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
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
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
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
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