Israel’s Case Against Human Rights Watch Reveals How Its Normalizing West Bank Land Theft

Omar Shakir Feature photo

The argument made by an Israeli court has been defacto reality in Israel since 1967: there is no West Bank, instead, the region is called Judea and Samaria, legitimate parts of the State of Israel. 

The Occupied West Bank — In November 2019, following a long legal battle, Israel revoked the work visa and deported Human Rights Watch (HRW) director Omar Shakir.  According to HRW, Israel argued that the state, “revoked the work visa of Shakir, a United States citizen, in May 2018 on the assertion that his advocacy violated a 2017 law that bars entry to people who advocate a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

HRW claims that this is not true and that the organization does not call for the boycott of Israel. On their website, they do claim, however, that, “Human Rights Watch urges businesses to stop operating in illegal settlements as part of their global duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”

The case went all the way to Israel’s highest court which found that the position held by HRW regarding Israeli settlements constitutes grounds for deportation. The decision describes Human Rights Watch’s research on the activities of businesses, including the global tourism companies Airbnb and Booking.com, as “boycott-promoting activities.”

The truth is that HRW does recommend that businesses cease operations in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. According to Judge Tamar Bazak-Rapoport, Israel’s anti-boycott law does not distinguish between boycotts directed at Israel and those directed only at West Bank settlements.

At a recent event in Ramallah to commemorate International Palestine Solidarity Day, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hirsh of Neturei Karta, weighed in on the ruling, saying to a group of Palestinians and liberal Israelis that:

The talk regarding the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank is irrelevant. This is because not only those settlements are a violation of international law, but the entire Zionist state is a violation of international law. Therefore the only thing that can stop the occupation is a global economic boycott of the Zionist state.”

 

A Weak Argument

The argument made by Judge Rapoport echoes what has been defacto reality in Israel since 1967: there is no West Bank, instead, the region is called Judea and Samaria, which are legitimate parts of the State of Israel.

Israel does not recognize that there are settlements that are “illegal” and ones that are legal because the official Israeli line is that Jews have a right to reside anywhere within the Land of Israel, and that includes Judea and Samaria.

Omar Shakir Israel

Omar Shakir Israel Omar Shakir poses with a copy of a report released following a two year investigation in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Oct. 23, 2018. Nasser Nasser | AP

The region that was once universally recognized as the West Bank is now officially the Judea and Samaria district, according to Israel. As an example, the Israeli police established the Shai District (Shai is the acronym in Hebrew for Shomron & Yehuda, or Samaria and Judea), in 1994. On their website, which is in Hebrew only, it says that the district is the second in size within the Israeli police force, but it is the first in “sensitivity.”  Sensitivity meaning security issues and clearly the reader will understand that they are speaking of the Arabs who reside within the district.

According to the site, the Shai district includes one hundred and twenty colonies, which are in fact cities and towns for Jews only. It contains three municipalities, twelve local councils, and six regional councils. It should come as no surprise that none of the countless cities and towns and villages that exist within that region and in which close to three million Palestinians reside are included on that list. In order to ensure the safety and security of the residents (Jewish residents), the website reads, the police district has to work alongside the army and the Shabak, or the secret police.

All this to say that the inclusion of Israeli settlements and colonies within Judea and Samaria into Israel, those same settlements that HRW refers to as “illegal,” is complete.

 

Israel vs. the “occupation”

The view taken by the Israeli courts regarding the deportation of Omar Shakir is, in fact, an honest assessment of the situation. Tel-Aviv is largely an illegal settlement sitting on the destroyed Palestinian city of Yafa. The same goes for many, if not most, of the Israeli neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The cities of Akka, Tabariya, Safad, Lydd, Ramle – to mention a few – all had a sizeable Palestinian population that was forcibly expelled and now Israeli Jews have taken their lands and their homes. Israeli colonies, stretching from Al-Jaleel in the north to the Naqab in the south, sit on lands taken by force from Palestinians. They are the same as the cities and towns built in what used to be the West Bank, a geopolitical entity that no longer exists.

The only remnant from the pre-1967 Israel is the quasi citizenship status held by the Palestinians who reside in the pre-1967 boundaries. While Israeli Jews are full-fledged citizens regardless of where they reside, the status of Palestinians is determined by their place of residence: 1948, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria or Gaza.

The concern within Israel is that, if HRW calls for a boycott of certain colonies, what will stop them from calling a boycott on the others? The argument made by HRW, and its denial of the claim that it calls for boycott, did not hold up in Israeli court and for good reason. It is an argument has no merit in the reality that exists in Palestine.

Trying to separate “Israel Proper” from the “occupation” is an exercise in futility. So the question is, why does HRW, and many other organizations for that matter, still treat some settlements as illegal and not others? Furthermore, Israel clearly states that a call for the boycott of any Israeli settlement is to call for a boycott of Israel, why call on business to cease working in Judea and Samaria but not in other parts of Palestine?

What is perhaps the most crucial question of them all, if indeed Human Rights Watch is serious about its claims of Israeli human rights violations, why does it not endorse the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions known as BDS?

The approach that maintains that there is a legitimate Israel, and an occupation that is a separate entity, is the line held by liberal Zionist groups that are sometimes called “Zionist Left.” It is, however, a false assertion. There is but one Israel, it is an apartheid regime that governs all of historic Palestine and anyone who opposes it must call for a boycott. Calling to boycott only some of it is tantamount to saying that racism and violence are acceptable within certain boundaries.

At the event in Ramallah where Rabbi Hirsh spoke, other Israelis were present. They disrupted and heckled the Rabbi to a point where the Palestinian host had to stop and reprimand the Israelis and ask them to demonstrate respect, as it was they who decided on the speakers. What troubled the members of the Zionist “Left” who were present was that Rabbi Hirsh stated that not only are Judea and Samaria settlements are a violation of international law, but that the entire Zionist project is.

The truth hurts.

Feature photo | Omar Shakir, center, a U.S. citizen and employee of Human Rights Watch, stands next to Kenneth Roth before being deported from Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, November 25, 2019. Ammar Awad | Reuters

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

The International Zionist Conspiracy

It poisons everything it touches

Waging War Against The Rule of Law

An Analysis (21 November 2019) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—An Embarrassingly Hard Moment

There is no doubt about it: at our present moment in history it is embarrassingly hard to be a defender of the rule of law. This is particularly so when such laws seek to assert and protect human rights. It is embarrassing because being supportive of such regulations should be a “no-brainer.” Instead, it pits you against the U.S. government and its closest ally, Israel.

Thus, there is the fact that while there are many countries that take no heed of international law in this regard, if you happen to be an outspoken humanitarian Jewish American, you are really going to have a tough time of it. You are assailed on one side by powerful American leaders who attack international law with manifestly faulty reasoning (see below). On the other side, one is confronted by Zionist Jews, both inside and outside of Israel, who would destroy not only the international law that stands in the way of their territorial greed, but the ethical and moral integrity of the Jewish people as well. For all those Jewish Americans who see value in defending human rights and the rule of law, I truly commiserate: it is not easy being us!

Part II—Assaulting the Rule of Law

In its latest assault on the rule of law, the Trump administration has declared that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are legitimate. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a self-described advocate of “Christian diplomacy” has led the way in this. He stated that: “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan [who, back in 1980, expressed a similar sentiment]. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”

No details were given on the “careful study” Pompeo claims to have been made. And, frankly, it is hard to take this assertion seriously because the Trump folks are not known to be objective, or even attentive, when it comes to detail. No information was given on what basis Ronald Reagan came to his opinion. Nor is it known whether or not Reagan was senile at the time he spoke. And, no elaboration was made as to what “per se” means in the context of Pompeo’s declaration.

The Secretary of State went on: “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace. This is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

This bit of conjecture is dubious at best, and if such conclusions are the product of the Secretary’s “careful study,” we can conclude that Pompeo is either being disingenuous or is ignorant to the point of incompetence. Here is what I mean:

—The conclusion that “there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict” is a contrived one. Pompeo should certainly know that there are readily discernible reasons, most of them coming from the U.S.-Israeli side, why attempts to apply international law as the basis of a settlement have so far failed. Actually, there are at least forty three reasons—that is the number of vetos the United States has cast in the UN Security Council to protect Israel, largely from international law, between 1972 and 2017. In addition, one should never say “never.”

—The assertion that “arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace” is also contrived. Again, you cannot acquiesce    in seventy-one years of Israeli behavior, much of it in violation of international law, all the while protecting, as most U.S. governments have done, the criminal party, and then say “international law will not bring peace.” Obviously, the historical context means nothing to Pompeo.

—Pompeo’s final conclusion that “this is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” is simply a throwaway line that has no meaning given the history of those “negotiations” that have been attempted.

Part III—Accepting “Reality”

Perhaps the most egregious assertion made by Secretary Pompeo was that all the U.S. is doing is “recognizing the reality on the ground.” This same excuse was used by the Trump administration when it blessed the occupation of the Golan Heights. Subsequently, some people assigned to the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem have claimed that all Trump was doing was recognizing the “truth.”

These claims oversimplify and distort the current situation to the point of absurdity. Mr. Pompeo and those folks at the embassy are not dabbling in some field of physics here. They have not come along and discovered a new naturally occurring phenomenon. The fact is that in our social, economic and political worlds we humans do not discover reality, we create our own constantly fluctuating “reality.” And, as touched on above, today’s variation on fluctuating “reality” in places like Gaza, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank are the result of Israeli actions that defy international law. That makes those acts and their consequences—their “reality”—by definition, criminal. At the same time, as we have seen, the folks in Washington gave the necessary assistance that allowed the Israelis to get away with their criminal behavior. That makes the people in Washington who provided this cover, criminals as well.

Part IV—Conclusion

So what we have here is the Secretary of State of a country that has acted as an accomplice to years of illicit behavior throwing up his hands and saying “the law has failed”—while not mentioning the fact that he and others before him, acting in their official government capacities, helped to arrange that outcome.

This bit of sleight of hand was no doubt made easier for Mike Pompeo given that he has ridden the coattails of a boss who is himself lawless. That fast-and-loose attitude toward the rule of law is a main reason Donald Trump is going to be impeached.

Despite all, the struggle of the Palestinians and their allies will go on. Applying the appropriate biblical comparisons, the BDS movement (the boycott of Israel) has become the “light unto the nations” that Israel itself was mythically supposed to be. And outspoken anti-Zionist Jews, like some of those Old Testament prophets, are now the last bastion against Israel’s racist idolatry.

Addendum24 November 2019, supplied by a close historian friend : “In 1931, in contravention of International Law, Japan occupied Manchuria and turned it into a vassal state called Manchukuo. In response, the United States announced the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine declaring that this nation would never recognize territorial changes brought about by force.” How many of our working diplomates even remember that this doctrine exists?

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About Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

Israel to ‘double’ number of settlers in al-Khalil with new project

Sunday, 01 December 2019 2:29 PM

Source

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

A picture taken on December 1, 2019 shows the settlement of Negohot (R), located near the Palestinian village of Beit Awwa (L), in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (By AFP)

Israel has announced a controversial plan to construct a new settlement in the heart of the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) that will purportedly accommodate as many settlers as are currently housed in the city.

Israel’s Minister for Military Affairs Naftali Bennett announced the decision on Sunday, saying he had ordered officials to notify the al-Khalil municipality of the decision to build the new Israeli settlement, which is planned to be constructed in a wholesale market complex.

The planned project will “double” the number of Israeli settlers in the city, Bennett said.

Al-Khalil (Hebron) is a flashpoint of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers, backed by tens of thousands of soldiers, occupy significant parts of the city center.

An Israeli settler looks over his flock as they feed in the West Bank village of Beit Awwa, southwest of al-Khalil (Hebron), on December 1, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The Israeli settlers and forces harass the Palestinians in the city on an almost daily basis.

The announcement comes at a time of political turmoil in Israel, after general elections in April and September that ended in a deadlock. Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main opponent has managed to secure a parliamentary majority.

Bennett’s New Right party is leaning heavily on settlers for support at the polls, as the prospects of a third snap election looms large.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The United Nations Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions. Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, in December 2016, the Council adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

‘Israel’ Bombs Gaza After Anti-settlement Protests Across Palestine

‘Israel’ Bombs Gaza After Anti-settlement Protests Across Palestine

By Staff, Agencies

‘Israeli’ warplanes carried out fresh airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinians in the blockaded enclave and the occupied West Bank marked a “day of rage” in protest against the US’s contentious declaration of support for the regime’s land grab policy.

The Zionist military said its warplanes had hit a number of targets belonging to the Hamas resistance movement in southern Gaza late Tuesday night and early Wednesday, including one site “for the production of arms.”

The statement claimed that the strikes were carried out in response to the rockets that were fired from the Strip toward the occupied territories.

Relatively, an ‘Israeli’ army spokesperson said two rockets were fired from Gaza on Tuesday. He added that sirens went off in Ashkelon in the aftermath of the rocket fire, sending tens of thousands of settlers into shelters.

Prior to the air raids, Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Gaza-based resistance groups against firing rockets into the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories.

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Trump Accepts Israeli ‘Realities on Ground’ – Realities Funded by His Administration

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Finian Cunningham 
November 21, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week announced yet another radical shift in Washington’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by way of saying that the United States “was accepting realities on the ground”.

What the mendacious and cynical Pompeo omits to add is that the Trump administration has been dramatically fueling the change in “realities” – specifically the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

This week the top US diplomat declared that Washington would no longer adopt the international consensus position, backed by several UN resolutions, that Israeli settlement-building and occupation of Palestinian territory was a violation of international law. Washington is henceforth recognizing Israeli settlements as legitimate.

The move overturns more than four decades of official US policy which adhered to the UN-backed position of condemning Israeli occupation in the Palestinian West Bank and in East Jerusalem as illegal and a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Since the 1967 Six War, successive Israeli governments have overseen a relentless process of annexing Palestinian territory. Over that period, Palestinian lands have diminished and become increasingly fragmented with little contiguity that would be normal for a future state. There are estimated to be around 200 Israeli new-build settlements of towns and villages with a population of 600,000 Jewish settlers who have usurped Palestinian land and properties. The UN has repeatedly condemned the annexation and occupation as illegal, to no avail.

The latest move by the Trump administration is a flagrant repudiation of UN resolutions and international law. It follows previous declarations by President Trump recognizing Israeli claims to Jerusalem as its capital, as well as Israel’s annexation of Syrian territory in the Golan Heights.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” said Pompeo on Monday. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

That is an astounding dereliction of international law by the American government. The “hard truth” that Pompeo ignores is that US administrations have constantly undermined “judicial resolution of the conflict” because they have, to varying degrees, over the decades pandered to Israeli criminal occupation of Palestinian lands.

What the Trump administration is doing is not entirely unprecedented. Successive American presidents have merely paid lip service to a supposed peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, declaring their support for a “two-state solution” and presenting Washington as some kind of “honest broker”. The reality is that Washington has consistently undermined Palestinian national rights by its systematic bias towards Israel, indulging the latter’s criminal policies of occupation and military aggression towards Palestinian population.

However, Trump and his coterie of Middle East aides have taken the American bias and complicity with Israel to naked levels. Part of that is no doubt payback for the multi-million-dollar funding of Trump’s 2016 election campaign by Jewish-American billionaire and arch-Zionist Sheldon Adelson.

Israeli peace groups have recorded a surge in Israeli expansion of settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past three years of the Trump administration. Demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli bulldozers are at a record high.

There is an imperative business reason for this. President Donald Trump has personally invested in Israeli settlements, as have his ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and the White House’s special envoy to the region, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

One of those settlements is at Beit El which is described as “one of the most aggressive” in terms of expansionist scope. It overlooks the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank which is supposed to be the administrative seat of the Palestinian Authority.

Trump, Friedman and the Kushner family have in the past funneled millions of dollars into Beit El and other Israeli settlements. In return, Israeli financial companies have made huge investments in Jared Kushner’s family real-estate business back in the US. For example, Menora Mivtachim, a pension and insurance firm, invested $30 million in apartments in Maryland owned by the Kushner family.

Jared Kushner officially stepped away from his family’s property conglomerate when he was appointed by his father-in-law as special envoy on the Middle East “peace process”. But few would believe his future wealth will not benefit from investments in and from Israel. He is still a beneficiary of trusts that have holdings in Kushner properties, notes Haaretz newspaper.

It seems incredible given this blatant conflict of interest that Kushner has been tasked with producing a “peace plan” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Trump had previously boasted about as being the “deal of the century”. That plan has since wilted to non-existence. The media don’t even talk about its expected publication, so far off the radar is it.

The latest move by the Trump administration to effectively reward and accelerate further Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory has American self-interest and profit written all over it. It mirrors Trump’s declaration in March this year recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, where there is irrefutable evidence that Trump and the Zionist clique in the White House have major business interests in oil exploration and production in that contested region.

Russia warned this week that Washington’s policy is inflaming further conflict amid an intensification of air strikes by Israel on Gaza where more than 30 people have been killed over the past week, including one Palestinian family of three adults and five children. The bloodshed makes Pompeo’s announcement all the more repulsive.

The Arab League and the European Union have also condemned the unilateral rejection of international law by the US. Jordan, Egypt and other Arab states said the United States has forfeited its right to act as a peace broker in the region.

The “reality on the ground” – to use a talking point favored by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and now Mike Pompeo – is that the US is an accomplice in Israel’s illegal occupation and war crimes. Even more heinous, the US policy is being driven by Trump’s family business profits.

Syria Condemns US Position on Zionist Settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories

Syria Foreign Ministry

November 19, 2019

Syria vehemently condemned as “null and has no legal impact” the US attitude towards the Zionist settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Syria strongly condemns the US position towards the Zionist settlements in Palestinian occupied lands which forms a blatant violation of the International Law and UN resolutions on the legal status of the occupied territories,” an official source at Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said in a statement to SANA on Tuesday.

The source added that this position forms the most recent series in the US contempt for the International legitimacy and a continuity of the US aggression on the Arab Nation and the unlimited support provided by the USA to the expansionist Zionist entity in its continuous aggression against the Arab rights

Syria confirms, according to the source that the US position is void and has no legal impact as it is for Washington’s attitude towards al-Quds “Jerusalem” and the occupied Syrian Golan.

The source concluded by saying that this positions shows, once again, depth of the gap which separates the USA from the International Community due to its fool policies which are controlled by a mentality of hegemony and arrogance.

SourceSANA

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