Palestine Update 405
Israel’s peace deals are signed in blood
Israel today is intoxicated by the love of power. Its intent is to capture land and influence in the Arab region as its way of asserting access to resources and, eventually, controlling these resources. That Israel was, and is, a plant of western powers to have access to the resources of the region is clear from their stubborn refusal to discipline Israel despite its worst crimes against humanity. Mild condemnations minus punitive actions, including sidelining Israel until it ceases its violent ways, are meaningless and empty.
Israel’s entry into the Gulf region is not prompted by peaceful intent. If that were the case, it would have not been bombing Gaza at the same time it was signing its so-called peace deal. Militarism is the opposite of peaceful intent. Israel’s designs in the dynamics of the region have to do with geopolitics – the politics of containment of adversaries (Read Iran) and expansionism, both economic and political. It is further exacerbating the colonial designs of the West who want to see containment of Iran, for example, and its influence in the region.
Israel’s entry into the UAE and Bahrain will see more snags in international relations. With its contempt for international law, each of its peace deals mean little or nothing. The UAE and Bahrain will soon find themselves trampled over and unequipped to challenge Israeli actions.
UAE and Bahrain will do well to recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous words: “When you adopt the standards and values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity … you become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being”.
Palestine is rotting Israel from inside –
No Gulf peace deal can hide that
Palestinians and Israeli soldiers during protests
More than a quarter of a century after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, Israel has managed to turn its occupation of Palestinian territory from a burden into an asset. What was for so long a liability – the flagrant violation of international law – has now become a valued commodity. Understanding this development is the key to explaining why the Israelis are making peace with two distant Gulf States but not their closest neighbours, the Palestinians – without whom there can be no real peace.
Israel has learned in recent years how to manage the occupation in perpetuity with minimal cost. But from the very beginning of the occupation in June 1967, Israel has been unwilling to recognize the Palestinian nation or cede control of the Palestinian territory occupied in order to make peace. The evidence to support this claim is easily found in Israel’s own archives. Two days after the occupation began; Israel passed military order number three, which referred to the fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war – mandating that military courts apply the provisions of the convention to their proceedings. Four months later, this portion of the order was deleted.
In September 1967, the legal counsel to the Israeli foreign ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked by the Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, whether building new settlements in the occupied territories would violate the Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilians into the territory seized in war. He answered in the affirmative. But his advice was rejected and the government proceeded from that moment to establish illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Over the following months, Israel began a process that would continue for many years: amending laws governing Palestinian land – from the periods of Ottoman, British mandate and Jordanian control of the territory – to construct a false “legal” basis for the acquisition of land and other natural resources for the establishment of Jewish settlements.
I spent much of my working life, from 1979 until 1993, investigating and resisting Israel’s abuses of law in the occupied territories, and warning about the implications of building illegal settlements, all to no avail. Yet it was not the legal transformations alone that enabled settlements to be built and to flourish. The militant Zionist thinker Vladimir Jabotinsky had written, in the 1920s that “settlement [s] can … develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down. And so it was.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace,” (Jimi Hendrix)
There was an added component to the transformation of the laws to enable the settlement project and that was sheer violence by settlers: vigilante actions that seemed to go against the law Israel had put down and bound it to. In the early 80s Al-Haq, a West Bank-based human rights organisation that I was then directing, worked hard to document incidents of settler violence. At the time we naively believed that if only Israelis knew what was taking place and the failure of law enforcement to stop it, they would take action to prevent it. We were unaware that it was all part of the Israeli struggle for the land. The agents of the orderly state can stay within the boundaries of their rewritten laws while the unruly settlers do the work of intimidation and violence to achieve the desired goal. It is all part of the same scheme.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, settler violence in the West Bank has become an almost daily occurrence. It is all out in the open and the government and the courts are on the same page in supporting the settlers and working to achieve the goal of greater Israel. The Knesset has passed the regularization bill, which “legalises” settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land via de facto expropriation.
While Jewish settler violence against the Palestinians rages – preventing Palestinians from working their land or using it as their own, with no real attempt by the Israeli military or police to prevent this – Israel declares any and all Palestinian resistance to occupation to be terrorism. When Palestinians began to organize non-violent resistance to the occupation, Israel redefined attacks by the army on these unarmed protesters to bring them under the category of “combat operations”. Recently, the villagers of Kafr Qaddum were staging weekly demonstrations against the blocking of a road, which prevented access to their village, because it was claimed that the road passes through a new part of the settlement of Kedumim. The army planted explosives on roads used by the villagers – but the soldiers who took this decision would be immune from prosecution for any injuries caused to the villagers.
With all these “victories” on Israel’s part, the country has now decided that it can manage the occupation rather than end it. The occupation even began to be seen as an asset. Israel has turned the occupied territories into a laboratory for testing weapons and systems of surveillance. Israelis now market their crowd control weapons and systems of homeland security to the US, based on testing in the occupied territories. Yet all this financial investment in the occupation – and all the twisting of domestic laws to protect the illegal settlement project, all the political contortions to cultivate authoritarian allies, from Trump to Orbán to Bolsonaro – is rotting Israel from the inside, turning it into an apartheid state that rules over millions of Palestinians without rights.
In Arundhati Roy’s novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, one of her characters, Musa, says that if Kashmiris have failed to gain independence from India, at least in struggling for it they have exposed the corruption of India’s system. Musa tells the book’s narrator, an Indian: “You’re not destroying us. It’s yourselves that you are destroying.” Palestinians today might say the same of our struggle with Israel.
• Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian writer and lawyer. His latest book is Going Home: a Walk through Fifty Years of Occupation
Open Letter: UAE and Bahrain’s Normalization with Israel Incentivizes Continued Colonization of Palestine
The decision of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel lay bare what has been clear to Palestinians for decades: Israel’s illegal acts of annexation and apartheid will not deter those in power from the pursuit of their own interests, to the detriment, if not damnation, of justice, accountability, and human rights in Palestine. In effect, the normalization of diplomatic and trade relations between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel reveal a worrying and detrimental trend in regional State practice towards the acceptance and endorsement Israel’s illegal acts against our people including, the closure and collective punishment of the Gaza Strip, enforcement of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, the annexation of our land, and the erasure of the Palestinian people. The shameful recognition of Israel’s illegal acts by both these States must be collectively opposed, by the international community, and the Palestinian people.
Despite the UAE and Bahrain’s legal responsibilities as third States under international law to take effective action to oppose Israel’s illegal settler-colonial enterprise and other unlawful acts, they have instead opted to act in contravention of these responsibilities and embrace inexcusable violations of international law and human rights in the name of geopolitical expediency and gain.
Palestinian self-determination is not a matter which is up for debate; not as part of future negotiations between Israel and the State of Palestine, and certainly not as part of an agreement between Israel and the UAE or Bahrain, brokered by the United States, with intentionally excluded Palestinian voices and perspectives. In striking contrast to the recent wholesale dismissal of the centrality, or indeed relevance at all, of Palestine to Arab-Israeli relations, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League, conditioned normalisation on the full withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, the recognition of a Palestinian State therein, and the permitting of Palestinians refugees and exiles to exercise their right to return. Instead, Israel has attained full normalisation with the UAE and Bahrain essentially without precondition, having claimed to suspend its plans of full de jure annexation of the West Bank, threatened previously in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This purported suspension has done little to console the millions of Palestinians already living under de jure annexation in East Jerusalem, under de facto annexation in much of the West Bank, as refugees and exiles denied their right of return, or being treated as demographic threats and invaders within Israel’s borders. Whether American-backed de jure annexation comes now or in 2024, Palestinians will continue to be targeted with deadly force, will continue to watch their homes being demolished, will continue to be denied reunification with their families, will be denied the right to return to their homes and lands, and will be denied the dignity promised to them by an international rules-based order.
Emirati support for the struggle against Israeli colonialism, annexationist-aggression and apartheid was ultimately cowed by the allure of the lucrative partnership between the UAE and Israel’s private sectors. Defence, cybersecurity, and infrastructure corporations have for years made billions in revenue as Emirate-based multinationals in Israel, and vice versa. According to the Times of Israel, exports from Israel to the UAE stand to rise up to $500 million USD annually, whereas UAE investment in Israel may reach an annual $350 million USD. Similarly, conversations have taken place at the highest political level between Israeli and Bahraini officials. Economic benefit and “peace in the region” is thus the fig leaf for the abandonment and betrayal of the Palestinian people offered by American, Emirati, and Bahraini proponents of normalization. However, a peace which does not include the realization of the rights of all Palestinians will be one without justice, and so will be no peace at all. In the midst of continued human rights violations and the commission of international crimes in Yemen, Syria, Egypt, and Libya, stood over and perpetuated by a corrupt ruling elite and multinational profiteers, Palestine is once more left by the wayside.
It is critical that the international community intervenes to pressure the UAE and Bahrain to comply with their third State obligations towards Palestine and prevent aiding and abetting Israel in its continuing violation of peremptory norms of international law. It is now time, for the international community and the Palestinian people to collectively rise up and resist this egregious regional normalization, to ensure the realization of our people to self-determination and permanent sovereignty, and to prevent Israeli and regional measures towards the erasure of our people, culture, lands and home.