As military occupation enters 51st year, Trump administration wants UN to stop “bullying” Israel

What’s the difference between a Bantustan and Area A?

Palestinians have lived for 50 years under a military occupation by a foreign government and there are no signs this will end anytime soon. The Israeli government has been busily dispossessing Palestinians as individuals and as a nation of land and resources. Three generations of Palestinians have lived the bulk of their lives (five decades) with their human and civil rights curtailed by the Israeli government.

The Trump administration believes the UN is “bullying” Israel by condemning these policies:

[US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki] Haley arrived in Israel to a hero’s welcome one day after warning that the United States might pull out of the U.N. Human Rights Council unless it changes its ways in general and its negative stance on Israel in particular.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina who often is touted as a future Republican presidential candidate, has focused heavily on what she calls the mistreatment of Israel during her six months at the United Nations. Her efforts have made her a darling of Israeli leaders, and have endeared her to conservative pro-Israel organizations in the United States. […]

“You know, all I’ve done is to tell the truth, and it’s kind of overwhelming at the reaction,” she said. “It was a habit. And if there’s anything I have no patience for it’s bullies, and the U.N. was being such a bully to Israel, because they could.” — WaPo

Israeli policies towards Palestinians have many parallels with our own treatment of Native Americans. There are other parallels to our history too. For much of the 20th century, towns across the US systematically excluded African-Americans from living there.

What Palestinians are allowed to do in the settlements is work, assuming they can pass a rigorous security screening and a get a permit. But the workers — mostly in construction and service jobs — are not allowed to drive in, and they can’t spend the night. During my two weeks in the West Bank, I learned that the best way to estimate the number of Palestinians working in a given settlement at any moment is by counting the cars parked just outside the gate. This underscored one of the ironies of the settlements, which is that Palestinian hands built most of them: their houses and synagogues, their community centers and shopping malls. — Washington Post

Palestinians are often building these houses for settlers on public Palestinian lands which the Israeli government or settlers have encroached on. In other cases, Israeli officials will condemn private Palestinian lands, establishing “nature preserves” which then turn into gardens or farms for Israeli settlers.

Across Israel proper, housing discrimination is pervasive and various types of discrimination are codified into law. Most housing is largely segregated, with Jewish Israelis living in separate towns and communities, from their Arab Muslim or Christian fellow-citizens. Of course, in the occupied territories, the Israeli army enforces such segregation, just as law enforcement and vigilante groups did in the US.

Such discrimination and oppression is only possible if you successfully propagate a supporting narrative through schools and media. Gil Gertel writing in +972mag discusses how the Israeli education system has helped sanitize Palestinian suffering:

In the wake of the 1948 War, the list of people we forgot only got longer — refugees whom we continued not to see. This is what students read about that period from the “Artzi” textbook, published in 1950: “It is very good that we found a desolate and abandoned land. It is good that every piece of land we obtained is for us […] none of those who hate us (and their numbers are great) can complain that we took someone else’s land.

This book was published two years after the Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes. The Israeli government subsequently razed to the ground hundreds of villages to prevent the inhabitants from ever returning. The JNF began a campaign to plant “forests” to erase evidence of Palestinian villages. Palestinian houses in urban areas were reassigned to Jewish persons.

Students, however, were told it was a “desolate and abandoned land”. In a way, this is analogous to the stories we still tell our students about early European colonization of this country and the impact on Native American peoples.

This is what we teach our children, from a fifth-grade textbook: “In 1967, following the Six-Day War, the territories of Judea and Samaria, which were not yet in Israeli hands, came under its control. Today it is populated by both Arabs and Jews. The Arab population, according to estimates, is comprised of 1.5-2.5 million people, who live mostly in urban areas […] the Jewish population is closer to 400,000, who live in approximately 125 settlements.” (pg. 156). How idyllic: those territories “came under our control,” a real miracle. Jews and and Arabs living side by side — the Switzerland of the Middle East.

— @subirgrewal

UN criticizes US human rights record. Cites police brutality, pervasive surveillance and Gitmo

NY Times: U.S. Must Do More on Civil Rights, Officials Agree

“We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to our promise,” James Cadogan, a senior Justice Department official, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.United States authorities brought criminal charges against 400 law enforcement officials in the last six years, Mr. Cadogan said. But the deaths of Freddie Gray in Maryland, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina “challenge us to do better and work harder for progress,” he said.

His comments came as officials from eight federal agencies and the state of Illinois presented an account of developments in human rights under which the council reviews all states every four years.

The US delegation presented a response to a UN report produced six months ago on racial discrimination in the US and on other Civil Rights issues, including electronic surveillance, CIA interrogations, immigrant detentions, Guantanamo Bay etc.

The ACLU was not impressed:

“It was the same old story of the U.S. dragging its feet on taking effective action to fully implement its human rights obligations,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program said.

Al Jazeera is covering the story with naked glee: US cited for police violence, racism in scathing UN review on human rights

The United States was slammed over its rights record Monday at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with member nations criticizing the country for police violence and racial discrimination, the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility and the continued use of the death penalty.The issue of racism and police brutality dominated the discussion on Monday during the country’s second universal periodic review (UPR). Country after country recommended that the U.S. strengthen legislation and expand training to eliminate racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement.

“I’m not surprised that the world’s eyes are focused on police issues in the U.S.,” said Alba Morales, who investigates the U.S. criminal justice system at Human Rights Watch.

“There is an international spotlight that’s been shone [on the issues], in large part due to the events in Ferguson and the disproportionate police response to even peaceful protesters,” she said.

Anticipating the comments to come, James Cadogan, a senior counselor to the U.S. assistant attorney general, told delegates gathered in Geneva, “The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio and Walter Scott in South Carolina have renewed a long-standing and critical national debate about the even-handed administration of justice. These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress — through both dialogue and action.”All of the names he mentioned are black men or boys who were killed by police officers or died shortly after being arrested. The events have sparked widespread anger and unrest over the past year.

Cadogan added that the Department of Justice has opened more than 20 investigations in the last six years — including an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department — as well as the release of a report of the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing in March, which included more than 60 recommendations.

Chad’s delegate took a moment to provide his take:

“Chad considers the United States of America to be a country of freedom, but recent events targeting black sectors of society have tarnished its image,” said Awada Angui of the U.N. delegation to Chad.

It’s refreshing in a way.

Michael Brown’s parents testified at the last review (in August) as reported by CNN and NBC News:

Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. spoke to the United Nations Committee Against Torture — which also works against cruel or degrading treatment or punishment by government authorities.”We need the world to know what’s going on in Ferguson and we need justice,” McSpadden told CNN in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We need answers and we need action. And we have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose it to the rest of the world, what’s going on in small town Ferguson.”

Iran brings up Israeli/P5 nukes at annual Nuclear Proliferation Treaty meeting

A review meeting for the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty is taking place in NYC and numerous sources are reporting Iran has asked that Israeli nuclear weapons and the 5 permanent Security Council members’ failure to disarm be discussed.

Reuters: Iran slams nuclear powers, Israel at UN atomic treaty meeting

He [Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] said non-aligned states viewed Israel’s assumed nuclear weapons as “a serious and continuing threat to the security of neighboring and other states, and condemned Israel for continuing to develop and stockpile nuclear arsenals.”A senior Israeli official dismissed Iran’s criticism, adding that no world power has been exerting additional pressure on Israel to alter its nuclear policy. “Iran has got enough to deal with in terms of its serial non-compliance with the NPT, so she’ll always want to deflect criticism,” the official said.

Israel, India and Pakistan have not signed the NPT.Haaretz is reporting that Iran aims to use NPT conference to renew international pressure on Israel

“Unfortunately, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons and its refusal to engage with the international community has become the greatest impediment to the universality of this treaty,” Zarif said. “Israel is the single [worst] violator of this international regime [the NPT] … and one of the most important issues in the NPT review process is to look into ways and means of bringing about the Israeli compliance with NPT.”

That last statement is a bit over the top. The Pakistani and North Korean programs have led to more proliferation to other nations than Israel’s has (and North Korea actually signed the NPT, withdrawing later, unlike the others who never signed it). Though Israel did assist South Africa develop nuclear weapons. Arguably, North Korea is a bigger risk with it’s history of selling nuclear and ballistic missile technology.India is estimated to have more nukes as Israel. Though to be fair, India has a public “no first strike” policy and has nuclear-armed China next door (China fought a war with India, taking territory in 1962).

In an exceptional move, Israel is expected to attend Tuesday’s conference opening as an observer for the first time in 20 years. A senior Israeli official said that the Israeli decision to attend was meant to demonstrate Israel’s positive attitude and to clarify that it is the Arab countries that are blocking progress toward convening a conference on a nuclear weapons-free Middle East. “We hope that following our move, the Arab countries will make a similarly positive move and support direct talks with Israel on the security situation in the Middle East,” the senior official said.

Israel has gone to great lengths to maintain the ambiguity of its nuclear weapons program. The Guardian is running a blog post about Mordechai Vanunu while discussing Israel’s participation at the NPT.Meanwhile, Reuters is also reporting on Iranian/US statements about the P5+1 negotiations with Iran: Kerry says Iran, world powers closer than ever to historic nuclear deal

“We are, in fact, closer than ever to the good, comprehensive deal that we have been seeking, and if we can get there, the entire world will be safer,” Kerry told the 191 NPT parties, adding that bringing Iran back into compliance with the pact was always at the heart of negotiations with Tehran.

“Beside taking part in the conference, we have come here to listen to Americans’ explanations on the U.S. administration’s undertakings and its domestic policies,” Zarif said.”We consider the U.S. government responsible for fulfilling its international commitments under international laws,” he said. “No government can evade such commitments because of its domestic issues.”

Which seems to be a dig at the rift between Republicans and Democrats on the Iranian deal.Few more notes below the fold…

Washington Post is also carrying the story: World ‘closer than ever’ to Iran nuclear deal, Kerry says

Immediate concerns at the conference include the lack of progress in disarmament by the United States and Russia, who between them hold more than 90 percent of those weapons. Civil society groups say nuclear powers are spending billions of dollars to instead modernize their arsenals. The United States says it is “maintaining and servicing” instead.Few breakthroughs are expected at the conference as diplomats warn of Cold War-style tensions over Ukraine and other issues. “I know as well as anyone that we have a long way to go” on the path to a nuclear-free world, Kerry said, acknowledging that “we know that we can cut back even further.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinians marked their first conference as a state party to the treaty.

Both Ban and the IAEA chief, as well as Japan and South Korea, expressed concern on another pressing issue at the conference: North Korea’s nuclear program and the lack of talks to address it.

“I will never call IDF the most moral army” – top Army lawyer. Hamas will hand over officials to ICC

Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas says willing to cooperate with ICC to advance Palestinian cause

Hamas announced on Friday that the Palestinian Islamist group is willing to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to advance the Palestinian cause, indicating that it would hand over officials to the international tribunal.Hamas official Khalil al-Haya in a state said “the referral to the ICC is not inconsistent with the organization’s [Hamas’] continued resistance [against Israel] in all its forms, as it carries the goal of garnering all rights, including that of armed resistance.”

He added that the terror group which controls Gaza was confident of a victory over Israel in “legal conflict.”

Over at Haaretz, Amos Harel and Gili Cohen interviewed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni to discuss his tenure and the investigation of various incidents during Protective Edge.

“You will never hear me say, ‘The IDF is the most moral army in the world,’” declares Efroni, who refuses to adopt the mantra decreed by then-Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz during the second intifada [2000-2006] and recited ever since, as though it were holy writ, by the top levels of the government and the army. “I think that our army has good values, but some of this has to do with the fact that it investigates and examines suspected offenses in a professional way. If we don’t do that, the IDF’s values will very much be thrown into question.”

If Efroni’s investigations are considered independent and thorough by the ICC, it may refuse to consider the Palestinian Authority’s appeal. And this is important due to the sheer death and destruction wreaked upon Gaza by the IDF last year.

Even according to the mildest version of events, more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians were killed by IDF fire, among them hundreds of children. The Israeli government is hoping that the work by the military advocate general and his people will allow to it to fend off at least some of the criticism in the international arena.In right-wing parties, though, as well as, to a large extent, among IDF field commanders, there has been strong opposition to the investigation policy. Why, they ask, does the prosecutor’s unit need to examine a field commander’s judgment during a war?

The elephant in the room is the number of children murdered in their homes by IDF pilots dropping largely US-made precision bombs on them. And in case you still (somehow) believed the IDF does not have a policy of targeting homes with sleeping children inside, let’s let Efroni enlighten you.

One of the most controversial measures implemented by the IDF during the war was a systematic attack on the homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders, on the grounds that the residences were used for “command and control purposes” because the commanders turned their homes into operations rooms of a sort. Thus, scores of houses were demolished and, in a number of cases, many civilians were killed as a result of hitches in the “knock on the roof” procedure aimed at evacuating civilians from the building before bombing it.Efroni confirms that the prosecution “is examining the attack policy in Operation Protective Edge. Under the rules of international law, it is permissible to attack a target if it is a military target. A home does not become a target because of a telephone line that is used for operational communications by the enemy. But if the commander is directing the battalion’s fighting from there, and his subordinates are coming to his house to consult with him, it is a military target. We didn’t decide to bomb all the commanders’ homes. There were homes we didn’t approve for attack.”

The MAG adds that, sometimes, an attack that gains relatively high legitimacy does not conform to the rules of war. “Suppose you made sure no one was in the house and then you destroyed the commander’s home, without casualties. The international community will not protest, but from the legal point of view you must not bomb it unless military use of the home has been proven.” According to Efroni, the demolition of multistory buildings was legally approved only because it was proved that those buildings were serving as Hamas operations rooms. “We did not permit punitive actions against buildings unless there was an operational context for that,” he adds.

“Hitches in the knock on the roof procedure” is a bit disingenuous when we’re discussing a deliberate policy of targeting and destroying houses. Home demolitions are illegal collective punishment in and of themselves. Home demolitions while families are in them is murder plain and simple.The use of the term “commander” should also be questioned. The IDF has an interest in suggesting these targets were both actively engaged in military action, and senior leaders. The goal is to present the murder of hundreds of children in the course of assassinations as somehow excusable.

Yes, the killing of these children was murder. It was pre-meditated. It cannot be justified. It was carried out with malicious intent. And the entire command heirarchy of the IDF is culpable.

Not convinced? Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine Hamas had bombs capable of targeting IDF commanders’ homes and justified it by saying they took phone calls or met with soldiers there? Or maybe they bomb a random person’s home that an Israeli target happened to be visiting? Or a home in a kibbutz by the Gaza border that the IDF was using as a base which still had elderly residents living among the soldiers and their equipment?

No? Still think there’s something special about the children of Hamas members that excuses their murder? Well then how about if Palestinian militia had bombed the homes of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir at Passover in 1945, killing their entire extended families? They were senior leaders of terrorist organizations that bombed markets, buses and yes, homes as well.

If you recoil at that, you should recoil at the sanitized, high-altitude, high-tech version of the same deed that the IDF employed.

Efroni has the decency to admit that the “most moral army” claim is laughable since the IDF has a calculated policy of murdering entire families. But he can’t help himself from claiming some absolution is possible because “we didn’t decide to bomb all the commanders’ homes”. They bombed just enough homes to let everyone know the IDF could at the push of a button destroy their entire family, root and branch, and had no compunction doing so.

The people of Gaza are not just “Israel’s enemies”. They are the people who were expelled 67 years ago from their land by the militias that became the IDF. They have lived under a brutal Israeli military occupation for 48 years. And in case you’re wondering how the IDF knows so much about what goes on in Gaza, yes, they operate a surveillance state which relies on blackmailing gays and those seeking medical care to turn them into informants.

Children and other civilians do not lose their protected status as civilians just because someone in their family is fighting a brutal military occupation by making calls and taking meetings from the next room.

The big question, in my mind, is whether or not the very highest echelon of the IDF gets prosecuted for this policy. Till that happens, prosecuting grunts for stealing credit cards is a fig leaf.

You might wonder how a supposedly professional army, commanded by a supposedly democratic civilian government can arrive at the point where it thinks it routine to murder entire families without batting an eyelid? To wrap our heads around that, we’ll have to look at a far smaller incident, in the West Bank.

Haaretz found time to interview a young Palestinian boy who had been arrested in the West Bank by the IDF in a particularly brutal fashion.

When will you go back to leading a regular life, we asked him this week. “God knows,” he replied indifferently.IDF soldiers sicced dogs on Hamzeh last December. Two months later, the ultranationalist former MK Michael Ben Ari posted a video clip documenting the event on his Facebook page, writing, “The soldiers taught the little terrorist a lesson.” His purpose in posting the clip, he explained, was to ensure “that every dinky terrorist who plans to harm our soldiers will learn that there’s a price [to be paid].”

Soldiers from the Oketz canine unit were seen in the clip taunting the petrified boy as one of their dogs sank its teeth into him and held him in a vice-like grip. “Who’s a chicken, who’s a chicken, you son of a bitch,” they yelled at the teen, urging the dogs on.

The video generated a furor. The IDF, admitting that what had happened was a “serious incident,” suspended the use of dogs to neutralize stone-throwing children, at least temporarily. But no one thought to free the victim of the attack after what he’d gone through. Hamzeh remained in prison. His parents were not allowed to visit him even once. Their only contact with him was in the form of hurried encounters from a distance in the courtroom, once when the boy was brought to have his remand extended, and then at his trial on a charge of throwing stones at soldiers.

Hamzeh is 16 years old.When Israeli politicians call children “little terrorists” the process of de-humanizing them is well underway. It is difficult to order someone to murder a sleeping child. But ordering a pilot to drop a bomb on the home of a sleeping “little terrorist” is somewhat easier.

Hamzeh is still alive, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be treated like a child by the IDF “military justice” system.

The medical personnel wanted to let him at least speak to his parents by phone, he says now, but the soldiers refused to allow him even one call. For his parents to visit him in the hospital was out of the question, of course. Security considerations.
After Hamzeh was discharged from hospital, the “dinky terrorist” was interrogated by the Shin Bet. He was asked about other stone throwers, and about his brothers and his family.It’s hard to get more details from him. He explains that he was required to sign a confession stating that he threw stones that hit soldiers. But this week back at home, he said he didn’t throw any.

Be that as it may, it was only three weeks after he was wounded and arrested that his parents were allowed to visit him.

Their home has had its share of arrests. In 2012, the father and three of his sons were detained by the Israeli forces. This was Hamzeh’s third fourth jail sentence for throwing stones – the previous ones were shorter. In court, he had a momentary meeting with his brother Mohammed, who, a few weeks earlier, had been sentenced to 14 months in prison.

Another brother, Yusuf, now enters the living room; he was released from prison five months ago.

Let’s call this policy of arresting children by the dozens and hundreds and locking them up away from their families, what it is. Kidnapping by a well armed, well oiled tyranny.And let’s be absolutely clear. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is illegal, though sometimes Israel’s legal system can’t decide whether or not there is, in fact, any such thing as an occupation. The people paying the heaviest price for this occupation are Palestinian children who find themselves, their society and their families persecuted and brutalized. Followed by the not-much-older than children Israel slaps uniforms on and sends them to enforce with brutality.

And if you didn’t think it could get any worse, here’s the American view (doubtless informed by our own drone program’s complicity).

Last November, some two months after the war in the Gaza Strip ended, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey surprised a few people. Speaking at a conference in New York, he said Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to prevent injury to innocent people in Gaza. “The Israel Defense Forces is not interested in creating civilian casualties. They’re interested in stopping the shooting of rockets and missiles out of the Gaza Strip and into Israel,” he added.

Sure, and we weren’t “interested in creating civilian casualties” when dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.The Israel Defense Forces is not interested in creating civilian casualties. They’re indifferent to them. That’s because they’re the wrong kind of dead civilian. The Palestinian kind. The “little terrorist” kind.

Haaretz also asked some pointed questions about previous investigations which are widely judged to have been toothless by human rights organizations.

About six months ago, two human-rights organizations, B’Tselem and Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, claimed that the investigation system in the IDF is a failure and that Israel “is not interested and not capable of investigating violations of Palestinians’ human rights by the security forces.” B’Tselem, which the military prosecution often turned to for help in reaching Palestinian witnesses and evidence, is refusing to help, on the grounds that the investigations aren’t arriving at the truth. Thus, for example, B’Tselem staff have reported that, out of 52 Military Police probes opened after Operation Cast Lead, only three culminated in the filing of indictments – and the severest punishment was for a soldier who stole a credit card.Ben Eliezer rejects these claims outright, saying he doesn’t accept “populist claims and the use of statistics. It’s not relevant to show the number of indictments that were filed or the people who were tried. In the end, it’s a detailed examination of the evidentiary material and a concrete decision. Statistics are meaningless in this matter. It’s demagoguery,” he says.

He does, however, agree with one claim by the human-rights organizations. The IDF investigatory system, says Ben Eliezer, should work faster. The prolonging of probes has often meant that soldiers who were key suspects in cases of Palestinian deaths were demobilized, and after half a year were outside the jurisdiction of military law, which can cause the case to take even longer. “In the end, because of the complexity, things take time,” he explains.

Since the war, the examining committee – initially headed by Maj. Gen. Tibon and, following his retirement from the IDF, now by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Eitan – has looked into some 120 incidents in which suspicions arose of transgression of military law. Of them, 65 incidents were forwarded for examination by the military prosecution, which has opened investigations into six of them and, in the meantime, closed 17 additional cases without launching criminal probes. At the prosecution’s initiative, another 13 investigations that did not go through the General Staff committee are also underway. These investigations deal, inter alia, with complaints of looting, torturing of detainees, and harm to a civilian woman who was carrying a white flag.
In the same breath, he adds, “The explanation I sometimes hear, to the effect that everything we do is aimed only at protecting the soldiers from the court in The Hague, is a miserable statement. A Military Police probe is not an insurance policy for the IDF. If the probe is a whitewash and not a true investigation, nothing will stop the ICC.”

The Obama doctrine of engagement requires empathy towards Iran’s legitimate suspicion of the west.

Though the negotiations are with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, it’s clearly the US view that matters since we’re the driving force behind sanctions on Iran. I don’t think most lay-persons have the chops to judge how effective the inspections/controls might be, in any case, they haven’t been finalized. That hasn’t stopped talking heads from pontificating, obfuscating or reciting talking points (thousands of centrifuges! multiple facilities! stockpiles!).

What we, as non-experts in nuclear proliferation, should develop an appreciation for is the Iranian regime’s view of its own interests and how that informs their negotiating position. Thankfully, it seems like Obama gets it, which is why the deal seems to be getting done. Obama’s interview with Thomas Friedman was illuminating in this respect. Since Israel and Netanyahu are the perennial domestic backdrop to these negotiations, Obama had to preface his comments with the requisite genuflection towards Israeli concerns:

Obviously, Israel is in a different situation, he added. “Now, what you might hear from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, which I respect, is the notion, ‘Look, Israel is more vulnerable. We don’t have the luxury of testing these propositions the way you do,’ and I completely understand that. And further, I completely understand Israel’s belief that given the tragic history of the Jewish people, they can’t be dependent solely on us for their own security.

what I’m willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them. And that, I think, should be … sufficient to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.

None of this should be news to anyone. There’s a hint in here of a formal mutual defense treaty that might be considered new. There have been rumors in the past Israel may be permitted to join NATO. That cannot happen without a resolving the Palestinian issue and I’ll let you figure out what the probability of that happening on Bibi’s watch is (hint, starts with “Zee”, ends with “Ro”).

Or maybe Netanyahu is so upset because he doesn’t want to pay the billions Iran is demanding for it’s share in oil pipelines and tankers Israel and Iran jointly built in the 1970s (along with oil shipments that haven’t been paid for).

Friedman made a lot of hay over how “personally difficult” it is for Obama to hear allegations that he “has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest”. Sure, the guy who’s ordering drone and aircraft strikes every other week is having a tough time dealing with the fact that right-wing talking heads and their cronies in Congress don’t have his back. In other news, the Easter bunny dropped off some candy for me yesterday.

What I did find interesting is the degree to which Obama put himself in Iran’s shoes and lent his voice to express Iran’s strategic interests and their very legitimate suspicions of the western powers. Now this might well be an attempt to sell the deal within Iran. But much of it is sincere:

I think that it’s important to recognize that Iran is a complicated country — just like we’re a complicated country. There is no doubt that, given the history between our two countries, that there is deep mistrust that is not going to fade away immediately. The activities that they engage in, the rhetoric, both anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, is deeply disturbing. There are deep trends in the country that are contrary to not only our own national security interests and views but those of our allies and friends in the region, and those divisions are real.

And now here’s something you won’t hear from the foreign-policy and constitutional law experts serving as US Senators of the GOP persuasion:

part of the psychology of Iran is rooted in past experiences, the sense that their country was undermined, that the United States or the West meddled in first their democracy and then in supporting the Shah and then in supporting Iraq and Saddam during that extremely brutal war. So part of what I’ve told my team is we have to distinguish between the ideologically driven, offensive Iran and the defensive Iran that feels vulnerable and sometimes may be reacting because they perceive that as the only way that they can avoid repeats of the past.

The Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government throughout the Iran-Iraq war. A war Saddam started. Though to be fair, Reagan’s team did also facilitate the sale of weapons to Iran, oops Iran-Contra).

Reagan continued to provide support to Saddam Hussein while he was conducting a genocidal campaign against the Kurds, and dropping mustard gas on Iranian civilians. The CIA provided recon assistance for Iraqi chemical weapon attacks, knowing full well Saddam would use illegal chemical weapons. (I know, who’d have thought Saint Reagan’s administration capable of such perfidy).

Under Reagan, the US exercised a veto to prevent the Security Council from adopting the following resolution “members are profoundly concerned by the unanimous conclusion of the specialists that chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian troops, and the members of the Council strongly condemn this continued use of chemical weapons in clear violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibits the use in war of chemical weapons.”

The US Navy protected Iraqi shipping, we provided laser-guided bombs to Saddam. And then as if the cake didn’t have enough icing, a US naval ship shot down Iran Air 655 from within Iranian territorial waters, killing 290 civilians, including 66 children. Which may be why they like saying “Death to America”. Imagine what we’d be chanting if the Iranian navy managed to kill 66 American children.

And it wasn’t just us, virtually every major Western power supplied Iraq with weapons and supported Saddam.

And finally as exhibit 5,826 in Iran’s “You can’t trust the West” file, we have a letter from 47 Republican Senators reminding them some American politicians are perfectly willing to renege on American promises. This is the same crew of “conservatives” who brought the US to the brink of default on its full faith and credit debt.

Obama gets why so many Iranians, of all political persuasions, might view nuclear weapons capability as the only sure-fire way to ensure their country doesn’t become road-kill in the next episode in our continuing mission to sprinkle freedom and democracy in their neck of the woods. Which is why he says:

what we know is that this has become a matter of pride and nationalism for Iran. Even those who we consider moderates and reformers are supportive of some nuclear program inside of Iran, and given that they will not capitulate completely, given that they can’t meet the threshold that Prime Minister Netanyahu sets forth, there are no Iranian leaders who will do that. And given the fact that this is a country that withstood an eight-year war and a million people dead, they’ve shown themselves willing, I think, to endure hardship when they considered a point of national pride or, in some cases, national survival.

My own read is that the Iranians likely want to develop their nuclear capability to the point where they can put together a bomb in relatively short order if they needed to. I would compare their position to Japan’s towards nuclear weapons.

Senior Iranian clerics (including Khamenei) have deep moral objections to nuclear weapons which they have voiced repeatedly. When faced with an existential threat, these qualms are likely to be pushed aside (they did develop a chemical weapons program int he end). But they likely understand that threshold capability could assuage their moral qualms while serving as an effective deterrent. They’ve had a traumatic experience where the self-proclaimed defenders of the freedom and goodness actively assisted a military dictator massacre Iranian and Kurdish civilians (who were their allies) by the tens of thousands, with weapons deemed illegal under International law. Did someone say vicious “proxy war”?

So Obama’s quite right to suggest that some risks need to be taken to help the Iranians overcome their deep distrust:

We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.

For this type of engagement to work though, the inmates need to be kept from burning down the asylum while pretending to run it. Or as the Vulcan in the White House put it:

“The bottom line,” he added, “is that we’re going to have serious debates, serious disagreements, and I welcome those because that’s how our democracy is supposed to work, and in today’s international environment, whatever arguments we have here, other people are hearing and reading about it. It’s not a secret that the Republicans may feel more affinity with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s views of the Iran issue than they do with mine. But [we need to be] keeping that within some formal boundaries, so that the executive branch, when it goes overseas, when it’s communicating with foreign leaders, is understood to be speaking on behalf of the United States of America, not a divided United States of America, making sure that whether that president is a Democrat or a Republican that once the debates have been had here, that he or she is the spokesperson on behalf of U.S. foreign policy. And that’s clear to every leader around the world. That’s important because without that, what you start getting is multiple foreign policies, confusion among foreign powers as to who speaks for who, and that ends up being a very dangerous — circumstances that could be exploited by our enemies and could deeply disturb our friends.”

Silly Palestinians, if only they’d accepted the state offered in 1947.

Ron Prosor (Israel’s man at the UN) wrote an Op-Ed in the Times on March 31 titled The U.N.’s War on Israel. I found it extremely annoying, but after a few deep breaths I managed to channel my annoyance into something useful.

Prosor is right to note that at times it seems the UN has no other business but to pass resolutions condemning Israel. But why? Are there any reasons for this unseemly obsession? I can think of a handful:

  • Most UN member-states are former European colonies. In fact, the whole non-European world is except for five countries. So as a group, member-states of the UN don’t much like colonialism and naturally empathize with the Palestinians.
  • There are a lot of Arab/Muslim countries that have to support Palestine (or find it convenient to do so). They control resources that many other countries need, and so it goes.
  • The UN has some institutional animosity towards Israel, thanks to the assassination of a UN appointed mediator (Folke Bernadotte), ordered by a sometime terrorist who went on to become PM of Israel.
  • Israel has repeatedly ignored UN resolutions on its West Bank settlements, its administration in the Occupied Territories, and with respect to the various conflicts it has been involved in over the years. Many of today’s resolutions are useless re-iterations of prior resolutions that have been ignored by successive Israeli governments.
  • In many ways, the Israel/Palestine conflict is a problem created by the UN, early in its history.

The last point is what I want to discuss in this super long post. It will involve wading into a thicket of post WW-I maneuvering including the McMahon Hussein Letters, the Sykes-Picot agreemeent, the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Commission, and finally, the UN Partition Plan of 1947.

Towards the end, I’ve quoted, in full, the remarkable statement made by Henry Cattan, representing Palestinian interests, to the UN committee working on the partition plan. Cattan was a Palestinian lawyer who happened to have been Christian. He went on to write a number of books on Palestine, including The Palestine Question. His statement is below the fold and I’d highly recommend reading it when you get to the end. It’s at once both illuminating and tragic.

Since this is such a long post, I’ve marked key sections in bold for those who want to skim it. All emphasis throughout the post is mine.

Continue reading “Silly Palestinians, if only they’d accepted the state offered in 1947.”

Filasṭin Week by Week: A March for the Bedouin, A License to Kill & To Teach the Nakba

Haaretz reports a few dozen people, including members of the Arab-Jewish Joint-List have begun a Four-day march to Jerusalem for Bedouin rights

President Reuven Rivlin had promised to welcome marchers, but will be abroad when they arrive in Jerusalem to draw attention to the Negev’s unrecognized villages.A four-day march to Jerusalem to raise awareness of the plight of unrecognized Bedouin villages and to present a plan to recognize them began on Thursday morning as planned, even though President Reuven Rivlin will not be receiving the marchers in the capital, as they had hoped.

Although Rivlin had agreed to receive the marchers on Sunday at the President’s Residence, the march’s final destination, it was learned on Wednesday that he will be in Singapore for the funeral of former president Lee Kuan Yew.

This reminds me somewhat of the Salt March led by Gandhi. It will never gain as much attention because the number of people who would be engaged are bound to be so much smaller in I/P. I’ve discussed the forced relocation of Bedouin in a diary called A Modern Day Trail of Tears in Jerusalem and on Medium: What happened to Ben-Gurion’s Oasis in the Desert?.David wrote a diary back in 2013 on the treatment of the Bedouin within Israel: Israel to Raze Palestinian Villages (within Israel) & Displace its Citizens to Build ‘Jewish’ Towns

+972mag has a deeply personal story from Mya Guarnieri about how she (an American Jew from Florida with Israeli citizenship) found herself living in the West Bak. She discusses how porous the barriers between the West Bank and Israel are. I think this is a must read if you’re interested in Israel/Palestine and a good example of the kind of writing that +972 showcases. It’s called The long road to Bethlehem

After taking a job at a Palestinian university in the West Bank, Jewish journalist Mya Guarnieri feels that the center of her life is increasingly on the ‘other side’ of the Green Line. Israeli soldiers give her a hard time for being a Jew in ‘enemy territory’ and it becomes more and more difficult to live in Israeli society.[…]

He answered in Hebrew in kind, ken, yes, and showed me the pictures he’d taken on his phone. There was the guard tower, just meters away. There was the group that had gathered as soldiers attempted to enforce the new closure in the fence; there was the fellow holding the hole open; there were men helping an elderly woman and a young lady through. The parking lot; the bus. I was struck again by the absurdity of it all. Hafuch al hafuch al hafuch.

That’s not to downplay Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement. It’s more to point out that if someone wants to slip into Israel without a permit, they can. In fact, approximately thirty thousand Palestinian workers do it every day. But, in doing so, they risk injury, arrest, and death. In July of 2012, a Palestinian day laborer was killed when soldiers opened fire on a car full of workers that tried to pass a checkpoint without permits.

The International Solidarity Movement reports on  the IDF’s heavy handed response at a regular Friday demonstration in the village of Ni’lin: Ni’lin demonstrators met with senseless violence

On the 20th of March, during Ni’lin’s weekly Friday demonstration, Israeli occupation forces attacked protestors with about 20 rounds of tear gas canisters shot with the ‘venom’ tear gas launcher mounted on a military jeep (which can launch up to thirty rounds of tear gas before needing to be reloaded), countless rubber-coated steel bullets and approximately one hundred rounds of live ammunition. One Israeli activist was shot in the ankle and one Palestinian boy was injured in the leg, both with rubber-coated steel bullets. Many protesters suffered from tear gas inhalation.

In +972mag: License to Kill, part 3: Why did Colonel A. order the sniping of Ihab Islim?

Members of a family are standing on a balcony and chatting. The commander of IDF forces in the region orders snipers to open fire on them. One brother is killed, the other one loses an eye. The commander fails to account for the order in the investigation that ensues. The case is closed, and the commander is promoted. In the following months, other civilians in the region are killed in the exact same manner. No one is found guilty.[…] the IDF has admitted that an innocent person had been shot, and that the targeted sniping of 17-year-old Ihab Islim in his head was carried out without him having committed a crime.

Yet the Military Police has failed to find the shooters; an IDF video clip that documents the shooting and the preceding events; or the operations logs that could have shed some light on the events that transpired in Nablus on June 25, 2004.

Int’l Solidarity Movement: Resistance to the destruction of olive trees in Wadi Qana

Supporters, many from the nearby village of Deir Istiya, as well as locals and internationals, turned out in anticipation of soldier presence or settler provocation, but no conflict took place.In 2008 and 2011 farmers of Wadi Qana were issued with similar notices.  These removal orders were not carried out. In 2012 trees were removed without notice. Approximately 3,000 trees have been destroyed in Wadi Qana by settler attacks and by order of Israeli authorities.

Olive groves are a ubiquitous feature of Palestinian agriculture. Destroying them is a way of asserting authority over the land and indigenous uses of it. It is in keeping with other efforts like that run by the JNF, to plant stands of non-indigenous varieties, some of them on the ruins of former Palestinian villages.From Haaretz: UN report: 2014 saw the most Palestinians killed by Israel’s military since ‘67

Israeli security forces killed 2,312 Palestinians, most in the Gaza war over the summer. Roughly two-thirds were civilians.The number of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip last year topped 1,500 — the highest number since the occupation began in 1967. By most other measures, the Palestinians’ lives under the occupation also took a turn for the worse, as reflected in the annual overview by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

This is being covered quite widely, including the Guardian, Al-Jazeera and YNet.+972mag: Hundreds mourn Palestinian youth shot dead by Israeli soldiers

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered to take part in the funeral of Ali Safi in the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah Thursday. Safi, 18, was shot with live bullets by Israeli soldiers during clashes near the refugee camp on Wednesday, March 18. He was taken to a hospital in Ramallah and placed in the ICU until he died on Wednesday night.

In Haaretz: When Zionist parties wooed Palestinian-Israeli voters

The early Israeli establishment allowed Arab citizens to vote and Zionist parties even courted their support. Today, however, the Arab vote is seen as a threat.[…]

Some American commentators rushed to link Netanyahu’s remarks to the Jim Crow South of the 1960s, when African-American participation in the political process was considered dangerous by white supremacists. This comparison rings even more poignant if we consider that at the same time as when African Americans fought against segregation, Palestinians in Israel were placed under what was known as the Military Government.

This form of martial law (1948-1966; not to be confused with the post-1967 military occupation and Israeli settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) suspended many of the civil rights and legal protections that Israeli citizenship afforded those Palestinians who managed to remain in the state after 1948. There is, however, a fundamental difference between early Israel, the Jim Crow South – the early Israeli establishment still allowed the community it oppressed to vote and actually courted their electoral support.

Int’l Solidarity Movement: Continuing harassment of activists in Palestine

“We are not wearing vests like Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) for example, which makes it easier for us to pass through the checkpoints. But they don’t like us either. Only a few days days ago one of us was arrested and held for seven hours for bogus reasons, and now he’s not allowed in the city for two weeks” ISM volunteer Franceska explains.In four different incidents within one week in late February, Israeli forces raided the ISM apartment without having a warrant or any legit reason. Franceska was in the apartment when the soldiers came:

+972mag: Distorting the facts of Occupation: Regavim’s attacks on the EU

Reports started circulating before Israel’s elections that Prime Minister Netanyahu had ordered the destruction of mobile structures distributed by the EU in Area C of the West Bank. This harks back to a report in November 2014 by the Israeli NGO Regavim, which draws a shocking parallel between the EU’s humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Area C and Israel’s building of settlements there.  Assuming that Israel’s settlements are legal under international law, Regavim accuses the EU of assisting the Palestinians in an illegal plan to take control of large parts of the West Bank. Solidarity with Palestinian farmers, Wadi Qana, West Bank, 20.3.2015

Palestinian and international activists hold a sign that reads, “Wadi Qana is for us”, during a solidarity activity with Palestinian farmers in the area, West Bank, March 20, 2015. On Sunday March 15th, Palestinians received an Israeli military order to uproot 123 olive trees in Wadi Qana, which is surrounded by seven settlements. According to OCHA maps, Wadi Qana is supposed to be annexed to Israel in order to create a path for the Wall.

Haaretz: Ex-Education Minister Piron backs teaching Nakba to all Israeli students

Shay Piron, education minister in the previous government, was quoted on Tuesday as backing the teaching of the Nakba – the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which the Palestinians use to refer to Israel’s War of Independence – to all Israeli students.Piron’s remarks, in a recording broadcast by Israeli Army Radio, indicated that he supported teaching the Nakba story alongside what he called the “settler narrative.”

“In the bilingual schools in Misgav” – a city 45 minutes northeast of Haifa – “I was asked what I thought about teaching the Nakba to Arab students,” Piron, a member of the Yesh Atid Party, said.

“I answered that I opposed it. I support teaching the Nakba to all Israeli students. I don’t think that a student can reach deep in the Israeli educational system when 20 percent of the students have an ethos, a specific story, and he does not know that story.”

Israelis who wish to learn more about the Nakba have a number of sources they could use, including the iNakba app produced by Israeli NGO Zochrot (which has been working on this since 2002). And of course, S Yizhar’s seminal novella about an army unit expelling Palestinian villagers from the fictional Khirbet Khizeh has been an optional part of the Israeli curriculum for decades (though I have no idea how often it’s actually assigned).+972mag: Israeli army arrests 7 in action against E1 settlement

Palestinian, international and Israeli activists protested against Israeli plans to seize and build in the E1 area, which would cut off the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. Held on the same day as Israeli elections, the protest was aimed at attracting international attention to the progress of illegal Israeli construction and the planed displacement over 15,000 Palestinians and Bedouin communities living in 45 communities in the area.

United Nations OCHA-oPt: Weekly Highlights – March 17 – March 23

Israeli forces injured 21 Palestinians, including seven children, in various clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians. The most serious incidents reported in the West Bank, include ran eight-year-old child who was seriously injured when a soldier, with his rifle, hit the child in the eye while playing in proximity to clashes in Al Khader (Bethlehem); three Palestinians, including two children (14 and 15 years old), shot with live ammunition in Silwan; and a man who was shot with live ammunition in the back during clashes at the entrance to Al Jalazun Refugee Camp (Ramallah). Another three Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli forces next to the Gaza perimeter fence, east of Khan Younis.Two Palestinian attacks resulting in Israeli injuries or property damage were reported, including four people, two of whom are children, injured as a result of stone-throwing at an Israeli bus and damage to settlers’ houses as a result of a Molotov cocktail-throwing, both in East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces uprooted 492 trees and saplings planted by Palestinians next to the Majdal Bani Fadel (Nablus), Bidya (Salfit) and Adh Dhahiriya (Hebron) villages in Area C of the West Bank, on grounds that these areas were designated as “state land”. According to official data, over 99 per cent of “state land”, or public land, has been included within the jurisdictional boundaries of the local and regional councils of Israeli settlements, built in contravention of international law.

This is a roundup of news related to Filasṭīn with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper. The goal is to provide a bi-weekly update on the non-violent resistance movement.

Diplomatic negotiations and actions by armed resistance groups are covered quite widely by the mainstream press and in other diaries on DKos so they will rarely be included.

We use the term Filasṭīn, since that is the pronunciation preferred by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) of the pre-partition era for their land. The more familiar Palestine is the Hellenic or Roman variant. Filasṭīn refers to the geographic entity roughly encompassing Israel and Palestine. It is likely a cognate of “Philistine”, the name used in the Hebrew bible to describe a rival of the Jewish kingdom of that era.