Noura Erakat: West Bank Annexation Is Logical End to Israel’s Apartheid Policy

Democracy Now!, SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

GUESTS

Noura Erakat
Palestinian human rights attorney and an assistant professor at Rutgers University.

Phyllis Bennis
fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a member of the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing worldwide condemnation for vowing to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s snap election. The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and Russia have all criticized Netanyahu’s plan, which he unveiled Tuesday.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] Today I am announcing my intention to apply, with the formation of the next government, Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Netanyahu’s pledge comes just a week before Israeli voters return to the polls on Tuesday for new elections after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government following Israel’s April 9th election. Netanyahu’s annexation plan would crush hopes of an eventual Palestinian state. Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the move would add to Israel’s long history of violating international law.

SAEB EREKAT: What Prime Minister Netanyahu said tonight about asking his people for a mandate to allow that will enable him to annex the Jordan Valley is paramount to a war crime. Annexation of occupied territories is a war crime.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney, legal scholar, assistant professor at Rutgers University. Her new book is titled Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. And Phyllis Bennis is still with us, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, written a number of books, including Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Noura Erakat, let’s go to you first in Montreal. If you could talk about, just respond to, what the prime minister — who knows how long he will be prime minister? — said — if he wins, he will annex a third of the West Bank?

NOURA ERAKAT: Absolutely. Thank you for having me this morning.

First of all, I think it’s important to point out, as you have, that one-third of the West Bank is the Jordan Valley. It’s the site of the richest sources of water — some of the richest sources of water in the West Bank, including the Jordan River Basin and the Dead Sea, as well as numerous springs. The World Bank has said that if Palestinians actually have access to these lands, it could be the Palestinian breadbasket, increasing their agricultural yield by $1.6 [b]illion annually. We are talking about a rich area where Palestinian farmers, where Palestinians cannot access, for leisure, for livelihood, for home. And this is what’s at stake.

The other thing to point out is that there’s already de facto annexation. A lot of attention is being placed on Netanyahu as he makes more bold and racist claims to his constituent base ahead of elections. But it’s important to know that this is not about Netanyahu. This isn’t even about the Israeli right. This is Israeli policy.

In the aftermath of the 1967 war, Israel declared 60% of the Jordan Valley as a closed military zone and off basis. They built three outposts, military outposts, in 1968 and, under a Labor government, built those into civilian settlements in the early 1970s. It was a Labor, Israeli Labor, minister, Yigal Allon, who declared that the Jordan Valley would be part of Israel’s defensible borders. It was Israel’s dove, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995, who said that this would be part of Israel’s final borders. And it was under the Oslo peace process that 90% of the Jordan Valley came under full Israeli civil and military control.

What Netanyahu is doing now is basically taking this awful policy, this steady policy of settler-colonial removal of Palestinian and encroachment of Palestinian lands, to its logical end, which is to say, “Well, now it’s just ours.”

Continue reading

Gideon Levy: Let the Annexation Begin


A Palestinian man waters goats and sheep in the Jordan Valley, West Bank, August 21, 2019. (MOHAMAD TOROKMAN – REUTERS)

Gideon Levy, If Americans Knew, September 12, 2019

There’s no longer any real debate in Israel. The right wants to annex Palestinian land openly, and the center wants to annex, but deceive us. All that’s left now is to admit to the world that in reality Israel annexed the West Bank many years ago… it’s one country with an apartheid system.

Reposted from Ha’aretz

Here’s one campaign promise by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that we should hope will be fulfilled: annexing the Jordan Valley to Israel. So far, no other campaign promise has been as encouraging as this one. Not one Zionist party has offered even a hint of an idea that could shake up the existing situation like this annexation proposal, and the status quo is crying for a shake-up.

I obviously won’t vote for Netanyahu, but I hope that this time he keeps his promise. Let him annex the Jordan Valley, and afterward the entire West Bank. Let him turn the reality in this territory into a political reality, without hiding it any longer. The time has come for truth. The time has come to put an end to the great masked ball that Israel and the world have been holding for 52 years already.

The apparently eternal reality in this territory should be translated into legal language. The Jordan Valley was annexed long ago, as was the entire West Bank. The Green Line has been erased; nothing remains of it.

All that’s left now is to say so officially. To admit to Israelis and to the world: Enough with the occupation, we have annexation. There are no settlements, there are towns. The two-state solution has been put to death, and it actually happened long ago. What remains is one state, in which the only battle will be over the system of government.

There’s no longer any real debate in Israel. Immediately after Netanyahu promised annexation, Benny Gantz, the great hope of the enlightened public, delivered the word of the opposition: He, too, is in favor of the Jordan Valley in perpetuity.

If so, what is all the criticism of Netanyahu for? For his lack of intention to keep his promise. People to Netanyahu’s left have been criticizing him for saying he’ll annex the region without him really meaning it. What more could we ask? Between the right, which wants to annex and announce it, and the center, which wants to annex but deceive us, the choice is easy. The only debate that remains is about the future of the Adei Ad settlement outpost, and that’s no longer important. Evacuating the Baladim outpost will no longer change anything either.

[Adei Ad and Baladim are illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank, both of which have been sites of violence against Palestinians, Israeli forces, and visitors.]

Netanyahu’s choice of territory to annex is no accident. There’s something symbolic about it. The Oslo process began with “Jericho first,” and its death will be pronounced with “the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea first.”

But there’s also a great deal more than symbolism here. Most Israelis have never considered the Jordan Valley occupied territory. Ever since our colonialist enterprise began, its settlers have been seen as “residents,” and even as pioneers, while its settlements have been seen as kibbutzim and moshavim – more stellar examples of Zionism.

In those settlements there are no prayer shawls and ritual fringes – there are Jewish masters and Thai farm laborers, like in every kibbutz and moshav. Also Palestinian farm laborers who earn shameful, exploitative, criminal wages. The Labor Party, the first and foremost party of occupation, has seen the Jordan Valley as an inseparable part of any agreement ever since the 1967 Allon Plan, which deserves to be remembered and condemned because no other plan has done more to perpetuate the occupation.

[Levy writes elsewhere: “Although it was never officially adopted, the Allon Plan, drafted in 1967 by Yigal Allon – an iconic figure from the War of Independence and afterward a leading politician – was in large measure implemented. Its aim: to cut off the West Bank from Jordan by means of two roads…and to establish settlements and army training camps alongside both highways.”]

The consensus about remaining in the territories began right here, between Hemdat and Almog. This was the first “settlement bloc” to enter the consensus, and it wasn’t even called a settlement. Most Israelis see no difference between Maskiot and Ro’i [two illegal settlements], in the Jordan Valley, and Beit Alfa and Heftziba [two kibbutzim in Israel], located between the Jezreel and Beit She’an valleys. All are in the Israeli valley.

But this is one of the worst evils of apartheid and transfer that the occupation has ever produced. Behind the modern names…hide greedy and sometimes violent farmers. Here, a quiet transfer of communities of shepherds has been carried out, just like in the South Hebron Hills.

Anyone who still doubts the existence of apartheid ought to visit the Jordan Valley. The water, the land and the freedom – which are divvied up there via blatant segregation based on nationality, with no shame – tell the entire story. Nothing could be more just than for the Torah of annexation to go forth from here.

Continue reading

US Congresswoman proposes cutting Israel aid

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary in New York's 14th congressional district [Rothman's/Facebook]
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district [Rothman’s/Facebook]

The Middle East Monitor, April 18, 2019

US Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has proposed the US cut military and economic aid worth $3 billion a year from Israel in response to the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.

“I think these are part of conversations we are having in our caucus, but I think what we are really seeing is an ascent of authoritarianism across the world. I think that Netanyahu is a Trump-like figure,” she said during an interview with Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast.

“I think it is certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed,” she added referring to cutting the aid.

Ocasio-Cortez explained that there are many ways to protect the Palestinians from Israeli violations including a bill proposed by Democratic Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum that would prohibit US aid to Israel from being used to detain Palestinian children in the West Bank.

READ: Ocasio-Cortez calls out Congress double standards

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged during his election campaign to annex illegal settlements built on the Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

Ocasio-Cortez’s view on Israel and Palestine have received extensive media attention. The Democratic congresswoman expressed her support for the Palestinians during the Land Day protests in Gaza in which 135 Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces and a further 13,000 were injured.

“This is a massacre,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

“I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such.”

“No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else.”

Occupation vacation: Palestine, settlements, and Airbnb

Diala Shamas and Ziad Alwan, The Activist Files, Episode 16

Did you know that in Palestine, Israeli settlers and companies profit off of stolen land? That’s what our Advocacy Director Nadia Ben-Youssef discusses with Staff Attorney Diala Shamas and client Ziad Alwan in the 16th episode of “The Activist Files,” where we speak about  our intervention into a case filed by Israeli settlers against Airbnb.

Diala discusses the responsibility of corporations like Airbnb to respect human rights principles and international law, as well as the status of the case now that Airbnb has decided not to de-list properties in settlements. Ziad recounts his family’s history on and personal connection to the land and explains why he decided to intervene on behalf of other Palestinian landowners in the West Bank.

LISTEN TO THE ACTIVIST FILES


Touring the Israeli Occupation: Young U.S. Jews Get an Unflinching View


At Har Gilo, a Jewish settlement overlooking the southern West Bank, American college students get a history lesson. (Ilia Yefimovich for The New York Times)

David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times, July 10, 2019

PSAGOT, West Bank — The fun was over before the tour bus rolled into Har Gilo.

For the past week, 28 college students from the United States had been taking part in a traveling experiment billed as an alternative to Birthright Israel, whose free trips to the country have become a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of young American Jews.

Birthright’s avoidance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has made it the target of angry protests by left-leaning Jewish activists. But for sheer ambition, no critique has approached this week’s attempt by the liberal lobbying group J Street to map out an alternative route for Birthright’s tours.

The organizers said they embraced Birthright’s goal of helping young American Jews connect with Israel and with their Jewishness, but that they also needed to be exposed to the realities of the occupation.

On Sunday, after several upbeat days hiking in the Galilee, learning about the kibbutz movement and bonding over buffets and Israeli pop songs, the J Street cohort took a sharp left turn into territory where Birthright does not go.

In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.

Adam DeSchriver, 21, a clarinet student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., said he had been wowed on the trip’s first few days by the “renaissance of Hebrew culture” he discovered in Israel.

“What breaks my heart,” he said after Sunday’s eye-opening itinerary, “is seeing it at the expense of others.”

More. . .