January 10, 2023
It took only a few days for the new Israeli government to show that they were more than just a bunch of big talkers. They had told their voters and the world what they intended to do and they are now doing it.
They see no unresolved issues that Jewish Israelis and Palestinians need to resolve. Israel is the land Abraham and was promised by his god to his descendants, a land for Jews. If others live or are allowed to live there, they will live under Jewish legal rules within borders chosen by Jewish rulers and with order defended by Jewish power. If that sounds more like Iran than the liberal democracy that Israel has been fantasized to be, perhaps it is because Israel is actually following the Ayatollah’s playbook more closely than they are Thomas Jefferson’s.
Israel has acted under this premise for decades, but it did so softly and at least mouthed words of ultimate reconciliation with its Arab/Palestinian residents. But it now has a government that is ready and willing to take that veil away.
With no “peace process” as a possibility, with Palestinian life under siege within the 1948 borders of Israel, and in the occupied territories and in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority had the audacity to try to protest peacefully, using the diplomatic tools it had available. It asked the United Nations to seek an advisory ruling on the legality of the Israeli occupation from the International Criminal Court.
As 2022 ended, the UN agreed. As described in Al Jazeera, “ The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution calling on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. The General Assembly voted 87 to 26 with 53 abstentions on the resolution, with Western nations split but with virtually unanimous support in the Islamic world – including among Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel. Russia and China voted in favor of the resolution.”
While it will be years before this ruling is returned and when it is received it will be advisory only and will, no matter what it says, make no actual difference to conditions on the ground, the new Israeli government saw this as an act of war by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The new Israeli Government was not content to just issue another statement of concern. It was no longer willing to recognize that an occupied people had a right to protest the conditions of their occupation. Any channel of protest was no longer to be tolerated. “It’s our way or the highway” was the Israeli response.
Pleading at the United Nations or asking the International Court to review the situation is now an act of terrorism to be responded to it with punitive action. According to Gulf News just days later “Israel’s Security Cabinet described the Palestinian Authority’s request to the UN as a “’ decision to wage political and legal war against the State of Israel. The current government will not sit idly by in the face of this war and will respond as necessary…’”
Haaretz described the specific actions taken to respond to this “war,” “In a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, the following steps were listed:
1) Transferring approximately 139 million shekels (about $39 million dollars) from PA funds to victims of terrorism, implementing the Litvak verdict, which compensates the families of victims murdered in Palestinian terrorist attacks.
2) Immediately offsetting the payments made by the PA to terrorists and their families in 2022, according to the report of the defense establishment.
3) Placing a moratorium on Palestinian construction plans in Area C, following illegal take-over attempts by the PA, in opposition to international agreements.
4) Denying benefits to VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel.
5) Action will be taken against organizations in Judea and Samaria that promote terrorist activity or any hostile activity, including political and legal action against Israel under the guise of humanitarian work.
Israel sees itself as having full control because of its military supremacy and international status. Over the years it has “quietly” extended that control and functionally annexed more and more of the land that was once seen as that of a future Palestinian State with little if any concern for the political and human rights of the Palestinians. It has rejected the claim of a Palestinian narrative and demanded those who remain accept the Jewish-Israeli story as the gospel. Israel has refused to set up any peaceful channel for sorting out the differences even rejecting the concept of a two-state solution. And they have attacked anyone who challenges their hegemony as terrorists.
And now they have a government ready and willing to openly play out that strategy.
Noa Landau, a columnist for Haaretz laid out this sad reality very clearly when she wrote days ago that “the significance of this decision is an official declaration of war on all Palestinian civil society groups fighting the Israeli occupation by peaceful means. No more legal squirming to find shaky evidence connecting Palestinian human rights groups to terror, as former Defense Minister Benny Gantz did with regard to the seven organizations that he recently outlawed in a decision that many countries still consider strange.
“Instead of bothering to invent such indirect connections, the Israeli government simply declares in black and white that as far as it is concerned, all diplomatic and judicial action, that is, non-violent opposition, is fundamentally “hostile” and in the same bracket as terrorism.
“In other words, to the Israel of today, Palestinian diplomatic activity is diplomatic terror, Palestinian court appeals are judicial terror, pro-Palestinian boycotts of goods are economic terror, a Palestinian demonstration is terror against public order, and a Palestinian protest song is musical incitement to terror.
“Of course, the same goes for Palestinian democratic opposition at the ballot box. From Israel’s perspective, this is demographic terror. As playwright Hanoch Levin put it in “Security Instructions in the Occupied Territories”: “A man walking down the street glancing nervously from side to side and over his shoulder shall be suspected of being an Arab terrorist; a man walking down the street and looking calmly ahead of him shall be suspected of being a level-headed Arab terrorist.”
“According to Israel, the Palestinian people have no legitimate or legal way to fight to achieve its national aspirations, because Israel isn’t really just fighting Arab terror, it is fighting the Palestinian national struggle – in any form it takes”
Her view is the same as that of Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh who told Haaretz in a weekend interview that ‘The Palestinian people are struggling under a vicious occupation. We have the right to complain and tell the world we are in pain. Israel wants to prevent even the most non-violent way of fighting the occupation.’ When asked about the claim that the Palestinian move is one-sided, Shtayyeh responded that ‘any occupation is one-sided, the construction in the settlements is one-sided, everything is one-sided – and if we turn to the UN and the international community – that’s forbidden and one-sided?’”
So now it is out in front of us. The Emperor’s lack of clothes is there to be seen by all. In actions and not just in words.
In the face of oppression, peaceful protest stands as the alternative to a violent uprising. In its reality, Israel is showing us that neither is to be tolerated. Whatever the circumstance of the oppressed, the Palestinian population is not a matter of debate or opposition. Accept it or leave. Peacefully protesting and asking the international community to support the rights of those living under such domination is now an act of war, and as abhorrent as the acts of roadside bombers and hostage-takers.
And those who are brave enough to speak up, peacefully speak up, in opposition are to be attacked with all of Israel’s might.
There are no longer two sides for anyone of moral clarity to choose between. There is but one and that is on the side of the oppressed. Israel has now demonstrated that oppression of the Palestinian people is a feature, not a fault. It is now ready to do what it began in 1948 when it needed to fend off a demographic problem of not enough Jews on the land by forcing Palestinian residents to leave on a larger scale. If 700,000 lives were impacted then, 7 million are nullified today.
Israel’s government has begun to act that out for of us to see. As we do at every moment when oppression rears its head, we have to choose. Do we stand up and do everything we can to make it end and to hold the perpetrators responsible? Or will we ignore it because it is our family and friends who are the perpetrators? That is a question we have been ready to ask others. Are we ready to hold Israel and ourselves to the same standard?