:

Suggested tweets:
G4S is privatizing warfare and profits from Israel’s military occupation. Take a min. Vote here: #VoteG4S

Take action against companies that profit from Israeli prisons – follow link & #VoteG4S

Why G4S? Cause it's involved in checkpoints and managing prison security for Israel in occupied Palestinian territories

Israeli prison contractor G4S nominated for "worst company" award. #VoteG4S here

Click this link and #VoteG4S simple, quick and will help expose G4S complicity in Israel’s prison system

Israel relies on the support of firms like #G4S to run it's prison system - #VoteG4S here #BDS

G4yeS? G4 NO! Vote Now for the worst company of the year
#VoteG4S complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine and apartheid prison system. Vote here: #BDS

What do you get when you cross detention, illegal occupation & an Olympic security shambles? #VoteG4S!

- Stop G4S Campaign

Palestinian prisoner hunger strike

Friday, January 04, 2013

Israel's Turn To The Far Right: The Point of No Return?

Kirk Beattie for Informed Comment

Most concerned Americans have, understandably, had their eyes glued on the monumental changes sweeping the Arab world. But they remain largely oblivious to another regional transformation of great significance; that is, the rightward shift of Israel’s political, tectonic plates. From its historically strong center-leftist (Labor) and center-rightist (old Likud) nodes, Israel’s political scene is now dominated by a combination of far right (new Likud) and extreme right wingers (Yisrael Beiteinu; The Jewish Home), as well as religious zealots (Sephardic Torah Guardians; United Torah Judaism).

On January 22, Israelis will head to election booths for parliamentary elections. All polls indicate that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his right wing allies will emerge victorious, winning as many as 68 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, and thereby securing an even more comfortable majority than that provided by the 66 seats they currently hold. Nearly thirteen years will have elapsed since the last time centrists controlled Israel’s destiny.

Netanyahu ready to "push the button" on Iran

Netanyahu’s Likud merits characterization as the “new Likud.” Over the past ten years, once powerful leaders like Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni abandoned the party, recognizing that Israel’s long-term interests were best served by a more active pursuit of peace via a two-state solution. Those who remain in Likud, like Netanyahu himself, represent les durs des durs, the hardest of Likud’s hardline elements.

Likud militants
But Netanyahu’s coalition already depends upon, and is slated to become even more beholden to, extreme right wing, ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox religious elements. In the current coalition, these forces combined hold eleven more Knesset seats than does Likud. And the beliefs of these elements about Israel, Palestinians, their regional neighbors, and the rest of the world, are every bit as frightening as those of Islamist extremists.

For the ultra-nationalists of Yisrael Beiteinu and The Jewish Home, the solution to the Palestinian problem is to “transfer” Palestinians from their homes to create a more Palestinian-“rein” Israel. These people make David Duke look like lightweight wimps, and some of them have already been occupying important posts in Netanyahu’s current government.

As for Israel’s small, but disproportionately influential, ultra-Orthodox parties, which are also members of the current coalition government, there is real meaning behind the belief that the Jews are God’s “chosen people,” anointed to lead humankind to divine redemption.

Their members see Palestinians Arabs, including those who are citizens of Israel, as Canaanites and other Biblical enemies of Israel. Among Israel’s right-wing extremists, more generous thinkers will permit the continued presence of these non-Jews so long as they happily reconcile themselves to second class citizenship.

But for the more aggressive in the extremists’ ranks, of whom there is no shortage, the belief is that the Palestinians will be “vomited out” of the land. Indeed, for the most zealous, it is a mitzva, or good deed, to kill such people. The notion of attaining genuine peace with the Palestinians, a peace that would entail ceding land they believe God gave to the Jews in his covenant with the Jewish people, is not just scorned, it is seen as sacrilegious.

The extremists’ attitudes towards fellow Jewish citizens of Israel who are secular-minded and peace-oriented are no less loathsome. Many of them hold that efforts by any Israeli government to force Jews to withdraw from West Bank settlements are to be combated, including, if need be, by civil war. The increasing frequency of “price tag” operations, violent acts targeting Jewish Israeli citizens and Israeli military personnel perceived as blocking the extremists’ path, serves as a stark reminder of this threat.

Credit: The Jeruselem Fund
Hebron Graffiti

Last but not least, Jewish Israeli extremists’ views of the peoples of the rest of the world are no less alarming. Gentiles’ intentions are presumed to be inimical, and any effort to broker some type of peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and Israel’s neighbors, is to be thoroughly resisted. Israel’s extremists hold nothing but contempt and abject repudiation of efforts by any international actor, including those of the United States government, that would prevent them from realizing their divinely-inspired objective of redeeming all of Eretz Israel.

And lest one forget, we are talking here about a pressure group that now exercises heavy political influence over decision makers in a country that possesses hundreds of nuclear bombs. Thus, what Americans fear most about countries like Iran and Pakistan; that is, religious extremists in power in countries with nuclear arsenals, is close to being realized in Israel.

Anyone who thinks Israel’s religious extremists love the predominantly Christian “West” any more than Islamist extremists should just look at recent developments. To take just one, Haifa’s rabbinate, no less, issued a proclamation stating: “It is seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals.” Deck the hotel’s halls? Lose your kashrut license (certifying compliance with Jewish law) and destroy the hotel restaurant’s profitability.

In mid-October, serendipity granted me the opportunity to have a brief, one-on-one exchange with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister. Livni led the Kadima party into Israel’s last elections in 2009. Her party, which represents a more peace-oriented breakaway from the right wing Likud party, garnered more votes than any other. But Livni was unable to patch together a coalition and take power, so Netanyahu and his hardline, extremist-laden coalition filled the breach. I began my exchange with Livni by noting that I was concerned by the growing power and influence of extreme right wing forces in Israel, and she responded by saying she shared my concern, stating “We’ll have to see what happens in the upcoming elections.”

But when I pressed a bit more on this point with the observation that those forces appear to be moving ineluctably toward greater power, she answered, much more ominously, “Yes, I hope we didn’t already reach the point of no return.”

Kirk J. Beattie
Dept. of Political Science and International Relations
Simmons College, Boston

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Haneen is in. UNANIMOUS DECISION -- ALL 9 justices with us!!

Israel's Supreme Court Rules Unanimously: The attempt to block Haneen Zoabi from running for the Knesset is NOT approved.

Haneen Zoabi

From Rina Jabreen (Rosenberg), International Advocacy Director
Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Haifa and Beer el-Sabe
We got a UNANIMOUS decision today!! All 9 justices with us for the first time! In 2003, 7 to 4; in 2009, 8 to 1; and in 2012, 9 to 0!!
Here is a quick English translation [part of] of the decision:
Following the hearing held on 27.12.2012, it was decided unanimously not to approve the decision of the Central Elections Committee of the Knesset from 19.12.2012 to prevent Haneen Zoabi to be nominated in the elections for the 19th [Knesset]. This means that MK Zoabi will be eligible to run  in the next Knesset elections.
Following the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling of all nine justices to overturn the disqualification decision, Adalah’s General Director, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, who is the legal representative of MK Haneen Zoabi, stated, “The fact that the repeated attempts to disqualify Arab MKs and political parties made over the last 15 years have had no legal basis, as the Israeli Supreme Court has consistently ruled, indicates that the aim of the right-wing is to de-legitimize the elected Arab leadership in Israel.
The case of Haneen Zoabi differs from the others in that an attempt was made to de-humanize her and to attack her personally as a woman. She was also branded as a terrorist simply for participating in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was a legitimate political act, and even though she has not been indicted for any crime. By contrast, some right-wing members of Knesset have been indicted for serious crimes and have even served time in prison, and yet there has been no attempt to expel them from the parliament. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision today, which exposes the Central Elections Committee’s decision as racist and unjust.