An Israeli sniper recently posted this photo on Instragram, which sparked worldwide outrage
The United Nations defines ethnic cleansing as,
rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group.It is hard to come to any other conclusion other than this phrase aptly describes what Israel is doing in the West Bank...
Colonies and Demolitions
There has been a systematic effort to clear Palestinians out of desired areas and replace them with Jewish settlers. For Israel to do this without outraging the international community more so than they already have been, they have established a rather complex web of legal and physical impediments to Palestinian home construction in the West Bank. And in many instances they have come up with some convenient excuses to outright demolish whole neighborhoods.
One of the most common excuses is for designating an area as a "military zone." Years later Israel seems to be allowing settlers to build on confiscated land. So it is kind of hard to imagine these demolitions don't have ulterior motives. On top of that it is settler violence, not Palestinian violence, that often instigates these moves by the IDF ironically to the detriment of the Palestinians:
At first, the settlers prevented the villagers from reaching their lands with the usual violence. Then the army got involved and erected a gate that is never open, thus turning what was a lawless land grab into something semi-official. Later, the army declared much of the territory a closed military zone, thus officially preventing the villagers – not the invading settlers – from reaching what is, without any legal contest, their land from which they live.Moreover, Israel has made a concerted effort to limit the natural expansion of Arab housing in the West Bank if it is near Israeli settlements, and especially if it is in East Jerusalem.
This has led to wide condemnation from the international community:
In a recent statement, the [British] Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt censured Israel, saying that demolitions and evictions "cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; are harmful to the peace process; and, in all but the most limited circumstances, are contrary to international humanitarian law."
The UN relief agency UNRWA has condemned Israel's demolition of homes in East Jerusalem, up 45% this year.It should be noted that Israel has at times also demolished certain unauthorized settler outposts by the more extremist elements of the settler movement. However, Israel, especially under Netanyahu, has made a determined effort to settle areas of the West Bank most coveted by the Israeli government. This includes the recent settlement activity in the E1 area of Jerusalem, which drew widespread outrage - even from the U.S.
It said 396 buildings were razed in 2010, compared with 275 last year, in occupied East Jerusalem and other West Bank areas under Israeli control.
As a result, 561 Palestinians - including 280 children - were displaced, it said.
Israel's interior ministry says it has the right to demolish homes that are built without Israeli permission.
Just the mere settlement of Jews in the West Bank is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. But on top of that Israel has used every excuse in the book to demolish Palestinian housing in and around the areas of settlement expansion.
This may not be the more overt and bloody methods of ethnic cleansing that we have seen by some of the most brutal regimes of the past, but it nevertheless is ethnic cleansing by any reading of the U.N.'s definition. Israel has been illegally populating lands by outright ignoring the Fourth Geneva convention, and by limiting the natural expansion of Arab neighborhoods or demolishing Palestinian housing for one contrived reason or another.
Apart from the clear ethical and legal problems with this policy, does Israel have justification for these actions? And why should liberals and Americans in general be invested in this issue? Hopefully the rest of the diary will answer these questions.
Israeli Security and Defensible Borders
The Israeli government bases much of reasoning on protecting the security interests of Israel. The Israeli government might say that they wish they could stop violating the rights of the Palestinians, but what it is doing in the West Bank is all about developing borders that Israel can defend:
A peace agreement, he said, must assure Israel's security.There is only one problem with this argument for Israel cleansing Palestinians from certain areas: it's completely baseless.
"Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 borders," he continued, rekindling the dispute with Obama in a possible effort to placate territorial hardliners in the Israeli government.
The border issue took prominence last week when Obama, in a major foreign policy speech, took the position that any negotiations on final borders of the Jewish and Palestinian states must be based on the boundaries existing before the 1967 war in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – lands the Palestinians claim for their hoped-for state.
In direct statements and through aides, Netanyahu suggested that Obama did not understand Israel's security needs or the realities of the region.
Martin van Creveld, one of Israel's most well-respected military historians, had this to say about the military value of the '67 borders:
…since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict.And the majority of security experts and officials agree with this view:
The defense of the West Bank by Arab forces would be a truly suicidal enterprise. The late King Hussein understood these facts well. Until 1967 he was careful to keep most of his forces east of the Jordan River. When he momentarily forgot these realities in 1967, it took Israel just three days of fighting to remind him of them.
Therefore, just as Israel does not need the West Bank to defend itself against ballistic missiles, it does not need that territory to defend itself against conventional warfare. If it could retain a security presence in the Jordan Valley, keep the eventual Palestinian state demilitarized and maintain control of the relevant airspace, that would all be well and good. However, none of these conditions existed before 1967; in view of geography and the balance of forces, none is really essential today either.
And how about terrorism? As experience in Gaza has shown, a fence (or preferably a wall) can stop suicide bombers from entering. As experience in Gaza has also shown, it cannot stop mortar rounds and rockets. Mortar and rocket fire from the West Bank could be very unpleasant. On the other hand, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran already have missiles capable of reaching every point in Israel, Tel Aviv included. Many of those missiles are large and powerful. Compared to the damage they can cause, anything the Palestinians are ever likely to do would amount to mere pinpricks...
ALL THE security experts I have spoken with, including several US generals and senior NATO officers, have said there are real military and security answers that would effectively guarantee security along the Jordan River. The Palestinian leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas, has said in public and in private, that they are willing to find a way to meet all security demands, including direct IDF involvement in patrols and monitoring missions that would be established based on Israeli security standards...Now all of these experts are basing this on the hypothetical worst case scenario, so even in a worst case scenario Israel would be able to defend itself. Moreover, this worst case scenario was in fact tested in the Six Day War, which Israel was easily able to dispense with invading armies. And 45 years ago the disparity between Israeli and Arab military capabilities was not as great as it is now.
In other words, most security experts, including a significant number of current and former IDf officers, Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials, believe that the security risks from peace – including a withdrawal from the West Bank based on the June 4, 1967 border with agreed-on territorial swaps in the order of around 3%-4% – pose no real strategic or security threat that cannot be answered...
In reality Israel's peace treaties with other Arab nations have worked relatively well. Even in Egypt where Islamic extremists are in control, the Egyptian government has not been exactly kind to Hamas:
Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.So the idea that Fatah, a moderate organization and the controlling power in the West Bank, would be less trustworthy than an extremist organization like the Muslim Brotherhood in any possible peace deal is frankly a ridiculous assertion.
The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years...
The move surprised and angered Gaza's rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, which had hoped for much better ties with Cairo following the election last year of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who is ideologically close to Hamas.
Furthermore, Likud's precursor organization, Irgun, before Israel's independence in 1948 attacked busses, trains, marketplaces etc. in total killing hundreds of Arab civilians and British soldiers and officials in these terrorist attacks. Thus, if the Palestinians are so undeserving of their own nation because a faction supports terror, then were the Jews deserving of their own nation in their fight for independence since a faction of Jews supported terror?
The American Soul, the Jewish Soul, and Lessons from the Holocaust
Israeli soldiers attempt to disperse seated protesters reminiscent of the UC Davis pepper spray incident
I didn't write this diary to give a balanced account of the conflict. In fact this diary is decidedly unbalanced. I barely talked about all the terrorist attacks the Palestinians - specifically Hamas and Islamic Jihad - have committed against Israel. (I should point out, however, these terrorist organizations operate for the most part out of Gaza whose borders are not in dispute. It is the moderate organization Fatah that controls the West Bank, which is being colonized by Israel.)
So why did I make an unbalanced diary? Because I am an American and culturally Jewish and my audience are for the most part are Americans. As the saying goes, "he who lives in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." The pro-Israel community in America is very quick to criticize Palestine, but barely make a peep over the crimes of Israel. Before we can condemn Palestinians for their sins we must first clean ourselves of our own sins.
And this doesn't just go for the Jewish community. This goes for America as a whole. America provides Israel with unprecedented support militarily, financially, and diplomatically. We provide billions of dollars of aid to Israel as well as act as a proxy for them on the U.N. Security Council. And what do we get in return? Pretty much nothing, as Scott Pelley of 60 minutes points out in this interview with Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak:
Bob Simon: While the Americans are helping you so much in your defense. Israel goes on building settlements, which is exactly what the Americans don't want. How does that work, when you're asking America for help and doing exactly what the Americans don't want you to do?We can't just sit here and say, "yeah Israel is doing a lot of awful crap, but a lot of oppressive regimes around the world are doing the same thing." Difference is we are directly responsible for what Israel does precisely because of this extremely close and rather lopsided relationship with Israel. Moreover, criticism from Americans (especially from American Jews) holds so much more weight with the Israeli public than any other country in the world. Not only do we as Americans have a unique responsibility to the Palestinian people because of our extremely strong and lopsided support for Israel, but we are in a unique position to effect a lot of change without having to spend a lot of capital. And yet we do nothing because that is easier not only for politicians but for the American public as well.
Ehud Barak: You know, Bob, I prefer not to answer this question right now. You know, we are in the height of the election period. I basically think that the relationship, especially between our intelligence communities and our defense establishment, is extreme-- are extremely close.
It frustrates and saddens me that we have been so negligent in standing up against the brutal tactics of Israel. And nobody has been more negligent than many (not all) members of the liberal community. I have seen liberal bloggers make some pretty silly and bizarre excuses like, "it is too complicated of an issue" or "it causes a heated debates", yet many of these same liberal voices blog about complicated and esoteric economic concepts, which they do not hold a degree in, and/or blog about pretty heated intra-party rivalries.
But I have to give props to Paul Krugman for at least being honest as to why he avoids this topic:
The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.But there is a problem with the first part of his logic: he doesn't only blog about economic issues (his "other battles"), as he was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. And to abdicate his responsibility to speak out about what is being done against the Palestinians by our own people with the direct aid of our country flies in the face of everything we were taught as children about the Holocaust. We must never remain silent when a group is being persecuted, especially when that group is being persecuted by our own people with the direct aid of our own country. As the saying goes, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."