Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

August 2009

A Military Police investigation into a soldier’s killing of a Palestinian near Hebron in January has been going on for seven and a half months, and there is still no end in sight. Yet the sector commander has been giving briefings for the past few months based on his own inquiry into the incident, which he describes as “a serious failure in moral and professional terms.”

End of Freedom

31 August 2009

[A] firm demand… to put an immediate end to the policy of arrests and draconian interrogations currently conducted against the Arab-Palestinian community in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; to free ALL political prisoners; to halt the current wave of legislation aimed at curbing and restricting the civil rights of Israel’s residents and citizens; to stop the violent, racist policy now implemented against refugees and migrant workers; and to condemn crimes of hate and violence against ethnic, religious or gender minorities.

If there is any truth in the reports that came out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Europe – that the United States agreed Israel can go on building in East Jerusalem – the headlines should have read “Obama has pulled out of the Middle East peace process.”

About 7,700 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israel, including about 450 without the benefit of a trial. Most of them are not murderers, although they are all automatically labeled as such here. The demonstrators at Megiddo would do well to realize this. Some of the prisoners are political detainees in the full sense of the word, from members of the Palestinian parliament imprisoned without trial, which is a scandal in and of itself, to those behind bars because of their “affiliation.” Innocent people are among them as well as political activists and nonviolent protesters.

IOA Editor: In this Israeli-centric commentary, Levy calls attention to the status of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

“You don’t make peace with friends,” he told Ma’an in Ramallah. “You negotiate with those who are regarded as pariahs.”

Photo: Desmond Tutu, center, placed a stone on a grave on Thursday in Bilin, site of weekly protests against the Israeli Wall. With him, from left: Gro Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Ela Bhatt and Abdullah Abu Rahma.

Also: The New York Times coverage of The Elders’ Bilin visit

he number of Israelis who see US President Barack Obama’s policies as pro-Israel has fallen to four percent, according to a Smith Research poll taken this week on behalf of The Jerusalem Post.

“The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns,” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa told Haaretz Thursday… Tutu also commented on the call by Ben-Gurion University professor Neve Gordon to apply selective sanctions on Israel. “I always say to people that sanctions were important in the South African case for several reasons… it actually did hit the pocket of the South African government…”

Palestinians have finally started to act in a different way. Instead of cursing the occupation, the new strategy is aimed at building up the desired Palestinian state. The idea is to force the Israelis to the negotiating table rather than beg them to come. The way to do that is to work for a state as if there were negotiations. This idea has been brilliantly developed by the Palestinian prime minister.

So let us admit the truth: The occupier deserves to be boycotted. As long as the Israelis pay no price for the occupation, the occupation will not end, and therefore the only way open to the opponents of the occupation is to take concrete means that will make the Israelis understand that the injustice they are perpetrating comes with a price tag.

“Where there is no law and no one to turn to, Ezra is seen as a law breaker, while the state itself breaks the law and fails to uphold its basic obligations. Ezra is the savior of these people. He blocks with his body settlers who stop the farmers from working on their land. You could call him Robin Hood of the Wild West,” she said.

[Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University] believes, and so do I, that only when the Israeli society’s well-heeled strata pay a real price for the continuous occupation, will they finally take genuine steps to put an end to it… The vast majority retains its freedom to be indifferent, up to the moment that someone begs the international community for rescue. Then the voices rise from right and left, the indifference disappears, and violence replaces it: Boycott Israeli universities? This strikes at the holy of holies, academic freedom!

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should have sent a big bouquet to Donald Bostrom, the Swedish photographer and journalist who wrote the article claiming that the Israel Defense Forces harvested organs from dead Palestinians… It has been a long time since such a propaganda asset has fallen into the hands of the friends of the occupation. It has been a long time since such damage has been caused to people seriously attempting to document its horrors.

“There is so much paranoia from the government, the municipality and the courts about Muslims using this mosque again,” said Nuri al-Uqbi, a 67-year-old Bedouin activist in Beersheva. “It was built with money raised from the local Bedouin and we should have the right to pray in it.”

“They are breaking their silence about the only democracy in the Middle East that has an independent legal system and an investigative press that does not cease dealing with these issues,” Netanyahu told reporters…

IOA Editor: Again, the “Only-Democracy-in-the-Middle-East” cannot deal substantively with challenges to its violent Occupation and Gaza war crimes, such as those coming from the UN, HRW, and other international human-rights organizations. Instead, it tries to silence critical organizations and choke their international NGO funding.

The Palestinian civil society Call for global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, launched in July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and organizations offers an opportunity to join the collective effort for justice for the Palestinian people, based on the successful South African model. It is noteworthy that the Palestinian call for boycott is aimed at institutions rather than an inclusive and personal boycott of Israelis as individuals.

Rather than demand an apology, the Israeli peace camp needs to send Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon a large bouquet of flowers… His statements are straight-from-the-source, first-hand proof of the decisive role the senior military echelon has played in thwarting the peace process.

IOA Editor: True, and very important to recognize. However, what Eldar calls the lack of courage to deal with settlers and fear of “presenting a map which demarcates the state’s permanent borders,” reflect, first and foremost, a lack of commitment to such demarcation.

Historically, right-wing (“Revisionist”) Zionism has viewed Israel’s eastern borders as located somewhere between the Jordan River (“less extreme”) and deep inside Jordan (“more extreme”). So-called “moderate” Labor Zionism, on the other hand, has viewed Israel’s borders with infinite flexibility: initially influenced by the availability of contiguous land and by low Palestinian population density, and ultimately driven by opportunities. For example, the Jordan Valley was first to be included in the future Greater Israel by Labor policy makers, and subsequently settled by Labor-led governments. Future settlements, increasingly deeper in the heartland of the West-Bank, were built as opportunities (often domestic politics) presented themselves – following the old pre-State adage “dunam here and dunam there” (dunam is unit of area approximately equal to 1/4 acre).

The name of this Israeli ethos is “who are you to tell us?” We are destroying Arab East Jerusalem? Who are you to tell us that it is wrong? We killed masses of Palestinians in Gaza? Who are you to tell us anything? We have maintained a brutal dictatorship in the territories for 42 years – longer than any other military occupation of the post-World War II era? Who are you to tell us? We’re allowed. We’re your victims. The past belongs to us. We will do as we please with it.

Uri Davis is used to denunciations. A “traitor”, “scum”, “mentally unstable”: those are just some of the condemnations that have been posted in the Israeli blogosphere in recent days. As the first person of Jewish origin to be elected to the Revolutionary Council of the Palestinian Fatah movement, an organisation once dominated by Yasser Arafat, Davis has tapped a deep reserve of Israeli resentment. Some have even called for him to be deported.

A plan for the building of a new settlement, Ma’aleh David, in the middle of an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem was filed for approval by the relevant municipal committee at the Jerusalem Municipality. The plan calls for the construction of 104 housing units on the land where the former headquarters of the Judea and Samaria police was housed in the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

Members of the Los Angeles Jewish community have threatened to withhold donations to an Israeli university in protest of an op-ed published by a prominent Israeli academic in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, in which he called to boycott Israel economically, culturally and politically. Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, a veteran peace activist, branded Israel as an apartheid state and said that a boycott was “the only way to save it from itself.”

IOA Editor: Haaretz leaves out the “unless” part of the threat to withhold donations: the firing of Prof. Neve Gordon from his BG University position. Is the “Only Democracy in the Middle East” about to start yet another round of harassment against a professor who dares to stare the Emperor in the eye?

See Neve Gordon: Boycott Israel on the IOA website.

The blatant attack that Ya’alon has been waging ever since he slammed the door by leaving the Israel Defense Forces has shown acute anti-democratic symptoms. Ya’alon has lashed out at the High Court of Justice in particular and the justice system in general, while expressing scandalous support for illegal settlements, making irresponsible accusations against his colleagues and superiors and stating views that are considered illegitimate even in the right wing.

IOA Editor: We continue focusing on Ya’alon because he is a central figure of Israel’s government and, as described by Haaretz, in many ways he is the government.

[Joe] Stork wrote to Haaretz that rather than deal with the content of the report, Yemini chose to “shoot the messenger… The quotes he attributes to me are more than 30 years old. Most of them I do not recognize, and they are contrary to the views I have been expounding for decades now.” Stork wrote. “I have dedicated much of my adult life to the protection of human rights for all and to fighting the idea that civilians can be attacked for political reasons.”

IOA Editor: Israel Harel is a right-wing Israeli commentator, as is Ben Dror Yemini. Joe Stork is the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. This attack on HRW and its dedicated staff reflects the opinions of many Israelis who reject any outside criticism of IDF behavior and Israeli actions in the occupied territories.

See IOA coverage of the HRW report.

B’Tselem told Haaretz it intends to appeal against the decision to close the case. “The footage of the attack shocked the Israeli public, but nobody was ever brought to trial. This decision joins other cases in a disturbing trend of a lack of law enforcement, signaling to violent settlers that they can do anything they want,” the organization’s comment read.

There ought to be a law

21 August 2009

Currently the fight against [Arab-Jewish] intermarriage is spearheaded by the Yad L’Achim organization . Not long ago its chairman, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipschitz, wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, warning of “a fundamental failure in the Jewish education and values in the secular education system in Israel.”

IOA Editor: This is traditional racism at its very best: such attitudes – the separation of couples on racial grounds – are well known in European and North American history, and elsewhere. This news story is important because in the “advanced” countries that Israel would like to associate with and be treated as an ally of, such behavior would be rejected, and is generally outlawed. One would think that such blatantly racist practices are not in Israel’s self-interest, yet it involves organizations which benefit from government support, possibly involving high level government officials.

Peace Now secretary general Yariv Oppenheimer said yesterday that Ya’alon’s clarifications were “lip service only.”

IOA Editor: Indeed. Unlike some other Israeli leaders, General Ya’alon is highly educated, analytical, and measured. He is the opposite of a “hot-headed Israeli” who lets his tongue run ahead of himself. His violent language reflects cold and calculated thinking. He also must know that past comments from fellow members of the Israeli extreme-right were followed by violence, including the assassination of PM Rabin. If there was a mistake here, it was in considering that his comments, made in a closed meeting, would be leaked. That he may regret. Or not.

The poll also found that 64 per cent of Palestinians still feel Obama’s policy is more supportive of Israel, while 40 per cent of Israelis think it is more support of the Palestinians.

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

Ya’alon told the crowd: “I am not afraid of the Americans” adding, “there are moments where we must say ‘we’ve had it up to here'”.

Ya’alon also referred to the Israeli anti-settlement organization Peace Now and the so-called Israeli “elites” as “viruses… causing grave damage to the state of Israel.”

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday criticized Israeli restrictions placed on foreign nationals entering the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge, calling the new regulations ‘unacceptable’.

“We have repeatedly told the Government of Israel that the United States expects that all American citizens to be treated equally, regardless of their national origin or other citizenship,” a statement issued by the State Department said Wednesday.

For 15 years, Sabawi entered and left the country with no problems, as a senior partner in an insurance company and as chairman of a construction company. But in April, he was denied entry at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

IOA Editor: Quite a contrast to Natanyahu’s “economic peace plan” – Israel’s latest propaganda tool used to avert a meaningful dialog with the Palestinians, and to protect the Occupation.

The decision by Fatah’s Sixth Congress that the movement is sticking to negotiations as a means of achieving independence, statehood and peace is an admission that the use of arms during the second intifada was disastrous. That is a difficult admission for a movement founded on the sanctification of the armed struggle. And despite being tacit, it is a brave admission for Fatah at a time when most Palestinians are convinced that Israel does not want peace.

During the entire period of our rule in the territories, we have destroyed the existing leadership, which led to the rise of more extreme leaders. We destroyed the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, who had agreed to a two-state solution and was capable of “delivering the goods.” And we brought about Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip. Now we are cultivating the third stage: Al-Qaida.

IOA Editor: This Israeli-centric commentary is rare in its honesty as to who is responsible for where the dialog between Israel and the Palestinians is. For Israel, the more extreme and violent the enemy, the easier it is to ‘prove’ the claim that “there is no one to talk to…” Whether this is brought about via an assassination campaign directed at Palestinian moderates (1980s), the derailing of the meaningful negotiations in Madrid by the introduction of Oslo, the settlement program, the violent crushing of the Intifada and the destruction of Palestinian national infrastructure, or the strangulation of and attack on Gaza – it all serves the same purpose: to crush Palestinian nationhood.

A dry and thirsty land

18 August 2009

IOA Editor: Very important coverage of Israeli policies intended to make life impossible for Palestinians in the West Bank – a key part of the greater offensive on the future of Palestine: By taking over land and shutting off access to natural resources, Israel can shut off the future for the Palestinians in Palestine.

The original Hebrew version header of this article read “200 West Bank villages are not connected to a pipe. That’s how Israel is drying out the residents of the PA”.

Ezra Nawi’s Appeal

18 August 2009

UPDATED 18 Aug 2009: Ezra Nawi’s sentencing hearing took place on August 16, 2009, and Jewish Voice for Peace was there with over 20,000 of your signatures. The judge will render her sentence on September 21st, 2009.

“I always knew that many people silently supported me, and that if I ever got into trouble they would stand behind me. This moment has come.”

Join Naomi Klein, Neve Gordon, Noam Chomsky and thousands of others and tell Israel not to jail Ezra Nawi, one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists. His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday urged Israel to consider resettling the evacuated West Bank settlement of Homesh, calling it a strategic asset in the face of Palestinian terrorism.

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit organization that sends millions of shekels worth of donations to Israel every year for clearly political purposes, such as buying Arab properties in East Jerusalem, is registered in the United States as an organization that funds educational institutes in Israel.

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