Is It True That Not a Single Senator – Including Progressive Dems – Cares About Palestine?

The pro-Israel letter 100 U.S. senators sent to the U.N. fails to mention Israel's illegal occupation or settlements

Ben Norton & Adam Johnson, AlterNet, May 2, 2017

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

All 100 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to the United Nations on April 27 that spread misleading pro-Israel myths. Included as signatories were the Senate’s two progressive leaders, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

AlterNet repeatedly contacted the offices of Sanders and Warren with a request for comment. Neither replied.

The 725-word letter does not mention Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian land, which marks its 50th anniversary this June. Nor does it acknowledge Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian territory through ever-expanding settlements.

Even the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has agreed at the U.N. that Israel’s occupation and settlements are flagrant violations of international law. The senators’ letter glosses over this elementary fact, and does not even acknowledge the existence of the Palestinian people.

The bipartisan senatorial campaign against the U.N. was led by hard-right neoconservative Republican Marco Rubio and Reagan-Republican-turned-Democrat Christopher Coons.

Continue reading

What really happened in the Umm Al-Hiran “terrorist attack”

New video deals another blow to Israeli police version of Umm al-Hiran raid

Last month as Israel tried to evict its Arab citizens from the village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev, they said that they had killed a “terrorist” (actually a local teacher) who tried to ram them with a car, killing one officer.

Palestinian witnesses told a different story, and now video has emerged that shows they were right. This incident (and the demolition of the village to make way for a Jewish-only settlement) sparked enormous outrage inside Israel among Palestinians, resulting in a day of general strike.

Last week Musa Abu al-Qi’an, 100-year-old resident of Umm Al-Hiran and father of the killed teacher who was featured in many news stories, passed away. He survived the Nakba and everything before and since, but did not survive the death of his son.

Ma’an News Agency, 12 Feb 2017

NEGEV (Ma‘an) 12 Feb — A new video broadcast by Israeli Channel 10 on Saturday further weakened Israel police claims regarding a deadly January raid in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, showing that Israeli forces shot at a Bedouin man’s vehicle when he did not constitute a threat.

The video showed Israeli officers opening fire at the car of Umm al-Hiran resident Yaqoub Abu al-Qi‘an on Jan. 18, as he was slowly driving past with his headlights on, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and hit police officer Erez Levi.

Both Abu al-Qi‘an and Levi were killed in the incident.

The Channel 10 report added that Umm al-Hiran residents were still calling for an official investigation to the case, particularly regarding their assertions that Levi had in fact been killed by friendly fire.

Israeli police reportedly said after the broadcast that an investigation was underway over the fact that police officers did not provide Abu al-Qi‘an medical assistance, leaving him to bleed to death.

The Channel 10 video is the third filmed record of the Umm al-Hiran raid to undermine the official Israeli version of events, with Al Jazeera notably releasing footage earlier this month.

Continue reading

Israel Bulldozes Democracy

AYMAN ODEH, The New York Times, February 11, 2017

A Bedouin woman reacts to the destruction of houses by Israeli authorities on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the southern city of Beersheba, in the Negev desert. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

HAIFA, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.

Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.

In Arab towns, the government has made building permits so difficult to obtain, and grants them so rarely, that many inhabitants have resorted to constructing new housing units on their properties without permits just to keep up with growing families that have nowhere else to go. As a result, Arab communities have become more and more densely populated, turning pastoral villages into concrete jungles.

In southern Israel, more than 100,000 Arab citizens face a particular crisis. In the Naqab desert, known in Hebrew as the Negev, there are 35 villages that are officially “unrecognized” by the state. The residents of these unrecognized villages have Israeli citizenship, yet the state has refused to provide even basic services like water, electricity utilities, paved roads and schools.

Worse, because the Israeli government refuses to recognize these villages’ existence, they all live under the shadow of demolition orders from the state. Residents never know when the police will come to evict them and bulldoze their homes.

These policies have existed for decades, but Mr. Netanyahu has turned them into a political bludgeon. Several weeks ago, when it became clear that the government would be forced to implement an Israeli High Court ruling to evacuate Amona, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank built on land stolen from Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to destroy Arab homes throughout Israel in retribution.

Continue reading

Israel passes bill to seize private Palestinian land for Jewish settlements


Israeli police clash with settlers in the West Bank outpost of Amona on Feb. 1, 2017. The Israeli parliament passed legislation to prevent more demolitions. (Oded Balilty/AP)

William Booth, The Washington Post, February 6, 2017

Israel’s parliament passed a contentious law late Monday that allows the state to seize land privately owned by Palestinians in the West Bank and grant the properties to Jewish settlements for their exclusive use.

The measure is designed to protect homes in Jewish settlements, built on private Palestinian property “in good faith or at the state’s instruction,” from possible court-ordered evacuation and demolition.

Thousands of homes in dozens of settlements and outposts may now be protected, at least temporarily. The bill is probably headed for a high court challenge.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the legislation and has told his constituents that no government had done more for the settlers. On Monday, the Israeli leader said he had informed the Trump White House that a vote on the legislation was imminent.

Israeli legislators in the opposition condemned the bill as reckless and warned that it would turn the world against Israel while goading prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to take action against the Jewish state.

The bill passed on a vote of 60 to 52. 

The private Palestinian land would be seized by the government and held until there is a final resolution of the decades-long Israel-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian landowners could apply to the state for annual rents or be given another parcel.

Continue reading

White House warns Israel on settlements

Trump was reportedly blindsided by Israel’s announcement of 5,500 new housing units to be built in the West Bank

Jordan Fabian, The Hill, 02/02/17

The White House on Thursday warned Israel to stop settlement announcements that could undermine peace with the Palestinians, according to the Jerusalem Post. 

The surprising statement comes as President Trump signaled he would depart from former President Obama’s Israel policy and forge a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong proponent of settlements. 

But Trump was reportedly blindsided by Israel’s announcement of 5,500 new housing units to be built in the West Bank, which would have been the first new settlement in around 20 years. 

“As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal,” an official told the paper. 

“With that in mind, we urge all parties from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements,” the official added. “The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

In a separate statement Thursday, the White House made clear its opposition to the recent burst of settlement activity. But in a departure from the Obama administration, the statement does not call settlements an impediment to a two-state solution.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

Trump’s election is believed to have emboldened Netanyahu’s government, which has moved aggressively to expand its settlement activity.  

Netanyahu is set to meet with Trump at the White House on Feb. 15. 

Continue reading