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In the United States, the past several decades, at least since the administration of Ronald Reagan, have seen the country move to a position of less tolerance for minorities, less care for the poor, more governmental policies to benefit the rich, and an ever-increasing reliance by politicians on corporate donations. Let this writer hasten to explain that the U.S. was never a place of tolerance and care for the poor, but things have only gotten worse, not better, in the past several decades.

This has come to mean that those running for the highest offices in the land are beholden, not to the people or the Constitution that they purport to hold sacred, but to those industries who donate so generously to their campaigns. This resulted, in 2016, with both major parties nominating loathsome candidates for president. While former First Lady, senator and Secretary of State, the corrupt Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote that year, the incompetent, clown-like narcissist, former reality-TV star Donald Trump became president due to the U.S.’s bizarre electoral college.

Three long and torturous years into the administration of Donald Trump, he now faces impeachment. Articles of impeachment are expected to be handed down by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives within the next several days. It will then be up to the Republican-controlled Senate to decide whether or not to remove him from office. Despite the compelling evidence that he abused his power for personal gain, there is little chance of his removal.

Let us move for a moment to the situation in Israel. That nation is the poster child for one that has never cared about human rights or international law. The brutal oppression of the Palestinians, dating back over 70 years, is the most obvious evidence of that. The current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has expressed utter disdain for Arabs, and under his corrupt administration, the ‘Nation State’ law was passed, decreeing that Israel is the homeland of Jews and no one else. So much for the approximately 25% of people living in the Zionist entity who are not Jews.

But now, Israel’s longest-serving (is ‘serving’ the appropriate word, when genocide, racism and personal gain are the goals?) Prime Minister, who has continued and expanded the brutal, racist policies of all his predecessors, appears to be reaching the end of his tenure with the proverbial bang. He has been indicted on a series of charges including bribery, and may be removed from office. However, like the situation in the U.S., he and his sycophant admirers are fighting tooth and nail to keep him in power.

Also, like Trump, Netanyahu is ‘serving’ without a mandate. Following the April elections, he was unable to form a coalition government, so for the first time in its ugly and bloody history, Israel had two elections in one year. He came in second, but was still selected to form a government. Alas, he was unable to do so, resulting in the opportunity being given to his nearest competitor, the equally odious and racist Benny Gantz, whose party, the Blue and White, actually won more seats that Netanyahu’s Likud party. But with Netanyahu blocking any proposal that didn’t maintain him as prime minister, thus putting him in a position to prevent the indictments against him that have since been issued, Gantz was also unsuccessful in cobbling together a coalition government. Now the opportunity is wide open for any member of parliament: good luck with that. All this paves the way for another election in March, thus making three elections within a 12-month period.

Is it odd that two nations, both built on genocide, whose leaders are contemptuous of international law and human rights, whose policies bring out the absolute worst in people, are now engulfed in chaos? Netanyahu can’t form a government and is under indictment. His racist policies have become so blatant that even U.S. politicians are criticizing him and them, something that was absolutely unheard of a few years ago.

Trump has alienated the military with his interference in military justice cases (in the U.S., the term ‘military justice’ is a total oxymoron, but that’s a topic for another essay), his disdain for their foreign-policy advice (e.g. the U.S. abandonment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and his general chaotic style of governing. Any semi-reasonable advisers he ever had have long since departed. In true Orwellian style, truth is seen as falsehood, imagined and completely debunked conspiracy theories are trotted out as if they were proven facts, and the poor, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans and many others are seen as enemies to the U.S.’s ‘national security’.

The reader will forgive this writer for seeing much good potentially resulting from these two situations. Trump’s domestic problems, while solidifying his base, are certainly alienating many of the ‘undecided’ voters, those who, for some inexplicable reason, are still considering voting for him. Not that whoever the Democrats nominate will be a savior, rescuing the U.S. from its brutal, imperial ways, but such things as Supreme Court appointments and aid to Israel may be far more reasonable.

If Netanyahu is stripped of his role as Prime Minister, a major obstacle to a new coalition government will be removed. Yet the various parties are still very fractured, so Gantz will have to jump through many hoops, including some held by the Arab League, in order to form a government. Again, this will not mean democracy for apartheid Israel, but it could be a step towards alleviating some of the pain and suffering of the Palestinians. One does not wish to be too optimistic, however. Gantz has talked of annexing the West Bank.

A strong caution is necessary. A world power in decline is always extremely dangerous, so what either ‘leader’ may do to either ensure his re-election, or go down in spectacular flames, possibly engulfing much of the world, rather than slinking away quietly, as they should, remains to be seen. It is hoped that someone in U.S. governance will be in a position to prevent it, should Trump be removed from office or is defeated in 2020. And in Israel, which relies on the U.S. to finance and support its many war crimes, an incoming coalition government, assuming one can be formed, may be able to restrain Netanyahu. But in both scenarios, there is very little hope to cling to.

James J. Zogby
Global Research, November 26, 2019

After years of investigation and months of delay, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally indicted Benjamin Netanyahu for crimes ranging from his violation of public trust to bribery and fraud. Israel’s apologists will argue that the fact that a sitting Prime Minister has been charged with crimes against the state and people presents compelling evidence of the country’s democracy and commitment to the rule of law. This is the very point that Mandelblit made in announcing the indictments – “The public interest requires that we live in a country where no one is above the law.” However, this is only partially true since it appears that in Israel the principles of democracy or the rule of law only apply to Israeli Jews or the interests of the state, itself. In fact, Netanyahu’s entire sordid career is evidence of the selectiveness of Israelis’ sense of justice.

In the past the Netanyahu household has been charged with some of the pettiest forms of corruption imaginable. For example, his wife was found guilty of taking the empty bottles from beverages consumed at official state functions and keeping the money she received for turning them for recycling. The Netanyahus were also known to bring three weeks of dirty laundry on two-day official state trips and sending them to the hotel in which they were staying for a night so that the cleaning bill would be charged to the state’s budget. This is the sort of past petty thievery for which the Netanyahus were famous.

Looking at the recent indictments, it is clear that the Prime Minister has graduated to bigger and better forms of fraud and corruption. What’s striking, however, is that all of the crimes with which he is charged were focused on feeding his ego or his appetites. In some instances, they were favors done for a businessman in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts, in others they were the corrupt deals he made with various media tycoons in which he promised them benefits in exchange for their guaranteeing him positive coverage in their news outlets.

There is no doubt, that in all of these cases, Netanyahu’s behavior has been clearly criminal and reprehensible, and, as described by the Attorney General, a breach of the public’s trust. But what I find so striking and disturbing, is that these crimes pale in significance when compared to what Netanyahu has done to the Palestinian people and the prospect for Israeli-Palestinian peace – crimes for which he will not be called to account.

After Oslo, Netanyahu organized a back-door lobby to mobilize US Congressional opposition to the peace accords. This was the first time an Israeli lobby worked in the US to oppose their own government. He should have been charged with treason. Back in Israel, during the same period, he organized with Ariel Sharon and a few others a smear campaign of incitement against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The campaign was so virulent and threatening that many Israelis, including Rabin’s wife, held Netanyahu responsible for Rabin’s assassination. Netanyahu should have been charged with incitement.

In 1996, he was elected Prime Minister on a platform dedicated to ending the peace process and he did everything he could to slow down, distort, and ultimately sabotage the Oslo Peace Process. Even the agreement he signed with the Palestinians at Wye so encumbered the process that by the end of his first term in office, peace was on life support.  He should have been charged with destroying the prospects for peace and putting at risk the lives of millions.

During his last three terms in office, he incited violence and hatred against Palestinians, both those who are citizens of Israel and those living under occupation. This has fueled extremist settler movements that have engaged in daily acts of violence, destruction of property, and murder. He also encouraged soldiers in the Israeli army to murder defenseless Palestinians and supported them when they were charged with crimes. In addition, as he did with Rabin, he has falsely accused his Israeli opponents of being too close to the Arabs and accused the Palestinian citizens of Israel of being enemies of the state. He should have been charged with hate crimes.

During his time in office he has: expanded settlements on stolen Palestinian land and the demolition of Palestinian property; overseen a number of devastating assaults on Gaza resulting in the indiscriminate massacre of thousands of innocent civilians and the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure; instituted and maintained a cruel blockade of Gaza’s population, as an act of collective punishment, in which, for long periods of time, food, medicine, and other essential items were restricted or severely regulated – resulting in death, disease, and impoverishment of millions of innocents. He should have been charged with war crimes.

The list could go on, but this should suffice.

The bottom line is that, to be sure, Netanyahu is a criminal. But in today’s Israel he can’t be found guilty of his most serious crimes – treason, incitement, destroying peace, hate crimes, and war crimes. Instead, he will be asked only to answer for his narcissistic appetites and corruption.

Finian Cunningham
November 27, 2019 "Information Clearing House

 It is a ludicrous situation when anyone criticizing Israeli state violations against Palestinians or neighboring countries is then instantly discredited as being “antisemitic”. We see this in Britain and the United States all the time. Congresswomen like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have been denounced for being “anti-Jewish”, including by President Trump, simply because they protested Israeli policy of occupying Palestinian lands or for having a malign influence on US foreign policy.

In Britain, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party have once again this week been vilified as “antisemitic” in prominent news media. The reality is that Corbyn is neither racist or anti-Jewish. The specious allegation stems from him and sections of Labour being vehemently critical of Israel and its conduct towards Palestinians. If elected in the general election next month, Labour says it will cut military trade with Israel and move to officially recognize a Palestinian state.

This conflation of valid criticism of the Israeli state with being “anti-Jew” is a cynical distortion which is wielded to give Israel impunity from international law. It plays on moral blackmail of critics by equating the historical persecution of Jews and in particular the Nazi holocaust with the sanctity of the modern Israeli state. That distortion is exposed by many Jews themselves who have spoken out in the US and in Britain to defend the right of people to criticize Israeli policies. They understand the vital distinction between the Israeli state and the much wider existence of Jewishness. They understand that to be opposed to Israeli state practices is in no way to mean animus towards Jews in general.

Only in the past week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his government intends to expand annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The land occupied by Israeli forces since the 1967 Six Day War is illegally occupied, according to multiple UN resolutions under international law. Now Netanyahu wants to increase the violations. And with the support of the Trump administration which also announced it was no longer viewing Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as illegitimate.

Over the past month, the Israeli military has stepped up airstrikes on the Gaza Strip where nearly two million Palestinians subsist in abject poverty largely because of an Israeli blockade. One family of nine, including children, was killed by an airstrike on their home on November 14. As always the death toll among Palestinian civilians is grotesquely disproportionate to Israeli victims of rockets fired from Gaza.

Israeli forces have also been carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, including the capital Damascus, over the past year. Russia, among others, has condemned those attacks as “unlawful aggression”. Arguably, war crimes. When Jeremy Corbyn and Britain’s Labour Party and a handful of American politicians speak out to denounce Israeli violations they are doing so to uphold international law and voice support for victims of state violence. That is a principled and honourable position.

Shamefully, the US and British governments and much of the corporate news media never do speak out. They shield Israeli leaders from international accountability by vetoing UN resolutions or by turning a blind eye. Pro-Israeli lobbies funnel massive donations to politicians in Washington on both sides of the aisle, and to the British Conservative Party. Their silence is bought. Not only silence but outright distortion, such as when people criticize Israeli malfeasance – and there is much of that – then they are absurdly character-assassinated as “antisemites”.

Admittedly, many British Jews phoned into radio stations this week to complain that they feel unwelcome in Britain due to what they perceive as growth in antisemitism under the Labour Party. To be fair though, their claims were not backed up by hard evidence of specifically anti-Jewish behaviour. They were eliding their Jewishness with Labour’s criticism of Israel.

The claims made against Corbyn this week by the British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirviz of being “unfit for office” because of an alleged complacent attitude towards antisemitism in his party should be put in context. Corbyn has apologized several times for a tiny fraction (less than 0.1 per cent) of party members accused of antisemitism. Why should he be obliged to keep on apologizing, as BBC interviewer Andrew Neil imperiously demanded again this week?

Chief Rabbi Mirviz is a self-declared friend of Conservative leader Boris Johnson and an ardent, uncritical supporter of the Israeli state. Mirviz does not represent all British Jews, as many other Jewish groups came out voicing their support for Corbyn and his valid right of free speech to criticize Israel. Mirviz got prominent media coverage for his views this week in the London Times and Daily Mail, among others. Britain’s rightwing media are owned by billionaire oligarchs who despise Labour’s manifesto for progressive wealth redistribution.

Official race-hate figures for Britain show that physical attacks against British Muslims are preponderantly more than attacks against any other religious minority, including Jews. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have evident problems of fomenting Islamophobia. Yet we don’t see British media providing proportionate criticism on that to balance their focus on Corbyn and his alleged views. The antisemitic card is played to shield Israel from important criticism; and by Britain’s plutocrats and their media who would rather see the public squabbling over spurious claims about antisemitism so they can keep on plundering wealth from the majority of British people.


The Trump Administration again demonstrates its subservience to Israel

A story has been circulating suggesting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will soon be resigning because he needs to focus on planning for his campaign to become a Senator from Kansas in 2020. This is good news for the United States, as Senator Lindsey Graham has had no one he is able to talk to about exporting democracy by blowing up the planet since Joe Lieberman retired and John McCain died. And the tale even has a bit of palace intrigue built into it, with an interesting back story as Pompeo is apparently considering his move because he fears that staying in harness with Donald Trump for too long might damage his reputation. There are also reports that he has been traveling to Kansas frequently on the State Department’s dime to test the waters, a violation of the Hatch Act which prohibits most government officials from engaging in self-promotional political activities unrelated to their actual jobs.

If one is seeking evidence to suggest that Pompeo, a man who lies with a fluency that takes one’s breath away, is delusional, it would certainly have to include his self-assessment that he has a reputation to protect. It is possible to cite many instances in which Pompeo has asserted something that is absolutely contrary to the truth, though one might also have to concede that he could often be saying what his factually challenged boss wants to hear. When Pompeo was Director of the CIA he even joked openly about how “We lied, we cheated, we stole.”

Mike Pompeo’s latest concession to the war criminals in charge of Israel, clearly intended to boost the electoral chances of Benjamin Netanyahu, is only the most recent dose of the Secretary of State’s falsehood piled on fiction. It is generally assumed that the move to help Bibi by interfering in Israeli politics has been made in an effort to have Tel Aviv reciprocate by putting pressure on its many American fellow travelers in the media and congress to go easier on Trump in the impeachment saga. And Trump would also expect additional reciprocity when he runs again in 2020. Even though Netanyahu, who has been indicted over bribery and fraud, will not be able to shift many liberal Jewish votes, he will be able to get allies like mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson to pony up tens of millions of dollars to support the GOP campaign.
The Trump Administration’s gifts to Israel are unprecedented, including moving the capital to Jerusalem and acknowledging the annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights. Pompeo, driven by his Christian Zionist beliefs, has been the point man on many of those moves, ably assisted by a U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, ex-bankruptcy lawyer, who has served as a consistent advocate and apologist for Israel with little or no concern for actual American interests. One might also observe that if Pompeo is truly interested in running for the Senate a little help and cash from Israel and its many friends might be very welcome.

The Pompeo gift to Bibi was announced early last week. He said that the Trump Administration is now rejecting the 1978 State Department Hansell Memorandum legal opinion that the creation of civilian settlements in occupied territories is indeed “inconsistent with international law.” In a sense, he was giving something away to Israel that neither he nor the Israelis legally possess. He said that he was “accepting realities on the ground” and elaborated on his view that the White House believes legal questions about settlements should be dealt with in Israeli courts, meaning that the hapless Palestinians would have no voice in developments that would deprive them of their homes.

Per Pompeo,
“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace. 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.”

Pompeo’s latest statement, consistent with many of his earlier ones, is completely contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention framework of international law governing behavior by occupying military powers that was established after the Second World War. It ignores the fact that the [i]status quo[/i] of expanding settlements has only taken place because of Washington’s refusal to do anything about it. The State Department’s new interpretation completely embraces arguments being made by hard-line politicians in Israel and opens the door to endorsement by the White House of a total [i]de facto[/i] or even [i]de jure[/i] annexation of the West Bank by the Jewish state.

Pompeo was talking about the nearly 700,000 illegal exclusively Jewish settlers currently on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Palestinians, in many areas under a brutal regime of martial law enforced by the Jewish state’s army and police, have virtually no rights and are subject to increasing violent attacks by the settlers. Not surprisingly, Pompeo’s statement was rejected by everyone but the Israelis and the usual crowd in the U.S. Congress and media, but even some leading Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, found the decision troubling. The 28 member European Union declared that “All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace. The E.U. calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power.”

And, of course, there are potential consequences when a government does something stupid. Shortly after Pompeo’s announcement, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem put out a security advisory warning Americans traveling in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, stating, “Individuals and groups opposed to [the Pompeo] announcement may target U.S. government facilities, U.S. private interests, and U.S. citizens.” It suggested that visitors ought “to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness in light of the current environment.”

There is inevitably considerable discussion in some circles regarding what the new situation on the West Bank actually means. To be sure, the number and size of settlements will increase, but some knowledgeable critics like Gilad Atzmon suggest that the move will backfire on the Israelis, who, by taking control of the land, will eventually have to accept some kind of one state solution, giving the Palestinians considerable rights in a not-completely-denominational state. He observes how “…inadvertently, Trump has finally committed the U.S.A. to the One State Solution. It is hard to deny that the area between the ‘River and the Sea’ is a single piece of land. It shares one electric grid, one pre-dial code (+972) and one sewage system. At present, the land is ruled over by a racist, tribal and discriminatory ideology through an apparatus that calls itself ‘The Jewish State’ and declares itself home for every Jew around the world; yet, is abusive, lethal and some would say genocidal toward the indigenous people of the land… Pompeo’s declaration provides an explicit and necessary message to the Palestinians in general and in the West Bank in particular. The conflict is not progressing toward a peaceful resolution. Those amongst the Palestinians who advocated the ‘Two States Solution’ will have to hide now. Pompeo has affirmed that there is one Holy Land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. From now on the battle over this disputed land is whether it will be subject to the racist discriminatory ideology implied by the notion of ‘The Jewish State’ and its ‘National Bill,’ or if it will transform itself into a ‘State of its Citizens’ as is inherent in the notion of One Palestine.”
Tom Suarez posits similarly at Mondoweiss, observing that any form of annexation of the West Bank without giving Palestinians equal rights would basically make Israeli apartheid so visible and unacceptable to world opinion that the Jewish state would become a complete pariah internationally and would be forced to adopt some kind of one state formula.

Nevertheless, even if a one state solution with equal citizenship status for everyone would appear to be both desirable and compliant with modern notions of human rights, it is not necessarily inevitable. The chosen-by-God Israeli state is quite capable of ethnic cleansing or even genocide on a massive scale, as it did originally in 1947-8 when it was founded and also later after it occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. The Jewish state’s leaders have repeatedly asserted that there is no such thing as a Palestinian, that Jordan is actually Palestine. They have become skilled at making the lives of Palestinians so miserable by destroying their farms, other livelihood and even their homes while also controlling their infrastructure, killing them if they resist, that they emigrate. Christians in Palestine, the original followers of Jesus Christ, constituted close to 8 percent of the population in 1946 but now number less than 2 percent. Most have chosen to leave rather than submit to Israel.

There is no reason to doubt that the Israelis could continue their creeping annexation of the West Bank for ten more years or so while also deliberately driving the remaining Arabs out. I have little doubt that that is precisely what they will do and they will be empowered to do so by the United States, which will never develop either the integrity or the courage to push back against “America’s closest ally and best friend in the entire world.”

Global Research, November 26, 2019 
Yesterday the Trump administration said Israeli settlements in the West Bank don’t violate international law. That’s absurd. Among international lawyers, the consensus that settlements are illegal rivals the consensus among international scientists that humans contribute to climate change. As UCLA’s Dov Waxman has pointed out, the legal advisor to Israel’s own foreign ministry admitted that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention” after Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967. But critics who condemn the Trump administration for disregarding international law are missing the deeper point. So are critics who condemn it for undermining the two-state solution.

Fundamentally, the problem with settlements is neither legal nor geopolitical. It is moral. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are institutionalized expressions of bigotry. The American and Israeli politicians who legitimize them are the moral equivalent of those politicians who legitimized Jim Crow. It’s time they be treated as such.

Settlements only exist because Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank live under a different law. Jews are Israeli citizens: They can vote for the government that controls every square inch of the West Bank. Palestinians are Israeli subjects: Permanently barred because of their ethnicity and religion from citizenship in the country in which they live. (Yes, Palestinians have at times voted for the Palestinian Authority. But the PA is not a government; it is Israel’s subcontractor. PA officials — like all West Bank Palestinians — need Israeli permission to travel from one part of the West Bank to another).

Because the Israeli government controls the West Bank, and because it is accountable to the Jews — but not the Palestinians — who live there, it has spent the last half-century seizing land on which Palestinians live and giving it to Jews. Employing an 1858 Ottoman law, it has declared much of the West Bank “state land” and then transferred that supposedly ownerless territory to Jewish settlements. According to data from Israel’s own civil administration, almost 40% of the land on which settlements reside was once owned by individual Palestinians.

Big deal, some settlement defenders argue: Lots of people live on stolen land. If a community built on land seized by force is morally illegitimate, then the New Yorkers who live on territory once owned by Native Americans have no more right to be there than the Jewish settlers in Beit El. But there’s a difference: New York is now open to people of any religion or race. Native Amerians, as citizens of the United States, can live there. Palestinians can’t live in Beit El. Jewish settlements are Jewish-only settlements. The West Bank isn’t like New York in 2019. It’s like Mississippi in 1959. It is a territory segregated by law, separate and hideously unequal. That’s what Benjamin Netanyahu obscures when he tweets that the Trump administration’s new settlements policy “reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria.”

Of course, Jews are not foreign to the West Bank. Much of the Book of Genesis takes place there; there were Jewish communities in the West Bank before Israel’s creation. But morally, the issue is not whether Jews have the right to live in the West Bank. It’s whether Jews have the right to live there under a different law than their Palestinian neighbors.

Do they have the right to bar Palestinians from their communities? Do they have the right to expand those communities onto land the Israeli government keeps expropriating from Palestinian owners? Do they have the right to operate swimming pools and complex irrigation systems while their Palestinian neighbors suffer from what the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has called “a constant shortage of water.”

The injustices are not incidental to the settlement project. Without them, settlements as currently constituted could not exist. So when Netanyahu defends settlements, he’s not defending Jews’ right to live in the West Bank. He’s defending our right to live there as masters. Spend even a few hours on the ground with Palestinians in the West Bank and all this becomes obvious. But it rarely comes through in the American media, which often describes settlements in the bloodless language of geopolitics and international law.

In its report on the Trump administration’s decision, the New York Times emphasized that previous American governments considered settlements “inconsistent with international law.” The Washington noted that they’re often deemed “a major obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But the core problem with Jim Crow was not that it violated international legal norms, nor that it posed an obstacle to settling conflicts between whites and blacks. The core problem was that it violated the principle of human equality.  “If giving some people liberty while denying it to others because of their race, ethnicity or religion was wrong in the segregated South, why isn’t it wrong in the West Bank?” No American television network should interview Benjamin Netanyahu, Ron Dermer, David Friedman or Mike Pompeo without asking some version of that question. Every American politician who defends settlements should be required to explain why he isn’t a modern-day George Wallace. The word that’s missing from most mainstream American discussion of settlements is “bigotry.” People who care about freedom must make it impossible to avoid.

Despite the US administration's announcement to the contrary, there is no question as to the unlawfulness of Israel's settler encroachment

Richard Falk

[i]US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made headlines around the world this week in announcing that the US had shifted its position, and no longer viewed Israeli settlements as a violation of international law. [/i]In one of the stupider public statements of our time, Pompeo explained that “arguments about who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace”. It is stupid, first, because there is no genuine argument about the unlawfulness of the settlements; until the US spoke out of turn, Israel was alone in defending their legality.

More definitively, the role of international law is to regulate the proper behaviour of sovereign states – not to make peace by negating the law’s relevance, which truly seems a cheer for the law of the jungle.

‘Reality on the ground’
Pompeo removed any doubt about this when he justified the shift by admitting that the US “recognised the reality on the ground”. In plainer language, lawless behaviour can become lawful if sustained long enough by force – a logic that not only defies international law, but is contrary to the core legal commitments of the UN Charter. Particularly in the area of peace and security, international law can be somewhat ambiguous. Opposing positions can be reasonably maintained, resolved by either an authorised tribunal or by practice sustained over time.

The establishment of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, however, is an example of an issue upon which it is not possible to make a responsible argument in support of legality.

The unlawfulness of the settler encroachment has been pointed out repeatedly by informed observers as the biggest single obstacle to peace, and the most vivid and unabashed Israeli defiance of international law. So, has Washington given Israel its blessing to do whatever it wants in the future regarding settlements – and for that matter, in the entirety of the occupied West Bank? After all, if the White House now endorses Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights in Syrian sovereign territory, the West Bank may be thought of as small potatoes. The clarity of international law on the issue of Israeli settlements arises in part from the unusual fact that they have been formally declared illegal by the most authoritative sources of international guidance. Several key examples illustrate this international consensus.

Consensus of illegality

Firstly, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. This important provision of international humanitarian law is universally understood as prohibiting the establishment of Israeli settlements on any part of the occupied Palestinian territories.

US Complicity in Israel’s Violations of International Law

If Israel was complying with international law, it should have ceased settlement activity and dismantled what had been built in the years after the 1967 war. Instead, Israel continued building, at an accelerated pace, advancing the lame rationale that Israelis should be able to live wherever they wish in Palestine. Israel does not even view the areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank where settlements exist as being “occupied” in a legal sense, viewing this as part of the “promised land”. Secondly, the International Court of Justice in 2004 strongly reaffirmed the unlawfulness of Israel’s settlement construction in occupied territory – and with a 14-1 ruling, the court showed a highly unusual degree of unity. The court pointed out that the separation wall was built so as to put on the Israeli side 80 percent of the settler population, noting in passing that the settlements were established in violation of applicable law. Israel refused to comply with this conclusive judgment, emphasising its “advisory” character.

Thirdly, in December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, deeming by a vote of 14-0 that the settlements had no legal validity. The US abstained from the vote. The resolution noted that the settlements constituted “a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. It stressed exactly the opposite point to the one made by Pompeo.

Geopolitical significance

No country can, by its decree, influence the legal status of Israeli settlement activity. What Pompeo declared was a shift in the political position of the US government. It is legally insignificant, but geopolitically significant. The Trump spin room sought to minimise the shift by recalling that Ronald Reagan, while president, once indicated off-the-cuff that he didn’t think the settlements were illegal – but as is not so often noted, he went on to suggest that settlement expansion was “unnecessarily provocative”. More relevant was the exchange of letters by former US President George W Bush and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, in which they agreed that any viable peace deal with the Palestinians would allow the settlement blocs along the border to be incorporated into Israel. Again, such a side agreement was without legal legs, representing nothing more than a geopolitical pat on Israel’s back – but it was a good indicator of what Israel and the US would demand in future peace negotiations.

What makes the Pompeo statement different is its positioning in relation to other controversial Trump moves and its whitewashing language, which gives Israel an incentive to move ahead with annexation. This is another instance of US overreach.

Final nail in the coffin
Palestinian resistance remains strong, as the Great March of Return along the Gaza-Israel fence illustrates, and global solidarity initiatives are gathering strength – a reality that Israel seems to acknowledge, by defaming its nonviolent opponents as antisemites. The new settlements rhetoric continues the pattern established by the Trump administration: repudiating the international consensus on key issues bearing on the rights and duties of states. The highlights of this pattern in the Palestinian context have included moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, endorsing Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, and now, sidelining as irrelevant the illegality of Israel’s settlements.  This step has been condemned in diplomatic circles as a final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. It moves the political compass towards a one-state outcome, with the likelihood being Jewish dominance and Palestinian subjugation in a state structure that increasingly looks and behaves like an apartheid regime.  Is this, then, the endgame of the Palestinian struggle? I think not. Palestinian resistance and the global solidarity movement will be telling the world a different story.

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FUTURE OF AL AQSA and AL QUDS - by globalvision2000administrator - 06-16-2021, 05:28 PM

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