Friday, December 30, 2016

The UN Resolution and Secretary Kerry's Statement on Israel's Settlements

The UN Resolution and Secretary Kerry's explanation for the US abstention demanding Israel cease all settlement activities is fully justified but does not go far enough in that it fails to take into account that the two state solution is dead.  

While I have been involved with the Jewish community nearly all my life, serving on local and national Jewish organizations, it has only been in the last 44 years, since 1972, that I have observed and been a critic of Israel’s illegal occupation, illegal settlements and violations of UN resolutions and the international human rights of Palestinians.


Vladimir Jabotinsky, in the 1920s, preached a ``Greater Israel," on both sides of the Jordan with a Jewish majority outweighing the Arab population, to be won by force and guarded, in his famous phrase, by an ``Iron Wall" which was needed to  protect the enclave while they established a majority as quickly as possible.” 

In 1967, contrary to the written opinion of the Legal Counsel for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Theodore Meron, that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel approved the first settlement in the West Bank, Kfar Etzion, then another in Hebron in 1968.

From 1968 on, each successive Israeli government has pursued Jabotinsky’s doctrine, encouraged and often gave financial incentives to encourage Jewish Israelis to move to the West Bank, investing significant resources in establishing and expanding the settlements there.

By 1980 there were 53 settlements with 12,500 settlers (because of their illegal status, I refer to as “squatters”) and today, 123 settlements with 350,000 squatters. Here is a quote from a friend:  “The face of modern day apartheid.  Rare, perhaps never before seen depiction and explanation on mainstream television, using maps, to show how Israel dispossesses Palestinians in violation of international law and makes a two state settlement impossible.”  This is the video of a segment he referred to on MSNBC yesterday just prior to Kerry’s speech.


The settlements violate international human rights laws, international criminal laws, hundreds of UN actions, the fundamental and core values of Judaism and American values of democracy, equality and justice. In addition, their existence has led Israel to violate many other human and civil rights of Palestinians, including Israel: stealing West Bank land from the Palestinians; taking control over 40% of the West Bank; destroying over 48,000 homes and other structures since 1967 (very few for security reasons); building a wall, 85% inside the green line separating families from their lands, schools and businesses; overlooking squatters and the IDF destroying 800,000 olive trees; illegally establishing one (military) law for Palestinians and another (Israeli) law for squatters; failing to enforce criminal laws against squatters while punishing Palestinians for the same actions; illegally restricting movement by constructing many checkpoints and physical barriers (many unrelated to security concerns resulting in difficulty in getting to jobs and medical assistance;  denying Palestinians fair access to minimal water while allowing ample water to irrigate settlements; holding thousands of Palestinians, sometimes more than a year, without ever charging them with a crime.


On four occasions since 2006, Israel has chosen to invade Gaza through wars of choice, using excessive force, including in 2014 in which over 2000 Palestinians, mostly women and children and two-thirds civilians, were killed and over 96,000 houses and structures were destroyed or damaged. There is evidence that Israel initiated these invasions and/or used minor acts to justify them. Some experts believe that Israel’s actions included war crimes.

The settlements have been opposed by:

Hundreds of actions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council since 1967;

The International Criminal Court definition of the transfers by an occupier of its own civilian population into occupied territory as a War Crime;

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949: Article 49 stating “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”;

Nine mainstream Christian denominations/organizations resolutions not to buy settlement goods;

Foreign governments (as of September 14, 2015, 136 (70.5%) of the 193 UN member states have recognized the State of Palestine);

US Presidents including Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Barack Obama;

Secretary of State John Kerry, who, on December 4, 2016, warned that the building of Israeli settlements was undermining any hope of an agreement to allow two states to live side by side;  

Jewish groups including;

J-Street, which has called upon the US Treasury Department to review the tax-deductibility status of groups that support settlement activity in the West Bank;

Americans for Peace Now’s legislative director recently urged the UN Security Council to finally take action to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects the Israeli settlement policies and

Jewish Voice for Peace has opposed the occupation and the settlements

Jewish Americans including;

The signers of a Boston Globe full page ad

A Pew Research Center survey in 2013 found that “just 17% of American Jews think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security; 44% say that settlement construction hurts Israel’s own security interests. 


The foremost, and one of very few, supporter in the world of the settlements is:

The Congress of the United States


I do object, however, to the action of the UN, and Kerry’s statement explaining the US action in abstaining as not going far enough. Secretary Kerry’s speech focused on the settlements and made passing references to the human rights violations by Israel.  For a US high official to powerfully condemn Israel for anything is certainly positive. Many in this country will have heard for the first time a well thought out presentation blasting Israel for trampling on the rights of Palestinians.  However, Kerry’s main point was that the US abstained (NOTE the US did not vote for it) to preserve the two state solution and he provided evidence of decades of Israel’s adamant refusal to comply with US demands that it discontinue its support for the building of settlements.  Since preserving the two state solution is consistent with US values such as democracy, equality, justice and dignity, the US did not veto (NOTE despite Israel acting contrary to US principles for decades, we gave Israel a $38B commitment).


In the same way, the resolution should have gone further. Since it did not call for dismantling all illegal settlements, perhaps, because the “facts on the ground” make that unrealistic, the resolution which “stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two state solution” should have instead acknowledged that the two state solution is dead the result of Israel’s aggressive settlement policy making the establishment of a viable contiguous Palestinians state physically and politically impossible. The map shown in the video should be convincing evidence of that. Secretary Kerry’s point is that the alternative, one state, is unacceptable, but, if it results, it could only be Jewish OR a democracy. It cannot be both. Since one state IS the only alternative made possible by Israel’s 50 year expansion of settlements, the US should have voted for the resolution and Secretary Kerry should have added; “The two state solution is dead. There are now only two choices – a Jewish state or a democracy. US values and principles demand that the one state NOT be a theocracy but a democracy with equality and basic human rights for all. We encourage the parties to sit down and explore various options for such a state and hope that they will look at various role models such as Switzerland. Since the present situation of separate and unequal is unacceptable, in order to move this process along “with all deliberate speed”, we will support reasonable and responsible actions of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.”

Jimmie Carter, in the Prospect, a UK magazine, said: At this moment there is zero chance of the two-state solution… (Israel’s Prime Minister) .. does not now and has never sincerely believed in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine” and Thomas Friedman in an op-ed published on February 10, 2016, said, “The peace process is dead. It’s over, folks, so please stop sending the New York Times Op-Ed page editor your proposals for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.”


The resolution applies positive pressure on Israel to end its long-standing goal of annexing the West Bank (code words “Judea and Samaria”).

I look forward, however, to the day when the Congress of the United States, federal, state and local governments  move away from the wrong side of history and lead the world in putting pressure on Israel. Such pressure would include supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as a legitimate Constitutionally protected action rather than anti-Semitism.

The goals would be: the end of the longest occupation in the world; dismantling or opening up the illegal settlements in the West Bank to Israelis and Palestinians; the end of violations of the human rights of Palestinians; acknowledgement that the two state solution is dead; and support for efforts to create one state with liberty and justice and equality for all Israelis and Palestinians.  

May 2017 finally bring us closer to peace with justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

December 30, 2016