Editor’s note: Tomorrow in Boston, the Massachusetts state Democratic Committee is to vote on a resolution that describes Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace. The resolution has roiled the state party for a couple of weeks now, with determined opposition from the party establishment. Here is the last discussion of the resolution. It is expected that the committee will vote to table the resolution tomorrow but it won’t do so without a fight from supporters of Palestinian human rights. All eyes will be on Democratic State Committee director Gus Bickford, who has been scrambling to bury this issue or, possibly, get it passed without dividing the party, as Steve Grossman, a major fundraiser, has warned that the language critical of Israel will do. What follows are testimony and a letter prepared by two supporters of the resolution, Ron Fox and Jeff Klein.
I am a 77 year old resident of Marblehead involved in Jewish organizations locally and nationally since my bar mitzvah in Temple Beth El in Lynn.
Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 and what is supposed to be only temporary has become illegal and is the longest occupation in the world.
The transfer of Israeli citizens to the West Bank in 1967 violated the 4th Geneva Convention and was contrary to a legal opinion of a lawyer for Israel’s Foreign Ministry
For the last 45 years, since 1972, not a day has gone by where I have not been aware of Israel’s violations of the human rights, and devaluation, of Palestinians caused by its settlement policies.
The growth of the settlements from one settlement with 100 squatters (not permanent settlers but illegal trespassers) in 1967 to 123 now with 350,000 (not including 250,000 in East Jerusalem) and the need to maintain and protect the squatters (many religiously fanatic zealots from Brooklyn) has spawned numerous additional obstacles to peace, including:
unequal distribution of water, denying Palestinians fair access to minimal water while allowing squatters enough for irrigation and pools;
a massive theft of land from Palestinians leading to Israel taking control of over 40% of the West Bank;
the destruction of over 48,000 homes and other structures since 1967 (very few for security reasons);
the building of a wall, 85% inside the green line separating families from their lands, schools and businesses;
the ignoring and overlooking of squatters and the IDF destroying 800,000 olive trees;
the establishment of military law for Palestinians and Israeli civil law for squatters;
the failure to enforce criminal laws against squatters while punishing Palestinians for the same actions;
the restricting of movement by constructing many checkpoints and physical barriers unrelated to security concerns, resulting in employment and medical complications; and
the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, sometimes more than a year, in administrative detention without ever charging them with a crime, leading to today’s humanitarian based hunger strike.
WHO OPPOSES THE SETTLEMENTS
The UN General Assembly has passed hundreds of resolutions since 1967 condemning or criticizing Israel’s occupation, settlement policy and other violations of Palestinian human rights.
The US, since 1972, has voted in favor of 20 UN resolutions while vetoing 88.
Recently a UN committee found that many of these obstacles to peace taken together are evidence for a finding that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.
The 4th Geneva Convention forbids the transfer of an occupier of its civilians into occupied territory and the International Criminal Court defines it as an indictable war crime.
Six former heads of Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, in the powerful movie, Gatekeepers, deplored most of the political leaders as being indifferent to negotiations with their Arab enemies. One, Mr. Shalom, said, “We have become cruel. To ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population”.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2002 said “Over 35 new settlements have been constructed this year. Each one is a step away from the safety deserved by the Israelis and two steps away from the justice owed to the Palestinians. If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.”
An Israeli -Yitzhak Frankenthal on July 27, 2002 said “My beloved son Arik, my own flesh and blood, was murdered by Palestinians. The Palestinians … have been ready to make peace with us; it is we who are unwilling to make peace with them
Nine mainstream Christian denominations/organizations, including the Methodists, are so opposed to settlements that they have adopted resolutions not to buy settlement goods.
As of September 14, 2015, 136 (70.5%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognized the State of Palestine.
US presidents including Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama have either declared the settlements illegal or an obstacle to peace..
Secretary of State John Kerry on December 4, 2016, warned that the building of Israeli settlements was undermining any hope of an agreement to allow two states to live side by side and is a deliberate obstacle to peace.
Jewish groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street and Americans for Peace Now have stated their opposition to the settlement policies of Israel.
A Pew Research Center survey in 2013 that found that “just 17% of American Jews think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security; 44% say that settlement construction hurts Israel’s own security interests.
HAS THE SETTLEMENT POLICY KILLED THE TWO STATE SOLUTION DEAD?
Israel’s aggressive settlement policy has made the establishment of a viable contiguous Palestinian state (a generally acknowledged path to peace) physically and politically nearly impossible.
Thomas Friedman, in an op-ed published on February 10, 2016, said, “The peace process is dead. It’s over, folks, so please stop sending the New York Times Op-Ed page editor your proposals for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.”
In 2015 Netanyahu pledged that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. This should surprise no one. Since 1967, Israel has pursued a policy, as promoted by Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920’s; i.e., the full annexation of the West Bank (code words “Judea and Samaria”).
WHO SUPPORTS THE SETTLEMENTS
The Congress of the United States and President Trump’s newly appointed Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Failure to support this resolution authorizes: the maintenance of what is now the longest occupation in the world; increased illegal transfers of Israeli citizens to settlements; more extensions of the illegal wall; continued violations by Israel of international human, civil and criminal laws with their attendant deaths and destruction of property and the death of the two state solution.
Ironically, the settlements and their attendant abuse and humiliation and, frankly, terrorization of Palestinians are also contrary to the core values of Judaism. As stated by Rabbi Ben-Zion Gold, who recently passed away, the former director of Harvard Hillel:
“The Jewish settlements on the West Bank are a grave and dangerous mistake that have done much harm to Israel. Micah. ‘He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ By all means, Humbly.”
Israel’s settlement policy is un-American, undemocratic, unjust and an obstacle to peace. As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., ”There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.”
I urge the committee to vote in favor of this resolution.
Dear DSC Member,
As you probably know, a resolution on “Peace And Security For Israelis And Palestinians” has been submitted to the DSC. Rather than rely on the characterization of its opponents as “one-sided,” I urge that you read the actual resolution, accessible on-line here.
The resolution deplores violence and incitement against civilians from both sides;, says that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security; and supports a negotiated settlement in conformance with international law. It doesn’t pretend to address every aspect of the conflict but affirms that Israeli settlements are obstacles to peace – long-standing US policy under every US President (except Donald Trump!) since Lyndon Johnson. What’s “one-sided” about that?
How can people purport to favor a two-state solution while refraining from any criticism of the Israeli settlement project that is making a two-state outcome impossible?
The settlements have never been cited as obstacles to peace in Congress, despite literally hundreds of resolutions and letters supporting the Israeli position and/or condemning only Palestinian violence and “incitement.” That’s one-sided.
There are now 800,000 Israelis living in settlements on Palestinian land beyond the internationally-recognized Green Line—100,000 more than when President Obama took office. The settlements continue to expand. These settlements are directly or indirectly supported by billions of dollars in annual US aid to Israel, as well as more $billions in tax-deductible donations. That is one-sided.
Opponents of the resolution argue that this is not a Massachusetts state issue. However, there has been pro-Israel legislation at the State House without objection from these same quarters. There is even a bill now before the legislature – backed by opponents of the DSC resolution — aimed at punishing free speech and civic action pressuring Israel to live up to its legal and human rights obligations. That is one-sided. Numerous Massachusetts public officials from the Governor to the Attorney General and scores of members of the Massachusetts General Court have participated in Israeli government sponsored and lobbyist-paid trips to Israel. That’s one-sided too.
It is opponents of this resolution who are increasingly out of step with Democratic voters and long-standing US policy on this issue. Democratic voters supported the recent UN Security Council resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israeli settlements by 47-16%, even as many of their elected House representatives – including four from Massachusetts –were voting with the Republican majority to condemn it — and implicitly, President Obama as well. Democrats regard the Israeli settlements as illegal by 38-19% — with self-identified Liberals even more lopsided at 42-17%. Clinton voters opposed Israeli settlements by 49-14, while Trump voters supported them by 46-23%. A recent Brooking poll indicated that 60% of Democrats favored economic sanctions or more serious action against Israel over its settlement building.
Opponents of the resolution argue that it is “divisive” because opinions within the Democratic Party differ on the issue. But the way to achieve consensus on an issue is to discuss and debate it. This is the way the Democratic Party has historically moved ahead. Suppressing consideration of this issue by tabling the resolution will maintain divisions in the Party rather than moving to resolve them. Please vote to have open debate on this important issue.
Member, Ward 13 Democratic Committee, Dorchester
and 2017 Democratic State Convention delegate