So what’s new? Israel’s Nationality Law

Israel’s parliament (Knesset) has this July passed its Nationality Law by sixty two votes to fifty five. In brief, it enshrines, and in effect crows about, Israel’s status as an apartheid state.

The law confirms that ‘Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it’. Note ‘exclusive’.  In addition, the Arabic language is downgraded from its co-equal status as an official language with Hebrew to a lesser ‘special status’.  By way of reminder, Israel’s Palestinian Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the nine million population.

The law also affirms that ‘The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.’  Note ‘Jewish’. Note, too, ‘settlement’, which in fact refers to the construction of Jewish-only colonies built on historic Palestinian land cleared by Israel in an unrelenting programme of house demolitions, land seizures, and crop destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in (illegally annexed) East Jerusalem. Continue reading

Another Israeli state violation now, and a harbinger of more to come

The proposed demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar – a violation now, and a harbinger of more to come

This article has just been published on the ICAHD UK (Israel Committee Against House Demolition, UK) web site.  I would urge you to take a look at the web site as a whole.

The website also announces an  Edinburgh Festival ICAHD UK benefit gig – Laughing for Palestine – Monday 13 August.  The curernt line-up includes Danny Boyle and Comedian Daphna Baram (ICAHD’s Director) in her own show Sugarcoating.  Other comedians for the fundraising gig will be announced shortly.

On 24 May the Israeli High Court confirmed that the mass demolition and transfer of the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar can proceed.  This Bedouin village is located on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.  From Israel’s perspective, it represents an impediment to the state’s intention to link and expand the exclusively Jewish settlement of Maale Adumin into the area known as E1.

In human terms, the judgment means the demolition of dozens of Bedouin family homes along with a school in which 165 children study; that, and also the destruction of pens that shelter 850 sheep.  The proposed transfer will move a rural livestock-dependent community to an urban site and life style unsuitable for Bedouin livelihood, culture and traditions.  It is an attempt at the vanquishment of a community, body and soul. Eight homes were already demolished by Israel in 2016. Many in the international community are familiar with the story of the now doomed school, built in 2009 by members of the community out of  2,200 recycled car tires, mud and falafel oil – an outstanding example of eco-building and community initiative. Israel, unsurprisingly, refused to provide the children of the village with a modern standard school.

Khan Al Ahmar is one of 18 communities located in or next to the E1 area.  This area is critical to Israel’s intention, which it pursues with relentless brutality,   to create a continuous built-up area between the Maale  Adumin Jewish settlement and East Jerusalem and expanding east to Jericho. Therefore this is part of the wider strategic goal to cut the Occupied West Bank in two thereby ending any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.

In a further twist of the screw, Israeli authorities have approved a scheme for the construction of 92 new housing units and an educational institution in the Kfar Adummim Jewish colonial settlement.  This settlement, which is immediately adjacent to Khan Al Ahmar, represents yet another move to create a ‘fact on the ground’ notwithstanding their illegality in international law.  And in a display of toxic neighbourliness that no longer surprises, the Kfar Adummim Jewish settlement petitioned the High Court to hurry along the outstanding demolition orders of these rooted, long-established Bedouin communities.

ICAHD and ICAHD UK have many times over the years raised awareness about the threat to Khan Al-Amar, but the Israel bulldozer state is immune to entreaties to act reasonably, still less ethically. However, in this context, it appears to be increasingly the case that Israel’s actions are yielding, for it, unintended consequences.

The state’s intention is clear: its goal is to create a majority Jewish state with no possibility of a vibrant, equal, and certainly not equal in numbers, Palestinian presence. Hence population displacements, dispossessions, apartheid laws, racist practices and institutionalised brutality, of which Israel’s killings and wounding of Palestinians Gazans is but one sickening example.  And through these policies and practices Israel is close to achieving its tutelage over the area bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River – Greater Israel.

The current Israel regime believes it is creating for itself one state, a Jewish state, moulded to its current shape and image – the culmination of a settler colonial enterprise whose inception dates back to the 19th century.  If there ever was a chance of a two state solution, it is dead now, whether one wishes it or not.  It is therefore almost beyond argument that the reality we confront revolves around questions about the nature of the future one state, the state that will lie between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

This, then, is now the urgent task: to flesh out, argue for and demonstrate what an ethical, pacific, one-state of equal citizens – Palestinians and Jews – would look like.  This task is central to the purpose of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), a campaign that emerges – breaks forth into the day light – from the thinking and activism of Palestinians and Israeli Jews, in a mutual, rights-based, endeavour.  This campaign will launch formally in the autumn.

As important, perhaps, as ODSC is and will be in terms of addressing in practical terms knotty issues of constitutional structure and statecraft, there is at the core of the campaign a metaphorical and psychological dimension.

Hitherto the orthodox discourse – a notionally pragmatic one – was rooted in a belief in the necessity and inevitability of division – of people, of religions, of individuals, one from another: the two state dispensation: a Palestinian state and a Jewish one.  It was always a false prospective, if only because an entity structured to be a specifically Jewish State must be, as is the current Israel state, a racist state. This must in principle be morally iniquitous and ultimately unsustainable – unsustainable, at least, according to common ethical precepts.

The ODSC offers a glimpse of a better future – a break in the clouds.  As the song says: ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in[1].’   A fine sentiment, but one that should not obscure that there is work to be done in support of Palestinians- here, now and with vigour.

Edinburgh Festival ICAHD UK benefit gig – Laughing for Palestine – Monday 13 August.  The curernt line-up includes Danny Boyle and Comedian Daphna Baram (ICAHD’s Director) in her own show Sugarcoating.  Other comedians for the fundraising gig will be announced shortly.

[1] With thanks to Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem.

Anti-semitism- an article of clear, good sense

There follows a link to an article on anti-semitism in the London Review of Books by Stephen Sedley:  https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n09/stephen-sedley/short-cuts

I commend it to you as a good and worthwhile read.

Stephen Sedley  is a former appeal court judge. A collection of his articles and lectures, Law and the Whirligig of Time, will be published by Hart in May.

 

A State’s ‘right’ to exist?

Abstractions cannot have rights.  States are abstractions.  States therefore cannot have rights.  At first blush, this may seem no more than a quibble, or an excursion into constructing a syllogism simply for the pleasure of it.  In terms of the subject I want now to address, it is neither.

Before proceeding, it’s worth stating an opposite but positive proposition:  Rights adhere to, and are embodied in, people. People have rights, States do not.  These are important distinctions, ones that are foundational when considering, and reaching positions on, for example, the Palestinian/Israel conflict.

Qualified Support

There are significant indications that there are increasing numbers of non-Jews and Jews critical of Israel’s policies and actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and towards Palestinians within Israel itself.  More and more people are finding the wanton shamelessness with which Israel pursues and promotes its institutionalised racist policies and practices hard to stomach.  Israel, we might say, gets away with murder, so it barely registers surprise when the Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, proclaims there are ‘no innocent people’ in Gaza, a statement presumably designed to justify the killing of (as at 25 April) forty Gazans and the wounding of 5,511 protestors, including children.  This is the nature of Israel’s response to essentially peaceful protests on the Gazan side of the border fence.  Yes, that’s right, Israel shoots through and over the fence to wound and kill protestors on the Gaza side.

And yet…..

Support but unease

And yet, despite the institutionalsied and calculated brutality of the Israeli State,  I get the sense there are many people – whose natural sympathies and political commitments revolve around respect for fundamental human rights – who hesitate to offer more vocal and active support for the Palestinian cause.  One aspect of this hesitation, the one I want to tackle here, is concern and even dismay at the reluctance or refusal of some Palestinian political entities to recognise the right of the Israeli State to exist and, in particular, the refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State.  Though note that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) recognised Israel, rightly or wrongly, to its benefit or not, in 1988.  Yet the issue of recognition remains, and is likely to remain, a salient one for some time to come.

A first and necessary step to unpicking this is to take a conceptual leap and perhaps an emotional one too, and hold fast to the understanding that States, in principle, have no rights.  It follows that Israel has no more right to exist than does, say, the United Kingdom, a proposition adequately demonstrated by the political movements – the broadly accepted legitimate movements – promoting Scottish and Welsh independence.  This recognition of the legitimacy of the movements says nothing about the rightness or wrongness of the proposed constitutional changes, but, in affirming the legitimacy of the pursuit of independence, one is at the same time granting the legitimacy of the potential dismantling of the UK State.  And such projects are, in principle, permissible.

There is a further move to be made: notwithstanding the status of any State, for those committed to universal human rights, these are indivisible, and in principle transcend national boundaries. In the UK example, irrespective of the structure of constitutional arrangements, that is, whether people are citizens of a United Kingdom or of a future English, Scottish or Welsh State, each individual retains their universal rights. From a human rights’ perspective, it is the State that is or should be the protector and promoter of those rights.

And here we come to the first difficulty in ascribing legitimacy to the current Israeli State, for it neither protects still less promotes the human rights of all those within its borders. The Israeli State is formally founded on an opposing principle: the denial of human rights to, in particular, Palestinians, asylum seekers, and foreign workers.

Note that my concern in this particular article is not to delve into the various political moves and strategies, whether historical or current, of the contending parties. Rather, I am attempting to peel back the layers of propaganda, the standardised tropes – e.g. charges of antisemitism deployed as a shield to protect Israel from criticism – that obscure, and are specifically designed to obscure, questions of principle.  And that principle is that a State that does not protect the rights of all those within its borders has by its own actions raised questions as to its legitimacy. Note further that raising questions about the legitimacy of a State has no bearing on, nor does it dilute, the indivisible rights of all those who live within its borders, this extending without qualification even to those whopromulgate and implement the rights-denying policies and practices.

I turn now briefly to the relatively recent call by Israel that it should be recognised specifically as a Jewish State. I have discussed this in an earlier post. Suffice to say that to recognise Israel’s right to exist as a specifically Jewish State is to recognise and grant legitimacy to a formally constituted Apartheid State.  To grant such recognition would be the same as endorsing as legitimate the South African Apartheid State. No State, organisation or person should find this a tolerable proposition.  That Israel does, or at least the current political leadership of Israel does, again raises questions as to the current Israeli State’s legitimacy.  It is already an Apartheid State. It should be morally and politically impermissible to formally embrace it as such.

The line of argument advanced thus far seems to me to raise questions as to the merits of what has come to be called the ‘Two State Solution’, meaning one Palestinian State, the other, a Jewish State.  As I understand it, a Palestinian State would raise no particular ethical issues provided it accorded to all those residing within its borders individual human rights, and all citizens having equal rights and obligations irrespective of, for example, religion or ethnic background.

However, a difficulty arises once one starts thinking about what a specifically Jewish State might entail, not least because 20% of Israel citizens are Palestinians. (Cautionary Note: as detailed in an earlier post, the Israeli State’s version of ‘citizenship’ does not denote a condition of equality between ‘citizens’. Rather, along with the category ‘nationality’ it is the vehicle for the systemic, institutionalised discrimination of those not Jewish, in particular, Palestinians.)

I cannot see how a two state solution could be radically different from the discriminatory State that currently exists.  No doubt were such a ‘solution’ – when is a ‘solution’ not a ‘solution’? – to be implemented various strategies would be devised to ensure an embedded demographic imbalance in favour of the Jewish population, this designed to reduce the existential anxieties of those Jews who fear they will be outnumbered at some point by Palestinians.  But pity the nation that weaves fear, neurosis, exclusion and discrimination into its fundamental constitutional arrangements – though this may be apt description of the current state of affairs.

Conflation

I have suggested that there has been a conflation of incompatible ideas and concepts, namely, not drawing proper distinction between support of and commitment to individual human rights no matter the race, religion, sexuality, culture of an individual, and the misplaced notion that a State has rights. This conflation, I have suggested, serves to obscure, and in my view is designed to obscure, the nature of the current Israeli State and to legitimise its discriminatory regime.  ‘Rights’ as deployed in this context is a very loaded word, one deployed to direct attention away from the nature and actions of the Israeli State.

Distinction between a Regime and a State

My argument leads me back to the UNESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) report  ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’, referred to in an earlier post.

The UNESCWA report drew attention to an important distinction: that between a State and a Regime. Although the distinction of itself provides no easy pathway to resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli State conflict, at the conceptual level at least, noting the distinction helps counter the tendency – propagated by the Israeli State – to automatically equate the ending or evolution away from a discriminatory political Zionist State to a different dispensation as necessarily the ‘destruction of Israel’. In the words of UNESCWA report:

‘…identifying apartheid as a regime clarifies one controversy: that ending such a regime would constitute destruction of the State itself. This interpretation is understandable if the State is understood as being the same as its regime. Thus, some suggest that the aim of eliminating apartheid in Israel is tantamount to aiming to “destroy Israel”. However, a State does not cease to exist as a result of regime change. The elimination of the apartheid regime in South Africa in no way affected the country’s statehood.’

 Another type of State is in principle possible.

STOP PRESS: WE FAILED

In my 27 March post ‘Nineteen days and counting to Israel’s destruction of another Palestinian village’ I reported that the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran was under threat of demolition by Israel. Those nineteen days have now elapsed and Israel has not been persuaded to relent.

This from a report by the Israel Campaign Against House Demolitions UK (ICAHD UK):

‘After years of harassment by the authorities and endless demolition orders, after the village’s resident, math teacher Ya’akub Abu Al-Qi’an was killed by the police and falsely accused by a government minister of being “a terrorist” – Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran finally  yielded.

Threatened with Israeli demolition and forced displacement, the inhabitants signed an agreement with Israeli authorities to leave their homes “on their own accord” and move to the town of Hura…’

Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minoroty rights In Israel, which represented Umm Al Hirran’s residents in courts for 15 years, compared Israel’s behaviour in Umm Al Hirran to South Africa’s Apartheid regime:

‘Adalah sees the demolition of Umm al-Hiran and forced displacement of its residents as an act of extreme racism, embodying Israel’s colonialist land policies with the backing of the entire Israeli court system. Israel is moving forward with the destruction of Umm al-Hiran in a plan – reminiscent of the darkest of regimes such as apartheid-era South Africa – to build a new Jewish-only town on its ruins.’

ICAHD UK Conference 19 May 2018

The two-state solution is gone buried under Israel’s ‘matrix of control’, the confiscation of Palestinian land, its Kafkaesque laws and Israeli Supreme Court rulings ignoring international law. Israel continues to act with impunity and no Western government or international body is calling it to account.

The time has come to start actively campaigning for one-state.

Palestinians and Israelis have joined together to form the One Democratic State Campaign which seeks to provide leadership, direction and a viable way forward.

However, with obstacles and difficulties that impede engagement and communication between Palestinians and Israelis:

  • How can they come together for a one-state solution?
  • How can Israelis, living in a militarized society where Arab are demonised change their view of the Palestinians?
  • How can the Palestinians living under a brutal military occupation that traumatized their society heal, and be able to share statehood with their oppressor?

Speakers (more to be announced):

  • Dr Jeff Halper, Co-Founder & Director of ICAHD (Jerusalem), Professor of Anthropology, activist & analyst, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee; author of An Israeli in Palestine, War Against the People & Obstacles to Peace
  • Dr Nadia Nasser Najjab, Research Fellow, Exeter University formerly at Birzeit University
  • Daphna Baram, Director, ICAHD UK, analyst, journalist, author of Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel.

 

 

I thought I’d tell you a story

I thought I’d tell you a story. A true story. Or as true as a told story can be.

I think it may be a tale about the perennial wrestle between pragmatism and principle, but I may be wrong.  If you read on, you can decide for yourself.

The story is about events that took place sometime in the late 1980’s, may be the early the 1990’s. I can’t be any more exact than that, but the date is not really of any consequence.  Or, it occurs to me, perhaps it is.  The way one thinks about things can be quite time or era-specific.

So:

There once was an Urban Farm in the London Borough of Wandsworth.  It was called Elm Farm. I don’t know why it was named that, for I can recall no Elm trees in the vicinity. But I may be wrong. Perhaps there were some Elm trees nearby.  But it doesn’t matter, the story is the same with or without Elm trees.

Although on a very small patch of land, it was quite a successful farm.  It had goats, a cow, chickens, geese, rabbits.  And lots of local, regular human users. Kids loved it, and many busied themselves with farm-type tasks, including smelly, mucky ones.

Animals were born on the farm, and some were killed there: the chickens were for food and eggs, so some got the chop on a regular basis; and some continued to lay eggs – and lived as long as they performed their duty in that regard.  The goats were also sent for slaughter, also on a regular basis, their meat coming back to the farm for sale locally.  You could say that the circle of life and death was played out here. Continue reading

Nineteen days and counting to Israel’s destruction of another Palestinian village

Umm Al-Hiran Village: In 19 days this village will be demolished by Israel

In nineteen days’ time, that is from today the 27 March 2018, five hundred Bedouin men, women and children, residents of the village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Israel Negev desert, will see their homes destroyed, their school, community facilities and mosque razed to the ground, their livelihoods liquidated. The villagers will then be forcibly moved to the nearby Bedouin township of Hura, one of the poorest in the country. Already severely overcrowded, it lacks sufficient services, housing plots and infrastructure even for its current residents.

In addition to the injustice of an entire village population being uprooted against their will, the move would also trigger a profound, disorientating change in the economics, culture and meaning of the villagers’ very sense of themselves as an agricultural-based community now to be forcibly inserted into an alien, over-crowded, unfamiliar and unwanted urban life.

Umm Al-Hiran at present

Continue reading

Israel: Apartheid State?

This is the second blog that departs from my usual patch and addresses a subject that needs to be kept in the public eye.  This is my very minor contribution to aiding that purpose.  I speak of the Palestine/Israel situation. Postings on this topic will continue to form part of my blog, though I recognise that for many this will not be a subject of interest.

The particular prompt for extending the scope of my blog was the good fortune I enjoyed in being able to join an Extended  Study Tour of   Palestine/Israel. This gave me the opportunity to see for myself at least some aspects of  the situation on the ground, and to meet organisations and individuals affected by, and assiduously seeking to counter, the gross injustices perpetrated by the Israeli state. This by no means makes me an expert, and no such claim is registered here.

This post should not be necessary, but it is.   It should not be necessary because it should be common knowledge that the State of Israel is an apartheid State, as rigorous and focused in its pursuit of institutionalised racism as was apartheid South Africa.

I’m uncomfortable accepting this position, but it is unavoidable, this because the internal logic of political Zionism’s founding purpose necessarily entails the institutionalisation of a comprehensive, all-encompassing discriminatory regime.  Such a regime requires, first, the reduction of the Palestinian Arab population living within Israel’s borders (however defined) by virtually any means possible, this to maintain a significant Jewish majority within State boundaries; second, it requires the aggressive diminishment or full curtailment of Palestinians’ fundamental human rights.  The two aspects are of course interwoven.

My previous post on the subject gave some examples of what this ‘internal logic’ entails in practice. Sadly, it is probably the best bet you could ever make that there will be many, many more shameful, cruel, abusive and illegal acts carried out by the Israeli State in the hours, days and months ahead. There is no doubt about this – Israel, to repeat, is a State that, as currently constituted, has given itself no alternative but to pursue the internal logic of its own founding principles.  Contrary to the currently dominant cultural and religious tenets professed by Israel, this logic and practice is not directed by heaven, but summoned by man.

In this post I want briefly to show why the position is as I have characterised it. I want also to explain why it is simply false to characterise Israel a democratic State.  The claim is able to be made only by the deft use of smoke and mirrors. In plain sight the proposition is somewhere between risible and flagrantly deceitful.  I touch only on a few aspects of this ‘internal logic’.  Other agencies and organisations have documented the full extent of the institutionalised web of discriminatory law, regulation, policy and practice.  Some links appear at the end of this piece. Continue reading