“We are here to stay.” These were the words of Israel’s Science and Space Technology Minister Ophir Akunis, as he attended the ceremonial opening of a new “heritage centre” in Ariel settlement on 17 January. “I want to send the EU ministers a message from here, the city of Ariel,” the minister said. “No step or decision that you take will remove us from our land.”
Ariel, established in 1978, is one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with some 20,000 residents, as well as a university. The colony lies some 12 miles from the “Green Line”, and was “strategically built to wind its way along a mountain ridge surrounded by Palestinian towns and villages on all sides.” The Ariel “finger”, or bloc, includes a dozen or so separate, official settlements. Read more
Students at Palestine Technical University in the Occupied West Bank face an unusual challenge in pursuit of their studies: the Israeli military has built a training facility on campus. The university may be the only one in the world where an occupying army has not only built a firing range on campus, but also regularly shoots and detains student protesters; in one six week period recently, some 350 Palestinian students were injured by the Israeli army. Read more
On Wednesday, a debate was held in the British Parliament on the issue of Palestinian child prisoners detained by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
The same day, two thousand miles away, Israel’s Knesset hosted a discussion on how to combat the growing, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Together, these two parliamentary meetings serve as a useful illustration of why Israel’s international image continues to deteriorate – and why it is not likely to improve any time soon. Read more
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
Critics of Israel’s policies and the ongoing colonial displacement of Palestinians are familiar with the antisemitism smear. Now, faced with a growing boycott and allies increasingly frustrated with its rejectionist, ultra/right-wing policies, Israel is preparing to up the ante in its attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
This week, the Israeli government is convening the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism (GFCA) in Jerusalem. The fifth event of its kind, the conference is billed as “the premier biennial gathering for assessing the state of antisemitism globally, and formulating effective forms of societal and governmental response.” Read more
In 2011, and in response to accusations of war crimes during the final months of conflict with the Tamil Tigers two years previously, the Sri Lankan government convened a conference where then-Minister of External Affairs G. L. Peiris declared that “the entire body of international law must be revisited.” Human Rights Watch called the event “a public relations exercise to whitewash abuses.”
This week, a new conference will take place in Israel on a familiar-sounding theme: “Towards a New Law of War.” According to conference organisers Shurat HaDin, the goal of the event “is to influence the direction of legal discourse concerning issues critical to Israel and her ability to defend herself.” Read more
There was outrage last week when the University of Southampton cancelled a forthcoming conference on Israel and international law, ostensibly on the grounds of “health and safety”.
The university had been under pressure from pro-Israel advocacy groups, and organisers have begun legal efforts against what they see as a concession to outside interference and bullying. The story of the campaign to shut down the conference should not, however, distract from why Israel’s supporters found the topics scheduled for discussion so objectionable. Read more
Earlier this week, the University of Southampton pulled the plug on a forthcoming conference about Israel and international law.
The decision to withdraw permission for the event was taken on “health and safety” grounds, but came after months of pressure by pro-Israel groups who objected to the conference’s contents. A legal challenge to the decision is now underway.
Whatever the final outcome, this story is significant for the way in which it illustrates not so much the pro-Israel lobby’s power, but its weaknesses. Read more
On Monday, newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regretfor his now notorious remarks on polling day last week, when he warned that Israel’s Palestinian citizens were coming out to vote “in droves.”
Netanyahu did not actually say sorry; he merely noted that what he had said “hurt some Israeli citizens”, and added that he sees himself as the prime minister of “each and every one of you…without differentiating between religions, races and sex.”
In the words of one journalist, Bibi’s comments were “like publishing a one-column-inch apology on the obituary page for deliberately libelling a person on Page 1.” The Joint List also rejected the non-apology, noting the prospect of further “racist and marginalising legislation” in the next Knesset. Read more