Trump administration considers labeling top humanitarian groups ‘anti-Semitic’

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,
and Oxfam are included

John Hudson, Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2020

The Trump administration is considering labeling some of the most prominent humanitarian organizations in the world, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, as “anti-Semitic,” according to two people familiar with the discussions.

A declaration by the State Department could come as early as this week, the individuals said, adding that it might encourage other governments not to support the groups’ work.

The proposal has prompted sharp opposition from career officials in the department, who say it would be a gift to authoritarian governments that have long sought to delegitimize human rights groups for their work exposing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss future policy decisions.

The organizations deploy scores of workers in dangerous hot spots, where they often face resistance from local governments.

The State Department declined to comment on a pending declaration, which was first reported by Politico.

Pro-Israel advocates have long complained of bias by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, saying they focus too heavily on the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government.

The groups, however, have a lengthy track record of spotlighting the mistreatment of individuals at the hands of governments elsewhere, including authoritarian regimes and Western democracies.

“It’s preposterous,” Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), who previously worked as Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said in a phone call. “They also document the treatment of the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority. They are critical of every government in the world, including the United States. Yet the State Department under every previous secretary of state has relied on these organizations as credible sources of information and treated them as partners.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism.

“Any insinuation that Oxfam supports anti-Semitism is false, baseless, and offensive,” Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America said. “Oxfam and our Israeli and Palestinian partners have worked on the ground for decades to promote human rights and provide lifesaving support for Israeli and Palestinian communities. We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Over the years, the groups, especially Human Rights Watch, have criticized the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, deeming them illegal under international law. Pompeo reversed years of U.S. policy by declaring that the United States does not consider the settlements a violation of international law.

If the State Department moves forward on the decision, it is likely to be celebrated by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pro-Israel Republican donors and a wide swath of Christian evangelicals, who say human rights organizations disproportionately target Israel.

Israel issues demolition notice for Palestinian cave home

‘I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,’ says Ahmed Amarneh from West Bank village of Farasin

Ahmed Amarneh and a neighbor chat outside his home, built in a cave in the village of Farasin, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank on August 4, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)Ahmed Amarneh and a neighbor chat outside his home, built in a cave in the village of Farasin, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank on August 4, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Times of Israel, 10 August 2020

Ahmed Amarneh’s home, with a wooden door opening onto cushion-lined rooms, is not the first Palestinian residence in the West Bank to receive a demolition notice from Israel.

But it may be the first built inside a cave that the Jewish state threatened to destroy.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer, lives with his family in the northern West Bank village of Farasin, where Israel requires permits for any new residential construction and can tear down homes built without approval.

“I tried twice to build (a house), but the occupation authorities told me it was forbidden to build in the area,” Amarneh told AFP, using a term for Israel used by some Palestinians.

The Oslo peace accords of the 1990s gave the Palestinians self-rule in parts of the West Bank.

However, some 60 percent of the territory, dubbed Area C, where Farasin is located, remains under full Israeli civil and military control.

Israel has allocated land there for construction of settlements. Continue reading

I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State

For decades I argued for separation between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, I can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state.


Israeli soldiers interacting in the West Bank last month with a Palestinian woman protesting the demolition of an unapproved animal shed. (Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA, via Shutterstock)

Peter Beinart, The New York Times, July 8, 2020

I was 22 in 1993 when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn to officially begin the peace process that many hoped would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. I’ve been arguing for a two-state solution — first in late-night bull sessions, then in articles and speeches — ever since.

I believed in Israel as a Jewish state because I grew up in a family that had hopscotched from continent to continent as diaspora Jewish communities crumbled. I saw Israel’s impact on my grandfather and father, who were never as happy or secure as when enveloped in a society of Jews. And I knew that Israel was a source of comfort and pride to millions of other Jews, some of whose families had experienced traumas greater than my own.

One day in early adulthood, I walked through Jerusalem, reading street names that catalog Jewish history, and felt that comfort and pride myself. I knew Israel was wrong to deny Palestinians in the West Bank citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote in the country in which they lived. But the dream of a two-state solution that would give Palestinians a country of their own let me hope that I could remain a liberal and a supporter of Jewish statehood at the same time.

Events have now extinguished that hope.

About 640,000 Jewish settlers now live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the Israeli and American governments have divested Palestinian statehood of any real meaning. The Trump administration’s peace plan envisions an archipelago of Palestinian towns, scattered across as little as 70 percent of the West Bank, under Israeli control. Even the leaders of Israel’s supposedly center-left parties don’t support a viable, sovereign Palestinian state. The West Bank hosts Israel’s newest medical school.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fulfills his pledge to impose Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank, he will just formalize a decades-old reality: In practice, Israel annexed the West Bank long ago.

Israel has all but made its decision: one country that includes millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights. Now liberal Zionists must make our decision, too. It’s time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.

Equality could come in the form of one state that includes Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as writers such as Yousef Munayyer and Edward Said have proposed; or it could be a confederation that allows free movement between two deeply integrated countries. (I discuss these options at greater length in an essay in Jewish Currents). The process of achieving equality would be long and difficult, and would most likely meet resistance from both Palestinian and Jewish hard-liners.

But it’s not fanciful. The goal of equality is now more realistic than the goal of separation. The reason is that changing the status quo requires a vision powerful enough to create a mass movement. A fragmented Palestinian state under Israeli control does not offer that vision. Equality can. Increasingly, one equal state is not only the preference of young Palestinians. It is the preference of young Americans, too.


Israeli soldiers checking a Palestinian’s identification in the West Bank city of Hebron in June. (Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA, via Shutterstock)

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Palestinian civil society calls for sanctions to stop Israel’s annexation and apartheid

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council renews the call for targeted sanctions

Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, BDS National Committee, July 1, 2020

Israel’s extremist government decided today to keep everyone in the dark about if and how it will make use of the “golden opportunity” offered by the Trump administration to embark on de jure annexation of large swathes of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. No one should be misled, however. Israel will continue to quietly de facto annex occupied Palestinian territory, as it has done for decades, while trying to appease its Western allies. But as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said, “Annexation is illegal. Period. Any annexation.”

Hundreds of international law scholars agree. They write that Israeli annexations of occupied territory are “null and void, entail consequences of international wrongfulness, and – under certain circumstances –  lead to individual international criminal liability,” regardless whether such annexations are effected “through ‘extension of sovereignty,’ ‘extension of law, jurisdiction, and administration,’ or explicit annexation.” They concluded, “de facto annexation entails the same legal consequences as de jure annexation.”

For over a thousand European parliamentarians, “Failure to adequately respond [to Israeli annexation] would encourage other states with territorial claims to disregard basic principles of international law,” undermining “the most basic norms guiding international relations, including the UN Charter.”

The international community must therefore impose lawful, targeted and immediate sanctions on Israel in response to its ongoing annexation, illegal military occupation and apartheid regime of racial discrimination, segregation and territorial expansion that is enshrined in Israel’s domestic law.

With its silence, Israel hopes to silence global mobilizations that have compelled the international community to consider accountability measures and to safeguard its impunity. Israel, after all, is well aware that the climate of international complicity and lack of accountability is what has enabled its colonization, apartheid and de facto and de jure annexation of Palestinian territory to continue for decades.

Israel’s de jure annexation of occupied Palestinian territory, formalized in East Jerusalem in 1967 and later entrenched in the 1980 Basic Law, may now be replicated in other parts of the OPT. Such formal annexation crystallizes a “21st century apartheid,” according to dozens of United National human rights experts and constitutes a “most serious violation of international law,” as the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres stated.

Already in 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) warned that Israel’s de facto annexation of its illegal settlements by means of the Wall may become a fait accompli. Sixteen years later, this has indeed materialized. The ICJ called on all States and the United Nations to adopt measures to end these serious Israeli violations of the UN Charter-based international legal order and international humanitarian law and to meet their obligation of non-recognition and non-assistance.

Now is the time for serious accountability measures, not just for the sake of defending Palestinian rights under international law, but crucially to safeguard the very credibility of and respect for international law itself.

In response to Israel’s ongoing annexation and grave violations of Palestinian human rights, Palestinian civil society reiterates its unified call on all States and international organizations to respect their legal obligations to cooperate to end Israel’s illegal occupation, annexation and apartheid, and to withhold all recognition and assistance from it, by immediately implementing, as a matter of priority, the following measures:

  1. Continue reading