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Week 2266 of Occupation : 8-14 November 2010
By: Daniel Breslau
Occupation Magazine
15 November 2010

Obama gets tough?

The US President, Barak Obama, is very mad at Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for continuing to build in the occupied territories. He`s so mad, in fact, that he is letting Netanyahu extort even more rewards from the Americans in return for his agreement to temporarily stop some of the illegal construction. All this is in the hope of reviving the charade known as `direct talks.` Are twenty state-of-the-art F35 fighter planes enough? How about throwing in promises to block any UN action to hold Israel accountable for its attack on the Gaza aid flotilla or the war crimes documented in Goldstone`s report on the 2008-9 invasion of Gaza? But theres more. Obama has promised to intensify pressure on Iran and to block any calls for international inspection of Israels nuclear weapons. In other words, the US is surrendering its independence on key issues of foreign policy and international law in order to coax Israel to take a 90-day break from its illegal colonization of Palestinian lands.

Netanyahu is surely now telling his cabinet `all we need to do is stop building in the settlements for three months -- three months during which we can make vague and insulting offers to the Palestinians. At the end of ninety days we can pick up where we left off with a massive push of new construction. And we`ll have the new war toys plus the US fighting to keep the international community off our backs.`

One element of the deal does raise some problems for Netanyahu. He is required to present his position on final Israel-Palestine borders, a demand that he has evaded since the start of indirect talks early this year. Because his political position does not allow him to commit to a map that would not be a joke in the eyes of the Palestinians and the world, this requirement is more difficult than the 90-day freeze. If it does not sink the entire agreement, we can expect Netanyahu to work hard to escape this demand.

A corrupt alliance in East Jerusalem

This week Haaretz published a lengthy expos of the official corruption through which the Israeli government transfers confiscated Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem to right-wing settler organizations. The state simply transfers properties, at well below market prices, to the settlers of El`ad, Ateret Cohanim, and others, that it has confiscated under the terms of Israel`s notorious Absentee Property Law. Officials use their discretion to waive the legal requirement that the properties be offered on the open market, where they might be bought by those with the wrong ideology, the wrong ethnicity, or the wrong religion.

Like Talia Sasson`s report in 2005 on the collusion of housing and defense ministry bureaucrats with illegal settlements, the expos provides a hint of the depth to which the settlement enterprise penetrates the Israeli state. The settlement movement in East Jerusalem is an arm of the state, aided by the Jerusalem municipality, the police, and the courts. And the racism of this corrupt partnership is blatant and systematic. Remember, the families of Sheikh Jarrah are targeted for eviction only because they are not Jewish. The state even pays for private security guards to protect the settlers of Silwan, while no one protects the Palestinian residents from the frequent attacks and constant harassment from the settlers.

The real peacemakers

World leaders and their farcical negotiations may be finally taking their rightful place, as an irrelevant sideshow to the real struggle for a future of equality, cooperation, and mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians. The weekly nonviolent protests in West Bank communities threatened by the apartheid wall; protests refusing to observe the Beit Hanoun buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip; the artists boycott of the settlement of Ariel; the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions; and other forms of resistance in civil society are leading the way, while governments are paralyzed.
This week the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity movement marked one year of weekly protests in response to the eviction of Palestinian families in the Jerusalem neighborhood to the immediate North of the Old City. In Karm al Jaouni, the `tomb quarter` at the very center of Sheikh Jarah, 60 Palestinians have already been evicted since 2008. But it was after police invaded the homes of the Hanoun and Al Ghawi families in the Fall of 2009, throwing the 53 occupants and their belongings into the street, that outraged Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals mounted a concerted resistance. Every Friday, for the past year, the protestors have marched in solidarity with the evicted families.
On the surface, the dispute over the evictions seems to involve contradictory claims and questions of the authenticity of documents held by each side. Although those attempting to remain in their homes must make their claims in Israeli courts, by doing so they are reluctant participants in Israel`s efforts to legitimate its rule. Israeli authorities pretend that disputes over title and residence in these Palestinian areas are internal legal matters, to be determined within the legal system. But the Israeli legal system has no jurisdiction and no right to treat the Palestinian residents and those who are settling in violation of the Geneva conventions as bearers of equal rights. The courts are therefore perverting justice to assist settlers whose motives are political. They are not aggrieved citizens trying to recover their property, but right-wing activists trying to block the return of occupied East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The evictions are not an internal Israeli legal matter, but an international crime.

Though the protestors alone cannot possibly match the force of the Israeli legal system and occupation forces, they can assure that the apparatus of ethnic cleansing does not return to normalcy after these evictions. And they can stand in the way of any future evictions long enough for the world to see.
Those resisting on the ground every week are the leaders, and if their resistance provokes people around the world to apply real political and economic pressure on Israel, the heads of state will have to follow them.
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