Sunday, February 17, 2008

Settlements are illegal

With all the hubbub about the latest "terrorist" slain in Lebanon, a good piece from Ha'aretz revealed what we have been stating all along, that the settlements are in violation of international law.

"More than one-third of West Bank settlements were built on private Palestinian land that was temporarily seized by military order for "security purposes," according to a report by the Civil Administration that is being published here for the first time.

The settlements in question, which include Ariel, Kiryat Arba and Efrat, have tens of thousands of residents, and many have existed for decades. A security source termed this a "difficult statistic" that is liable to cause trouble for Israel both in Washington and its own courts."

So there we have the damning evidence, and that "more than one-third" which are home to "tens of thousands of residents" were built on Palestinian land, for the purposes of settlements. According to the article, seizure of land not for "military needs" are illegal, and that "at least 19 of the 44 settlements on the Civil Administration's list were established after 1979", when the Begin regime "decided that all new settlements or expansions of existing ones would be built only on state land", violates even Israeli law.

The settlements that fall within this boundary are numerous:

"Ariel, Efrat and Kiryat Arba - three of the largest West Bank settlements - the list includes major "ideological" settlements such as Ofra, Beit El, Psagot, Kedumim, Karnei Shomron, Elon Moreh and Shiloh; Jordan Valley settlements such as Gitit and Mechora; and even "quality of life" settlements such as Kfar Ruth, near Modi'in."

Also interesting is the fact that this information has been suppressed for so long because it might "damage the state's security and foreign relations." It even makes them more culpable towards these illegal actions, coined better by Attorney Michael Sfard saying it

"proves that systematic land theft for the purpose of establishing settlements was carried out via a fictitious and completely illegal use of the term 'military necessity.' The concealment of this information for all these years shows that the authorities also knew they were committing illegal acts."

The impact of settlements is one that should not be minimised by our media. Despite all the articles that congratulates the targeted assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, whom I had not heard of until his death that is quickly spiraling into a spin vs spin-better fluctuation, this policy to redraw the map of the West Bank into Israel's favour is one that should be at the forefront of every conference, every debate and every lecture speech. Not only has it been found of being in violation of Israel's own law of the land, the Geneva Convention is also strict on matters of land seizure.

"Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from establishing settlements occupied by its nationals. And it prohibits population transfer that alters the character of the occupied land. Israel ignored the Convention and established more than 200 Jewish only settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem protected by the Israeli military. The media does not explain that most of Palestinian violence against the Israelis is triggered by the provocative presence of these settlements. Occupying power is not permitted to alter patterns of beneficial use of resources in the occupied land, but Israel has diverted most of the water from aquifers under the West Bank for use in Israel and the Jewish only settlements."

But what is most frustrating is the deafening silence we still get from the West over the settlements question; Harper does not talk about it, Bush only feigns on it every now and again, Rice is totally submissive, and Livni and Olmert prefer to deal with Gaza rather than stop what is going on in the West Bank. No mistakes about it: Gaza is important, but not in the pretext that Livni is speaking of, ie sending in the troops.

What of the settlements? What of the settlers? Right now, even more settlers are raiding the West Bank. Here's another report on the situation on the ground:

"Nine Israeli families who staked out homesteads in a valley deep in the West Bank, promised Friday to bring more settlers to the disputed area the Palestinians want for a future state, despite Israel's promises to the United States to stop settlement expansion...

The wildcat action at Maskiot, in the northern West Bank, was funded in part by a private U.S. group and is just one of recent Israeli actions to anger Palestinians as peace negotiators try to reach a final treaty."

Very gripping stuff when my neighbour south of me funds more and more settlements that destroys any hope for a Palestinian state, or is that hope really truly gone? Makes you wonder why Leviev is still being protested against since he is also prime funder for more settlements also.

What also catches my attention is this nugget of truth:

"Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Friday that the government had issued permits for construction of 307 Jewish homes in the contentious east Jerusalem neighborhood, of Har Homa, drawing fresh fire from one of the Palestinians' top peace negotiators.''

Yes. Olmert's goverment issued the permits for further construction; he's the guy who said that if there is no Palestinian state then they are left with an apartheid battle that will be the end of Israel. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't this make him some kind of sadist, that if he truly believed in what he said then he wants Israel to see its destruction? Or is it just more blanket statements that aim to appease and then just go ahead with the dismemberment of a viable Palestinian state?

What's it going to take for the advisors to notice all of this? Something tells me that it's going to be a very long wait until most Israelis turn into a questioner of Israel's failed policy and that, to quote Idith Zertal

"ominous presence of a most horrific historical event, how it has shaped a whole society, shaped a collective psyche, and served as a warrant for such [abuses]....Traumas are bad advisers...

The present is always creating a problem for us, for Israelis and Jews." (By which she included American Jews, too.) And the present is the time in which we must actually make our lives. The only way to peace for Jews is to "take responsibility for the present and the near future."

Even today we're still swimming in the plethora of Holocaust memories: the blank cheques of all blank cheques that helps cripple Palestinians and any who dare oppose Israel's bulldozing of Palestinian land. Testiments to how life is in the West Bank are available for all to see, and it's not the pretty picture that Israelis would like to tell you that Palestinians are much better off with the occupation than without it. We need no statistics on the injured, the dead and the disparity. We've seen it all before. And yet it still does not pierce the bubble that the world seems to be floating on.

We're still stuck on the same old routine here. Isn't there meant to be a candidate race going on? I don't even see the world Iraq, let alone hear about the Palestinians. In fact, most are more attuned to Obama's politics and background rather than talk about curbing Israel's landgrab in the West Bank.

When will people stand up for justice for the Palestinians? Here we have the evidence, but where's the anger and outrage? We all can't be paralysed by some notion of sympathy for the Israelis, can we? Let's take a stand and demand that Palestinians deserve a decent living. That means better water, freer borders and free from harassment and checkpoints and roadblocks and ID cards and house demolitions and targeted assassinations and olive tree uprooting and better sewage control and rights to aid and food and access to the water and...

Don't let them be silent on the cause. We can't condemn them to this struggle for a lifetime.

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