Settlement expansion in occupied Palestinian territories is against Israel’s own interests

Through the illegal settlements, Israel is contributing to the tumult in region and is also flaring up renewed tensions with Arabs

Although, I am not one of those Pakistani Muslims who consider  lambasting Israel and calling every incident in world a consequence of Yahoodi saazish (Jewish conspiracy) as one of their religious obligations, but sometimes it becomes quite difficult to sustain a positive image of Israel in mind for a secular and not-so religious Pakistani Muslim like me.

This is especially true when it comes to gross human rights violations perpetrated by Israel’s renowned IDF (Israeli Defense Force), which in recent years has become more of an army of professional butchers or of grim death reapers, especially when it comes to butchering civilians in Gaza.

I do realize that violence and bloodshed in the Arab-Israel conflict is not one sided or confined to IDF and is being perpetrated from both sides also from militant groups in Arab world like Hamas and Hezbollah, but the extent of violence which comes from Israel as an act of retaliation against the provocations of her Arab neighbours is usually disproportionate and excessive.

I do realize that Israel deserves the right to protect her citizens from the threats posed by the militants in Palestine and Lebanon, but Israeli retaliations in response to Palestinian and Lebanese rocket attacks and terrorist attacks has caused more civilian causalities than targeting the actual culprits who have often used civilians as human shields in Gaza or Beirut.

The establishment, in 1947, of the state of Israel was perceived by the surrounding newly independent Arab states as an extension of western colonialism, the creation of a western outpost designed to weaken the Arab world and defeat in a succession of Arab-Israeli wars merely deepened the sense of frustration and humiliation across the Arab world.

Israel has always been seen in the Arab or the broader Muslim world as an embodiment of Western influences, which has further augmented a festering sense of resentment in Muslim world against the West.

The United Nations Security Council’s recent resolution against Israel’s illegal settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories has triggered intense reactions from Tel Aviv. In an act of defiance, the Israeli regime has put back on track proposed legislation to award legal status to some 4,000 settler units built on private Palestinian property in the occupied West Bank.

The international community considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international law. Israel maintains that they are consistent with international law because it does not agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territories occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Convention, have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention does apply.

Numerous UN resolutions have stated that the building and existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are a violation of international law, including UN Security Council resolutions in 1979, 1980, and now the one in 2016.

UN Security Council Resolution 446 refers to the Fourth Geneva Convention as the appropriate international legal instrument, and calls upon Israel to abstain from transplanting its own population into the occupied territories or altering their demographic makeup.

The reconvened Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions has declared the settlements illegal as has the primary judicial organ of the UN, the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The position of successive Israeli governments is that all authorized settlements are entirely legal and consistent with international law, despite Israel's armistice agreements all being with High Contracting Parties.

In practice, Israel does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies de jure, but has stated that on humanitarian issues it will govern itself de facto by its provisions, without specifying what kind of provisions those are.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the West Bank, and a further 200,000 Israelis live in annexed East Jerusalem.

An Israeli rights group Yesh din has also explained in detail different tactics which are being adopted by Israel for settlement expansion. Yesh din activists have also told different Arab media outlets about violations carried out by Israeli government for illegal settlement expansion as a  Yesh Din researcher named  Eyal Hareuveni told an Arab news channel about how:

“These violations are done systematically over the years. Palestinian farmers understand that it's not useful to come to their own land located near what used to be settlement outskirts, and when done repeatedly again and again for a few years, the Palestinian gives up."

The "unused" space is then allocated for settlement expansion, according to Yesh Din lawyer Michal Pasovsky. Yesh Din also issued reports about how Israeli security forces intimidate Palestinians with death threats and chase Palestinian farmers from their fields at gunpoint to prevent them from harvesting in the occupied areas which are being reserved for the purpose of Jewish settlements.

Yesterday I had a heated debate with an Israeli-American friend from Brooklyn named David Bachur about the recent UNSC resolution against Israeli settlements. David is a staunch Republican supporter and he voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential elections.

He told me how Israelis have been agitated and perturbed by the recent UN vote which called Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories a “flagrant violation” of international law. He strongly criticized the US abstention in last Friday’s Security Council resolution and told me how this abstention has made Israelis furious over their traditional ally USA and they feel as if they are being isolated and abandoned by their Western allies like USA and New Zealand in their “fight against Islamic terrorism of Arabs and Iranians”. David called US abstention as “Obama’s lamentable parting shot against Israel”.

Apart from vociferously reprobating US decision to allow a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, David also condemned John Kerry’s vehement advocacy of the US abstention from this UN resolution. US Secretary of state John Kerry said that if US had vetoed recent UN resolution against Israeli settlements, Israel would have been given a license for “unfettered settlement construction” and there would be an end of peace process between Israel and Palestine. Kerry also criticized Netanyahu for having an agenda which is being driven by the “most extreme elements”.

David called Kerry’s speech an important segment of manifestation of “anti-Semitism” of Democrats starting from Obama and now Kerry spewing “anti-Semitism”. David’s constant emphasis on anti-Semitism kind of irked me but I was eager to know more about his perspective which was basically showcasing the viewpoint of an ordinary Israeli-American on the recent UN resolution.

Agitation of an ordinary Israeli like David to this UN vote was visible to me from agitated and fractured replies from David like he replied to my question about what Israelis think about UN that “UN sucks, they are liars, they are led by an idiot in the White House (Obama) and I can’t wait till he (Obama) is gone.”

Kerry’s recent “anti-Israeli” speech was immediately condemned by Bibi (Netanyahu) and he described the speech as “skewed” and “obsessively” focused on the settlement issue. Kerry’s speech further deteriorated already worsening Israeli-American relationship under Obama administration.

However, the US president-elect Donald Trump disproved Kerry’s speech through his tweet “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.” He further added “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” This showed how Trump administration will potentially be in favor of all kinds of manouevures carried out by Israel in Middle East against the wishes of her neighbors.

Trump has also planned to move US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to disputed Jerusalem and is also against Iranian nuclear deal which was being highly resented by Israel.

John Kerry called the UN resolution against Israeli settlements as about preserving the “two-state solution”. Kerry emphasized on a future agreement which must help Palestinian refugees while also satisfying security needs of Israel. It also seemed from Kerry’s speech that he fears a collapse of Oslo peace accords from Israeli policies under Bibi.

There was so much fury in Israel over this UN vote that Bibi summoned the ambassadors of all UNSC members who voted in favor of this UN vote and had permanent diplomatic missions in Israel including Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, France, Britain, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay and Spain.

Bibi also singled out New Zealand and Senegal in his scolding as these were the countries who co-sponsored the UN resolution against Israeli settlements despite having diplomatic relations with Israel.

Bibi also ordered Israeli ambassadors to be recalled from these nations and Israel aid to Senegal to be also halted. He even told New Zealand’s foreign minister that backing this UN resolution would be viewed as a “declaration of war” in Israel.

I wish Israeli government under Bibi may soon realize that it’s in good interest of Israel not to harm the Palestinian interests or those of its Arab neighbors by having expansion of settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem. By having such expansion of illegal settlements, Israel is contributing to the tumult in region and is also flaring up renewed tensions with Arabs.

Israel is a reality whose existence can’t be denied and should be treated in the same way other nations are being treated. But that doesn’t mean that Israel can be allowed to infringe upon the basic rights of Palestinians in occupied territories.

Sarmad Iqbal is a writer, blogger, columnist and a student at FC College Lahore. He can be followed at Twitter @sarmadiqbal7.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt