Saturday, September 06, 2014

173.6 - Outrage of the Week: Israel steals West Bank land

Outrage of the Week: Israel steals West Bank land

Okay, this is why Cee Lo Green got outranked. This is the Outrage of the Week.

Last week, I said the big Good News was the "unlimited ceasefire" reached between Israel and Hamas, putting at least a temporary end to the bloodshed in Gaza. (Yes, I know it wasn't only in Gaza but so much of the blood that was shed was there that it is reasonable to refer to events that way. Over 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, died in the war, as opposed to 71 Israelis, 65 of them soldiers.)

How bad is it in Gaza now? According to a new report by Shelter Cluster, an international organization involved in assessing post-conflict reconstruction, unless Israel stops blockading the import of concrete and other building materials into Gaza, it will take 20 years to rebuild the area's battered housing stock - and that doesn't even include reconstructing damage from fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Shelter Cluster is chaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council with the participation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency - the UN refugee agency - and the Red Cross.

The assessment said that 17,000 housing units in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged during the most recent war and 5,000 units still need repairs from damage sustained in the previous Israeli attacks. In addition, it says, Gaza has a housing deficit of 75,000 units. In short, there are scores of thousands without proper shelter.

So in light of that, what does Israel do?

It steals land on the West Bank.

On August 31, Israel announced the biggest land seizure in the occupied West Bank in 30 years.

Nearly 1,000 acres in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were summarily declared "state land" by the bogusly-named Civil Administration, bogus because it is actually run by the Israeli military.

The military gave no reason for the land theft, but Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June, an incident that lead to rapidly soaring tensions, exchange of fire, and the  outbreak of the most recent war. So obviously the way to avoid a repeat is to take an outrageously provocative action in that very same area. Of course.

Israel has been condemned around the world for its settlements on the West Bank, which are illegal under international law, and faced a new round of condemnation over this latest land grab. The US, the UK, France, the European Union, Japan, and the General Secretary of the UN joined other nations including Turkey and Norway in condemning the seizure and calling for it to be reversed.

The Israeli peace group Peace Now said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement - but the Israeli government claimed it would not constitute a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighborhood of an existing settlement several miles away. I wonder if the government's media person managed to keep a straight face while saying that.

A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts that had been taken and harvested olive trees on them. But that's never made a difference in previous land grabs, so why should it matter now?

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the seizure. "This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza," he said.

That is unlikely to sway Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who broke off talks with Abbas in April after the Palestinian leader reached a reconciliation deal with Hamas and who declared in the wake of the ceasefire that Israel would not resume talks with Abbas until he breaks ties with Hamas - even though a Fatah-Hamas coalition would mean Hamas participating in a government that openly recognizes Israel, which would mean of necessity Hamas having to tone down its anti-Israel rhetoric and very likely reduce the chances of renewed rocket attacks from Gaza.

Why wouldn't Israel want that? Why wouldn't Israel want developments that would by their nature lead to the at least partial moderation of Hamas? Bluntly, I suspect it's because of what I have maintained for some time: Israel does not want peace. Or, more exactly, the right-wing coalitions which dominate the national government do not want peace. They do not want a settlement, they do not want an actual end to the conflict - or, again more exactly, an end to the conflict which does not involve the complete subjugation of Palestinians.

Consider this: The platform of the Likud Party, the party of Benjamin Netanyahu, said several years ago, quoting now,
The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.
If you note on the map where the Jordan River is, you'll realize immediately that this means that by this platform, the entirety of the West Bank is Israel.

Quoting again,
- Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.
- The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.
- The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
That platform has been modified some since 2005, after Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza, the better to turn the Strip into an outdoor prison. But the Likud Party has never in its statements of principles accepted a Palestinian State. As recently as mid-July, Netanyahu declared that Israel will never "relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan." That is, there could be a Palestinian state, maybe - provided that it is an unarmed, defenseless vassal of Israel.

This is nothing new. In a recently-discovered video from 2001, Netanyahu is talking to a group of Israeli West Bank settlers at a time he thought the camera was off.

In the video, he boasted about derailing the Oslo peace process, described American foreign policy as easily manipulated, and said the only way to deal with the Palestinians was "beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it's unbearable."

He also said that the US will "make statements" but that it won't do anything; it won't, he said, "interfere with us." Which is spot on and why the statements from the State Department about the land grab, which urged Israel to "reverse this decision" because it's "counterproductive," will have no effect because they will no more be followed up with any actual actions - such as cutting off military aid - than any of the previous statements over the years were.

So Israel celebrates a ceasefire in Gaza by refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian authority, stealing land in the West Bank for illegal settlements, and avoiding any possibility of a long-term settlement while pursuing its dreams of "greater Israel" involving taking all of the West Bank - and the US responds by harrumphing and tsking and doing nothing.

Altogether enough to say: It's an outrage.

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