Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Palestinians’

Israel’s apartheid demands a response

When I visited Israel and Palestine in July (my eighth trip since 2003), I once again witnessed the reality attested to by countless human rights organisations, journalists and Israeli and Palestinian peace activists: Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid is only worsening.

Take, for example, Daoud and his family in the Bethlehem Governate of the West Bank. Like millions of Palestinians they are under military rule, denied basic rights we take for granted. The family has owned a farm for generations, yet must fight to maintain their presence there.

This summer, Israeli soldiers issued the family with demolition orders for several structures on the farm, including an outside toilet, chicken coop, and underground water cistern. In 60% of the West Bank, Palestinians must apply for building permits from Israeli occupation forces; yet according to a 2008 UN report, 94% of applications are denied. Building illegally means demolition. Meanwhile, all around the farm’s olive trees and vines, Jewish settlements expand and flourish. Read more

The Jordan Valley is a microcosm of Israel’s colonisation

The Jordan Valley, stretching all the way down the West Bank’s eastern side, is a microcosm of Israel’s discriminatory policies of colonisation and displacement. For 40 years, settlements have been established, military no-go areas declared, and Palestinians’ freedom of movement restricted. There are now 27 colonies in the Jordan Valley – most of them had been established by the late 1970s under Labour governments. There are also nine “unauthorised” outposts. In the 1990s, the size of territory afforded to the settlements increased by 45%.

As we watch yet another bout of periodic, though tempered, enthusiasm about “direct negotiations”, Israel is doing as much as possible to determine the Bantustan borders – policies exemplified in the Jordan Valley, a substantial area of the West Bank almost isolated from the rest of the occupied territories. In 2006, B’Tselem noted how the Israeli military “made a distinction between the ‘territory of Judea and Samaria’ (ie the West Bank) and ‘the Jordan Valley’, indicating that Israel does not view the two areas as a single territorial unit”. Read more

Throughout Israel, Palestinians are being suffocated

Shortly after I had arrived in Palestine last month, I visited the devastated community in the Jordan Valley where the Israeli army had, just days earlier, demolished around 70 “illegal” structures. The same week, I visited Dahmash, an “unrecognised” village between Ramla and Lod, inside Israel, where Palestinian citizens face pending demolition orders. Finally, a few days later, I woke up to the news that the “unrecognised” Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqib, in the Negev, had been destroyed in a raid involving 1,300 armed police (and cheering volunteers).

Whether under military rule in the West Bank, or as citizens in Israel, Palestinian communities’ ability to grow naturally is compromised by laws, “zoning” plans and permit systems designed to enforce a regime of separation and inequality. In 2008, a UN report detailed how 94 per cent of Palestinian building permit applications are denied in “Area C” of the West Bank, an area that covers 60 per cent of the territory. Read more

Lessons from Camp David

Ten years ago this month, Israelis and Palestinians gathered at Camp David, under the guidance of President Bill Clinton, for negotiations aimed at reaching a final agreement. The talks ended in failure, and by the end of September, the second intifada had begun.

The Camp David talks have largely been remembered in the context of apportioning blame. This was particularly true in the first months and years of the Palestinian uprising, as Israel spun the narrative of a rejectionist Palestinian leadership that had turned down an incredibly “generous offer” and instead opted for a campaign of violence. Read more

A ‘Hidden History’ in the Holy Land

I still remember the day in summer 2004 when, on a visit to Palestine/Israel, I stood in a field under the hot sun, staring at piles of stones covered with cacti and undergrowth. These were the remains of Zir’in, a Palestinian village destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948. Like hundreds of other towns and villages—an estimated four out of five Palestinian communities in what became Israel—its inhabitants became refugees, prevented from returning home.

There may not be much trace left of Zir’in, but across Israel you can find countless examples of this “hidden history” if you know what you are looking for, or perhaps if you are simply willing to see it. Eitan Bronstein, founder and director of the Israeli organization Zochrot, understands this distinction.

Bronstein’s family emigrated from Argentina when he was a small boy, pushed by a dire economic situation, and they settled on a kibbutz. “I was involved in the kibbutz’ youth movement,” Bronstein recalls, “and we would have celebrations and festivals at this particular site where there were these ruins I believed to be simply a ‘Crusaders’ fortress.” Much later, Bronstein would learn that these were remains of the Palestinian village of Qaqun, destroyed in 1948 and its residents expelled. Read more

Crisis? What Crisis?: U.S.-Israel Relations and the Demise of the Peace Process

In September 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ushered in a much-trumpeted “freeze” on West Bank settlement construction, as a supposed goodwill gesture to revive the defunct peace process. The freeze did not apply to Occupied East Jerusalem, territory which the government argues is part of the Israeli state and not subject to negotiation with the Palestinians. Even in the West Bank, however, the initiative was more a public relations ploy than a sign of changing Israeli policy. Explicitly intended to last a matter of months, the ‘freeze’ excluded both “2,500 housing units already under construction”, as well as “hundreds of new units” announced just prior to the start of the “freeze”. After the announcement, George Mitchell, the U.S. Special Envoy  to the Middle East, was dispatched on a trip described as “a final push to revive Middle East peace talks”. But the transparently disingenuous approach of the Netanyahu government meant that Mitchell’s mission to restart negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has overseen good relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on “security issues”, would be doomed to failure. Read more

Beit Sahour: a microcosm of Israeli colonization

Forced by Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, the US president delivers a “rare rebuke” of an ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins “construction of a new housing project in East Jerusalem” despite the risk of drawing “fierce, and possibly violent, Palestinian protest, along with international denunciations,” as reported by The New York Times. While this may sound like a news summary from the last month, these are in fact news reports from 1997, as Israel began work on Har Homa colony.

A number of commentators have pointed out a sense of déjà-vu about Netanyahu’s current premiership. But while today’s gaze is fixed on colonies like Ramat Shlomo — home to the 1,600 new housing units announced during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit — or right-wing settler expansion in Sheikh Jarrah, little has been said about what has since happened to Har Homa, the colony which caused a stir during Netanyahu’s previous time in office. Read more

Palestinians in Israel’s ‘democracy’: The Judaization of the Galilee

Summary Points

  • The ‘Judaization of the Galilee’ refers to Israeli state and regional policies aimed at increasing the proportion of Jewish residents in relation to Palestinians in the Galilee, an area in the north of the country which retained a sizeable Palestinian population after 1948.
  • Judaizing the Galilee is just one element of Israel’s regime of control over its Palestinian citizens, who face systematic discrimination.
  • Palestinian citizens are routinely described as constituting a ‘demographic threat’.
  • Land expropriation and the establishment of Jewish communities have been the two main methods used for this Judaization process.
  • Issues facing Palestinian citizens of Israel are far less familiar to observers in the West than Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories.
  • The claim that Israel is ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ needs to be challenged by the facts of consistent, cross-party policies by successive Israeli governments aimed at ensuring Jewish hegemony vis-à-vis the Palestinians, in the areas under its control. Read more

Beit Sahour: a new struggle

In the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, famous for its civil disobedience campaign against the Israeli occupation in the 1980s, a new struggle is taking place.

Ush al Ghrab (’Crow’s Nest’) is a small piece of land being targeted by a group of Jewish settlers and their allies. The area had previously served as a military base, before being evacuated in 2006. Since then, local Palestinians and international NGOs have sought to make the most of the space, in a community whose natural expansion is prohibited by Israeli colonisation. In recent times, right-wing Jewish settlers have targeted the area as a site for a possible new settlement (’Shdema’). Read more

False hopes for Palestine

Over the last six months, there have been numerous reports on the apparent signs of hope in West Bank cities such as Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin. The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has also enjoyed flattering coverage in the likes of Newsweek and the New York Times, with his unilateral state-building strategy praised by a variety of commentators. The Israeli government, for its part, has trumpeted improvements in Palestinians’ daily lives – from the easing of restrictions on movement, to a boosted economy. Yet as I discovered during a visit at the beginning of this year, these sunny reports bear no relation to Israel’s colonisation of East Jerusalem and West Bank, where the permanently-temporary occupation continues to defy state-building efforts. Read more