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Israel has accelerated its annexation of the West Bank from a slow creep to a run

By Jonathon Cook | The National | March 18, 2018

Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state. “We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Mr Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.

International opposition would dissipate, he said. “After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. “This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Mr Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently: “The settlers aren’t going anywhere”. Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Mr Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Mr Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Mr Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ariel University chemical waste threatens agriculture in Selfit

MEMO | June 22, 2015

Chemical waste produced by the laboratories of Ariel University, in the illegal West Bank settlement of the same name, threatens Palestinian agricultural land in Salfit, locals reported.

According to the locals, Ariel University pours its chemical waste into the settlement’s sewer network which runs into the agricultural lands owned by Palestinians in Selfit thus polluting the groundwater, soil and air.

Environmental researcher Khalid Al-Maaly said Ariel University does not take the environment in the surrounding areas into account when pouring hazardous materials into the land turning it into a dumping ground because the waste flows without treatment.

According to Al-Maaly, nearly 20,000 students are enrolled at the university.

He called on the environmental institutions to visit Salfit and witness the suffering caused by the university’s sewage.

Al-Maaly stressed that the presence of Ariel University on Selfit’s land is contrary to international law which considers this area occupied and therefore state institutions cannot be built on it.

Last month, Israeli authorities expanded the university’s campus by constructing new laboratories and student dorms over lands confiscated from Palestinians in Selfit.

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Congressmen Try to Restrict Free Speech To Prevent Boycotts of Israel

By Mitchell Plitnick | LobeLog | February 7, 2014

Earlier this week, a bill was hastily removed from the agenda of the New York State Assembly. The bill was designed as a response to the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli educational institutions. But it was so poorly written that even opponents of the ASA boycott saw it as potentially damaging to academic freedom in general. The bill was removed from the fast track in New York so it could be re-written to be more acceptable to its potential supporters. A similar bill is currently working its way through the Maryland state legislature.

Now the US Congress is getting into the act, with a bill that has the same goal, but takes a different approach. The bills in New York and Maryland did not specifically mention Israel, although it was clear that the ASA action against Israeli academia is what prompted the bills. Instead, they tried to argue that academic freedom meant that the state must penalize institutions that choose to express themselves through the power of boycott if the target is a country that has extensive academic connections with the United States.

Even Jewish groups supported the withdrawal of the New York bill, and many people agreed that, however onerous they thought the ASA action was, this sort of legislation was contrary to academic freedom and to freedom of expression.

The bill introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) relates only to academic boycotts against Israel. Where the state bills proscribed penalties, including a reduction of funding against any institution that participated in an association that called for a boycott and even prohibited reimbursing faculty for travel expenses to attend conferences by such groups, the congressional one threatens to cut off all funding under the Higher Education Act to any university “…if the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the  connection of such institutions or such scholars to the State of Israel.”

That is a very broad statement. “Significantly funding,” read broadly, can easily include not only institutional support of academic associations like ASA, but also student groups, fraternities/sororities and research collectives. So, this is very far from affecting only universities.

This goes well beyond boycotts. It bars any group attached in any way to a university or group of universities from any material reaction, beyond voicing criticism, to Israel’s policies. Nor does it make any distinction between Israel and the settlements. That means that no institution of higher education can object in any material way to an association or connection to Ariel University, a fully accredited Israeli university located in the settlement of Ariel. That institution is highly controversial within Israel, and its very establishment contravenes US policy, yet a student group which is funded by a university would risk the university’s federal funding, all of it, if they refuse to work with that school.

Moreover, the fact that Roskam’s bill is specific to Israel is particularly noxious, and should be a matter of deep concern for anyone who supports Israel or who is concerned about anti-Semitism, as well as to those of us who support Palestinian rights and the right of American citizens to free expression. The bill creates a unique category of protection for Israel, based on Roskam’s wholly unfounded assertion that the ASA boycott decision is an “anti-Semitic effort.”

I, myself, do not agree with academic boycotts of Israel as a whole (boycotts targeting Ariel University and any other settlement program have my full support). That is a matter of tactics, however. My disagreement is based entirely on my view that an academic boycott of all of Israel is counter-productive at this time. But there is no reasonable basis for contending that a boycott against a country that has held millions of Palestinians under a military occupation depriving them of their civil rights and routinely violating their human rights is motivated by anything other than the policies of the occupying power.

By singling out Israel for this “protection,” the Roskam bill, not the ASA, is treating Israel as a special case rather than a country like any other, which must contend with material as well as rhetorical opposition to its policies. Basing it on Israel being a “Jewish state” serves not only to undermine the Jewish effort to be accepted like any other people, but actually promotes resentment and hostility toward Jews.

Roskam’s bill is blatantly unconstitutional, as are the various bills in the state legislatures, although the state versions are slightly less onerous and blatant in their disregard of the Constitution. Boycotts are legal and legitimate expressions protected under the First Amendment. The argument will be made that the state does not have to fund such activities, which is true, but there is a big difference between not funding legitimate free expression and state interference with it. As one constitutional lawyer, Floyd Abrams, told BuzzFeed: “The notion that the power to fund colleges and their faculties may be transformed into a tool to punish them for engaging in constitutionally protected expression is contrary to any notion of academic freedom and to core First Amendment principles. I believe that academic boycotts are themselves contrary to principles of academic freedom but that does not make the legislation being considered any more tolerable or constitutional.”

The bill is probably not going to be successful in Congress. The efforts have a much better chance in the state legislatures. Still, it was brought forth by Roskam, and his Illinois colleague Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, was an initial co-sponsor, so the bill is ostensibly bi-partisan. It also came with the support of Israel’s former Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren. So it should not be blithely dismissed despite its blatant unconstitutionality.

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment