Hundreds of activists in Washington, DC demonstrated outside the White House to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit on Tuesday, 6 July. As protesters held signs calling on the US government to end military aid to Israel, Netanhayu met with US President Barack Obama in a meeting characterized by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “empty theatrics.”
“I think the Israeli government, working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions, has shown restraint over the last several months that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks,” Obama announced in a press briefing after their meeting yesterday, referring to Netanyahu’s settlement “moratorium.”
Earlier in the week, right-wing Zionist settler groups from colonies inside the occupied West Bank called on Netanyahu to honor a “promise to resume” settlement construction after his much-lauded ten-month moratorium that ends 26 September. The groups also urged Netanyahu not to react to pressure he could face at the White House to extend the settlement “freeze” (“Israel settlers pressure PM on construction halt,” Agence France Presse, 2 July 2010). The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that regional settler councils across the West Bank announced plans to build at least 2,700 housing units beginning 27 September. Shomron regional council deputy Ehud Stondia commented to Haaretz that the council was “preparing for construction on the scale that existed before the freeze or even more” (“2,700 houses to be built as soon as West Bank settlement freeze ends,” 5 July 2010).
But settlement construction has not, in fact, stopped during Netanyahu’s supposed moratorium that began 25 November 2009.
Coinciding with Netanyahu’s White House visit, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem published an in-depth report, with detailed maps, yesterday. The report updates Israeli settlement policy in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem from 1967 through May 2010 and documents the ongoing “means employed by Israel to gain control of land for building the settlements” (“By Hook and by Crook: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank“).
In the 79-page report, B’Tselem states that after Netanyahu’s announcement of a cessation of settlement construction, Israel’s Central Command office allowed building “for which permits had already been issued and whose foundations had been laid … Although the wording of the decision was sweeping, Haaretz reported that it was not intended to apply to East Jerusalem, to 2,500 apartments already under construction, or to 455 other apartments whose marketing the defense minister had approved prior to the decision of 25 November.”
According to B’Tselem’s documentation, the settler population inside the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has skyrocketed, notably doubling since the Oslo accords in the mid-1990s. Approximately 500,000 Israeli settlers are currently living in 121 illegal settlement colonies, in nearly 100 “outposts” in the West Bank and in 12 neighborhoods in East Jerusalem “on land it annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality … The settlement enterprise has been characterized, since its inception, by an instrumental, cynical, and even criminal approach to international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders and Israeli law, which has enabled the continuous pilfering of land from Palestinians in the West Bank.”
More than 42 percent of the West Bank, says B’Tselem, has been appropriated to this ever-expanding settlement infrastructure, despite Netanyahu’s “moratorium.”
“Israel established a legal-bureaucratic apparatus to gain control of the West Bank, based on the false grounds that the land was required for ‘military needs’ or for ‘public needs’ or that it was ‘state land,’ the objective being to transfer private and public Palestinian land to the settlements for their use,” says B’Tselem. “This apparatus enabled the transfer to the settlements of more than 42 percent of the land in the West Bank and the construction of 21 percent of the settlements’ built-up land on private Palestinian land. In operating this apparatus, Israel has extensively and systematically infringed on the right of property of Palestinians in the West Bank.”
As Barack Obama reiterated that the US-Israel bond will remain “unbreakable” yesterday at the White House, he urged Palestinians, occupied and subjected to Israel’s military apartheid structure, to avoid soliciting “opportunities to embarrass Israel.” He said he hoped talks between the Israeli government and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority would begin before the September settlement “freeze” ended.
But Dawoud Hammoud, researcher with the Ramallah-based Stop the Wall Campaign, told The Electronic Intifada that the machinations of a settlement freeze misses the bigger issue. “We are not asking to freeze the settlements. We are demanding to end the entire colonization system,” he said. “The announcement of a settlement freeze is just trying to market the failure of the peace project.”
Meanwhile, activists in New York are gearing up for protest as Netanyahu makes his way to Manhattan on Thursday, 8 July (“Protest Netanyahu in NYC,” Adalah-NY). “We are on a roll, people. The world is confronting Israeli war criminals,” states the Adalah-NY press release for the protest. “Let’s not permit this one to visit NYC with no resistance!”
The New York Times has finally covered a story that has been sitting under its nose for years – the tax-exempt fund raising Israeli settlers are doing in the U.S. In an expansive article in today’s paper, three reporters combine to tell a familiar story of how nonprofit organizations are raising money in the US to help build settlements and in some cases arm settlers themselves.
I say the story has been right under the Times’s nose because so much of this story is a New York story. As we have been reporting on here for the past year and a half, the Central Fund of Israel, located in a fabric store on 36th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan just 6 blocks from the Times headquarters, has been one of the most important players in this story. The Times gives them their due, and even quotes their president Hadassah Marcus who explained, “We’re trying to build a land. . . All we’re doing is going back to our home.”
The article is huge, and the Times should be commended for running it.
Still the article obfuscates the story in some places. My biggest issue is that it totally ignores the widespread support these institutions enjoy in the Jewish community. The article says “donors to settlement charities represent a broad mix of Americans,” but then focuses on the more religious or ideological ones. As we have shown the apparent Central Fund donor list includes James Tisch, the CEO of Loews; Michael Milken, the banker/philanthropist; and Alan C. (Ace) Greenberg, the former CEO of Bear Stearns (the whole list is here). To me this is an interesting story.
And it’s not just about big names. The story says, “The settlements are a sensitive issue among American Jews themselves. Some major Jewish philanthropies, like the Jewish Federations of North America, generally do not support building activities in the West Bank.” This is not true. A reader writes us:
I know this to be untrue, first by virtue of the JFNA’s funneling American Jewish money to the Jewish Agency, which openly supports settlements. But some Federations sanction settlements directly, too: the SF Federation’s endowment fund allows donations to settler groups.
The list of the San Francisco Federation’s approved charities is here. Among the many settler organizations it includes are the American Friends of Ariel (a large settlement in the northern West Bank), American Friends of Bat Ayin Yeshiva (located in the Gush Etzion settlement block), and, not surprisingly, the Central Fund of Israel.
The Times makes it out that the American Jewish community is wringing its hands over this practice while the radicals raise the money. This is not the case. While I agree that the majority of American Jews might not support the settlements, the majority of the leadership of the American Jewish community does. The settlements have been a project of the American Jewish community as much as they have been Israel’s project. The leaders of the community need to be called to account.
Physicians For Human Rights – Israel has released a report, on Wednesday, detailing the progressive degradation of the medical situation in the Gaza Strip as a result of the ongoing siege upon the coastal enclave. The report comes as a response to the Israeli cabinet decision of June 20, 2010, to ease the blockade.
PHR – Israel’s report calls for a complete end to the siege on Gaza and the end of practices by the Israeli government that restrict full access to proper healthcare for the inhabitants of Gaza.
The report considers three major areas in which the residents of the Gaza Strip suffer from inadequate healthcare due to Israel’s ongoing siege.
(1) Preventing the development of the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip while restricting patients’ exit for medical treatment including:
the restriction of medical equipment from passing into Gaza; restriction of training for the medical professionals of Gaza and; prevention of patients access to medical treatment outside of Gaza, despite inadequate facilities, whilst simultaneously preventing medical delegations from entering the Strip.
(2) Shin Bet uses unacceptable methods towards patients in need of medical treatment including:
summoning patients for interrogation before allowing them to exit Gaza for treatment, including scheduling interrogation after the patient’s date for treatment causing them to miss much needed medical care, and summoning patients who have applied for exit visas due to medical conditions only to arrest them, or place them in detention.
(3) Israel’s policy towards patients’ access to medical treatment involves extraneous considerations including:
tending to refuse exit visas to those who are not in a life threatening situations, a criteria that violates both international and Israeli human rights law; prevention of access to highest quality medical care due to prevention of development in Gaza, and refusal of travel; prevention of travel to patients who require follow up medical care; denying patients’ requests to travel, including critical cases, through fear that the patient will use the permit to unite with their families in the West Bank and; confiscation of patients personal belongings when returning to Gaza following medical care.
The report concludes that the actions of the Israeli government towards the Gaza Strip has a profound impact of the lives of the civilian population requiring medical care, leaving thousands suffering, and it should be noted that hundreds of Gazans have died since the beginning of the siege, in June 2007, due to inadequate or incomplete medical care.
The full report can be found at the following link:
Hollywood actors Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman cancelled plans to attend the Jerusalem film festival following Israel‘s raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine dead earlier this year, an official has told the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
Yigal Molad Hayo – associate director of the Jerusalem Cinemateque, the main venue for the event – said neither actor had cited the international outcry over the country’s actions as a reason for pulling out of the annual festival, but added: “It became quite clear that this was the reason.”
“Meg Ryan was supposed to come here – it had all been closed with her people,” he told the Post. “A day after the flotilla incident we got an email saying she was not going to attend, and although they claimed it was because she was too busy it was clear to me that it probably had something to do with what had happened.”
Hayo added: “We were very close to reaching an agreement with [Hoffman], then the flotilla happened and correspondence was ended.”
The two-week festival, which opens tomorrow, will nevertheless play host to some 150 international guests including heads of other international festivals, actors, producers and directors. It will debut around 50 Israeli movies, documentaries and short films.
BRUSSELS: The Brussels-based European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza said that there has been a large turnout for Freedom Flotilla 2, in terms of activists requesting to participate, and in terms of the number of ships.
The campaign, which was one of the founders of the Freedom Flotilla coalition, in a press statement on Monday, boasted that the new flotilla has a few surprises in store for Israeli authorities, one of which is that seven of the ships scheduled to participate in the flotilla are from European counties.
The European campaign added that it received around nine thousand requests forms from sympathizers from around the world since opening registration to participate in the second Freedom Flotilla, which is expected to set sail into the Gaza Strip within a few weeks, despite Israel’s May 31st raid against the first Freedom Flotilla, which left nine dead, others injured, and properties confiscated and damaged.
The first Freedom Flotilla carried 750 activists from more than 40 countries, including 44 Arab and European government and political officials, including ten Algerian MPs, more than 10,000 tons of medical supplies, building materials, and timber, and 100 ready-made houses in support of the tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the Israeli war on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. The ships also carried 500 electric vehicles for the use of the disabled, especially since the recent war left nearly 600 disabled in Gaza.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, independent MP Jamal al-Khudari, Chairman of the Popular Committee against the Siege, has confirmed that Israel has publically announced that it will ease the aggravated siege on Gaza, without any mention of ending the root of the crisis.
Khudari, in a press release on Monday, noted that ending the blockade would require a series of measures on the ground, the most important of which would be to completely open commercial crossings to allow the flow of goods, and to put an end to the “restricted lists” policy, underlining that Gaza is need of all the supplies it was deprived of since the institution of the blockade four years ago.
He noted that Israel was still closing all Gaza commercial crossings except the crossing point at Kerem Abu Salem, the absorptive capacity of which is small when compared to the Strip’s needs, the biggest proof that the broadcasted ease of the siege is merely an attempt to ease international pressure.
Preparations by European, Arab, and Islamic parties for new ships headed for the Gaza Strip are well underway, Khudari confirmed, adding that scheduled departures will soon be announced.