Belfast (Special to Informed Comment) – The period between the American election in November and the inauguration of the new president in January is often considered by the Israeli leadership an opportune time to conduct operations against the Palestinians, including those with high foreseeable civilian casualties. The outgoing president doesn’t care to interfere, while the president-elect is not in office and might ignore it. An example of that was when Israel launched a war on Gaza in December 2008, code-named Cast Lead. According to Amnesty International, at least 1383 Palestinians were killed including 333 children.
The 2020 election, however, is different. Israel may not see a need to go to war, given that the Trump administration has already kneecapped the Palestinians, slashing refugee aid and attempting to de-legitimize their national aspirations. During his presidency, Trump recognized the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem (thereby contravening international law and disregarding the will of the international community). These steps encouraged Israel to accelerate its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Israel recently issued an order to evict 400 Palestinians including women and children. Fakhri Abu Diab, a Jerusalem affairs specialist, said, “the Israeli occupation’s decision is a crime and an aggression which aims to empty the city of its Palestinian residents and create a demographic imbalance that favors the settlers.”
Furthermore, Trump’s “deal of the century” gives Israel large chunks of Palestinian land, killing any hope for peace based on UN resolutions in favor of a two-state solution. As if this wasn’t enough, lame duck Trump sent his lame duck secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to visit illegal Israeli squatter settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, thus setting a regressive and historic precedent.
Not only that but Pompeo also also announced that goods produced in these settlements with purloined Palestinian resources can be labelled as produced in Israel, reinforcing Trump administration recognition of Israel theft of these lands. It is ironic that the same administration that still refuses to recognize the outcome of a legitimate democratic election in the US happily recognized Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian land.
Pompeo, who reduced himself to a marketing officer of the illegal occupation got carried away, mislabeling as “anti-Semitic” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for a boycott of Israel. Another irony is that this happened during Trump presidency who made himself the poster boy of the KKK and the far right white supremacists after a series of executive orders which enshrined different forms of racism.
This labeling, however, is wrong. To start with, as stated on its website, BDS is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. The Palestinian BDS movement urges non-violent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by a) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands; b) dismantling the separation wall built on Palestinian territory; c) by recognizing the rights of the native Arab-Palestinian population of Israel; and d) by respecting the right of the Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed during the violent establishment of Israel in 1948 to return to their homes, in accordance with UN resolution 194.
Pompeo tried to conflate anti-Semitism, or prejudice against ordinary Jewish individuals, with criticism of Israel and and of its Zionist founding ideology, which has come to be implicated in colonialism and forms of racial supremacy. Criticizing Israel’s cruel treatment of Palestinians is not anti-Semitic. In fact, some Jewish organizations are critical of Israel and support BDS.
Indeed, Jewish criticism of Israel started as early as the inception of Israel. Israel offered the famous physicist Albert Einstein, himself Jewish, the opportunity to become Israel’s second president. He refused, and was one of a number of American Jews who published a letter in the New York Times in 1948 protesting against Menachem Begin’s visit to the US. Begin later became the first Israeli PM from the Likud Party which is the party of the current Israeli PM and Trump ally, Netanyahu.
In their letter they described Begin’s Herut Party, which was the Likud forerunner, this way:
- “The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.”
Herut (from which the Likud evolved) was formed in part out of the old Irgun Tzva’i Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization. The letter criticized the Irgun for massacring most of the inhabitants of the Palestinian village of Deir Yasin in 1948. Pompeo and Trump have libelled Einstein as an anti-Semite
Personally, I have relatives and friends who were killed by the Israeli army including my cousin’s husband who was a driver. One day he had a groom and a bride wearing her wedding dressing in his car. Israeli soldiers stopped the car and shot him dead, leaving two orphaned children and a widow (my cousin, who was pregnant). Boycotting Israel simply means refusing to pay for the bullet that’s going to kill my next friend and make another child an orphan. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
Successive American administrations,including Republicans and Democrats, have given knee-jerk support to Israel, even when its policies have clearly violated basic human rights norms. Perhaps Trump was the worst, who did what previous presidents were embarrassed to do. It is unlikely that Biden will reverse all of Trump’s policies. We will know an American president genuinely wants peace, when the administration pressures Israel to comply entirely with UN resolutions and international law, and to cease holding Palestinians in a condition of statelessness and lack of rights.
Bonus Video added by Informed Comment: