By Roger Sheety
Despite the current facade of yet another round of fake peace talks, the Israeli government and its professional apologists remain in a panic. Hardly a week passes by without complaint that Israel “is being isolated” or that it is facing a campaign of “delegitimization.” In February of this year the Reut Institute, an Israeli group-think tank, published a remarkably delusional, ahistorical piece of propaganda masquerading as a scholarly report and warning of an internationally concerted effort that seeks to “erode” Israel’s diplomatic status which “may develop into a comprehensive existential threat within a few years.” (*) In essence, any organization or individual that dares criticize Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in particular is a de facto member of this dreaded network of delegitmization. As with all Israeli hasbara (explanation), the Reut Institute blames primarily the Palestinian victims and secondarily those who report or publicize their plight.
Since then, various Israeli officials have dutifully echoed the report’s supposed findings. Thus, in the June 21st edition of The Jerusalem Post we are informed by the outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriella Shalev that Israel is “the most isolated, lonely country in the world.” “The biggest threat to [Israel’s] existence is not Iranian nuclear proliferation,” the article goes on, “but international attempts to delegitimize it.” Note how both Shalev and the article’s author repeat verbatim the Reut Institute’s apocalyptic language and assumptions. Even more recently, the long-disgraced and discredited Tony Blair has used the exact same language. The delegitmization of Israel is an “affront” not only to Israelis but to those “everywhere, in every part of humanity, who share the values of a free and independent human spirit” said Blair in a speech at a conference on, yes, the delegitimization of Israel.
But where precisely is the hard evidence of this malicious campaign of isolation and delegitimization? It certainly does not come from the American government. On July 16, 2010 the U.S. State Department’s Andrew J. Shapiro proudly announced that “For Fiscal Year 2010, the Administration requested $2.775 billion in security assistance funding specifically for Israel, the largest such request in U.S. history.” Furthermore, “Congress fully funded our request for FY 2010, and we have requested even more – $3.0 billion – for FY 2011. These requests fulfill the Administration’s commitment to implementing the 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel to provide $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years.” A conservative study published two years ago by Washington Report on Middle East Affairs puts the total amount of U.S. official direct aid to Israel from 1949 to 2008 at nearly $114 billion. Perhaps, then, Europe is the culprit? Not according to Robert Fisk who recently wrote that Israel has all but officially become a member of the European Union. Fisk cites the work of David Cronin who concludes that "Israel has developed such strong political and economic ties to the EU over the past decade that it has become a member state of the union in all but name."
As American and European governments clearly remain committed to rewarding Israel regardless of its crimes, what then is really frightening the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East and the world’s fourth most powerful military machine? The great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once famously wrote: “All that you have done to our people is registered in notebooks.” But even Darwish could not have known how prophetic his words would be. For today what is being done to the Palestinian people is not only being documented by scholars and journalists, but also by Palestinians themselves on YouTube, Google video and a myriad other video-hosting websites, independent online journals, human rights organizations and blogs. Today we can see for ourselves the continuing colonization and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, online, in context and without censorship. Although one can cite literally hundreds of such examples across all of historical Palestine, I will concentrate on only three recent cases.
Case 1 – The village of Bil’in
A clear case of colonialism, what is happening in Bil’in, a village of about two thousand residents located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, is a microcosm of what is happening over the whole of the West Bank. Since 2005 its residents have been organizing weekly, non-violent marches protesting Israel’s illegal annexation wall which has separated the villagers from 60 percent of its farmland. Recently the villagers have been joined by Israeli citizens as well as other internationals. Inevitably the protesters are then attacked by Israeli Occupation Forces often resulting in injuries and even death. On April 17, 2009 during a march, Bassem Abu Rahma, unarmed, was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier. This wanton act of murder, fully documented on video, was dismissed by an Israeli judge one year later. Bil’in is in an area which is nominally under Palestinian control yet there is no accountability, no law, and whatever the Israeli state orders is the new reality. Anyone still naive enough to ask questions like, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” should begin looking in Bil’in—there are some two thousand Gandhis there.
Case 2 – Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem
According to international law East Jerusalem is a part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As such, the Israeli state has no right to transfer any part of its own population into these territories, nor does it have any right whatsoever to remove any of its residents. In 2008 alone the Israeli state revoked the legal residencies of 4,577 Palestinians in East Jerusalem leaving them vulnerable to forcible removal by Israeli Occupation Forces. As seen in several extraordinary reports by Sherine Tadros and Jacky Rowland of Al Jazeera, the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah has fallen victim to this continuing ethnic cleansing, “house by house, family by family.” Palestinians are literally being forced from their homes in tears, their possessions thrown into the streets, as they watch helplessly while Jewish settlers move in under armed Israeli protection. What we are seeing here is not the result of some natural disaster but a consequence of deliberate Israeli government policies which are supported and funded by American and European governments. When Tony Blair pontificates on “shared values of a free and independent human spirit,” one wonders if he has ever set foot in East Jerusalem?
Case 3 – The village of Al-Arakib
Located in the Naqab (Negev), Al-Arakib, a village of some 300 Palestinian Bedouins, has been destroyed several times within a span of three months. Despite the fact that they are Palestinian citizens of Israel, the state refuses to recognize their legal land claims which date to the Ottoman period. Indeed, Al-Arakib is but one of some 50 Palestinian Bedouin villages which Israel does not recognize as legal. In the summer of 2010 the Israeli government decided to make an example of Al-Arakib and, as shown by Max Blumenthal in several shocking reports, destroyed the village on five separate occasions leaving its residents homeless and destitute. As seen in Blumenthal’s video footage, the emptied homes are ripped to pieces by bulldozers and tractors as the villagers sit outside and watch. In one particulary disgraceful demolition, Israeli high school students are brought in and allowed to enter and deface the home-owners’ left-over belongings before the homes are then destroyed. Israel’s excuse, that it needs the villagers’ land for forestation projects, is deeply cynical and hollow. How perverse are Israel’s constant cries for “security needs” as it violently uproots its own Palestinian citizens.
The work of those such as Jacky Rowland, Sherine Tadros, Max Blumenthal and many others stands in marked contrast to the supine, corporate journalists who continuously parrot tired Israeli propaganda. It is beyond comprehension how mainstream North American media largely ignores Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation. Of course, what we are seeing today is nothing new to Palestinians who have experienced dispossession and expulsion for over 62 years; what is new is merely the methodology: Byzantine Israeli “laws” targeting Arab neighbourhoods and villages, annexation walls and barriers separating villagers from their farm land and water resources, and then diverting those same resources to nearby illegal Jewish colonies.
One does not have to be an expert in international law or hold multiple post-graduate degrees to know right from wrong. Ordinary people know ethnic cleansing and colonialism when they see it; they understand its profound evil and inherent violence. This is especially true for many people from the so-called “Third World” where colonialism and its ensuing brutality remain fresh in their collective memories and experiences. These video images are being watched time and again by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Their content is unforgiving, their effects are visceral. Indeed, however much one is aware of the historical background, it takes a certain kind of callousness to watch and not be moved by the plight of Palestinians at the hands of their colonizers.
In reality, honest, contextual reporting on its own will not bring justice to the Palestinian people. However, when combined with the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS), the attempts to break the brutal siege of Gaza, as well as the movement to implement international law, suddenly the Israeli government, long accustomed to committing its crimes with impunity, takes notice. Nothing frightens any state elite and its professional apologists more than an increasingly conscious, politically engaged and questioning citizenry. More specifically, nothing frightens the colonizer more than the de-colonized mind. The tide of mass consciousness is turning and, as the once-segregated U.S. south, the Soviet Union and apartheid South Africa learned not so long ago, no military however powerful, and no state however repressive, can stop it.
– Roger Sheety contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
(*) See Reut Institute document.