Palestine Update 444
The goal? Judaization. The means? A military exercise in the middle of a village
As the residents of Jinbeh await the High Court to determine their fate, Israel’s army decides to hold a large exercise right in the middle of their village.
“In 1980, the Israeli army declared the area as Firing Zone 918, even though 12 Palestinian villages, including Jinbeh, resided there long before Israel was founded in 1948. The army’s goal: displace the Palestinian residents…
Ali said he has four brothers, all of whom left Jinbeh over the past decade. They abandoned the village they were born in because of Israel’s policies, because of Firing Zone 918, he remarked. He explained that the army is preventing them from paving roads and is refusing to grant them building permits, or let them connect to water and electricity. Jinbeh is one of more than 200 Palestinian villages in Area C of the occupied West Bank, over which the Israeli military has full control, that are systematically denied building permits — even though the land is privately owned by the residents.
The army preserves only the old stone houses in the village, like Ali’s. Everything else — the clinic, the school, the soccer field — can be demolished at any moment. It’s a violent policy; a way to pressure people into leaving their private land. This is also why the army declared this area a firing zone, even though it rarely trains here: to compound the pressure. In 1999, under Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s leadership, Israel issued evacuation orders against the residents of Jinbeh and the other villages in the area, on the claim that they live in a firing zone. But the goal of Judaizing the area can be traced back to the 1967 Allon Plan, created by then-Labor Minister Yigal Allon. It was the Labor Party’s blueprint for settlement-building in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The Strategic construction Plans in Jerusalem: Will the Biden Administration Weigh In?
“The question of the construction of two new Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem – Givat Hamatos, in the south of the city, and Atarot, in the north – both beyond the Green Line in “east Jerusalem” – is now on the table as part of contacts with the new administration in Washington, D.C., and as part of internal Israeli political jockeying, ahead of the 24th Knesset elections…The two plans of Givat Hamatos and Atarot are defined as strategic plans, which will have a meaningful impact on the future borders of Jerusalem: From the Israeli perspective, the construction of Givat Hamatos is one of the keys to preventing the division of Jerusalem from the south and blocking a Palestinian wedge that will thwart the contiguity between the Gilo and Har Homa neighborhoods on Jerusalem’s southern border…Atarot is also a neighborhood of critical importance to the borders of the Israeli capital. The neighborhood’s establishment will almost certainly decide whether Jerusalem’s ‘northern finger’ will remain part of the fabric of Israeli-Jewish settlement in Jerusalem, or will the Palestinians take control of it and even cut off sovereignty from Jerusalem, as they declaratively aspire, in favor of their dream for a Palestinian state.”
ICC Israeli war crimes probe first real test for Biden administration
“As always, Israel’s quest for impunity begins at the White House. And while Netanyahu’s mouthpieces have been tirelessly smearing the Biden administration as “anti-Israel” for merely picking four members with some Arab roots, the same pro-Israeli megaphones are now turning to Biden to shield Israel from an ICC investigation. One senior pro-Israeli lobbyist claimed that undermining international law to Israel’s advantage is ‘the real test of US partnership with Israel’. Biden’s administration views any internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as turning to the ICC, to be an attempt to delegitimize Israel’s existence, and therefore opposes it, as a former US ambassador to Israel told me recently. Last Friday, the US State Department expressed opposition to the ICC decision on Israel, while emphasising that ‘We share the goals of the ICC.’ This came just one day after the US welcomed an ICC verdict against a Ugandan war criminal. What’s unclear, however, is whether Biden would translate this rhetorical opposition into policies and punitive actions against the ICC and Palestinians to thwart the investigation, or if his administration will take a position on the ICC investigation similar to their position on the BDS; i.e. denouncing it without formally criminalising its advocacy and pursuit.”
Palestinians welcome end of US pressure: Doubt Biden will press Israel
Palestinian officials breathed a sigh of relief with the swearing-in of Joe Biden. Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh welcomed the announcements made by top officials of the Biden administration declaring the reversal of some of Donald Trump’s anti-Palestinian decisions. He said the new administration’s moves emphasized the US support for a two-state solution and the need to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Despite Biden’s optimistic words, it is unclear yet whether there will be any substantive changes in US foreign policy toward Palestine/Israel.
Khalil Assali, a Jerusalem-based political analyst, said the resumption of efforts at the Jerusalem consulate on Agron Street will revive US-Palestinian communication. “The move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the existence of one of the worst US ambassadors to Palestinian-American relations has caused a total cessation of talks. So, for sure the reopening of a mission in Jerusalem that is dedicated to Palestinians will revive both secret and public meetings on the political level as well as on the economic and development levels,” said Assali.
Despite the public statement welcoming the US moves, Palestinians say it is unclear whether the Biden administration will reverse all decisions or whether there will be added conditions on the issue of the return of the Palestinian office in Washington and the US mission in East Jerusalem. Palestinian officials are worried about having to return to the earlier version in which the Washington office’s status will be reviewed every six months as part of anti-terrorism congressional legislation. Also, it is unclear how the East Jerusalem US mission will work while the Biden administration has stated it will not reverse Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
ICC inaction enables Israeli occupation violence
More than 3,600 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces, and a further 100,000 injured, since 2009, the year the International Criminal Court initiated its first preliminary examination of the situation in Palestine. Palestinian human rights groups say that the “intensifying” occupation demands immediate action by the International Criminal Court. The urgency is “further necessitated by the intensifying support by the US” for Israel’s settlement-building and intentions to formally annex occupied territory.
Just over a year ago, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, stated that criteria for war crimes investigations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip had been met. She pointed to Israel’s illegal transfer of its civilian population into West Bank settlements as an example of a potential war crimes case arising from an investigation in Palestine. Despite the illegality of Israel’s settlements being an “open and shut case,” in the words of UN special rapporteur Michael Lynk, Bensouda has not yet opened an investigation, though it is in her power to do so. Instead, she asked for a ruling on court jurisdiction, punting the Palestine situation to a panel of judges, where it is currently in limbo. The interminable pace of court proceedings hardly matches the urgency of the situation on the ground.
The Israeli group Yesh Din has confirmed dozens of incidents in which settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank over the past month. Those attacks included settlers blocking main junctions on the principal highway in the West Bank and throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles. In other cases, as Levy reported in Haaretz, “settlers invaded Palestinian communities, throwing stones at people and houses and torching cars.” Settlers also attacked Palestinian farmers working their land. Many of these incidents have been recorded on video or documented in photos. That documentation shows that soldiers passively stood by and did nothing to stop the violence. Soldiers have testified to ‘Breaking the Silence’, a group of Israeli veterans critical of the occupation, that they were not authorized to arrest or detain settlers.
Al-Haq, the rights group documented 68 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank between July and October 2020. In many of those cases, Israeli soldiers failed to stop the settlers and instead used force against their Palestinian victims. Under the guard of the military, settlers use violence to prevent Palestinians from working their land.
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Boycotts are legitimate tools of protest against injustice
In 1966, the Coca-Cola Company was accused of refusing to do business in Israel. The claim had come from the pro-Israel lobby group Anti-Defamation League, and soon enough, the soft drink company faced potential boycotts in its own country. Later that same year, Coca-Cola ended up franchising in Israel, arguably for fear of repercussions of a boycott in its home country. This led to the boycott of the company by Arab states.
Economic boycotts have been a common and effective means of protest in the US in the past century, and Americans rightly saw it as a civil and democratic way to exert non-violent pressure to effect political change. As far back as 1933, following early signs of the anti-Semitism campaign against European Jews, many Americans responded to calls by the American Jewish Congress and other groups for the international boycott of Nazi Germany supported by Jews around the world.
The tendency to resort to economic and political boycott has become a hallmark of the pro-Israel lobby in the US in recent years, where the slightest diversion from the Israeli government’s narrative has often provided cause to be labeled anti-Semitic.
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UK Parliamentarians call on Israel to stop dispossession in East Jerusalem
Over 80 British parliamentarians representing all parties, in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, wrote in a letter to the British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, that the British government must do everything in its power to prevent the mass/forced evictions and dispossession of Palestinian families in Jerusalem.
About 200 families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are in danger of being dispossessed following a legal battle waged against them by settler associations. British lawmakers have made it clear that these evictions, some of which have already taken place, are a violation of international law, and that it is Britain’s job to make sure they do not happen.
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