‘After decades, I have the privilege to be the prime minister who is building a new community in Judea and Samaria,” stated Benjamin Netanyahu in late June, referring to Amichai, the first entirely new state-approved settlement to be constructed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since the Israeli-Palestine Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993.
With an extreme right-wing Israeli administration pushing Israeli society, through fear, further to the right and toward “creeping fascism”, according to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, a government emboldened by the utter failure of the international community to hold it to account for its repeated and continuing breaches of international human rights laws and obligations, the local political moment looks bleak for the Palestinians.
The illegal settlements continue to steal Palestinian lands as they divide and fragment the West Bank ever further; a humanitarian crisis threatens the Gaza Strip, the biggest open-air prison on the planet, thanks to the horrendous siege and blockade established by Israel in 2007.
Take a step back and look West and we find Donald Trump is in the White House appointing David Friedman, long-time supporter and funder of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as his ambassador to Israel.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, comes from a well-known pro-Israeli family that also supports and funds the illegal settlements in the West Bank; and the one policy commitment that Barak Obama made in his last year of office that Donald Trump will certainly not attack and repeal is, of course, the financial package of some $38 billion to Israel over the next ten years, making Israeli the single largest recipient of US financial aid.
And finally, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip the Palestinian political leadership is divided as never before.
Despite the recent calls for unity during the mass hunger strike of over 1,200 Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees, relations between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank are at an all-time low, due in the main to the role and function of the Palestinian Authority, dominated as it is by Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah.
It is a quisling political organisation that colludes with the Israeli state and security forces to suppress Palestinian opposition and resistance to the occupation, in the all-but-dead hope of establishing a Palestinian state on the ever-shrinking lands of the West Bank and Gaza, some 22% of what was once called Palestine.
Israel: An Apartheid State
A recent UN report of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” found that the State of Israel is indeed an Apartheid State, noting that the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people is the principle method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime upon the Palestinians:
Since 1967 Palestinians have been divided and forced to live under four different sets of laws:
1. Civil Law, with special restrictions, governing Palestinians who live as citizens of Israel
2. Permanent residency law governing Palestinians living in the city of Jerusalem
3. Military law governing Palestinians, including those in the refugee camps, living since 1967 under conditions of belligerent occupation in the West Bank (2.7 million) and Gaza Strip (1.9million)
4. Policy to preclude the return of Palestinians, whether refugees or exiles, living outside territory under Israel’s control.
These four domains taken together constitute one comprehensive regime developed for the purpose of ensuring the enduring domination over non-Jews in all land exclusively under Israeli control.
Apartheid: a systematic regime of racial domination is evidenced in how the state of Israel implements laws regarding ownership of land and demographic engineering – the Law of Return which allows any Jew, with or without a connection to Israel, to enter Israel and obtain citizenship.
Flying the flag of International Solidarity
In a remarkable series of symbolic gestures of solidarity with the people of Palestine, Dublin City Council, Sligo, Donegal and Galway County Councils all flew the Palestinian flag during the month of May over their municipal buildings.
These are small but important statements of our solidarity with:
the people of the West Bank living under a brutal Israeli occupation that worsens with each passing day
the people of Gaza who have endured three military invasions, each one more murderous and brutal than the last, within the last ten years and who today endure an horrific and inhumane blockade and siege,
with those Palestinian citizens of Israel denied full citizenship rights and equality of treatment before the law
with the near 7 million Palestinian refugees denied the UN-endorsed Right of Return to their homeland
They were actions in which we loudly declared our unambiguous support for Palestinians in the struggle for freedom and justice: Our government may be afraid to stand up to Israel and defend the Palestinian’s right to self-determination, but we are not.
Anyone who has read, seen or heard of the reality for Palestinians under the Israeli apartheid regime cannot but be angered at the inhuman treatment of one group of people by another – it cuts to the core of what it means to be thinking and feeling human beings, sisters and brothers together, to see one group being treated as less than human:
What must it be like to have a nuclear armed, heavily militarised and economically powerful state occupying your homeland, demolishing your homes, burning your olive trees and crops, confiscating more and more of your land to facilitate the building of internationally outlawed settlements, your movement arbitrarily restricted, your access to clean water and electricity rationed, your chances of gaining employment and retaining it reduced, your children imprisoned, your sons and daughters murdered for no reason other than being Palestinian.
The international political community is at best indifferent and at worst complicit with Israeli crimes – trading with the state as if it isn’t engaged in some of the worst abuses and crimes against humanity.
So the change will come from the people, left-wing political parties and progressive social movements.
Civil society campaigns like the global BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), have scored significant victories in hitting Israel economically but we must also campaign to put pressure on our own governments to live up to their international legal obligations and uphold the Palestinian fight for national self-determination, freedom and justice, and demand the creation of a one secular and democratic state for all of the people living between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan.