Category Archives: Israel House Demolitions

As Olive Harvest Begins, Israeli Soldiers Prevent Palestinians From Reaching Their Groves

I reproduce without comment an article in Haaretz by Amira Hass, dated 17 October 2021

Amira Hass

When it isn’t the settlers who try to directly disrupt Palestinians’ olive picking, it’s the Israeli army that prevents it from taking place

Israeli soldiers detaining Mohammed al-Khatib, who had come with others to harvest olives, near Salfit in the West Bank.Credit: Matan Golan

Mohammed al-Khatib from the village of Bil’in uses every opportunity he has to talk to soldiers, in Hebrew. Even after they beat him, laid him on the ground and detained him, even after one of the soldiers imperiously placed his foot on Mohammed’s back, which is what happened last Monday near the West Bank town of Salfit.

“I like talking to young soldiers, explaining the occupation to them,” he said. “‘What do you mean by occupation,’ they ask, ‘you Palestinians can do whatever you like.’ And I tell them: ‘Don’t you believe me that a Palestinian cannot build on his own land? Look it up on the internet. Don’t just listen to your officers.’” He was talking to Haaretz two days after being detained for a much shorter than is usual under the circumstances described below.

Khatib has forgotten how many times he’s been arrested for his activity in the popular committees fighting against the separation barrier. The reason for his arrest this time was picking olives. Groups of volunteers are spreading out across the West Bank these days to help with the olive harvest, especially in areas that are prone to violence by Israelis living in adjacent illegal outposts.

Since the beginning of this year’s harvest season, October 3, until October 16, Israeli citizens in the West Bank have sabotaged the harvest 18 times either by direct physical attacks on farmers, or by cutting and breaking trees or stealing the crops.

Volunteers who came to harvest olives near Salfit in the West Bank found the area taped off and declared a closed military zone.Credit: Matan Golan

Among the volunteers is a group called Faz’a, established a year ago. Khatib was one of its initiators. The group strives to revive the tradition of volunteerism and mutual aid that characterized Palestinian society in the 1970s and ’80s.

When it isn’t the settlers who try to directly disrupt the olive picking, it’s the army that prevents it from taking place. This is what happened last Monday at a grove in the al-Ras area near Salfit, north of the settlement of Ariel. Just over a year ago, an illegal outpost called Nof Avi was established there. Since then, the owners of the grove can only view their plot from a distance. Now that the olives are ripe, volunteers were called to joining the farmers, on the assumption that large numbers would protect the latter from Israeli violence and allow for a speedier completion of the harvest, before the olives might be stolen.

When the volunteers arrived at around 8:30 in the morning, they were surprised to find “a hysterical number of soldiers,” as Israeli activist Gil Hamerschlag told Haaretz. The soldiers stretched a tape between some posts they had driven into the ground. To the tape were attached several notices, in English and Arabic, declaring the area a closed military zone. According to activists who were there, the soldiers did not present them with a signed closure order (this was presented in court the following day). In any case, the activists took care to remain outside the marked area, deciding to walk to the grove from another direction. This too was prevented by the soldiers.

Khatib says that he didn’t expect the area to be closed. “It’s true that on top of the hill there is a settler who has taken over the hill. But we were coming to protect something legal, like olive picking, against something illegal, the violence of settlers. If the army were truly worried about the safety of that settler, why didn’t they place the soldiers around the illegal structures of the outpost? Why prevent the olive picking? It all revolves around a decision by the commander.

“The previous day we picked olives in the groves of Beita. For that we had to go through an outpost [Evyatar]. The army didn’t bother us and there were no problems. In other words, the decision about whether there is quiet or not is in the hands of the military commander. We come to pick olives; we’re not interested in tensions. It’s not a provocation, but we refuse to coordinate with the army in advance in order to reach a private grove, only because a settler has taken over Palestinian land. Because of this one outpost, the land has not been ploughed all year in that grove; it’s full of thorns.”

Khatib arrived there a bit late, saying that he didn’t see the tape marking off the “closed military zone.” He saw soldiers denying access and joined the other activists. Khatib, who studied law, says that during his detention “one officer told me that if there is a closure order, that means it’s Israeli land. He knows nothing about the law. What logic! The settler is the one breaking the law, I’m abiding by it, and you claim that I’m the transgressor.”

Volunteers who came to harvest olives near Salfit in the West Bank found the area taped off and declared a closed military zone.Credit: Matan Golan 

Even though the activists moved away, the soldiers approached them and started pushing them. “I argued with the officer: ‘Why are you pushing us? I have a right to pick olives.’ I heard a junior officer telling the commander that he wanted to arrest two people. He asked for permission and got it. I told them: ‘You can arrest me, but what did I do?’ He said I was under detention. I raised my arms. A few activists came and extricated me, and then a few soldiers pounced on me, maybe five or six, and started beating me. I didn’t feel anything then, but later, in detention, I noticed it was difficult to move my neck. They laid me on the ground facing down, and one of them stepped heavily on my back.” Photographer Matan Golan had the impression that the major, seen in a video running toward the soldier stepping on Khatib, was not pleased with what was happening, and indeed, when he arrived, the foot was taken off Khatib’s back. At this point, the soldiers started lobbing stun grenades at the volunteers.

In responding to Haaretz, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson stuck to the claim that there had been “a violent disruption of public order near the farm [illegal outpost] of Nof Avi,” and that the volunteers had violated a closure order which was presented to them and had used violence against soldiers. The spokesperson also stated that “the force responded with demonstration-dispersal methods, arresting three suspects. One of them behaved violently toward a soldier and behaved wildly during his arrest, even trying to escape. The soldiers therefore needed to use physical force in order to complete his detention. The conduct of the soldier [who stepped on his back] is unacceptable.”

It was 10 in the morning when soldiers handcuffed Khatib’s hands behind his back, blindfolding him and taking him to the grove, closer to the outpost. Two Israeli detainees, Hammerschlag and activist David Shalev, were already sitting there. Their hands were also cuffed behind their backs but their eyes were uncovered. The two remarked about the different treatment and one of the soldiers removed the blindfold from Khatib’s eyes. After two and a half or three hours, during which the three sat on the ground in handcuffs, soldiers blindfolded all three and put them on a jeep that took them to the nearest police station, in Ariel.

While they were waiting in a detention cell, they heard a police officer talking with one of the soldiers who had arrested them, the only one still there. Their impression was that the officer was instructing the soldier on how to shape the evidence supporting the arrest. Khatib said he stood near the door and heard the police officer explaining to the soldier that violation of a closure is insufficient reason for detention, which is why it should be noted that the Palestinian assaulted the soldiers. Khatib says the soldier said he didn’t assault anyone, only causing a disturbance, and the policeman said that this wasn’t sufficient. Hammerschlag says he heard the officer asking if Khatib had pulled the soldier’s rifle, as a hint of what could be noted in the evidence supporting the arrest (the Judea and Samaria District has not commented on this so far).

An olive harvest volunteer being handcuffed by an Israeli soldier near Salfit in the West Bank, last week.Credit: Matan Golan

After that, the three were split up. The Israelis were taken to Hadarim prison in Israel and Khatib to a detention facility at the military base of Hawara, south of Nablus. Israeli law requires a suspect to be brought before a judge within 24 hours of his arrest. Military law prevailing in the West Bank allows a Palestinian suspect to be held for up to 96 hours without being brought before a judge. In fact, Hammerschlag and Shalev were given the opportunity of being released on some conditions while they were still in Ariel. They refused, claiming they had committed no transgression.

Their refusal to be released immediately made it easier for the lawyer representing the three, Riham Nasra, from the law offices of Michal Pomeranz, to get Khatib released before the 96 hours were up. On Monday afternoon she filed a request for his immediate release, which require the military court’s secretariat to convene a earlier hearing session. This is no trivial matter. Given the abundance of prisoners, attorneys in the West Bank have grown accustomed to a minimum of four days’ detention, without even trying to obtain a release earlier.

On Tuesday, the two Israelis were brought to a court in Petah Tikva. The police asked for an extension of Hammerschlag’s detention and an order prohibiting Shalev from going to the olive grove for 15 days, so that “the investigation could be completed.” Nasra showed a video that proved the detainees’ version. If the soldiers had a video showing the opposite, the police would have been happy to show it. Judge Liat Har Zion concluded that the police could complete its investigation even if the two were released. Nasra immediately sent the minutes to the military court in Salem, in the northern West Bank, drove there and demanded an immediate ruling on Khatib’s release. At 4:30 P.M. a decision was taken to hold a session at 4:45.

Khatib remained at the detention facility in Hawara, participating in the session via video conference. The judge, Lt. Col. Samzar Shagog, said that there was “reasonable grounds to suspect that Khatib had pushed soldiers and tried to enter a closed military zone,” but he released him, with Khatib having to post personal bail amounting to 1,000 shekels ($310).

On Tuesday, at 6:30 P.M., Khatib was released. On Friday and Saturday, he was picking olives in Burin.

As you sow, so shall you reap

Israel is a militaristic state. For many years[1] now, it has ranked first in the Global Militarisation Index (GMI). By way of contrast, the USA ranks twenty-seventh, the UK seventy-seventh. The GMI bases its rankings on a set of quantifiable indicators, for example, GMI compares a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product, and its health expenditure.  Notwithstanding this ranking, it seems to me insufficient evidence to justify what amounts to the charge laid down in my opening sentence: ‘Israel is a militaristic state’.

Militarism is not simply a matter of having armed forces, nor even the fact that a state might take pride in them. Rather, militarism is the expression, and propagation, of a totalising ethical, cultural, economic and political ethos such that the military, and ‘the military way’[2] of thinking, is the prism through which the world is viewed. Jeff Harper in War Against the People puts it thus:

Encapsulated in symbols, narratives, rituals, holidays, educational curricula and political discourse internalised by generations of Israeli Jews and reinforced by nearly universal military service, cultural militarism has become part of the natural order in Israel.

With the establishment of Israel in 1948:

Militarism was officially entrenched in Israeli culture and policy-making. The army became the primary instrument of nation building. Identification with the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would define and mobilise “Israel-ness”…For Ben-Gurion, [Israel’s first Prime Minister]  Israel as a “nation-in-arms” should foster “a desire to fight and an ability to fight…Israel’s military culture keeps its populace in a constant state of mobilisation.”

It is because the ‘military way’ is Israel’s default setting, justifying both its existence and any action – vile and violent though they may be – that the charge of militarism can be sustained. Israel is a militaristic state.

Militarism, as a totalising system, must maintain and reproduce itself.  Special heed, therefore, is to be paid to the state’s young, in particular its Jewish young, for it is they that must – must! – carry forward the State’s ethnonationalist project of Jewish supremacy.

A key objective of the Israeli education system, the Jewish education system, is to prepare the young – from the very, very young through to the high school graduate – for military service; to prepare them for combat, for readiness to fulfil their role as controllers of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In other words, readiness to control Palestinians, children, women and men.  

Israel’s voracious appetite

An inherent, defining feature of Zionism, and therefore of the Israeli state, is its appetite.  An unrelenting, voracious appetite for that which is not theirs to consume: Palestinian land.  Zionism is this appetite, an appetite not capable of satiation until all – or practically all – Palestinian land has been consumed and digested by the Jewish state.

And what of those which the Israeli state finds indigestible – Palestinians – yet remain so naggingly present?  Well, they must be ‘encouraged’ to leave or accept a lesser life under the tutelage of the self-avowedly ethnonationalist Jewish state.  The state that is feted, funded, endorsed and protected by other states able, without blushing, to proclaim their commitment to democratic principles.

How to convey?

The means to convey what this unrelenting appetite for Palestinian land means in practice are so limited: words, pictures, personal testaments, sharing narratives of courage and resistance, all attempting to evoke the felt experience of, for example, the residents of Sheikh Jarrar threatened with eviction; the Bedouin attacked daily by settlers; of homes and the means to support livelihoods repeatedly destroyed by the Israel Defence Force – so inaptly and inaccurately titled –  working alongside Israel’s Border Police named thus, perhaps with paradoxical intent, since Israel has yet to formally agree its borders.

Israel, as I have elsewhere remarked, is the land of smoke and mirrors, of sleight of hand – little if anything is as on the surface it seems.

Except of course the iron fist, the ‘live’ bullet, the rubber-coated bullet, the tear gas cannister, the skunk water cannon, the handheld baton to beat unprotected Palestinian flesh. Here there is no sleight of hand, no smoke and mirrors, merely raw violence exerted by a militarised, hegemonic society intent on spacio-cide – clearing the land of as many indigenous Palestinians as it can. For the Israeli state, this is work in progress.  

ICAHD UK reports: ‘The Palestinian herding community of Humsa Al-Bqai’a (Khirbet Hamsa in Hebrew) was demolished yet again by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) on Wednesday, 7th July 2021 following previous demolitions in November 2020 and February 2021….

On Wednesday the ICA, accompanied by the military, held the residents at gunpoint and told them that they were to get on a bus and leave immediately but they refused. Therefore, the ICA proceeded to demolish a total of 27 structures including homes, animal shelters, and water tanks. All personal belongings were confiscated as were their food supplies and water. The residents were left without even milk for their children or fodder for their 4000 sheep.

Eleven households, comprising around 70 people, including 36 children, were left without shelter in yesterday’s scorching heat that reached 39 degrees C.  Included in the demolition was destruction of humanitarian aid that had been provided by donors including NGOs, EU Humanitarian Aid and European countries including the UK.’

State policy: dispossession, displacement, demolition

A state founded on an oxymoron – that Israel can be both democratic and yet in the exclusive control of one ethnonationalist group, in this case Israeli Jews – is unlikely to have a developed sense of irony. Irony, after all, requires, at a bare minimum, a capacity to notice a contradiction when it’s staring you in the face; and, more particularly, when you yourself are its author.

Certainly, Israel’s Foreign Minister appears to be a stranger to the ironic sense. As reported in Ha’aretz newspaper, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, is very angry – outraged in fact – with the Polish government. The Poles have passed a law that will prevent Jews from claiming the property they had to leave behind when fleeing the Nazi Occupation of 1939.  After the war that property was retained by the post-war communist regime.  And the current Polish Government intends to retain, without compensation, that property still. ‘This law is immoral’, the Israeli minister fulminated, ‘No law will change history. This is a disgrace that will not erase the horrors …’.

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile, back in the democratic, Jewish state, it has fashioned its own outrages. As the Ha’aretz correspondent, B. Michael, points out, if the Poles want to deprive people of their property, it should have sought to emulate Israel’s Absentee Property Law which does a more thorough job than does the Polish version. This law, passed in 1950, defines as ‘absentees’ people who were expelled, who fled, or who left the country – i.e. Palestinians – after 29 November 1947 as a result of the 1948 war that established the Israeli state. Those defined as absentees lose any rights to the property they owned within the newly founded state.  It legalises the theft of Palestinian property, placing it in the hands of the Israeli state and connected agencies for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. 

Present absentees

But that move alone was not sufficient from the state’s perspective. In addition to the 750,000 Palestinians who left land, homes and property to find refuge in neighbouring countries, there were a significant number of Palestinians who were ‘internally displaced’, that is, they fled their original homes in what became Israel in 1948, but fled to other villages and towns that were within the boundaries of the new Israeli state.  

Internally displaced people in Israel are also known as ‘present absentees’ normally a contradiction in terms, which rather takes us back to the oxymoronic nature of the Jewish State. This is further exemplified by the fact that ‘present absentees’ have Israeli citizenship, but no right to live in the homes that they own. In normal circumstances the status ‘citizen’ would refer to, among other matters, a substantive body of rights held in common with other citizens.  This clearly is not the case here. 

Two States or One?

I’m afraid this is rather a long post – just under 3,000 words –which may tax some readers’ stamina, and indeed patience. Doubtless a bit more incisive editing might have reduced the word count, but the subject I was aiming at – the One State idea as a potentially positive approach to the Palestine/Israel impasse – seemed to me to require, at least in outline, a critique of the optimistically titled Two State ‘solution’.  One needs to clear the ground before it can be built on.

Almost without exception my posts on Palestine/Israel have not been sunny fare.  They’ve pointed to the multiple sufferings – killings, woundings, home demolitions, internal displacements, child detentions, racist policies and enactments – endured, and resisted, by Palestinians, child, man, woman. All this and more, daily.

But mere describing and reporting – imperatives not to be shirked – of themselves offer no pathway to remediation, nor strategy towards a wished for, just, future. And while the legendary steadfastness – Samud – of Palestinians is and will be a prerequisite underpinning any strategy directed towards creating such a just outcome, it is only a prerequisite, not a strategy in itself. 

One State/Two State

Jeff Harper,[1] in his latest book ‘Decolonising Israel, Liberating Palestine’, makes the point there needs to be a wished-for, articulated endgame if progress towards a durable political settlement to the Palestine/Israel impasse is to be achieved. For reasons that will be outlined below, the much-touted two State ‘solution’ is not that endgame.  

A wished-for endgame can only come to fruition in the context and pursuit of a political strategy.  Samud and resistance are necessary, but of themselves not future-oriented strategies. I want, therefore, in this post to point to a potential ‘endgame’ that historically had, and perhaps now has, greater credibility than commonly supposed. It is the One State idea: a unified, democratic State of equal citizenship and rights for all between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.    

Before proceeding, however, it is necessary to dispose of a different proposed endgame, one that for some time had apparent credence, but that time, almost certainly, has passed. I speak of the now entirely notional ‘Two State Solution’ proposed, indeed promoted, as the way to resolve the Palestine/Israel conundrum. 

The ‘solution’ is in fact snake oil, not cure.  At first blush it suggests a sense of fairness, the title ‘two states’ implying a symmetry between the gains and losses that would be borne by Israelis and Palestinians alike.  All in pursuit of the ‘solution’. But there is no symmetry here, still less fairness. Proposals for the Palestinian State require it to accept but 22% of historic Palestine. Such a State would be almost entirely dependent on a dominant Israel, which has not hitherto displayed any intention of supporting a truly independent Palestinian state.

It’s true that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) did in fact come to accept the two State outcome, this in 1988. Having by that time endured twenty-one years of Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with an International Community, so called, largely in support of the proposal, one can see that weariness, coupled with pressure by international funders, beget a form of pragmaticism so that, in 1988, a two State outcome was formally endorsed by the PLO, though never thus far achieved.

NSPCC/JCB complicit in cruelty to Palestinian children: Campaign report

There’s been an agreeable increase in both visitors and viewings of pages to this blog site. In particular, there appeared to be interest in the campaign to persuade NSPCC to refuse donations from JCB (Machines) on the grounds that this made the NSPCC complicit in cruelty to Palestinian children and their families. JCB’s heavy duty machines – bulldozers and others – are used by Israel to destroy Palestinian homes and livelihoods, often without warning.

The rate of demolitions is increasing. The aim: to remove Palestinians from their land to make way for Jewish-only Settlements.

I thought readers might be interested in a report on the campaign by the UK Palestine Mental Health Network. It can be found here. I will promote the next stages of the campaign as soon as details are released.

Looking ahead, I think there are two issues on Palestine/Israel I want to tackle in next postings: 1. the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS); 2. the proposal for One State between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

NSPCC complicity in cruelty to Palestinian children. An open letter signed by ninety one health workers, academics, educators, social workers, youth workers, and others

It should at the very least be a source of disquiet that a number of mainstream media, including the Guardian, determined that this letter, and the issue it addressesNSPCC’s complicity in undermining the lives of Palestinian children and their families – does not warrant space within their columns.

A perhaps unintended, though perhaps ultimately useful, consequence of media indifference to this letter is that it alerts readers of this post to the way in which the daily, persistent oppression of Palestinians by Israel and its fellow travellers is to a significant extent marginalised or entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

PLAYLINK is pleased to be among the signatories of this letter.

We, the undersigned, are campaigning organisations, professionals and creatives who are very concerned with the recent reports of escalating home demolitions in Palestine

We are deeply disquieted to learn that the charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is accepting funds from JCB – a company which exports equipment to Israel via its partner, Comasco, despite knowing how its products are subsequently employed. 

Evidence shows that JCB bulldozers are routinely used to demolish Palestinian houses, animal shelters and water sources. They destroy livelihoods by digging up olive and other fruit trees.  Palestinian children, their families and communities suffer terribly as a result. 

JCB currently faces scrutiny under OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which investigates companies that may be involved in human rights violations as a result of their business relationship with other parties. The United Nations has also listed JCB as involved in activities that support the Israeli settlements.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children accused of complicity in cruelty to Palestinian children

My guess is that a significant number of those who read my posts are involved, in one way of another, with children and the required work to ensure their flourishing. We recognise this as a universal goal, unbounded by border, background or ethnicity. With this in mind, this post may have particular salience for at least some readers, for reasons set out below. This post ends with a call to action. My hope is that some readers at least will respond to the call.

The NSPCC, which does valuable work here in the UK, is charged with being complicit in the ruination of Palestinian children’s, and their families, lives. This because it accepts substantial donations – millions of pounds – from J C Bamford Excavators Ltd (JCB), the private UK company that builds and sells to Israel the bulldozers and other heavy equipment used by Israeli forces to demolish, not only the homes of Palestinians, but also the structures and buildings required to maintain life, for example, animal housing, olive and fruit trees, wells, community freshwater systems, cutting off villagers from water sources.

The aim of the demolitions is to clear – ethnically cleanse – Palestinians from their land to make way for exclusive Jews-only Settlements.  The demolitions are well documented and are virtually a daily occurrence both in the Occupied West Bank and within illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

Seismic shift: Authoritative Israeli human rights organisation brands Israel an Apartheid State

It’s as good as official: Israeli human rights group – B’tselem – defines Israel an Apartheid State. Other organisations have made that evidence-based judgment, not least the UN and Al-Haq, but the B’tselem report has special significance – it represents a radical break in its previous position and implcitly calls to account those that have given Israel comfort by treating it as a normal state.

My posts have unfailingly labelled Israel a racist, Apartheid State. And over a number of postings I have presented evidence to support that designation.  Nevertheless, it’s clear that, for many, it’s a designation too far, not least for some at the liberal end of the political spectrum. 

To a significant extent liberal thought, along with its Zionist liberal variant, generally revolves around what are considered universal values: human rights, political, civil and religious rights for all, in this case understood as mutual entitlements both for Palestinians and for Jews.  In the abstract, there is little of contention here, but in the brute light of history and the day-to-day lived experience of Palestinians under Israeli rule, these precepts amount to no more than wishful thinking. 

The historical distinction: The Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel proper

A key aspect of some liberal thinking, and indeed of more centrist thought, is that a distinction must be made between Israel proper (i.e. Israel within the Green Line) and its Occupation of Palestinian territory, i.e. Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  This distinction forms what might be called the ‘standard paradigm’ within which Palestine/Israel questions have traditionally been considered.  There is Israel, and there is the OPT.  Israel is a democratic State – so it says of itself – and there is Israel in the OPT.  It shouldn’t be there, of course, but, according to the standard paradigm, the ‘solution’ to that state of affairs is to hand: Israel must withdraw from the OPT. 

Thus far the conventional approach – the standard paradigm – has not paid too much attention to what goes on within Israel, specifically as it affects its non-Jewish citizens and residents, but focuses on, and works to counter, human rights abuses in the OPT; and to press for an end to the Occupation. 

No distinction: an alternative paradigm

But what happens if the standard paradigm is wrong? Or at least, were it ever right, it is wrong now, and has been for some time. If the paradigm is wrong or outdated, then it becomes not a tool for thought, but a constraint upon it. 

Facts on the ground have for some time made redundant the idea that there is a firm distinction to be drawn between Israel proper and the OPT. Israel’s writ runs throughout both territories; on both sides of the Green Line, that writ is a racist, Apartheid one.  For a range of motives and reasons, this characterisation of the Israeli State has been unpalatable for many. 

Those reasons and motives need not detain us in this post, but the reluctance to stare reality in the face results in, and is based on, denial, this perhaps particularly the case for those I’ve characterised as of liberal persuasion. From this perspective, Israel’s often acknowledged misdeeds, misbehaviours and cruelties can be laid at the door of the Occupation. It is the Occupation that is the mutant gene, corrupting an otherwise healthy Israeli body politic. Ending the Occupation, therefore, is conceived as a salve that, once administered, will create the conditions for the restoration of the ‘true’ Israel, the fabled democratic state that resides in a ‘tough neighbourhood’. 

Seismic shif

In what amounts to a seismic shift in thinking and analysis, the well-regarded, authoritative B’tselem – The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – has declared Israel a racist, Apartheid State; a State that controls the entirety of the territory bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan: Israel proper, the OPT and East Jerusalem.

Historically, B’tselem devoted itself to documenting Israeli violations of Palestinians’ human rights but only in the OPT – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – but not in Israel proper within the Green Line demarcation border. It has now come to a different analysis, this based on documented facts on the ground. 

‘A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid’

Under the heading set out above, B’tselem explains:

The common perception in public, political, legal and media discourse is that two separate regimes operate side by side in this area [between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River], separated by the Green Line….

…Over time, the distinction between the two regimes has grown divorced from reality…. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers now reside in permanent settlements east of the Green Line, living as though they were west of it. East Jerusalem has been officially annexed to Israel’s sovereign territory, and the West Bank has been annexed in practice.

Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. All this leads to the conclusion that…There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle.

It goes on to say:

In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians….

Jewish citizens live as though the entire area were a single space (excluding the Gaza Strip). The Green Line means next to nothing for them: whether they live … within Israel’s sovereign territory, or east of it, [in illegally held territory] is irrelevant to their rights or status.Where Palestinians live, on the other hand, is crucial….The geographic space, which is contiguous for Jews, is a fragmented mosaic for Palestinians…

…A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime. Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians…is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalized and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy. These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met.

A change in the ethical grammar

Robert A. H. Cohen, in his reliably excellent blog, is clear that the B’tselem report changes not only the acceptable vocabulary on Palestine/Israel but also the ‘ethical grammar’ which hitherto has both shielded and sustained Israel.

Israel is and has been sustained through massive financial support from the USA and the EU, along with close military and ‘security’ cooperation; joint arms’ development and sales; and protected from criticism by demonising Israel-critical speech as prima facie anti-Semitic.

The B’tselem report implicitly calls into question the role the political class has played in turning a blind eye, and cosying up to, Israel.  It similarly calls to account all those organsations and individuals – civil society – that have given Israel comfort, not least by treating it as a normal State.

The B’tselem report blows a hole through many of the policies and practices designed to neutralise or vanquish criticism of Israel.  The Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement, for example, will presumably need to take pause to consider, and attempt to refine, their approach to defending Israel. The Labour Party Leader, Keir Starmer, may come to feel he has misstepped in his handling of the of anti-Semitism issue within the labour Party. Or at least he should.

The Education Minister, Gavin Williamson, may feel the ground has been cut from beneath his feet in his attempt to force universities to adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Memorial Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, along with examples of what may indicate anti-Semitism. One of those examples I discussed in an earlier blogDenying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour. In the light of the B’tselem report, how can it now feasibly be suggested that Israel is not an Apartheid, racist State?  And on what ground now does the oft-critiqued IHRA defintion of anti-Semitism stand – quicksand?

BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

Then there is the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, it also the subject to vilification and threats.  The B’tselem report draws a parallel – not an exact one, but sufficient for the purpose – between the Israel Apartheid State and what was the South African Apartheid State.

BDS played a significant role in isolating that regime, and by doing so aided its demise.  This surely, then, is the moment when those who have offered Israel the benefit of the doubt, in part because they based their analysis on what I have called the standard paradigm, need to reappraise both their analysis and the actions that may be required of them.

BDS is a significant tool in the struggle against Israel’s State-induced oppression and needs to be more widely supported. It’s always struck me as odd that many of those who actively opposed South African Apartheid, not least by supporting the BDS campaign of its day, have been somehow quesy about supporting its current iteration in respect of Israel’s Apartheid State.

Turning a blind eye, not confronting the reality – the humiliations, brutalisations, home demolitions, killings that Palestinians daily endure – can no longer be an option.

Endword

To coin a phrase: There is an elephant in the room that this blog occupies.  

The B’tselem analysis rests upon the fact that there is but one regime that governs both Israel within the Green Line, and Palestinians within the OPT, including annexed East Jerusalem.  The elephant therefore thinks it inevitable that we ask ‘What of the two State ‘solution’? Is it tenable? Was it ever really tenable? And if it is not now tenable, what is the way forward for justice within Palestine/Israel?

I think this needs to be the subject of the next post.

Playing with death – Palestinian childhoods

Traditionally, this site has been concerned with children and their freedoms.  More recently, it has also focused on the conflict in Palestine/Israel.  The two subjects distressingly combine in todays’s Daily Telegraph report.

Something hidden, obscured or ignored now starkly highlighted:

More children than Palestinian fighters are being killed in the offensive on Gaza. The name, age, sex and location of 132 of the 155 Palestinian children killed have been collected by the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights