U.N. Report: Israel Imposes ‘Apartheid Regime’ on Palestinians

Reuters, Newsweek, 3/15/17

A U.N. agency published a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a U.N. body had clearly made the charge.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report, which was published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to Der Sturmer—a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.

The report concluded “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The accusation – often directed at Israel by its critics – is fiercely rejected by Israel.

U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said the report was the “first of its type” from a U.N. body that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people”.

ESCWA comprises 18 Arab states in Western Asia and aims to support economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of member states, Khalaf said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the report was published without any prior consultation with the U.N. secretariat.

01_14_israeli_01Israeli Arab boys stand on the rubble of houses demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the northern Israeli city of Qalansuwa January 11. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general (Antonio Guterres),” said Dujarric, adding that the report itself notes that it reflects the views of the authors.

The United States, an ally of Israel, said it was outraged by the report.

“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said in a statement.

The Israeli ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon‏, commenting on Twitter, also noted the report had not been endorsed by the U.N. secretary-general.

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.

The report said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.”

“However, only a ruling by an international tribunal in that sense would make such an assessment truly authoritative,” it added.

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Israel lashes out at Palestine activists

“This is what happens to Palestinians every day. You can’t be a democracy while you keep millions of people under siege and military occupation.”

Charlotte Silver, The Electronic Intifada, 15 March 2017

Hugh Lanning, chair of the UK’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was denied entry by Israel. (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Less than a week after Israel’s parliament passed a law barring entry to supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Israel has sought to make an example of a prominent UK activist.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told The Electronic Intifada that he was planning a four-day visit in occupied East Jerusalem.

But he was denied entry when he flew into Israel’s main airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday.

A few days earlier, Israeli police detained anti-occupation activist Jeff Halper, on suspicion of “incitement.” Police said they had been informed that Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, was distributing “materials related to BDS.” They released him after concluding he had committed no violations.

A 2011 Israeli law allows advocates of boycott to be sued for damages.

Israel’s crackdown on critics is escalating just as a landmark UN report has found that Israel is guilty of the international crime of apartheid. The report calls on governments around the world to support BDS.

Israel is also showing its anger against the government of South Africa. It is reportedly planning to summon Pretoria’s ambassador for a dressing down over comments made by South African officials likening Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid.

“Hostile to Israel”

After being held for over seven hours, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Lanning was told he would be denied entry because his activities were “hostile to Israel.”

No further explanation was provided to Lanning at the time he was expelled, but before he returned to London the following morning, Israel’s immigration authority and the ministry of strategic affairs had released a statement saying Lanning was deported because of his efforts to advance the boycott of Israel.

Strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan, who leads the country’s effort to thwart the Palestine solidarity movement, said he was working with the interior ministry to deny entry to those “acting against Israel.”

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Unlearning apartheid apologism: A Jewish response to Israeli Apartheid Week

Stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism

Article ImageRya Inman / Spectator

Sophie Edelhart, Eliza Moss-Horwitz, Jack Snyder, Columbia Daily Spectator, March 5, 2017

Nearly two years ago, the three of us arrived on this campus as Jewish teens inoculated with an intense fear of the Israeli/Palestinian debate. We had been told for years in day school and summer camp that we would be provoked by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric—presented to us as synonymous—and warned that we would be made to feel ashamed of our Jewish identities.

 What we actually found ourselves confronting when we arrived at Columbia, however, was the way our education and socialization in the mainstream Jewish world hadn’t prepared us for the conversations about Israel/Palestine happening on college campuses. We had been lied to and deceived by our teachers, parents, camp counselors, role models, and community leaders. We came to realize just how much the Jewish community has yet to reckon with the violence and dispossession that American Jews are complicit in perpetuating.

 When we first came to this campus, we felt that Israeli Apartheid Week was an affront to our very existence as Jewish students, because we had been taught to conflate criticism towards Israeli apartheid—the practices of systemic discrimination and state violence against Palestinians—with criticisms of Jewish identity. What we hadn’t learned from our combined 26 years of Jewish day school, countless hours spent in Hebrew school and synagogue, and years of Jewish summer camp, was that Judaism could flourish without the need for ethnonationalism—the supremacy of Jewish ethnic identity in the State of Israel—or racist apartheid policies. We hadn’t learned that that those policies were being enacted in our name and in the name of all Jewish people. 

We had been lied to, but more than that, we had been raised in a community that failed to face the anti-democratic reality of the State of Israel. Rather than being taught to pursue justice for all—Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and non-Jews—we had been told to defend Israel at all costs. Some of us who grew up in liberal Zionist communities had been taught a watered-down version of this: that we should care for others, for the Palestinians, and that we could criticize Israel’s racist policies so long as that criticism didn’t threaten the ethnoracial makeup of our Jewish-majority state. 

Retrospectively, it’s hard to justify why we fell for this narrative—how we could somehow stand against racism while defending a state’s ideology that privileged us as Jews above all others. It makes sense, though, because, to quote a recent monologue from the Israeli television show “Good Night with Assaf Hare,” “It doesn’t take much to sedate the satiated side of the apartheid.”

What we really needed as we were growing up was a community that confronted Israeli occupation, dispossession, and violence. We needed a community that could shout with their loudest voices against apartheid policies, racist immigration laws, and human rights violations. We needed a community that taught its children that particularistic ethnonationalism and Jewish exceptionalism have no place in Judaism, a religion that acknowledges its own liberation as inherently linked to the liberation of others. 

We needed our community to stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism and to recognize that one can criticize Israel as a geopolitical player without criticizing the Jewish people at large. This conflation only served to drive us further into our chauvinistic shells of violent nationalism and obscured the very real and increasing threat of genuine anti-Semitism on the rise.

We deserved an upbringing that didn’t hide from its complicity in Israeli apartheid, that didn’t rely on ethnonationalism as the answer to Jewish communal suffering, and that didn’t tie our very existence as Jews to a political ideology rooted in ideas of national exclusivity. But we can’t change our childhoods and our years of socialization in Jewish communities, so we must look to our campus as a place to learn, unlearn, and grow. 

Because of this, when we came to campus, we cringed at the word “apartheid” when it was used to describe Israel; we shied away from political debates surrounding Israel and Palestine. This year during Israeli Apartheid Week, we saw our fellow Jewish students do the same. We heard countless excuses for why students don’t engage, for why they don’t support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and for why they disagree with the rhetoric of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, causing them to turn their backs on campus discourse surrounding Palestinian liberation. 

We, as Jewish students of Columbia, Barnard, and Jewish Theological Seminary, must be better than this. Our history is one that is rooted in dispossession, fear, loss, and diaspora. We are Jews with lasting generational trauma. We must confront this and reckon with it; we must work with those facing similar traumas of dispossession, similar fears, similar losses, and similar diaspora today.

It makes sense why Jewish students on this campus see Israeli Apartheid Week as an affront to their Jewish identities. However, it is not because JVP, SJP, or even the BDS movement wish to delegitimize Jewish existence or peoplehood. Rather, it is due to the fact that for years the Jewish community has chosen to cover its eyes and plug its ears, screaming “I can’t hear you” at any mention of human rights violations, apartheid, state violence, expulsion, or ethnic cleansing, and has chosen to label the people who do make those claims as anti-Semites and self-hating Jews. Not only is this wrong, it dangerously conflates the violent policies of the Zionist state with a meaningful Jewish existence in the diaspora. 

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March 13, 2017
The impact of UN recognition on Palestinian public opinion

206 Ingraham Hall
UW-Madison [Map]
12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

UW Middle East Studies Program presents Nadav Shelef (Professor, department of Political Science, UW-Madison) speaking on “The impact of UN recognition on Palestinian public opinion.”

In the fall of 2012, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Palestine as a “nonmember observer state.” His talk will present research showing that the UNGA recognition shaped Palestinian mass attitudes towards both territorial compromise and the use of violence to achieve national aims. Specifically, international recognition simultaneously increased support for partition as a strategy of conflict resolution and decreased support for compromise on the territorial terms of partition. With respect to attitudes towards the use of violence, we find that international recognition significantly reduced popular support for violence, but only among Palestinians who did not identify with any of the existing Palestinian political parties.

For more info please contact: Névine El Nossery, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, elnossery at wisc.edu

Bernie Sanders: On Anti-Semitism, Israel, and the Palestinians

Bernie Sanders, Common Dreams, February 28, 2017

Speech to this year’s J Street conference

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during J Street’s 2017 National Conference at the Washington Convention Center on February 27, 2017. (Photo: Mark Wilson/AFP)

Thank you for inviting me to address you here today. It’s a pleasure to be here with J Street, which has been such a strong voice for saner, more progressive foreign policy ideas. And I am delighted to be in the company of friends from the Middle East and all over the world who I know will continue the struggle for a world of peace, justice and environmental sanity.

Let me begin by noting that in the last several months, since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, there has been a significant outbreak of anti-Semitism here in our country. I am very alarmed by the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, with Jewish Community Centers being threatened around the country, and with the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League receiving a bomb threat last week.

When we see violent and verbal racist attacks against minorities – whether they are African-Americans, Jews, Muslims in this country, immigrants in this country, or the LGBT community, these attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of our government.

It was rather extraordinary that in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the murder of 6 million Jews was not mentioned by the Trump administration. I hope very much that Pres. Trump and his political advisor Mr. Bannon understand that the world is watching: it is imperative that their voices be loud and clear in condemning anti-Semitism, violent attacks against immigrants in this country, including the murder of two young men from India, and all forms of bigotry here and around the world. This country has struggled too long against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. We will not go back. We are going to go forward and fight discrimination of all forms.

I must say that I also found it very troubling that, at a recent press conference, when President Trump was given an opportunity to condemn the bigotry and anti-Semitism that has arisen in the wake of his election, he chose to respond by bragging – incorrectly, by the way – about the size of his Electoral College victory. Our society is still riven by tensions from the campaign, and Americans need a president who will try to bring us together, rather than boast about his political victory.

Let me take this opportunity to thank J Street for the bold voice that they’ve provided in support of American leadership in the Middle East and efforts towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I understand that, given the political climate in this capital, that has not always been easy. I also applaud them for being part of a broad coalition of groups that successfully fought for the historic nuclear agreement between the U.S. and its partners and Iran.

That agreement demonstrated that real American leadership, real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems.

For many years, leaders across the world, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had sounded the alarm about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration was able to do, with the support of groups like J Street and others, was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

As a member of the United States Senate, I hear a whole lot of speechifying. I hear from many of my colleagues how “tough” the United States has got to be, and how, at the end of the day, military force is what matters.

Well, I say to those colleagues, ‘It’s easy to give speeches in the safety of the floor of the Senate or the House. It’s a little bit harder to experience war and live through the devastation of war. I recall vividly all of the rhetoric that came from the Bush administration, that came from my Republican colleagues, and some Democrats, about why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn’t. In fact, it is one of the great tragedies of modern world history.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. The war in Iraq led to the deaths of some 4,400 U.S. troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others—not to mention the pain inflicted on wives and children and parents. The war in Iraq led to, conservatively speaking, the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and the wounding and displacement of many more. It created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. And, by the way, that war in Iraq cost trillions of dollars—money that should have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

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Israel as the Lights Go Out

In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine. It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

ROGER COHEN, The New York Times, January 17, 2017

Elon Moreh, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, seen from the Palestinian village of Azmout, last week. (Credit: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The bizarre burst of diplomatic activity on IsraelPalestine in the waning days of the Obama administration has been tantamount to an admission that, on this subject, things only get said too late and when they no longer mean anything. The rest of the time political cowardice in the form of silence prevails.

In a matter of weeks we have had a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to “immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory;” a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry setting out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two-state peace agreement and defending the American abstention that allowed the U.N. resolution to pass; and a Paris peace conference that urged Israelis and Palestinians, neither of them present, to take concrete steps to get the two-state idea off life support.

None of this piety will change anything on the ground, where settlements continue to grow, the daily humiliations that constitute Palestinian life continue to accumulate, and the occupation that will mark its 50th anniversary this year continues to entrench itself. The only possible change will come with President-elect Donald Trump, whose dalliance with moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amounts to pyromania, and whose choice of ambassador, his sometime lawyer David Friedman, suggests hard-line American support for Israeli settlements.

Trump’s thirst for the “ultimate deal” in the Holy Land could not be more far-fetched, however much his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hones his skills with Henry Kissinger. There’s nobody and nothing to work with after a half-century of moral corrosion and progressive estrangement.

Speaking of Kushner, I was told he refused to meet with a senior French diplomat after a demand from Trump Tower that the Paris conference be canceled was ignored. Get used to my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy with team Trump.

U.N. resolution 2334 infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who called it “shameful.” He seemed surprised that ignoring Obama’s veto of an earlier settlements resolution in 2011 would have consequences. Obama ran out of patience because, despite his forbearance, Israel went right on planning housing for tens of thousands more settlers while absorbing “more than one half of our entire global foreign military financing,” in Kerry’s words. Gratitude is not Netanyahu’s forte.

There was little new in the resolution, given America’s consistent opposition to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over several decades. In fact, the twinning of criticism of Israel with condemnation under international law of “incitement” — a reference to persistent Palestinian practice — was among the fresher elements. Still, the language was sharp. The resolution called on states to distinguish “in their relevant dealings” between Israel and “the territories occupied since 1967”; and it declared that “The cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

I doubt that solution remains viable. But let’s be clear on the settlements. They may or may not constitute a primary cause of the conflict, but they do demonstrate Israel’s decades-long commitment to building in a way that makes a viable Palestinian state impossible. You cannot be a Palestinian in the West Bank watching the steady growth of Israeli settlements, outposts and barriers without concluding that Israel’s occasional murmurings about a two-state peace are mere camouflage for a project whose objective is to control all the land in perpetuity without annexing it. Annexation would be awkward; some 2.75 million Palestinians would demand the vote. Better to play games and let millions of strangers squirm.

Kerry’s speech was almost three years in the making. He should have made it in April 2014, when his diplomacy collapsed. Obama said no. There were the midterms, then there was the Iran deal to negotiate, so better not to anger Israel further, and finally there was the U.S. election in November. In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.

It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

Kerry finally set out the terms of a two-state peace: secure borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps; a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people where the rights of all citizens (Arabs in Israel, Jews in an eventual Palestine) are upheld; a just solution for Palestinian refugees including compensation and acknowledgment of suffering but without changing “the fundamental character of Israel” — so only very limited return to Israel proper; Jerusalem as “the capital of the two states;” a demilitarized Palestinian state, a full end to the occupation after an agreed transition, and elaborate Israeli security guarantees; an end to the conflict and all outstanding claims along with broader peace for Israel with all its Arab neighbors and a regional security partnership.

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What the UN Security Council resolution means for the US and Israel

Oren Liebermann, CNN, December 26, 2016

Israel has bitterly denounced the resolution
They warn it harms, not helps, the peace process

Jerusalem (CNN) — The United Nations Security Council on Friday passed a resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained on the resolution, allowing it to pass, rather than vetoing it — as it usually does with resolutions it sees as overly critical of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the US ambassador and launched a scathing attack Sunday on the Obama administration.

Here are nine questions about the vote at the UN.

1. What are the immediate effects of the UNSC resolution?

The resolution may have no immediate practical effects on Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the peace process. That’s because the resolution is non-binding, effectively creating guidelines and recommendations. The resolution would require follow-up action at the United Nations for it to have an immediate effect.

Israel is concerned about exactly that type of action. Specifically, Israel is worried about a resolution that would set conditions for negotiations. Such a resolution would issue parameters for some of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders, the status of Jerusalem as a contested capital, Palestinian refugees, and a time-limit for negotiations.

An international peace conference in Paris scheduled for January 15 could be the forum for discussing such a resolution. That would give the international community time to introduce the resolution at the United Nations Security Council before the end of President Barack Obama’s time in office. Israel has vowed not to attend the conference. The Palestinians say they will attend.

2. What are the long-term effects?

The biggest blow is to Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This resolution has left little room for negotiation about the legality of the settlements, stating that Israel’s settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

When it comes to borders, the resolution does leave an opening for negotiations, saying there will be no changes to the June 4, 1967 “other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”
The resolution also calls on countries to recognize a difference between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories when dealing with Israel. That could lead to sanctions against products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian leaders say they will wait to see if Israel abides by the resolution. If not, they can pursue cases against Israeli leaders at the International Criminal Court (ICC) under the Geneva Convention. The ICC is already conducting an ongoing investigation into Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

3. Will President-elect Donald Trump be able to repeal the resolution?

Theoretically, yes, the incoming administration could repeal this resolution. Trump would have to introduce a new resolution that revokes this one entirely. Then he would need at least nine countries to vote for it and ensure that none of the Security Council’s other permanent members — Russia, UK, France, and China — vetoed it.

Realistically, that is incredibly unlikely to happen. There is a broad international consensus that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal and that they constitute an obstacle to peace. It is extremely unlikely that Trump would be able to find eight other nations on the Security Council willing to support revoking the new resolution. Even if he did, a permanent member veto is likely.

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