+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:40:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 An historic deal between Iran and the world http://972mag.com/an-historic-deal-between-iran-and-the-world/105089/ http://972mag.com/an-historic-deal-between-iran-and-the-world/105089/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:03:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105089 Iran’s relations with the West have seen their ups and downs, almost always ending in disappointment and frustration for the Iranians. Now, for the first time in modern history, negotiations are taking place in which world powers are addressing Iran at eye level. The pending deal is not perfect, but compared to the alternatives it would be a pretty good outcome.

By Lior Sternfeld

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz Stand With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Vice President of Iran for Atomic Energy Salehi Before Meeting in Switzerland, March 16, 2015. (State Dept. photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz Stand With Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Vice President of Iran for Atomic Energy Salehi Before Meeting in Switzerland, March 16, 2015. (State Dept. photo)

If all goes according to plan, in the coming hours an historic agreement will be signed between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). We can already say that if the deal is signed it would be historic. Not because it would “bring Iran back” into the community of nations, as some of the Western parties to the deal like to say, and not because it signals “Western capitulation,” as many of its detractors claim. It will be an historic deal because for the first time in modern history, negotiations will have taken place with Iran as an equal party, not as a passive party.

The agreement and all of its clauses will have been formulated in negotiations in which the West addressed Iran at eye level. It’s not a perfect deal, but taking into consideration the alternatives, it is a very good deal. And without getting into the technical details, of which I have no understanding, I will attempt to explain why.

[tmwinpost]

Iran’s relations with the West have seen a lot of ups and downs. Nearly every period ended in frustration for the Iranians. Over the course of a number of long decades, Iran was used as a tool in the hands of the world’s powerful countries. Iranian collective memory includes periods in which Iran was placed under military occupation by Britain, the United States, the USSR, periods in which Britain controlled the country’s oil industry and abused Iranians who worked in it. At the same time it exploited the country’s resources, a period in which an elected and revered prime minister was overthrown by the British and Americans, and after that coup, the Shah (once again, with the backing of world powers) became a cruel dictator with a secret police that was one of the worst in the world at the time. Resistance to the Shah’s rule led to the 1979 revolution and a change in Iran’s relations with the world — a change that remains to this day.

Etched in the West’s collective memory is the trauma from overthrow of the good, beneficial Shah — the enlightened dictator — and the installation of the dark, religious regime. The American embassy hostage saga also comes to mind rather frequently. But few remember that the hostage crisis took place after the United States refused to hand over the Shah to Iran so he could stand trial for his crimes against the Iranian people.

For the rest of the 1980s Iran brought about an awful war with Iraq. An eight-year war that exacted a heavy price in both blood and treasure. A war in which Iran was attacked by Saddam Hussain’s Iraq, which was supported by the United States and most of the West. Since that war ended, Iran underwent significant domestic developments. The death of Khomeini and the changing of the guard — and generations — a new equation for managing relations with the West and the world was created. From the end of the 1990s many of us remember the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, whose entire platform was “Dialogue Among Civilizations,” in order to end the years of hostility.

After September 11, 2001, Khatami offered Iran’s help in stabilizing the Middle East and Afghanistan. American President George W. Bush’s response was the “Axis of Evil” speech. The speech was a slap in the face to the reformist president and to the large portion of the Iranian public that elected him. It was a slap in the face that the conservative camp in Iran exploited to change the rhetoric for speaking of relations with the United States and its allies. Indirectly, or perhaps directly, that was the rhetoric that, among other things, led to the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Iranian presidency in 2005.

The heavy water reactor in Arak, Iran (Photo: Nanking2012, CC)

The heavy water reactor in Arak, Iran (Photo: Nanking2012, CC)

Since then, the most pragmatic (and most photogenic) government was elected, by a landslide, which succeeded in changing Iran’s imagine in the world and at convincing the world that if it wants to change the dynamics of their relations, that this is the time. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif exhibited moderation and pragmatism, which managed to bring about a breakthrough in endless nuclear negotiations.

The Iranian government’s aim was to get rid of the sanctions paralyzing its country. Sanctions that made Iranians’ lives much more difficult. Sanctions, the goal of which was to bring Iran to its knees, didn’t do so. Their result was the opposite of what they hoped for int he United States, the West and in Israel. The sanctions strengthened the Revolutionary Guards and strengthened organization’s economic might and its grip on the Iranian economy. The sanctions helped eliminate the Iranian middle class — the same middle class that posed the largest threat to the survival of the revolutionary regime. And the sanctions didn’t slow down the progress of Iran’s nuclear research.

And yet according to reports by the various intelligence agencies, despite the progress in Iran’s research, there is no conclusive evidence that Iran is advancing toward a nuclear weapon. That has always been Iran’s official position. In Iran there is principled resistance to the idea of unconventional weapons as being amoral, partly because Iran was the victim of such weapons in its war with Iraq.

Another thing we must remember is that Iran has not attacked a single country in the past 200 years. True, that contradicts the image we have of an aggressive Iran, and perhaps it even contradicts the military image that Iran tries to project, but Iran has not launched a war against a single country, near or far, in the modern age. Critics will say that Iran supports terrorist organizations that do attack countries in the region, like Hezbollah and Hamas, for example. The sad truth is that nearly every regional and global power has done the same, in the Middle East and beyond. The United States has done the exact same thing, Israel has done the same, and so does Iran.

Another question that must be asked, is: if there is no deal — what is the alternative? War? More sanctions? The truth is that even those who oppose the deal have no alternative. Iran will continue to use its right to advance nuclear research for civilian purposes. Iran has even learned some lessons from other Middle Eastern states and decentralized and spread its nuclear facilities across its vast country, and according to press reports, most of its facilities are deep underground and protected from air strikes. An agreement that lets Iran continue its research and gives it the benefits of nuclear energy, and the benefits of nuclear medical research, and which leaves all of its facilities under international supervision — doesn’t look so bad after all.

One note: Many of us look forward to the day when the revolutionary regime comes to an end, that the Velvet Revolution overthrows the clerics, sends them back to the mosques, and their rule will just be another chapter in the thousands of years of Iran’s history. It is possible that a nuclear deal will delay that. It could also bring it closer. Either way, it won’t make the regime more just. The Iranian regime is horrible and disappointing first and foremost for the Iranian people. However, there is a massive difference between foreign and domestic policy, and judging by Iran’s foreign policy there is no reason to think that this agreement won’t hold or be enforced.

Dr. Lior Sternfeld is a lecturer in the Middle Eastern Studies department at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on modern Iran. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

]]>
http://972mag.com/an-historic-deal-between-iran-and-the-world/105089/feed/ 3
Obama, Netanyahu and the Palestinian conflict: What’s next? http://972mag.com/obama-netanyahu-and-the-palestinian-conflict-whats-next/105066/ http://972mag.com/obama-netanyahu-and-the-palestinian-conflict-whats-next/105066/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:07:15 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105066 Something indeed changed in the Israel-U.S. relationship, the question is what actions will the U.S. take and how Netanyahu reacts — from the Security Council to Gaza.

I just got back from the annual J Street conference. The atmosphere was very different from the 2013 conference. Back then it was all about the Kerry mission. This year, talk of peace was replaced by a certain state of shock from Netanyahu’s victory at the polls. Most of the conference participants get their information about those elections from the American media, which was in turn fed by the Israeli media, which presented the unrealistic probability of a Labor victory as a probably scenario. Nobody made any effort at hiding their disappointment with the actual results.

[tmwinpost]

But there was also something else in the air. It wasn’t just Netanyahu’s victory that made the difference; it was the way he did it — sealing shut the door to the idea of a two-state solution and using racist scare-tactics to drive Jewish voters to the polls. The two-state solution is J Street’s main policy objective, and the history of the civil rights movement is at the core of liberal Jewish American identity. The fact that Netanyahu directly confronted everything they stand for – and was rewarded for it by Israelis – shook people to their core. The kind of talk heard from J Street people this year was unlike anything I’ve witnessed before. President of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, declared on stage – twice! – that “Netanyahu doesn’t represent us,” and the head of J Street’s board, Morton Halperin, said in his in opening remarks that, “Netanyahu will not convince us that he isn’t a racist.” Both were met with cheers from the audience. There was also a general sense that the U.S. administration is readier than ever to confront Netanyahu (a sentiment that was strengthened following the address by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough)

Former Secretary of State James Baker speaks at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, March 2015 (photo: JStreet.org  / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Former Secretary of State James Baker speaks at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, March 2015 (photo: JStreet.org / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

White House Chief of Staff Denis Mcdonough speaks at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, March 2015 (photo: JStreet.org / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough speaks at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, March 2015 (photo: JStreet.org / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Israelis tend to view such developments in one of two ways: either to claim that the country is headed on a one-way path to becoming a pariah state, the way South Africa was; or to believe that nothing actually happened, and that it’s all just empty words, at best.

The truth, I believe, lies elsewhere. The shift in American views and policies on Israel cannot be narrowed to “better” or “worse,” but a change is taking place nevertheless. The Republican commitment to Israel, and to the Israeli Right, is deepening. The Democratic Party is moving the other way, especially with its base and on a grassroots level. And there are more important developments that have to do with new dynamics in the Middle East and the way America understands its interests in the region. The pieces are moving very fast and the story is much bigger than the soap opera of Bibi vs. Obama we are being sold by political talk shows.

But where are things heading in the coming months? Here are some of the assessments I heard in Washington (take into account that I only spoke with people from one side of the aisle):

1. The change in the way the White House views Bibi and Israel is indeed real. It can be seen in the marginal role Israel played in forming Washington’s new policy toward Iran (Bibi can mostly blame himself for that), but also in ways that received almost no attention, like the appointment of Rob Malley as the Middle East advisor on the National Security Council. Malley, who served on the U.S. peace team during the Clinton Administration, was the author of a controversial piece in the New York Review of Books that laid the blame for the failure of the Camp David summit on Clinton and Ehud Barak, and not just on Arafat, as the administration (and the Israelis) claimed. After advising Obama during the 2008 campaign, Malley became the target of a smear campaign by right-wing pro-Israeli organizations. Now he has been appointed to a major policy making position, and nobody uttered a word.

2. The administration is now at a moment when presidents and their staff start thinking about their legacies. On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Obama risks being the first president since Ronald Reagan – and perhaps even since Ford — who saw things move backwards on his watch. George H.W. Bush got the parties to the Madrid peace conference. Clinton had Oslo. George Bush put the idea of Palestinian statehood on the record. Obama, who promised in his Cairo speech that the United States “will not turn its back on the Palestinians,” might not want to be remembered as the one who did exactly that.

3. The first policy option the administration has is to publish the parameters for a future Palestinian state. In other words, to let it be known how the U.S. envisions this state (probably pre-’67 borders with land swaps, the division of Jerusalem and no substantial refugee return). Such positions matter because they serve as the starting points for future negotiations. Since Israel is the stronger party, which holds all the cards, publishing parameters is traditionally considered as a move that serves the Palestinians. (That is why Bill Clinton withdrew his parameters after the sides rejected them in December 2000.)

Israel will try to oppose the parameters, but if it fails, the fallback option will be a battle over the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, against clear language on East Jerusalem, and attempting to marry the end goal to direct negotiations between the two parties. The latter is the most important part. By conditioning everything on negotiations, Israel pretty much guarantees that the parameters can’t be used for any practical measure, even if they are adopted in the UN Security Council. The parameters will sound like a big deal, but have little implications on the ground.

4. The Administration can also support or abstain in a UN Security Council resolution on the settlements. On the surface, this might seem like a much more restrained measure than the parameters, but it has broader implications because it will provide the Palestinians with a formal decision by the international community that has consequences in other institutions. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has fought any attempt to take the Palestinian case to international institutions – from UN agencies to the International Criminal Court. When it couldn’t prevent the proceedings, the U.S. defended Israeli viciously. This is the diplomatic shield that allows Israel to avoid many of the occupation’s consequences. Withdrawing it is a big deal, which could affect the behavior of all parties involved. For this exact reason, I think that the administration might go for the cheaper, more public option (the parameters).

Former Secretary of State James Baker speaks at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, March 2015 (photo: JStreet.org  / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Former Secretary of State James Baker speaks at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, March 2015.  (photo: JStreet.org / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

5. When the 2016 campaign starts, the administration’s options will narrow and Democratic support for confronting Bibi – which is very limited as is – might dissipate altogether. Things should happen now, or not at all. Another unknown factor is the way Europe will interpret those developments. Personally, I believe that there is a tendency to exaggerate the European appetite for confronting Israel, but things are also moving in Brussels.

6. Finally, I heard some interesting speculation about the way in which Netanyahu can take some of the pressure of him. It is clear that Bibi opposes any changes to the status quo in the West Bank. Dennis Ross wrote in Politico that Netanyahu should indefinitely freeze all settlement activity beyond the wall. This will not happen, since Bibi’s political base is in the settlements, and he didn’t win these elections by alienating the settlers, quite the opposite.

What Netanyahu could do, and probably only under serious pressure, is to partially or entirely lift the blockade on Gaza. I think such a move (which I support wholeheartedly) could only happen under intense pressure, and it would be accompanied by vocal opposition from the Right and perhaps even the political center in Israel. And yet, it will be less costly than confronting the settlers in the West Bank, and Bibi will have some of the security establishment behind him. Plus, Netanyahu has already shown his willingness to strike deals with Hamas in the past – way more than he was ever ready to engage with Abbas.

A version of this article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Newsletter banner

]]>
http://972mag.com/obama-netanyahu-and-the-palestinian-conflict-whats-next/105066/feed/ 6
The IDF unmasks an anonymous source — itself http://972mag.com/the-idf-unmasks-an-anonymous-source-itself/105039/ http://972mag.com/the-idf-unmasks-an-anonymous-source-itself/105039/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 07:38:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105039 Security agencies in Israel love to give reporters information without attribution, refusing to stand behind what they say. Every once in a while, they publish the same information on their official websites.

By Ido Kenan

An Israeli soldier uses a two-way radio during an exercise during the Gaza border, November 19, 2014. (Amit Shechter/IDF Spokesperson)

An Israeli soldier uses a two-way radio during an exercise during the Gaza border, November 19, 2014. (Amit Shechter/IDF Spokesperson)

In July 2011, a year after the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, in which passengers attacked Israeli forces who then killed 13 of them, Turkish organization IHH planned a second flotilla to Gaza. In an attempt to preempt the second flotilla, the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, approved the transfer of medical equipment donated by the Turkish Red Crescent to Gaza. At the same time, somebody was trying to do away with Israel’s responsibility for the medical crisis in Gaza, and announced that, “coordination of the transfer of the Turkish aid is taking place on a daily basis and not because of the medical supply crisis in Gaza, which is a result of the internal Palestinian conflict in its medical system, to which Israel is not party.”

[tmwinpost]

Who is behind that claim? On Israel’s Arutz 7, for example, the quote was attributed to a “military source.” Israel’s Channel 10 published the claim in its own words, without any quotation marks, and preceded by, “the IDF explained.” Originally, the quote was sent to journalists by the IDF under the contradictory classification of “OTR – In the reporter’s name.” As Rafi Mann explained on The 7th Eye website in an article on the rules of attributing information to sources (Hebrew), “In the reporter’s name” is equivalent to the American term “Deep Background,” a ground rule under which you may publish the information, but without attributing it to the source who gave it to you; OTR, or off the record, is information that is intended only for the journalist’s ears, and not for publication. On the surface of things, both news outlets broke the rules — they published the quote, and thereby broke the OTR rule; and they attributed it to a military source, thereby breaking the ‘in the reporter’s name’; rule.”

Security agencies in Israel love to give journalists information on the condition that they not be identified as the source. Ran Binyamini wrote about it on The 7th Eye in 2006 (Hebrew): “Every once in a while the Shin Bet sends journalists messages through the IDF Spokesperson under the strange headline, ‘information in the reporter’s name’: information about Palestinians who have been arrested or assassinated after involvement in terrorism (the press releases explain what they planned and what they said under interrogation). The reporters are asked to publish the information in their own names — and not to attribute it to the security officials who are behind it.” So do journalists cooperate with this unacceptable practice? Binyamini explained that, “the lack of leaks creates a situation in which reporters and analysts become reliant on the official messaging of the Shin Bet and are unable to verify the information they report in their news broadcasts.”

I was caught up in the same system recently when I tried to find out who was behind a “most severe” emergency warning sent out through an official cellular messaging service in the Jerusalem area in mid-February. The IDF Spokesperson sent me a response, all of which was to be written without attribution and OTR, and nothing for quotation or attribution. In order words, I actually received the information that I requested, but officially, the IDF did not issue a response. That wasn’t enough for me, I was supposed to publish the information and at the end of the article, write that, “the IDF declined to respond.”

The attempt to hide the source of the information was especially ridiculous. On ground rules of “information in the reporter’s name,” an IDF spokesperson told me about “Personal Message,” the IDF Home Front Command’s (HFC) system for sending out warnings to the public. Information about “Personal Message” is available to anyone with an Internet connection, on the Home Front Command’s website. “Off the Record,” an IDF spokesperson told me that it was the police who sent out the message through the HFC’s system. That information, including the name of the police officer who sent out the warning message, was given to me in a telephone conversation by an IDF spokesperson with whom I spoke, and without any stipulations about attributing the information to the IDF Spokesperson.

But let’s get back to the anonymous quote about the medicinal crisis in Gaza. How do I know that the IDF sent that message to journalists? Because the IDF itself published it. On the official IDF website, the COGAT spokesperson published the press release about approving the transfer of medical equipment, at the end of which was a quote under the header: “OTR – Information in the reporter’s name,” in bold and underlined. In other words, not only did the spokesperson break the rule it itself set, it also drew readers’ attention to the fact that the quote wasn’t supposed to be attributed to it. The COGAT spokesperson published the press release on its site in Hebrew and but also in English (only marked OTR this time), so that even those readers who don’t read Hebrew could know who the anonymous source was.

In the past, IDF press releases would only reach reporters, and not the wider public. Since the army started using the Internet as a public relations platform, however, its press releases are also published on its official web page. On a previous version of the IDF Spokesperson’s website it was possible to find hundreds of of press releases that included the words “information in the reporter’s name,” but access to them was restricted to those with a password, which are apparently given to military affairs reporters. A search of the IDF Spokesperson’s current Hebrew website returns a few press releases in which the IDF breaks its own attribution rules, all while confusing and failing to differentiate the various rules that it itself sets. Those press releases are not password protected; they are available to any web surfer.

An IDF Spokesperson press release about the conclusion of air-borne activities fighting the 2010 Carmel fire includes OTR information, according to which, “the Air Force is prepared to receive additional planes and helicopters slated to arrive today from additional countries, including Switzerland, Russia, Holland, France, Azerbaijan and Romania. Additionally, a large American firefighting aircraft will land at Ben-Gurion Airport.”

The COGAT website still has a press release from 2013 about preparations for the Christmas holiday, which, under an OTR heading, includes tourist information — the number of tourists, of hotels, and the number of hotel rooms in Bethlehem, and even an anonymous quote: “According to Palestinian tourism officials, hotels are expected to be at full capacity during the Christmas holidays.” It’s not clear why such information would be sent out under the condition that it not be published. In the English-language version of the same message, which includes some extra information and leaves out some of the parts included in the Hebrew press release (and without a quote from Palestinian officials), the information is transmitted as “Background Information,” which can be published.

IDF press release with 'background' on Christmas

Even when the IDF Spokesperson doesn’t accidentally reveal the “in the reporter’s name” or OTR information on its own website, that information has a way of reaching the public through other media outlets and websites that — either negligently or intentionally — publish the IDF press releases in full, without removing the OTR information. Take for example, a press release published during “Operation Protective Edge” about the events of one night in mid-July, that included only numerical data about attacks against terrorist targets and operatives. However, a copy of the press release published on the “Live News” Facebook page reveals that the original press release was significantly longer. Under “information in the reporter’s name,” descriptions of the terror targets are detailed. The IDF Spokesperson also wrote, without taking responsibility for what it was asking others to publish without attribution, that Hamas is “recruiting large parts of the assets and activists in its ranks for military operations, while blurring the distinction between the civilian population and military targets. That lack of distinction of military activities turns the many Hamas activists and assets, including the Interior Ministry, into legal [military] targets according to international law.”

This is where the IDF’s unsuccessful attempts at shirking responsibility for the information it sends our reaches its most ridiculous levels, courtesy of a B’Tselem report published in January of this year — “Black Flag: The legal and moral implications of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, Summer 2014.” The report quotes information released as “information in the reporter’s name” about “the operational infrastructure of Mahmoud al-Za’ar, who serves as a member of the political bureau in the Gaza Strip, and the head of the Political Committee and Foreign Liaison Department.” Quite naturally, the B’Tselem report attributes the information to the IDF Spokesperson.

Response: That’s just how things work

In response to our request for comment, a soldier named Chen from the IDF Spokesperson’s Office clarified that the COGAT spokesperson is not part of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. Regarding off the record information, according to Chen, the IDF Spokesperson’s classification of “OTR” is not information that is forbidden to publish, but information that can be published without attributing it to a source. According to her, “when we send information OTR, it is simply extra information without attribution. It’s as if we are answering questions in the statement, and passing along additional information to be expand the article. We don’t compel anybody to not publish it, it’s simply the way of doing business, like you have in the international press. In the rest of the Israeli press […] they usually insert it as some extra words on the page under their name. It’s not that he is forbidden from publishing it, it’s just the way it’s done. When I pass along information about something attributed to military officials and it’s not for quotation, then it’s not for quotation.”

Two questions that we sent to the IDF Spokesperson were not answered: What does the IDF Spokesperson do to prevent violations of the rules of attribution and the attribution of information to the IDF against its will by journalists and others who publish it; and why does the IDF Spokesperson give journalists information that it is not willing to take responsibility for and stand behind.

Read this article in Hebrew on The 7th Eye.

]]>
http://972mag.com/the-idf-unmasks-an-anonymous-source-itself/105039/feed/ 3
Every day is Land Day, on both sides of the Green Line http://972mag.com/every-day-is-land-day-on-both-sides-of-the-green-line/105053/ http://972mag.com/every-day-is-land-day-on-both-sides-of-the-green-line/105053/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 00:57:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105053 The word ‘occupation’ evokes the West Bank, but the policies of land expropriation and Judaization were perfected inside Israel long before they were used on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Israeli police officers stand guard as the home of Hana al-Nakib and her four children is being demolished, in the city of Lod, February 10, 2015. The house was built with the help of family members and neighbours who donated money to help the single mother. The house was built on a family-owned land, but without permission from the Israeli authorities. Palestinian citizens of Israel can hardly attain building permits due to Israel's discriminative criterions. Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Israeli police officers stand guard as the home of Hana al-Nakib and her four children is being demolished, in the city of Lod, February 10, 2015. The house was built with the help of family members and neighbours who donated money to help the single mother. The house was built on a family-owned land, but without permission from the Israeli authorities. Palestinian citizens of Israel can hardly attain building permits due to Israel’s discriminative criterions. Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

In 2005, Amnon Raz-Karkotzkin, a professor of Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University known to his friends and associates simply as Nono, published a seminal article titled “There is No God, But He Promised Us the Land.” The article, published in Hebrew in Mitaam, an Israeli journal devoted to literature and radical political thought, captured perfectly the spirit of the Zionists who founded the State of Israel. While Judaism may have been the source behind the fervor to re-claim Zion, Nono wrote, those who envisioned and founded the State of Israel only used it inasmuch as it provided them a vehicle for demographic and territorial power in their nascent state.

[tmwinpost]

For instance, the national symbols, created upon the formal establishment of the state, have always been inextricably tied to Judaism. The best example is the national flag, whose double stripes are based on the patterns found on the tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). Turning Jewish symbols into national ones was never very difficult; the difficult part was converting the most valuable resource in the country into a national (read: Jewish) asset. That resource, of course, was land.

From the founding of the state until 1966, approximately 90 percent of Palestinian citizens — those who neither fled nor were expelled during the 1948 war — were placed under a military regime. In the Galilee, the Negev and the Triangle, Palestinian citizens (who were given the right to vote in Israeli elections) were subject to a harsh permit regime, strict curfews and very often coerced collaboration (for more, see Hillel Cohen’s “Good Arabs” and Shira Robinson’s “Citizen Strangers”).

It was during this time that Israel’s secular regime expropriated the land of Palestinians refugees who had fled the country as well as much of the land belonging to those who remained. Passing a swath of legislation in the 1950s under the guise of the Absentee Property Law, the new regime transferred land that had — just years earlier — belonged to Palestinians, to the Israel Land Administration. In fact much of the justifications given by Israeli authorities for building settlements in the West Bank are identical to those given for many of the new towns and cities that were built in the years following the establishment of the state. None of this could have been done without a plan for what the authorities themselves termed Yehud, or Judaization of the land.

By the time military rule over Palestinian citizens was lifted in 1966 (less than a year before the Six Day War and the beginning of the occupation), much of that land had already been Judaized. Kibbutzim, moshavim, development towns and new cities were built atop destroyed Palestinian villages, often in order to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and land. Land, not rebuilding the Third Temple, became the national symbol through which Israel’s leaders could redeem their people in their ancient homeland. After all, there is no God, but He promised them the land.

On March 11, 1976, the Israeli government declared its intention to expropriate 20,000 dunams (4,940 acres) of land between the villages of Sakhnin and Arraba, much of it Arab-owned. The Agriculture Ministry openly declared that the primary purpose of the plan was to alter the demographic nature of Galilee in order to create a Jewish majority there. The long-term plan was called Yehud Ha’Galil” (Judaization of the Galilee), which would be enacted through the building of mitzpim — small Jewish settlements consisting of few families — in between Palestinian villages in order to halt Arab territorial contiguity.

What happened on March 30 of that year came to be known as Youm al-Ard, Land Day. Curfews were imposed on the major Arab cities and villages in the Galilee, Palestinians announced a national strike and flooded the streets with protests. They burned tires, threw stones and molotov cocktails. The Israeli army, which was sent to put down the demonstrations with armored vehicles and tanks, killed four Palestinian protesters. The police killed another two. One hundred were wounded, while hundreds of others were arrested.

In retrospect, the protest did little to stop the expropriation plan. The number of mitzpim established reached 26 in 1981 and 52 in 1988. These mitzpim and the development towns of Upper Nazareth, Ma’alot, Migdal Ha’emeq and Carmiel significantly altered the demography of the Galilee, bringing in an influx of Jews to break up the prospect of adjacent Arab localities.

The events of Land Day took place almost nine years after Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since then, much focus has been placed on the Israeli government’s settlement policies, its land expropriation, its restrictions on movement, its permit regime, its coercive collaboration, among others. But we must not lose sight of the trajectory: much of what the Israeli government has and continues to do in the occupied territories was done in the pre-1967 years to Palestinian citizens.

The reasons to mark the Land Day are too numerous to list in any one article. But this year, as American liberals search for that disappearing sweet spot between “democratic Israel” and the undemocratic occupation, we ought to remember that the Judaization of Palestinian land is part of the DNA of the Jewish state, on whichever side of the Green Line it happens to operate.

Newsletter banner

]]>
http://972mag.com/every-day-is-land-day-on-both-sides-of-the-green-line/105053/feed/ 8
When an Arab kid is arrested in the heart of Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/when-an-arab-kid-is-arrested-in-the-heart-of-tel-aviv/105037/ http://972mag.com/when-an-arab-kid-is-arrested-in-the-heart-of-tel-aviv/105037/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 18:11:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=105037 The ugly Israeli is not the one who is filmed yelling at stewardesses or hotel receptionists. It is the one who lives in denial of an entire system that oppresses another people. The one who eats his ice cream as a Palestinian child is arrested right in front of him.

By Mei-Tal Nadler

Activists spread postcards from Gaza in the streets of Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 21, 2014. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Activists spread postcards from Gaza in the streets of Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 21, 2014. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A few weeks ago, just days before Israelis headed to the polls, an Arab teenager was arrested on Tel Aviv’s famed Rothschild Boulevard at around 6 p.m. I have no idea who he is, what he did before he was arrested, where he came from or where he is now. Perhaps he stole something, or perhaps he planned to steal or cause harm. He looked no older than 13, maybe 14. A teenager.

In this story, I am the local, a passerby who is walking her dog when she sees a strange sight: a young boy handcuffed to a policeman in civilian clothing, with a policewoman walking next to them. “Why are you trying to escape, huh? You thought we wouldn’t catch you?” asks to the policewoman. He looks frightened. I ask him how old is he, but he remains silent. I asked if the officers explained his rights to him, if anyone knows he has been arrested. “He’s a shabakhnik. [A Hebrew term for Palestinians who enter Israel illegally without a permit.] You want a shabakhnik on your street?” asks the policewoman. He is just a teenager, and to tell the truth, I don’t really care whether he is on my street.

[tmwinpost]

I ask again whether he knows his rights, whether they are planning on notifying relative know that he was arrested. I know that the number of Palestinian minors who were arrested without notification went up this year. Children are arrested for six hours, 10 hours, sometimes entire days without their parents’ knowledge. Time passes, and no one knows where their child is. I read about this in a report published a few months ago by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) titled “One rule, two legal systems.” “I don’t owe you an explanation,” the policewoman told me, and continued walking down the street. From afar, one could mistake them for parents on an evening stroll with their son. Two police cars waited for them in the middle of the boulevard.

I walked over to a young couple sitting on a bench while their two kids were eating ice cream. “Doesn’t it seem strange to you that they arrested him just like that? He’s only a teenager.” The father became angry, “I don’t understand why they have to do it in the middle of the day in front of all these children.” They continued to eat their ice cream. The Arab was pushed into a police van, and I left. A short while later I called the police to try and find out the boy’s fate, but to no avail. This is life here, before and after elections.

There was something strange about the proximity between an election cycle bereft of the word “peace” and a spontaneous campaign by Israeli citizens who film videos of “the ugly Israeli.” It seems that like every other conversation, the national conversation on the “ugly Israeli” has its own limits. The tribe simply stands on the side and mocks. It turns out that the ugly Israeli acts horribly toward stewardesses, gets drunk on vacations, embarrasses those around him, parks in handicapped spots, threatens to beat up the receptionist and yells at children on the playground because they didn’t let his kid take a turn on the swings. The “beautiful Israeli” is shocked by these displays, quickly joins the national chorus and clears his or her conscience. After all, we are a kind and tolerant people.

Read more: Israelis elected a non-democracy

But this purist discourse (which is violent in itself) does not serve the function of “truly” unmasking the beautiful or ugly Israeli. Its goal is to allow us to continue and repress the “real” ugly Israeli: the one who goes to great lengths to forget about the complex mechanisms that allows his or her state to rule over another nation, to oppress and humiliate that nation, one who has become accustomed to the psychological disconnect between the “territories” and “here,” one who does not get angry when his or her elected officials allocate huge sums of money to continue building settlements whose very existence hinders any real attempt at negotiations. One who does not really care about what happens “there,” as long as they don’t bring “there” here, to the middle of his or her beautiful boulevard. Not in front of the children.

Ignoring this discourse, and its replacement with a morally purist one filled the gap in an election cycle devoid of any real conversation about the occupation and the perpetual denial of human rights. In any case, this denial mechanism is also the superficial answer to the question “how did this happen to us?”

Most Palestinians who work in Israel without permits come from the West Bank due the difficult economic conditions there. They are willing to put themselves in danger, whether due to the possibility of being caught by security forces, prosecuted or even physically harmed, in exchange for small sums of money.

Palestinian workers pray after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers pray after crossing the Eyal checkpoint, between the West Bank city of Qalqilya and Israel, January 4, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This past month, Haaretz’s Amira Hass wrote [Hebrew] about statements made by Lt. Col. Shmuel Kedar, who rejected the military prosecutor’s request to keep a Palestinian worker who was caught without an entry permit in custody until the end of his court proceedings. Kedar suggested increasing the number of entry permits to Palestinian workers, and said that the Palestinian who was caught did not constitute a security threat. According to Kedar, “As long as Israel does not reach an agreement, the problem of permit-less Palestinians cannot not be solved through the courts, but rather through providing permits to more people. This solution will allow the Palestinian population to make a living, and will provide them with the motivation to live in peace, with no need to break the law.”

I thought to write all this so that people hear about this frightened teenager, one of many, who most likely came to Tel Aviv to wash dishes or to carry sandbags used for construction, anything to give him some money to bring home. But in order to do this I had to take out my cat’s litter box from my work room. He had just undergone surgery the previous day and needed a quiet space. “Should I close the trashcan for you?” asked someone who stood outside with his dog and stared at me. Something in his voice angered me. “What, are you following me?” I yelled at him. “Don’t worry, I know how to close the trash can. I don’t need you for that.” Turns out he is my neighbor. He lives across the hall. I probably could have been even harsher. Standing like that with his dog in the middle of the night, following me as if he has nothing better to do. Bastard, this is my street and I will decide when to close the trash and when not to.

I kept thinking about all the things that anger me, but then I saw him staring at me, his face full of shock. “You know,” I said quietly, “today in the afternoon they arrested an Arab kid here, and no one cared. People continued eating their ice cream as he passed by, his entire body shaking.” We continued to stand there in silence for a few minutes, while I tried to remember the boy’s face. After all, I’ve lived here for almost a year, and he’s my neighbor. “You know, I don’t really care about the trash,” he said. “I know,” I answered.

Mei-Tal Nadler is a poet, a doctoral student in Ben-Gurion University’s Hebrew Literature department and a research fellow at the Israeli Democracy Institute. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

]]>
http://972mag.com/when-an-arab-kid-is-arrested-in-the-heart-of-tel-aviv/105037/feed/ 20
Diaspora Jews, it’s time to step up http://972mag.com/diaspora-jews-its-time-to-step-up/104978/ http://972mag.com/diaspora-jews-its-time-to-step-up/104978/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 12:04:15 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104978 For years there have been calls for on-the-ground opposition to the occupation. Now there are a growing number of Jewish platforms — and voices — seeking to make it happen.

By A. Daniel Roth

Activists hold a sign reading 'Segregation is not our Judaism,in Hebron , October 25, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Members of the ‘All That’s Left’ collective at a direct action protesting segregation in Hebron, West Bank, October 25, 2013. Seven of the Jewish activists were arrested and later released. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The way the world is talking about the Israeli occupation is changing. Alongside that change, opportunity is knocking for those of us standing in opposition: calls for diaspora Jews to be present on the ground in Israel and Palestine are increasing. An important shift is beginning to take place — right now.

[tmwinpost]

The writing is on the wall. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected, U.S. President Obama and his staff have been speaking differently about the once-incontrovertible two-state solution. One campus Hillel changed its name instead of changing it’s programming to adhere to Hillel International’s rules. If Not Now stormed onto the scene last summer in response to the violence in Gaza. Boycotts and BDS campaigns are sprouting up on campuses and at supermarkets all over the world.

That was on display for anyone to see last week in Washington D.C. The J Street conference, which brought together over 3,000 people, saw a series of fired up conversations that put shone a spotlight on the American-Jewish relationship with Israel. During a panel on liberal Zionism, Israeli journalist (and +972 blogger) Noam Sheizaf made a clear plea for a collective refocusing from “state solutions” to the urgency of ending the inequality that exists for millions under occupation, who lack freedom of movement or access to civilian courts.

Peter Beinart also took a step forward on stage, calling on young Jews from North America and around the world to stand physically in Israel and Palestine, and to take part in Palestinian non-violent resistance to the occupation.

For years there have been calls for on-the-ground participation from a variety of communities. Recently, there has been a surge in Jewish platforms for those communities to take part in peace and justice work.

A Jerusalem-based volunteer program for young American Jews (which I co-founded) called Solidarity of Nations-Achvat Amim engages in human rights work and learning based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples. All That’s Left (of which I am a member) is a collective aimed at engaging the diaspora in anti-occupation learning, organizing, and on-the-ground actions. The new Center for Jewish Nonviolence has already brought a delegation to help Palestinian farmers to replant trees the IDF uprooted last spring.

It is important that Jewish communities with connections to Israel take part in this movement. Whether they have a personal, communal, religious or cultural relationship with this land, diaspora communities should be on the forefront, stepping up to take responsibility for a peaceful and just future here.

The groups and initiatives I mentioned above are working on engaging even more people in this work: bringing dozens of diaspora Jews — who are already living and learning in Israel — to do solidarity work with Palestinians. In the coming months, they hope to bring hundreds more from around the world for direct actions and educational initiatives in the West Bank.

There are important roles for people from all over the world, of various backgrounds, in organizing opposition to the occupation. Right now, at this very moment, there is a growing call for diaspora Jews to to find their way here and stand up for equality. It’s time to answer that call.

A. Daniel Roth is a journalist and educator based in South Tel Aviv. His writing and photography is at allthesedays.org and you can follow him on Twitter @adanielroth.

Newsletter banner

]]>
http://972mag.com/diaspora-jews-its-time-to-step-up/104978/feed/ 13
License to Kill, part 3: Why did Colonel A. order the sniping of Ihab Islim? http://972mag.com/license-to-kill-part-3-why-did-colonel-a-order-the-sniping-of-ihab-islim/104943/ http://972mag.com/license-to-kill-part-3-why-did-colonel-a-order-the-sniping-of-ihab-islim/104943/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:59:10 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104943 Members of a family are standing on a balcony and chatting. The commander of IDF forces in the region orders snipers to open fire on them. One brother is killed, the other one loses an eye. The commander fails to account for the order in the investigation that ensues. The case is closed, and the commander is promoted. In the following months, other civilians in the region are killed in the exact same manner. No one is found guilty. The third installment of the License to Kill series. [Read part one and two.]

By John Brown and Noam Rotem (translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

License to Kill, part 3.

In the first two installments of the License to Kill series, we surveyed two cases in which the need for a professional investigation was completely obvious and the failures of the Military Police and the Advocate General were glaring. However, in both cases the IDF insisted on arguing that people were shot because they had constituted a threat, despite the fact that the courts concluded otherwise. The following case is somewhat different: here the IDF has admitted that an innocent person had been shot, and that the targeted sniping of 17-year-old Ihab Islim in his head was carried out without him having committed a crime.

Yet the Military Police has failed to find the shooters; an IDF video clip that documents the shooting and the preceding events; or the operations logs that could have shed some light on the events that transpired in Nablus on June 25, 2004.

[tmwinpost]

Similar failures have occurred in the investigation of the killings of other innocent civilians in the same region. Some of them will be surveyed here. These failures cast doubts on the claim that the shooting was an isolated case that resulted from an error, and may attest to an illegal open-fire policy. Despite testimonies that corroborate this version, the Military Police also failed to investigate the allegation.

The sniping of Ihab Islim

The end of June 2004 — the twilight of the Second Intifada. IDF forces are carrying out large-scale activities in the Nablus region, under the codename “Ishit Loheztet“ (Man2Man). Every night, the soldiers enter the city and the nearby refugees camps, arresting tens of Palestinian residents who are taken to a conversation with the Shin Bet security services. Soldiers who were there describe an intense, “action-laden” period that claimed quite a few casualties, mostly on the Palestinian side.

On the night of the 25th, at around 9 p.m., the father and two brothers of the Islim family went out to the balcony of their house, located in the Yasmina neighborhood of Nablus. They leaned on the railing as they chatted among themselves, as well as with the neighbors across the street, for two hours. Until, all of a sudden, a bullet cut through 17-year-old Ihab’s head, killing him on the spot. Another bullet (or perhaps the same one) hit the eye of his 15-year-old brother. Ihab’s father and little sisters, who were standing at a distance, were hit with shrapnel. Palestinian medical services were unable to save his brother’s eye, also due to ongoing IDF shooting which prevented them from immediately reaching the Islim family.

The investigation fails to find the shooters

Not a single investigation was opened for two years. No efforts were made to try and find out what had really happened there, although the basic failure — the shooting of innocent youths, standing in their house, far away from any military activity — was known to the army from the start.

Following a letter sent by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem to the IDF Military Advocate General, the Military Police was instructed to examine the details of the case. Only a year later would an investigator contact B’Tselem to receive documents and the family’s phone number. Three months later, a military investigator on reserve duty interviewed the family and the witnesses. It is clear from their testimonies that Ihab had been shot for no reason.

[See some of the original investigation materials in Hebrew, here.]

Three more months passed before the hunt for the operations logs began. The investigator made tens of phone calls, during which he tried to locate the logs from that period. Again and again, he was told that these were to be found in a locker, and the only key was with an officer who happened to be in the Golan Heights. Later the investigator was told that the logs had been destroyed, before being told that they were actually found.

The investigator drove to the brigade headquarters only to find out that the man with the key was absent. He went back to his unit, sent mails, faxes, called, went up and down the chain of command, and finally, after a year full of dozens of attempts, he was notified that the logs had been transferred to the IDF archive. But when he searched there, the investigator could not find the regiment’s operations log. Furthermore, the report had been blotted out with a pen from the brigade logs. It is not clear by whom and for what reason. However, one can still read the claim that two people had been observed crawling on a roof. This version was later refuted by the accounts of all those involved. The investigator was also told that the computer on which the operational debriefing had been stored crashed just a few months after the shooting.

Instead of looking further into this coincidence, which would almost make the entire investigation redundant, the investigator gave up on trying to find the only documentation of the incident. Two years after the start of the investigation and four years after the shooting, the Military Police was able to begin its work, but without any physical evidence or written documentation. The consequences of this should be obvious.

Does crawling on the roof justify shooting?

The investigators interviewed five soldiers over the next three years. Four of them either did not remember that they had been at the scene or argued that they had not been there. Some of the soldiers argued that crawling on the roof is an action that justifies shooting, while others thought that those who are crawling can only be shot if they have something in their hand.

In any case, the question of crawling is entirely irrelevant, since the family was standing on the balcony of their home. Indeed, this is the top floor of the building, and the distance to the roof is just two meters, but there is no testimony that claims the family was on the roof.

Posters in Nablus commemorate the killing of Ihab Islim by IDF snipers.

Posters in Nablus commemorate the killing of Ihab Islim by IDF snipers.

Furthermore, the aforementioned testimonies contradict the open-fire regulations, which allow shooting only in response to a clear and present threat to the soldiers’ lives, and not due to “suspicious behavior.” In addition, some skimming of the brigade’s operations logs from that era reveals at least eight cases in which soldiers identified young Palestinians on a roof, or crawling on it, and did not open fire. Therefore the soldiers’ claim regarding an order to shoot anyone observed crawling on a roof cannot be accepted as truth. In any case, such testimony is completely irrelevant to this case.

Later on, the investigator interviewed Major G., who claimed he had arrived at the scene only after the shooting. According to G., the commander of the shooting force told him that Ihab and his brother “were behaving in a soldierly way.” Although he himself commanded the snipers who shot and killed Islim, he claims that he “does not remember the names” of the snipers. Major B., another officer who was questioned and claimed he was not involved, said that his soldiers were not the ones to identify the brothers or shoot them. However, he did remember some talk about crawling as the reason for the shooting. He also claimed that when it comes to such long distances, soldiers do not carry out the arrest procedure, but shoot instead.

The investigator did not bother to ask what risk was posed by the family if they truly were so far from Israeli shooters.

The figures become dangerous, two hours later

The only relevant interviewee whom the Military Police investigators managed to find, six years after the shooting, was Colonel A., who served as both brigade commander and operational commander on the ground during the incident. His account of the events was quite strange: he claimed that an observation post had identified two figures on the roof, at a distance of 200-300 meters from the force. The figures stood there for two hours, during which, according to his testimony, they did nothing but talk to one another. In spite of this, he gave the order to shoot, even after he used the special snipers’ gear to see who was in the crosshairs.

Two or three snipers fired between one to four bullets each at the two figures who were standing and talking on the roof at a distance of 200-300 meters from Colonel A, and did not pose a threat to anyone. And that’s it. This seemingly incriminating evidence, remains untouched. No reason, no justification, except for “they looked suspicious.”

The commander of the force, Colonel A. is not even confronted with the indisputable fact that this was an erroneous decision. And in any case, he did not have to pay for it. Since the shooters were not found, it was impossible to pit his version against theirs, making it impossible to examine the plausibility of that decision.

Colonel A. now serves in a senior position in the IDF.

Shooting on rooftops at will

During the Second Intifada, the IDF’s finger on the trigger was much looser. However, even the “shooting due to suspicious behavior” defense is not very plausible. As a regiment commander, Colonel A. knew the open-fire regulations well, and he must have known that suspicious behavior in itself does not justify shooting.

Things look even worse when one takes into account additional killing incidents in the region. One is under the impression that a serious investigation of the shooting of Ihab Islim could have prevented the harming of other innocent Palestinians in the following months and years.

Less than two months after Ihab’s death, on August 16, 2004, Zaher Samir Abdu el-Adham was shot in the head when he was on the roof of his house in Nablus. No investigations have been opened in his case.

One day later, a nine-year-old boy, Khaled Jamal Salim el-Usta, was shot and killed at the entrance to his home in Nablus, according to B’Tselem. Ibriz Durgham Dib el-Manawi, 19, from Nablus, was shot while standing on the roof of her house on on September 17, 2004.

There had also been previous incidents. One month before the Islim family incident, on May 7, 19-year-old Bassim Bassam Muhamad Kalbouna was been shot in his chest while standing on the roof of his house with some friends. On May 2, Jamal Shehada Radwan Hamdan was shot in the back while standing on a street in Nablus. The evidence collected in these cases shows that the victims posed no threat to IDF soldiers when they were shot.

In the very same region, in April of that year, Dr. Yasser Ahmad Muhammad Abu Laiman, 32, was shot in the village of Talouza. The IDF claimed at first that this had been a targeted assassination, since Abu Laiman was suspected an active member of Hamas. After it turned out he was just a lecturer at the Arab-American university in Jenin, the IDF spokesperson changed his version. According to the new one, Abu Laiman was in contact with Palestinians wanted by Israel. This version too was refuted, and eventually the IDF admitted that the assassination was carried out by mistake, since the deceased wore clothes resembling those of the wanted Palestinian militant who was allegedly to be in the area. No investigation was opened in this case.

One month earlier, six-year-old Khaled Maher Zaki Walweil was shot and killed while watching soldiers raid Balata refugee camp from his window.

After the Intifada: The pattern repeats itself

Similar events also occurred after violence in the West Bank decreased significantly. Amer Hassan Bassiouni, 16, was killed by sniper on March 3, 2006, in Ein Beit el-Maa near Nablus. Amer, too, was shot while was standing on the roof of his house. Muhammed Ahmad Muhammed a-Natour, 17, and 16-year-old Ibrahim Muhammed Ahmad a-Sheikh Ali, both from Balata refugee camp, were shot and killed on March 19, 2006, while standing on the roof of Ali’s house.

On March 2, 2007, a curfew was imposed on Nablus. Fifty-two-year-old Anan a-Tibi went up with his two sons to the roof of his house at noon to fix the water tanks. When they saw soldiers nearby, they began to go down the stairs and back into their house. Shots were fired at them. Anan was hit in the neck, fell down the stairs, and died. No investigation was opened in this case as well. The Military Advocate General argued that at that time in Nablus, “no innocent people were supposed to be outside.” This is an irrelevant argument since the family members were on the roof of their house, and were shot when they were going down the stairs.

The limits of the Military Police

The accumulation of these events attests to a recurring pattern that should have been, at the very least, a key component in the investigation of the Ihab Islim case, and bring about a minimal effort to find the shooters and those who had called for the shooting of the family. Most of all, the issue of open-fire commands, which were in effect in the region, should have been brought to a military and criminal investigation. This is all the more evident in view of the soldiers’ testimonies, which clearly attest to an erroneous understanding and implementation of the instructions. Instead, Colonel A. has been promoted.

The conduct of the investigation of Ihab Islim’s killing is outrageous. It took the Military Police investigators four years to interview five people. During one of the interviews, Major G. says that the whole incident was probably filmed on video, but a perfunctory examination by the investigators reveals that by that time, four years after the incident, the tapes had disappeared and had apparently been destroyed.

None of the investigators bothered to confront those being questioned with the fact that they all speak of two figures, when in fact at least three people were standing at the scene, and all three were shot by the soldiers (as well as two little sisters who were wounded by shrapnel). No one even bothered to ask about the “life-threatening situation” toward the officers who were standing hundreds of meters away from the two youths.

The investigators also did not bother to check why, even after two hours during which the brothers were standing and chatting among themselves, IDF soldiers armed to their teeth, sensed such a threat to their lives that they had to kill the brothers. Furthermore, the investigators fail to find the two or three soldiers — according to the testimony of the commander of the force — who fired the shots. And these are only the visible failures.

The army can no longer hide behind justifications of “combat” when it shoots people, since this army serves as a de-facto policing force. The entire condition of a military occupation, under international law as well as Israeli law, should be a temporary matter. The role of the military police in any army is to investigate its ranks, and we are convinced that in matters of order, discipline and even drug and arms trafficking in and out of the military, this unit does a great job. But when it comes to finding those who are guilty of shooting protected persons by members of the very same army, the Military Police fail time after time, and in an utterly shameful way.

In this case too, when events seemingly take place during operational activity, when the physical evidence completely refutes the soldiers’ version and when the commander of the force himself admits to an unjustified shooting of innocent youths — even then no one is to blame.

The IDF Spokesperson was asked for comment on the matter several weeks ago. The comment will be published here if and when it is received.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and blogger. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, where this series was first published. Read it in Hebrew here.

Newsletter banner

]]>
http://972mag.com/license-to-kill-part-3-why-did-colonel-a-order-the-sniping-of-ihab-islim/104943/feed/ 9
Beyond Netanyahu: On the collapse of the so-called Left http://972mag.com/beyond-netanyahu-on-the-collapse-of-so-called-left/104928/ http://972mag.com/beyond-netanyahu-on-the-collapse-of-so-called-left/104928/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 08:17:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104928 Many in the Israeli Left saw the recent election defeat as a danger to democracy. But if the Left wants to win elections, it needs to let go of its anti-Mizrahi fear-mongering and racism.

by Elad Ben Elul (translated by Joshua Tartakovsky)

In order to understand the outcome of the recent elections in Israel, one has to step away from the two central conceptual frameworks that make up the discourse of most Israelis, but in fact do not capture the complex reality below the surface. One has to step away from the traditional boxes of “Right” versus “Left” and of “religious” versus “secular,” at least if one seeks to liberate oneself from orthodox conditioning that does not reflect the reality on the ground. The key to breaking out of this conceptual straitjacket has been the Palestinian discussion regarding the Joint List and the Mizrahi discussion regarding the ultra-Orthodox Mizrahi Shas party, which provide a different interpretation of political realities.

These discourses are not new, and in fact have been prevalent in the media, television, cinema, literature and politics over the past years. For some reason, however, they have not filtered in to the so-called Israeli “peace camp.” Instead, the Israeli Left chose to conduct a disengaged campaign that was not based on a genuine ideological alternative to the Zionist hegemony, and focused solely on the mantra “anyone but Bibi.”

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

The connection I make between the Arab and Mizrahi post-Zionist discourse in relation to the recent elections is meant to offer a new prism by which to see future possibilities, provide an alternative and ask how is it possible that some electoral outcomes appear unfortunate and despairing for some but as inspiring for others? And why is the strengthening of the Arab political camp, along with parties that offer social economic policies — such as the Kulanu or Shas — seen as a major defeat by those who view themselves as the Left?

As someone who identifies as part of the Left, I have always been proud of the fact that leftist thinking always examines itself before criticizing the Other. In my view, advancing a progressive agenda means advancing the understanding that we cannot change the Other before we change ourselves, and that if we want to improve a given situation, we must examine ourselves in an unyielding manner before we criticize our perceived enemy. But recent months have also taught me that the Israeli Left does not truly engage in self-scrutiny; rather, it criticizes the Other which belongs to its own camp. In this way, it copies the criticism, contempt and blind hatred that the Right has towards the Arabs, and projects it onto members of the Right, including religious Jews, Russian Jews, the poor and Mizrahim. In this way, the Left preserves its place (in its own eyes) as rational, enlightened, educated and righteous — a victim of the enemy within the country, rather than examining what it can change.

[tmwinpost]

Here are only several examples of many that point to the hateful nature with which the so-called Israeli Left views minorities, including Mizrahi Jews and Palestinians, those whom it supposedly claims to protect.

Several weeks before the election, Yair Garbuz, a leading Leftist cultural figure, spoke on the current state of Israeli affairs in front of tens of thousands in Tel Aviv during a pre-election rally: those who kiss amulets (a not-so-hidden reference to Mizrahi Jews’ religious practices) rule over us (referring to the “enlightened” Ashkenazi Left). Furthermore, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel called to disqualify Aryeh Deri from being appointed minister in the upcoming government, due to his conviction in 2002 for bribery. Although 15 years have passed, not to mention the fact that Ashkenazi leaders of the Labor Party have also been involved in corruption, puritans on the Left seek to disqualify him. In this way they reveal not only their racist views of Mizrahi Jews, but also their hypocrisy, as the Left usually has little to say about its leaders who were directly involved in the killing of civilians while serving as high-ranking military officials.

In effect, Garbuz’s speech not only marked the secular, Ashkenazi and racist boundaries of the “peace camp,” it actually pushed out those who were thinking of stepping in.

In the days following the defeat of the Left (or the so-called Left), its members did not do much reflection, but rather tried to exonerate themselves from collective responsibility. Some chose to upload pictures of their EU passports on social media, others said they will relocate to Berlin, or make openly denigrating comments about Mizrahi Jews. To make matters worse, a recent campaign named “Do Not Give” (in a play of words on a charity organization named “To Give”) called to punish impoverished Mizrahim who live in the periphery and voted Likud by ceasing to give them donations.

Connections of a genuine Left

The “enlightened” Left harshly criticized two incidents during the election cycle that did not fit its conceptual framework: The Joint List’s refusal to to sign a surplus agreement with Meretz (which would give surplus votes to to the party that needed them most), as well as its refusal to join a potential center-left government headed by Isaac Herzog. Members of the Zionist Camp claimed that those who vote for the Joint List are wasting their vote, and therefore cannot think beyond their narrow interests. From the Palestinian perspective, it is clear that the competition between the Right and the Left reflects an internal Jewish discourse which is temporary, imaginary and insignificant.

Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog gives a speech at the end of the party’s election night event, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog gives a speech at the end of the party’s election night event, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In addition, while left-wing governments were responsible for actions that can be considered “right wing” from a political standpoint — such as expropriating Arab land, expelling and destroying entire villages, establishing settlements — the right-wing governments signed peace agreements, released terrorists and allowed for some forms of economic revival in the West Bank. I will not go as far as to say that right-wing governments were good for the Arabs, but that from the perspective of the Arabs, the difference between Right and Left is negligible. Expecting the Joint List to agree to every request made by a Zionist Jew who identifies as leftist is both condescending and privileged.

For privileged Israelis, the day after the elections was one of mourning, depression and despair — one in which the state was stolen from them, yet again. For the Arab and Jewish public that supported the Joint List, on the other hand, this was a day of hope, change and historical breakthrough. The gap between the feelings of the Zionist Left and the supporters of the Joint List testifies to the lack of collaboration, dialogue and responsibility that a Leftist ideology is supposed to encourage, as well as the disconnect that exists between the Left and the populations it claims to “save.” A true Left stands by the victim, by the Other, without preconditions.

Election banner - new

Furthermore, I was amused to discover how many Palestinian activists expressed ironic support for parties such as the Likud,  Jewish Home and Yisrael Beiteinu, rather than Meretz or the Zionist Camp, since at least the right-wing parties “tell the truth” and “do not pretend.” The Arab and Mizrahi publics are not dumb; they know when certain parties scorn them and their way of life, even if their declarations say otherwise. “And which party do you genuinely believe in?” I asked a Palestinian human rights activist. “Did you see Shas’ ‘invisible campaign?’ I saw something real there,” she said.

This election saw many left-wing Mizrahi activists encouraged Mizrahim to vote for Shas and Kulanu — parties with a clear social and Mizrahi agenda. These parties center social-economic discourse of the Left, yet they stray from the ethnic, religious, class and geographic parameters of both the Left and Right. In a way similar to Palestinian discourse inside Israel, the Mizrahi discourse is a response to the disillusionment from the leftist narrative, due to its criticism of the Left’s hidden racism since the days of Mapai (Labor’s precursor), not to mention its socialist image that was built at the expense of Mizrahi ghettos and destroyed Arab villages.

Shas MK Aryeh Deri (Photo by Activstills.org)

Shas MK Aryeh Deri (Photo by Activstills.org)

Social activists who adopt the Mizrahi discourse seek to blur the distinctions between Arab and Jew, leftists and rightist, religious and secular. Rather than segregating themselves in a separate party, they chose to stand alongside disempowered communities and make the change from within. Replacing Netanyahu with Herzog was not the highest priority for Mizrahi activists or traditional Shas voters since, very much like the Arab public, they see through the illusion. Shas, in its current form, offers a new agenda according to which religious, Jewish, Arab or Mizrahi identity is not associated with a right-wing, ultra-nationalist and racist ideology. On the contrary, it allows for a fresh and more progressive dialogue. It should not come as a surprise that there is a base of support for Shas among the Arab public, which is closer to the traditional, cultural and socio-economic world of many of Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Unsurprisingly, secular Mizrahi support for Shas was also mocked by Zionist Left. Both Haaretz and social media outlets were filled with patronizing criticism regarding feminist Mizrahi women who showed their support for Shas (a religious party without women); Mizrahi leftists who expressed their support for a party that said it would sit with Bibi; and Aryeh Deri who refused the spontaneous proposal by Joint List leader Ayman Odeh to form “an alliance of the oppressed.” As soon as someone does not dance to the Leftist, Zionist, humanist, secular and cosmopolitan tune, his moral and ideological legitimacy is lost. Here too, one who chose a genuine partnership with the Other over “rational” self-segregation was seen a threat the old order.

The Israeli Left: Between Rabin and veganism

In Professor Nissim Mizrahi’s article “Beyond the Garden and the Jungle: On the Social Limits of Human Rights Discourse in Israel,” it appears that the discourse of human rights, liberalism, universalism and secularism of left-wing organizations is suspiciously rejected by the same communities the claim to serve around the world. Mizrahi argues that the reason for this is that this same discourse does not allow for a diversity of identities, and forces groups to forgo their systems of faith and ethnic, religious and ideological values.

The secularism of the Israeli Left, with its cultural and geographic symbols such as Yitzhak Rabin and veganism, is nothing short of a religion in itself, which contains many internal moral and ideological tensions. While the same Left is not being asked to give up its religion, culture or ethnicity, marginalized communities are required to do so in order to belong to the exclusive club of the holders of morality. Even if left-wing groups fight for a more equitable sharing of resources, they do not genuinely recognize the identity of marginalized communities, and in fact lose their relevance.

Despite the common claim that secularism is a sign of a world moving from away from a religious past to a modern future, Israel (and most of the world) is not moving toward the secular way of life. Judaism, Islam and Christianity continue to hold great significance in the world. Despite their humanist vision and commendable parliamentary activity, parties such as Meretz, the Zionist Camp and Lapid’s Yesh Atid choose to view themselves as bearers of an anti-religious struggle, thus preventing a center-left coalition with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Shas.

The film “Selma,” which depicts the struggle of Martin Luther King Jr. against the racist laws and violence of the U.S. government, shows how a religious discourse does not necessarily need to be one of racism, ultra-nationalism and hatred, but rather one that pursues peace and justice. The Bible, the New Testament and the Quran serve as essential and rich sources for instilling ideologies of change, advancement and morality. The atheist/modernist loathing and rejection of these sacred sources is seen as a loathing of the Jewish and Palestinian communities that make up the country. Organizations such as Rabbis for Human Rights seek to break this duality and thus hold the key to a breakthrough for the Israeli Left.

In the meantime, one can only focus on the conceptual breakthroughs that resulted from these elections, and to hope that another defeat of the so-called peace camp will result in the formation of a strong and effective opposition alongside the Joint List. One that will provide for genuine self-scrutiny in which disparate voices can form one authentic, broad, unyielding voice. One that can take inspiration from a variety of identities, traditions, and cultures of the region in order to promote such values as the love of one’s neighbor, equality and justice.

Elad Ben Elul is a doctorate student of anthropology and sociology at Tel Aviv University. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

Newsletter banner

]]>
http://972mag.com/beyond-netanyahu-on-the-collapse-of-so-called-left/104928/feed/ 18
Stop blaming Mizrahim for everything wrong in Israel http://972mag.com/stop-blaming-mizrahim-for-everything-wrong-in-israel/104859/ http://972mag.com/stop-blaming-mizrahim-for-everything-wrong-in-israel/104859/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:10:54 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104859 Despite what many commentators would have you think, Israeli elections were not decided by racism among Israel’s Mizrahi population.

By Leeor Ohayon

Jewish nationalist activists from anti-miscegenation group Lehava protest in Rishon Lezion, August 17, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Jewish nationalist activists from anti-miscegenation group Lehava protest in Rishon Lezion, August 17, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election is largely credited to votes from the Mizrahi periphery, but to credit the Mizrahi periphery alone would be naïve. The Likud party, after all, is an Ashkenazi one at heart, with Ashkenazi supporters. The magnitude of Netanyahu’s win, as a result of his “gevalt campaign,” (a desperation blitz) actually came from the Ashkenazi Right — Jewish Home voters sacrificed their party to save Netanyahu.

In a recent article, Larry Derfner condemned “poor” Mizrahi Israelis for Netanyahu’s victory. Did “poor” refer to the working class? If so, does working class equate being “poor?” Is poor synonymous with being uneducated? Can one be educated and poor? When an Ashkenazi Israeli voted for Likud or Jewish Home, did that mean he was “poor” and thus uneducated? Or just uneducated? While Derfner sought to present a post-race, post-classist argument for ending the “infantilization” of the Mizrahi working class, it effectively perpetuated the very idea that the Ashkenazi Left is aloof and alienating.

[tmwinpost]

Asserting that “the Mizrahi poor hate weakness, worse than the average Israeli,” is akin to the rightist statement that the “Arabs only understand dictatorships.” The idea that poor Mizrahi Jews worship fearless leaders is orientalist at its core; it plays on an age-old concept of oriental populations as an uncivilized, hot tempered and dangerous lot in need of iron-fisted rule. The idea that this hate is worse than that of the average Israeli, further implies that the poor Mizrahi is not really Israeli. For if hatred for the weak is an exclusively “poor Mizrahi” feature, where does that place Naftali Bennett and his election slogan of “not apologizing?”

Assigning Mizrahim collective features is dangerous, not least because stereotypes breed intolerance. It is dangerous because we are talking about an umbrella identity patched together by a 67-year-old shared narrative in Israel as the Jewish “ethnic other.” Mizrahim come from a geographically, culturally and linguistic diverse area that spans from Morocco to Iran.

The Ashkenazi Left’s wasted opportunity for new governance continues to snap at the Mizrahim of the geographic periphery, as the unruly apes that ruined the party for everyone in Tel Aviv. It is that exact historical psyche that guides the Ashkenazi Left in assuming the role of the “chosen” people for the chosen people, which views the Mizrahi savage in need of re-education and guidance. It is the same patronizing racism that provided a historical pretext for the cultural suppression of Mizrahi Jews, the wide-scale theft of Yemenite new-borns and infants, the segregation of housing, discrimination in employment, the erasure of cultural identity, the theft of goods and historical relics.

Mizrahi distrust of the Left runs a lot deeper than hatred of weakness. It also runs deeper than just the transit camps of the 1950s; to simplify it to that one event in history, as Derfner does, is to disregard the Mizrahi story in its entirety. The transit camp serves as a collective symbol no different to the historic symbols of slavery for African-Americans and the Holocaust for Ashkenazi Jews. The transit camp stands testimony to the lasting inequalities vis-a-vis Mizrahi representation in academia, politics and income.

Jewish immigrants from Yemen at a camp near Rosh Ha’ayin. (Photo: GPO)

Derfner further argues that working class Mizrahim hate African asylum seekers and Arabs. And yes, like any other socio-ethnic group, Mizrahim do have a racism issue, and like any sector of society, those issues should be tackled by members of that group — not by those who make up Israel’s de-facto privileged caste. Just like a white feminist cannot speak on behalf of the issues that black women face, Ashkenazi leftists cannot dictate the need to fix the racism of the poor Mizrahim.

Any hatred of African refugees and asylum seekers cannot be confined to the poor Mizrahi Israelis. No race or class is exempt when the mainstream Israeli media continues to refer to the refugees as “infiltrators,” drawing a (sub)conscious connection to the Palestinian fedayeen fighters of the 1950s. It is that imagery which creates nationwide hostility, borne of government policy and media coverage that casts the refugees as yet another threat to Jewish statehood. Racism toward African refugees isn’t a Mizrahi problem — it’s an Israeli problem, full stop.

Likewise, to lay racism toward Arabs on the shoulders of Mizrahim is to ignore the history of Israel. Ben-Gurion long emphasized the need to fight the “Levantine spirit” of the Mizrahi Jews, a mentality he believed was beneath the Ashkenazi foundations of the new Israeli identity. It was the Left that ensured Mizrahim became ashamed of their roots, that “Arabness” would leave a bad taste in their mouths. To deplore poor Mizrahim as being full of hate for those below them is to dismiss all the elements of the Mizrahi story.

If the poor Mizrahim hate Arabs, it is in also in part due to their own historical baggage with the Arab world as the indigenous sons of this region, having been punished for the Nakba, the Ashkenazi Left’s expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948. If the Mizrahim hate Arabs, it is because of the segregated housing policies that put poor Mizrahim on the Israeli-Arab front lines, absorbing the brunt of the Ashkenazi Left’s historical conflict with the Arabs. Poor Mizrahim worry that an Ashkenazi left-wing government will destroy any progress that they have made within Israeli society.

If Israeli society wasn’t built on a complex ethnic racial hierarchy, then perhaps the Ashkenazi Left could denounce the working class Mizrahi voter and his racist tendencies. But the reality remains that Mizrahi Jews, both rich and poor, remain inferior to the Ashkenazi population, socially, economically and historically. As long as racist inequality remains, then there is no need for the Ashkenazi Left to re-educate a subordinate, indigenous part of the population.

When the day after tomorrow comes, when the party ends and white flight causes the privileged to exit en masse with their EU passports, it will be the Mizrahim, rich and poor, with nowhere to go, who will clean up the mess alongside the Palestinians. Because only they will know how to live alongside their Arab counterparts, as they have done for two millennia.

Leeor Ohayon is a documentary photographer from London currently in Israel focusing his photographic work on Mizrahi Jewry.

Newsletter banner

]]>
http://972mag.com/stop-blaming-mizrahim-for-everything-wrong-in-israel/104859/feed/ 9
Distorting the facts of Occupation: Regavim’s attacks on the EU http://972mag.com/distorting-the-facts-of-occupation-regavims-attacks-on-the-eu/104847/ http://972mag.com/distorting-the-facts-of-occupation-regavims-attacks-on-the-eu/104847/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:25:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104847 An Israeli settler NGO has accused the EU of illegal building in the West Bank. But the facts — and its understanding of international law — just don’t add up.

By Michel Waelbroeck and Willem Aldershoff

Illustrative photo of Palestinian children in a school consisting of a number of shipping containers, the Jordan Valley. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Palestinian children in a school consisting of a number of shipping containers, the Jordan Valley. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Reports started circulating before Israel’s elections that Prime Minister Netanyahu had ordered the destruction of mobile structures distributed by the EU in Area C of the West Bank. This harks back to a report in November 2014 by the Israeli NGO Regavim, which draws a shocking parallel between the EU’s humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Area C and Israel’s building of settlements there.  Assuming that Israel’s settlements are legal under international law, Regavim accuses the EU of assisting the Palestinians in an illegal plan to take control of large parts of the West Bank.

This simply puts matters on their head. There is no doubt that Israel’s settlement policy violates international law whereas assistance to Palestinians building in their own country is in full conformity with the EU’s responsibilities under humanitarian law.

[tmwinpost]

Regavim claims that Israel does not “occupy” the West Bank, since that area was not under the sovereignty of any state when it was taken over by Israel. That argument is specious: it was firmly rejected by the International Court of Justice in 2004 in the case concerning the construction of the Wall, and it is not accepted by any other member of the international community. Contrary to Regavim’s argument, Israel does not enjoy sovereign rights over any part of the West Bank, whether in East Jerusalem or in Area C ; Israel must respect the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which it is a party, and which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its  population into occupied territory.

In 1947, the UN General Assembly recommended splitting mandatory Palestine into two independent states – an Arab State (Palestine) and a Jewish State (Israel). Whereas Israel unilaterally proclaimed independence at the time, Palestine could not do so, being occupied by Jordan and, since 1967, by Israel. This does not mean that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are subject to Israeli sovereignty. Palestinians in the West Bank live in their own country.

The Regavim report acknowledges that the EU saves Israel a great deal of resources through its humanitarian activities, which, “in effect, carry out Israel’s obligations towards the Palestinians.” However, it complains that, when financing Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank, the EU violates the Oslo II agreement, which, “clearly specified that Area C would be under the full responsibility of the State of Israel.” The EU thereby “cynically exploits … Israel’s unwillingness to clash diplomatically with the European States” by “trampling on the law.”

The origin of this ire is to be found in the particular situation at which the Regavim report is directed. It is well known that Israel intends to isolate East Jerusalem from the remainder of the West Bank by building settlements in an area north-east of Jerusalem referred to as E-1. Doing so would make a contiguous and viable Palestinian State impossible.

A sheep shelter constructed out of old furniture in a Bedouin camp in the E1 area, situated between Jerusalem and the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim (background). (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A sheep shelter constructed out of old furniture in a Bedouin camp in the E1 area, situated between Jerusalem and the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim (background). (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Regavim claims that the EU-financed structures were built without the required permits. The zoning rules imposed by the Israeli authorities, however, allow construction by Palestinians in less than 1 percent of Area C; the remainder is reserved for Israeli settlements, closed military zones and nature reserves. Therefore, it is practically impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits, as the World Bank attests in its 2013 report on the Palestinian economy. This constitutes a violation of Israel’s obligation, as an occupying power, to exercise its powers for the benefit of the Palestinian population. Moreover introducing these restrictions violates Israel’s obligation to preserve, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force before the occupation.

Regavim also claims that the Oslo II Agreement gave Israel “full control” over Area C and accuses the EU and the Palestinian Authority of preventing Israel from “exercising its sovereignty” in the area. This is a shocking distortion of the facts: Oslo provided that powers and responsibilities relating to planning and zoning would, subject to certain issues, be resolved in permanent status negotiations, and come under Palestinian jurisdiction within 18 months from the inauguration of the Palestinian Council (7 March 1996). Israel’s role was clearly designed to be temporary.

The Oslo Agreement was never fully implemented. The result, however, was not to place Palestine in a situation of everlasting dependency on Israel’s goodwill in planning matters. The Fourth Geneva Convention provides that the occupied population may not be deprived of the benefits provided for it under its provisions, even as the result of an agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territory (Palestine) and the occupying power (Israel). Therefore, Israel may not take advantage of the breakdown of the Oslo negotiations to deprive Palestinians of rights they had under pre-existing legislation.

The Regavim report completely distorts two basic concepts by accusing the EU of acting illegally through its provision of humanitarian assistance to residents of Area C. It is Israel that acts in breach of international law, both by building settlements for its own citizens, and by acting as if it were entitled to exercise sovereignty in the West Bank. The EU is fully justified in helping Palestinians avoid the consequences of these violations.

Michel Waelbroeck is an Emeritus Professor of European Law at the Université libre de Bruxelles, and an Emeritus Member of the Institute of International Law. Willem Aldershoff, former Head of Unit in the European Commission, is currently Adviser EU-policy Israel/Palestine, Brussels.

]]>
http://972mag.com/distorting-the-facts-of-occupation-regavims-attacks-on-the-eu/104847/feed/ 15