Roll up for another few decades of settlement expansion in Palestine

My following article appears on ABC’s Unleashed today:

Will they or won’t they? The international media were counting down the hours until Israel’s self-described “settlement freeze” ended this week.

Most Western journalists, based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, looked for any signs from the government of Benjamin Netanyahu that would appease the perceived outrage of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas who claimed he would walk out of US-backed talks if colonies continued construction.

The elaborate dance came and went, building resumed and Palestinians were once again left standing at the altar with no concessions and less land without Zionist footprints.

In fact, if reporters had actually travelled around the West Bank during the last months they would have found extensive settler work. Dror Etkes writes in Haaretz that even according to official Israeli figures the number of housing units built in settlements barely reduced over the last 10 months. Etkes explains:

“The truth is that the settlers know better than anyone else that not only did construction in settlements continue over the last 10 months, and vigorously, but also that a relatively large part of the houses were built on settlements that lie east of the separation fence, such as Bracha, Itamar, Eli, Shilo, Maaleh Mikhmas, Maon, Carmel, Beit Haggai, Kiryat Arba, Mitzpeh Yeriho and others.”

In other words, illegal colonies on Palestinian land expanded and yet virtually nobody said anything about it. A two-state solution is impossible with creeping expansion on a daily basis. It’s no wonder the one-state solution, or a variation of it, is increasingly on the mainstream agenda.

US president Barack Obama spoke at the United Nations last week and warned both Palestinians and Israelis to get on-board with his efforts. If they did not, he said, “Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state” and “Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbours who are committed to co-existence.”

But then the US president included this clincher: “The hard realities of demography will take hold.” This means that soon the numbers of Palestinians and Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel and Palestine, making an occupying Zionist state an apartheid entity by definition.

Tragically, realities on the ground are already apartheid-like and a fair and equitable division of land, called for by Washington, Australia and the EU, is delusional. This is what decades of Western indulgence has done to the Jewish state, criminally assisted by the Zionist lobby in the US and beyond. Witness the Jewish Forward editorial last week that praised Palestinian capitulation to Zionist demands, something America may be keen to accelerate.

Peter Beinart recently wrote in the Daily Beast that, “To be labelled a champion of peace by the American Jewish establishment, it turns out, a prime minister of Israel only really has to do one thing: be prime minister of Israel.”

Furthermore, countless Jewish groups work directly against Israel’s long-term interests. A recent investigation by IPS found Jewish groups in Europe receiving tax exemptions for assisting the IDF and illegal settlements.

In Australia, the media mouthpiece of the Israeli government, the Australian Jewish News (AJN), is equally incapable of being anything other than a repeater of Netanyahu government talking points. If somebody else were leader of the country, the AJN would mindlessly echo these, too. It is for these reasons of unthinking patriotism and nationalist fervour that I remain involved in Independent Australian Jewish Voices as an alternative to bombastic and pro-Zionist, settler positions.

The Israeli government has been committed to the colonial project in the West Bank for more than four decades. Palestinians living under occupation experience this catastrophe daily.

Take the town of Wadi Rahaal, on the desert outskirts of Bethlehem. Its residents are increasingly surrounded by the Efrat settlement and its security infrastructure. The 1,700 residents are close to prisoners in their own land. And, of course, Gaza remains under occupation.

The matrix of control of the settlements was shown to a journalist from the New York Times when Peace Now took her on an aerial tour of the northern West Bank. The group has even released an iPhone app to assist in following the ever-growing movement of the colonies. The Israeli government is so proud of its expansion that the tourism minister is planning West Bank tours “for internal tourism and for tourism from abroad”. Roll up and see Palestinians living in cages.

It’s almost redundant to write what is required to undo Israel’s self-destructiveness. Roger Cohen says in the New York Times that Obama “must now break some [Israelis] bones to get his way” and demand a complete settlement freeze.

Instead, Obama seems to be begging Netanyahu to extend the “freeze” for extensive US concessions. The world’s only super-power is again on its knees before its client state despite Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor and self-described “Israel’s Attorney”, claiming on ABC Radio’s PM that Netanyahu is “very committed” to peace.

But it’s too late. The Palestinians are being asked to accept Israel as a Jewish state, immediately negating the full rights of the over 1 million Arabs inside Israel and acceptance of the legitimate legal rights of the millions of Palestinians with the right to return to ancestral lands. We can’t be surprised that countless Palestinian refugees in Lebanon prefer armed struggle than futile negotiations.

Author of the book, The Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand, argues that Israel can’t be both a Jewish state and an Israeli democracy and it appears to prefer the former:

“The trouble is that the Zionist enterprise, which created a new people here, is far from satisfied with its creation and prefers to see it as a bastard. It prefers to cling to the idea of a Jewish people-race, profiting for now from its imaginary existence.”

This week’s controversy was the speech at the UN by Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman calling for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to make way for a contiguous Zionist state. Netanyahu was angry about the timing of the speech but not the content. Lieberman is far more honest than the bulk of Israeli politicians; he articulates what many of them have long wanted to do. His recent suggestion was forcing Israeli Arabs to sign a loyalty oath to the Zionist state.

Another recent Lieberman call was that current peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should be about the exchange of land and populations and not land for peace; they must accept a purely Jewish state. Lamis Andoni writes on Al-Jazeera that accepting such an outrageous idea would be a betrayal of the decades-old struggle:

“Israel is pushing for Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state [because] it wants the Palestinian leadership in one swift move to legitimise the expulsion of Palestinian-Israelis and to end any discussion of the right of return.”

This is something that, thus far, neither Abbas nor Hamas would ever accept.

While the US and Israeli-backed Palestinian Authority, armed and trained by American Lieutenant General Keith Dayton to create a crack-team of thugs to crush Hamas opposition in the West Bank and suppress any protest, the international community have a choice.

Many in South Africa are using their historical experience to warn Israel that it faces growing isolation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amongst many others, are backing calls for the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to sever academic ties with Israel’s Ben Gurion University (BGU) due to its collusion with the occupation.

The ultimatum by UJ, issued on Wednesday, was that BGU “would have to work with Palestinian universities on research projects and stop its “direct and indirect support for the Israeli military and the occupation” or face exclusion.

A complete boycott was eventually shunned by the university but serious pressure applied.

The logic of boycott, divestment and sanctions is becoming increasingly clear, with Jews sometimes taking charge. The alternative is playing the game of endless negotiations that always move in one direction; South Africans have the moral authority to lead the way.

Tutu’s call to arms speaks for itself:

“Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence – but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist, blogger and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common