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The Levy Commission Report and the Eradication of Palestine

2:11 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On Monday, the Israeli government announced that the commission, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levi, and charged with responding to the 2005 Sasson Report (on the government of Israel’s complicity in West Bank settlement expansion), had issued its findings.  Here’s Adam Horowitz writing about it on Monday:

Earlier this year Benjamin Netanyahu formed an Israeli government panel to judge on the legality of the settlements. The panel was headed by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy and was intended to respond to the 2005 Sasson Report on government complicity with the settlement project (and possibly head off an impending UN study into the settlements). Today, the “Levy Committee” issued its findings and among other things declared that Israel is not an occupying force in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

From Haaretz:

With regard to Israel’s legal status in the West Bank, the Levy Committee declared that Israel is not an occupying power. The panel arrived at that conclusion after considering two conflicting legal approaches on the question.

The first approach, presented by elements generally identified with the left, holds that Judea and Samaria are “occupied territories” under international law, ever since they were captured from the Jordanian kingdom in 1967.

According to this approach, as a military occupier, Israel is subject to international restrictions governing occupation, first and foremost the Hague Regulations with regard to the laws and customs of ground warfare, and the Fourth Geneva Convention with regard to protecting civilian populations in times of war.

Under these covenants, an occupier must manage the area and maintain order while taking care of its security needs and the needs of the civilian population until the occupation ends. There is a prohibition against damaging private property, and the occupier is also banned from moving any of its own population to settle in the occupied area.

The committee also heard conflicting legal opinions, submitted by elements identified with the right, such as the Regavim movement and the Binyamin Regional Council. They presented the position that because Judea and Samaria were never a legitimate part of any Arab state, including Jordan, Israel is not an occupying power.

As such, the conventions dealing with management of occupied territories and their populations are not relevant to Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria.

With regard to the Geneva Convention and its Section 49, which forbids an occupier from transferring any of its population to settle in the occupied area, the right-wing groups argued that this section was formulated after World War II and was aimed at preventing the forced transfer of populations, a situation that isn’t relevant to Judea and Samaria.

Members of the panel accepted the legal opinion presented by the right. They explained that the generally accepted concept of occupation relates to short periods in which territory is captured from a sovereign state until the dispute between the two sides is resolved. But Judea and Samaria have been under Israeli control for decades, and it is impossible to foresee a time when Israel will relinquish these territories, if ever.

Late Tuesday, the Israeli government provided an English language translation of the eight-page report. It has been reprinted at this link.

The report does not contain the word “Palestine.”  It consistently refers to the Occupied West Bank as “Judea and Samaria.”  Nor does the report specifically mention Palestinian people.

Reactions to the report have been fairly predictable, even if its far-reaching conclusions were somewhat surprising.  The Netanyahu government, as of this writing, has not made an official response to the report’s validity.

Writing Monday in The Atlantic on-line, commentator and staunch Zionist Jeffrey Goldberg observed:

What this means, if implemented, is simple: The Israeli government would treat West Bank land as if it were land in Israel proper (pre-1967 Israel). Now, of course, if Israel were to treat the land of the West Bank as part of Israel, it would necessarily follow that it would have to treat the people who live on that land as Israeli citizens, extending them full voting rights, just as it extends citizenship to people who live in Israel proper, regardless of ethnicity. So: The natural consequence of this notion, if it is carried through to law, would be to extend voting rights to the Palestinians of the West Bank. This would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy, but the right-wing in Israel seems more enamored of land-ownership than it does of such antiquated notions as, you know, Zionism.

Of course, you don’t hear too many voices on the right in Israel clamoring to extend full Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians. The right-wing wants the land, but not the people. What the right doesn’t understand is that this arrangement would be a non-starter, for political and moral reasons. Then again, the right doesn’t understand very much, so why would it understand this?

He is right that the Israeli far right “doesn’t understand very much,” at least in terms of acknowledging the presence of 2.4 million Palestinians in “Judea and Samaria.”

Sampling far right reactions to the report in Israel and the US, here are a few of the comments from Israel National News (Arutz Shiva):

It is now time (if not past time) for the Israeli government to fully annex Judea and Samaria as well as to assert full control over ALL JERUSALEM particularly Har Habayit. The Arab anti Semites now in control (and destroying Jewish artifacts) MUST BE THROWN OUT with ALL necessary force (at least as much as they now use on Jews who even appear to be silently praying at Judaism’s holiest site).

and:

The tiny nation is only a small fraction of the size it will be some day soon. Almighty God has promised the Jews that Israel will stretch from the Nile River westward to the Euphrates River. Our God can NOT and will NOT ever break a promise!!!!!!!

and:

Didn’t the San Remo Resolution of 1920 make it not only legal to settle but say that the International community is obliged to help the settling?

Comments at the article on the Levy Commission report on the Christian Broadcasting Network site proclaim:

God said “I will punish them that divide up my land”, this includes the USA. The land of Israel is the only land in the world given to a people directly by God. That is why Satan and his demons are fighting so hard to get it. It goes all the way back to the Creation. It is all so perfectly tied. God is so awesome in His Wisdom.

and – appropriately in hard caps:

ISRAEL, IF GOD CONDEMNS YOU THEN YOU SHOULD WORRY. YOU SHOULD WORRY IF YOU ARE ACTING AGAINST HIS ETERNAL WORD. US CONDEMNING YOU, THERE IS NO REASON TO WORRY. 500 YEARS AGO, THERE WAS NO US. ONLY THE LORD YOUR GOD, HIS WORD AND ISRAEL, HIS PEOPLE. STAND FIRM ISRAEL. THE LORD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PROTECTION, NOT THE US. YOU’RE ANSWERABLE AND RESPONSIBLE FIRST TO YOUR LORD GOD, HIS WORD AND SECOND, YOUR PEOPLE. THE OTHERS, COME LAST. BLESSING.

Meanwhile, back in the reality-based world, reactions vary.  The Palestinian Authority views the report dimly:

Officials in Ramallah on Wednesday slammed the Netanyahu government’s plans to accept the conclusion of the Levy Commission report on Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.

“We will not sign any peace agreement if there is a [single]settlement on Palestinian Land,” Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rodier said.

The Levy report concluded Israel is not an occupying power in Judea and Samaria, and that Jewish communities in the region are therefore legal under international law.

“Israel has no right to be on Palestinian lands,”Rodier said, adding the PA rejected the Levy report in no uncertain terms.

The New York Times slammed the report in a Tuesday editorial:

[T]he commission’s recommendations are bad law, bad policy and bad politics. Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

The Times editorial notes further:

If [the Levi Commission report's] conclusions are not firmly rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is likely to be new international anger at Israel. That could divert attention from Iran just when the world is bearing down with sanctions and negotiations to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. It would also draw attention to a dispiriting anomaly: that a state founded as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people is determined to continue ruling 2.5 million Palestinians under an unequal system of laws and rights.

On Wednesday’s Democracy Now, Jonathan Tobin, Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine, and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, had a spirited debate on what the report represents, and could bring in its wake:

The issuance of this report will not serve to diminish Palestinian efforts to gain UN recognition, in spite of the report’s content’s seeming eradication of Palestine itself.

It will not deter the new United Nations Human Rights Commission team from gaining information for their report on ongoing human rights violations by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank.

It will probably help gain allies for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, now in its eighth year, and scoring major victories worldwide almost daily.

Should firedoglake Take a Position on the Global BDS Movement?

6:04 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Update: For more information on what Global BDS is (the worldwide campaign to encourage boycott, divestment and sanctions of the Israeli state over treatment of Palestinians) please see the bottom of this essay.*

******

March 30 is Global BDS Day of Action 2011.  According to the BDS Movement’s web site:

Activists in the Europe and North America held actions over the weekend as a contribution towards tomorrow’s Global BDS Day of Action. Looking at some of the planned actions, today is looking like it is set to be the biggest and widest day of action to date!

-       Flashmobs and BDS demonstrations will take place in dozens of cities, from Rabat to Toronto, from Prague to Melbourne.

-       The international campaign against the Jewish National Fund will be officially launched.

-       New initiatives, resources and campaigns will be launched by groups all over the world.

What is a flashmob?

Here’s one, early today from March 26th, creatively protesting in Grand Central Station:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myt23xhMEMk&feature=player_embedded

There have been many BDS flashmob actions over the past year or so.  One, held last year in St. Louis, featuring heroic Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, was removed from youtube because the flashmob singers and dancers used material created by Lady Gaga.  Others remain:

What is the international campaign against the Jewish National Fund?

Max Blumenthal has managed to document several aspects of the JNF’s ongoing activities inside Israel itself (as opposed to his documentation of Israeli activities in the occupied territories of the West Bank) that remind me of government actions against black citizens in South Africa in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Here’s a video Max ran at his blog last month “depicting the 17th(!) pogrom against the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib by the criminal syndicate known as the Jewish National Fund and the End Timers at GOD TV,” as Max described it.

The campaign against the JNF has been described by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:

A key pillar of the colonization of Palestine – from the founding of the State of Israel to the present – has been the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL), commonly known in English as the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF enjoys charity status in over 50 countries. This is despite its role in the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land, the theft of their property, the funding of historic and present-day colonies, and the destruction of the natural environment.

Land Day 2011 will welcome the launch of internationally coordinated campaigns to challenge the JNF-KKL. As part of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and until such time as the State of Israel respects and implements international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee and many other organizations call on global civil society to join in a campaign to challenge the JNF.

Why should firedoglake take a position for or against the BDS movement?

I was not in favor of the idea until 2010, even though I have been arguing for and working for Palestinian rights since late in the last century.  What changed my mind in 2010?

1.  The continuing expropriation of Palestinian lands inside Israel itself, in East Jerusalem and in countless places in the West Bank.

2.  The growing strength of the ultra far right in Israeli politics and government ministries.  Just this week the Knesset passed a new “Citizenship Law” that, although watered down from the initially proposed “Loyalty Oath” legislation, leaves much room for further implementation of apartheid policies or worse against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens:

Initially, Israel Beiteinu pushed for legislation requiring a loyalty oath to a “Jewish and democratic” state, but the current law was the compromise that the faction managed to secure from the coalition.

“Another promise made by Israel Beiteinu to its voters has been fulfilled,” responded Lieberman minutes after the vote. “Without loyalty, there can be no citizenship. Any person who harms the country cannot enjoy the benefits of citizenship and its fruit. The law will help confront the phenomenon by which there are those who take advantage of our democracy in order to undermine it, and by which those who are called citizens collaborate with the enemy.”

In a gibe at Arab MKs who presented outspoken and impassioned opposition to the bill, Lieberman added that “unfortunately, we are witness to these incidents even among members of the Knesset.”

3. The brazenly unlawful and unnecessary attack on the MV Mavi Marmara, the hundreds of deaths or injuries in 2011 of Palestinians, almost half of them children, and the continuing insinuation of Israeli-based interest groups into American politics helped spur me toward supporting BDS.

4. Already, before I supported BDS, I felt strongly about the negative effects of Israeli-centric American policies. I was asked this 15 months ago:

I don’t understand your preoccupation with Palistine. How about giving some balanced blog space and advocacy for the oppressed people of countries such as North Korea, Tibet, China, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, etc.?

My reply,  in January 2010:

We don’t send hundreds of billions of American tax dollars to the North Koreans so that they can drop or shoot white phosphorus onto schools and hospitals, where kids like the one at the upper left have to end up dead or looking like him.

We don’t write tax policies that enable the Han Chinese to invest in housing projects that eject Tibetans from their homes in Lhasa.

We don’t cater to lobbyists from Sudan who constantly encourage us to go to all-out war against a neighboring country that hasn’t attacked one of their neighbors in generations.

We don’t have a Pentagon whose offices are stuffed with people with dual Somali-American citizenship, who manufacture false premises to march us into a series of wars in the heart of Africa.

We aren’t experiencing a time when a small group of ruthless Burmese generals and politicians have hijacked Buddhism, turning it into a militant version of what had once been a great religion, and branding anyone who doesn’t believe in a Myanmar expansion version of Buddhism as anti-Burmese or anti-Buddhist.

Additionally, no North Korean, Chinese, Sudanese, Burmese or Somali general, politician, general or warlord is openly bragging that the United States is fighting two wars and threatening to start a third one, on their behalf.

Also, and importantly, there is no large body of American people who openly believe that we need to foster violence in North Korea, Tibet, China, Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan or Burma, so that we may enable the second coming of Jesus Christ, and implement a new age. And there is no cynical tie-in between Columbian politicians who hope to bring money to their country because of some apocolyptic religious myth, and American fundamentalist sects who total in the tens of millions of misguided believers.

I’ve come to actively support the global BDS movement. I encourage others to do the same. I would like to hear the thoughts of readers on whether or not this might be a laudable goal for fdl to also pursue.

*Update: Here is a statement about the origins and goals of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Israeli Government policies against the Palestinian people:

On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Resources on BDS can be found at the Global BDS web page: