ISRAEL’S NEW LEGALIZATION LAW

Israel’s new Legalization Law legitimizes under Israeli law dozens of so-called settlement “outposts” that were built without official approval from Israeli authorities but were tacitly supported by successive Israeli governments as part of an effort to colonize as much Palestinian land as possible.

This new law follows Israel’s approval of 6,000 new settlement units in just the last two weeks and the announcement that Israel plans to build its first entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian land in more than two decades.

According to Jonathan Cook writing in The National on February 8, 2017, the Legalization Law was the right’s forceful response to the eviction in early February of 40 families from a settlement “outpost” called Amona.The eviction of these families was transformed into an expensive piece of political theatre, costing an estimated $40 million. It was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an event is never repeated. As the evicted families clashed with police, sending several dozen to the hospital, Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister and leader of the settler party Jewish Home called Amona’s families “heroes.” Netanyahu added: “We all understand the extent of their pain,” and promised them an enlarged replacement settlement along with monetary compensation.

The real prize for Bennett and his far right party was the legalization law itself. It reverses a restriction imposed in the 1970s and designed to prevent a free-for-all by the settlers. International law is clear that an occupying force can take land only for military needs. Israel committed a war crime in transferring more than 600,000 Jewish civilians into the Occupied Territories.

Israel’s Attorney General has refused to defend the law should it be brought before Israel’s Supreme Court. Very belatedly the lower courts drew the line in land confiscation in Amona and demanded that the land be returned to its Palestinian owners. This new law overrules the judges in the lower courts, allowing private land stolen from Palestinians to be laundered as Israeli state property.

 

In practice there has never been a serious limit on theft of Palestinian land but now government support for the plunder will be explicit in law. It will be impossible to blame the outposts on “rogue” settlers or claim that Israel is trying to safeguard Palestinian property rights.

I saw this injustice for the first time in March 2002 when my Palestinian guide, Naim, on our way to Bethlehem, stopped his car and pointed off to the left.

“My family used to live here,” he said, and began to tell me his story. One of the things which upset me was the part about the ancient olive grove. No one knew how old the hundreds of trees really were. Some of the old-timers swore the olive grove was 300 years old or perhaps even older. The trees probably didn’t need irrigation because they’d been there so long. Their roots intermingled with the rich, dark dirt and delved deeply into the earth. A small village nearby had an olive press and every day during the season the villagers brought their freshly-picked crop to be pressed for oil.

Naim still remembered the exact location of his house, what time the sun shone through the kitchen window, and where each tree was planted. He remembered because he was the one who scurried up the trees and shook the branches at harvest time, carefully aiming for the sheet spread around the base of each tree to catch the olives as they fell.

Now there is no sign of a Palestinian presence. The villagers, if not already dead, have been dispersed to one of the many refugee camps. As for the ancient olive grove, it was uprooted to make way for Har Homa, a massive Israeli settlement. It sits atop Abu Ghnaim Mountain, once a forest of some 60,000 pine trees and a refuge for wild animals and plants. One the southwest edge of Bethlehem, this entire area was stripped bare to build 7,000 identical red-roofed, multi-storied square housing units, arranged in layers some two kilometers in circumference. When completed, the project looked from afar like asymmetrical Lego blocks. Gilo, another Israeli settlement, dominates the eastern perimeter of Bethlehem, sandwiching the Christian village between these two Israeli colossi. These and other stories can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.

As opposition leader Isaac Herzog said: “The train departing from here has only one stop–the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. If ICC judges take their duties seriously, we could see Prime Minister Netanyahu tried for complicity in the war crime of establishing illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

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JERUSALEM, A CORPUS SEPARATUM, NOT ISRAEL’S “ETERNAL AND INDIVISIBLE CAPITAL”

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 passed on November 29, 1947 provided for the full territorial internationalization of Jerusalem.

“The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.”

Jerusalem holds unique spiritual and religious significance for the world’s Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Following World War 1, the victorious Principal Allied Powers recognized these as “a sacred trust of civilization,” and stipulated that the existing rights and claims connected to them should be safeguarded in perpetuity under international guarantee.

The United Nations General Assembly, therefore, does not recognize Israel’s proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. U.N. general Assembly Resolution 623/30 of 2009 states that “any actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.”

Although the General Assembly cannot pass legally binding resolutions over international issues, the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to do so, has passed a total of six Security Council resolutions on Israel on the matter, including UNSC resolution 478 which affirmed that the enactment of the 1980 Basic Jerusalem Law declaring unified Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital, was a violation of international law.

The Security Council, as well as the U.N. has consistently affirmed the position that East Jerusalem is occupied territory subject to the provision of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory opinion on the “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Territory” described East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory.”

This bizarre situation exists, in part, because most Palestinians in “undivided Jerusalem” are legally classified (by Israel) as “permanent residents,” rather than citizens of Israel, despite the de- facto annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel in 1967, deemed illegal by international law. As such, they do not enjoy the right to vote in national elections. Only an estimated 3,500 Palestinians of all ages, out of a total of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population of 320,000 (37% of Jerusalem’s total population, have received Israeli citizenship between 2002 and 2012.

On every social, economic and legal indicator there is a huge, purposeful disparity between Jewish West Jerusalem and Palestinian East Jerusalem: Education, health, opportunities for professional employment, resource allocation from the municipality, the right to build, welfare spending (just 4.4% of Jerusalem Municipality welfare spending is allocated and spent in East Jerusalem yet Palestinians bear a heavier tax burden.) More on these issues can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.

Thus, the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the indigenous population under illegal Israeli control, are treated as non-Jewish immigrants to Israel. And why aren’t these Palestinian residents given Israeli citizenship? To do so would weaken the Jewish majority and the carefully gerrymandered political constituency of the state, and make them harder to expel.

The only place where Jerusalem is “the undivided capital of Israel” is in the fertile imaginations of ideologues like Netanyahu and his ilk. Nowhere else is there a prime minister so utterly detached from the realities of a city that he claims to be his nation’s “exclusive” capital. And when Netanyahu says he supports the two-state solution, but opposes anything less than an undivided Jerusalem under sole Israeli sovereignty, he is really saying: “I reject the two-state solution” (which as a solution is already dead in the water because of the extensive settlement expansion in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank making a contiguous Palestinian state now impossible.

But just when the myth of “undivided Jerusalem” was collapsing under the weight of its own fiction, President Donald Trump has stepped into the fray by announcing that his administration will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That this move would effectively contravene the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns all measures aimed at altering the status of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, is apparently of no concern to President Trump.

It seems unlikely that Donald Trump’s new pro-settlement ambassador to Israel has explained the catastrophic implications that will be seen as deliberately inflammatory by the Palestinians and by the Islamic world, this making Trump’s chances of brokering the “ultimate deal” as he’s called it, impossible to achieve. Rather than endorse a united Jerusalem, his policy will only serve to intensity gargantuan divides and make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.
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THE SYRIAN’S SEQUEL

When I wrote The Syrian, events in the region, circa 2006, were relatively straight forward. Syria was the link to Iran. Both Israel and the U.S. thought Iran was trying to undermine Sunni dominance and stir up Arab nationalism; so did Saudi Arabia and Qatar who sought to destabilize Iran through Syria. If Syria collapsed, so the thinking went, Iran would implode, making it easier for Israel to attack Hezbollah, its mortal enemy, and for Saudi Arabia and Qatar to attack Iran.

But this is the Middle East where things are never that simple.

In Damascus Street, the as-yet-unfinished sequel to The Syrian, events spiral out of control in the lead-up to the Syrian war which begins in 2011. As the story unfolds we discover a new plan that is even more dangerous than the ones that led to both the Iraq War and Israel’s war with Hezbollah in July 2006. This one calls for the U.S. government to commit a gross violation of international law by supporting a major military assault on the government of Syria and escalating tension with nuclear-armed Russia, with Al-Qaeda and its affiliates playing the lead role and Saudi Arabia and Qatar financing them.

In a scene from the sequel, Fouad, who is part of Lebanese intelligence, is speaking with the newly named U.S. Ambassador to Syria. Up to this point the American has been in Iraq, organizing Al Qaeda-linked death squads which he will use in Syria to ignite the uprising.

“I’ve just been named US Ambassador to Syria,” he tells Fouad. “The appointment will have to go through Congressional hearings, of course, but once it becomes official I’ll be able to direct the insurgency from our embassy in Damascus.”

“Congratulations, Mr. Ambassador, well done. And now that I’m part of your team, can I ask a few questions?”

“Fire away.”

“Generally, there’s something that triggers an uprising. In Lebanon it was the Hariri assassination. People demonstrated and demanded the expulsion of Syrian troops. How will you start the one in Syria?”

“For our luck we really won’t have to do too much. Nature’s done most of the work for us. Syria’s experiencing its worst drought in 900 years.”

“I didn’t realize it was that serious.”

“Without doing any recruiting locally we already have about 1.5 million angry, unemployed men, many of them farmers, who are ready to blame Assad for their misfortune. One little push from us and they’ll trigger the revolution for us.”

“So the goal is regime change with Assad completely out of the picture?”

“Our objective is to undermine Assad’s ability to govern the country without physically removing him from office.”

“Why not just remove him?”

“The Syrian people support him. And it isn’t just the Alawites. He also protects the interests of Christians and Druze. His army supports him, too. So, the idea is to make him irrelevant. We deploy jihadists to capture and hold large sections of the country and make it impossible for the central government to control the state.”

“That’s a tall order.”

“Not really, our plan breaks the country into disconnected enclaves, each ruled by an al Qaida affiliate.”

“And you expect this to be done by a bunch of crazed jihadists?”

“They’re just the fodder who’ll lead the charge. We’ll send in our Special Forces to do the heavy work and then initiate a country-wide no-fly zone.”

 

Because my story is historical fiction, it allows me to recount current events as fiction and reveal the plans not only for regime change but the usual selective, dubious and false information we saw in the frenzied war fever leading up to the Iraq War. More importantly, as with the WMD in Iraq, there are two key facts about Syria that Americans are not being told: one, the U.S. regional “allies” have been funding and arming radical jihadists groups, including Al Qaeda terrorists and two, the claim about “moderate” Syrian rebels is a fraud. The so-called “moderates,” have served as public relations cut-outs for the U.S. and its “allies” to supply Al Qaeda and its allies with sophisticated weapons while pretending they aren’t jihadists.

While the idea that the U.S. government was supporting Al Qaeda may be hard to believe, we should remember that the U.S. and Saudi Arabic jointly, each contributing billions of dollars, financed the jihadist mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s to defeat Russian troops who were defending the leftist secular regime then governing Kabul. This exercise in U.S.-Saudi realpolitik gave birth to the current jihadist movement.

Though the U.S. has come to fear the Frankenstein monster they helped create, they are inextricably tied to Saudi Arabic and its crusade to punish Saudi enemies from Iran to Syria and Iraq. To make matters worse, the Saudis have begun collaborating with Israel which shares Riyad’s view that Iran and the Shiite Crescent represent a strategic threat. Between Saudi money and Israeli political clout, especially with the US Congress, the two countries are able to fend off occasional U.S. anger, even to the point of getting the U.S. government to hide a 20-page chapter about Saudi financing for the hijackers from the Congressional 9/11 report for a dozen years.

For the past five years, the principal target of this powerful coalition has been Syria, with President Obama occasionally joining in—as he did in authorizing CIA and Pentagon programs to arm “moderate” rebels/jihadists—and occasionally bowing out—as he did in resisting pressure to bomb the Syrian military after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus in 2013.

By insisting on regime change and collaborating with our “allies in the region,” we have contributed to the deaths of between 375,000 and 450,000 Syrians, helped create 6.6 million internally displaced persons and sent 4.8 million refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

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LAND CONFISCATION BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE

Even before Israel declared itself a State in 1948 the origins of modern Israeli land and planning law regimes had already been written. The Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901, was originally established for the purpose of acquiring land in Palestine, regardless of previous legal ownership, for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands.

By 1948, Israel had already begun enacting emergency legislation to deal with land acquisition. The Absentee Property Regulation was enacted to give control over “Absentee” (Palestinian) property to a Custodian of Absentee Property. The Custodian was entitled to seize such property and the burden lay on the Palestinian landowner to prove that he was not an “absentee.”  The role of the Custodian was put on more solid footing by the Absentee Property Law, enacted in 1950, which allowed the Custodian to transfer absentee land to a body called the Development Authority. This body was then entitled to transfer the land to the Jewish National Fund on behalf of the State of Israel.

The Palestinians who refused to flee what became Israeli-proper in 1948 were also forced from the land. The Defense Regulations was used to declare “closed military areas” effectively denying Palestinians access to their lands.

The Land Acquisition Law of 1953 was enacted to guarantee the “legality” of the confiscation of land during and after 1953. It did so by retroactively legalizing the seizure of land on the basis of “security and “development.” So successful was this takeover that by 1951 the State of Israel held 92% of the land.

As a result of the June 1967 war, over 500,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and land. By June 15, 1967, only five weeks after the end of the war, Israel quietly established its first settlements in the Occupied Territories despite promised to Washington that it had no intention of doing so. By the end of 2016, approximately 650,000 Jewish Israelis live in the Occupied West Bank and close to 200,000 in Occupied East Jerusalem, plus an additional 25,000 living in the Occupied Golan Heights.

On my first visit to Israel/Palestine in March 2002, I interviewed a high school teacher in Ramallah. According to Elias, “All land confiscation is legal according to Israel. It is, of course, a way to control and disperse Palestinians. Just take a look at all the Israeli settlements across the West Bank. This was all land previously owned by Palestinians. Once a parcel of land is declared absentee or in violation of some obscure Israeli law, the Israeli bulldozers turn up. The Arab home is destroyed, its 300 year old olive trees uprooted, effectively erasing any evidence of a Palestinian presence.” (The continuation of this and other interviews can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.)

 Israel’s controversial proposed new law known s the Regularization Bill aims to legalize unauthorized West Bank outposts, or, in Israeli jargon, Jewish clusters.

According to Oren Yiftachel, co-chair of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, founded in 1989: “This proposed legislation could join the ranks of global terra nullius legislation with honor.  In the name of invasion and colonial settlement—in this case, Jewish—this law would erase the validity of previous ownership systems in place for centuries. As settler leaders have reiterated, nothing will stop them from violating international law, and undercutting ethics and justice.

If passed, the new legislation will put Israel in its proper place as a pariah state.

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ISRAEL’S COLONIAL ENTERPRISE HAS KILLED THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION

The U. N. Security Council Resolution 2234 condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands reaffirms the obligation of Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War…and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on July 9, 2004 by the International Court of Justice, condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of  international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.

The White House position is that Washington has always regarded settlements as an impediment to peace and a threat to a two-state solution. President Obama’s abstention on the U.N. resolution, therefore, was consistent and appropriate with US foreign policy regarding Israel’s settlement policy in the Occupied Territories.

The US House of Representatives, in its usual shameless manner, has chosen to side with Israel against Washington’s official policy. Senator John McCain asserted that “Today’s passage of an ill-conceived resolution on Israeli settlements marks another shameful chapter in the bizarre anti-Israeli history of the United Nations.”

Apparently it matters not to Senator McCain that Israel stands in violation of the rule of law and by doing so for close to fifty years, has eroded the force of international law. And while the US Congress shamelessly refuses to recognize the harsh reality of Israel’s unwillingness to conclude a just peace with Palestinians while concurrently stealing their land, the rest of the world is now willing to declare Israel in open violation of international law. Even if our spineless Congressional leaders continue to allow Israel to escape the consequences of its criminal behavior, it will still become a pariah state that lives in increasing social, cultural and economic isolation and Netanyahu’s temper tantrums will most certainly speed up the process.

Kerry, according to the Israeli Prime Minister, attacked “the only democracy in the Middle East.” The key element of a democracy, however, is “the guarantee of basic human Rights to every individual person vis-à-vis the state and its authorities as well as vis-à-vis any social groups (especially religious institutions) and vis-à-vis other persons.” By this definition Israel is not a democracy.

By its colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel has also killed the notion of a two-state solution. The world pretends it is still alive because it is not prepared to confront the truth of its death. It is this pretense, sadly, that has shielded Israel and allowed it to continue its 50 year occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land. For as long as there was hope for a two-state solution, there was no reason to press Israel on settlement expansion and human rights violations.

Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz shortly after the U.N. vote said: “Supporters of a two-state solution respond aggressively to anyone who tries to undermine their magical faith in a miracle that is dead but will somehow be resurrected. “ He elaborated, saying that “most people know the truth but refuse to admit it. They know that the number of settlers (650,000) has reached a critical mass. They know that no party in Israel will ever evacuate them. And without all of them being evacuated—and this, too, is something they know—there is no viable Palestinian state.”

Netanyahu has admitted multiple times that he would never allow a Palestinian state. He is not alone. All Israeli governments—all of them—continued the settlement enterprise knowing it would kill a two-state solution.

Again, according to Gideon Levy, “They act like the relatives of a moribund patient who is already brain dead, and whose organs are needed for transplants, but they refuse, hoping that somehow, a miracle will happen and the living dead will be resurrected.”

Hoping for a miracle and therefore preventing the life-saving transplant has killed, definitively, any hope for a Palestinian state. Israel has the final say in the matter. It can be definitively be labeled an apartheid state or it can agree to one state with equal rights for all its citizens.

As I write in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, it is not the Palestinians, as people seeking self-determination and liberation from 50 years of occupation who face constant doubt and anxiety about the legitimacy and longevity of their political project, it is the Israelis.

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BDS SUCCESSES IN 2016

Intensifying repression against BDS movement shows Israel is becoming “desperate and irrational,” Palestinians say.

Ryan Rodrick BeilerActiveStills

2016 began with a bang: French telecommunications giant Orange announced in early January it was dumping its Israel affiliate.

This came just months after boycott activists renewed their campaign against the company over its support for Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza and its complicity in Israel’s colonization of the occupied West Bank.

The same week, a major Irish corporation yanked its cement contracts with Israel following boycott pressure.

Meanwhile, churches, student unions and local activists continued to organize strong boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns that caused panic among Israeli leaders.

Embarrassed by these significant victories, Israel spent 2016 waging “an all-out war” on the global BDS campaign, “in a desperate attempt to crush it,” according to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC).

Bullying

Israel resorted to threatening and bullying individuals, adopting policies to expel suspected boycott activists and to bar others from entering.

This followed last year’s naming by Israel’s leading financial daily of Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, among 100 people most likely to influence Israel’s economy in 2016.

Israel imposed an effective travel ban on Barghouti, following threats against him and other Palestinian human rights defenders by top Israeli government ministers in March.

Amnesty International condemned the threats, which included a call by intelligence minister Yisrael Katz for “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence.

“Israel has attempted to stigmatize, demonize and in some cases delegitimize BDS from above, after failing to crush the movement at the global grassroots and civil society levels,” notes the BNC.

But throughout 2016, BDS has only grown stronger, the group adds.

“The logic of appeasing Israel’s regime of oppression has started giving way to the logic of sustained international pressure, which proved instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa,” it says.

With that spirit in mind, here are the top 10 BDS successes of 2016, as covered by The Electronic Intifada.

10. Activists rose up against Hewlett Packard. Campaigners in dozens of cities across six continentsparticipated in an international week of action against Hewlett-Packard, bringing attention to the company’s role in enabling Israel’s rights violations.

9. Irish company divested from Israel’s cement industry. One of Ireland’s largest companies, CRH, announced in January that it was chucking Israeli assets after sustained grassroots boycott pressure. CRH held 25 percent of the shares in Mashav, owner of Israel’s top cement manufacturer Nesher.

Nesher cement has been used in constructing Israel’s wall and settlements in the West Bank and in the light rail network serving Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

8. Spanish municipalities declared themselves “apartheid-free zones.” More than 50 cities across Spain now declare themselves free of Israeli products in a campaign that began in July 2014, at the height of Israel’s attack against Gaza.

With more than 120,000 residents, Cádiz, in Andalusia, is one of the largest cities to support the campaign.

7. Norwegians ditched Israeli products. Two major cities in Norway voted to boycott Israeli goods and services produced in settlements inside occupied Palestinian territory.

6. Churches continued to mobilize for Palestinian rights. Denominations voted in 2016 to boycott Israeli financial institutions, and to dump or bar investments in corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation.

A church in California vowed not to purchase supplies from Hewlett-Packard, a company that provides equipment to Israel’s military and settlements.

Presbyterians reaffirmed their previous commitments to divestment, while 24 denominations together called for “economic leverage” against businesses or governments that violate human rights.

Lutherans voted to call for an end to US aid to Israel.

5. Governments and political parties stood up to anti-BDS bullies. Sweden, followed by the Netherlands and Ireland, publicly upheld the right of citizens to work for BDS.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the US State Department admitted that boycott advocacy is a protected free speech right.

The Canadian Green Party and the Dutch government rejected pressure by right-wing Israel lobby groups.

4. Activists helped defeat anti-BDS legislation. Grassroots campaigners fought back against a growing wave of legislation promoted by US state and federal lawmakers – and encouraged by Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government – to suppress BDS activism.

In Massachusetts, an anti-boycott amendment was withdrawn in the state senate in July following a campaign by Palestine solidarity groups.

The amendment, which was tacked onto an unrelated economic bill, would have blacklisted individuals and businesses that engage with the Palestinian-led boycott of Israel. Organizers said that in order to successfully counter the imminent anti-boycott legislation there, they knew they had to engage directly with lawmakers over a sustained period.

In the UK, a test case for banning BDS campaigning failed in the high court.

And in France, a court overturned a government ban on a meeting to support individuals facing trial for their Palestine solidarity activism. The BDS campaign in France continued to flourish despite the government’s crackdown.

In May, lawmakers in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, made history: theirs was the world’s first full legislature to vote down an anti-BDS law.

3. G4S was forced to buckle under BDS pressure. Under years-long pressure by grassroots campaigns, the world’s largest private security firm, G4S, ditched most of its Israeli businesses.

Four UN agencies in Jordan and one in Lebanon ended their contracts with the corporation.

The city of Berkeley, California, also voted to divest from private prison corporations, including G4S, for its role in human rights abuses against undocumented persons in the US and Palestinians under occupation.

2. Telecom giant Orange quit Israel. The French telecommunications company Orange announced it was quitting Israel in January, following sustained international boycott pressure.

The campaign calling on Orange to cut ties with Israel’s Partner Communications began in 2010 and involved unions and groups in France, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, countries where Orange or its affiliates have tens of millions of mobile phone subscribers.

The campaign received a major boost in May 2015 when BDS Egypt called for a boycott of Orange subsidiary Mobinil, which has 33 million customers. This came after The Electronic Intifada revealed the extent of Orange’s complicity in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

“Orange had no choice but to realize that investing in occupation, profiteering from Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land and involvement in violations against Palestinian rights is a commercially bad investment,” said Abdulrahman Abou Salem of BDS Egypt, a coalition of trade unions, political parties and campaign groups.

Partner Communications, which operated under the Orange Israel brand, built and operated extensive mobile telephone infrastructure in Israel’s settlements built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.

1. Students stood strong. Students in the US, Canada and the UK passed strong divestment measures in their student governments and trade unions, amidst intensifying smear campaigns by outside Israel advocacy groups and shady websites.

Students “are eventually going to be members of the public in various capacities after they graduate. And the rapidly shifting politics around Israel-Palestine on campuses is something that we should really take heart in,” Rahim Kurwa, a graduate student at UCLA, told The Electronic Intifada in August.

Since the beginning of 2016 alone, more than a dozen campuses around the US passed some form of divestment resolution or boycott measure, Kurwa, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said.

“People now realize that it doesn’t make any sense to claim that you’re a progressive or that you care about basic principles of equality and human rights if you can’t apply those principles to the question of Palestine … and a freedom struggle that has gone on for decades now.”

WHY IS THE LATEST UN RESOLUTION BAD FOR THE PALESTINIANS?

While I write extensively about Israeli settlements in Israeli and Palestinian Voices:

Since I’ve written extensively about Israeli settlements in Israeli and Palestinian Voices:A Dialogue with both Sides, and condemn them strongly, I was a bit confused when I read that the Palestinian Authority did not want President Obama to veto or abstain when the latest UN Resolution regarding Israeli settlements came before the Security Council. Since Ali Abuminah from Electronic Intifada has answered this question so brilliantly and so thoroughly I thought it appropriate to post it on my blog site.

Why UN resolution on settlements would be bad for Palestinians

UN draft resolution marketed as opposing Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land actually lays ground to eventually legitimize them.

Mahfouz Abu TurkAPA images

Update

The vote on the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, has reportedly been postponed. This came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put pressure on Egypt, the resolution’s sponsor.

The Obama administration had reportedly planned to abstain, meaning the resolution would likely have passed if it had come to a vote.

It is unclear when, or if, it will be voted on.

Original article

The UN Security Council is set to vote Thursday afternoon on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

I hope the resolution fails, but let me explain why.

The resolution, promoted by the Palestinian Authority, introduced by Egypt and supported by France, contains parts that are fine, even laudable.

It ostensibly reaffirms previous Security Council decisions, such as resolution 465 which invalidates Israel’s claims to have annexed Jerusalem. It also confirms “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force.”

It recalls “the obligation of Israel, the occupying power,” to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians under occupation, and the 2004 International Court of Justice decision against Israel’s wall in the West Bank.

The draft clearly condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”

It demands a halt to “the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.”

These elements are positive but not new.

Since there are already plenty of resolutions on the books which use almost identical – and often stronger – language why is a new resolution needed?

All that is needed is for action to enforce existing resolutions – such as sanctions on Israel.

But this resolution, like its predecessors, takes no action. In a masterful example of empty diplomatic phrasing, the draft only commits the Security Council “to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions.”

This leisurely “examination” has been going on for half a century now while Israel continues to violently steal and colonize Palestinian land.

Undermining Palestinian rights

What is even more worrying is the rest of the resolution – read in whole it is a clear attempt to legislate into international law the so-called two-state solution.

In September, I warned that a resolution of this kind would undermine, not support, Palestinian rights.

This draft does not contain a single reference to Palestinian rights, especially the right of return for refugees. It makes no mention of Gaza, which has been under a devastating and illegal Israeli siege for over a decade – a blockade enforced jointly with Egypt, the resolution’s sponsor.

Rather, it expresses “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines,” as if two states, not restoring Palestinian rights, is an end in itself.

I have explained previously how the tricky phrase “based on the 1967 lines” is designed to allow Israel to annex its vast settlement blocs.

Take the older resolution I mentioned, 465 from 1980. It demands that Israel “dismantle the existing settlements” – all settlements built since the West Bank was occupied in 1967.

The draft now under consideration only calls on Israel to dismantle “all settlement outposts erected since March 2001” – the implication is that most of the existing settlements, particularly the large blocs, will remain forever.

So while being marketed as a move against settlements, this resolution lays the ground to legitimize them, albeit under the framework of a “negotiated” peace agreement.

No right to resist

There are many other negative elements to this draft, including its affirmation that Palestinians have a duty effectively to police themselves on behalf of their occupiers by confiscating so-called “illegal weapons” and “dismantling terrorist capabilities” – Israeli-style language that demonizes an occupied people.

It supports “existing security coordination” – the collaboration between Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority that is broadly opposed by Palestinians.

All this is a clear attack on the internationally recognized right of all occupied peoples, including Palestinians, to engage in legitimate resistance.

Which other occupied people has been required to ensure that its occupiers can colonize and subjugate them in tranquility?

Two pro-Israel positions

Notably, the draft warns against “a one-state reality” – language designed to stigmatize and forestall discussion of alternatives to the failed “two-state” vision of ethno-racial territorial partition – namely a single, democratic, non-racial, non-sectarian state with equality for all citizens.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the US veto the resolution, claiming it is anti-Israel.

The French ambassador in Tel Aviv reassured Israel that its concerns are misplaced. “The tendency in Israel to say ‘the whole world is against us’ is wrong,” Helene Le Gal told media. “We say all those things against the settlements because we are with Israel, not against it.”

The clash between Netanyahu and the French over this draft is a confrontation between two pro-Israel positions.

Netanyahu represents an unabashedly racist Israel which is no longer interested in claiming that it wants peace nor that it is willing to give the Palestinians their rights under any conditions.

France represents a pro-Israel bloc of Western countries which are equally committed to Israel’s right to continue to be racist, but which believe this can only be guaranteed if some bantustan option remains open to the Palestinians.

This resolution is about rescuing Israel as a racist state that ensures its Jewish demographic majority through a battery of racist laws. Meanwhile Palestinians, shorn of their fundamental rights, will be consigned at best to a bantustan given the title and trappings of a state.

President-elect Donald Trump has weighed in on Netanyahu’s side, urging a US veto.

All attention now is on whether the outgoing US administration of President Barack Obama will veto this resolution, as it did a similar one in 2011, or abstain, allowing it to pass.

If Obama allows it to pass it will be the final act in his long record of undermining Palestinian rights.

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