End of the masquerade – Trump officially pronounces two-state solution dead

For the last three years the Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy has given the address at the ‘counter-AIPAC’ which takes place in Washington before – and in opposition to – the annual conference of the most powerful lobby in the United States, the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee. 

Videos of his 2015 speech went viral with over 400,000 hits on social media. Since then they have invited him back every year to make – as he keeps reminding his audience – essentially the same speech.

It’s a long speech, best heard on the video-link below or read in the full text version, but for those with limited time please at least read the bullet-point version in the seven paragraphs below. 

Gideon Levy in seven paragraphs

1. The military occupation in the occupied territory is today one of the brutal, cruel tyrannies on earth. How dare someone call Israel the only democracy in the Middle East when in its backyard there is one of the most cruel, brutal tyrgideon levyannies in the world. How can you do it? Can you be half pregnant? Can you be half democratic? Can you be a democracy in the front and a tyranny in your backyard?
2. It is not temporary and it will not be temporary if it depends on Israel. There was never an Israeli statesman in an important position and in an influential position, prime minister or so, who really meant to put an end to the occupation – none of them. Some of them wanted to gain time in order to strengthen the occupation. Some others wanted to gain time by getting all kind of interim agreements just for gaining time. Some others wanted to be perceived by the world, to be hugged by the world as people of peace. But none of them had the intention to put an end to the occupation. How do I know it? I don’t know what is in their hearts. I know only one thing. Israel had never stopped building settlements. Anyone who builds one house in the occupied territories has no intention whatsoever to put an end to the occupation, and those bluffs should be called.
3. The hopes for change from within the Israeli society are really, really very minimal. Again, with all due respect to those groups who are fighting; who are not giving up, who are struggling; who are going to demonstrate every Friday in another village against the fence, against the occupation, against all those things – wonderful people including many, many young people – but finally it is a small group and delegitimized. Therefore, people like me, my only hope is from people like you. This is right now the only hope.
4. They are moving now the American Embassy to Jerusalem, big victory for Israel, big victory for the occupation. By the end of the day, what does it mean? It means that United States has declared officially the death of the two-state solution. It means that the United States had declared officially what we knew for many, many years that the United States is not and cannot be a fair mediator. It declared that the United States is officially the friend of the occupation and only of the occupation. It declared officially that the funeral of the two-state solution and the funeral of America as a mediator in the Middle East went to its way already.
5. For the long run I see it as an achievement. End of the masquerade. End of the masquerade and of the lip services. I’m very grateful – you’ll be surprised – to Donald Trump who brought us there.
6. I don’t know how many of you are familiar to the very dramatic fact that today, already today, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean they are exactly 50-50, 6 million Palestinians and 6 million Jews. If you count 2.5 million in the West Bank, two in Gaza and two in Israel, you get over 6 million Palestinians and there are 6 million Jews roughly speaking.
7. So if someone thinks that one people can dominate another people, the basic of Zionism is that there is one people which is privileged over the other. That’s the core. This cannot go on. If it goes on, it has only one name. Here we call it apartheid.

Gideon Levy on video: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/48916.htm

Gideon Levy in full
The hope for change within Israeli society is so limited. It’s nonexistent. When the United States is so still, so crucial, people like you really can make the difference. People like you can really be a game changer, and I mean it. It was never before that Israel and the United States share the same values like in those days. The only place on earth that Donald Trump is beloved, admired, adored, and appreciated is Israel. The only place that Benjamin Netanyahu is admired, adored, beloved is the United States. If this is not shared values, what is shared values?
Some of my ex-best friends are on their way now to the real thing, to the AIPAC conference which will start on this weekend – politicians, journalists, to what I call as the annual drug dealer’s conference. They will discuss how many more drugs will they send to the Israel occupation-addicted state, how much more friendship will they express, and how much more money and weapons will they supply. I can tell you in the United States, as an Israeli, we don’t have a bigger enemy than the Jewish lobby. We don’t have a bigger enemy for justice, for peace, for equality than those who think that if you supply the drug addict with more drugs you are his friend; that if you support him blindly and automatically whatever he does, you are a friend. No, my friends, those are not friends. Those are enemies. I can’t tell how happy and proud I am to be here today and not there tomorrow. Thank you.
The title of my lecture speaks about Zionism, and Zionism is one of the two religions of Israel. As religion, as any religion, you can’t question it. The second religion is obviously the religion of security. So between Zionism and security, anyone in Israel who dares to raise any kind of question mark is immediately perceived as a traitor. It’s impossible to describe to you what does it mean to say that you have some questions about Zionism. Imagine yourself if you question today the other religion, if you claim that the Israeli idea of the Israeli Defense Forces are not the most moral army in the world – let’s say they are the second moral army in the world – how dare you.
We are getting it with the milk of our mothers. Even though my mother was not such a Zionist I think. But it’s very hard to understand from the outside how an ideology became part of the DNA, how an ideology became something which must be taken for granted and there is no room for any question mark. I know it about myself. I know how I grew up. I know what I thought about those very, very, very few who claim that they are not Zionist or, god forbid, anti-Zionists. They were the Satan even though they were Jews and Israelis.
I don’t recall one example on earth in which an ideology is so totalitarian, is so saint, is so holy that you have no right to put any kind of doubts or question marks – nothing. Not about the past, not about the future, not about the present – nothing. It’s unbelievable when you live in a state in which, if you declare that you don’t accept this ideology, you are not part of the place. You are not part of society. You have no place there. Go to Gaza. Go to the Damascus. Don’t stay here.
This leads me to the title. Because when it comes to Zionism – and friends, we have to face reality – when it comes to Zionism, there is no difference in Israel between left and right. When it comes to the occupation which is part and parcel of Zionism, there is no meaningful difference between left and right in Israel. What I mean left and right, I mean this so-called Zionistic left, labor and others, and the right-wingers. The difference is only by rhetoric. So those of you – and I know some of my Israeli friends who bought already some champagne bottles – ready to open them the moment that Benjamin Netanyahu will be impeached or even go to jail and they will celebrate how Israel is coming from darkness to light, how freedom and peace is around the corner because we got rid of the tyrant, the right-winger, the fascist and after this the light is around the corner, it’s usually I have bad news for you. Because by the end of the day, when you judge the real policy – not the rhetoric – yes, labor and left are having much more sympathetic rhetoric between other sins that I committed.
One of my sins was working for Shimon Peres for four years. He didn’t stop talking about putting an end to the occupation. He didn’t stop talking about it’s not democratic and not justice that one people governs another people. Beautiful ideas that Benjamin Netanyahu and those right-wingers would have never say. But by the end of the day, Nobel Prize winner Shimon Peres is the founding father of the settlements project. So what do we get out of this nice rhetoric except showing a nice face of Israel and doing the very, very, very same crimes.
I’m here not to spread optimism as you might know me by now. But when it comes to the basic, Israel is really united. I still remember, Grant, those days in which the joke was that three Israelis shared — sorry, I spoiled it. That two Israelis shares three views. Today three Israelis share hardly one view and it will be not only Zionist, not pro-occupation. As you might know, occupation is off the table in Israel. Nobody talks about it. Nobody discuss it. Nobody’s concerned about the occupation. It is like one of those things – like the rain, like the sun – force majeure. Some like it. Some like it less. But nobody thinks that anything can be done about it. It doesn’t bother us so much, that’s the truth. It’s only half an hour away from our homes, but who hears about it and who cares about it?
The crimes are on a daily basis, but really daily basis. The media hardly covers them. If they cover them, it will be always according to the Zionistic narrative. A terrorist of 12, a girl of 14 with scissors in her hands as an existential threat to the state of Israel. A girl who is slapping a soldier is someone who deserves life sentence, not less than this. A girl that one hour before, her cousin was shot in his head 50 meters away from her home. So now the Israeli army claims that this was fabricated. I mean even the Israeli propaganda lost its shame. When Israel dares – dares – to claim that this child, Mohammed Tamimi whom I met few days he was injured, he lost half of his brain, that he fabricated his injury, then you see that Israel is really desperate. If Israel needs this kind of level of propaganda, if Israel is getting so low in denying shooting in the head of a child of 15 and claiming that he fall from the bicycles, then you know that things are getting worse. Maybe it’s a hope for a new beginning, but right now look how low does it get there.
All those are passing Israel society as if nothing is happening. No question marks, very little moral doubts if at all, a cover up, living in denial like never before. I cannot think about one society which lives in such denial like the Israeli society. Again, it includes left and right, except of the very devoted extreme left activists. Let’s remember them. But they are really small in figures and totally, totally delegitimized. So when I speak about left, I mean labor; Yeshuati, the new promise of Israeli politics; maybe the next prime minister, Yair Lapid, and all the rest. In many ways they’re worse than the right-wingers because they feel so good about themselves, because they are so sure that they are so human and universal and moral. While the right-wingers at least don’t cover up, they say, yes, we are fascists. So what’s wrong about it? We are Jews and we have the right to be fascists. Because we are the chosen people, we have the right and nobody’s going to tell us what to do.
When it comes to the central left as it’s called – I can hardly pronounce it, centre left – what do those people have to do is left. But when it comes to the centre left, it a rare combination, you feel so good about yourself. You are not one of those fascists. You are not one of those nationalist racists, you are a liberal. But the occupation must go on, and the child – Ahed Tamimi – must stay in jail forever, and the crimes must continue because we have no other choice, which brings me to the set of values which I see as the core of Israeli society nowadays, three or four sets of values which explain everything in my view.
The first very deep-rooted value, let’s face it, is the value that we are the chosen people. Secularists and religious will claim so. Even if they don’t admit it, they feel so. The implementation is very simple. If we are the chosen people, who are you to tell us what to do? Who are you? Who is the international community to tell Israel what to do? International law, wonderful thing, it doesn’t apply on us. It applies on any other place on earth, but not on Israel because we are the chosen people. Don’t you understand it?
Asylum seekers, 88 percent of Eritreians are recognized as refugees in Europe. You know how many of them in Israel? Less than 1 percent – less than 1 percent – why so? Because we are a special case, you don’t expect us to absorb 40,000 asylum seekers. How can you expect us? We can’t. We can’t. We are the chosen people and we don’t need to prove it.
The second very deep-rooted value is obviously the value of “we the victims,” not only the biggest victims, but the only victims around. I know many occupations which were longer than Israeli occupation somewhere, even more brutal even though it’s getting harder and harder to be more brutal than the Israeli occupation. I don’t recall one occupation in which they occupier and presents himself as the victim, not only the victim, the only victim. If to phrase here, if to quote here the late Golda Meir whom I quoted also last time I know, but it is so unforgettable I have to use it again. She once said that we will never forgive the Arabs for forcing us to kill their children. We are the victims. We are forced to kill their children – poor us. As the victim and the only victim in history, again, it enabled us the rights to do whatever we want and nobody is going to tell us what to do because we are the only victims.
To this there’s a third very deep-rooted value, and this is the very deep belief. Again, everyone will deny it. But if you scratch under the skin of almost every Israeli, you’ll find it there. The Palestinians are not equal human beings like us. They are not like us. They don’t love their children like us. They don’t love life like us. They were born to kill. They are cruel. They are sadists. They have no values. No manners. Look how they kill us.
This is very, very deep-rooted in Israel society, and maybe that’s the key issue because as long as this continues, nothing will move. As long as most of Israelis don’t perceive the Palestinians as equal human beings — we are so much better than them, we are so much developed than them, and we are so much human than them. As long as this is the case, all our dreams – and we have some dreams and I’ll get to them – all our dreams will never become true as long as this core issue will not change. So you have a society with a deep conviction in its justice, in its right way with very, very few question marks. Anyone who dares to raise a question mark in a systematic way is immediately erased, demolished. It’s unbelievable how this machinery works in Israel.
We are talking here about how efficient is the Jewish lobby here. Look at the Jewish lobby, so-called in Israel Breaking the Silence. For years we were dreaming about the day that soldiers will stand up and say the truth, not Gideon Levy, the liar, the traitor who tells us all kind of stories about the Israeli crimes. No. Soldiers who have committed those crimes will just come and testify about what they have been doing, and here it came.
Over 1,000 testimonies of soldiers who in a very brave way gave their testimonies about what they have been doing in occupied territories throughout the years. This should have been earth-quaking in any healthy society. It’s our sons. But what happened? Nothing – Breaking the Silence was immediately delegitimized by the establishment with typical collaboration with the Israeli media. I’m afraid to say that Breaking the Silence is crushed today. This is just one example.
Israel’s society, especially in the last years, has a very clear intention to crush any kind of criticism from within and from outside. This is going through legislation, through campaigns, through the media. It’s just in its beginning. In this way, I must say there might be a slight difference between so-called left and right in Israel because the Israeli’s left has some kind of commitment at least for the democracy for the Jews because, as you might know, Israel is maybe the only place on earth with three regimes.
We are having three regimes. One is the so-called liberal democracy for Jewish citizens, which have many cracks now but it is still functioning. I have total freedom in Israel, this must be mentioned here. I write whatever I want. I appear on TV. I can’t claim that someone is shutting my mouth except those people in the street who wouldn’t like to see me or spitting at me or was threatening me. But by the end of the day this freedom which I don’t take for granted and might not last for long, this freedom is there. So that’s the first regime in the front.
Then comes the second regime, a very discriminative regime towards the Israeli Palestinians. The Palestinians of ‘48; the Israeli citizens who are Palestinians, 20 percent of the population, they are discriminated in any possible aspect of life but they gain formal equal civil rights. They vote. They elect. They could be voted. They can be elected. That’s the second regime.
Obviously the third regime which Israel is hiding is the military occupation, is the military regime in the occupied territories. Here I allow myself to say with no doubt that this is today one of the most brutal, cruel tyrannies on earth. Not less than this. I repeat it – the military occupation in the occupied territory is today one of the brutal, cruel tyrannies on earth. How dare can someone call Israel the only democracy in the Middle East when in its backyard there is one of the most cruel, brutal tyrannies in the world. How can you do it? Can you be half pregnant? Can you be half democratic? Can you be a democracy in the front and a tyranny in your backyard?

Here comes the next lie that we should fight. The claim that it is all temporary, no, my friends, it was never meant to be temporary. It is not temporary and it will not be temporary if it depends on Israel. There was never an Israeli statesman in an important position and in an influential position, prime minister or so, who really meant to put an end to the occupation – none of them. Some of them wanted to gain time in order to strengthen the occupation. Some others wanted to gain time by getting all kind of interim agreements just for gaining time. Some others wanted to be perceived by the world, to be hugged by the world as people of peace. But none of them had the intention to put an end to the occupation. How do I know it? I don’t know what is in their hearts. I know only one thing. Israel had never stopped building settlements. Anyone who builds one house in the occupied territories have no intention whatsoever to put an end to the occupation, and those bluffs should be called.

So to expect a change from within this society, when restaurants are packed, when life is beautiful, when there is hardly terror in Israel, I mean what they call terror with those exploding buses and all those things. The only violent attacks are mainly now in the occupied territories. Not in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is living a very, very peaceful secure life. So, to expect this society to stand up and to say no more out of [indiscernible], what incentive, so as long as this balance is that Israel is either gaining out of the occupation or not paying anything for it, as long as any kind of any Israeli doesn’t feel that the occupation is something you should think about, why should he be bothered? He doesn’t pay. He’s not punished. And even if he’s paying, he does not make the linkage. Because even if there were those years of the second intifada which were really, really bloody with exploding buses and suicide bombers, nobody made the linkage to the occupation. If you dare to make the linkage, you will be immediately accused as a traitor because how dare you, because you justify terror. So they explode buses because they were born to kill. It has nothing to do with the occupation. So there was no progress or change even after the violence.

Here I come to you all. I’m very, very skeptical about change from within the Israeli society because life in Israel is far too good and brainwash system is far too efficient. To have a dialogue today with most of Israelis is even, for me, almost an impossible job. Really, it’s in many times I find myself together with Kathryn where we meet ordinary Israelis, good people, they would volunteer anywhere. But when you start to talk with them about the occupation, after two minutes you want just tear your hairs. I mean you don’t know what to do. You don’t know where to start. Brainwash is so deep and the denial is so deep. The ignorance, the ignorance, they know nothing. Anyone in this hall knows so much more about the occupation than any average Israeli, including those who serve there in the army. They know nothing. What they know is wrong.
So if life is so good, there’s really no reason to go for change. Therefore, the hopes for change from within the Israeli society are really, really very minimal. Again, with all due respect to those groups who are fighting; who are not giving up, who are struggling; who are going to demonstrate every Friday in another village against the fence, against the occupation, against all those things – wonderful people including many, many young people – but finally it is a small group and delegitimized. Therefore, people like me, my only hope is from people like you. This is right now the only hope.
We are hearing here today all day, including from Grant’s very, very knowledgeable lecture, figures that are depressing even to me. The Jewish lobby is so strong, yet. But by the end of the day, let’s see it in a more realistic way. They are moving now the American Embassy to Jerusalem, big victory for Israel, big victory for the occupation. By the end of the day, what does it mean? It means that United States has declared officially the death of the two-state solution. It means that the United States had declared officially what we knew for many, many years that the United States is not and cannot be a fair mediator. It declared that the United States is officially the friend of the occupation and only of the occupation. It declared officially that the funeral of the two-state solution and the funeral of America as a mediator in the Middle East went to its way already.
For the long run I see it as an achievement. End of the masquerade. End of the masquerade and of the lip services. I’m very grateful – you’ll be surprised – to Donald Trump who brought us there. Now I just feel sorry for one person, but you know this is not so much. I really feel so much sympathy, empathy and sorrow for Ambassador David Friedman. He will have to move from Herzliya by the sea, from this lovely villa, to Jerusalem. Believe me, he deserves it.
The ambassador of the settlements was the costume of the American ambassador. He’s even not the ambassador of Israeli. He’s ambassador of the settlements project. Not of all settlements, just the extreme ones, if there is a difference, will have to move to Jerusalem. What is a bigger gift for all of us than to see him among the orthodox, among the tensions, among the board of police every corner with all the violence and the tension and the occupation in every step you step in Jerusalem. What will be more of a gift for us than to see him there rather than to see him in front of the sea of Herzliya. So we shouldn’t give up.
If I may, with all my modesty, my ideas for what you should do, whom I am to tell you? I hardly know what to tell myself what to do. But still I saw it in three main issues right now. One must be to fight this unbelievable process of criminalization, of criticizing Israel. This must stop and we shouldn’t give up. We heard today that it’s not only about BDS anymore. Now it’s about any critic about Israel. The fact that someone who raises his voice for justice is criminalized is first of all a domestic problem. What kind of society is this? What kind of society is this that criminalized those who support justices and praises those who supports the violations of international law, the crimes?
So this should be one of our goals, not to give up. When they call you anti-Semites, here it’s easier, in Europe they get paralyzed. If you call someone anti-Semite in Europe, he’s paralyzed. And they take advantage of it in a very manipulative way. Don’t let them. You should be proud in raising your voice. BDS right now is the only game in town. BDS is a legitimate tool. Israel is using it by calling the world to boycott Hamas, to boycott Iran. You have the full right not to buy products from sweatshops in South Asia. You have the full right not to buy products from a shop which sells meat. You have the full right not to buy products from a country or from an area that you feel that something is wrong there. What does it mean that you should apologize for boycotting something that deserves boycott?
BDS, one can claim that it had not yet reported about real success, economical successes may be. But we have one proof why BDS is the right thing to do. Look how Israel gets nervous about BDS. If they get so nervous about it, you can know that’s the right way. Grant, if you’ll invite me next year again or in two years, I’m not sure I will be able to say those sentences because those sentences very soon will become a violation of the Israeli law. You are not allowed to call people to boycott Israel, but let’s challenge them.
The second challenge that I see for you is to try to tear, especially in this country, the lie that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. We need it desperately. It’s all about the truth. It’s all about telling the people the truth. As I say it before, a state which possesses one of the most brutal tyrannies on earth cannot be called a democracy – period.
The last lie that you have to fight, or I allow myself to suggest to you to fight, is the lie that all these is temporary. After 50 years of occupation – why would we say after 50 years – after the 100 year of occupation or after 70 years of occupation? Because 48 never stopped, let’s remember it. It’s the same policy. Those are the same methods, same lies, same brainwash, same explanations and excuses. As long as this continues, nobody can claim that this is temporary. The occupation is there to stay and we should call the bluff and say this colonialistic project has no intention to come to its end. Even though here and there are some statements of politicians who claim so. No, you never had an intention to put an end to it and you don’t have it.
As it say zero, zero, zero in my timer, is it an appreciation for my talk, Grant, three zeroes? In any case, my last sentence would be what should be the solution. It was mentioned here; therefore, I’m not getting into elaborating on it. But I just feel committed to say so. For many years I was a great supporter of the two-state solution. I saw that the two-state solution is a reasonable and achievable solution. Total justice will never be achieved in this part of the world, but I saw that this will be a relatively fair and just solution even though a lot of injustice is about.
Above all, we are dealing about 22 percent to the Palestinians and 78 percent to the Jews. While we are facing today, I don’t know how many of you are familiar to the very dramatic fact that today, already today, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean they are exactly 50-50, 6 million Palestinians and 6 million Jews. If you count 2.5 million in the West Bank, two in Gaza and two in Israel, you get over 6 million Palestinians and there are 6 million Jews roughly speaking. Maybe I’m wrong in some figures, but it is roughly half and half. Two peoples equal right now.
So if someone thinks that one people can dominate another people, and let’s get back to Zionism and to the title of this talk, the basic of Zionism is that there is one people which is privileged over the other. That’s the core. This cannot go on. If it goes on, it has only one name. Here we call it apartheid.
So I totally join your analysis today, which I learned a lot of, and others. Even if it sounds now like a utopia, even if it sounds now like something unthinkable, it’s time for us to change the discourse. It’s time for us to talk about equal rights; about one person, one vote. And let’s challenge Israel. Israel will say no. Then we can officially declare Israel as an apartheid state because there is no other way. If you deny equal rights, you are not a democracy officially. It’s not a question of point of view, of opinion. It’s a matter of fact. Israel obviously will say no. But we shouldn’t give up because by the end of the day I truly believe that Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinian Jews, can live together. We tried it in the past. It is being tried today in all kind of small frameworks. We can really live together, believe me.
I’d rather have a Palestinian prime minister than Yair Lapid or Benjamin Netanyahu. So by the end of the day we should be clear about the hope, about the vision. We should understand that the road is still very, very long to go. We’re just in the beginning. But unlikely, at least for me, unlikely in the last years in which I continue to say almost out of my sleep two-state, two-state solution, two-state solution knowing that it will never happen, knowing that no one is going to evacuate 700,000 settlers, knowing that nobody meant to do it and knowing that it will not solve the basic problem. So we have a vision, we have meanwhile some goals. There’s so much work to do for you and for us, so let’s not waste more time on talking. Thank you very much.
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Why these Palestinians are desperate to be declared ‘clean’ by Israel

A day spent with Palestinians, as they waited for hours in the wind and rain in the hope that the Shin Bet security service would clear them for the privilege of applying for Israeli work permits

Amira Hass | Mar. 3, 2018 | 7:44 AM

On February 13, a rainy, foggy Tuesday, it was the turn of the Hebron-area village of Beit Awwa to take part in the clean-up operation declared by the Israeli authorities. Starting at 6 A.M., hundreds of men aged 20 to 65 gathered at the Tarqumiya checkpoint behind the bars of the security-check facility for people entering Israel.

Once an hour, up until 10 A.M., a Palestinian employee of the Israel Defense Forces Civil Administration, a striped scarf around his neck, collected dozens of ID cards, placed them in a small plastic basket, and brought them into the offices on the other side of the exit lane, with its forest of iron rods and turnstiles. Four armed soldiers were posted at the edge of the facility to prevent the hundreds of men from entering.

Officially, it was an operation to reconsider the status of those previously denied entry into Israel for security reasons; the term “clean-up operation” derives from the argot of the checkpoints and Israeli policy of restricting movement.

“You’re clean,” soldiers of the Civil Administration or Shin Bet security service personnel tell people if the computer screen doesn’t produce reasons for denying them an exit permit. “Clean” has lost its moral meaning and become a purely technical term. Someone who’s been declared “clean” is then entitled to embark on the arduous bureaucratic path of submitting a request for a permit to work in Israel or for a merchant’s exit permit.

In the past few months, Palestinians who had been denied permission to enter Israel or to go abroad have been invited to report to the District Coordination and Liaison Office (or DCL, a branch of the Civil Administration) and submit their IDs for rechecking. The invitation is delivered in two ways. During nighttime raids on villages, soldiers paste on walls or otherwise disseminate Arabic-language notices of the date and place of the operation. Similar announcements are also published on the Facebook page, in Arabic, of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

Residents were apprised of the Beit Awwa operation on the night of February 7. Those who did not hear the soldiers as they entered (one person said he had been awakened by the sound of the stun grenades that the soldiers fired on entering the village) or didn’t see the notices that were pasted on windows or left in the mosque, saw the copy that was publicized within minutes on the social networks. The announcement states, in part: “Operations to lift security denial will continue in the region in accordance with the degree of noninvolvement of the district’s inhabitants in terrorist actions and in incidents of stone- and Molotov [cocktail]-throwing.”

In Tarqumiya, on that same rainy and cold February day, the Palestinian employee of the Civil Administration returned the green ID cards to their owners in batches, between 12:30 and 5 P.M. The first bunch of documents returned in each batch had all been declared “clean.” The eyes of the recipients grew moist. The others congratulated them and awaited their turn. The checkpoint jargon evolved in real-time: “Now he’s handing out the dirty IDs,” people joked in order to hide their disappointment and affront, or they said, “We need to wash.”

There was also much confusion. By the time some of the IDs reached their owners, it was no longer clear whether they were “clean” or “dirty.” In a similar operation conducted at the DCL office in Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem, the “clean” documents were returned together with a note to that effect, according to a resident of a different Hebron-area village who had been summoned there. Here in Tarqumiya there were no such notes.

“The operation is a Shin Bet initiative,” a source in the Civil Administration told Haaretz. “We’re just supplying logistical assistance.” From clips on the COGAT Facebook page, it can be inferred that the initial check of the documents, via the computer screen, is done by DCL soldiers. Another inference that can be made is that residents from several dozen Palestinian villages have already been invited to take part in the operation.

 

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-why-these-palestinians-are-desperate-to-be-declared-clean-by-israel-1.5866826

Sarah Champion calls for new inquiry into treatment of Palestinian children

Only one of 40 recommendations from UK lawyers carried out and only one of 88 recommendations from UNICEF, says Rotherham MP

Read full debate in Hansard

I strongly welcome the fact that the Government addressed the issue of Palestinian child detainees during the third universal periodical review of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council two weeks ago. They recommended that Israel take “action to protect child detainees, ensuring the mandatory use of audio-visual recording in interrogations with all child detainees, ending the use of painful restraints, and consistently fully informing detainees of their legal rights.”

That important statement signals a positive intent to engage constructively with this issue.

I called this debate in the same spirit: I want to support and encourage Israel to meet its international obligations regarding the rights of children. It meets them fully for Israeli citizens but, alas, does not do so for Palestinian children. To be clear, I am not making a judgment about the crimes Palestinian children are alleged to have committed or about Israel’s right to uphold the law. This debate is specifically focused on Palestinian children in military detention.

Two years ago, I secured a similar debate. I would love to tell the House that many of the issues discussed then have now been addressed, but sadly the situation remains largely the same. In March 2013, UNICEF published a report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations”, which concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”

Last year, the authoritative west bank non-governmental organisation Military Court Watch found that, four years after the publication of the UNICEF report, only ​one of its 88 recommendations—No. 21, on access by lawyers to medical records—had been substantially implemented.

A year before the UNICEF report, a group of senior UK lawyers published an independent study entitled “Children in Military Custody”. Published in 2012 and funded by the Government, it found that Israel was in breach of at least eight of its international legal obligations under the UN convention on the rights of the child and the fourth Geneva convention, due to its treatment of Palestinian children held in military detention.

The UK report set out 40 recommendations on arrest, interrogation, bail hearings, plea bargaining, trials, sentencing, detention, complaints and monitoring. Military Court Watch stated last year that only one of the UK report’s recommendations—No. 33, on the separation of children from adults in detention—had been substantially implemented. The empirical evidence is clear: half a decade after the publication of the UNICEF and UK lawyers’ reports, which contained dozens of recommendations to ​bring Israel’s military system of detention of Palestinian children in line with basic international legal standards, there has been limited implementation by the authorities.

Although I praise the Israeli Government for allowing the studies to go ahead, it is disappointing that that leading international democracy has largely not acted on the recommendations, which were made in good faith. I now turn to the specific areas I would like the Minister to focus on.

The prevalent practice of night-time raids by Israeli military personnel causes a huge amount of distress to children and their families. Inevitably, night raids on civilian population areas by any military tend to terrify those communities. After 50 years of use, they can become hugely debilitating. Although conducting night arrest operations reduces the potential for clashes with local residents, the practice cannot be said to be in the best interests of the child—a primary consideration under the UN convention on the rights of the child.

The UK report recommended: “Arrests of children should not be carried out at night save for in extreme and unusual circumstances. A pilot study of issuing summonses as an alternative means of arrest should be carried out.”

UNICEF made similar recommendations. Following those recommendations, it was most welcome that Israel announced the introduction of a pilot scheme in February 2014, whereby summonses would be issued requiring attendance at police stations for questioning, in lieu of arresting a child at night. That was to be similar to the practice for Israeli children. Military Court Watch reports, however, that the use of summonses in lieu of night arrest has been very low. It found that 6% of the children affected in 2017 reported being served with a summons as an alternative to a night arrest; in 2016 the figure was just 2%.

Even in cases in which summonses are used, Military Court Watch identified a number of issues: in most cases, the summonses were delivered by the military after midnight; relevant parts of the summonses were ​frequently handwritten in Hebrew without Arabic translation; relevant information, such as the nature of the accusation, was missing; and no reference to the child’s legal rights was included in any of the summonses. Military Court Watch further reports that, in the 80 cases it documented in 2017, 65% of children still reported being arrested at night, in what are frequently described as terrifying raids undertaken by the military.

There is some good news, but overall, since the summons scheme has been in operation, it has been apparent that, first, it is infrequently utilised and, secondly, arrests in terrifying night raids continue to be the norm. Furthermore, the indications—yet to be confirmed—are that the pilot scheme may now have been discontinued altogether. Will the Minister therefore please request from his Israeli counterparts confirmation as to whether the pilot scheme is still operational? Will he also request data on the use of summonses since the pilot scheme was announced in 2014, and will he urge that children should not be arrested at night except in extreme and unusual circumstances?

Next I would like to speak about the right to silence. As we all know, the right to silence is an ancient and fundamental legal right, granting protection against self-incrimination. Significantly, that right is also enshrined in Israeli military law. When implemented properly, it provides vulnerable children with some protection against undue pressure during interrogations, which may lead to false confessions. Military Court Watch notes that 84% of children continue to report not being informed of their right to silence. It further notes that in the 16% of cases in which “children were informed of this right, the manner and circumstances in which the information was conveyed raises serious questions as to whether the notification is sufficient.”

Another fundamental legal right is timely access to legal representation. International legal standards provide that interrogations should take place in the presence of a lawyer to protect against self-incrimination and to provide safeguards against potential ill-treatment or coercion. Israel’s highest court has confirmed the fundamental nature of the right to consult with a lawyer during the interrogation stage of an investigation.

In the 2015 update to its report, UNICEF noted that Israel’s military prosecutor highlighted that Israeli military order 1651, issued in 2009, provides a detainee with the right to meet and consult with a lawyer. Although military law is silent on when such a consultation should take place, it is accepted that it must occur before questioning, subject to limited security exceptions. As in many situations, however, there is a large gap between the law and what happens in practice.

Military Court Watch reports that, in the 80 testimonies it collected in 2017, 81% of the children reported not having access to a lawyer before interrogation. As a result, most children still consult a lawyer for the first time in a military court, after the critical interrogation phase is over. Given that context, the UK legal charity Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights has implemented a Know Your Rights campaign in partnership with Defence for Children International-Palestine to empower and educate Palestinian children in the occupied west bank to secure their basic rights if detained in Israel’s military detention system.

The campaign started in 2014 and is ongoing, due to the Israeli authorities’ continuing non-implementation of basic human rights and due process safeguards. I therefore ask the Minister to engage with the Israeli authorities to ensure, as a bare minimum, that: first, all children are, at the time of arrest, informed in their own language of their right to silence, and relevant documents are provided to them in that language; secondly, all children are able to consult a lawyer of their choice before their interrogation and, preferably, also during interrogation; and, thirdly, in order to ensure compliance, a breach of those principles results in the discontinuance of the prosecution and the child’s immediate release. I further ask the Minister to urge the Israeli authorities, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) suggested, to allow a parent or guardian to accompany the child during questioning—a right afforded to Israeli children when questioned by the Israeli police.

Audio-visual recording of interrogations is a practical safeguard. The UNICEF and UK reports recommended audio-visual recordings of all interrogations of children. Such recordings provide an essential further safeguard against potential ill-treatment or coercion; they also provide protection to interrogators against false allegations of wrongdoing. One would assume that that would be a win, win outcome. Perhaps in response to the recommendations, the military authorities issued military order 1745 in September 2014, requiring the audio-visual recording of all interrogations of minors in the west bank. However, the order limited that protection to non-security offences, thereby rendering it largely redundant, as most offences involving Palestinian children, including stone throwing and protesting, are classified as security offences. I ask the Minister to urge the Israeli authorities to remove the security offence exception from the military order providing for audio-visual recording ​of detainees and to ensure that all interrogations of children are audio-visually recorded and the tapes made available to the child’s lawyer before the first hearing.

I will now say something about the prevalence of confessional evidence in the military court system, and the process by which those confessions are obtained. It is extraordinary and disconcerting that Israel’s military court system has a conviction rate of 95%, according to its own figures. Confessional evidence is central to securing convictions in that system, whether direct confessions or confessions by others. Effective scrutiny of those confessions is virtually impossible, due to the lack of basic legal safeguards to which I have already referred. There is compelling evidence that the lack of legal protections for Palestinian children is destructive of their safety and welfare. An expert psychiatric opinion from Dr Carmon, commissioned by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, considered the emotional and developmental factors that lead children to make false confessions during interrogations. The implications of such confessions should be understood by all of us. Dr Carmon says:

“The violent arrest process and psychological interrogation methods mentioned…lead to the breaking of the ability of the child or adolescent to withstand the interrogation and flagrantly violate his or her rights. These interrogation methods, when applied to children and adolescents, are equivalent to torture.”

“These methods deeply undermine the dignity and personality of the child or adolescent, and inflict pain and severe mental suffering. Uncertainty and helplessness are situations that can too easily lead a child or adolescent to provide the requested confession out of impulsiveness, fear or submission. It is a decision that is far from free and rational choice…These detention and interrogation methods ultimately create a system that breaks down, exhausts and permeates the personality of the child or adolescent and robs him or her of hope. These methods are particularly harmful to children and adolescents who live in poor, isolated populations, in a state of conflict, political tension, and/or severe social stress, such as the occupied Palestinian population. The harmful effects on children can also harm the society to which they belong.

Every child has the right to be a child, to his or her dignity, and to protection from all forms of violence.”

The arrest process and interrogation methods referred to by Dr Carmon were described in great detail in the UK and the UNICEF reports. It is deeply disturbing that two years after the release of the UNICEF report that concluded that ill treatment appears to be “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”, the UN agency issued an update that found “reports of alleged ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014.”

The reality is that we are not in a position to demand. The purpose of this debate is to reach out a hand of friendship and to offer the skills and expertise that we have in this country on this topic, to work in partnership with Israel.

Although UNICEF is yet to release any further updates, reports issued by the US State Department, Military Court Watch and others indicate that the situation today remains substantially unchanged. It is worth recalling that the UK report noted that if the process of arrest and interrogation is occurring to a significant extent as described, Israel would be in breach of the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

As a bare minimum of protection, I urge the Minister to make representations to ensure that no child is subjected to physical or psychological violence, no child is blindfolded or painfully restrained, and no child is subject to coercive forces and threats. Any statement made as a result of torture or ill treatment must be excluded from evidence in proceedings. I ask the Minister to make inquiries to UNICEF about when the agency will release its next update, and to commend it on the important work it has done.

Two years ago, in a debate on the same subject, I referred to Israel’s policy of transferring Palestinian detainees—adults and children—from the west bank to prisons located in Israel, in violation of article 76 of the fourth Geneva convention. International law classes this activity as a war crime. In UK domestic law, the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001 class this activity as a war crime. The latest data released by the Israeli prison ​service indicates that in 2017, 83% of adult detainees and 61% of child detainees were transferred and detained unlawfully. This practice affects approximately 7,000 individuals each year and it has continued for 50 years. Strikingly, however, Israeli military authorities informed UNICEF in late 2014 that they have no intention of changing this policy.

That rejection undermines the credibility of the international legal order, and therefore harms the security of us all. I have been to Ofer military court and spoken to parents. Because of the restrictions on movement and the requirement of permits to visit their children in Israel, some parents never get to see their children in prison. The unlawful transfer and detention of children in Israel is not just a legal issue but one of basic humanity. Has the Minister or anyone in his Department had any conversations that would shed light on Israel’s decision to explicitly reject the specific UNICEF recommendation? What further steps does he intend to take to encourage Israel to meet its international legal obligations on the transfer of prisoners out of occupied territory? Can the Minister ascertain how many UK citizens are currently involved, directly or indirectly, with the unlawful transfer and detention of Palestinian prisoners outside the occupied territory? What measures will he take in respect of those individuals in accordance with the law?

By now I am sure everyone is aware of the case of Ahed Tamimi, a now 17-year-old girl from the west bank village of Nabi Saleh. In December, she was arrested in the middle of the night after being filmed confronting and slapping Israeli soldiers in her village following the shooting of her 14-year-old cousin. Like all Palestinian female prisoners, Ahed has been transferred to a prison in Israel. The case is polarising: on the one hand, there are those calling for her immediate release; on the other, Israel’s minister for education calls for the military courts to impose a life sentence.

It is important that we all recall that Ahed is just one of more than 800 children arrested each year, according to the most recent data released by the military authorities. Most of these children are arrested in the middle of the night, frequently brutalised and systematically denied their legal rights. We need these children and their parents to have faith and confidence in a political solution and in due regard for the law. History has taught us that if politics and the law fail to meet the needs of the people, people turn to other solutions. The treatment of Palestinian children during arrest and detention is an issue that has been allowed to fester for too long and needs resolving. It concerns us all, because when Israel—our friend and a democratic state—breaks international law and obligations, it makes it that much harder to enforce them in respect of other countries around the world. Israel’s decisions have a global impact.

Two years have elapsed since the Minister’s predecessor explained to me and other MPs in this Chamber that the Government would fund the UK lawyers’ return to Israel to review progress on the implementation of their report recommendations. Allowing the UK lawyers to enter into constructive technical dialogue with their Israeli counterparts, where they can share the UK’s good practice, should expedite the implementation of the practical reforms that are urgently required to protect Palestinian children.

 

Targeted action is not a boycott

As its name implies, the BDS movement advocates three policies: boycott, divestment and sanctions. The boycott campaign is aimed mainly at civil society, the divestment campaign at investors, pension funds and banks and the sanctions campaign at persuading governments to sanction other governments.  The boycott campaign can be directed against Israeli settlements in the West Bank (the TUC has supported this policy since 2009 and the Co-op since 2013) or against companies that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine or against all Israeli products.

Corbyn

The Labour Party confirmed on December 13th that Jeremy Corbyn supports  targeted action against illegal Israeli settlements.  This would not be a boycott and nor would it be a temporary sanction to be lifted when certain conditions are met.  It would be a statement of law – that we will permanently target trade with settlements that are illegal. The UK Government already in its business guidance to UK firms says it does not encourage trade with Israeli settlements and it has withdrawn the support of its embassies and consulates from UK businesses intending to trade with settlements.

Hopefully, Jeremy Corbyn will support a complete ban on trade with settlements, but it is worth remembering that what he proposes is different only in degree and not in kind from what the Government already does. The Government does not use the word ‘sanctions’ in this context, though it has used the word ‘disincentives’ which means much the same.

There are already many precedents for the imposition of sanctions on countries that conquer territory by military force.  It took only 17 days for the UK to impose sanctions in the case of Crimea – from the date when unmarked Russian troops were first seen in Crimea till the European Council meeting when sanctions were imposed.  It is now just over 50 years since the Israel conquered the West Bank by military force and started building illegal settlements.

 

 

Why Jerusalem is so important to the Palestinians

Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine under the British Mandate which ended in 1948.  The United Nations put forward a partition plan in 1947 dividing Palestine into two states but leaving Jerusalem and Bethlehem under international control.  At the end of the Israelis war of independence, the Israelis controlled West Jerusalem, but not the Old City in East Jerusalem and the areas to the north and south of it.

Israel army tanks invaded East Jerusalem in June 1967 and the Israeli parliament passed a law in 1980 annexing East Jerusalem (and surrounding areas) as part of the Israeli state. This has never been accepted by the UN or by any country other than Israel itself.

Ever since Israel was founded in 1948, West Jerusalem has been recognised by the international community as part of Israel, but not as its capital.  That has been Tel Aviv. This is not because they are necessarily against the idea of an Israeli capital situated in Jerusalem, but because it has to be part of a negotiated peace settlement.

Every US President in the last 50 years has refused to recognise Jerusalem or move the US embassy – even though Congress passed a law to that effect in 1995.

In all negotiations (including Brexit) it is a fundamental principle that nothing can be finally agreed until everything has been agreed. The status of Jerusalem can only be settled as a part of a comprehensive peace agreement.

No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem. At one time 16 countries did so (without recognising it as the capital), but one by one they all moved their embassies back to Tel Aviv.

The founding principle of the UN in 1945 was to stop the acquisition of territory by force. If Trump is recognising the whole of Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory (and that is not entirely clear yet) it means he is accepting the right of countries to take land by force. Certainly, by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, Trump is breaking ranks with the rest of the world and undermining the diplomatic solidarity of the international community in upholding the principles of international law.JerusalemEastAndWest

There is a real danger that the recognition of Jerusalem will be taken by Netanyahu as a signal that he can gradually annex most of the Palestinian territories.

UK policy is that Jerusalem should be a shared city.  The policy of the Palestinian Authority is that East Jerusalem should be their capital, although President Abbas has said they would be willing to discuss a shared city. Many on the Israeli left believe that Israel should let go of occupied East Jerusalem.  “There will be no peace without the division of Jerusalem,” said the leader of Meretz Zehava Gal-On.

However, there are 350,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem, 38% of the whole population and a substantial majority within the boundaries of East Jerusalem.

The strategy of the current Israeli government is to create settlements in East Jerusalem and gradually drive the Palestinians out. The Israelis known that Palestine is not a viable state without East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians would almost certainly recognise West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital just as soon as Israel recognised East Jerusalem as their capital.

 

Why Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as ‘capital’ of Israel

There appear to have been two main reasons why President Trump made his statement about Jerusalem on December 6th – both of them related to internal US politics.  The first was to win the support of Evangelical Christians in the election of a new senator for Alabama on December 12th.  The second was to raise the profile of the Middle East tour by Vice-President Pence planned for December 15th.

Both ended in disaster. The Alabama election was lost and the Vice-President’s tour has had to be curtailed since the Palestinians refused to speak to him, the Mayor of Bethlehem made it clear he would not be welcome and the leader of the Egyptian Christians cancelled his meeting with him. He will not now visit a single church or meet a single Christian on a visit which was billed as being to “bring an end to the persecutions of Christians in the Middle East”.

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on the day of Trump’s announcement that he would not meet Pence as the Americans were no longer qualified to act as “honest broker” in the Middle East peace process.

Pence could hardly complain about this, since he himself had criticised Obama for wanting to act as “honest broker” in the Middle East in 2012. “We certainly want to be honest, but we don’t want to be a broker. A broker doesn’t take sides. But America is on the side of Israel,” Pence said at the time.

The issue of Jerusalem is high on the agenda of Evangelical Christians and there is a lot of evidence that Pence, as an Evangelical, pushed the President to carry out his campaign promise to move the US Embassy and send him on a visit to what he imagined would be a hero’s welcome in Jerusalem.

In June – when every commentator was saying that the campaign promise had been dropped – Pence reassured a meeting of Christians United for Israel that “it is not a question of if, it is only when.” In October he announced the visit and said it would focus on the persecution of Christians. In December he was standing at Trump’s shoulder as he made his declaration.

What really alarmed the Palestinians was that he made so little attempt to hide that his conviction that Jerusalem should belong to Israel was not political but religious. “My passion for Israel springs from my Christian faith,” he told the Christians United for Israel.

“Though Israel was built by human hands, it is impossible not to sense that just beneath its history lies the hand of heaven.”

Interviewed a few days after the declaration by the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said: “If you believe you know His Will, then it shuts the discussion.”

Netanyahu, on the other hand, was elated by the declaration and went to Paris in a buoyant mood for a meeting with President Macron that was intended to focus on Iran. Instead almost the entire meeting was given over to forceful denunciations of the Trump declaration and the illegal settlements.

He went on to a breakfast meeting in Brussels with 23 European foreign ministers in the hope of persuading some of them to follow the American example and move their embassies to Jerusalem.
Instead the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was able to tell him that none of the EU 27 would follow Trump’s lead, not even the Czech Republic.
“There is full EU unity on this, that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.

“The EU and member states will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem until the final status of the holy city is resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.”

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz focused on Mogherini’s broad grin as she told him: “He can keep his expectations for others — because from the EU member states’ side this move will not come.”

In response to a comment from Netanyahu that peace must be built on ‘reality’, Mogherini verged on sarcasm: “You want three states, four, five, ten? Two states are the only viable and realistic option.”

Mrs May said: “We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement.

“We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.

“In line with relevant Security Council Resolutions, we regard East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Balfour events to attend

Britain’s Broken Promise: Time for a New Approach, Tuesday 31st October 2017 at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster SW1H 9NH. The Balfour Project. Speakers include Emily Thornberry, Crispin Blunt, Sir Vincent Fean, Tom Brake. Tickets at:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-balfour-centenary-britains-broken-promisetime-for-a-new-approach-tickets-37237956731?aff=ehomecard

The British Legacy In Palestine: Balfour And Beyond, Thursday 2nd November. 12- 4:30pm Palestinian National Theatre – Hakawati, Jerusalem. Free but register at:
https://edubook.eventsmart.com/events/bd/

Justice Now: Make it right for Palestine, Saturday 4th November 2017. National March and Rally. Assemble 12 non Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London. FOA, PSC and others
http://www.palestinecampaign.org

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