An Expose of Israeli Policies in Palestine
The enigma of peace in the Middle East is the outcome of a protracted conflict between two nationalities and epistemic communities that has gone beyond a territorial conflict and epitomizes today a clash of identity culture and physical existence.
The occupation of Palestine registers as the longest modern occupation in history.
Self-determination has been exercised by all nations throughout history except for the Palestinians, who to this date suffer from a lack of basic human rights and a decent living as well as the inability to exercise their freedom of mobility, speech, and political independence. All UN resolutions that favored the Palestinians’ right to self-determination have been overruled by the United States and Israel.
For years, the Palestinians and their supporters have urged the international community to see what the State of Israel truly is: an apartheid state. This can no longer be ignored or rejected. Amnesty International, an internationally recognized human rights NGO, recently published a report exposing and confirming the apartheid policies of Israel against the Palestinians.
The Israeli Government has designed a system incorporating laws and policies meant specifically to alienate and oppress the Palestinian population, both in and outside of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The methods include separate laws for Palestinians in the OPT, ensuring that their quality of life is significantly lower than those of Israel’s Jewish citizens. These include restricting their right to freedom of movement and access to bypass roads and the prevention of family reunification. Millions of Palestinians are still subjected to life under military rule with naked aggression by settlers.
A state claiming to be the bastion of democracy in the Middle East is sponsoring racism and bigotry. A racist state should not and cannot continuously violate international law; it should be subject to sanctions. Forced evictions of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, illegal home demolitions in Al-Bustan/Silwan, and additional illegal settlements in the Negev are all direct violations of international law. The Palestinians respect international law, the international community respects international law, but the so-called “Middle Eastern democracy” seems to recognize international law only when it is for the benefit of its state and its Jewish citizens. Israel is not a democracy; it is hypocrisy.
Israeli settlers, supported by the occupation army, spare no time in assaulting Palestinians, stealing their olive crops, burning their trees, and grabbing their lands through creeping annexation.
Furthermore, the onslaught against church properties, the eviction of Christians and Muslims from their homes and handing them over to Jewish settlers are outright breaches of international and humanitarian law. Marginalizing and pushing the Christian community toward forced emigration has been a systematic Israeli policy for decades. The recent evictions and the political jingoism absolutely define the apartheid regime which is implementing inhumane policies. The confiscation of houses in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and the vicinity of Jerusalem have become common and explicit Israeli policies.
Extrajudicial killings and the incarceration of Palestinians without due process have been a common practice. Israel’s strategy is to establish a status quo plus and eventually annex the West Bank (known to them as Judea and Samaria) to Israel proper, with the Palestinians ranked as residents, not citizens, with only limited civil rights. This is an outright violation of the two-state solution supported by the international community and backed by the UN and the Quartet. This is the reality on the ground, and the U.S. as a watchdog is unequivocally supporting Israel. Its brokership of the conflict has been a dismal failure that has indirectly exacerbated the ongoing violence perpetrated by the Israeli army and settlers against the Palestinian civil population. This policy, compounded by the political apathy of Europe and the ill-fated normalization with Israel by some Arab countries, has added to the chasm.
Jerusalem: The Hardest Nut to Crack
Part of Israel’s overall strategy is to Judaize Jerusalem and its vicinity through a systematic process of expropriation of houses and real estate with religious significance. The enactment of Israeli laws to justify the grab is considered a breach of international law. Israel, supported by the US, pays no heed to international law or to UN resolutions favoring Palestine. It acts as if it is above international law and applies its military orders to legitimize its grab of land and properties belonging to Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike.
The country of Palestine is unique. The Palestinians are unique. The history of Palestine is unique. The Romans, the Ottomans, and various other great empires throughout history have all passed through the land of Palestine. Palestine has its place in the hearts of not only the Palestinians but the world’s Muslim, Christian, and Jewish populations. Many have a direct or indirect connection to the land of Palestine, and what they all have in common is the understanding of the importance of the land, the value of this great holy land. Acknowledging this, watching what the State of Israel is currently doing to this special land of ours is incomprehensible and unjustifiable. Not merely allowing but actively encouraging the desecration and the disrespect of Palestinian holy sites is not only an attack on the Palestinians but is also disrespect of the 193 country signatories to UNESCO.
The question then becomes: How come the world sits back in silence, watching the State of Israel incrementally take over our holy sites and deny our existence in the birthplace of the three largest Abrahamic religions, without reacting? An Israeli court allowing limited Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam, is a direct violation of the status quo in the city since 1854 and the rights of the Muslims and an attack on Palestinian territory. The Israeli aggression does not stop with the Palestinian Muslims but continues against the Palestinian Christian communities. One of the oldest Christian communities in the world is under attack by the Israeli state, through a slow process of taking over properties that rightfully belong to the churches of Palestine. It is not enough for the Israelis to illegally occupy church property; they also humiliate the Palestinian Christian community. Where is the justification for attacking worshippers and church leaders during the holy days of Orthodox Easter? How can the State of Israel justify attacks on worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan? There is no justification, neither from a legal nor a moral standpoint.
To be a Palestinian, either Muslim or Christian, is considered a crime by Israel. Israel no longer solely attacks the living but has resorted to targeting the dead. The desecration of graves in Jerusalem and shrines of prophets in the West Bank is appalling, and the international community can no longer turn a blind eye. If the Palestinians are no longer allowed to remain even after death, what is left? Where will the world draw the line? The dead cannot speak, but we can, and we do so loudly and vociferously. The EU and the United States and other countries pride themselves on promoting human rights. Are the Palestinian exempted from these so-called human rights?
U.S. Role in the Peace Process: A Dismal Failure
If we try to assess the alleged broker of peace to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, i.e. the U.S., we conclude that this brokership has failed dismally and has allowed Israel to continue with its illegal settlement building and land grabs. The systematic policies of the US have only exacerbated the situation and paved the way for Israel to continue its implementation of racial discrimination and the prolongation of occupation of the Palestinian territories. Consequently, it has lost its credibility as an honest broker of peace. As a result, the Palestinians have totally rejected the one-sided policy of the U.S., and we propose that an international body should assume responsibility for the peace process and the implementation of a two-state solution through the convening of an international conference.
During the four years of Trump’s tenure in office, his administration lacked basic knowledge of the Palestinian question and the Middle East in general, and it caused more damage to the Palestinian cause than all previous U.S. presidents combined. After the election of President Biden, optimism came to the fore, but that optimism quickly subsided. It was evident in the early stages of Biden’s presidency that the Palestinians and the State of Palestine were not going to be a priority. President Biden made a pledge, ensuring a policy valuing the Palestinians and Israelis living peacefully side by side. Among the promises were the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, reopening the PLO Mission in Washington, and pursuing policies committed to a two-state solution. None of these promises have been kept, and the focus of U.S. foreign policy is now on the containment of Russia in Europe and dealing with the armed conflict in Ukraine by imposing sanctions.
It has already been proven that the U.S. Administrations can sponsor efforts of normalization between Israel and other Arab countries, especially in the Gulf, which historically did not have diplomatic relations with Israel and for whom acknowledging the State of Israel’s existence was out of the question. The Abraham Accords are definitive proof of the capabilities of the U.S. regarding Middle Eastern foreign affairs. They are also proof of the active choice to not only ignore the Palestinians and their rights completely but to publicly state that the State of Palestine does not deserve the same effort and acknowledgment. The willingness of the U.S. and the Arab Gulf states, as well as Sudan and Morocco, to normalize relations with Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people’s rights is obvious. They ignore the fact that the Palestinians are still under occupation and are struggling to end it and exercise their right of self-determination.
The Abraham Accords was an effort pushed by the Trump administration. When the Biden administration ran a campaign about how it would differ from Trump and actively criticized Trump’s actions in the Middle East, one would have expected it to exert greater efforts; however, no actions have been taken. While Trump’s actions were damaging to the Palestinian cause, the inaction of Biden is just as damaging.
The rights of the Palestinians to exist and the recognition of a Palestinian state have been positioned low on the Biden priority list. The breach of international law and human rights by the State of Israel and the expansion of settlements and desecration of holy sites have not been put on “pause” because Biden has chosen to, frankly, ignore the problem. The issue is ongoing, and American silence is American complicity, unfortunately.
EU’s Marginal Role in the Middle East Peace Process
We must not forget that the U.S. is not the only world power that has the ability to pressure Israel and give the Palestinians the recognition that they so rightfully deserve. The EU is also a key player in this conflict but has time and time again proven that it is not only unwilling to support the Palestinians but is actively trying to undermine the State of Palestine. The most recent example of this is the question of Palestinian textbooks inciting anti-Semitism. This allegation is baseless, and the current investigation by the EU doesn’t have a foot to stand on due to one simple reason: The U.S. Task Force was put in place to review and conduct a study of both Palestinian and Israeli school textbooks. The purpose of the task force was to ensure textbooks on both sides were providing an education for peace and to make sure the narratives were not inciting a subhuman depiction of the other side. Their findings proved that no such narratives were found, and there is continuous monitoring. Therefore, the investigation and allegations put forth by the EU have no justification, and the recent decision by the EU to cut 10 million euros from the allocated budget for education in Palestine is totally unjustified.
This is a political maneuver by the Zionist lobby to move attention away from the countless breaches of international law and the discriminatory policies that target the Palestinians. It is proof of the effort to move the spotlight from the actual illegalities being committed by the State of Israel and instead push the narrative that the Palestinians are inciting bigotry and anti-Semitism through their educational curricula.
The general European definition and view on the concept of anti-Semitism has proven to be problematic, not only for the Palestinians but also for any individuals or institutions criticizing the State of Israel. One cannot equate anti-Semitism to criticism of an objectively apartheid state. One must distinguish between the two, not only for the sake of the Palestinians but also for the sake of non-Zionist Jews. To put all Jews under the same umbrella of the crimes of the Israeli state is an anti-Semitic act.
However, time and again the EU has failed to show political teeth when it comes to Israel’s occupation policies against the Palestinians. It continues to be a payer and not a player when it comes to the Middle East peace process. It had been at the political mercy of the U.S. and Israel and, consequently, it marginalizes itself from the political process while focusing on institution-building in support of the future Palestinian state. Let us not underestimate the power and the pressure possessed by the EU. Unfortunately, it has been apathetic due to U.S. pressure and not proactive in the politics of the peace process. The EU’s main contribution has been financial support to the economy and the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society. It promotes economic development and monitors to ensure democratic behavior through the institutionalization process (human rights, civil rights, freedom of expression, and especially elections).
The Palestinians have always pressured the EU to be more proactive politically in the brokerage of the peace process, so far to no avail. The Palestinians will continue lobbying and mustering more support of the EU countries in order to achieve the two-state solution.
The UN’s Impotence in Translating Its Resolutions into Actions
The UN has always been at the forefront of human rights and justice in the world. When we think of the UN, we think of it as the world’s watchdog. The UN has clearly admitted it is aware of the continuous and multiple violations of human rights and international law in Palestine, yet the alleged crusader of a utopian international community has managed to do nothing. We have reached a point in the Palestinian cause where words of condemnation are no longer enough. It is no longer enough to acknowledge our right to exist; now it is time for actual consequences for Israel’s practices in the OPT as an apartheid state.
The UN has called for practical measures to produce a two-state solution, and this has been directed at both Israel and Palestine. Time and time again, the Palestinians have proven themselves willing to sit at the negotiations table and start these talks, while Israel has done the complete opposite. Why is the focus on both parties, as if we are equally guilty of inciting violence, bigotry, and racism? Why is the critique not directed solely toward Israel?
Israel has the backing of the Western world financially, politically, and even morally. It has been proven time and time again that the UN is on the wrong side morally and politically. Will it continue to be on the wrong side of history? With a UN unwillingness to uphold its own laws, it has proven itself to be nothing more than a small man behind a curtain. At least in the Wizard of Oz, every party was granted its wishes. When will the Palestinians be granted the respect and rights that Israel was granted from the moment it illegally announced its existence in 1948?
The non-implementation of all UN resolutions that favor Palestine has rendered the UN an insignificant player in the peace process. Israel never respected the UN and never implemented any of its resolutions. Beyond moral sympathy, the UN has been impotent in applying pressure and sanctions on Israel as an apartheid state. Therefore, to promote the peace process, we need more involvement by Russia, China, and the EU, without discarding the third-party role of the U.S. in the peace negotiations. There is no military solution to this protracted conflict, so negotiations for establishing peace and security should be the foundation for realization of the two-state solution, which is still the most plausible game in town.
To date, it is evident that Israel has showed no readiness to meet with the Palestinian leadership and has demonstrated total reluctance to sit at the negotiations table with assumed parity with its counterpart, i.e., the Palestinians. This is explicit when one witnesses the ongoing Judaization of Jerusalem, the ubiquitous building of settlements, and its policy of land grabs in the West Bank.
It is obvious that the systematic policies of the current government in Israel are the implementation of a strategic vision of grand design to annex the West Bank and extend the fait accompli of Israel proper over all of historical Palestine. Another basic fact should be registered after seven decades of conflict: There will never be an Israeli military solution if the Palestinians continue to remain steadfast and fight for their freedom through unarmed, peaceful resistance. Furthermore, the U.S. has failed dismally in its brokerage of this conflict, given its unequivocal support of Israel militarily, financially, and politically. Consequently, this third party proved that it is not and will not be an honest broker of peace.
In lieu of that, there should be a conglomerate of players that should shoulder the facilitation of the peace process, a basket of countries that could collectively enforce the rules of the game within the non-parity of the contending parties to the conflict. Russia, China, the EU, and the UN, together with the U.S., should comprise this collective leadership to oversee the peace process and grant it the credibility and legitimacy needed for a negotiated outcome.
Continued financial support for the building of Palestinian substructure and infrastructure should continue to complete the institutional structure of the Palestinian state. Palestinians should not be blackmailed by this support to implement the agenda of certain countries that provide great support to Israel. Economic development leads to democratization and to a liberal market economy that will be synchronized best between the private and the public sector in Palestine. These factors should be established to create the conducive conditions and the political climate to resolve this conflict. And if not, there will never be peace and security in the Middle East.