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Trouble ahead: growing rift between Israel and its allies

The day after the Iran deal was concluded in Vienna, Labour MP Ian Austin accused UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond of backing an “absolutely terrible deal” that had left “people…utterly dismayed in Tel Aviv”. Hammond’s response was blunt, and worth quoting in full:

The question we have to ask is what kind of a deal would have been welcomed in Tel Aviv. The answer, of course, is that Israel does not want any deal with Iran. It wants a permanent state of stand-off, which I do not believe is in the interests of the region or in our interest.

It was a brief exchange – but a telling one. For here was a Conservative foreign secretary telling Parliament in no uncertain terms that not only does Israel want “permanent” conflict with Tehran, but that, on this occasion at least, Israel’s perceived strategic interests diverge from those of the UK. Read more

Shoot and lie: Israeli forces are killing civilians with impunity

On Sunday, an undercover unit of Israel’s Border Police conducted an arrest raid in Shuafat refugee camp, an area of Occupied East Jerusalem locked behind the Separation Wall.

Encountering resistance from local residents, the undercover forces requested assistance, and a large number of uniformed Israeli forces entered the camp. The police, in order to “extract the undercover unit and the detainee”, deployed “tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades.”

Nafaz Damiri was shopping in Shuafat when the raid took place. As he stood taking shelter inside a supermarket, Israeli forces shot him in the face with a sponge bullet. The 55-year-old husband and father of one, who was born deaf and dumb, has now lost his right eye. Read more

Game changer: 10 years of BDS

Just over a decade ago, there was no such thing as “BDS”. Many Palestinians and their allies have, of course, urged a boycott of Israel for decades. However, it is the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, launched 10 years ago today, that has proved to be a game-changer. Read more

Waiting on ICC, Israeli war crimes suspects already fear arrest abroad

Over the last two weeks, two Israeli war crimes suspects entered the UK. One, former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni, received diplomatic immunityin dubious circumstances. A second, former Israeli army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, visited for just 48 hours and left before the authorities acted. These visits have prompted three questions.

The first question is for the FCO. Livni, an opposition MK, came to London to speak at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit. Since this would have constituted a personal visit, rather than an official one, Livni arranged a meeting with Foreign Office (FCO) minister Tobias Ellwood. The FCO then duly granted the visit ‘special mission’ status, and thus gave Livni immunity from prosecution. Read more

Rumours of war, rumours of peace: Assessing Gaza’s uneasy status quo

Almost a year on from the beginning of Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ and the ceasefire that ended hostilities has largely held, albeit with dozens of Israeli attacks on Gaza civilians, the continued blockade, and some half a dozen rocket launches. While the Israeli army and Palestinian factions prepare themselves in the event of a new confrontation, recent developments suggest that Gaza stands between the deterioration of a tense stand-off and a more substantial truce. Read more

Bibi boosts BDS – Israel’s opposition proves it is necessary

In his speech to AIPAC last year, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu referred 18 times to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. A year on, and it is clear that for Bibi, BDS is the new public enemy number one. Denounced as an antisemitic “strategic threat,” the Palestinian-led, global campaign to pressure Israel into ending systematic rights violations is now very much in Tel Aviv’s cross-hairs.

Ironically, it is during Netanyahu’s time in office that BDS has made considerable headway. His ambiguity over Palestinian statehood (in public, veering between rejection and unreliable endorsement) is exacerbated by the unambiguous views of his hard-right ministers and coalition partners. Then there was the unprecedented bombardment of Gaza, also under Bibi’s watch, and a slew of anti-democratic, hyper-nationalist legislative initiatives. Read more

Israel intimidated by boycott threat to apartheid status quo

As Israeli politicians ramp up the rhetoric against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, two reports have suggested that much worse is in store for the movement which advocates economic and cultural disengagement from Israel.

First came a secret, Israeli government report obtained by business newspaper Calcalist. The internal document looked at the potential future impact of BDS on the country’s economy – and the results are striking. Read more

Ban Ki-moon buckles – and Palestinian children will pay the price

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has overruled his colleagues’ recommendations and removed Israel from a list of parties guilty of grave violations of children’s rights, it was revealed Monday.

The decision to exclude Israel from the list, part of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict presented to the Security Council, was slammed by human rights groups, who accused Ban Ki-moon of buckling under pressure from Israel and the US. Read more

Netanyahu’s ‘death blow’ to Foreign Ministry risks leaving Israel vulnerable

The Israeli government’s foreign policy is currently being managed by seven senior officials, a division of responsibilities shaped by domestic political concerns – but with more serious, global implications.

Since forming his coalition government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has himself retained the post of Foreign Minister. Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely was granted the position of deputy foreign minister, but has found her responsibilities reduced through other appointments. Read more

Israel’s obsession with hummus is about more than stealing Palestine’s food

When Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages and homes in 1948, many left with little more than the clothes on their back. Food was left on the stove. Crops were left unharvested. But the land emptied of its inhabitants was soon occupied by new residents.

From 1948 to 1953, almost all new Jewish settlements were established on refugees’ property. The myth of making the desert bloom is belied by the facts: in mid-1949, two-thirds of all land sowed with grain in Israel was Palestinian land. In 1951, “abandoned” land accounted for nearly 95 per cent of all Israel’s olive groves and almost 10,000 acres of vineyards. Read more

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