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With criticism crushed in the west, Israel can enjoy its impunity

Opinion
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Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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14 Responses

  1. JWalters on July 31, 2019, 5:42 pm

    Thank you for the excellent account of this deplorable situation. Yet again the Israelis demonstrate in spades that they are sadists, plain and simple. For new MW readers, another excellent article on this reality is
    “Sadistic display of violence”
    https://mondoweiss.net/2019/07/palestinians-nationals-hospitalized/

    America’s coerced support for these psychopathic criminals violates every norm of decency that America is intended to stand for. It’s a wonder what bribes and blackmail will do.

  2. Jackdaw on August 1, 2019, 3:35 am

    ” Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.”

    An illegally built apartment building, whose owners had their day in court.

    Most of the dwellings were unoccupied. One or two apartments were occupied by tenants and activists.

    BTW, Jonathan how many years you been living here in Israel?
    Twenty years is it?

    How’s the free health care system you and your family use? Buses running on time? Your kids are safe walking around Nazareth at night? They’re getting a good education?

    Yeah. I thought so.

    “Dental plan..Lisa needs braces”.

    • Talkback on August 1, 2019, 8:37 am

      Jackdaw: “An illegally built apartment building, whose owners had their day in court.”

      Yeah, Nazis were following laws to when they commited some of their atrocities against people under their occupation.

      Do you even THINK before you write? You don’t only support the crimes of Israel but also it criminal laws that legalize their crimes.

      UN statement:
      “Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable. Furthermore, it results in forced evictions, and contributes to the risk of forcible transfer facing many Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

      In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ruled against the legality of the construction of the Barrier and found that the parts of the Barrier that run inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as we see in Sur Bahir, cannot be justified by military exigencies and thus violates Israel’s obligations under international law. Just over 15 years ago, to the day, the UN General Assembly, in Resolution ES-10/15, of 20 July 2004, demanded that Israel comply with its legal obligations as stated in the ICJ’s advisory opinion.

      Had there been concrete action to ensure respect for these principles, and for international humanitarian and human rights law, generally, the people of Sur Bahir would not be experiencing the trauma they are today, and violations of their rights.”
      https://www.ochaopt.org/content/un-officials-statement-demolitions-sur-bahir

      • JWalters on August 1, 2019, 6:37 pm

        According to the land grant in the Torah, all the non-Jews in Palestine have been living in illegal homes. What a convenient law!

    • seancbreathnach on August 1, 2019, 9:15 am

      Israel. the land of milk and honey but only for Israelis.

      Mark Lamont Hill was right, the Israeli occupation is a brutal, indefensible attack on Palestinians basic human rights.

      “While the Declaration of Human Rights insists that no one be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, Palestinians are routinely denied due process of law. West Bank Palestinians are regularly placed under administrative detention, a framework that allows them to be incarcerated for up to six months and can be extended after judicial review without being charged with a crime. The only thing needed for such outcomes is the ambiguous claim of a security threat, a claim used by the Israeli state at all times, at all costs, and for all reasons. Through this vagueness, Palestinians are routinely punished for their political views rather than any actual threat of violence.”

  3. Misterioso on August 1, 2019, 9:43 am

    @jackdaw

    Sigh, more bull crap!!

    Needless to say, “…, whose owners had their day in court” should read “…whose owners had their day in an Israeli court.”

    Meanwhile, the Zionist occupiers, thieves and murderers continue their rampage against the defenseless indigenous Palestinians.

    https://imemc.org/article/israeli-settlers-under-israeli-military-guard-invade-nablus-and-al-aqsa-mosques/

    “Israeli Settlers, Under Israeli Military Guard, Invade Nablus and Al-Aqsa Mosques” IMEMC news, July 30/19

    “Hundreds of Israeli settlers invaded an area near Nablus that they are trying to take over to annex into Israel, while separately , dozens of other Israeli settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem under heavy Israeli military guard.

    “In Nablus, four Palestinians were wounded by live ammunition, while dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation during clashes with the Israeli occupation forces when around 1300 Israeli settlers, accompanied by soldiers, invaded an area east of Nablus.

    “Wafa News Agency reported that confrontations broke out when hundreds of settlers stormed the mosque located east of Nablus.

    “Four Palestinians were wounded by live bullets in the lower limbs.

    “They were taken to Rafidya Hospital for treatment. Dozens more inhaled tear gas. During the confrontations, after the Israeli occupation forces fired tear gas canisters.

    “According to Israeli sources, 1,300 settlers stormed the compound early in the morning, heavily guarded by the Israeli occupation army.

    “In the second incident, in Jerusalem, dozens of Israeli settlers on Tuesday morning renewed their provocative incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Bab al-Mughrabi Gate, where the occupation forces have maintained a presence since they occupied Jerusalem in 1967 .

    “Members of the special units of the Israeli police regularly provide protection to groups of right-wing Israeli settlers during their tours and attempts to perform prayers and rituals in the mosque.

    “These settlers have as their stated purpose to remove the mosque, and replace it with a Jewish synagogue. To that end, they have repeatedly invaded the mosque grounds, as well as dug underneath it in an attempt to cause it to collapse.

    “These invasions are often carried out in the vicinity of the building and chapel of Bab al-Rahma on the eastern side of the blessed mosque.

    “To facilitate the entry of the Jewish Israeli settlers, the Israeli occupation forces prevent the entry of Muslim worshipers.

    “The al-Aqsa Mosque is considered the third holiest site in Islam, and is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims around the world.”

  4. RobertHenryEller on August 1, 2019, 10:07 am

    American Jews: Please note that our “Jewish” friends in Israel, and their Zionist (“Christian” and “Jewish”) backers in the U.S., don’t give a flying eff about right-wing-promoted and condoned anti-Semitism in the US.

    Because only criticism of Israel, in the eyes of Israelis and Zionists, is REAL anti-Semitism. Right?

    Any threats to Jews in America? Screw that!

  5. Elizabeth Block on August 1, 2019, 10:35 am

    One of these days, Jewish organizations like B’nai Brith, the Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, etc., will have a genuine anti-Semitic incident to do something about – and no one will believe them, because they’ve become nothing but shills for Israel.

    Compare this (from an interview with Amira Hass):
    Is that common among your Palestinian friends and associates, the minimization of the Holocaust?

    AH: Unfortunately, yes. It’s not easy. I understand it, I analyze it. Because, you know, Israel lied about so many things, they lied to the world about ’48. So the assumption is that they also lied about the Holocaust. Because it was used against the Palestinians, Palestinians are in a general mood to try to [minimize]. Not all, you know. You see much, much more interest [now] in understanding. And you have Palestinian scholars totally attentive to this history, and who know how to incorporate it in their analysis of the reality. But in general, I confront this. This is one of my painful experiences with people I know and people I meet.

    But this is a result of Israeli policies, not the cause. And Palestinians are not responsible for [those policies]. I mean, when Israel deprives Palestinians of water in the West Bank, it’s not because they say that the Holocaust did not happen. I go to Hebron and it’s not the most urgent topic for a Palestinian there to acknowledge the Holocaust. What they see is how Israelis made their home into a ghost town. So I’m not expecting them to come and tell me, “Oh, we share with you your sorrow.”

    • eljay on August 1, 2019, 11:56 am

      || Elizabeth Block: One of these days, Jewish organizations like B’nai Brith, the Anti-Defamation League, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, etc., will have a genuine anti-Semitic incident to do something about – and no one will believe them, because they’ve become nothing but shills for Israel. … ||

      What continues to baffle me is how diligently Zionists work to undermine international laws and human rights and the protections they are meant to afford all people including Jews.

      The kicker is that at some point some of these Zionists will be screaming for and insisting on the very protections they’ve worked so hard to destroy.

      The hatefulness, immorality, hypocrisy and sheer stupidity of Zionists is truly depressing.

  6. James Canning on August 1, 2019, 1:04 pm

    The suppression of criticism of Israel in the West in my view is not a good thing for Israel’s own true best interests.

    • Nathan on August 6, 2019, 7:46 pm

      It’s absolutely true, James Canning, that it’s in the best interest of Israel that there be criticism. There are many others who agree with you that criticism is a good phenomenon, and so a publication such as Mondoweiss is obviously dedicated to promoting the best interests of the State of Israel by pointing out her faults. Actually, although Mondoweiss claims to be a pro-Palestinian website, there is hardly ever a word of criticism directed at the Palestinians; therefore, it is really doubtful if anyone here really cares about their future.

      Anyway, there is nothing to worry about (in the realm of criticism). There is simply endless criticism of Israel in the UN, in the press, on college campuses and in diplomacy. It’s really silly to claim that criticism of Israel is being “crushed in the west”, as this article would have us believe.

      It’s really interesting to point out that self-criticism is even better that criticism, and self-criticism typifies Israel society. Even this above article brings to our attention two Israeli organizations (‘Ir ‘Ammim and Be-Tzelem) that are dedicated to criticizing their own society. The author of the article apparently didn’t notice the irony of it all in that he quotes the criticism of Israeli organizations while claiming that criticism is being stifled.

      Israel is a very successful state because of her tendency to criticize herself. The Palestinians should take an example from Israel. They are totally incapable of analyzing their mistakes (or of even admitting that they have made mistakes).

      • Keith on August 6, 2019, 11:47 pm

        NATHAN- “Actually, although Mondoweiss claims to be a pro-Palestinian website, there is hardly ever a word of criticism directed at the Palestinians; therefore, it is really doubtful if anyone here really cares about their future.”

        And, if American abolitionists didn’t criticize the Negro slaves sufficiently to please slave owners, does that mean that they didn’t really care about their future?

      • Talkback on August 7, 2019, 9:44 am

        Nathan: “Actually, although Mondoweiss claims to be a pro-Palestinian website, there is hardly ever a word of criticism directed at the Palestinians; therefore, it is really doubtful if anyone here really cares about their future.”

        According to Nathan every single Jewish or Zionist website which doesn’t critisize Jews does not really care about their future. ROFL. Let’s start with the IDF website and then we will move on to the website of the Knesset.

    • Talkback on August 7, 2019, 10:03 am

      Nathan: “There is simply endless criticism of Israel in the UN, in the press, on college campuses and in diplomacy.”

      Yes, it happens to correlate with the Jewish colonist’s endless crimes against the nonjewish natives of Palestine and the utter rejection of abiding to international and human rights law.

      Nathan: “It’s really interesting to point out that self-criticism is even better that criticism, and self-criticism typifies Israel society.”

      Really? What’s the scope of that “self-criticism”? If Israel’s actions are good for the Jews?

      Nathan: “The author of the article apparently didn’t notice the irony of it all in that he quotes the criticism of Israeli organizations while claiming that criticism is being stifled.”

      Now where is the logic in that? The fact that BTselem critizes Israel’s crimes doesn’t mean that Israel is not trying to silence it.

      “In the letter, the rapporteurs said they had received reports that El-Ad, had been targeted by Israeli politicians and Netanyahu after he briefed the UN Security Council about West Bank settlements and the deteriorating human rights situation for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”
      https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/UN-investigators-urge-Netanyahu-to-protect-BTselem-581475

      Israel’s envoy to call on UN to end funding for B’Tselem
      https://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-envoy-to-call-on-un-to-end-funding-for-btselem/

      Nathan: “Israel is a very successful state because of her tendency to criticize herself.”

      ROFL.

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