Ramona Wadi – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Wed, 21 Apr 2021 05:45:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.17 The Biden administration talks Equality and 2 States, but are Occupied Palestinians any Less Oppressed? https://www.juancole.com/2021/04/administration-palestinians-oppressed.html Wed, 07 Apr 2021 04:02:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=197091 ( Middle East Monitor ) – US President Joe Biden may be returning the country to the two-state paradigm, but the inequalities between Israelis and Palestinians are becoming more prominent with each statement uttered by officials.

When the US speaks of the two-state compromise, it is doing so with complete recognition of the fact that it will not reverse all of the Trump administration’s policies. There will be no relocation of the US embassy, and the US is still opposing the war crimes investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC), although Biden has lifted the sanctions imposed upon the court’s officials. The Abraham Accords will continue to play an important role as well in US diplomacy.

All the concessions indicate that the US is supporting further erosion of Palestinian rights. No matter how much the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls for equal treatment of Palestinians, as he told Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi during a recent phone call.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price stated that Blinken “emphasised the administration’s belief that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.” All within the context of the two-state compromise, of course, which was never about equal rights but rather devising impunity for Israel’s colonial expansion.

Away from Blinken’s contradictions, the US State Department is offering more clues on what Biden is seeking to achieve in terms of continuing with former US President Donald Trump’s policies. During the department’s briefing yesterday, Prince refused to commit as to whether the two-state paradigm would include East Jerusalem as the Palestinian state’s capital.

“There has been no change on our position in Jerusalem – and, of course, Jerusalem is a final status issue that is to be negotiated by the two parties,” Price answered, in response to Associated Press reporter Matt Lee’s questions to clarify the US stance on Jerusalem.

Price’s statement is ambiguous, refusing to clarify which “position” remains unchanged, albeit it is most likely that Biden will retain Trump’s designation, given the refusal to relocate the US embassy to Tel Aviv.

Neither has the US committed to restoring funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), although recently $15 million was pledged as Covid aid for Palestinians.

If the US is still vacillating over its policy with regard to the Palestinian people, what measure of equality is it expecting Israel to serve? The two-state politics offer nothing in terms of equality – they do not call for a reversal of colonisation and Palestinians were still discussed from the humanitarian paradigm. Let alone a two-state hypothesis which is now further disfigured by Trump’s concessions, which the Biden administration is loathed to reverse in their entirety.

Just because the US is back within the parameters of international consensus when it comes to rhetorical diplomacy, it does not mean that the Biden administration is favouring any semblance of equality. The two-state obsolete as it is, still retains enough vestiges of corruption that ascertain Israel’s colonial supremacy. And yet, the Palestinian Authority still has nothing to say other than to urge the US and the international community to persist in sabotaging any slight chance of Palestinian independence even further.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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The Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center: “A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine with Peter Beinart”

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The Biden Administration is back to calling Palestinians ‘Occupied,’ but can’t see them being Colonized https://www.juancole.com/2021/04/administration-palestinians-colonized.html Fri, 02 Apr 2021 04:03:16 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=197008 ( Middle East Monitor) – In another move that shows US President Joe Biden is navigating between the Trump administration’s era and the return to the two-state politics, the US State Department’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights presented two facets of the current administration’s policy.

The title reads, as it did during former US President Donald Trump’s tenure, “Israel, West Bank and Gaza“. In the text, the report acknowledges that the lands have bene occupied since 1967, with a disclaimer: “Language in this report is not meant to convey a position on any final status issues to be negotiated between the parties to the conflict, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the borders between Israel and any future Palestinian state.”

Acting State Department Official Lisa Peterson said that the choice to assign geographical names was for clarity. “That’s in line with our practices generally. We also believe it is clearer and more useful for readers seeking information on human rights in those specific areas.”

Using the term “occupation” while assigning fragmentation to the title is the Biden sdministration’s way of hovering between two disastrous policies. Israeli media have not taken too kindly to the US reverting to “occupation” to describe Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise, while the clarification on remaining purportedly neutral to any “final status issues” has been quoted as the report’s saving grace, for Israel, of course.

While the harm caused to Palestinians through using the term “occupation” cannot be solely attributed to Biden, the US, which hails itself a beacon of human rights, persists in promoting Israel’s annihilation of Palestine’s past.

If geographical clarity is the excuse the State Department has used to justify the title pertaining to colonised Palestine, why is there a discrepancy between the title and the content? Furthermore, if clarity is the desired outcome, how do Israel, the West Bank and Gaza clarify Palestine’s past?

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price clarified the current US position. “Our ultimate goal here is to facilitate – to help bring about – a two-state solution because it is the best path to preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state while bestowing on the Palestinians their legitimate aspirations of sovereignty and dignity in a state of their own.”

Only the two-state paradigm merely fulfils the first premise at the expense of Palestinians losing their land and independence. The US State Department report’s language is another example of how Palestinian loss is affirmed, building upon earlier land appropriation as legitimised and normalised by the UN. To the point that the destroyed Palestinian towns and villages are now merely projects of historical memory significance, rather than evidence of the Palestinian right to land.

Language plays an important part that is disregarded by many. Decades of denying Palestinians their right to liberate their land has resulted in inaccurate depictions of Palestinian territory and the debate is now simplified to using Trump’s designation or the standard term upon which there is international consensus. But Palestine is almost lost, and triumph or indignation about the title used by the US State Department and the clarification in the report gloss over the colonial reality that has barred Palestinians from their land and geographical accuracy.

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Biden is Reemphasizing Human Rights in Foreign Policy, Except for Palestinians https://www.juancole.com/2021/03/reemphasizing-foreign-palestinians.html Fri, 12 Mar 2021 05:03:47 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196595 ( Middle East Monitor ) – Israel is reportedly concerned that US President Joe Biden will prioritise human rights over traditional allegiances in the Middle East. With a policy shift that departs from the Trump administration’s belligerence, Biden is attempting to bring Washington in line with the human rights rhetoric favoured within the international arena, albeit rarely, if ever, acted upon.

The recent declassification of documents pertaining to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been used by Israel to claim that the Biden administration risks alienating the settler-colonial state’s allies in the Middle East, particularly at a time when the Netanyahu government is still basking in the diplomatic success of the Abraham Accords.

Israel need not worry, though. While other Middle Eastern governments may indeed come under intense scrutiny and be forced to make cosmetic changes to their atrocious human rights record – releasing prominent activists from prison, for example – Israel will not be required to make any such concessions. The international community has already accomplished a great deal in marketing Israel’s security narrative as indistinguishable from human rights. If Israel says it needs to defend itself, how dare the international community suggest otherwise? On the contrary, governments are eager to support Israel’s killing machine and turn a blind eye to its victims. Collateral damage in the name of human rights is perfectly acceptable, it seems.

The White House has recently released the “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance“. Democracy is Biden’s selling point. Holding the new US administration to account on its democracy, however, is a different story. After all, anything is better than Trump. Such reasoning played into the psyche of the US electorate and political responsibility may well become a relic of the past if the Biden administration continues to be juxtaposed against Trump’s, or viewed as a better option for no other reason than the president is now not Trump. Indeed, there is a risk of Biden being spared the usual scrutiny that comes with being US president, and while Israel may miss the Trump era, the current administration is certainly not averse to upholding the apartheid state’s impunity.

It is more a selective process of which governments the US is going to support militarily in the name of democracy, rather than a repudiation of militarism as Biden is attempting, and failing, to convey to the world.

“In the Middle East, we will maintain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, while seeking to further its integration with its neighbours and resuming our role as promoter of a viable two-state solution,” the guidance document proclaims. There’s no conflict for Israel in that, since “two states” is a defunct option that existed only to enhance its own security narrative. An “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security is undemocratic, though, no matter how much the two-state solution is given a democratic gloss through international consensus.

What Biden’s brand of democracy looks like to Israel will be untenable for the Palestinian people. There is no mention of the Palestinians in the document, indicating to us all for whose benefit the two-state paradigm will be pursued. It is not about the result, but the allegiances forged through such diplomacy, which the Palestinian Authority is still deceiving itself into thinking gives it a say over which governments are supportive of the Palestinians’ struggle for their land and rights. The truth is that Biden’s brand of democracy isolates Palestinians, and all in the name of human rights.

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A return to the two-state politics without a historical reckoning spells loss for Palestinians https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/historical-reckoning-palestinians.html Sun, 31 Jan 2021 05:03:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195864 (Middle East Monitor ) – US President Joe Biden announced the restoring of diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and the resumption of humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people, in a bid to bring the country back to international consensus after the Trump administration pursued a different form of diplomatic relations which culminated in the Abraham Accords.

According to Acting US Ambassador to the UN, Richard Mills, the move guarantees “the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state while upholding the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state of their own.”

Of course, the prevailing discrepancy remains. The US will support “the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for a state” but that is as far as it will go. The “legitimate aspirations” will play a bigger role in the forthcoming process where the two-state compromise will return to its pedestal.

Re-engaging the PA will be a trivial deed. Isolated as he is, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the US election result as an opportunity to act in oblivion of what the Trump administration achieved. Yet the previous tenure has reaped benefits for Israel which the current US presidency will be unwilling to revoke. Upon what foundations will the US-PA dialogue happen? Abbas, for sure, will have no say in determining any pre-conditions. Having already stated his disposition to re-engage diplomatically with the US, upon the basis of Trump’s departure and not the rescinding of policies which resulted in further territorial loss, Abbas will still be at a disadvantage.

What does the future look like for Palestine? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The prevailing narrative following the announcement is too simplistic. Trump is still perceived as the architect of all that the Palestinians lost, without a historical narrative to accompany what the previous administration achieved for Israel. Losing sight of what the Zionist colonial project set out to achieve in the first place also marginalises the earlier steps taken by the international community – the US included – which enabled former US President Donald Trump to accelerate colonisation in a mere four years.

Restoring diplomatic relations is an easy feat, just as much as cutting ties was, especially when the political entity that was marginalised has no real legitimacy, or power, except that funded and bestowed by the international community.

Trump veered from international consensus, but it must be said that the international community did not actively oppose his policies. The UN welcomed the normalisation agreements, in particular as they shifted attention towards dynamics that have been already implemented by the international community. Annexation, on the other hand, put the UN in a difficult position, in terms of how to tacitly accept the next colonial step while keeping up the façade of staying in line with international law.

Biden’s win sealed the dilemma. Getting back to the two-state consensus required no effort, particularly when the current administration is under no pressure to revoke the most damaging policies targeting Palestinian land.

In the end, the change in US policy is about the US, and not the Palestinian people. The PA plays along because it has no other option, not even the endorsement of the Palestinian people in terms of legitimate representation. And as long as the PA aspires for, rather than politicises, the Palestinian state, it matters little to the US or the international community which parameters are pursued, as long as these remain within the illusions that promote the theft of Palestine.


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Israeli infrastructure projects aid the de facto annexation of Palestinian land https://www.juancole.com/2020/12/infrastructure-annexation-palestinian.html Wed, 16 Dec 2020 05:03:39 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195001 ( Middle East Monitor ) – If we were to listen only to the international community’s rhetoric about the impending Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory, the impression would be that the plans are more obsolete than the two-state compromise. It is impossible to forget how, at the first inkling of Arab leaders’ capitulation to Israel in terms of normalising relations, notably the United Arab Emirates, the international community treated the postponement of the annexation plan as its demise.

However, while the formalisation of Israel’s colonial expansion has been delayed — not abandoned, as even US officials ventured forth to clarify — the Zionist state approved additional illegal settlement and infrastructure plans. With the certainty that Arab leaders have assimilated to Israel’s claims that the Palestinian question is irrelevant, and the international community has availed itself of a lull in diplomatic condemnations owing to the normalisation of relations, the Israelis have ample time to implement the annexation plans on their own terns. They are thus, quite literally, preparing the groundwork.

A recent report by the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, titled “Highway to Annexation: Israeli Road and Transportation Infrastructure Development in the West Bank“, provides details of the earlier planning in the 1970s and 1980s to link settlements to what Israel had already established as its colonial state. “The road is the factor that motivates settlement in areas where settlement is important, and its advancement will lead to development and demand,” explains the Master Plan.

Roads were not only used to advance the settlement enterprise but also to prevent Palestinians from building their villages, thus enabling settlement contiguity. Moreover, the infrastructure planned by Israel also gave rise to segregation and the foundations of an apartheid colonial entity in Palestine. The report states that an increase in the Israeli settler population can also be attributed to the segregated infrastructure, and it is the same infrastructure that has emboldened Israel’s settler lobby to press for annexation.

While the US-Israeli scheming, in particular the so-called “deal of the century”, popularised annexation in terms of US President Donald Trump’s series of ongoing concessions to Israel, the “sovereignty through transportation” policy planned by Israel illustrates the de-facto annexation towards which Israel is now moving. The plan is to link Jerusalem with colonial settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A recent news brief by Wafa said that Israel has approved the construction of 8,300 new settlement structures on appropriated Palestinian land. Israel, the report points out, “aims to create a large settlement belt around Jerusalem by constructing new settlement roads and streets aimed at preventing an expansion or geographical contact of the people of Jerusalem from the south as part of the so-called ‘Jerusalem Envelope Belt’.” Greater Jerusalem is thus feeding in to “Greater Israel”.

De-facto annexation aggravates the problems already encountered by Palestinians in terms of getting residential building permits. Available land is being swiftly colonised for settlement projects, which makes annexation not only inevitable, but the normalised next step. Is this what the Palestinian Authority has signed up for in its haste to get into US President-elect Joe Biden’s good books? This is worth some degree of reflection the next time that the PA has the audacity to speak out against annexation even while using political tactics in support of disappearing Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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MEMO: “Palestinians try to block new illegal Israeli settlement”

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With Reporters Distracted by US Polls, Israel Demolishes 76 Bedouin Palestinian Homes https://www.juancole.com/2020/11/distracted-demolishes-palestinian.html Fri, 06 Nov 2020 05:04:08 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=194268 ( Middle East Monitor) – UN intransigence over Israel contrasts with Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk’s observations regarding Israel’s ongoing settlement expansion, not least because the latter boosts his arguments by providing some colonial context instead of remaining tethered to the two-state compromise. Following the recent announcement that plans for approximately 5,000 new settlement dwellings have been approved by Israel, Lynk pointed out that, “The international community observes, it sometimes objects, but it does not act.”

Indeed, the UN and its institutions are examples of passive observers. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA) yesterday reported that Israel demolished 76 housing structures in Humsa Al-Bqai’a, displacing 73 Palestinians. The report also noted that 869 Palestinians have been displaced so far in 2020, and called upon Israel “to immediately halt unlawful demolitions.” It’s a typically toothless UN statement which Israel will, of course, ignore.

It is too simplistic to say that Israel has taken advantage of the world’s focus on the US election in order to go ahead and almost completely destroy an entire Palestinian village. Nothing has stopped Israel doing things like this before, because the international community has not united collectively against colonialism. All the UN has done is to refer to international law while helping Israel to break the law, thus using its own power and lack of accountability to transfer impunity to the settler-colonial enterprise in Palestine. As with its response to Israel’s settlement expansion, the UN has simply shied away from its duty, as usual.

Lynk has distanced himself from the UN’s fawning over the normalisation agreements between Israel and some Gulf states, which are now being extended to other Arab countries, as the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman revealed in October. “While Israel may have shelved its plans for the de jure annexation of the settlements in August,” warned the UN official, “it is continuing with the de facto annexation of the Palestinian territory through this unrelenting settlement growth.”

Annexation has been postponed until the Arab normalisation deals with Israel are completed. Such statements as made last week only validate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy, which was disseminated repeatedly on Israeli media but never challenged politically by the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, the PA only voiced its objections when its abandonment by erstwhile regional allies became obvious. Once again, the Palestinian leadership’s unedifying scramble to embrace the two-state paradigm is not to be admired. Such a “solution” confers legitimacy on decades of Israeli colonial expansion and only seeks partial accountability, something that Israel and the international community can easily dismiss.

The distinction between Israel’s previous settlement expansion and the new wave is cosmetic. Zionism’s earliest colonial enterprise, which was legitimised as a state and recognised by the international community, is spared criticism, let alone subjected to accountability. As far as the UN is concerned, settlement expansion is only recognised as a violation in relation to the two-state compromise which it upholds. As for the de facto annexation that Lynk referred to, the UN prefers to remain silent until the territory is formally stolen. Only then can Palestinians expect some form of statement which will, once again, bemoan the threat to “two state” politics but ignore the very real existential threat to the people of occupied Palestine.

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Featured illustration: Cartoonized by Juan Cole and Lunapic, based on a photograph of UNRWA/Lara Jonasdottir: “Bedouin boys living in Jabal al-Baba in the remains of their family’s home which was demolished in 2017. (file photo).”

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Hunger strikes highlight Israel’s unjust detention of political prisoners https://www.juancole.com/2020/11/highlight-detention-political.html Sun, 01 Nov 2020 04:03:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=194179 ( Middle East Monitor ) – Calling for the freedom of one Palestinian political prisoner is what Israel expects from the international community. The latest detainee to go on hunger strike protesting against the administrative detention order that keeps him in prison indefinitely with neither formal charges nor trial is Maher Al-Akhras. His protest has now exceeded 90 days and he is in a frail condition. Cue the UN’s “concern” for human rights while simultaneously disregarding the Israeli colonial violence that has imprisoned thousands of Palestinians merely for exercising their right to anti-colonial resistance.

Al-Akhras was arrested on 27 July and placed under a renewable administrative detention order in August, supposedly for being a member of Islamic Jihad. He was subjected to the same ordeal in 2009 with an administration order for 16 months, and also in 2018 for a duration of 11 months. Three other Palestinian prisoners have started their own hunger strikes in solidarity with Al-Akhras; their predicament is not yet dire enough to warrant media attention, or UN statements for that matter, because the lives of Palestinian prisoners within the international context are only relevant in terms of how near they are to death.

In a statement about Al-Akhras’s deteriorating health, the UN’s Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk condemned the concept of administrative detention as “an anathema in any democratic society that follows the rule of law.” Israeli security forces, Lynk said, “have not provided any persuasive evidence in an open hearing to justify its allegation that he [al-Akhras] is a security threat.” The UN knows that Israel justifies its actions through its “security” and “self-defence” narrative without the burden of having to actually prove that any security threat exists.

Administrative detention is arguably one of the practices that most defines Israel and what it stands for: the perpetuation of oppressive violence in which Palestinians have no rights and any recognition of such violations from the international community requires media depictions of a Palestinian prisoner on the brink of death. In other words, unless the media sensationalises hunger strikes, the UN – the purported guardian of human rights – feels no responsibility to act. Presumably, this is because the international community is used to seeing dead or dying Palestinians, and disrupting such normalised violence does not bode well in terms of the institution’s maintenance of violations to retain its relevance.

Away from the current context, Israel’s administrative detention practices are of no concern to the international community, just as the Palestinian prisoners do not attract attention unless they are transformed by media narratives as a hunger striker and therefore worthy of publicity. Who remembers Samer Issawi now? Once transformed into an icon of resistance only to be forgotten once released because his name no longer served any media function.

The truth is that Palestinian hunger strikers are fodder for exploitation and when their purpose is served, their identity is lost among the statistics. Sensationalism over hunger strikes is shifting attention away from the reality of administrative detention through which Israel keeps Palestinian political prisoners behind bars. With each repetitive occurrence, activism is being trapped in the illusion of victory. If Al-Akhras is released, it must not be paraded as a victory until the occupation’s unjust prison system is no longer functioning alongside the militarised surveillance forced upon the Palestinians.

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Palestinian on hunger strike ‘dying’ | News Bulletin | Indus News

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How Trump wiped the Palestinians off the Map https://www.juancole.com/2020/10/trump-wiped-palestinians.html Fri, 23 Oct 2020 04:03:20 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193996 ( Middle East Monitor ) – US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has left no doubt about the rationale behind the recent normalisation agreements with Arab states, praised by the international community as an opportunity to kick-start negotiations about the two-state compromise. In the background, the UAE’s lauded diplomacy, which postponed the annexation process and was hailed as an achievement for the Palestinian people, has served its purpose to normalise the next step.

“When we feel we’ve exhausted these efforts,” Friedman declared with reference to encouraging more countries to normalise ties with Israel, “of course we will help Israel formalise its boundaries, including communities in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank].” He described the Arab League as “made up of potential normalisation partners.”

In words reminiscent of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, Friedman reiterated that the annexation of occupied Palestinian territory was neither cancelled nor abandoned, but suspended. “To suspend is by definition temporary.”

Now that the international community has a clear view of what it tried to spin as a diplomatic breakthrough, perhaps the Palestinian Authority can stop scrambling for support from the UN, which encourages the inevitable illegal annexation while pretending to oppose Israel’s colonial settlement expansion. A merging of what the two-state compromise and US President Donald Trump’s deal of the century seek to achieve is what the international community seems to be aiming for, even if this is promoted through different paradigms.

Friedman was addressing the Kohelet Policy Forum online conference, in which Netanyahu also participated, pointing out that the normalisation agreements indicated Israel’s power in the region. “Global superpowers said concessions will bring peace and peace will bring security,” Netanyahu argued. “This dangerous plan, if it were to happen, would make Israel vulnerable and weak.”

Yet Israel exerts enough influence upon world powers to ensure that it is not left vulnerable, and the concessions Netanyahu spoke of were never incumbent upon Israel, which has never made any. Reprimands are not concessions, and neither is the two-state compromise a concession, given that it allows Israel to decide the fate of the indigenous Palestinian people and their land. Without political recognition of the Palestinian right of return, all the concessions Netanyahu speaks of are Palestinian losses, and annexation will merely formalise the colonisation process that the international community has tacitly supported under the guise of the two-state imposition.

Israeli settlements and annexation are both violations of international law. The normalisation deals are being used by the US and the international community to shift focus back to the diplomacy that caters for Israel’s demands. From March to August this year, Israel increased its destruction of EU-funded Palestinian structures, yet the EU has not spoken out against the hypocrisy of “suspending” annexation simply to secure adequate consensus for what is an illegal act. Likewise, the UN only spoke of opportunity in terms of diplomacy, while invalidating the rights it purportedly stands for.

Peace – the term favoured by the international community – is an Israeli conjecture. What Israel defines as peace, namely increased militarisation in the name of security, ties the loose ends of the colonial project together. If the international community does not oppose annexation politically, and if the PA continues to insist on applying defunct and exploitative policies to allegedly advance the Palestinian cause, the underlying message is nothing less than an endorsement of Palestine’s complete disappearance.

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The root problem of Today’s Economic Crisis in Palestine is not Covid-19, but Israel’s colonialism https://www.juancole.com/2020/10/economic-palestine-colonialism.html Thu, 22 Oct 2020 04:03:46 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193977 ( Middle East Monitor ) – The UN’s non-binding and generalised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have provided a diversion in current EU and Palestinian politics. On the brink of experiencing additional dispossession and forced displacement as the normalisation agreements between Israel and Gulf states open the door to more anti-Palestine diplomacy in the region, Palestinians have been swept to the periphery as officials debate ambiguities instead of seeking ways to counter Israel’s next expansionist phase.

Decades since the international community transformed Palestine into a humanitarian agenda against the will of the Palestinian people, poverty has not abated in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. There is a huge discrepancy between what Israel receives in military aid from the US and grants from the EU, as well as its income from arms and technology sales, and the Palestinian Authority’s budget scraped together from what amounts to compensation for retaining its role as a recipient of humanitarian aid instead of political and diplomatic assistance. This has ensured a perpetual imbalance in the conflict that can only be corrected if the international community adopts a position in favour of decolonisation as the first step for the Palestinian people to reclaim what they rightfully own.

Adding the coronavirus pandemic to the mix, as EU and Palestinian officials have done in a recent meeting to discuss how Palestine can move towards state building and eliminating poverty, gives Israel yet another layer of impunity. While Covid-19 has been disruptive, EU and Palestinian officials should not forget that the biggest impediment to eradicating poverty in Palestine is Israeli colonialism exemplified by its military occupation of Palestine, not the virus.

The European Joint Strategy programme, which works alongside the Palestinian National Policy Agenda, states that it regards Palestine to be “one”, adding that such recognition is “to ensure that the geographical fragmentation is not further reinforced.” This, however, is in relation to the already fragmented territory, which is tantamount to the EU saying that it accepts the existing colonial fragmentation and will merely seek remedies for the remaining land and its population. The programme’s overview makes no mention of Israeli colonisation, but reinforces the framework in terms of the two-state compromise.

Even without the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, it is unlikely that the latest SDGs, which seek to eradicate poverty by 2030, would have been achieved. With the Israeli blockade of Gaza still in place, and the restrictions imposed across the occupied West Bank, notably freedom of movement, hampering any autonomous development — not to mention US withdrawal of aid — the international community would have simply managed to maintain a situation that has already spiralled out of control, since there is no consensus on punitive measures against Israel for its violations of international laws and conventions.

Covid-19 is thus yet another excuse for international inaction on Palestine. The UN’s SDGs are already dissociated from the realities of the Palestinian people, so attributing the inability to eradicate poverty by 2030 to the pandemic is just another way in which the international community and Israel will keep working to ensure the complete annihilation of any possibility whatsoever of Palestinian independence. It is a pity that the Palestinian Authority has failed to challenge these frameworks and has refused to address Israeli colonialism in Palestine as the root of the problem. Likewise, the SDGs are a reflection of international incompetence at assessing specific circumstances. Their normalisation by the Palestinian leadership is another setback for the people of occupied Palestine.

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CGTN: “Israeli forces clash with Palestinian activists and farmers in West Bank”

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