"The scenes were shocking and heart-breaking … this is a blatant act of ethnic cleansing and forced transfer, tantamount to a war crime, and must be fully condemned and prosecuted as such," said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Ambassador, addressing the UN Security Council in New York City only a few days past.
The recent demolitions in Southeastern Jerusalem are the largest since the occupation of West Bank in 1967. The policy entails demolishing 100 Palestinian homes and expelling their residents.
Some analysts claim this is simply the continuation to a long-held policy of making it exceedingly difficult for Palestinians to stay. This is different, however, and the reality behind the demolitions is far more sinister.
The current move is born of a wider context, and comes at a critical time where people speak of going beyond the Two-State Solution.
What’s different this time?
After the failure of the Arab Spring’s first wave, regional opposition to Israeli policies is nearly non-existent. Israel, realising there would be no cost for such behaviour, intensified its encroaching settlement activities, and started thinking ‘out of the box.’
This gave rise to the Liberman Plan for population transfer and land swaps, without giving independence to Palestinians.
The arrival of President Donald Trump into the equation was a long-awaited gift to Israeli leadership, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. With Trump behind him, Netanyahu does not even feel the need to even use the phrase 'Two States', and instead speaks of frankly of something he always had to avoid addressing: annexing settlements in the West Bank to Israeli sovereignty.
Prior to the latest elections, Netanyahu had pledged to annex parts of the West Bank to Israel, particularly the settlements, which would officially become part of the so-called “Eretz Israel”; Zionist terminology for historic Palestine which includes both the internationally-recognised borders of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The newly-demolished houses in Jerusalem fall under Area C, where most settlements exist, but some of the planned demolitions fall under Areas A and B; the first of which supposedly falls under full authority of Palestinian Authority, while the second is under under ‘mutual cooperation’ according to the Oslo Accords between the PLO and the Israeli government.
In this manner, the Israeli government’s actions give clear and stark warning that the Two State solution is a matter of the past.
'New realities require new logic,’ is the message being delivered.
What comes next?
France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have strongly condemned the latest demolitions, but that is all; condemnation with no punitive actions. Were it any other country, this would have had weight. Israel on the other hand, has developed a high level of immunity to international criticism even from its allies.
Numerous UNGA and UNSC resolutions have already condemned Israeli policies, or called upon the Israeli government to immediately cease and desist from its actions. All were equally met with the same prepared response: ‘It’s none of your business’.
That’s not to say that nothing is unchanged. Israel has never felt to unrestrained or unchallenged, and that gives rise to once-impossible ideas that are now possible.
For a long time, Zionists wanted the land of Palestine but without the mess of Palestinians on it. It was this great challenge that successive Israeli governments prioritised time and time again, consistently unable to ‘solve’.
For the highest echelons of Israeli’s strategic leadership, the ‘Palestinian people’ problem can be achieved in the present in a way that was never possible before.
The rationale goes, “If we cannot get rid of Palestinians, let us just squeeze them into locked enclaves making up no more than 3-10 percent of the West Bank and annex the rest.” “What is the worst that could happen?" they wonder. “Being labelled an Apartheid state? So what?”
The question that follows would not be how can Palestinians be expelled to Jordan or elsewhere, but how to live as if they do not exist. In the segregation of Israel today and the prison of Gaza, we find the tragic blueprints of the menacing ‘legal’ apartheid regime that goes about its business unchallenged, while the natives of the land waste away in overpopulated, isolated camps.
Israeli 'legal' Apartheid
The latest illegal demolitions only flaunt the deep flaws in Israeli ‘democracy’. In the ultimate perversion of justice, the demolitions were actually ‘legal’ within the Israeli judicial system.
The Israeli High Court adjudicated in favour of the military, and gave its official blessing to go forward with the demolition.
Yes, this flagrant violation of international law is legal in Israel.
Meanwhile, the Knesset takes every chance to inject more racist and exclusionary laws into the Basic Law of Israel, which the High Court must abide by.
The latest but obviously not the last was the racist and internationally-condemned Nation State Law passed by the Knesset, which disavowed the 20 percent of Israel’s population who happen to not be Jewish; effectively denoting them second-class citizens at best.
The Zionist project in Palestine currently stands on the following basic foundations towards Palestinians.
First, the Arabs who survived the ethnic cleansing in 1948 (the Nakba) can remain as second class citizens or worse.
Second, those expelled may never return (with their right to return unacknowledged).
Third, those in the West Bank either leave or remain stateless and devoid of any political rights within enclaves, supplying Israel with cheap labour.
Fourth, those in Jerusalem remain ‘permanent residents’ until a ‘permanent solution’ is found for them.
Gazans? They’re not even factored into the equation, and may as well not exist.
To Zionist planners, the most problematic are those in the first and third category, given that the first are citizens and hold ID’s, while the third are large in number and fall under its authority.
This makes it difficult to deny or evade the apartheid label given the sheer abuse, mistreatment and racism applied en-masse to the Palestinians of the West Bank. This necessitated another approach. If you can’t get rid of the problem, get rid of those who see it as a problem.
Deligitimising the deligitimisers
Despite Israeli leadership’s disregard of the international community’s opinions, some are still concerned about the ‘supply-lines’ from certain powers who find it difficult to justify their support for an apartheid state to their elected populace.
To eliminate this, they need to do to convince the international community that they are doing well, and undermine anyone who says otherwise.
The Israeli intelligentsia call it 'delegitimising the delegitimisers' – a classy phrase for suppressing the freedom of expression of anti-apartheid and pro-peace activists worldwide.
The so-called 'delegitimising the delegitimisers' takes place in different forms.
It may be through personal pressure, as with shutting down bank-accounts and imposing travel-bans. In other cases, it takes the form of state-level pressure, as with pushing the German Bundestag to pass an unconstitutional anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) bill.
If you’ve ever wondered how they define a delegitimiser, its anyone or any campaign that brings them headache or inconvenience.
In short, the latest campaign fit smoothly into the larger context of ‘cleansing’ Area C (nearly 61 percent of West Bank) Palestinians to pave way for annexing it and perhaps, at some point, the entirety of the West Bank.
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