JORDAN VALLEY – The Israeli Civil Administration delegation visited the Jordan Valley Regional Council, compromising of 21 illegal settlements, on Friday to discuss ways to establish new development projects in the Jordan Valley settlements, Israeli media sources said.
The delegation included David El Hayani, mayor of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and Aravot HaYarden, chairman of the council.
The delegation discussed ways to develop agriculture, tourism, and other economic sectors in the settlements.
Nearly one million tourists arrived last year in the Jordan Valley, half of whom came to visit the religious sites in the area, which were recently developed by the Civil Administration, Hayarden said.
For his part, El Hayani revealed plans to establish new tourism projects in the area including restaurants and parking.
The new projects came as part of the Israeli settlement expansion policy which has been notably escalated over the few months.
Earlier on Thursday, Haaretz (Hebrew) newspaper revealed that US President Donald Trump gave a green light for Israeli settlement construction in occupied Jerusalem.
TULKAREM – Israeli forces raided and sacked two Palestinian print shops in the northern occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem at dawn on Thursday and confiscated equipment.
Ali Abu Saleh, the owner of the two print shops, told Ma’an that large numbers of Israeli troops raided his home in the Shweika neighborhood and demanded that he let them access his stores.
Abu Saleh said that Israeli soldiers searched his shop in the Shweika area, where they confiscated equipment, printed materials, and destroyed security camera footage.
Israeli forces also raided Abu Saleh’s other print shop in central Tulkarem, breaking the front door and also confiscating equipment and materials.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces had raided the shops because they printed “inciting material.”
However, Abu Saleh rejected the army’s claims, calling them baseless, adding that 20 people were out of work following the raids.
Israeli forces had also aided another Tulkarem print shop earlier this month.
Israeli forces have previously targeted printing shops where posters commemorating Palestinians killed by Israeli forces were manufactured.
Since the beginning of the year, one Palestinian from Tulkarem was killed and another from the city succumbed to fatal injuries, after being shot by Israeli forces for allegedly attempting to commit attacks.
In the past year, Israel has targeted Palestinian media institutions and civilians, including activists and journalists, alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015 was encouraged largely by “incitement.”..
TUBAS – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning detained a young Palestinian man in the village of Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank and confiscated a tractor and a private vehicle in the area.
Muataz Bisharat, an official who monitors settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Ma’an that Israeli forces, escorted by several Israeli Civil Administration jeeps, detained Mahmoud Muhammad al-Hroub, 23, and confiscated a tractor belonging to his father and a vehicle belonging to Hayil Turkman.
The confiscated vehicles were taken to the Nahal military site in the al-Maleh area of the Jordan valley, Bisharat said.
A spokesperson from Israel’s civil administration declined to comment on the incident.
Bisharat highlighted that Israeli forces had confiscated at least three tractors from the surrounding areas, which are located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civilian control — during the past two months.
Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley regularly face evacuations and interruption due to Israeli military exercises on or near their land. The Jordan Valley district of Tubas is one of the occupied West Bank’s most important agricultural centers.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, while at least 44 percent of the total land in the Jordan Valley has been reappropriated by Israeli forces for military purposes and training exercises.
According to the Palestinian nonprofit the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), using data from the Palestine Ministry of Wall and Colonization Affairs, the group reported that more than 400,000 dunams (98,842 acres) of the 720,000 dunams (177,916 acres) that make up the total area of the Jordan Valley has been transformed into closed military and firing zones, with at least 27,000 dunams (6,672 acres) confiscated for illegal Israeli settlement building.
Palestinian legislator Mohammed al-Tal seized by Israeli forces; Samira Halaiqa indicted by military court
The number of imprisoned Palestinian Legislative Council members climbed to 11 on Tuesday, 21 March after a pre-dawn raid by Israeli occupation forces seized PLC member Mohammed al-Tal from al-Khalil, along with 19 more Palestinians. Al-Tal has previously spent 11 years in Israeli prisons, half of those in administrative detention without charge or trial.
Also on Tuesday, 21 March, an Israeli occupation military court at Ofer submitted an indictment against PLC member Samira Halaiqa, 53, from al-Khalil, accusing her of participating in political and social activities and engaging in “incitement” for making political posts on Facebook. Halaiqa was seized on 9 March by occupation forces who invaded her home. She, along with her husband Mohammed Halaiqa, had previously been imprisoned for one year in 2006 under administrative detention, following her election to the PLC.
Both Halaiqa and al-Tal are part of the Change and Reform bloc, the PLC bloc associated with Hamas.
The 11 detained PLC members include: Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zboun, both from the Bethlehem area, members of the Change and Reform bloc, seized on Monday, 6 March. Zboun spent over six years in Israeli prison, including several months in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, a former deportee to Marj al-Zohour, was also previously held in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, Zboun, Halaiqa and al-Tal were all arrested in the month of March.
Other detained PLC members include Hassan Yousef and Ahmad Mubarak of Ramallah and Azzam Salhab and Mohammed Jamal Natsheh of al-Khalil. All members of the Change and Reform bloc, they are held in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison, while Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi is serving several life sentences. Jerusalemite PLC member of the Change and Reform bloc, Mohammed Abu Teir, was subject to expulsion from his home city of Jerusalem and is now serving a 17-month sentence in Israeli prison.
“This picture belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years,” according to Ramzy Baroud. (Photo: Walled Off Hotel)
BETHLEHEM – Israel’s infamous separation wall in the occupied West Bank, while cutting off Palestinians from their lands and religious sites, isolating communities, and eroding the livelihood of scores of Palestinians along its route, has become an unlikely breeding ground for tourism.
Adjacent to the graffiti-stained separation wall in the city of Bethlehem, which is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, and next door to the Aida refugee camp, elusive UK artist Banksy now welcomes guests to his latest project: the Walled Off Hotel.
The wall’s destruction of livelihoods
In a message written in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, a plaque posted at the entrance to the hotel-cum-art museum tells its guests not to “choose sides” in the conflict. In describing the separation barrier, deemed illegal by International Court of Justice, the statement says: “The wall is a lie. It sells the idea that there is a simple divide between the people here, but there isn’t.”
But according to Palestinian-American journalist and author Ramzy Baroud, Bethlehem’s isolation from Jerusalem through Israel’s separation wall and two massive illegal settlements — with a third on its way — is far from “a lie,” has taken a tangible toll on the city’s economy, which once boasted a thriving tourism industry thanks to its many historical and religious sites.
“This tragic reality left Bethlehem, one of the most endeared Palestinian cities, struggling for survival, and reduced it in many instances to utilize its very subjugation as a method of generating income,” Baroud told Ma’an.
Banksy’s hotel is not the first project that has attempted to develop an alternative tourism industry seeking to raise awareness about Palestinian dispossession and routine Israeli military violence.
Following the wall’s construction in the area, the livelihoods of numerous Palestinians were destroyed, forcing some to develop alternative livelihoods dependent on funds generated around foreign tourists coming to the area to view Israel’s separation wall.
Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), emphasized to Ma’an that local Palestinians’ dependency on tourism centered around the wall was not just about financial profit.
“For some Palestinians, foreigners coming to see the wall is essential for their ability to stay alive. If they don’t get people to recognize what is going on in Palestine, then their deaths become just numbers,” she said.
“The idea of showing others the wall is a way of ensuring that their oppression and resistance is not experienced in silence.”
The separation wall in Bethlehem with a mural of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Leila Khalid (MaanImages/Jaclynn Ashly)
These days, the few shops open in the area near the wall in Bethlehem cater to international tourists visiting the site to take pictures of graffiti and the impressive murals decorating the concrete. Banksy’s artwork in the area has become a centerpiece for such tourism.
Yamin al-Abed, a local tour guide and owner of the Banksy souvenir shop right beside the new hotel, told Ma’an that he expected Banksy’s hotel to triple the amount of visitors to Bethlehem. “This area is going to be crowded soon,” he said. “I am really looking forward to it.”
Banky’s artwork has “brought life back into a dead area,” al-Abed said, by developing a business around the now-iconic stencil work Banksy painted on the wall more than 10 years ago.
However, the hotel’s elusiveness on its planned financial model — as its website only states that it would “put any profits back into local projects” while remaining vague which specific projects would be concerned — has led observers to question whether or not the new business will positively benefit to the community.
A local worker at a nearby hotel, who preferred to remain unnamed, expressed his confusion over the hotel’s opening to Ma’an. “It is strange that this hotel was constructed in an area where commercial shops and hotels have been killed by the wall’s construction,” he said, adding that his own hotel had faced serious financial setbacks since the wall was built.
‘It’s not meant for Palestinians’
“What Bethlehem truly needed was breaking this sad paradigm, not cementing it,” Baroud said, echoing local concerns that the livelihoods generated around the wall has served to further entrench the Israeli occupation in the West Bank by basing a local economy on its most visual and destructive feature.
Buttu said that the most worrying aspect of what she referred to as “oppression tourism” was the parts of the wall which had not been decorated with graffiti and murals.
“The vast majority of Israel’s wall is completely ignored by tourists. And these parts of the wall are actively scooping out large areas of Palestinian land.”
Tourists are typically attracted to the “visual elements” of the cement wall, she said, and often disregard parts of the wall with barbed wire and electric fences, underscoring that these areas tend to be the most devastated as locals are dependent on farming and have no other alternative livelihood.
According to Buttu, “Many people really wanted visitors to see the wall for its ugly reality, and not use art and graffiti to mask or erase the reality Palestinians were living.”
While she wanted to give Banksy “the benefit of the doubt,” she said that the hotel risked feeding into the same process that Palestinians have been attempting to challenge. “Palestinians want foreigners to actually do something for their struggle, not just come and take pictures.”
Baroud, meanwhile, commented that certain aspects of the hotel were deeply offensive to Palestinians. Referring to one painting hung in a $265-per-night suite that lightheartedly depicts an Israeli soldier having a pillow fight with a Palestinian protester, Baroud said that it was “deeply insulting” and “belittles the sacrifice that thousands of Palestinians have made throughout the years.”
For local resident Muna Hassan, the hotel reflects larger issues in occupied Palestine.
“Palestinians feel hopeless. All we have now are foreigners coming here and advocating social and political projects that don’t help us at all. Meanwhile, our economy is dependent on international aid which arrives with conditions and tells us how we should behave,” she said.
According to Hassan, this kind of tourism exists because “there’s nothing left for us to do.”
“We have a government that doesn’t represent us. Israel has destroyed all our political movements and has stolen our land. They took everything from us. We have nothing left.”
Hassan told Ma’an that Palestinians had become tired of social and political projects originating from the international community. “We need better hospitals and schools. We need businesses that help us define and change our own society. We should create spaces where young Palestinians can develop their own conceptions of art, instead of just catering to foreigners who want to draw on the wall and snap pictures of Banksy paintings.”
She noted that, for her, the hotel was “not meant for Palestinians. It’s just more entertainment for tourists.”
One of the most controversial elements of Banksy’s new hotel is the stated aim of welcoming Israelis to the West Bank, with the hotel itself being constructed in an Israeli-controlled area of Bethlehem.
The trilingual statement posted at the hotel’s entrance claims that most Israelis are “opposed to the cruelties inflicted by the wall,” while the ones who support it “are deeply fearful for their security.”
According to the hotel’s owner Wissam Salsa, one focus of the project is to “educate Israelis on Palestinian suffering” caused by the separation wall and the Israeli occupation. “We also want to show our guests what it’s like to live on this side of the wall.”
Al-Abed said that he believed it was important for Israelis to visit the West Bank, saying that “I am sure that once they come and see our miserable lives, they will return to Israel and attempt to change their government.”
However, Buttu told Ma’an that Israel’s policies have actually received widespread support from an Israeli public that has “benefited immensely” from these policies, while feeding into Israeli desires of a “Jewish state.” According to a poll released earlier this year, 62 percent of Israelis support continuing Israel’s illegal settlement construction in Palestinian territory.
“You will not find Israelis who support going back to life pre-1993, when you didn’t have separation and Palestinians had freedom of movement into Israel. Most Israelis are happy with this separation system in place,” she said.
One visitor to the hotel, a local Palestinian student who preferred not to be named, rapidly shifted from excitement to frustration after being informed that the project was aimed at creating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We can have dialogue once Palestinians have equal rights,” he said. “If Israelis really want to understand Palestinian suffering, they should fight for the wall’s destruction and not stay in a hotel right next to it.”
Buttu noted the futility of the initiative, saying that “we can’t just pretend that it’s easy for Palestinians and Israelis to come together, hold hands, and sing songs.”
“This is a state system of apartheid and settler-colonialism. Unless Israelis recognize this, then there is no point in having these fake gatherings and dialogues.”
RAMALLAH – Israeli forces detained 420 Palestinians during the month of February, including 70 minors and 22 women and girls, according to a statement released on Saturday by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies.
The center said in its monthly report that 12 of the detentions were carried out in the besieged Gaza Strip, including five fishermen whose boats were destroyed by Israeli forces before their detention, two who were detained at the Beit Hanoun crossing, and five who were detained after Israel alleged they attempted to cross the border fence between the besieged enclave and Israel.
A journalist was also among the detainees, identified by the center as Humam Muhammad Hantash from the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. He was sentenced to Israel’s widely condemned policy of administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence.
The center added that 88 administrative detention orders were issued by Israeli courts in the same period, 23 of which were issued for the first time, while 65 were renewed orders. Meanwhile, 32 administrative detention orders were issued against Palestinians from Hebron.
While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed that the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.
Rights groups say that Israel’s administrative detention policy has also been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.
According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.
New hotel in Bethlehem by British artist Banksy offers ‘worst view in the world’ overlooking Israeli Wall
The British artist Banksy, who has painted a number of famous murals on the Israeli Annexation Wall in Bethlehem, has taken his art activism to a new level by opening a boutique hotel just next to the Wall in Bethlehem.
The building used for the “Walled Off” Hotel sits just across the street from the Israeli Annexation Wall in an area known to Palestinians and Israelis alike as ‘Rachel’s Tomb’, in the northern part of the city of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is known to Christians worldwide as the birthplace of Jesus, but the city has suffered tremendously over the past fifteen years as the Israeli occupation authorities have imposed a stranglehold on their local economy.
Through the construction of the Annexation Wall, which began in 2003, the economy of Bethlehem, largely dependent on tourists and religious pilgrims, has plummeted.
Banksy’s new hotel is an attempt, according to the artist and hotel staff, to both support the local economy of Bethlehem while bringing international attention to the plight of the Palestinians in the city, who live walled off from the world in what they have termed a ‘ghetto’ due to the Israeli Annexation Wall.
The hotel features art that symbolizes the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, including paintings that are imprisoned behind steel bars, a portrait of Jesus with drones overhead and a laser sight on his forehead, and a display of surveillance cameras overlooking patrons to the hotel bar.
In an interview with hotel manager Wisam Salsaa, a reporter from the British Channel 4 News asked Salsaa how Banksy managed to secretly put together such a large undertaking. Salsaa replied simply, “Well, he’s Banksy!”
Former Palestinian prisoner Ihsan Dababseh was seized by Israeli occupation forces in a pre-dawn raid on her home in the town of Nuba south of al-Khalil on Monday, 27 February; they took her to the Etzion interrogation center, reported Asra Voice.
The home of Dababseh, 30, has been raided on multiple occasions over the last weeks with demands that she report for interrogation. During these raids, her family home was ransacked and belongings torn apart.
Dababseh is one of ten Palestinian women prisoners whose story is featured in “For the Love of Palestine: Stories of Women, Imprisonment and Resistance,” created by members of the Prison, Labor and Academic Delegation to Palestine.
Dababseh was released after 21 months in Israeli prison on 10 July 2016; she had been imprisoned since 13 October 2014 on charges of membership in a prohibited organization, in her case the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement. She previously spent two years in Israeli prison from 2007 to 2009 on similar charges. All major Palestinian political parties are labeled prohibited organizations by the Israeli occupation. During her imprisonment she had been isolated with four other Palestinian women as punishment for raising the Palestinian flag on the anniversary of the Nakba.
In 2014, Reham Alhelsi reported, “Israeli occupation soldiers raided her house several times, sent her 4 summons and threatened to blow up her house of she didn’t come to interrogation center. She went with her mother to detention center and was detained and her personal computer was confiscated, while her mother told to leave.”
During her prior arrest from 2007 to 2009, the Israeli occupation soldiers who had arrested and blindfolded her made a video of themselves dancing around her as she was blindfolded and held against the wall, which they distributed.
Hebron, occupied Palestine – Yesterday the Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the extra-judicial killing of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, which happened last year in Hebron. Everybody in Hebron was waiting for the sentence. Everybody knew by one o’clock what it was. Everyone was heavy hearted. Palestinian friends compared a sentence of two years for stone throwing with Azaria’s eighteen months for murder. The implications here on the ground for what soldiers can do with impunity is also clear to all.
We at ISM had been in touch with Imad Abu Shamsiya, the Palestinian who filmed the execution, in case he wanted our support if the settlers were angry at the sentence as he has experienced large amounts of threats and harassment from both soldiers and settlers for bringing this incident to light.
Today I get email from the UK with news of how the case was reported on the BBC flagship morning show:
‘… almost all of the piece consisted of a discussion with their Jerusalem correspondent about Israeli anger that Azaria had been jailed. The fact that Palestinians were angered at the brevity of the sentence was tacked on as an afterthought. It was not explained that the Israeli soldiers are an army of occupation that is protecting settlers who are in Hebron illegally. It was not explained that Abdel Fattah al-Sherif had been lying injured and motionless on the ground for ten minutes and presenting no threat to anyone before Azaria executed him. Al-Sherif was described as “an attacker”, Azaria as “a soldier”. The framing of what happened could have been scripted by the IDF. The impression given was of the IDF acting in support of the civil authorities and being subjected to a military assault by enemy combatants. The right-wing Israeli perspective that Azaria was an inexperienced conscript who acted in the heat of the moment in battle was reported unchallenged. The alternative view that al-Sharif had committed grievous bodily harm or some such criminal assault before being totally incapacitated and that he was then murdered in cold blood by a heavily-armed agent of an occupying power was not given.’
The video so bravely filmed by Imad which led to the case being heard at all can be seen here.
Mount of Azzeitun
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli municipal authority in Occupied Jerusalem plans to seize a large tract of Palestinian land on Mount of Azzeitun (Olives) to carry out development of a touristic park.
According to a report published by Iroshalim newspaper, a master plan for the park was submitted recently to the district planning and building committee in Occupied Jerusalem to obtain approval.
The local residents in Azzeitun area, however, are deprived of using the land where the park project would take place for building homes or establishing projects for their own benefit.
The new project will be 6.3 kilometers long and extend to the Hebrew University on al-Masharif (Scopus) Mount.
It will overlook the Old City of Jerusalem and include roads, bistros, public toilets, an information center, a souvenir store, a parking lot and other structures.
Israel seeks to carry out many Judaization plans in Jerusalem as part of its effort to change the historical Arab character and identity of the city.
The Tel Aviv regime has prevented five European parliamentarians from entering the Gaza Strip as the Palestinian enclave remains under an inhumane Israeli siege.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Neoklis Sylikiotis, a Cypriot Member of the European Parliament (MEP), denounced the Israeli obstruction of the lawmakers’ access to the Palestinian coastal sliver.
“The refusal of access to Gaza by the Israeli authorities to the European Parliament on arbitrary grounds is unacceptable,” the statement read.
However, Israel claimed that the MEPs were not among those allowed to enter the Gaza Strip.
Similar European delegations have been barred from Gaza since 2011 though a team led by the head of the European Parliament’s budget committee was allowed to visit once, the statement added.
“What is there to hide from us?” it further asked, condemning Israel’s “systematic” entry bans to Gaza.
It also called on the international community to pressure the Tel Aviv regime to lift the Gaza blockade that has been in place Since June 2007 and affected almost all the two million inhabitants of the enclave.
The World Bank and the United Nations say the Gaza siege has killed all exports and damaged the Palestinian territory’s economy.
Tel Aviv has waged three wars on Gaza since 2008, including the 2014 offensive that left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead.
Israel’s demolition plan ‘unacceptable’
Separately on Wednesday, Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, visited the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank and voiced alarm over an Israeli plan to demolish structures there.
On Sunday, Israeli forces distributed demolition orders to 40 structures, including tents, huts and a school in the village.
According to Palestinian media outlets, Khan al-Ahmar residents were given until Thursday to vacate the village.
“Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move,” Piper said in a statement. “This is unacceptable and it must stop.”
International bodies and rights groups say Israel’s sustained demolitions of Palestinian homes are aimed at uprooting Palestinians from their native territories, and expropriating more land for the expansion of settlements.
Tel Aviv is has accelerated its land grab and settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian lands after pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office.
Israeli forces have demolished over 48,000 Palestinian homes and buildings since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
The stark reality is that both solutions are impossible unless imposed from outside, and just where do we see any prospect for that?
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | February 22, 2017
Israel has created a terrible problem which it is incapable of solving. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so, paralyzed as it is by the heavy influence of Israel and America’s own apologists and lobbyists.
Trump’s suggestion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is welcomed by some because Israel’s settler policy is said to have made two states impossible, as it was most certainly intended to do. However, a little reflection on hard facts makes it clear that a one-state solution is just as impossible.
A single-state solution would be acceptable to all reasonable minds, but you only have to follow the news to know that Israel contains a good many unreasonable minds. Its early advocates and founders were, quite simply, fanatics, and its policies and attitudes were shaped by that fanaticism.
The Israeli establishment could simply not accept a Palestinian population with equal rights and the franchise as part of Israel. They could not do so because they have embraced an almost mystical concept of Israel as “the Jewish state.” Of course, the de facto reality of today’s combined population of Israel and its occupied territories is that Palestinians, who importantly include not just Muslims but many Christians, are already about half of the total.
And there are physical realities forming huge barriers against a single state, things of which many people are not aware. Very importantly, fertility rates in Arab populations are considerably higher than in the European Ashkenazi population which forms Israel’s elite. That has nothing to do with ethnic characteristics. It is a result of much lower levels of affluence influencing the behavior of people having children. It is a universal reality we see.
That’s why Arabic populations are such relatively young populations with a high proportion of children. When Israel bombs a place like Gaza or Lebanon, as it does periodically, it always kills many hundreds of children because they make a big share of the population. An advanced country like Japan has low fertility and traditionally is averse to much migration. It faces a future with an aging and declining population.
All older European and North American countries have fertility rates too low to replace their otherwise declining populations. America or France or Israel or similar states simply do not have enough babies to replace their populations. That’s a fundamental reality of advanced, affluent society. People with rich, demanding lives do not have large numbers of children, anywhere, knowing, as they do, that the few they do have will almost certainly survive and will better thrive with more concentrated resources.
That’s the real reason behind most countries’ immigration policies, not generosity or kindness. But, of course, Israel has a serious problem with immigration, too. As the “Jewish state” it is open to only one category of migrant, and that category of people makes a tiny fraction of the world’s population. Further, most of that tiny fraction live in comfortable, affluent places, far more desirable to live in than Israel – places like America, Canada, Australia, Britain, France, etc.
A single-state Israel would combine low fertility Europeans with higher fertility Arabic people, thus creating a long-term trajectory for a minority-Jewish state, a reality which would be repellent to all conservative Jews and many others, in light of the founding notion of Israel as a refuge from believed widespread anti-Semitism, plus the vaguely-defined but emotionally-loaded notion of a “Jewish state,” and, still further, the biblical myths of God’s having given the land exclusively to Jews.
You simply cannot make rational sense out of that bundle of attitudes and prejudices, yet you cannot get a rational solution to a massive problem otherwise, a problem, it should be noted, of Israel’s own deliberate making in the Six Day War. Likely, when Israel’s leadership started that war, they calculated that Palestinians would come to feel so miserable under occupation that they’d just pick up and leave over time. Moshe Dayan, one of the architects of the war, actually spoke along those very lines of keeping the Palestinians miserable so they would leave. But their calculations were wrong. Most people, anywhere, do not pick-up and leave their native place. Otherwise the world would be a constant whirlwind of migrations.
Although Israel does not discuss the relative population growth rate situation in public, authorities and experts there are keenly aware of the reality. It is difficult to imagine them ever embracing a single state for this reason. When you found a state on ideology and myths, as Israel was founded, you very soon bump up against some unhappy realities.
So, if there is not to be a Palestinian state, what are Israel’s other options? There seem to be only two.
One is to deport all or most Palestinians, an ugly idea which is probably also unworkable, although it has very much seriously been discussed among educated Israelis periodically. Apart from the Nazi-like connotations around such an act, who, on earth, is going to take literally millions of people from Israel? In the past, Israeli ideologues have seriously suggested both the country of Jordan and parts of Egypt contiguous with Israel as possibilities.
Can any realistic person believe those states stand ready to take millions of people in? No, of course not, but that hasn’t stopped the ideologues of Israel from going back to the idea again and again. Of course, there is the pure ethical problem of moving millions against their will and seizing all their property, but ethics have never featured large in Israel’s policies from the beginning.
The other solution is to re-create apartheid South Africa’s Bantustans, little enclaves of land with often undesirable characteristics into which you crowd all the people that you don’t want and declare that these are their new countries. We see this already in Israel, notably in Gaza, which really is a giant refugee camp much resembling a concentration camp with high fences and automated machine-gun towers surrounding it, the residents being permitted almost no freedom of movement or even economic activity, as for example Gaza’s fishermen being fired on by Israeli gunboats if they stray even slightly beyond tight boundaries in the sea.
The world would not long tolerate that approach no matter how much influence the United States might unfairly exert. After all, for a long time, the United States protected and cooperated with apartheid South Africa, always regarding it as an important bulwark against communism, anti-communism being the fervent secular religion of the day in America. This was so much the case that it even overlooked what it absolutely had to know about, apartheid South Africa’s acquisition of a small arsenal of nuclear weapons with the assistance of Israel, Israel always being keen to keep good access to South Africa’s mineral wealth.
Clearly, those two options are not solutions. Realities absolutely demand either a legitimate two-state solution – which Israel’s leaders have never truly accepted while giving it time-buying lip-service – or a one-state solution which is probably even more unacceptable to Israel’s leaders and much of its population, guaranteeing, as it does, the eventual minority status of Jews.
Israel has itself created a terrible problem which it is incapable of solving. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so, paralyzed as it is by the heavy influence of Israel and America’s own apologists and lobbyists.
So, in effect, the world just goes around and around on this terrible problem, never doing anything decisive. The macabre dance of Israel and the United States we’ve had for decades yields today’s de facto reality of Israel as nothing more but nothing less than a protected American colony in the Middle East, one in which all kinds of international norms and laws are completely suspended, one where millions live with no rights and no citizenship. But, after all, colonies have never been places where the rule of law and human rights prevail, have they? Never.