Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Israel on a Roll

If there’s one topic sure to get my blood boiling it’s Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Several significant and emblematic events have taken place recently that deserve discussion so I’ll just have to deal with the depression and despair that always accompanies dealing with the topic.

The first, about two months ago, involved the eviction of a family in Arab East Jerusalem from a house they had lived in for more than 50 years. It seems that a deed for the property was found showing it had been owned by a Jew back in Ottoman times, that is, about a century ago. The Israel Supreme Court decided that the extended family of about 18 people spanning three generations had to vacate the property, evidently, so that Jewish settlers could move in. In fact, it only took a couple of hours before Jews moved in to occupy the house.

The Arab family, as I understand it, has been camped out in tents across the street since the eviction. I’m sure the Jews who took over the property were proud of their actions, thinking they were doing a great thing, securing additional land for Jews in the ‘Holy Land’. Israel’s courts and the majority of its population must also be happy to see Arabs thrown onto the streets, but everyone else in the world, and especially non-Israeli Jews, should be ashamed of such a cruel and heartless act. I marvel at how Israelis are able to separate ‘holiness’ from common human decency.

We hear over and over how Israel is a bastion of democracy, a shining light in a despotic region. Well then, what of the 750,000 Arabs driven from their homes at the birth of Israel? Can they show up with 100-year-old deeds and get their properties back? Hardly. Israel is a democracy for Jews, everyone else can eat shit.

In another telling event Amnesty International recently put out a report describing how Israel is denying Palestinians access to clean water. I had heard recently of that situation; that is, where many people in the West Bank have to purchase water from tanker trucks. Such water is not only expensive but very low quality to the point of many people and especially young children being sickened by it.

West Bank Arabs living in dusty villages cannot get permits to dig wells to supply their own water but meanwhile, in their midst, there are lush green Jewish colonies graced with swimming pools and gardens. I saw, when I was in the West Bank in 1994, that very situation.

Regarding water supply in Gaza, Israel, which maintains a stranglehold on Gaza because it doesn’t like Hamas, the party that won the last Palestinian elections by a wide margin, doesn’t allow import of equipment or materials necessary to repair the damage caused by its ravaging of Gaza’s infrastructure in its recent offensive.

Terrorists drink water so water systems had to be destroyed and cannot be rebuilt. Terrorists shit in toilets so sewage treatment systems were also legitimate targets. If Gazans have to deal with raw untreated sewage, tough shit, they’re only Arabs. Bad guys use electricity to plot their homemade rocket attacks so power stations had to go. If a million and a half non-terrorist Gazans have to suffer without power, too bad, it’s not Israel’s fault. Roads, bridges, farms, factories, all part of terrorist infrastructure so had to be trashed.

In the Israeli mindset, Palestinians have to be taught hard lessons so they tire of resisting occupation and the theft of their land and resources. BTW: targeting civilian infrastructure is considered collective punishment and a war crime. Factually inaccurate was the Israeli government’s response to the Amnesty report.

The cropper is the Goldstone Report. Richard Goldstone was commissioned by the UN to look into possible war crimes committed by both sides in the Gaza war and is a damning indictment of Israel’s actions. Israel’s standard response in these situations is to slander the messenger – they referred to the work as shoddy – but in this case they picked a near impossible target for their mudslinging. Might as well accuse Mother Teresa of being a pimp or Martin Luther King of child abuse.

Richard Goldstone is a South African Jew with strong ties to Israel and Zionism. He has impeccable credentials. He was chief prosecutor at the war crimes trials in Rwanda and Yugoslavia and is highly respected in the legal world. Needless to say, when the puppetmaster (Israel) pulls the strings, the puppet (America) dances to the master’s tune so Hillary characterized the report as being unfair. Now the congress is about to chime in with overwhelming support for Israel’s dastardly, bloody and indefensible actions.

Where is the humanity? What about justice, fairness, equality? Why is there no sympathy for a people who’ve had their land stolen from them, and have increasing amounts being taken even today? Colonization of conquered lands is fundamentally contrary to international law. Why is the US so quick to rail against other countries when they breach international laws or treaties, but so eager to cast a blind eye to Israel’s arrogant flouting of same? The Palestinian people have lived under a brutal and oppressive occupation for 60 years; how can there be so little feeling for their plight in the halls of American power? How can the US throw its weight behind the occupier and so easily blow off the tragedy of the occupied?

Now in the latest twist to this sordid saga, after being firm about the need for Israel to cease all settlement activity, Hillary now says the Palestinians should go into peace talks without preconditions. Israel on the other hand has made it absolutely clear, amongst other things, that it won’t negotiate on the status of Jerusalem and will never give up the majority of its settlements, but I guess preconditions aren’t preconditions to peace talks when Israel makes them.

Palestinians currently control less than half the West Bank. The separation wall has a dual purpose. In addition to the obvious desire to keep suicide bombers out, in many places it was built deep into Palestinian territory so in effect serves to separate 6% of the West Bank from a Palestinian state. Many Arabs now have to go through Israeli checkpoints to go from their homes to their fields.

The settlements take a large chunk of the West Bank. Maale Adumin, the largest settlement, with 30,000 people, occupies 32 square kilometers (about 13 sq. mi.). For perspective, I live in a town in Cambodia which has about the same number of people but uses only about 4 or 5 sq. kilometers, so Israel has confiscated far more land than necessary for its colonies. The West Bank is crisscrossed with Jewish only roads that allow settlers to go between the settlements and connect them to Israel, and are one reason why Arabs have to go through so many Israeli checkpoints to go anywhere in the West Bank.

Finally there are large Israeli military bases in the West Bank. BTW: Israel does not use the name, West Bank, but instead refers to the area as Judea and Samaria, biblical names which place the area firmly within ‘Greater Israel’. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Arab population, when Israeli Arab citizens and refugees are included, now about equals the Jewish population. Even though the 1967 borders give Jews 78% of the land area they still aren’t satisfied. They are hungry for real estate. God said it was theirs and presumably said they could use any means necessary, including wanton bloodshed and devastation, to take it.

As stated previously, what Israel wants for Palestine is a demilitarized state with the West Bank divided into three Bantustans. Palestine would have no international borders so Israel could control all access. That way they could deny the fundamentals of life - food, water, sanitation, livelihood - as they are now doing in Gaza, anytime they felt the need to turn the screws, for whatever reason. Might as well bring back slavery.

The one bright spot in the story is that many prominent Israelis are no longer able to travel abroad for fear of prosecution for committing war crimes. It’s called universal jurisdiction and was first used by Israel in prosecuting Nazis, though the crimes were committed elsewhere and not against its own citizens (obviously it wasn’t a state yet). Thus an Israeli accused of war crimes in Palestine can be arrested in a country like England or Spain and turned over to an international tribunal. They may have felt their bloody wars against (mostly) innocent civilians were justified, now if they leave Israel, they may well have to defend their actions in a court of law. A small step forward.