Last week, in a rare act of foreign policy sanity, the U.S. joined other United Nations Security Council members in criticizing Israel for its ongoing policy of planting settlements and settlers in West Bank territory.
The vote followed the announcement of the “legalization” of nine settlements described by Brett Wilkins of Common Dreams as “illegal even under Israeli law. Under international law, all settlements, in which anti-Arab apartheid is strictly enforced, are illegal.”
Following the UN vote, Israel launched a deadly daylight attack on the Palestinian city of Nablus, killing 11 and wounding more than 100 people.
According to the Jewish Voice for Peace, “The Israeli military reduced a building in the center of the city to rubble and left storefronts riddled with bullet holes. Among the Palestinians killed were a 16-year-old child and a 72-year-old man. Throughout the brutal attack, reports claimed that Israeli forces blocked Palestinian medical personnel from treating the wounded.”
By the end of the week, armed Israeli settlers – among the 500,000 illegal occupiers of the West Bank – descended on a village near Nablus and shot two Palestinians who came out of their homes to see to investigate the commotion.
As its name assures us, JVP cannot be accused of anti-Semitism. It opposes the rightwing policies of the Israeli government – as fair a target for criticism as any other government in the world.
Of course, Palestinian Arabs are Semites, too. Advocating that they receive the same considerations as Israeli Jews is pro-Semitism.
This year opened with Israel announcing plans “to forcibly displace over 1,000 Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta region of the illegally occupied West Bank,” according to Jessica Corbett of Common Dreams, who also shared the following tweets:
- From JVP: “Just days after the new Israeli government is sworn in, families in Masafer Yatta are already facing more ethnic cleansing. The Israeli military’s ongoing expulsion of Masafer Yatta residents will now be accelerated at an even faster rate. Don’t look away.”
- From U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-MN: “Not even one week into 2023, the new far-right apartheid government is moving to ethnically cleanse entire communities – which would displace more than 1,000 Palestinian residents, including 500 children. All with American backing, bulldozers, and bullets.”
That backing is substantial. A 2016 treaty with Israel guaranteed $3.8 billion in annual U.S. aid for the 10 years from 2019-2028. Since President Harry Truman’s ill-advised recognition of a specifically Jewish state, Israel has received more U.S. aid than any other country.
Our backing makes us complicit – blood on our hands – in last week’s attack on Nablus, which JVP notes, “comes amid a horrific and violent year. At least 55 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or Israeli settlers since the beginning of 2023. 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2004, and already this year is set out-pace it.”
Death overwhelms other forms of oppression, of course, but also this year, the public security minister for the “most violent and right-wing [government] in Israeli history,” according to JVP, “ordered police to tear down Palestinian flags wherever they are found in public,” according to Common Dream’s Wilkins. This followed “protests in which tens of thousands of Israelis marched ‘together against fascism and apartheid.’”
In early February, the Associated Press reported: “An ivory spoon dating back 2,700 years that was recently repatriated to the Palestinian Authority from the United States has sparked a dispute with Israel’s new far-right government over the cultural heritage in the occupied West Bank …
“Israel’s ultranationalist heritage minister has ordered officials to examine the legality of the U.S. government’s historic repatriation of the artifact to the Palestinians earlier this month and is calling for annexing archaeology in the occupied West Bank.”
Annexing history as well as the present. There is a vicious, dehumanizing consistency at play here though not as vicious as the continued attacks on Palestinians and massive retaliations against any Palestinian violence against Israelis.
And I certainly don’t condone those attacks on Israelis. It is cowardly to kill unsuspecting innocents on either side of a conflict.
Yet, JVP suggests: “This is not a conflict or a cycle of violence between two equal parties – this is a military terrorizing an occupied people. The Israeli government’s domination and oppression of Palestinians is the root cause of each tragic death.”
It bears remembering, too, that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin once led a terrorist organization and orchestrated the massacre of a Palestinian village. And never expressed remorse. Terrorists become freedom fighters if they succeed.
Americans should be familiar with the irresponsible over-reactions that Israel unleashes indiscriminately on Palestinians following attacks on Israelis. Attacking peaceful, uninvolved Indian camps to “avenge” attacks by other Indians elsewhere was a hallmark of our western expansion.
Of course, that is not the only similarity between the two countries:
Europeans fleeing religious persecution or seeking better lives arrive on a foreign shore, defeat the local inhabitants, claim a manifest destiny to occupy their lands, dispossess them of their property, declare them second-class residents and herd them into reservations.
This thumbnail sketch of the colonization of North America also reflects the recent history and current state of affairs in Palestine, where Israel wages a continuing war of subjugation against its Arab neighbors – with the full support of the American government.
After the World War I, there were an estimated 575,000 Muslim Arabs, 85,000 Christian Arabs and 85,000 Jews in Palestine. They had been co-existing under Turkish occupation for centuries; they might have made a go of it without the interference of the “enlightened” West.
During that war, while the area was still under Ottoman rule, England – a European country with no legitimate standing in the area – issued the Balfour Declaration stating its intention to impose a “national home for the Jewish people” upon Palestine. This encouraged European Jews to leave the particular bigotries in their home countries and emigrate to Palestine.
Following World War II, the influx of European Jews increased, and, in the words of our State Department: “On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day.”
Writing in Salon, Matthew Rozsa noted then-Secretary of State George Marshall’s opposition to this declaration “because he feared the political tension blowback from Arab nations.”
Instant and lingering enmity and distrust throughout the Arab world represent sufficient “blowback,” but as Rozsa adds, Truman’s action “did very little to help the native Palestinians who were being persecuted or driven into exile.”
Stefanie Fox, the executive director of JVP, decried the current situation where, “The horrifying and brutal actions of this new [Israeli] government prove exactly what Palestinians have been saying all along: Israel is an apartheid state carrying out ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
But Israel’s existence is a fact. It was established on the oldest of principles: invasion, conquest and the power to maintain its borders.
Truman’s one-sided approach to the Palestine question may prove to be the worst foreign policy decision ever made by a U.S. president. The fruits of this stupidity – perpetuated by succeeding administrations – poison the world to this day.
Our official policy of a “two-state solution” means nothing when Israel’s imperialistic actions conjure no consequences.
Speaking on Face the Nation Feb. 19, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Jewish himself, said: “I think the United States gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel. And I think we’ve got to put some strings attached to that and say you cannot run a racist government. You cannot turn your back on a two-state solution. You cannot demean the Palestinian people there. You just can’t do it and then come to America and ask for money.”
It’s hard enough getting any American politician to say something this strong. But unless he and others put some teeth into our official position, we can expect only more terror and death in Palestine.