Israeli Settlements, Unsettling Realities

Dec 14 2012 / 11:39 pm

By Jamal Kanj

A day after the UN vote to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN, the right-wing Israeli government responded by adding 3,500 illegal Jewish-only homes in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel was blatantly defying more than two- thirds of the international community, which recognized Palestine as a state on the very same land, and in the process humiliated its “lone” sponsor in Washington by effectively deciding that settlement building takes precedence over peace.

Since 1967, Israeli governments from all political spectrums have shared the same expansionist vision of creating a new Jewish demographic on occupied land.

Israel’s settlement policies were part of a well thought Zionist strategy intended to undermine the peace process. In fact, the current prime minister was caught on a video in 2001 bragging that he had “stopped the Oslo Accords” since 1997.

His main government partner, the foreign-born Avigdor Lieberman, wanted to complete the ethnic cleansing of historical Palestine by replacing native villages with illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Sadly, the West and mainly the US has rewarded Israeli intransigence politically, financially and militarily.

In 2004, with typical colonial hubris and without consulting the rightful owners of the land, then president George W Bush wrote to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon endorsing Israel’s insolence towards international law stating: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

The ongoing Israeli illegal settlement program is perpetuating the American blessed “new realities” aiming to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian population and bisecting the West Bank into two separate geographical entities.

This, along with Gaza, divides “Palestine” into three disjoined bodies making it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state.

The latest settlement project includes controversial construction in Ramat Shlomo, which was founded in 1995 in violation of the Oslo Accord, with another 1,600 homes planned to amalgamate the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim with East Jerusalem.

Add to this a further 800 units in the colony of Gilo, built on land expropriated from Palestinian Christians from the city of Bethlehem and the village of Bet Jala.

Israel’s “new realities” program was accelerated following the signing of the Oslo Accord, which specifically called on parties to refrain from such activities.

Israeli human rights group B’tselem revealed the illegal Jewish-only settlements were designated as “national priority areas” – making its residents eligible for a wide range of special benefits, including special discount on land purchases, subsidized education, tax inducement for corporations and individual income tax breaks.

Israel spends on average $2,000 per Jewish student a year in the West Bank, more than within the Green Line. Settlements also receive on average more than double the funding accorded to Israeli municipalities in the pre-1967 border areas.

Europe and the US can’t continue to claim to promote peace while empowering and shielding Israel at the UN Security Council.

The US annual direct and indirect financial aid amounting to more than $5 billion and European Union special trade tax breaks are enabling Israel to subsidize the settlement building program they ostensibly disapprove of.

In Manama last weekend, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that “illegal colony-building” could make it impossible to achieve “the two-state solution”.

But Hague’s (and the West’s) platitudes towards Israeli violations of the peace process are some of the reasons a “perfect storm of crises”, to use his words, might be heading towards the Middle East in 2013.

- Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes a weekly column on Arab issues and is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)

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3 Comments for “Israeli Settlements, Unsettling Realities”

  1. Hans

    I do not understand the constant talk about “facts on the ground”, meaning that because Israeli settlemts are spread far and wide in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that this means any future sovereign state of Palestine cannot be achieved as a single entity. In my view the situation should be resolved internationally, by a majority vote of the UNGA and Israel forced to vacate all occupied territories. To suggest the conflict “must be resolved” by talks between Israel and the Palestinians is utter nonsense. The UN created this rogue state called Israel, it must also force it to withdraw to those borders originally envisaged, bearing in mind, that all that was done with out consultation of the inhabitants at the time.

  2. Anonymous

    Canada should treat its aboriginal poeople with more respect as their lands were taken by force. Even today Canadian native leaders continue to complain to U.N. of poor services in Canada. Canada, Britain and the U.S.A. all took native land and killed the population. Israel is taking a lesson from its colonial masters in stealing land from Palestinians and expelling and destroying homes.

  3. Muhammad Al-Arabi

    Shame on Mr. Harper for his blind support for Israel. Canada has a shameful record of abuse against its aboriginal population, putting them in reserves after they lost the battle. Their best lands were taken by force and they ended up with the poorest land. This is the real terrorism. Even today, Canada’s native population are neglected and their leaders complain to U.N. of terrible housing, medical and education on their reserve lands. Israel is taking a lesson from its British colonial masters in Canada by expelling Palestinians from lands they have lived on for thousands of years. Palestinians will continue to fight for their legitimate rights by all means possible including armed resistance.

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