Pretending Israel Is Innocent of Apartheid

Without doubt Israel practices apartheid toward Palestinians who are broadly denied human rights, but Israel’s political clout is such that the reality must be denied at the U.N. and in the U.S., as Lawrence Davidson explains.

By Lawrence Davidson

On March 15, the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report on Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians. Using international law as its comparative criterion, the report came to a “definitive conclusion” that “Israel is guilty of Apartheid practices.”

The term Apartheid was not used in the report merely in a “pejorative” way. It was used as a descriptor of fact based on the evidence and the accepted legal meaning of the term.

Such was the immediate uproar from the United States and Israel that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a moment of moral failure, ordered the report’s withdrawal. The head of ESCWA, the Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf, decided that she could not, in good conscience, do so and so tendered her resigation.

The initial New York Times coverage of the incident paid little attention to the accuracy of the report, an approach which, if pursued, would have at least educated the Times’ readers as to the real conditions of Palestinians under Israeli domination. Instead it called the report, and those involved in producing it, into question.

For instance, the NYT told us that “the report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, was quoted as declaring that, “when someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N. it is appropriate that the person resign.” At no point in the NYT story was it noted that Ms. Haley’s charge that the report was false, was itself false. Other coverage by the NYT improved only slightly.

The NYT did pay attention to the fact that, among the authors of the report, was former U.N. human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk served six years as U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories. According to the NYT, his presence “gall[ed] many Israeli supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite.” There is something troubling about a newspaper that claims to represent the epitome of professional journalism reporting such slurs without properly evaluating them.

Richard Falk, who is Jewish, has an impeccable record of both academic achievement and public service. His reputation for honesty and dedication to the cause of human rights exemplifies the best practice of Jewish values. Thus, he has every right to say, “I have been smeared in this effort to discredit the report” – a study which “tries its best to look at the evidence and analyze the applicable law in a professional manner.”

Israel’s Behavior

An objective consideration of Israel’s behavior makes it hard to escape the brutal reality of its officially condoned practices.

On March 17, at the same time as the forced withdrawal of the ESCWA report, the U.S. State Department released a report on “grave violations against Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation.” This was part of the department’s annual “country reports on human rights practices.” Among the problems cited were Israel’s practice of unlawful detention, coerced confessions and excessive use of force, including torture and killings.

Usually, these annual human rights reports are made public by the Secretary of State. This year Rex Tillerson, who presently holds the office, was nowhere in sight. And, of course, President Trump failed to issue any of his characteristic tweets in reference to the Israel’s barbaric behavior.

Earlier, on Feb. 8, it was reported that “Israel has banned anesthesia gas from entering the Gaza Strip.” There is a current backlog of some 200 patients in Gaza requiring surgical care, and some will die due to Israel’s ban.

A week later, on Feb. 14, it was reported that Israeli officials were blackmailing Palestinian patients seeking permission to enter Israel for necessary medical treatment. A 17-year-old Gazan boy who suffered from congenital heart disease and needed a heart valve replacement “was explicitly told that in order to [leave the Gaza Strip and] have his operation, he would have to cooperate with the security forces and spy for Israel.” He refused and subsequently died. This is not a new or unusual tactic for the Israelis.

Blackmail All Around

The moral failure at the U.N., represented by the withdrawal of the ESCWA report, is the result of Secretary General Guterres’s decision to acquiesce in a denial of reality – the reality of Israel’s practice of Apartheid.

On the other hand, it probably also stems from Guterres’s acceptance of the reality of U.S. financial leverage along with the apparent threat to bankrupt the United Nations. This is, of course, a form of blackmail. Significantly, U.S. use of its financial clout at the U.N. mimics the same practice by the Zionist lobby in the halls of Congress.

Obviously the United Nations, to say nothing of U.S. politicians, needs alternate sources of income. My wife Janet once suggested that the UN be awarded the right to exploit and profit from all undersea resources. Not a bad idea. Likewise, U.S. politicians should agree to, or be forced to rely upon, government-based campaign funding rather than be pressed into putting themselves up for sale.

However, such changes do not appear imminent. As it stands now, reality in Palestine is what the Americans and Israelis say it is because politicians and international leaders literally can’t afford to challenge their corrupted views.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.




Celebrating the Balfour Disaster

A century ago, the U.K.’s Balfour Declaration set in motion the human rights disaster of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but – for opportunistic reasons – British politicians plan to hail it as a brilliant success, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that Britain will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration later this year. The Conservative Party leader addressed her party’s “Friends of Israel” faction and declared that the Balfour Declaration was “one of the most important letters in history” while pledging that her government would celebrate it “with pride.”

Her determination to do so is a clear indication that those who control national politics also control official interpretations of history. In the case of the Balfour Declaration’s centenary, it is the ongoing alliance of Zionist special interests and British political power that is about to turn what has been a disaster for Britons, Jews and Palestinians alike, into a source of national pride.

I have told the story of the Balfour Declaration in documented detail in my book America’s Palestine. Here is a brief synopsis: The November 1917 declaration was a World War I expedient undertaken by the then British government to enlist the aid of worldwide Jewry (mistakenly believed to be led by the fledgling World Zionist Organization) to the British side. In exchange the British government promised to create a “Jewish National Home” in Arab Palestine after the war. In so doing it sought to buy Jewish assistance with someone else’s currency – that is, with territory then belonging to the Ottoman Empire.

Key members of the war cabinet in London, such as the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, were believers in the myth of worldwide Jewish power, and on that basis were convinced that Jewish influence in Washington could help bring the United States into the war as a British ally, and at the same time keep their eastern front ally, the Russians, from leaving the war. Though the U.S. did soon enter the war, it had nothing to do with Jewish influence, and the Russians, now led by the Bolsheviks, proceeded to make a separate peace with the Germans.

At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain found itself in military control of Palestine. The government in London then proceeded to follow up on its promise to the Zionists. It did so by allowing the massive immigration of European Jews into Palestine. At this point the policy was driven by a blend of religious and racist beliefs, along with imperial ambitions.

First there was the fact that the Jews were seen as European allies who would allegedly help secure a strategic part of the Middle East for the British Empire, and second there was a mesmerizing mythic belief that a Jewish National Home was somehow in line with the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. In the end none of this played out well for the British. In 1948, they were driven out of Palestine by both violently hostile Zionists and Arab nationalists. They left with their tails between their legs.

It appears that Prime Minister May and her party’s “Friends of Israel” reject this history. Or, perhaps they don’t care about documented facts because all that now matters is keeping for the Conservative Party the financial backing of the Zionist lobby. Such is democratic politics in the West.

A Disaster All Around

It is worth repeating that the consequences of the Balfour Declaration have proven to be disastrous. British hegemony lasted but 30 years and, as just mentioned, ended in an ignominious withdrawal. The Palestinians have suffered decades of dispossession and ethnic cleansing.

And the Jews, religious and secular, of the resulting state of Israel, now officially tied to the Zionist ethos, have been politically seduced and culturally converted to a racist ideology. Today, for many Jews, Zionism and Judaism are two sides of the same coin. One way you can demonstrate this latter point is by calling the ideology of Zionism into question. In doing so you will be labeled an anti-Semite.

Why has this situation come to pass? Certainly the history of European anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust, has a lot to do with it. Anti-Semitism always constituted a threat for the Jews of the West. However, traditionally, that threat was mostly local. That is, even as the Jews of a particular shtetl in, say, southern Russia were being slaughtered, those elsewhere might be prospering. So, the danger was always there but only sporadically realized.

But then came the Nazis and the dimensions of the threat changed radically. As a result, there was a total breakdown of European Jewish life. And, for a significant number, the old Torah-based insights and philosophies that explained the world no longer sufficed.

So what did those Western Jews who managed to survive do in such circumstances? Their customary social order was gone. They were adrift in a world that did not make sense except in terms of its mortal danger. Under such conditions an applicable single idea that appeared to be historically logical could serve as a life preserver – and that idea was Zionism.

Zionism seemed historically logical because it melded the historical success of the nation-state, which was after all the dominant political system of the age, with a biblical myth that rationalized a “Jewish state” in the Arab land of Palestine. To both the survivors of the Holocaust and to those Jews who had watched the destruction of European Jewry from afar (i.e., from such places as the U.S.), the whole package must have had an internal logic that was irresistibly comforting – promising permanent security in a Jewish national home.

While one can understand the seductive power of Zionism, it, like other exclusively racial or ethnic political ideologies, only led to predictable disaster. The truth is that it is impossible to create a state exclusively for one people (call them people A) in a territory already populated by another people (call them people B) without the adoption of racist policies by A and serious resistance on the part of B. Under such circumstances, for A, there can be no real security nor can there be anything like a healthy national culture.

The whole process has proved remarkably self-corrupting for Zionist Jews. It is ironic that now most Zionists are themselves anti-Semites. In this case the Semite targets are the Palestinians and the growing number of western Jews who have come to support their cause.

Thus, the plans to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration is based on an illusion that something awful is really something prideful. The only way you can pull this off is if you have the power to twist the entire historical episode into something it is not – and that is what Theresa May is planning to do.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.




Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smears Backfire

Israel has often succeeded in silencing criticism of its treatment of Palestinians by calling critics anti-Semites and scaring politicians into canceling public events, but the tactic is now starting to backfire, writes retired U.S. diplomat Ann Wright.

 By Ann Wright

An often-used tactic to squelch criticism of Israeli state policies toward the Palestinians is to call the criticism anti-Semitic. The sponsors of the event become afraid of the label, anti-Semitism, false as it is, and cancel the event to avoid any controversy. The tactic is used widely across Europe and the United States.

This week, the talk that I was to give in a room at the Rome City Hall about the Women’s Boat to Gaza and the conditions in Gaza was cancelled 24 hours before the event by the council member who had agreed to arrange for the room. His staff revealed that he had gotten intense pressure from the Israeli Embassy and Rome’s Jewish Community Association to stop the presentation.

But that was not the end of the story. In a fast-moving media blitz, organized by Italy’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions program, two of Rome’s newspapers wrote of the cancellation and several radio stations reported on it. BDS Italy scheduled a press conference about the cancellation in the plaza in front of the City Hall at the time the talk was scheduled. About 20 representatives of the news media attended, a much larger number than would have attended the talk itself.

Due to the number of media and the questions concerning the cancellation, Marcello de Vito, President of the Rome City Council, invited three of us to come into the City Hall to discuss the cancellation. This invitation provided us with the opportunity to discuss the conditions in Gaza and the West Bank and the nonviolent tactics such as BDS and Boats to Gaza to bring international attention to the harmful policies of the State of Israel.

From the questions, it was apparent that the President, another City Council member and their staff knew little about the Israeli blockade of Gaza, the illegal settlements, the apartheid wall, the numbers of Palestinian children and youth held in Israeli jails, and the theft of Palestinian resources by Israeli companies.

Something similar happened last year in Bayreuth, Germany, when the prize for Tolerance and Peace, which had been awarded to CODEPINK: Women for Peace, was cancelled by the Mayor after two reporters, known for writing spurious articles, alleged that CODEPINK was an anti-Semitic organization. Following an extensive letter-writing campaign from members of the German Parliament and others who know that CODEPINK’s actions challenging the policies of the State of Israel are not anti-Semitic, the Bayreuth City Council voted to reinstate the award amid much publicity.

Also, last year, a conference in which grandmothers who had been through World War II were to speak was cancelled because of similar allegations. Defenders of Israeli policies targeted 90-year old Hedie Esptein, a vocal critic of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, although her parents had been killed in the Holocaust and she had survived by being sent to England as a part of the Kindertransport,

Responding quickly to false allegations of anti-Semitism is key to blunting the Israeli government’s offensive toward those who challenge the illegal and inhumane policies toward Palestinians. In the case of the Rome cancellation, the pushback from BDS Italy created more publicity about the plight of the Palestinians than the event itself would have.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She was a U.S. diplomat and served in U.S. embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. government in March, 2003 in opposition to President Bush’s war on Iraq.




Israel’s Dead-End Dilemma

President Trump says he’s okay with a one- or two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – whatever the two parties want – but without forceful U.S. intervention, neither option is feasible, says John Chuckman.

By John Chuckman

With its steady encroachment on Palestinian lands, Israel has created a problem that it can’t solve. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so because it is paralyzed by the heavy influence of Israel on the U.S. political process and the power of America’s own apologists for Israel.

Trump’s suggestion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is welcomed by some because Israel’s settler policy is said to have made two states impossible, as it was most certainly intended to do. However, a little reflection on hard facts makes it clear that a one-state solution is just as near impossible as a two-state solution.

A single-state solution would be acceptable to all reasonable minds, but you only have to follow the news to know that Israel contains a good many unreasonable minds. Its early advocates and founders were, quite simply, fanatics, and its policies and attitudes were shaped by that fanaticism.

The Israeli establishment could simply not accept a Palestinian population with equal rights and the franchise as part of Israel. They could not do so because they have embraced an almost mystical concept of Israel as “the Jewish state.” Of course, the de facto reality of today’s combined population of Israel and its occupied territories is that Palestinians, who importantly include not just Muslims but many Christians, are already about half of the total.

And there are physical realities forming huge barriers against a single state, factors that many people don’t know. Very importantly, fertility rates in Arab populations are considerably higher than in the European Ashkenazi population, which forms Israel’s elite. That has nothing to do with ethnic characteristics. It is a result of much lower levels of affluence influencing the behavior of people having children. It is a universal reality we see.

That’s why Arabic populations are such relatively young populations with a high proportion of children. When Israel bombs a place like Gaza or Lebanon, as it does periodically (in “mowing the grass operations”), it always kills many hundreds of children because they make a big share of the population. An advanced country like Japan has low fertility and traditionally is averse to much migration. It faces a future with an aging and declining population.

All older European and North American countries have fertility rates too low to replace their otherwise declining populations. America, France, Israel or similar states simply do not have enough babies to replace their populations. That’s a fundamental reality of advanced, affluent society. People in such societies know that their children have a much better chance to survive than children in poor countries.

That’s the real reason behind most countries’ immigration policies, not generosity or kindness. They need young workers to maintain strong levels of productivity. But, of course, Israel has a serious problem with immigration, too. As the “Jewish state” it is open to only one category of migrant, and that category of people makes a tiny fraction of the world’s population. Further, most Jews live in comfortable, affluent places and enjoy easier lives than people in Israel do – places like America, Canada, Australia, Britain, France, etc.

Irrational Beliefs

So, a single-state Israel would combine low fertility Europeans with higher fertility Arabic people, thus creating a long-term trajectory for a minority-Jewish state, a reality which would be repellent to right-wing Jews and many others in light of the founding notion of Israel as a refuge from anti-Semitism, plus the vaguely-defined but emotionally-loaded notion of a “Jewish state” and the biblical myths of God’s having given the land exclusively to Jews.

You simply cannot make rational sense out of that bundle of attitudes and prejudices, yet you cannot get a rational solution to a massive problem otherwise. It is also a problem of Israel’s own deliberate making in the Six Day War. Likely, when Israel’s leadership started that war, they calculated that Palestinians would come to feel so miserable under occupation that they’d just pick up and leave over time.

Moshe Dayan, one of the architects of the war, actually spoke along those very lines of keeping the Palestinians miserable so they would leave. But their calculations were wrong. Most people, anywhere, do not pick-up and leave their native place. Otherwise the world would a constant whirlwind of migrations.

Although Israel does not discuss the issue of the relative population growth rates in public, authorities and experts there are keenly aware of the reality. It is difficult to imagine them ever embracing a single state for this reason. When you found a state on ideology and myths, as Israel was founded, you very soon bump up against some unhappy realities.

So, if there is not to be a Palestinian state, what are Israel’s other options? There seem to be only two.

One is to deport all or most Palestinians, an ugly idea which is probably also unworkable, although it has been seriously discussed among educated Israelis periodically. Apart from the Nazi-like connotations around such an act, there is the dilemma of who is going to take literally millions of people from Israel? In the past, Israeli ideologues have suggested the country of Jordan and parts of Egypt contiguous with Israel as possibilities.

But can any realistic person believe those states stand ready to take millions of people in? No, of course not, but that hasn’t stopped the ideologues of Israel from going back to the idea again and again. Of course, there is the pure ethical problem of moving millions of people against their wills and seizing all their property, but ethics have never featured large in Israel’s policies from the beginning.

The other solution is to re-create apartheid South Africa’s Bantustans, little enclaves of land with often undesirable characteristics into which you crowd all the people that you don’t want and declare that these are their new countries. We see this already in Israel, notably in Gaza, which really is a giant refugee camp resembling a concentration camp with high fences and automated machine-gun towers surrounding it. The residents are permitted almost no freedom of movement or even economic activity, as for example Gaza’s fishermen being fired on by Israeli gunboats if they stray even slightly beyond tight boundaries in the sea.

The world would not long tolerate that approach no matter how much heavy-handed influence the United States might exert. After all, for a long time, the United States protected and cooperated with apartheid South Africa, always regarding it as an important bulwark against communism. At the time, anti-communism was the fervent secular religion of the day in America. This was so much the case that the U.S. even overlooked what it absolutely had to know about apartheid South Africa’s acquisition of a small arsenal of nuclear weapons with the assistance of Israel. Israel always was keen to keep good access to South Africa’s mineral wealth.

Clearly, those two options – ethnic cleansing and full-scale apartheid – are not solutions. Realities demand either a legitimate two-state solution, which Israel’s leaders have never truly accepted while giving it time-buying lip-service, or a one-state solution that is probably even more unacceptable to Israel’s leaders and much of its population, guaranteeing, as it does, the eventual minority status of Jews.

Israel has created this terrible problem and is incapable of solving it. That is why the United States would have to basically dictate a solution, but Israel and its American supporters have invested so heavily in lobbying and pressuring the U.S. political process that American leaders shy away from asserting such a role. So, in effect, the world just goes around and around never doing anything decisively.

The macabre dance of Israel and the United States that we’ve had for decades yields today’s de facto reality of Israel existing as a protected American colony in the Middle East, one in which all kinds of international norms and laws are ignored or suspended, one where millions live with no rights and no citizenship.

John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company.




Palestinians See More of the Same

President Trump has offered mixed signals about precisely what his attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be, but Palestinians see little prospects for meaningful improvement, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington reaffirmed one thing in terms of U.S./Israeli relations: that not much will change in the United States’ massive one-sided support for Israel, says Palestinian author and activist Ramzy Baroud.

The U.S. will continue to support, arm and publicly defend the ongoing Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing, as things go from bad to worse, Baroud adds, noting that Israel — with U.S. support — has already reduced the Gaza Strip to a fenced-in prison, where well over a million Palestinians don’t even have access to the basics such as food and clean water. Now, the Israeli government has turned its full attention to the West Bank, which is under siege with new Israeli settlements.

I spoke to Ramzy Baroud about the Netanyahu visit, the illegal settlement boom on the West Bank with its concurrent upsurge in settler violence, the implications of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the general daily brutalities of living under the iron fist of Israeli occupation.

Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

Dennis Bernstein: It is good to speak with you on the heels of the visit to the U.S. by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. […]

This is sort of how the visit, and, I guess, the story of Palestine and Israel, is being framed by the corporate press. This is coming off the BBC, but it’s typical: U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold off on settlements” in a joint press conference.

Mr. Trump also promised to deliver “a great peace deal” but said Israel and the Palestinians must both compromise. So that’s the BBC’s characterization. How would you frame the current visit?

Ramzy Baroud: Well, the current visit, really, is a culmination of a whole bunch of events that have been taking place for months now prior to Trump coming to office, and the inauguration, and the aftermath. There’s a great sense of euphoria, a great deal of euphoria, among the Israeli political elites. The whole two state solution enterprise is dead. The whole era of being told what to do, or being pressured in any way, or being censured, even in the slightest, most gentle way by previous administrations, that era is over, done with.

And now we are entering into a new era in which Israel single-handedly dictates everything it needs to dictate. Not just on Palestinians but on the United States, thus the so-called international community. So I see this kind of as a celebration of the Israeli political triumph, over the American foreign policy, and the balancing act that they have been playing in the Middle East for, really, in the last 25 years since the Madrid peace talks in ’91, until today. It’s the end of all of that, and it’s ushered in our new era, and that’s an Israeli era, for sure.

DB: Well, just to set the tone. You say that …Trump’s pick for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel [David Friedman], is to the right of Netanyahu. You want to say a little bit about that choice, and his desire to move the Embassy to Jerusalem?

RB: Well, that’s right. There was a recent article by a Professor Rashid Khalidi in the New Yorker, in which he said this is the first time in the history of U.S./Israeli relations that you could actually swap both ambassadors, the Israeli and American ambassadors, back and forth and you can’t even tell which one is there to defend Israel’s interests, and which one is there for American interests. There is this cohesion that is happening at last. And it’s a perfect scenario for Israel.

The new pick for the ambassador [Friedman] is someone who is very much pro-settlements, does not even refer to the West Bank by its internationally recognized name. He refers to the occupied territories as Judea and Samaria. It’s the land with the biblical reference, made by right-wing ultra-nationalists and religious Jewish politicians. So we are seeing something that’s really unprecedented. The attempt at kind of dilly-dallying around this issue is over as far as American foreign policy is concerned.

American foreign policy, now, is exactly what Israel says it is. And I think it was really interesting what Trump said today in the press conference, when he said “I don’t care, two states, one state, it’s what you guys decide.”

But the interesting part about it, is that when you have an occupier and an occupied, someone with powerful military and someone who’s, you know, just in a constant state of self-defense, and someone that is commanding one of the Middle East’s, the strongest economy, and others who are living in a South African apartheid-like Bantustan, well guess what? You can’t really decide equally. One would have to impose his vision on the other.

And that is precisely what Trump is doing. He is giving Israel free hand to behave in any way that is consistent with its interests. And as you heard, what Netanyahu was saying was pretty dark and terrifying actually.

DB: Now, clearly Israel has always been given the gold from the United States. There’s always been that kind of relationship. I guess Obama signed off on that deal for $38 billion … in aid–the most [to a foreign nation] ever. That certainly was a demonstration of U.S. friendship, if you will. But, how do you see this proceeding? If they go into Jerusalem, if they put the Embassy in Jerusalem, what happens next? How does that reverberate within the Palestinian community? Is it possible that they could just stand by?

RB: Of course not. They will not stand by. And that’s what Trump does not understand. I think there’s a couple of important points that will have to be stated. The first one is that the U.S. did not put any expectations on Israel, whatsoever.

The $38 billion and whatever political support and financial backing that they have received through all these years, they haven’t put any expectations, except one single expectation. And that is to allow the U.S. the prestige, the leadership, the ability to come and impose itself as the “honesty spokesman,” if you will.

Because the peace process was essential for American foreign policy. It is more important than we can possibly imagine. It is that kind of soaked power opportunity to impose themselves, not just on the Palestinians in the occupied territories, but on the rest of the Arabs. If you play along you’re a moderate, if you are against us, you are a radical. That’s all the United States expected from Israel. Just use the language of peace, just entertain this discourse and we will give you exactly what you want.

Even that proved to be too much for Israel. They don’t want that, and Trump is willing to completely move away from that entire discourse. I think this is really interesting, and I think, eventually, it’s going to alter America’s standing in the Middle East altogether. What Trump doesn’t understand, he is… it’s all about making the deal… it’s all about business, it’s all about looking at who is the powerful party? Who is the weaker party? And he is just thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents. Now, it doesn’t work that way in the Middle East.

Even the supposedly powerless and unarmed Palestinians could actually prove to be… their reaction could prove to be truly consequential, as far as American foreign policy is concerned. Palestinians are most likely to react, to mobilize. There are a great deal of efforts at forging a new Palestinian political outlook. They are looking for alternative leadership. They have their alternative allies.They had a meeting in Moscow, between Hamas and Fatah recently.

But also, you could see that entire region as far as destabilizing against the Americans, who are trying to, kind of, maintain their status and their influence in Syria, and Libya, over the Gulf, and so forth. And they find themselves in this huge anti-American backlash, as a result of their blatant support for Israel. Then Trump is going to actually realize, “Okay, this is not as straightforward as I thought it would be.” What works in business might not actually work in politics, after all.

DB: What are the realities, at this time, in terms of settlement buildings? How much has been built? How does that look at this point?

RB: Actually, it was interesting what Trump said to Netanyahu when he kind of leaned, you know, sideways and he said very gently, “If you could just hold off on the settlements, just a little bit.” The problem is they have already issued approval of 6,000 settlement units throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. And this number of units goes beyond any assumption of natural growth of settlements. It’s way beyond that. It means that they are really now looking into expanding settlements beyond the fast streak it has experienced in the last eight years.

Not just that: they are now talking about legalizing all the illegal settlement outposts, which range from anywhere from 100 to 200 outposts, even more. If you are going to legalize these illegal outposts, it also means… and, of course, by saying legalize, I mean from an Israeli government, from an Israeli officials point of view, as you know, all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law…. But if they are to do so, it means that they would have to provide protection. The army would have to be deployed. There would have to be expansion. There would have to be fortification of these settlements.

So we are really talking about an unprecedented land grab here, on the West Bank. It doesn’t matter what happens to the Palestinians in the process. Let’s take as much as we can, and let’s do that fast because this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

The last point I want to make is, for the first time in 20 years there was a brand new settlement, that has been approved. This is also new, in the sense that Israel has been justifying the expansion of the growth of settlements based on what they call natural expansion. But if they are issuing orders for new settlements, it means they are going back to the 1967 mentality of “This is part of the land of Israel. This is part of Yehudi and Santa Maria. It’s our biblical land, and therefore Palestinians have no rights in this land anymore.” So, not only the language itself is changing, but there are actually parts on the ground that prove that the action itself is also fundamentally being altered.

DB: Can I ask you to say a little bit about the relationship between the settlements and the military? How the military, if they do use the settlements… because we hear a lot about torture. You reported in your service, in the palestinechronicle.com, you are reporting about the torture of Palestinian teens. How does the settler movement play into this, sort of, growing use of torture, which, obviously, Trump thinks works.

RB: That’s right. Well, I think it’s important that we delineate this. There are no separate enterprises, the army enterprise and the settlement enterprise. Sometimes the media makes the mistakes of trying to make it look like the settlements are, kind of, behaving at odds with Israeli official policy. They actually don’t. And we actually have been saying this from the very, very beginning, that this is a charade in Israel’s name. And, the fact that they have just approved and legalized right after… all the settlements that have been built supposedly illegally… the fact that they have done so, it’s an indication that this has all been part of the Israeli official program, all along. So, this is really important that we remember.

And also, we need to remember that in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, there were two settlement movements happening. One that was commissioned by the government, as for some strategic reason. And the other one was the religious settlements, that were built for spiritual reasons. At the end of the day, as far as Palestinians are concerned, it makes no difference whatsoever. This is land grab, our land, private property, lands being confiscated, whether for spiritual reasons or whether for strategic political reasons, it makes no difference. So as far as Palestinians are concerned, they are all working together, it’s all one and the same.

The issue of torture, this is related to Gaza, Dennis. In order for anyone from Gaza to leave to Israel, to be treated in Israeli hospitals, or West Bank hospitals, or Jerusalem hospitals, they have to go through the Israeli border area, which is the Arab checkpoint. The Arab checkpoint means they have to meet the intelligence, the Shin Bet, the Israeli internal intelligence, which is equivalent to the FBI. And quite often they are bargain. If you want to get through, you have to divulge information, you have to give us names. Many people refuse to do so, many people get tortured in the process, and many people actually go home, and die as a result.

DB: I think one of the things that isn’t at all reported through the corporate press, in any way, shape or form, rarely even a mention… doesn’t get into the New York Times, or anywhere. But the way in which… it sort of, you know, you’ve got the wall, right? That is so tall, you can see it from space, as sort of the anvil. And then you’ve got the expanding settler movement, as the hammer.

And I say that in the context of thinking about the violence imposed by the settlers, on the peoples whose land they are stealing. That story, which is a continual drumbeat of violence beyond the torture of children, which we… there’s a peek through every once in awhile, in a human rights report. Could you talk about that?

RB: That’s right. And it is sad that we never hear about it. I just feel like, I’ve been doing this for a long time, Dennis. And I know you have been doing it for a long time, as well. And we are yet to register any fundamental shift in how mainstream media really perceives the situation in Palestine/Israel. To the contrary, I think it’s becoming even more consolidated behind Israel, which is entirely immoral and inexcusable, especially at a time when that country is now really ruled by ultra-nationalists and some, even, fascists like Avigdor Lieberman and others.

And by any political standards these men are fascists. And yet they rarely get any serious criticism in American media. While the settlement movement, I think this is really interesting, Dennis, is the fact that we are… we have seen how the settlers change their political position within Israeli politics from being on the margins, many years ago, in the post-1967, to becoming the center, most important component in the formulation of Israeli…

DB: … the soul. The soul of the future of Israel.

RB: Absolutely. No question about it. And they have a great deal of influence in the army. They can actually sway Israeli politics, altogether. In some strange way, the life of Netanyahu, as right-wing as he is, he’s actually on the left side of those who are truly capable of destroying his coalition at any given moment. They don’t care about politics anymore. They are not the savvy Zionists of the past. They are right and they take exactly what we want.

That’s why the settlers are being empowered, at this point. They are empowered in the sense that they are getting exactly what they want … and the Palestinians are paying the price for it.

So, Palestinians are falling victim, not just for Israeli army violence but for settler violence as well. The land that the settlers are usurping from Palestinians, well it has owners and sometimes these owners try to defend their land, and they pay the price for it. And, I don’t know if your audience is aware of … the whole process of how a settlement is even constructed in the first place. But it is a very, very simple process.

The settlers come and they push the people out of the area. And then they claim it as their own, the army is involved. They make it a military zone, they fence it, starts growing, we see caravans moving in, trailers moving in, fences going higher and higher. And eventually it becomes a settlement. Well, Palestinians usually fight back for their land, their olive groves, the schools, for the roads, for the villages. And they pay a very heavy price.

DB: Yes, they do. That’s sort of the front line of the suffering. We mentioned the word Gaza. Your most recent book My Father was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story, and again when you… it must be absolutely maddening, I know it is, to see what’s happening on the ground in Gaza, and hear the way in which, the character of this story, that these are a bunch of fenced-in terrorists, that we have to go to war against to defend Israel’s right to exist. That is the theme, that still reverberates in the press.

And with Trump coming in… and I can imagine him using Israel as a model, “See I told you torture works, and the Israelis prove it time and again. It works, that’s where they use it. That’s why they’re so effective blah, blah.” Have you been thinking about that?

RB: It is sad to see that the United States at this point in its history, where they really need to have as much sensible policies at home and abroad as possible to stave off various crisis, they actually look at Israel for inspiration. And this is what Trump said today. “Israel is absolutely the most inspiring model.” I mean, this is a crisis. It’s a moral crisis, but it’s political as well.

A place like Gaza has been under siege since 2006. Of course, it has been under occupation since 1967, but under a hermetic siege, for ten years. People are malnourished, people are suffering, they are digging tunnels under various fences in order for them to get food and supplies. Egypt is part of the siege, not just Israel. And not just the siege alone. But there are these intermittent wars that have been taking place in 2008-2009, 2012, 2014.

Thousands of Palestinians perished, tens of thousands have been wounded. Nearly a quarter of the Gaza Strip has been destroyed. And yet we didn’t hear anything of that, yesterday. There’s no humanitarian process throughout. If this happened in any other part of the world it would really be the headline in every newspaper. But, in Gaza, somehow, this is so irrelevant, so unimportant.

And the one that really need protection is the one whose imposing destruction on other people. It’s Israel that needs our protection. It’s Israel’s security that really matters. Not the security of those desperate, poor souls that have been suffering year after year after year, crying for help, and getting very little, of it. And this is why we really need to keep the focus on this issue, Dennis. Gaza is a central piece to this discussion, and the suffering of the people there is getting worse with time.

DB: People have trouble getting clean, clear water, fresh water. Kids are sick because of that.

RB: The United Nations has decided… rendered Gaza, it’s not suitable for human habitation in 2020. Others have actually said it is already not suitable … because of the issue of the polluted water, and the depleted uranium, as a result of the war, the fact that 100,000 people are still homeless, the fact that half of the population is unemployed, and so forth. With no political horizon, and no respite, whatsoever.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




Trump’s One-State Openness on Israel

The ugly reality in Israel/Palestine is that the Zionist leaders are engaging in a slow-walk ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, a crime that can only be averted now by a secular singular state, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

Just because Donald Trump said it doesn’t mean it has to be wrong. During the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, President Trump publicly stated he is not necessarily wedded to a “two-state solution” in Palestine.

He is the first U.S. president to commit the heresy of questioning that sacred article of faith in U.S.-Middle East policy. Indeed, a serious rethink is long overdue in recognizing the bankruptcy — indeed the cruel cynicism — of the defunct two-state scheme.

Many honorable people have dedicated the bulk of their professional lives to the tedious minutiae and sad diplomatic history of the Palestinian-Israeli morass. Sadly, none of those efforts have brought any resolution whatsoever to a gangrenous issue — in many respects the granddaddy of so many of the Middle East’s contemporary ills.

Trouble is, apart from a few dedicated diplomats and scholars who had hopes of one day truly accomplishing something, the two-state solution in practice is by now revealed as essentially a fraud. Yes, a few wiser Israeli leaders in the past just possibly might have believed in that ideal, but for decades now the “two-state scheme” has simply been cynically exploited by newer Israeli leaders, especially by Bibi Netanyahu — the long-serving and most right-wing Prime Minister in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu has been backed by a formidable and wealthy pro-Zionist cheering section in the U.S. The goal is to conceal their true agenda — the ultimate Israeli annexation of all of Palestine. They themselves have been subtly but systematically torpedoing the “two-state solution” behind the scenes to that end.

None of my observations here on the hoax of the two-state solution are new or original. Many liberal Israeli observers have been stating the self-evident for years now. But those voices never get heard in the U.S. where it constitutes an unmentionable. But there should be no doubt: the concept of a “two-state solution” — a Palestinian and an Israeli state sharing historical Palestine and living side by side in sovereignty and dignity — is dead. It is almost inconceivable that it can now ever be resuscitated: nearly all the operative forces within Israel are systematically working to prevent it from ever coming about.

Facts on the Ground

The harsh reality is that Israel, through a relentless process of “creating facts on the ground,” is now decades deep into the process of taking over illegally, step-by-step, the totality of Palestine. Israel has scant regard for any international law in this respect, and never has had.

Washington, apart from a few periodic pathetic bleats, has ended up functionally supporting this cynical scheme all the way, perhaps unwilling to confront the painful reality of what is really taking place, along with its dangerous political repercussions at home.

Israel is extending day-by-day its control — indeed ownership — of Palestinian lands through expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and the dispossession of the rightful owners of these Palestinian lands. Put simply, there is little left of Palestinian land out of which ever to fashion a “two-state solution.” That leaves us with only one alternative: the “one-state solution.” Indeed, Israel’s actions have already created the preconditions that make the “one-state solution” an unacknowledged but virtual fait accompli.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving “the peace process” for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The sooner we all acknowledge this ugly reality, the better. That will then require Israel, the Palestinians, and the world to get on with dealing with the complex challenge of crafting the bi-national state — the one-state solution.

The calculations of the hard-line Zionists — who are now largely in control of Israeli state mechanisms — are unyielding.

1) Israel should functionally take over all of Palestinian territory and permit full Jewish settlement therein. 2) Israel should still play the “two-state solution” game with visiting foreign diplomats to reduce pressure on Israel, to play for time while it quietly establishes the irreversible facts on the ground that shut out any possible viable Palestinian state.

3) Make life harsh enough for Palestinians that, bit by bit, they will grow bitter and weary, give up and go elsewhere, leaving all the land for Zionist settlers. 4) If Palestinians “stubbornly” resist, predictable periodic military and security crises in Palestine over the longer run will enable Israel to rid Palestine of all Palestinians — a gradual process of ethnic cleansing that returns all the land promised by God to the Jews.

A Secular State?

Some liberal Israelis actually do accept the idea of a “one-state solution” in their own liberal vision of a future Israel — one in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal citizens in a secular, democratic, binational, multi-cultural state enjoying equal rights, rather than the increasingly religiously dominated state that it is. And the liberal ideal makes sense: the country is already well on the way to becoming bi-lingual — and Hebrew and Arabic are closely-related languages. Both are Semitic peoples with ancient ties to the same land.

The problem is, ardent Zionists don’t want a binational Palestinian-Jewish state. They want a “Jewish state” and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term “Jewish state” strikingly discordant? Who speaks of an “English” or “French” state? The world would freak out if tomorrow Berlin started calling itself “the German State.” Or Spain a “Christian state.”

So what do we make of a state that is dedicated solely to Jews and Judaism? Such concepts are remnants of Nineteenth Century movements that promoted the creation of ethnically and/or religiously pure states. Indeed it was precisely that kind of ugly religious and ethnic nationalism that caused Jews to flee from Eastern Europe in the first place to find their own homeland.

The true historical task of Israel, with the support of the world, is now to begin the challenging work of introducing the range of major reforms that will transform Israel into just such a multi-ethnic and bi-lingual state of equal citizens enjoying equal rights under secular law. It is not a question of “allowing Palestinians” into Israel, they are already there and have been for millennia, in far greater numbers than Jews. Palestinians now seek full legal equality of treatment under secular law in Israel.

So let’s acknowledge the useful truth that Trump has blundered onto. Let’s abandon the naive and cynical rhetoric about the “two-state solution” that will never come about — in any just and acceptable form. Half of Israel never believed in it in the first place. It has served only as a cover for building an apartheid Jewish state — a term used frequently by liberal Israeli commentators.

Netanyahu and the right-wing Zionists clearly want all of Palestine. But they’re not ready yet to admit it. They want all the land, but without any of its people. But despite Zionist hopes, the Palestinians aren’t going to abandon their lands. And so the logical outcome of Israel’s take-over all of Palestine leads by definition to an ultimate single binational state.

The challenge to Israelis and Palestinians is huge. It entails a deep Palestinian rethink of their options and their future destiny in a new order, and the need to fight for those democratic rights in a binational state. It involves Israeli evolution away from “God-given rights” in a state solely for Jews and Judaism that can only be forever oppressive and undemocratic as it now stands. The process will be a slow and difficult one. But it also represents an evolution consonant with emerging contemporary global values.

We expect a democratic multi-cultural state from Germany and France, or from Britain, Canada and the United States — why not from Israel?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com




Trump’s ‘One-Night Stand’ Diplomacy

Despite his reputation as a deal-maker, President Trump’s first foray into the thicket of Israel-Palestine peace talks suggests he has no clue what direction to take or the long-term consequences, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Donald Trump had already moved a long way backward since uttering a few remarks last year raising hopes that he would break out of the straitjacket that binds American politicians on all things involving Israel and the Palestinians and that he would try to be an impartial peace-maker.

Trump later made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, adopted AIPAC’s talking points as his own, and appointed to be U.S. ambassador to Israel a bankruptcy lawyer who is directly involved with West Bank settlements, is politically somewhere to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, and likens American Jews who do not agree with him to Nazi collaborators.

Then this week, in a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump appeared to abandon what had been U.S. policy through several administrations, Republican and Democratic, of support for creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as the only feasible and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The President’s exact words were, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one.”

As has become typical with so much of the policy of this month-old administration, confusion reigns. The next day, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.”

Probably the best interpretation of what was going on at that White House press conference is consistent with insights offered by former U.S. ambassadors to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and Daniel Shapiro, both of whom describe the joint appearance in terms of two leaders dealing with domestic pressures and wanting to look chummy with each other, rather than as an occasion for announcing new diplomatic departures. Specifically, Trump’s comments were a favor to Netanyahu in dealing with the extreme right-wing of his own governing coalition, by pouring some cold water on the two-state concept without Netanyahu having to utter the words “two-state solution” himself.

Not Making Sense

As random and disorganized as Trump’s tweets, blurts to reporters, or other verbal expressions may be, when the president of the United States says something it either is policy, at least declaratory policy, or affects policy. And so it must be noted how utterly unreal, and divorced from the concept of a true peace agreement, was Trump’s responding to a question about backing off from commitment to a two-state solution by talking about what “both parties like,” as if there were anything that both parties like right now that would not be a two-state solution.

The only thing that the vast majority of Palestinians would “like” is getting their own state or, failing that, full and equal rights for Jews and Arabs alike in a single state. But that latter alternative would be disliked by most Israelis (not just the extreme right) insofar as it would imply, for demographic reasons, destruction of the concept of Israel as a Jewish state.

Trump tosses these words around amid apparent thinking within his own administration and Netanyahu’s about an “outside-in” approach in which development of relations between Israel and some Arab states would lead to Arab pressures on the Palestinians to settle their own conflict with Israel. This notion is far removed from any realistic peace, and not only because the key to ending an occupation is not to pressure the occupied party, who does not control the situation on the ground, rather than the occupier, who does control it.

The notion also is merely a derivative of right-wing hopes in Israel, based on finding some common cause with some Gulf Arabs in disliking Iran, that the international opprobrium and isolation of Israel that results from its occupation and apartheid policies can be kept indefinitely at tolerable levels. That is a strategy for indefinitely continuing the occupation and apartheid, not for ending that arrangement and achieving peace.

The Arab states have had their position on the table for 15 years in the form of the Arab peace initiative, which lays out in simple form the basic trade of full recognition of, and peace with, Israel in return for an end to the occupation and just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. The Arab peace plan was modified later to make clear that it includes the possibility of land swaps that would not require all of the West Bank to be returned to Arab sovereignty.

There is no reason to expect Saudi Arabia or any of the other Arab governments involved to abandon the concept enshrined in this initiative. And however much one talks about the Arabs’ distractions with their own intramural problems, the sentiments among Arab populations as well as regimes regarding the plight of their co-ethnic brethren in Palestine is not about to be flushed down the toilet by pressuring Palestinian leaders to accept some bantustan-like arrangement and calling it a peace settlement.

Fast Deals/Fast Money

As with other early moves of President Trump, his posture on this set of issues illustrates a more general tendency of his regarding governing. Trump billed himself as a master deal-maker, but supporters who liked him for that reason should have looked more carefully at the sorts of deals he was accustomed to making. Most of his business deals were more like one-night stands than like lasting relationships. Sell naming rights, pocket the cash, and let someone else worry about running the enterprise that bears the Trump name.

Even when Trump’s own organization was more directly involved in a property, there was a tendency toward cutting and running. His business record featured repeated stiffing of suppliers and sub-contractors and, when necessary, repeated bankruptcies — help on which evidently is part of what earned the settlement-loving David Friedman that ambassadorial appointment.

Note how often Trump’s foreign policy is referred to, by himself and now by others, in terms of whether “a deal” will be made with some other country, whether it is Russia, China or some other state. Foreign relations should not be thought of in such a one-shot, pointillist way. Foreign relations, and how they affect U.S. interests, are instead a matter of continuing relationships in which interests are always intermingling, colliding, and evolving. “One and done” may work for aspiring pro basketball players, but not for U.S. foreign policy.

This is as true of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as of other sticky foreign policy problems. Pressuring Palestinians into something that can be labeled a “deal” but does not respond to ordinary human aspirations for a better life and national self-determination does not make a problem go away. It can make it even worse. It can come back in the form of intifadas, terrorism, or something else that damages the interests of Israelis and Americans as well as Palestinians.

Trump may not have to worry about such things any more after either impeachment or re-election defeat, but the rest of us will.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 

 




Obama Belatedly Says No to Israel

Exclusive: If President Obama had confronted Israel over its illegal settlements earlier, he might have really achieved something, but his U.N. abstention as he heads out the door is better than nothing, observes Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

For the first time in his eight-year presidency, Barack Obama said no to Israel. When the Security Council voted to condemn Israel for building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, the Obama administration abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.

Resolution 2334 says the settlements have “no legal validity,” calls them “a flagrant violation under international law,” and demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.”

Although 2334 is consistent with prior resolutions of the council, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw a tantrum, calling the US abstention a “declaration of war.” In light of Obama’s unwavering enabling of Israel’s illegal policies, Netanyahu was likely shocked that Obama finally said no.

The United States, a permanent member of the council, vetoed a resolution in 2011 that would have condemned the building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. And in 2014, the U.S. opposed a draft resolution demanding Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank within three years.

Since 1967, Israel has transferred more than a half million of its own citizens into Palestinian territories, continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice affirmed that the Palestinian territories are under Israeli occupation and Israel’s settlement building violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.

A state occupying territory not its own cannot build settlements on that territory and transfer its own citizens into them. Article 8.2(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as a war crime.

Israel took over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem by military force in 1967 and has held it under military occupation ever since.

Like Security Council Resolution 242, passed in 1967, Resolution 2334 reiterates “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Although Resolution 242 called for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” Israel continues to occupy the Palestinian territories it acquired in the “Six-Day War.”

“Over 4.5 million Palestinians live in these occupied territories, but are not citizens of Israel,” Jimmy Carter wrote in the New York Times. “Most live largely under Israeli military rule, and do not vote in Israel’s national elections.”

Complete Control

Israel exercises complete control over every aspect of Palestinian life in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. That includes borders, airspace, ingress and egress of people and goods, and the seashore and waters off the coast of Gaza. The occupation violates fundamental human rights of the Palestinians.

Flavia Pansieri, former U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, said last year that human rights violations “fuel and shape the conflict” in the occupied Palestinian territories, adding, “[h]uman rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are both cause and consequence of the military occupation and ongoing violence, in a bitter cyclical process with wider implications for peace and security in the region.”

Building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is not the only war crime Israeli leaders have committed. In 2014, Israel invaded Gaza and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Nearly 10,000 Palestinians were wounded, more than 2,000 of them children. Tens of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes and infrastructure was severely damaged. Numerous schools, U.N. places of refuge, hospitals, ambulances and mosques were intentionally targeted.

Israel used the “Dahiya doctrine” to apply “disproportionate force” and cause “great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilians populations,” as defined in the 2009 U.N. Human Rights Council (Goldstone) report. Those acts constitute evidence of war crimes under Article 8 (2)(a) of the Rome Statute.

The ICC can investigate and prosecute these crimes. Yet, in order to prevent such investigation and prosecution, the United States consistently opposed Palestine becoming a party to the Rome Statute. Palestine, which was recognized as a non-member observer State by the U.N. General Assembly, acceded to the Rome Statute in January 2015 and asked the ICC to investigate Israel for building illegal settlements and committing war crimes in Gaza.

In January 2015, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, opened a preliminary investigation into the illegal settlements and Israel’s 2014 bombing of Gaza. Netanyahu is upset because the new Security Council resolution bolsters the case for ICC war crimes prosecution of Israeli leaders.

Violating U.S. Law

The United States’ unwavering support for Israel violates U.S. law. Under the Leahy Law, military units that commit human rights abuses cannot receive U.S. training or weapons, and individuals who commit human rights abuses are denied U.S. visas. The State Department’s annual report has documented Israeli violations. And the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits assistance to any country “which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Yet, throughout his presidency, Obama has unconditionally supported Israel and shielded it from accountability for the war crimes of building settlements and targeting civilians in Gaza.

In September, Obama promised Israel a record $38 billion in military assistance over the next 10 years, becoming the strongest financial supporter of Israel ever to occupy the White House. Obama, whom Israeli journalist Gideon Levy dubbed “the patron of the occupation,” increased the amount of money the U.S. provides Israel each year from $3.1 to $3.8 billion.

Netanyahu called the increase in U.S. aid “unprecedented” and “historic,” characterizing it as “the greatest accomplishment since sliced bread,” according to Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable,” Obama declared, as he and Netanyahu shook hands.

The annual $3.8 billion, more money than the U.S. gives to any other country, will fund the continuing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, now in its fifth decade. Obama, however, is to be commended for finally standing up to Israel, albeit at the 11th hour. We cannot expect President-elect Donald Trump to follow suit.

Trump intervened unsuccessfully to prevent Resolution 2334 from coming to the council floor. He stated he will move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, even though, as Resolution 2334 states, East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory. David Friedman, Trump’s incoming ambassador to Israel, is notorious for funding the rightwing orthodox Beit El settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

A Voice of Reason

We can hope Trump will listen to Gen. James Mattis, his nominee for Secretary of Defense. “I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel,” Mattis said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado in 2013.

Mattis criticized Israel for building settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying they “are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.” He added that the settlements might weaken Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state and could lead to Israel becoming an “apartheid” state.

“If I’m in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid,” Mattis said.

Meanwhile, Resolution 2334 has propelled the illegality of Israel’s settlements into the public discourse. While Israel has pledged to defy the council and continue building illegal settlements, Jewish Voice for Peace and other human rights organizations have called for “increasing grassroots pressure on Israel, through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] campaigns, until full human rights of Palestinians are realized.”

Indeed, the text of Resolution 2334 implicitly invites countries to engage in BDS by saying they should “distinguish . . . between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book is ‘Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.’ Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter @MarjorieCohn.




Trump’s Disappearing ‘Neutral Guy’

President-elect Trump’s attack on the U.S. abstention to a U.N. vote condemning illegal Israeli settlements raises doubts about his vow to be a “neutral guy” on Palestinian issues, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Presidents-elect of the United States generally have hewn to the dictum that the country has only one president at a time, and that this is especially important with foreign policy. The incoming president plans, appoints, announces, and does anything else he wants to indicate what his course will be after noon on January 20th, but until then it is the incumbent president who makes and executes U.S. policy and who negotiates with and makes demarches to foreign governments. Donald Trump has been behaving differently.

But even some of his previous moves during this current transition period, such as breaking with protocol on relations with Taiwan or telling the Chinese to keep the marine drone they stole, did not go as far in interfering with the execution of current policy as he now has gone regarding a United Nations Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and matters in the occupied territories.

It is not only that Trump issued a statement that constituted an attempt to pressure the current administration into a course of action that would do the bidding of a foreign government. His operation met with a delegation organized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so secretly that Israeli press that learned of the visit describes it as “clandestine.” Trump also, following Netanyahu’s lead, pressed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt to withdraw the U.N. resolution that his country had introduced.

Even just as a matter of procedure, this violation of the one-president-at-a-time principle ought to have provoked outrage. That it did not provoke much may be due to Trump’s mastery of the art of diverting attention from a subject by quickly saying something else that is at least as likely to grab headlines. In this case the attention diverter was Trump’s comment about starting a new nuclear arms race.

As a matter of substance, Trump’s posture toward the U.N. resolution should be occasion for deep dismay. Long forgotten is his promise to be a “neutral guy” in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since he made that pledge he has come to terms with Sheldon Adelson and, through other statements and appointments, has made clear that he will be anything but neutral.

A Provocative Choice

In case there was any remaining doubt about that as of a couple of weeks ago, all such doubt was erased with his appointment as ambassador to Israel of bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman — who, by his own words, including likening liberal U.S. Jews to Nazi stooges, and by his personal connections to the settler movement, is firmly opposed to peace and in favor of indefinite occupation. It would be less incredible for Friedman to become Israeli ambassador to the United States rather than the other way around, although even then he would be representing only an extreme right wing rather than the people and interests of Israel as a whole.

As for the newest U.N. resolution, Trump’s statement, echoing a familiar formulation that the Netanyahu government uses whenever the possibility of Security Council action arises, says that “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

There is absolutely nothing in the draft resolution that Egypt had introduced that precludes or impedes direct negotiations between the parties or that suggests in any way that such negotiations will not still be necessary to set the terms of any final peace agreement. Far from “imposing” terms, the resolution declares the need to get beyond the obstacles that are preventing effective direct negotiations from taking place and being able to achieve a two-state solution that will be a lasting basis for peace between Israelis and Arabs.

That the resolution specifically mentions Israeli settlements in occupied territory simply reflects how this unilateral altering of facts on the ground has been steadily closing the negotiation space and making it ever more difficult for direct negotiations to set the terms of peace and arrive at a solution with two viable and secure states. That the resolution declares the colonization through settlements to be a “flagrant violation of international law” simply restates long-established principles of international law regarding the responsibilities of an occupying power in territory conquered through military force.

The draft resolution was comprehensive in identifying the obstacles to effective direct negotiations. It’s not just the settlements, and it’s not just what Israel is doing. The resolution “calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism.” The resolution further “calls upon both parties … to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.”

In light of all the above, Trump’s statement that the resolution “is extremely unfair to all Israelis” is baseless.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Anyone with a concern for Israel’s security and well-being should be aware that the continued colonization of the West Bank through expansion of settlements does not correlate positively with such security and well-being. To the contrary, it detracts from Israeli security. It involves an added burden on the Israel Defense Forces, and it is the most visible part of an occupation that is by far the biggest stimulus and support for those intending to do Israel harm.

Anyone concerned with U.S. interests should be aware that the United States has no positive interest in the settlements or in the religious or local economic motivations that have stimulated their growth. For the United States, it is all negative, in terms of instability, prospects for violence, the stimulation of extremism, and the United States being resented and targeted because of its role in permitting the settlement enterprise.

The combined pressure from Netanyahu and Trump got al-Sisi to withdraw the resolution. It is appropriate for Egypt to play a leadership role in trying to improve the conditions for negotiation of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, for historical reasons dating back to the Camp David Accords of 1978. The peace treaty with Egypt that Israel sought was only one-half of the bargain struck at Camp David. The other half was supposed to be progress toward a peace covering the Palestinian territories. Anwar Sadat has been revolving in his grave over how, nearly four decades later, what process there has been has failed to yield an end to the occupation.

The case for the current resolution remains strong. Four other members of the Security Council — New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal, and Venezuela — pressed ahead with the resolution even when a bullied Egypt backed off. The Obama administration deserves commendation for allowing the resolution to pass when it finally came to a vote on Friday. A positive vote in support would have been even better, rather than the United States once again being in a lonely position on U.N. measures involving Israel. In this case the United States was the only one of the 15 Security Council members that did not vote in favor of the resolution.

Knee-jerk GOP Objections 

The Republican members of Congress who now are denouncing the administration even for abstaining should be made to point to words in the resolution itself and explain exactly what they allege is wrong with it. Otherwise they are just blindly following the lead of an Israeli government that will perpetuate the occupation, and the negative consequences that flow from it, forever.

Trump did not have to interfere with the incumbent administration’s diplomacy. It would give him more options to let the incumbents take the domestic political heat for breaking the pattern of repeated occupation-covering U.S. vetoes at the Security Council. Even if Trump is determined to stay in bed with the settlers and the Israeli right-wing, he could still assume such a posture starting on Jan. 20, however mistaken such a posture is.

Perhaps Trump’s abandonment of his “neutral guy” moment is another instance of his gravitating to wherever he hears the loudest applause, with that applause coming in this instance from the lobby that would scream the loudest if he were to move in a different direction. Perhaps it is an instance of his being swayed by whoever in his inner circle has most had Trump’s ear recently and been motivated to use that access to press special interests. That inner-circle member could be the lawyer who helped him through bankruptcies in Atlantic City. Or it could be Trump’s son-in-law, whom Trump has talked about as a Middle East envoy, who, like the lawyer, has personal ties to West Bank settlements, and who reportedly wrote, along with Stephen Bannon, the statement denouncing the resolution. Either way, this is a poor way to make U.S. foreign policy.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 




How Trump Kills the ‘Two-State Solution’

President-elect Trump’s choice of a backer of Israeli settlements to be ambassador to Israel may be the final death-blow to the “two-state solution,” which has been on its death bed for years, as Dennis J Bernstein explains.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The possibility of a meaningful peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has taken another dark turn with President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of lawyer David Friedman, who holds hardline views in favor of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

In a statement from the Trump transition team, Friedman also said he “looked forward to moving the U.S. embassy to Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” which once was supposed to be divided between Jewish and Palestinian control.

But a different twist to Trump’s ambassadorial choice could be that it will kill off the illusion of a “two-state solution,” a mirage that has receded farther into the distance as over a half million Jewish settlers moved onto what was intended to be the territory of a Palestinian state. That, in turn, would confront Israel with the choice of a “one-state solution” that grants both Jews and Arabs equal rights or an “apartheid state,” which denies rights to Palestinians or treats them as second-class citizens.

I spoke about Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel and the risks of Trump’s emerging Israeli policies with Ali Abunimah, the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli/Palestinian Impasse. He is the co-founder and director of the Electronic Intifada, and the winner of many human rights awards. A resident of Chicago, he contributes regularly to the The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.

Dennis Bernstein: Ali, it’s good to talk to you again, but the news is not so good for you. You want to begin with your understanding of who David Friedman is…?

Ali Abunimah: Well, Friedman is … a bankruptcy lawyer. He’s Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, for the past 15 years, and his campaign adviser on Israel. His views are so hardline that he’s been described as being even to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, which tells you something. In fact, Friedman is the president of a non-profit that has raised about $10 million over the last five years to directly fund Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

And, in fact, that organization is named as a defendant in a lawsuit that was filed earlier this year in federal court by 20 Palestinians against American organizations and individuals who are raising money for settlements. And not just for building settlements, but for buying weapons….

The lawsuit alleges that these organizations are basically involved in money laundering, arms trafficking, and aiding and abetting murder, maiming, theft of Palestinian private property, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and other acts, which are illegal under U.S. and international law. So that lawsuit is currently underway. And Friedman is the president of one of the defendants. And we reported… on the Electronic Intifada [on Dec. 16], that that fact had not been picked up anywhere else.

Friedman, you know, to some extent it would be a repudiation, if Trump’s policy moves in the direction that Friedman would advocate, which is outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank, of course, even more settlement construction and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, that would be a major rhetorical shift in U.S. policy.

But to tell you the truth, Dennis, that’s really where we already are in practice. If you look at the reality of where we are, the Israelis have been building settlements, effectively annexing the West Bank with total impunity. And not just impunity, with the full support of every U.S. administration, and not least the Obama administration, which in September signed off on an unconditional 10 year, $38 billion minimum, guaranteed, military aid package. I mean $38 billion is the minimum. It’s not the total package, because they can still come back for more. That greatly increases the current U.S. aid to Israel.

So, part of me is saying, well this is simply a more honest labeling of what the U.S. policy already is. There was not going to be a two-state solution, even if Hillary was elected. There was not going to be any real consequences for Israeli settlements. So, I think this is another horrible sign of where our country is on so many issues.

But I think it’s an opportunity, also, for us to say to people, “Well, you can’t pretend there’s a peace process anymore, so why aren’t you signing up to BDS–boycott, divestment and sanctions–and other campaigns and tactics that are independent of what the government does?” The real people power to begin to hold Israel accountable and change its situation. I think that’s both the challenge and opportunity that’s put in front of us.

DB: I guess it does look… that’s about right. That this will simply… under Trump, they will just draw the line deeper, harder and darker, in terms of what the policy is. But the policy, it hasn’t changed in decades. And it doesn’t seem to be changing.

[…] Earlier this year David Friedman referred to a progressive Jewish advocacy group… I guess at J Street… he called them “worse than kapos”… those are the Jewish collaborators with the Nazis, for supporting a two-state solution. They were acting like Nazis.

AA: And he’s called President Obama an anti-Semite, as well, […] who signed the biggest, military aid package in history, to any country in the world, for Israel. Just a few months ago, he called him an anti-Semite. Yeah, so I mean it’s horrific, that sort of language, using the term kapos is disgusting. But I think what that does is it confronts all of us with the reality of where Israel and pro-Israel politics have brought us.

And I think it challenges all decent people to, you know, to take a stand. Where are we? I think that the Obama era provided this kind of safe space for people to do nothing to challenge Israel, but say, “Well, I support the peace process, I support the two-state solution.” When in reality, we weren’t moving towards any kind of peace, and Israel was getting away with what it wants to do.

I think that Friedman is speaking the real position of where Israel is today. And it’s ugly… it’s ugly. And it’s the real face of Israel that Palestinians have always known. So, you know, I mean that’s another way to put it. As a Palestinian, I’d say to people who are shocked by this, I’d say, “Welcome to the club.” Because you’re seeing the face of Israel that we’ve always seen and lived with.

DB: …. I do want you to talk a couple minutes about the significance of Jerusalem. You can say something about what’s been going on in terms of the purging. But why this is such an outrageous policy decision and what it means in real terms, and in spiritual, political terms, for Palestinians.

AA: Well, Jerusalem, for those [who don’t] know, a 30 second history: In 1948 the western part of Jerusalem was ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian population, when Israel was created. And the eastern part of Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 [by Israeli forces]. And the eastern part is part of the West Bank. So the position on West Jerusalem, of the U.S. and all other countries, is that we recognize Israeli de facto control, but we don’t recognize it as Israel’s capital because that has to be decided as part of a final peace settlement. So, that’s why every country in the world has its embassy in Tel-Aviv.

Now, as far as East Jerusalem is concerned, also every country in the world, they don’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty there, and they say this is occupied territory. Israel’s position since 1967 has been that “we own all of Jerusalem, and we’re going to make it so.” And so Palestinians in Jerusalem are gradually being pushed out. Settlements have been built everywhere. Land confiscated, the theft of vast areas of Palestinian land. Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, cut off from each other by Israel’s apartheid walls, thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites deprived of their residence.

Now, all Palestinians in Jerusalem, Israel doesn’t even treat them as if they belong there. It treats them as if they are just permanent residents from somewhere else. And their residency can be revoked, at any time. That’s been the policy for many years. Aggressively going after Palestinians to get them out of the city.

And so, Palestinians are really hanging on tooth and nail, to stay in their city. [At] the same time Israel has been aggressively erasing all the culture of the city that… doesn’t support its Jewish Nationalist narrative. So, you know, it’s shut down hundreds of Palestinian cultural institutions. Of course, Jerusalem is a living city, but it’s also a symbolic city in terms of the holy places of Christians and Muslims, and, indeed, Jews. But Israel’s position is that the Jews are the people who have the most rights there.

And so, we see more and more restrictions. Millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians don’t have access to the city to worship. Christmas time, coming up, just something like a hundred Palestinians from Gaza are going to be granted special permits to visit Jerusalem. It’s outrageous, that Palestinians are shut out of this city that is so important to them culturally, and economically, and spiritually.

So it’s in that context that you have to see the potential move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. It would be sort of a full American endorsement of these aggressive and illegal and violent Israeli policies to reshape the city, as kind of a Jewish theme park, rather than a living city for all its people.

But on the other hand, as I have said, I mean the U.S. policy has allowed all this to happen [for] so many decades that, you know, part of me is just to greet it with a shrug. And say, “Well, after all that’s happened, I’m not more mad about the embassy than I am about all the other things that Israel has been doing, with the support of Democratic and Republican administrations for decades.”

DB: Alright, and just finally, to underscore what might be coming [from]… this appointment. David Friedman has a very close relationship with… the settler movement. As you said, he’s for going all the way. In Jerusalem you have the situation where, you know, the Israelis just show up. People are given a little bit of time and they are ordered out of their house and it’s blown up, because they say they don’t have the proper documentation. That it’s really not the people’s property who have lived there for 40 million generations. Forgive me.

But in the case of the settlers in the West Bank, this is a very, very violent movement that is sustained by the Israeli military to a great expense of the United States government, that arms a lot of these structures and supports it. Could you remind people how violent the settlers are at this point, and what’s that like? …. Having your house blown up, living with settlers who can do anything they want, right?

AA: They can, and with total impunity. I mean there is seldom any… [punishment for the] hundreds of attacks against Palestinians a year. Very violent attacks, against Palestinians and their property. And just about total impunity for the settlers.

But the thing I want to stress also, you know, these settlers are extremists. They are racists, and they are violent. But the thing I want to stress is that it’s really the Israeli army and the Israeli occupation that makes the presence of the settlements possible.

[…]

And that is what is fully supported by the United States, the U.S. government and every U.S. taxpayer. So, the settlers would not be there without the U.S. funding and without the ten year aid package, that President Obama just signed. So I really want to stress that.

It’s not about the few extremist settlers, it’s about the core support. And, really, we should be angry that Trump is doing all these things–or we fear he’ll do all these things–but who set it up this way?

DB: Right.

AA: I mean, who set it up this way? If the Democrats had done something when they had the chance, Trump wouldn’t be able to come in and do all these things, on so many issues, not just Palestine. And that, I think, is the real failure of our political system. ….

I think of Trump as Obama III, the third Obama administration because nothing was done on the wars that Obama has spread around the world, extending executive power to kill people anywhere, on surveillance, Obama hasn’t stopped it. On mass incarceration, he’s pardoned, yeah, more than other presidents, but you know the prisons are still full of people. We can’t complain when Trump comes in and continues what we have been left with.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net