Trump’s Green Light for Israeli Settlements is an Endorsement of Racist Bantustans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. (Photo: via Social Media, file)

By Iqbal Jassat

The entirely predictable expectation from US President Donald Trump to cuddle up to Israel’s rightwing lobby at a time he is faced with one of the severest challenges to his presidency: impeachment. 

Having gifted Zionism’s colonial project previously via his unilateral declarations with the land known as Occupied Palestinian Territory, OPT, Trump has yet again proclaimed that illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank are kosher. 

The Trump administration’s abrasive pattern of dictating foreign policy decisions have either been informed by deliberately undoing former President Barack Obama’s policies, or to toe Israel’s line, or both. 

This has been evident throughout his term especially in regard to Iran’s nuclear deal known as JCPOA, which was concluded between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1. 

Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw unilaterally, and slap sanctions on Iran, had no merit according to the European Union, Russia and China. They correctly argued that the years spent in intense negotiations which finally produced satisfactory outcomes for all, including America, would be jeopardized. 

Their warnings fell on deaf ears in the White House. Trump’s mission to unravel Obama’s achievements meant that he had to follow the Israeli script which required him to scupper the agreement and neutralize Iran’s gains. 

It is the same game playing out now in respect of the settlements. We recall that in the final days of his administration, then-President Obama came under severe attack by Netanyahu and his rightwing apartheid regime for allowing the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution demanding Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” and declaring that Israeli settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

This outrageous reversal is not only a display of Trump’s contempt of International Laws governing the conduct of settler-colonial regimes in Occupied Territory; it is also in the midst of shocking revelations emerging in his impeachment hearings. 

Palestinian discontent is palpable and real. 

For instance, a prominent Gaza-based scholar and activist Haider Eid listed ten demands in his response to Trump’s efforts to legalize Israeli colonies. 

Since these are reflective of Palestinian public opinion, a few are listed hereunder:

* Israel is a racist, apartheid state with which there is no room for dialogue;

* The only message that should be sent to it is BDS until it complies with international law and respects our basic right, most significant of which is the Right of Return;

* All Israeli leaders, generals, and soldiers should be sent to The Hague;

* All parties, Israeli or Arab, that have imposed a deadly siege on Gaza should be tried at the ICC;

* Israel is guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of genocide, and the crime of ethnic cleansing;

* Oslo must be declared dead with immediate effect; 

* The two-state solution is reminiscent of the Bantustanuzation of South Africa;

Not only are these sentiments widespread among Palestinians within the OPT, among millions of refugees who are denied Right of Return, and in the diaspora, they also signify what we in South African parlance would call “gatvol”. 

A gatvol factor, reflective of deep-seated resentment and frustration with successive US administrations’ complicity in the oppression faced by Palestinians. 

A gatvol factor arising from the fact that Trump’s unjust, illegal and immoral approval of Israel’s apartheid structured racial enclaves in the OPT as “legal”, despite it being in flagrant violation of the provision of the Geneva Convention.

 Noura Erakat, a Palestinian human rights attorney and legal scholar, made a number of pertinent observations during an interview to canvass her views on Trump’s settler policy. 

Her explanation of the impact of Trump’s decision on Palestinian lives in the OPT captures the ugly reality of settlements perfectly. 

“This is what’s so tragic about all of this. What we’re talking about right now, in the West Bank is about 700,000 settlers living in the midst of a population of 3 million Palestinians, who, because of those 700,000 settlers, who are living in exclusive colonial settlements, surrounded by military and civilian Israeli infrastructure – cuts up Palestinian life into 20 noncontiguous Bantustans, where they can’t reach one another.” 

Indeed as she says, we are talking about the subjugation of a Palestinian population at the whim of illegal colonial settlements. 

The question confronting the world is not whether the Trump administration will succeed in overturning international legal provisions of the Geneva Convention, but rather for how long it will permit Palestinians to be denied rights underpinning their quest for freedom and dignity? 

– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com

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