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Condemnation of the UN settlement database is near universal in Jewish Israeli politics (and U.S. ones)

Media Analysis
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Three days ago, the UN released a long-awaited list of companies that have ties to illegal settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

One may have thought that Israeli politicians on the Zionist left, who at least pretend to have a concern for the illegality of settlements and that elusive “two-state solution”, would welcome the exposure of those complicit in it. But that was hardly the case.

Haaretz editorial yesterday:

But the most surprising response came from the chairman of the Labor-Gesher-Meretz joint ticket, Amir Peretz, who said “We oppose boycotts, and outrageous and superfluous UN decisions. We’ll work in every forum to repeal this decision.” When even a ticket that ostensibly represents the left joins the chorus of condemnations, it’s clear that the line between sovereign Israel and the occupied territories has been almost completely obscured.

So that’s the Zionist left. You can imagine how it is just a bit further right. Centrist Blue White party leader Benny Gantz stated that UN Office of the High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR) “has lost all contact with reality.” His Blue/White co-leader, Yair Lapid, said that the UN office is “commissioner for terrorists’ rights”, threatening that “when we form a government, we’ll work against them with all our might, with no qualms”.

Noa Landau of Haaretz pointed out how the UN’s menace transcended partisan politics:

The prize, however, goes to President Reuven Rivlin. The very president who tries so hard to project a statesmanlike, tolerant, balanced image said that the list is a “shameful initiative reminiscent of dark periods in our history.” In other words, publishing an international database about businesses that operate in the settlements – which is illegal according to international law and UN resolutions – is just as bad in Rivlin’s eyes as the Holocaust. It should be pointed out that this list isn’t even accompanied by any actual sanctions or boycotts, much less gas chambers.

Landau summarizes:

The wall-to-wall support for West Bank settlements voiced in Israel on Wednesday in response to the UN human rights office’s release of a list of businesses operating in the settlements shows that the annexation everyone is talking about these days has actually happened de facto long ago.

Any understanding offered for the list from the Zionist left had to be muted. Meretz, which has joined forces with Labor-Gesher on their right for the March 2 election, has basically allowed Labor leader Peretz to represent their bloc in his condemnatory statement. Yet some were “uncomfortable” with it, as Haaretz reported in Hebrew:

Sources in Meretz told “Haaretz” that Peretz’s formulation of the statement caused in them uncomfortability, but that on the background of the joint election campaign, they preferred to avoid expressing themselves publicly on the matter.

Haaretz notes that Mossi Raz (former Secretary General) from Meretz is apparently the only senior Meretz leader who anyway expressed himself publicly, on Twitter:

Meretz supports boycotting goods from the settlements which are part of the occupation economy. This is a moral position which distinguishes between legitimate Israel and the occupied territories. This position still stands.

On the other hand, Haaretz quotes an anonymous Meretz source saying that “Meretz opposes BDS and international boycotts on Israel”, and another one who said that “the problem with the list that the UN published is that it’s not about settlement products, but rather the whole Israeli business sector: Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim…”.

Bingo! Inadvertently, the list touches upon a central issue that these ‘liberal-Zionists’ seek to avoid. Let’s just look at those banks:

Bank Hapoalim B.M., Bank Leumi Le-Israel B.M., Bank of Jerusalem Ltd., Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd., Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. – all the major Israel banks are involved.

Why on earth would anyone want to avoid looking at this reality?

In 2015, Ben Caspit reported in Maariv (Hebrew):

CONCERNS ABOUT EUROPEAN BOYCOTT: [ISRAELI] BANKS PREPARE FOR A “FINANCIAL-NATIONAL TSUNAMI”… The banks are in panic following a document produced by the research institute facilitating the EU. According to its recommendations, the union must boycott Israeli banks involved in financial activity in the occupied territories.

Caspit cited senior Israeli bank officials on this:

“One way or another”, officials in the Israeli banking system say, “it’s necessary to understand what will happen here on the day that it will be decided to ‘credit mark’. When you mark products it can harm part of the market here and there, but when they mark each credit that the bank gives beyond the Green Line [1967 line] and boycott that bank, the meaning of it is a property confiscation warrant on all the banks. The European banking and credit system is inextricably connected to the Israeli economy, no European bank will accompany projects in Israel, it will not be possible to receive credit in Europe and there is nothing we would be able to do about it”.

In other words, the whole of the Israeli economy is tied up in one way or another with the illegal settlement enterprise, and Israel doesn’t want this effort to reach its logical conclusion – that Israel as a whole is invested in its settlements — because the consequences may mean a “financial-national tsunami”.

The purpose of those advocating for a ‘soft boycott’, that is a ‘selective boycott’ of settlement products in isolation, is precisely to shield Israel from this tsunami. But what if that shielding means hiding the truth? What if it means that things don’t change because the main culprit isn’t targeted?

This was basically the point made by Angela Y. Davis, Chandler Davis, Richard A. Falk, Rashid Khalidi, Alice Rothchild, et al. in the New York Review of Books, concerning ‘selective boycotts’, something that ‘liberal Zionists’ Todd Gitlin, Peter Beinart, Kai Bird, Peter Brooks, Michael Walzer, Edward Witten, et al. had publicly promoted. While the former writers welcomed “the statement’s shattering of the taboo against boycotting Israeli entities that are complicit in—at least selective—violations of Palestinian human rights”, they nonetheless wondered why it could not reach a more wholesome conclusion:

Defying common sense, however, the statement calls for boycotting settlements while letting Israel, the state that has illegally built and maintained those settlements for decades, off the hook.

The issue with the banks is representative of that logic. It’s not just about avocados that are grown in an illegal settlement. The question is also, who finances the whole project, and who gives it political legitimacy?

The UN list simply highlights this reality, and some people don’t want to have the overall criminality out in full daylight. They want to live in a dream where the 1967 occupation is an aberration which needs to be addressed in separation from Israel as a whole.

Responses in US Congress

The responses in the US Congress are quite similar to those in Israel, actually. Foundation for Middle East Peace rounds up the responses. Any Democrats showing welcome or even understanding for the publishing of the list? Lara Friedman writes:

Zero. Zilch. Bubkis. As in, not a single member of Congress (so far) was willing to defend a DATABASE that does nothing more than offer a modicum of transparency that can allow American citizens to make informed choices about who they give their hard-earned money to. As in, not a single member of Congress had the integrity to reject the blatant mischaracterization of the database as a blacklist. As in, not a single member of Congress had the courage to call out the brazen, cynical conflation of settlements and Israel by those attacking the database — conflation that aligns neatly with the Trump “peace” plan and its normalization of settlements and green light for annexation. Truly a shameful performance from members on both sides of the aisle who pretend to support the two-state solution, or who maintain a pretense that facts and laws matter.

From the Israel-cheerleader Debby Wasserman Schultz (D-FL):

I strongly condemn the UN blacklisting of companies working in the West Bank. Singling out Israel furthers the discriminatory BDS movement a bipartisan House majority opposed. Rather than incite boycotts the UN should promote direct bilateral negotiations to achieve lasting peace.

And from the slightly more reserved House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

We are concerned that the U.N. Human Rights Council’s announcement is not in furtherance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

How about we face the facts? Why does it have to be so complicated? That list is not an invention. It is based squarely on assessments according to international law. Why can’t we say that it is Israeli criminality that is “not in furtherance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, rather than the UN list which merely states the obvious?

Silence. Everyone’s afraid to be labelled an anti-Semite these days.

H/t Edith Breslauer, Ofer Neiman

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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8 Responses

  1. eljay on February 15, 2020, 12:58 pm

    All (pro-)Zionsts – even “hold their noses” liberal types – want the same thing: Jewish supremacism in/and as large as possible a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”.

    … From the Israel-cheerleader Debby Wasserman Schultz (D-FL):

    I strongly condemn the UN blacklisting of companies working in the West Bank. Singling out Israel furthers the discriminatory BDS movement …

    I strongly agree with Ms. Wasserman. Israel is a deliberately and unapologetically colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist state. It should not be “singled out” with a lame “blacklisting of companies working in the West Bank”. Like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya (to name but a few countries), it should be relentlessly demonized and subjected to crushing economic sanctions, destabilization, military occupation, bombardment campaigns and/or regime change.

  2. Misterioso on February 15, 2020, 4:13 pm

    @eljay

    Well said!!
    Once again, you’re “right on the money.”

  3. Elizabeth Block on February 16, 2020, 8:46 am

    This is really frightening the Zionists. BDS, so far, has been effective politically – yes, it’s an attempt to delegitimize Israel and Zionism – but not economically. This is different. This is about the Benjamins, and the shekels.

  4. Misterioso on February 16, 2020, 9:42 am

    Reality:

    https://forward.com/opinion/439909/support-for-israeli-settlements-is-marginalizing-america-and-helping/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Sunday%20Newsletter%20RSS&utm_maildate=02/16/2020

    “How Support for Israeli Settlements is marginalizing America – and Helping Palestinans”
    By Sari Bashi, The Forward, Feb. 13,2020

    “Wednesday’s publication of a U.N. database of companies doing business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank signals the growing chasm between US policy toward Israel/Palestine and that of nearly everyone else. But far from undermining the database, forceful American opposition to its publication is likely to further delegitimize American Mideast policy and expand the space for more constructive diplomacy and international mechanisms of accountability for Israel/Palestine.

    “Israeli settlements violate international humanitarian law. Their creation and expansion constitute a war crime by the Israeli officials who enable Israeli civilians into the occupied West Bank at the expense of three million Palestinians whose rights are denied. And the settlements trigger human rights abuses, including property seizure, restrictions on freedom of movement and discrimination. In order to make life comfortable for 600,000 Jewish settlers, Israel has limited or eliminated Palestinian access to most of the West Bank by building fences and walls, blocking roads with concrete barriers, closing off land and refusing to restrain settler violence that deters Palestinians from accessing their property.

    “Businesses operating in or with settlements contribute to these human rights abuses by setting up shop on stolen land, providing services to Israelis but not Palestinians and normalizing a two-tiered discriminatory system. In the US, we called a version of this ‘Jim Crow.’ In South Africa, its name was Apartheid.

    “Despite pressure from Israel and the US, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has finally implemented a 2016 Human Rights Council resolution to publish the names of companies doing business in and with Israeli settlements. The list is a conservative estimate, containing the names of only 18 foreign companies, despite evidence linking many others to settlements.

    “But the database is meant to be updated regularly, providing people with information they can use to make informed decisions about where to spend their money. And it’s consistent with other moves to treat settlement products differently from products from Israel, including more stringent EU guidelines on labeling and a nearly-final Irish law that would ban settlement imports. It comes just two months after the International Criminal Court prosecutor announced her intention to open an investigation into possible crimes committed in Palestine, with the transfer of Israeli civilians into the occupied territory foremost among them.

    “Threats of retaliation from some US lawmakers, including vows to pass laws that would criminalize refusal to do business in Israeli settlements, will only accelerate an existing trend of sidelining American diplomacy in Israel/Palestine and empowering other actors — especially the EU and the UN — to take a more active and, one hopes, more constructive role.

    “For more than a half century, US weapons, diplomatic backing and financial assistance have enabled the Israeli government to perpetuate military rule over the West Bank and Gaza Strip. US hegemony over Israel/Palestine diplomacy had until recently edged out other actors who might have had a more restraining influence on the Israeli authorities, including the United Nations and European countries whose trade ties are important to Israel.

    “Despite the rhetoric of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations against settlements and in favor of creating a Palestinian state, US diplomacy in the region has facilitated illegal Israeli settlement of the West Bank and domination over Palestinians. Just in the last twenty years, Israel has built a barrier that encloses a tenth of the West Bank on the Israeli side, and fragments the remaining areas; built bypass roads that allow Palestinians to travel under, over or alongside Israeli-only roads; closed the Gaza Strip nearly hermetically and entrenched a legal regime that treats Israelis and Palestinians, living side by side, separately and unequally.

    “All the while, the US was busily proposing multiple peace plans — the 2002 Road Map, the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access and the 2013 Kerry plan. All of these took up space without delivering results.

    “But the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 has helped to erase the veneer of American diplomatic legitimacy.

    “Trump appointed an Israel ambassador who has fiercely supported Israeli settlements. He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem in the first year of his presidency. He gave right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two elections campaign gifts: first he approved Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights weeks ahead of the April 2019 Israeli elections and then, last month, he approved annexation of at least parts of the West Bank, in advance of more Israeli elections this March.

    “All this is increasingly out of step with trends elsewhere in the world, such as this week’s publication of the database.

    “As Israeli control over the Palestinian territory looks more and more permanent, the world is slowly moving in the opposite direction of the United States. Even quiescent allies like the EU are finding it increasingly difficult to defend US support for a policy of Israeli hegemony over Palestinians.

    “Yes, the US can and will continue to veto UN Security Council resolutions and provide Israel with billions of dollars worth of weapons every year. But measures such as grassroots pressure on businesses to pull out of settlements and a possible international criminal investigation may bypass that American military, diplomatic and economic force.

    “If that trend picks up speed, then the publication of the database is just the beginning.”

    ___________________________________

    Sari Bashi is an Israeli human rights lawyer and analyst. She has researched and published reports on human rights violations by businesses operating in Israeli settlements.

  5. James Canning on February 16, 2020, 11:17 am

    Israel has flouted international law for decades now, with its illegal Jewish colonies in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Bravo to the UN for bringing attention to this problem. And watch US politicians exert themselves to facilitate Israel’s illegal activities.

  6. punterweger on February 16, 2020, 12:03 pm

    Palestinians almost universally welcomed the publication of this long-delayed list. I support BDS because, outside of the resistance on the ground, it is the most powerful support of justice for Palestinians, and can only shake my head at the super-radicals who agree with “Israel cheerleader Debby Wasserman-Schulz” who demonizes the BDS and is an unconditional supporter of the crimes Israel commits against Palestinians.

  7. oldgeezer on February 16, 2020, 10:02 pm

    Well that’s a shocker. War criminals and those profiting from war crimes and human rights abuses don’t like to have that highlighted. Cry me a river. You were given decades to curtail the obvious, clear and even adjudicated abuses. You suck. You lose. Get over yourselves. You still have time to correct things if you want to but you won’t. The price tag, rip off of the saying is intentional, is coming due. And it’s not going to be cheap.

  8. gamal on February 17, 2020, 12:03 pm

    A moment of bitter humour from that other occupation, in the course of which a man died and there were injuries I think, but still …

    “US Patrol Turned Back at Syrian Army Checkpoint. US Officer: “We Are Here to Bring Peace Just Like the Russians”
    Syrian officer: “Wherever the US goes it brings death and destruction, you are not welcome here”

    if you have seen the full video taken from the Syrian side you will have some sympathy for sentiments of the Russians who watched things unfold…

    “– Look, he is shooting.

    – Who?

    – The pindos [a derogatory term for Americans].

    – What is he shooting at? He is shooting at something. He is shooting over their heads.

    – An outrage… They are moronic soldiers.

    – “Bringing peace”…

    – What does he want even want?

    – There was no order to open fire.

    – Nobody will understand anything.

    – He is blocked, he has nowhere to go… This is the [person/vehicle] we are supposed to guard.

    – He poured something on its back too.

    – And you, comrade major, ask, “Why everybody is [expletive muted]?” Huh? You understand now that there is no difference between them.

    – But they shoot, see, there are impacts.

    – Aviation…

    – What’s that?

    – F-16 or something…

    – He gets lower… There he is.

    – What’s his caliber?

    – 12.7.

    – They have provoked it themselves.

    ” Among everything else a Syrian villager also had fun raising his national flag over one of the US vehicles:

    – “Smile you’re in the Syrian Arab Republic, you asshole. Film, film, film the mercenaries with the Syrian flag over their heads” ”

    https://www.anti-empire.com/us-patrol-turned-back-at-syrian-army-checkpoint-us-officer-we-are-here-to-bring-peace-just-like-the-russians/

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