Diana Buttu & Gideon Levy on Israeli Settlements, Kerry, Military Aid & End of Two-State Solution

Democracy Now! December 30, 2016

Guests
Diana Buttu — attorney based in Palestine. She has served as a legal adviser to the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel. She was previously an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Gideon Levy — Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. His new article is titled "UN Resolution is a Breath of Hope in Sea of Darkness and Despair." Levy is also the author of The Punishment of Gaza.

Secretary of State John Kerry has blasted Israel’s government, saying in a major address on Wednesday that the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank threatens Israel’s democracy and has all but ended the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians. "If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic; it cannot be both," Kerry said. "And it won’t ever really be at peace." Kerry’s speech followed intense Israeli criticism of the U.S. for refusing to veto a Security Council resolution last week. The measure condemns Israel’s expansion of settlements as a flagrant violation of international law. The resolution passed in a 14-0 vote. The U.S. abstained. We speak to Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu and Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist.


TRANSCRIPT

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A Black Flag

From: Jennifer Loewenstein
Subject: Resuming Emails: Gideon Levy – A Black Flag
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2006 00:17:34 +0100

Last week I was in the West Bank and East Jerusalem trying to accomplish work for a research project, hence my absence. All I can say now is that what you are reading in real news reports about the IDF push into Gaza and the arrest of half of the Hamas government on the West Bank last Thursday is as terrible as these articles portray it, if not worse. The tension in the air is almost visible. The director of a West Bank NGO and respected politician (even today) says that we are on the eve of the Third Intifada. Last Wednesday when the first rumors of an IDF invasion of Ramallah hit the news, foreigners were asked to leave the city. By 5:00 pm more than 1000 youths had gathered at the Manara Square (city center) armed with rocks and sticks, and unveiled a huge Palestinian flag down the middle of the Lions’ statues monument. The IDF did not enter that day. Instead, a convoy of jeeps and army vehicles entered the city in stealth in the middle of the night arresting many of the Hamas officials including 8 ministers in the cabinet. The situation in Gaza is far worse and the Gaza Strip remains deliberately locked shut to the world. Nobody is allowed in or out except select foreign journalists, diplomats and, today, a handful of aide workers. Meanwhile the Hamas ministers with Jerusalem residency cards were stripped of their right to enter the city. Entry to Bethlehem was cut off to Palestinians from East Jerusalem as well and, according to a reliable Israeli journalist, the next to be restricted will be the entry at Qalandiya. Whatever happens, now is the time to speak up. Please do not betray the people of Palestine with silence. JL.


The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 2 July 2006

A black flag hangs over the “rolling” operation in Gaza. The more the operation “rolls,” the darker the flag becomes. The “summer rains” we are showering on Gaza are not only pointless, but are first and foremost blatantly illegitimate. It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria’s airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament.

A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization. The harsher the steps, the more monstrous and stupid they become, the more the moral underpinnings for them are removed and the stronger the impression that the Israeli government has lost its nerve. Now one must hope that the weekend lull, whether initiated by Egypt or the prime minister, and in any case to the dismay of Channel 2’s Roni Daniel and the IDF, will lead to a radical change.

Everything must be done to win Gilad Shalit’s release. What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet have wanted to conduct for some time, mostly motivated by the deep frustration that the army commanders feel about their impotence against the Qassams and the daring Palestinian guerilla raid. There’s a huge gap between the army unleashing its frustration and a clever and legitimate operation to free the kidnapped soldier.

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The Israel Lobby

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, London Review of Books, 23 March 2006

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.

Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the US, but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 per cent of its allocation to subsidise its own defence industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the US opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the US has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its Nato allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

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Twilight Zone: They said they’d kill me

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 10, 2005

Here he is – the survivor. His head and arms bandaged, his cheek gashed, his right ear deaf. In pain, weak, exhausted, scared, stunned, angry, bitter. Hilal Majaida, 18, from Muwasi. For eight years he hadn’t left that area, in the heart of the Gaza Strip. Now he’s trying to recover at his cousin’s home in Khan Yunis and refuses to think about going home, for fear of the settlers. He won’t go back until after the disengagement, he told us this week. Until then he’ll stay without his parents, brothers and sisters. They are there and he is here, almost within walking distance, but separated by the Tufah checkpoint. He sought refuge in an office in the city belonging to his uncle, a contractor, after he got fed up with being hospitalized and fled from the hospital in Khan Yunis on Sunday.

Now he’s planning to go to Egypt, for an operation to save his ear, which the doctors in Khan Yunis recommended. No thank you, he says: He doesn’t want to receive any medical treatment in Israel. “There are enough hospitals in the Arab countries.” He hadn’t heard about the big uproar in Israel caused by the scenes of the lynch that were broadcast on television. He didn’t see the pictures and never wants to: “It will have a bad effect on me.” His parents saw. They saw the settlers throwing rocks at him, rock after rock, with fury and murderous intent. “He’s a Palestinian! Kill him!” one of them yells as Hilal is lying unconscious behind a gray brick wall opposite the building that was taken over by the settlers – the building where someone had scrawled in Hebrew: “Mohammed is a pig.”

A fisherman in a sea where he is prohibited to fish, a truck driver in an area where it’s prohibited to move, he was impatiently biding his time waiting for the disengagement, until these uninvited neighbors would finally be out of his life and that of others in Muasi. If Gaza is one big prison, then Muwasi is the dungeon – a prison within a prison. Here he spent his empty days and nights, until last Wednesday, the day of the lynch. On the white sand beach, between the Neveh Dekalim hotel – rechristened Maoz Hayam – and the building taken over by the settlers – Tal Hayam (nice shiny Hebrew names to cover acts of theft and exploitation) – sits the Majaida family home.

This past Sunday, it was quiet in this stretch of land, after the Israel Defense Forces employed Palestinian workers to clean the empty apartment house of Mansur al-Bayuk, which the settlers had coveted, of the vicious graffiti that had been sprayed on it. On the sand behind the brick wall, the crime scene, there were also no signs left of what had happened here four days earlier. A few children wandered about idly on the sand, Muwasi’s summer camp, while vehicles belonging to settlers, the army and the police flew by. The people from Muwasi are also allowed to travel by car – one kilometer north, one kilometer south. They are fenced in between one settlement and another – the places that are home to the “victims” who are soon going to be evacuated.

Hilal isn’t at home. He’s in Khan Yunis whose buildings are visible from here. To get to him, we have to go all the way north to the Erez checkpoint and then go all the way back down south, through the Gaza Strip, on our way to see the survivor of the lynching.

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They Broke the Public’s Heart

For years, the news media ignored the injustices the settlers inflicted on their neighbors.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Jul 03, 2005

The media is to blame: For months, it portrayed the story of the “great sacrifice” the evacuated settlers must make. For years, it ignored the injustices they inflicted on their neighbors and thus helped portray the settlers in a false light. The result: broad public sympathy for their bitter fate and shock over their brutal behavior, as if blocking roads or even the lynching of a Palestinian teenager is something new or unusual. But in the territories, the settlers have been violently blocking roads for years, and harsh brutality toward Palestinians is also nothing new. The only novelty is that suddenly they are showing this on television.

If the media had exposed the full scope of the settlers’ deeds over the years – the dubious ways in which they took over land, the huge budgets they received, their violent behavior – perhaps they would have been denounced long ago, as should be done by a healthy society. If their full story had been told, perhaps we would not have blindly subscribed to the distinction between “moderate” and “extreme” settlers, to their portrayal as modern day pioneers and to the sugary and hypocritical preaching for dialogue with them. Israeli society chose to be led by their cynical manipulations, and we journalists lent a hand to this. “A leftist mafia?” What a ridiculous contention. Never has there been such an impressive media success here as that of the right. An enterprise that was criminal from the outset was depicted as one of high principles, even by people who favor compromise with the Palestinians. It was portrayed as an enterprise worthy of sympathy and appreciation, mainly comprised of idealists – and even if some stray weeds sprouted there, they were just an exception.

This false conception is now collapsing – the conception of this illegitimate enterprise’s legitimacy, fostered by politicians, military personnel and journalists. The rotten fruits of this distorted description are now placed at our doorstep – at Muasi, Maoz Yam, Tal Yam, the blocked highways of Israel, tire spikes and all of the other expressions of violence.

For several months, the media has devoted inflated coverage to the suffering of the evacuees, and we are subject to heartrending and senseless descriptions. Every teenage girl from Gush Katif who pours out her heart in a diary is awarded a tear-jerking column, every rabbi becomes a profound philosopher and every housewife an angry prophet. Every piece of land cultivated by Palestinian and Thai workers employed under disgraceful conditions becomes part of the sacred homeland, and the relocation of inhabitants under deluxe terms is presented as uprooting and rending. The evacuators and evacuees are described as “weeping together.” Soldiers who destroyed and killed in the territories without inhibition are suddenly in need of emotional support. In this way, the price of the evacuation is raised and the next evacuation is prevented. There is no proportion between the suffering of the evacuees – to whom the state is extending generous assistance in every area – and the lamentation over them. These spin doctors, the settlers, pluck every string, from their children to the graves of their family members, to create an image of victimhood. It is no wonder the country is painted orange.

Suddenly we are showing a rare sensitivity for human suffering. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, as their homes, with all of their possessions, were crushed by Israel Defense Forces bulldozers, without warning, without compensation, without evacuation. The hundreds of families whose homes were expropriated for various purposes, the farmers dispossessed of their lands, the uprooted trees and the children who silently witnessed the brutality – these were never given even a fraction of the media coverage the settlers have received.

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Victory of Brutality

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Mar 14, 2004

A new species of officer is achieving greatness in the Israel Defense Forces. These people did most of their service as occupation officers, and their excellence is a function of the degree of violence and brutality they exercise against the Palestinians. The most striking example of this trend is Brigadier General Gadi Shamni, a graduate of Lebanon and Hebron, who last week concluded his tour of duty as commander of the Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip and was promoted to head of the Operations Division in the General Staff, a post which is a major step on the way to becoming a major general. The promotion of an officer of this type speaks volumes about the IDF’s value system and its order of priorities, far more than what it says about Shamni himself.

Perhaps not since the days when Ariel Sharon was a serving major general has the Gaza Strip seen an officer as violent, as boastful and as brutal as General Shamni. If Shamni’s predecessor, Brigadier General Yisrael Ziv, only mounted numerous useless operations against the lathes of Gaza, which also resulted in nothing more than unnecessary bloodshed but didn’t prevent the firing of Qassam rockets at Israeli targets, along came Shamni and initiated a series of showcase operations – totally pointless and only generated even more killing.

In the last of these operations, the one that resulted in the killing of 15 Palestinians last week, Shamni even articulated a new IDF doctrine: “stimulus and response.” The purpose of the operation, it was reported, was “to stimulate the armed individuals to come out and then kill them off.” This method, which led to the killing of innocent people, including children, drew no critical reaction. No one asked why every armed Palestinian is marked for death and why it’s necessary to “stimulate” armed people in Gaza altogether. Shamni decided, executed and was promoted. Some in the IDF also explained that the latest operation was actually meant to be a “farewell party” on the eve of the ceremony of the handover of command.

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And the twins died

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 1/9/04

The twin girls died one after the other. The first to die was the one who was born first, at the checkpoint. Several hours later came the death of her sister, who was born a few minutes after they finally left the checkpoint, and who managed to reach the hospital alive. One lived for less than an hour, the other for less than a day. The death certificate lists their ages as one day old and zero. One died in the arms of her grandmother, the other was carried in the arms of her aunt, while their mother was lying in an ambulance, freezing, trembling, exhausted and humiliated after what she had gone through at the IDF checkpoint near her village.

This past Sunday, the two bespectacled soldiers at the checkpoint at the entrance to Deir Balut direct us with unusual politeness to the path through the fields that leads to the village. The asphalt road to the village is regularly closed off with cement blocks and barbed wire, despite the fact that there is a manned checkpoint at the other end. Why is travel forbidden on the main road, and allowed only on the rocky path? Only in order to subject the 4,000 residents of this attractive village to further mistreatment, and to pacify the settlers in the area, residents of Paduel, Alei Zahav and Beit Aryeh, who whiz past on the well-paved Jewish roads.

Lamis, 25, Raad, 36, and Sabaa, 15 months old. A young and attractive couple with a daughter, a house in the village and horses in the yard. They married five years ago. Raad studied accounting for four years in Bombay, India, worked as a croupier in the casino in Jericho and is now unemployed, and makes a little money from agriculture, in his family’s olive grove. A tattered black leather jacket and gel in his hair. The couple was eagerly awaiting the birth of the twins that Lamis was carrying. She was in her seventh month, and they knew that she was about to give birth.

It happened about two and a half weeks ago, on the night of December 21, a particularly cold night. Shortly after 1 A.M. Lamis woke Raad. She had contractions. Raad went outside, borrowed a car from a neighbor and drove to Zawiya, the neighboring village, to his wife’s doctor, to get a letter of referral for the government hospital in Ramallah. The hospital in Nablus is closer, but the road is full of checkpoints, and for the hospital in Ramallah he needed a referral. The doctor gave him the letter and promised to order an ambulance from the infirmary in Beit Rima, about 20 kilometers from Deir Balut. Raad returned home, picked up his wife, and together they drove in the neighbor’s car on the rocky road, in the direction of the village checkpoint. His sister and his mother joined them for the journey.

Next to the concrete blocks of the village checkpoint he stopped the car. It was shortly after 2 A.M. “I have no words to describe the weather outside. Freezing cold and wind,” recalls Raad. From the checkpoint he phoned the ambulance, which reported that it was on the way. Lamis’ condition deteriorated, her pains intensified, and Raad’s sister suggested that until the ambulance arrived they should wait in one of the houses near the checkpoint, in order to protect Lamis from the cold.

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The killing fields of Rafah

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Nov 30, 2003
  
Quietly, far from the public eye, Israeli soldiers continue killing Palestinians. Hardly a day goes by without casualties, some innocent civilians, and the stories of their violent deaths never reach the Israeli consciousness or awareness. If there is one consistent piece of data in the current intifada, it is the number of Palestinian casualties: dozens a month, unceasingly.

There were 30 in November, 57 in October, 33 in September. In May and June, the number of casualties reached 60 a month (all data supplied by B’Tselem). While Palestinian terror shocks us with its brutality, the daily killing of innocent Palestinians in far greater numbers is ignored – unless it is a case of an army operation as in Nusseirat refugee camp in October.

Here’s a list of victims from the last month, taken from the margins of the daily newspaper chronicles: A 32-year-old motorcyclist shot to death in the chest after soldiers said he tried to escape a checkpoint near Iskar refugee camp; a 10-year-old boy from Sejaya in Gaza who was bird hunting with a slingshot near the separation fence around Gaza, killed by a tank shell fired at him; an eighth-grader from Barukin, near Jenin, who threw stones at soldiers, shot dead; a youth shot to death during “disturbances” after the funeral of his friend in Jenin; a taxi driver and father of six shot to death in Tul Karm by soldiers who thought he was trying to get away; a 15-year-old killed in Yata during some arrests; a nine-year-old killed by IDF fire in Rafah; and three Palestinians who were on their way to the holiday dinner last Wednesday in Gaza, killed by soldiers who claimed they thought the three were an armed cell.

The IDF admitted the next day that they were “accidentally” killed. But a day later, Brigadier General Gad Shamni, commander of the Gaza forces in the Strip hurried to say the soldiers actually behaved correctly. Even though three innocent people were killed, he didn’t even think it was a mistake.

Life in the killing fields of Rafah, for example, is as cheap as the hundreds of houses that have been demolished there for various, strange reasons. Just a few days ago, the IDF demolished the home of someone in their custody whom the army claimed was responsible for the smuggling tunnels. There’s no need for blood on the hands to justify demolishing a person’s house in the current intifada. Only someone who has lately visited Rafah can understand how cheap life has become in this remote place, where there’s practically no building that has not been damaged.

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Gate No. 542

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, August 8, 2003

The occupation’s latest wrinkle is the separation fence and its permanent gates. A visit at `Open Sesame’ time.

About a dozen farmers stood around late last Sunday afternoon, in the fields of Zita, a farming village north of Tul Karm, waiting for the men in the Border Police Jeep to open the gate in the fence built without permission on their fields. They knew the Jeep would arrive between 5:30 P.M. and 6 and they waited patiently on both sides of the fence, a few squatting on the ground. Those on the way home stood to the west of the fence, and those going out to their greenhouses stood on the eastern side. Anyone going out to the greenhouses now won’t be coming home tonight; this is the last time today the gate will be opened.

At six precisely, the Jeep arrived. Five armed policemen in head-to-toe protective gear exited the armored vehicle,
made a report by phone and formed a half-circle by the gate. Feet planted wide, weapons cocked; one lit a Marlboro, another took out a key. Wordlessly, he opened the big, silver-plated lock hanging on the gate in the fence, a fence made of wire and electronic sensors. Barbed wire, electric cables, iron posts and dirt trenches to besiege farmers whose lives, liberty and honor are now crushed a little more thoroughly.

“That’s how hatred is sown,” comments Taysir Jeda, the village lawyer and English teacher, and who has also come to tend his fields. Indifferent to the action around them, frogs croak rhythmically from the drainage ditch, nearly 100 meters across, that borders the intimidating fence. Shortly the gate will close. Whoever made it through, made it; whoever did not, will spend the night in a greenhouse. The Jeep with the key won’t be back here again until tomorrow morning, come what may.

“Danger. Military Area. Anyone crossing or touching the fence does so at his own risk,” is written on the sign over the fence. The latest innovation of the occupation, these yellow iron gates – the locked transit points of the separation fence which, in this area, separates farmers from their fields. This is a “humanitarian” arrangement that will last, one may venture to guess, a very brief time, pursuant to which Border Police come periodically to open the gate for the caged-in farmers, a good-will gesture from the most humane military force in the world.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Committee for the Struggle Against the Separation Fence in the Northern West Bank, Suheil Salman, reports a migration of people eastward, it’s not clear how sizable, because of the hardships the fence has caused: the people of Qalqilyah, closed off and fenced in like in a ghetto; the town of Kafin, north of Tul Karm, whose residents lost 20,000 dunams [5,000 acres] of their land in 1948 and another 5,000 or so dunams for the settlement of Hermesh. And now along comes the fence and takes most of what is left.

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