Members of the world community finally reached a limit witnessing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The United Nations Security Council presented a peace offering to Palestinians days before the official birthday of Jesus in what is now occupied Bethlehem: resolution 2334, with a “vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.” Ironically, the seemingly toothless resolution’s main notoriety comes from Netanyahu’s fury at its passage.
The resolution, which aims to bring a lasting peace to Israelis and Palestinians based on international law, comes at a time when Israel seemed to be in the “mop-up” phase of its theft of Palestinian resources (such as water and gas) and its annexation of whatever it wanted of the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967: East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
The media censorship of Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians has made their horrific situation virtually invisible to the western public, allowing Israel to ignore — besides basic human decency — virtually all international laws protecting Palestinian human, civil and property rights. Israel has been ethnicly cleansing East Jerusalem, which it is trying to annex; it is maintaining apartheid in the occupied West Bank according to the 2012 Russell Tribunal, and committing genocide against Gazans according to the 2013 Kuala Lumpur tribunal. Despite such findings, Israel’s allies are attempting to criminalize speech critical of Israel or advocating redress.
What the resolution calls for
Resolution 2334 lays out the Security Council’s intention to start diplomatic meetings to create a lasting peace based on “the relevant United Nations’ resolutions, and other peace agreements and initiatives”, along with periodic follow-up reports. More specifically, resolution 2334 calls for:
Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” because of their illegality;
the international community to recognize the difference “in its dealings” between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories;
immediate steps to prevent all violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as acts of provocation and destruction;
calls for accountability in this regard,
both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law… ; and
efforts aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, and … an end to the Israeli occupation.
The resolution confirms the total illegality of Israel’s settlements; the wording “completely cease all settlement activities” might also be interpreted to mean the dismantling of the settlements.
If Israel refuses to abide by the resolution’s call to end all settlement activity, the Palestinians can pursue cases against Israeli leaders at the International Criminal Court.
By calling for the international community to differentiate between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories “in its dealings“, the UN is calling for an end to trade agreements(such as Canada’s) that support the financial viability of the settlements by allowing Israel to mislabel products produced in the settlements as from “Israel” in order to facilitate sales and avoid duties.
The call to prevent “all violence against civilians, including acts of terror … provocation and destruction”, is a stunning rebuke of Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians and the destruction of their homes and properties. The currently-used definition of terrorism*, which excludes state terrorism (and thus actions by Israel or Hamas) includes the actions of Jewish settlers, the major source of terrorism in Israel.
The call for accountability is a call for an end to Israel’s impunity for crimes including its massive attacks on Gaza as well as its almost daily attacks on Palestinian farmers, fishermen and other civilians.
The call for “both parties” to “act on the basis of …. international humanitarian law” is a demand that Israel, as the Occupying Power, respect the Fourth Geneva Convention, the law governing the treatment of civilians under military occupation. Israel’s obligations are not only to protect the welfare of those civilians, but to refrain from moving its population into occupied territory or retaining the territory under any circumstances.
The resolution calls for efforts to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, which Israel would find costly. Its confinement of millions of Palestinians is hugely profitable, largely because the world community has assumed Israel’s legal obligation to provide for their food, education and other humanitarian needs. Israel skims off humanitarian aid money and forces funds to be converted into the shekel, propping up its currency. Palestinians are used as cheap and disposal labor in Israel’s industrial zones and as guinea pigs for its weapons testing. The West Bank, from which Israel gets much of its water and farm land, is used for Israel’s toxic dumps.
This resolution’s intent to follow up on final status peace negotiations is a major problem for Israel because the next world conference on Israel/ Palestine is on January 15th, when President Obama is still in office. If a resolution is passed that sets parameters such as the issue of Israel’s borders, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return, along with a time-limit for the negotiations, it would be almost impossible for Donald Trump to intervene. Trump would have to get the support of at least nine countries in the Security Council behind a new resolution that would overturn the offending resolution — and then ensure that the permanent members, including Russia and China, would not veto it.
Israel’s violations of UN SC Resolution 2334 — which calls for an end to the settlements, steps to prevent acts of violence against civilians, and for accountability — justify boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, particularly of products from Israel’s settlements.
Israel’s ongoing violations should also end the current efforts to criminalize speech critical of Israel. People of conscience can not be said to be guilty of “racism”, “anti-Semitism”, or “hate speech” when they describe Israel’s defiance of this resolution and of international laws — or advocate economic responses to facilitate a just peace.
Hopes for an ending to the Palestinian plight now hinge on the passage of a follow-up resolution at the January 15th conference that will call for final status negotiations on Israel’s borders, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return — with set time limits.
The United Nations SC resolution 2334 demonstrates that the world body retains its credibility in calling for justice.
The UN has been responsible for the Palestinian tragedy; members must now take responsibility for ending it.
The definition of “terrorism” presumably the one used by the annual Global Index of Terrorism:
The Global Terrorism Index uses data supported by the Department of Homeland Security which includes incidents meeting the following criteria:
1. The incident must be intentional – the result of a conscious calculation on the part of a perpetrator.
2. The incident must entail some level of violence or threat of violence — including property violence, as well as violence against people
3. The perpetrators of the incidents must be sub-national actors. This database does not include acts of state terrorism. In addition to this baseline definition, two of the following three criteria have to be met in order to be included in the START database from 1997: ….The violent act was aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal. ….The violent act included evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) other than the immediate victims. ….The violent act was outside the precepts of international humanitarian law. (Vision of Humanity)
America or Israel?
I am reluctant to write about the “Israel problem” at the heart of U.S. foreign policy two weeks in a row but it seems that the story just will not go away as the usual suspects pile on the Barack Obama Administration over its alleged betrayal of America’s “best and greatest friend and ally in the whole world.”
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his gaggle of war criminals continue to foam at the mouth over the United Nations vote it is, in truth, difficult to blame Israel for what is happening. The Israelis are acting on what they see as their self interest in dominating their neighbors militarily and having a free hand to deal with the Palestinians in any way they see fit. And as for their relationship with Washington, what could be better than getting billions of dollars every year, advanced weapons and unlimited political cover in exchange for absolutely nothing?
Surely even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the settlements are illegal under international law and are an impediment to any peaceful resolution with the Palestinians, which is what Resolution 2334 says. It has been U.S. policy to oppose them since they first starting popping up like mushrooms, but Netanyahu has encouraging their expansion in full knowledge that he is creating facts on the ground that will be irreversible. He has also pledged to his voters that he will not permit the creation of a Palestinian state, so why should anyone be confused about his intentions?
Daniel Larison over at The American Conservative summed up the situation perfectly, observing that “Calling out Israel for its ongoing illegal behavior becomes unavoidable when there is no progress in resolving the conflict, and the current Israeli government has made it very clear that there won’t be any progress… Israel isn’t actually an ally, much less a ‘vital’ one, and it certainly isn’t ‘critical’ to our security. The U.S. isn’t obliged to cater to some of the worst policies of a client government that has increasingly become a liability. The real problem with the U.S. abstention on the resolution is that it came many years after it might have done some significant good, and it comes so late because Obama wasted his entire presidency trying to ‘reassure’ a government that undermined and opposed him time and again.”
So stop blaming Israel for acting selfishly, since that is the nature of the beast, as in the fable of the frog and the scorpion. More to the point, it is the American Quislings who should be the focus of any examination of what is taking place as they are deliberately misrepresenting nearly every aspect of the discussion and flat out lying about what might actually be at stake due to Washington’s being shackled to Netanyahu’s policies. I will leave it to the reader to decide why so many U.S. politicians and media talking heads have betrayed their own country’s interests in deference to the shabby arguments being put forward on behalf of an openly apartheid theocracy, but I might suggest that access to money and power have a lot to do with it as the Israel Lobby has both in spades.
The Quislings are making two basic arguments in their defense of surrendering national sovereignty to a troublesome little client state located half a world away. First, they are claiming that any acknowledgement that the Israelis have behaved badly is counterproductive because it will encourage intransigence on the part of the Arabs and thereby diminish prospects for a viable peace agreement, which has to be negotiated between the two parties. Second, the claim is being made that the abstention on the U.N. vote violates established U.S. policy on the nature of the conflict and, in so doing, damages both Israeli and American interests. Bloomberg’s editorial board has conjoined the two arguments, adroitly claiming in an over-the-top piece entitled “Obama’s Betrayal of Israel at the U.N. Must Not Stand” that the abstention “breaks with past U.S. policy, undermines a vital ally and sets back the cause of Middle East peace.”
Citing the damaged peace talks argument, which is what the Israeli government itself has been mostly promoting, Donald Trump denounced the U.N. resolution from a purely Israeli perspective, stating that “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.” He subsequently added “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” a comment that just might be regarded as either tongue in cheek or ironic because that is precisely how Israel treats Washington. It is reported, however, that Trump does not do irony.
The pundits who most often scream the loudest in defense of Israel are often themselves Jewish, many having close ties to the Netanyahu government. They would undoubtedly argue that their ethno-religious propinquity to the problem they are discussing does not in any way influence their views, but that would be nonsense. One of those persistently shouting the loudest regarding the “peace” canard is the ubiquitous Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has never seen anything in Israel that he dislikes. He commented that Obama had stabbed Israel in the back and had made “peace much more difficult to achieve because the Palestinians will now say ‘we can get a state through the U.N.’”
Syndicated columnist and fellow Israeli zealot Charles Krauthammer added his two cents, noting that the resolution abstention had meant that Washington had “joined the jackals at the U.N.” Observing that the U.N. building occupies “good real estate in downtown New York City…Trump ought to find a way to put his name on it and turn it into condos.” Iran-Contra’s own Elliot Abrams, who opposes Jews marrying non-Jews, meanwhile repeats the Krauthammer “jackals” meme and also brays about the “abandonment of Israel at the United Nations.”
But the prize for pandering to Jewish power and money has to go to the eminent John Bolton, writing on December 26th about “Obama’s Parting Betrayal of Israel” in The Wall Street Journal (there is a subscription wall but if you go to Google and search you can get around it). Bolton, an ex-Ambassador to the U.N under the esteemed George W. Bush, is a funny looking guy who reportedly did not get a position with the Trump administration because of his Groucho Marx moustache. He currently pontificates from the neocon American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he is something called a senior fellow. He has written a book “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad,” which is available for 6 cents used on Amazon, plus shipping. There is another John Bolton who wrote “Marada the She-Wolf,” but they are apparently not related.
In his piece, Bolton hit on both the peace talks and the “I’m backing Israel arguments.” He uniquely starts out by claiming that Barack Obama “stabbed Israel in the front” by failing to stop Resolution 2334, which he then describes as “clearly intended to tip the peace process towards the Palestinians…abandon[ing] any pretense that the actual parties to the conflict must resolve their differences.” That’s the peace argument plus the negotiations fiction rolled together. He then goes on to argue that Obama has betrayed Israel by “essentially endors[ing] the Palestinian politico-legal narrative about territory formerly under League of Nations’ mandate.”
Bolton concedes that the damage has already been done by Obama’s complicity “in assaulting Israel” and the opening can be exploited by what he describes as the “anti-Israeli imagineers” at the United Nations. He calls on Donald Trump to work to “mitigate or reverse” such consequences and specifically “move to repeal the resolution, giving the 14 countries that supported it a chance to correct their error.” That they cheered loudly when the resolution passed apparently will have to also be somehow expunged, though Bolton does not mention that. Nations that refuse to go along with the repeal “would have their relations with Washington adjusted accordingly” while “the main perpetrators in particular should face more tangible consequences.”
Bolton is unhesitatingly placing Israeli priorities ahead of American interests by his willingness to punish actual U.S. allies like Britain, Germany and France, as well as major powers Russia and China, out of pique over their vote against the settlements. He also recommends withholding the U.S. contributions to the U.N., which amount to over 20% of the budget. Bolton then goes on to reject any Palestinian state of any kind, recommending instead that a rump version of territory where the bulk of the Palestinians will be allowed to live be transferred to Jordanian control.
As always, there is scant attention paid by any of the Israel boosters for actual American interests in continuing to perform proskynesis in front of Netanyahu and whatever reptile might succeed him. American values and needs are invisible, quite rightly, because they are of no interest to John Bolton and his fellow knee jerkers at AEI, the Hudson Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Brookings, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the rest of the alphabet soup that depends on the generosity of pro-Israel donors to keep the lights on.
Bolton provides precisely one short sentence relating to Washington’s stake in the game being played, noting that the U.N. abstention poses “major challenges for American interests.” He never says what those interests are because there are none, or at least none that matter, apart from godfathering a viable two state solution which Israel has basically made impossible. And that is only an interest because it would lessen much of the world’s disdain for U.S. hypocrisy while mitigating the radicalization of young Muslims turned terrorists who are in part enraged by the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, blaming it correctly on American connivance. In reality having the U.S. finally vote on the side of sanity and fairness is really a good thing for Americans and hopefully will lead to severing a bizarre “special relationship” that supports a kleptocracy in Asia that has been nothing but trouble.
Israeli Illegal Settlements: The Facts
Israel has demanded that the 14 nations who voted against the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank “explain themselves”—for daring to oppose the Jewish ethnostate’s breach of international law.
In reality, the Jewish settlements are illegal in terms of the Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations, and if undertaken by any other state, would have resulted in international military intervention.
According to “Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” of the Geneva Convention, an occupier is forbidden from transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies.
“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. (12 August 1949. “Deportations, Transfers, Evacuations, Article 49.)
In addition, Article 55 of the Hague Regulations states that an occupying power’s role is to safeguard occupied properties and maintain the status quo:
Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct. (Annex To The Convention: Regulations Respecting The Laws And Customs Of War On Land – Section III : Military Authority Over The Territory Of The Hostile State – Regulations: Art. 55.)
The construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are clear violations of both these international treaties, and for Israel to demand that nations who uphold this law “explain themselves” is merely an indication of the chutzpah and hypocrisy which underpins that state.
These then, are the facts about the occupied West Bank:
The West Bank—including East Jerusalem—and the Gaza Strip together constitute the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), which have been under Israeli military occupation since June 1967.
Prior to Israeli occupation, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt.
Before the State of Israel was established in 1948, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were simply parts of Mandate Palestine; their “borders” are the result of Israeli expansion and armistice lines.
More than 300,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip became refugees during Israel’s conquest in June 1967; the vast majority were unable to return.
In 1967, Israeli forces ethnically cleansed and destroyed a number of Palestinian villages in the OPT, including Imwas, Beit Nuba, and others.
One of the first acts of the Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem was to demolish the Mughrabi Quarter, expelling 600 residents and destroying 135 homes. In place of the 800-year-old Mughrabi Quarter, Israel created the Western Wall Plaza.
The first West Bank settlement was established in September 1967, supported by the then “left-wing Zionist” Labor-led government.
By 1972, there were some 10,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements in the OPT.
In 1974/75, Israel established Ma’ale Adumim, located in the West Bank to the east of Jerusalem. It is now the largest Israeli settlement in terms of area.
There are now 125 government-sanctioned settlements in the OPT, plus another 100 or so unauthorized settler “outposts.”
There are at least 600,000 Jews now living in illegal settlements the Occupied West Bank, including 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
By the mid-1980s, Palestinian cultivated land in the West Bank had dropped by 40 percent.
In 2003, in response to increasing violent resistance from Palestinians over their dispossession of land and homes, Israel began work on the massive concrete wall to supposedly seal off the West Bank.
In reality, 85 percent of the total length of this wall lies inside Palestinian territory, and not on the “border” at all.
The territory enclosed by the wall “coincidentally” includes all but 100,000 of the 600,000 Jews living illegally on settlements on Palestinian territory.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued an advisory opinion that the construction of the Wall in the OPT is “contrary to international law.”
In 1967, Israel expanded Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries to include newly-occupied territory; this act of annexation has never been recognized by the international community. A third of the annexed territory was expropriated; by 2001, some 47,000 settlement housing units had been built on this expropriated land.
Palestinian homes are routinely demolished by Israeli forces for “lacking the right permit;” yet more than 95 percent of Palestinian permit applications are rejected by Israeli military courts which are enforced in the occupied West Bank.
Sixty percent of the West Bank remains under full Israeli military and civil control. In the rest of the West Bank, the Israeli military conducts raids at will.
It is clear that if any other nation had behaved in such a manner toward any other people, the international community would have intervened militarily by now.
It is only the presence of the Jewish lobby within the governments of many Western nations which has, until now, shielded Israel from criticism such as that which was seen at last week’s historic United Nations Security Council vote.
The power of that lobby has however been severely impacted by the vote, and Israel will now have to rely on the incoming Donald Trump administration in order to be able to continue its ethnic cleansing of the West Bank without further repercussions.