Archive for the ‘Palestine’ Category

Israeli courts must end anti-Arab discrimination

Israeli courts discriminate against Israeli Arabs. If there had been any doubt left about this, a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind study commissioned by Israel’s Courts Administration and the Israel Bar Association just determined it decisively.

According to the study, whose main findings were reported by Tomer Zarchin in yesterday’s Haaretz, Arabs are given jail sentences more often than Jews convicted of the same offenses, and Arabs receive longer sentences than Jews who are jailed. The study’s authors conclude that their most conspicuous finding is the tendency of Israeli courts to treat Arab defendants more harshly: When Arabs wind up in court, they are more likely to be convicted; when convicted, they are likely to receive a stiffer sentence than a Jew normally would. It’s hard to imagine a more disturbing fact.

This is no longer just a matter of discrimination on the basis of national identity by small communities’ admissions committees or by bouncers at nightclubs. This isn’t just a matter of budgetary discrimination. This worrisome paroxysm has already reached its pinnacle: the court system itself, which is supposed to serve as society’s beacon of law and justice.

The Courts Administration and the Bar Association did well to commission the study. But now, it is incumbent upon the court system to eradicate this plague of systematic discrimination.

Israel’s judges dwell among their people, but they must not allow themselves to become infected by the racist mood that is spreading through Israeli society. On the contrary, the court system must battle against this morally reprehensible attitude.

Arab citizens must have equal rights in every regard – but first and foremost when dealing with the law enforcement system. They must know they will never face discriminatory sentencing because of their national identity. This essential condition, however, is not currently being met.

Every level of the court system, from the Supreme Court down, must designate this as one of its most pressing and important missions – to grant equal treatment to all who appear before it. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch must send an urgent and unequivocal message to every judge in Israel: Sentencing discrimination against Arabs must end. Racism? Not in the courts.

Because otherwise, those who accuse Israel of maintaining an apartheid regime will be justified with regard to Israel’s own Arab citizens.

Haaretz Editorial

August 3, 2011

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Israel’s security complex

A little-noticed item in the military press reports that Israel has integrated all its missile-defence forces into a single air-force command. Wing 167 is located at the Palmachim air-force base near Tel Aviv and brings together three groups of anti-missile weapons: an upgraded version of the United States’s Patriot Pac-2 system, Israel’s own Arrow-2, and the new “iron dome” system, an Israeli-developed weapon for countering short-range rockets deployed in southern Lebanon and Gaza (see Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel Creates Active Defense Wing”, Defense News, 18 July 2011).

Wing 167 integrates the missiles with data from early-warning and targeting sensors. It will be progressively upgraded with two further Israeli anti-missile weapons, the planned Arrow-3 and David’s Sling systems. In the coming years, a joint US-Israeli programme will see advanced infrared sensor systems fitted to high-altitude drones that can loiter at altitudes of 40,000 feet to track incoming missiles (see Barbara Opall-Rome, “U.S., Israel Pursue Two Anti-Missile Sensor UAVs”, Defense News, 18 July 2011).

Wing 167 will, according to defence officials, “be one of the [Israel air force’s] fastest growing organisations, with staffing growing three- or four-fold to manage billions of dollars worth of technology”.

Israel’s focus on missile defence is part of a longstanding pattern. But much of the current integration stems from two earlier conflicts in particular.

The first is the war that followed Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in January 1991. The United States started a huge aerial bombardment of Saddam Hussein’s forces on the evening of 16 January, amid a widespread view that the vast coalition forces ranged against the Iraqis would ensure a quick capitulation. Within twenty-four hours the near-euphoria roused by that air assault turned to alarm as Iraqi Scud missiles landed on Israeli cities; a moment with deep-rooted resonance in Israel.

The second is the war with Hizbollah in July-August 2006, which caused Israel severe problems. The worst of these was the ability of the Lebanese movement to fire hundreds of short-range missiles into northern Israel in barrages that continued to the last day of the war (see Zaid Al-Ali, “‘Whatever happens, Hizbollah has already won’“, 9 August 2006).

The three risks…

Israel now faces three further developments that cause renewed concern – to the extent that the authorities are obliged to sell the public a narrative of guaranteed security via missile protection. The very term “iron dome” is intended to convey an assurance of invulnerability.

The first development is that the Arab awakening in Egypt is having the effect of making the Egypt-Gaza border far more porous, making it much easier to transfer a range of weapons into the strip. These are reported to include anti-tank missiles and high-trajectory rockets, perhaps even an anti-aircraft missile that could seriously constrain Israeli reconnaissance and strike-operations in the event of another war (see Amos Harel, “Israeli sources: Arab Spring let Palestinians ramp up Gaza arms smuggling“, Ha’aretz, 25 July 2011).

The second is a report that Hizbollah is acquiring the Scud-D surface-to-surface missile (see  Yaacov Katz, “Syria increasing arms shipments to Hezbollah”, Jerusalem Post, 16 July 2011). The Scud-D, like earlier variants of the missile, is 1950s-era Soviet technology, but its 700-kilometre range bring the whole of Israel within range from launch-sites deep in Lebanon and thus distant from the Israeli border. This, moreover, follows reliable accounts that Hizbollah has since the war of July-August 2006 hugely expanded its arsenal of short-range missiles and now has tens of thousands at its disposal (see Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “The Hizbollah project: last war, next war“, 13 August 2009).

The third development is fresh deployments of medium-range Iranian missiles. Two are particularly relevant: the liquid-fuelled Shabab-3 and the much newer solid-fuelled Sejil-2. Both are reported to have ranges close to 2,000 kilometres, easily exceeding the range required to target Israel. They were test-fired from northern Iran into the Arabian Sea in covert tests conducted since October 2010 (see Alon Ben-David, “Expanded Reach”, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 18 July 2011).

As many as 500 Shabab-3 missiles are reported to have been deployed, some on mobile launches. There is scarce information about their accuracy and reliability. Indeed, Both sides have an interest in exaggerating these: the Iranians to demonstrate their national prowess, Israel defence sources in order to ensure increased spending on defensive systems.

In practice, both are probably overrating the Shabab-3, which is liquid-fuelled and based partly on fairly old North Korean technology. The Sejil-2 is another matter, since storable solid-fuel missile-motors allow for much greater readiness. But here too there are questions over capability. One recent report suggests that Revolutionary Guard units have already deployed a handful of Sejil-2 missiles at Khorramabad, northwest Iran, but others suggest that it is still under development, and that a test in October 2010 ended in failure.

…and the fourth

None of this means that war is imminent, but it is part of a complex set of developments across the region where each side is seeking military advantage. The Iranians are intent on developing a powerful missile force (whether or not they also opt for nuclear weapons): they see such systems as deterrents, principally against the United States, as well as being symbols of power in a regional competition with – among others – Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hizbollah in Lebanon has expanded its capabilities to deter Israel; and some of the more radical elements in Gaza, even if largely held in check by the Hamas leadership, also want to increase their military resources.

Israel too is determined to remain “impregnable in its insecurity”. It has hugely powerful armed forces backed up by as many as 200 nuclear weapons, and its strike-aircraft and ballistic missiles can range across the region. Yet it also has a deep enduring perception of vulnerability that it thinks can best be countered by a protective “dome” over the whole country. This amounts to little more than benign reassurance of an insecure population that allows the genuine situation facing the country to be evaded (see “Israel’s security: beyond the zero-sum“, 26 August 2010).

Israel simply cannot come to terms with the idea that it is impossible to build walls hundreds of kilometres high – and that it must deal in peace (see “After Gaza: Israel’s last chance“, 17 January 2009). There is little sign of that recognition at present. As a result, and in the context of this semi-integrated and multifaceted arms-race, the risk of another war in the region increases.

Paul Rogers

Open Democracy.net

28 July 2011

Picasso In Palestine

When it was reported that Picasso’s Buste de Femme arrived in occupied Ramallah, after crossing a number of heavily guarded Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, including concrete barriers armed with soldiers and fortified by tanks, another one of Picasso’s paintings should be viewed too. The other painting, of course, is the legendary Guernica, one that should not be seen by Palestinians but by those living in Israel and United States.

In 1937, while Palestine was under a British mandate and Israel was not yet a new nation, Adolf Hitler’s Condor Legion, using the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground, experimented with its new weaponry and blitzkrieg techniques on the residents of the historic Basque town of Guernica. For German military forces, it was a tremendous victory. But for Guernica, its population of 7,000 civilians was utterly decimated.

New fighter planes, like Heinkel 111’s, flew over in waves and for hours, dropped high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Guernica. While innocent civilians tried to flee from a massive inferno, they were strafed by Junkers. German Nazis and Spanish Fascists were quick to use propaganda and blame the atrocity on revolutionary forces. Even though there was international outrage over the destruction of Guernica, no action was taken.

Guernica

It was Pablo Picasso who painted the bombing and destruction of Guernica, an artistic reminder and monument to “never again.” Sadly, and during World War Two, there were many more Guernicas such as Warsaw, Coventry, London, Berlin, Dresden, and Tokyo. Guernicas have also occurred after World War Two in places like Deir Yassin, Hanoi, Beirut, Santiago, Kabul, Baghdad, Fallujah, and present-day occupied Palestine.

In Picasso’s revolutionary Guernica painting, he reminds one of the horrors of war. On the left, a mother’s face is turned upwards. She screams and cries holding her dead child. In the center, a horse is frantically bellowing while standing over a dismembered revolutionary, who is holding a shattered sword and flower. At right, a woman is falling from a burning house, hands and eyes raised towards heaven, begging for help.

Picasso also discarded his usual colors of blue and pink to intensify the drama of Guernica. The reportage-like photographic mural depicts death raining down. Appalling images of mutilation, death, and destruction are everywhere. But Guernica also centers around a central pyramidal structure. The monumental painting is a powerful political statement against Fascism and the chaos, disorder, and fragmentation that it produces.

Regarding Israeli relations with Palestine, the need for “living space” has been used to raze Palestinian homes and build illegal settlements. Peace and security has been an excuse for war. Blitzkrieg-like tactics have stopped humanitarian flotillas bringing food and medicines to Gaza, and used to raid Palestinian villages. Palestine has served as a laboratory for weaponry, like U.S. fighter jets, drones, and white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

According to news reports, it seemed ridiculous and impossible to bring Picasso’s multi-million dollar Buste de Femme to Palestine. But after a two-year odyssey, the Dutch Van Abbemuseum succeeded in delivering the painting to the International Academy of Art-Palestine in Ramallah. Evidently, Picasso was the academy’s choice nor his iconic status, his political consciousness, and his artistic activism on behalf of peace.

The Palestinian art museum voted to view Buste de Femme, a portrait of a beautiful woman. This is in sharp contrast to the ugliness of Guernica, something that Palestinians have had to endure for years. Picasso was greatly influenced by impressionist and romantic painters who explored the inner world of emotions and imagination. He is also known for Cubism, where natural shapes are transformed into exaggerated shapes and forms.

Cubism was mainly about interpretation rather than realistic depiction. Therefore, Picasso painted people and objects and events as one knew it to be, bringing together in one image many different angles and perspectives as possible. Although criticized by more conservative artists, Picasso helped “free” art from realism. He used sharp angles, various planes and collages which helped pave the way for more abstract artistic expression.

Since Palestinians have no access to import or export artistic items, artists have to work with an Israeli company. Picasso’s painting, then, symbolizes the inner emotions and imaginations of Palestinians and their desire for freedom and a Palestinian state. They also hope that the beautiful and abstract will someday replace the ugly reality Israeli occupation forces and having to live under the shadow of American-made weaponry.

Abdul Karim of the museum in Ramallah said: “The lesson of Picasso in Palestine is that there are possibilities in impossibilities.” The possibilities in impossibilities were evident when thousands of Palestinian and Israeli peace activists marched united to help support a Palestinian state, one that is soon to be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. Equality and freedom, not segregation and occupation, leads to an artistic peace.

On the other hand, the lesson of Picasso’s Guernica in Israel and United States is the futility of establishing a nation in lands that belong to other people, and then attempting to maintaining a “total” military occupation. Occupations that are backed by punitive blockades and shock and awe campaigns, intermixed with military interventions directed against civilian populations like Operation Cast Lead, paints only broad strokes of death.

Memory and imagination, not war and endless military occupations, are the greatest instruments for peace. Will Picasso’s mysterious, yet realistic, artistic activism in Guernica-indiscriminate death from the air and land and sea-allow us to feel and act with new perspectives, especially when thinking about life and death, both our own and other people? Will his artistic language free us from our addictions to militarism and war?

Dallas Darling

Palestine Chronicle

July 27, 2011

Palestinian refugees turn against Syria’s regime

While stripped of their nationality in Jordan and living in Lebanon in the worst socio-economic conditions of any in their community, Palestinian refugees in Syria have long enjoyed comparably better circumstances, including equal rights with citizens.

But in a development that challenges a central pillar of the Syrian regime’s legitimacy, Palestinians in Syria are beginning to turn against a dictatorship that for decades used its claims of resisting Israel and fighting for Palestinian rights as justification for the repression of its own people.

“We will not accept to be a bargaining chip for the Syrian regime,” said Abu Ammar, 50, a Palestinian refugee living in Yarmouk, a poor southern suburb of Damascus and the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.

“The regime wants to use us against the pro-democracy protesters but I think most Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk now moved from being neutral to being on the side of the Syrian protesters,” he said. Ammar is a former militant in Fatah, the dominant secular Palestinian party, and is now a car mechanic in Yarmouk.

The camp is home to some 150,000 registered Palestinians, as well as tens of thousands of Syrians.

As Syrian protesters demanding basic rights continue to be gunned down by President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces, Syria’s Palestinians are beginning to stand up like citizens themselves, protesting against the ruthless violence of Assad’s government.

“Palestinian refugees in Syria live among Syrians, not like in Lebanon. For six decades we have lived together and there are many mixed marriages and a new, mixed generation,” said a political activist from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

“When the protesters call on us to participate, it shows they consider us partners, not strangers. We have the same rights as Syrians, so we also have the same responsibilities.”

On July 1, in the first reported mass participation of Palestinians in the opposition since the uprising began in mid-March, more than 3,000 Palestinians from the refugee camp in the central city of Homs joined the pro-democracy protests.

More than simply a boost to the size of the protests that Friday, the participation of the Palestinians, for some long-time Syria watchers, represented a seismic shift.

“Dictators have used the Palestinians for the last 50 years to get legitimacy, saying to their people, ‘You have to tolerate all this violence, all this lack of freedom, all this brutality because we’re going to liberate Palestine.’ That’s a lie,” said Wissam Tarif, director of Insan, a Syrian human rights organization.

“My father bought it. And the fathers and grandfathers of the people protesting on the streets bought it too. But we don’t.”

Anger is growing among the half a million Palestinians living in Syria as details emerge of the regime’s role in pushing Palestinian protesters into a deadly confrontation with Israel last month, in what was widely condemned as a move to divert attention from its own brutal crackdown.

On June 5, the 44th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Syria’s southern Golan Heights, the PFLP-GC, a faction long allied with the regime, helped organize hundreds of Palestinians from Yarmouk to travel to the Golan Heights.

The fertile plateau is one of Israel’s most stable borders, with barely a shot fired since the end of 1973’s Yom Kippur or October War.

The regime regularly justified its near half century application of emergency law, which suspended many basic rights outlined in the Constitution, by the fact that the Golan remains occupied.

When Palestinians attempted to cross the border fence, 20 were shot dead and some 270 others wounded by Israeli soldiers, the second such incident within a month, prompting global headlines. The shootings were all filmed live by state-run Syria TV.

Never before had the regime allowed Palestinians, Syrians or any Arabs to attempt to cross its border with Israel.

Indeed, Damascus has for decades pursued a policy of directing Arab resistance into neighboring Lebanon. In the 1970s, Syria played a role pushing Yasser Arafat’s Fatah fighters into South Lebanon, where they launched attacks on Israel from an area that came to be known as “Fatahland.”

During the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon beginning in 1982, Syria helped arm Hezbollah in its successful struggle to liberate South Lebanon, before assisting the Iranian-financed group to become the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon. The PFLP-GC, whose headquarters is in Damascus, maintains bases along the mountains of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

“All Palestinians know the PFLP-GC organized the trip to the Golan to help Syria,” said Nidal Mahmoud, 30, an accountant from Yarmouk.

“In the graveyard I saw the corpses of Palestinians who died for nothing, just to divert attention away from Syria’s crisis to the borders with Israel. The Palestinian groups do nothing useful for us; they work for Syria, Iran and other countries.”

When PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril, a former captain in the Syrian army, attempted to make a speech lambasting Israel at the funerals in Yarmouk, enraged mourners threw stones at him, accusing Jibril of manipulating the Palestinian cause to serve the Assad regime.

Protesters then attacked the PFLP-GC’s headquarters in Yarmouk with stones, prompting guards to open fire, killing 11 young Palestinian men.

There is unconfirmed evidence that the carefully orchestrated move to allow Palestinian protesters to cross the border with Israel came from the highest ranks of the regime.

An allegedly leaked memo from the office of the Mayor of Quneitra, the closest Syrian town to the Golan border, describes how Assef Shawkat, President Assad’s brother-in-law, the former chief of military intelligence and the current deputy head of the armed forces, ordered a military intelligence captain to assist protestors to cross the fence.

“Permission is hereby granted allowing approaching crowds to cross the cease fire line toward the occupied Majdal-Shamms [Golan Heights], and to further allow them to engage physically with each other in front of United Nations agents and offices. Furthermore, there is no objection if a few shots are fired in the air,” the memo read.

The leaked document was supplied by Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Damascus Center for Human Rights and a visiting scholar at Harvard University. While it could not be independently verified, Ziadeh has been a consistently reliable source of information on the Syrian uprising.

The U.S. deputy ambassador to the U.N., Rosemary DiCarlo, said the protest in the Golan represented “a transparent ploy by the Syrian government to incite violence along the disengagement line in order to divert public attention from its own indiscriminate killings and abuses of the human rights of the Syrian people.”

That position was backed by similar robust statements from German and French U.N. ambassadors.

Despite the deaths in the Golan and Yarmouk, by no means all Palestinians have broken with the regime.

“Syria is the only country in the Arab world which deals with Palestinians as its citizens,” said a pro-Syrian Palestinian activist close to the PFLP-GC, who asked to be known only as Ibrahim.

“Syria has been supporting Palestinian groups for more than four decades and now is the time for these groups to reward Syria and stand with it in this big crisis.”

Ibrahim said the PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, a Syrian-backed radical offshoot of Fatah, would remain loyal to Assad. He criticized Hamas, the powerful Islamist group, for choosing to remain neutral in Syria. Hamas had apparently rejected demands by the regime, quoted in a report by the International Crisis Group, that it provide political and material support to crush the protests.

In an interview with France 24 on May 9, Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’ Damascus-based leader, described the Arab Spring as “beautiful” and said freedom and democracy are needed in Syria.

The regime has further deepened animosity among Palestinians by seeking, in the early days of the uprising, to directly blame Palestinians for inciting the instability.

On March 21, the private daily Al Watan, owned by Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, said unrest in Daraa was the work of the defunct jihadist group Fatah al-Islam, which rose up in 2007 in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon.

On March 26, Bouthaina Shaaban, Assad’s political advisor, claimed Palestinians from the Al-Ramel refugee camp outside the port city of Lattakia had attacked stores in an effort to ignite a civil war.

Writing in the Beirut-based An-Nahar, which is regularly critical of the Syrian regime, Randa Haydar said the protests against the PFLP-GC in Yarmouk represented “a popular and spontaneous uprising against the Palestinian factions taking advantage of the refugees as well as the Syrian regime trading in the blood of Palestinians.”

A Syrian official, quoted in the International Crisis Group report, put it more bluntly: “The regime can no longer claim to be standing up for resistance.”

Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand report from Beirut, with reporters inside Syria.

Ya Libnan

July 22, 2011

War Crimes: Legal action against Israeli senior officials

Media sources in Israel have warned about the escalation of international legal campaigns to pursue Israeli officers and officials on charges on war crimes against the Palestinian people. According to Channel 10 television, three new lawsuits have been filed recently against senior Israeli officials in the Spanish Courts by participants of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Minister of Defence Ehud Barak all face legal action, as does the Commander of the Israeli Navy and various other government ministers, the papers against whom were all filed earlier.

The men are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the attack on the civilian participants of the Freedom Flotilla as they attempted to break the siege on the Gaza Strip at the end of May last year. The Spanish courts, it is reported, have appointed a special judge tasked with going to Tel Aviv and investigating the charges being brought against Israelis.

Ehud Barak and former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi face similar lawsuits in a number of countries, including Belgium, France, Greece and South Africa. Charges being brought against the two officials in connection with the flotilla assault include murder, detention, abduction, deportation, torture, robbery and breaches of international treaties.

Sources from the Israeli Ministry of Justice have confirmed that a special team has been assembled to combat these proceedings. They also suggest that there are grave concerns over the possibility of similar lawsuits being filed in British courts, which could result in the arrest of Israeli officials there.

Middle East Monitor

21 July 2011

Boycott the state, not just the settlements!

West Bank settlements would not be viable without government aid, so boycotts should target the Israeli state as well.

Recent legislation passed in the Israeli Knesset, which many people call the “Anti-BDS” bill, has raised a number of questions about a rising tide of “fascism” in Israel. This language is not only used by Palestinian critics, who have long borne the brunt of Israel’s undemocratic policies. Now, many Israeli and Jewish-American writers can no longer ignore the trend.

If something good has come out of the passage of this legislation, it is two things: First, a growing number of people are recognising that the Zionist aim – the  imposition of an ethnocentric majority by force in a territory where the majority of the native inhabitants are disenfranchised – is fundamentally and inherently undemocratic. Second, the passage of this bill has brought discussion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to the foreground.

While increased discussion about BDS will only strengthen the movement, a troubling trend has become apparent in some of the commentaries on BDS written in response to the passage of the “Anti-BDS” bill. This is the assertion that boycotting colonies or settlement goods is acceptable, while boycotting the Israeli state or Israeli products outside of the occupied territories is somehow unacceptable.

For many, this argument may be made with consideration for political strategy and not based on moral underpinnings or clarity. There is undoubtedly a hesitation among some who have embraced BDS as a strategy to extend BDS activities beyond products produced in the colonies and settlements.

This attitude is particularly prevalent among Zionists who recognise the danger the occupation poses for Israel, but do not want to be seen as targeting Israel itself. The BDS tent is growing nonetheless, regardless of what part of the occupation system is targeted. This is clearly threatening to Israel. The greatest evidence of the threat this poses is that the state felt threatened enough by the BDS movement to attempt to stop it through legislative repression.

But while varied approaches to BDS enlarge the tent, they also can be misleading and dangerous. The idea that colonies are legitimate BDS targets while the state of Israel is not creates the illusion that somehow these colonies exist in a vacuum without tacit and direct support from the Israeli state.

In fact, the settlement enterprise is a state-driven enterprise which requires various state-led efforts at multiple levels. These include the creation of economic incentives through the Israeli legislature to encourage population transfer into the occupied territories, the allotment of resources for the defence and development of these colonies, facilitating land purchases, granting mortgages and incentives to encourage private investment and developing infrastructure to serve these localities.

Settlements rely on government support

Take the settlement of Ariel as an example. Ariel is located deep in the West Bank. It is a large settlement with almost 20,000 residents. In the process of negotiations, Ariel, along with Ma’ale Adumim, another monstrosity deep in the West Bank, has posed the greatest challenge to an agreement on borders. The Israelis insist on keeping the settlement, which would drive a large wedge of Israeli-controlled territory into the northern part of the West Bank.

Half of Ariel’s population emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union and arrived only in the last two decades. To deal with the post-1990 influx of Soviet Jews (which increased Israel’s population by 12 per cent), the Israeli state created specific absorption policies which included rental support of up to $10,000 per family for the first year and mortgage subsidies of 50 per cent. With the mass influx into Israel, property prices skyrocketed and the new immigrants found some of the most affordable living opportunities further away from the coastal plain where the Israeli metropolis of Tel Aviv thrived: in illegal colonies in the occupied West Bank.

Ariel, which was established in 1978, grew from a local council to a municipality after these state policies enabled mass population growth. To ensure that the settlers could live in an area they could afford and still be connected to the Tel Aviv area where most worked, the state undertook the massive expansion of a road network in the 1990s which became Highway 5, also known as the “Trans-Samarian” highway.

Unsurprisingly, in the 2009 elections in Israel, Ariel gave 45 per cent of its vote to Likud and another 30 per cent to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Both parties are dedicated to the strengthening and development of the illegal colonies, and are the largest parties in the current right-wing Israeli government.

So, while there may be individual settlers or small groups who build tents or place trailers on Palestinian hilltops in the West Bank, mass population transfer into occupied territory cannot happen without direct state involvement. Treating the colonies as entities separate from the state which makes them thrive is not only uninformed and unrealistic, but also creates the dangerous illusion that the state is innocent and the settler movement is not. Both regularly defy international law, but without state support the settlement movements would not be able to ossify the occupation.

This is why BDS’ targeting of the Israeli state is as justified as targeting the colonies and their products. It would be ludicrous to have argued that boycotting products from plantations in America’s Civil War-era South was legitimate while action against the Confederate government was not. While slavery and occupation are two very distinct things, they are both state-supported systems that violate human rights. Until we accept the reality that pressure must be placed on the Israeli state to change its behavior, we will likely see the continuation of occupation and colonisation.

Thankfully, more and more people are waking up to this reality every day. Ironically, it is the rising tide of fascism in Israel that is the catalyst behind many of these recent epiphanies.

Yousef Munayyer

Al Jazeera

20 Jul 2011

Yousef Munayyer is a writer and political analyst based in Washington, DC. He is currently the Executive Director of the The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development.

A Poem from Palestine

Mahmoud Darwish: Promises of the Storm

So be it.

I can assure you that I will refuse death

And burn the tears of the bleeding songs

And strip the olive trees

Of all their counterfeit branches

If I have been serenading happiness

Somewhere beyond the eyelids of frightened eyes

That is because the storm

Promised me wine and new toasts

And rainbows

Because the storm

Swept away the voices of idiotic, obedient birds

And swept away the counterfeit branches

From the trunks of standing trees

So be it I must be proud of you

Oh wounded city

You are lightning in our sad night

When the street frowns at me

You protect me from the shadows

And the looks of hatred

I will go on serenading happiness

Somewhere beyond the eyelids of frightened eyes

For from the time the storm began to rage in my country

It has promised me wine and rainbows