First published by TRT World on 19/12/2018
Illegal settlement building is increasingly becoming a favoured collective punishment against Palestinians.
If only Israel was as creative in seeking peace with the Palestinians as it is in finding different ways to punish them.
A policy of dehumanisation that aims to present Palestinians to the world as sub-human, violent and not worthy of achieving the inalienable rights that they crave and which international law provides them with. The very same people that lived in harmony as Jews, Christians and Muslims prior the creation of Israel are now extremist, anti-Semites who raise their children to hate and to kill or maim Jews. They have no right to the homeland they are from, they are not worthy of an independent state or a share of Jerusalem, which Israel claims to be its eternal, undivided, capital.
The security of Israel and Israelis is sacrosanct, while even areas where security was assigned to the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords can be breached by Israeli troops at any time, to abduct wanted Palestinians—adults or children—and to demolish homes and businesses.
Palestinians are accused of raising their children to hate, their leadership of inciting them to attack Jews, whether civilian or heavily armed soldiers, simply because they hate rather than because they are trying to free themselves of the longest occupation in modern times.
Jews can build anywhere in historic Palestine, while Palestinians have to seek permits to build from the occupier whether in Israel proper or the occupied West Bank.
Israel can ignore international law and agreements it is a signatory of, including the Oslo Accords, but Palestinians must always act lawfully and implement everything signed.
Ask any state, other than Israel, what they believe to be the solution to the conflict and you will hear near unanimity that it is a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital for the two states. They will tell you unequivocally that the settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.
There is of course an exception to this consensus, which has emerged since the Trump administration took office. As Trump put it in his first press conference with Netanyahu, he is with whatever solution the two parties like.
The same proponents of the two-state solution will tell you that the settlements and the continued building in existing ones and the establishment of new ones is ‘closing the window’ on the two state solution. However, announcements of further expansion are met with nothing more than an ‘expression of concern’ or ‘regret’ and possibly ‘condemnation’.
Save for a momentary freeze to settlement construction for ten months in 2009, Israel has continued to build unabated. The Trump administration has been silent on this issue, which Israel has clearly taken to be a green light to continue building. Had Trump made his controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel conditional on a commitment to freezing and dismantling settlements, we may have seen a change in Israeli policy. In fact, the recognition was a freebie for which Israel was not asked, nor required, to concede anything.
Settlements as collective punishment
The Palestinians have taken what they believe to be the crime of settlement building to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and are awaiting the court’s decision on whether it will open an investigation. Israel’s response to the Palestinians taking cases to the Hague has been to punish them by withholding taxes it collects and is obligated to hand over to them.
If that in itself is not a bizarre act, it has decided that it will deduct the funds the Palestinian Authority allocates to support the families of those either imprisoned or killed by Israel for allegedly committing violent acts against Israeli civilians or military personnel.
While the ICC prevaricates, Israel has now moved to use settlement building as punishment and as a deterrent to others who may think of attacking Israelis. It also routinely demolishes the homes of those allegedly committing violent attacks against Israelis in an act of collective punishment, which only serves to incite Palestinians.
Surely, Israelis cannot expect Palestinians that have had their loved ones killed or imprisoned, that have been thrown onto the street and whose contribution from the PA to help them make ends meet stopped, to love it and admire it.
The creative ‘Palestinian punishment’ ministry in Israel has now developed a new policy to punish Palestinians committing violence against Israelis, that of sanctioning more illegal settlement building.
Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit recently approved the so called ‘market amendment,’ which is expected to lead to the legalisation of 2000 illegal settler units in the West Bank.
The ‘market amendment’ is based on an order related to property Israel claims to be ‘government property’ in the West Bank, stipulating that “a transaction made in good faith between the custodian of the government property in the territories and another person, regarding a property the custodian believed at the time of the deal to be government property” is valid, even if in fact the land did not belong to the state.
In other words, Israel can claim any land even privately owned as its own and it can create or approve illegal homes on it. This really brings a completely new, sinister meaning to ‘good faith’.
The same ‘principle’ of ‘good faith’ was the basis for a recent ruling by the Jerusalem District Court, which stipulated that the outpost of Mitzpeh Kramim must be legalised, despite being built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The Attorney General’s amendment will now open the floodgates to the legalisation of thousands of illegal homes being legalised despite them having been judged illegal by Israel itself.
The reality is that Israel does not need an amendment or a ruling by a district court to act illegally. It is in breach of hundreds of UN General Assembly resolutions and tens of UN Security Council resolutions, including the most recent on settlements 2334, passed in December 2016.
The latest act of punishment of Palestinians will neither deter nor end violent acts against Israelis as any student of recent history will learn. This will not stop the ‘Palestinian punishment’ ministry in Israel thinking of other punishments.
But who will stop Israel committing further atrocities?