Archive for the ‘Settlements’ Category


This article originally appeared at LobeLog. There is an indispensable wealth of material there on recent events in Israel/Palestine, Iran, Egypt and others. I urge you to check it out.

Some days, it must be really difficult to be the State Department’s spokesperson. It doesn’t seem like a bad job to have at all, but on certain questions it’s impossible to not look like an idiot. A lot of those questions are connected to de facto policies which differ from de jure ones.

Look up the hill from the West Bank town of Tuwani and you see the Israeli settlement, Maon

Look up the hill from the West Bank town of Tuwani and you see the Israeli settlement, Maon

And there is no better example of that than US policy on Israeli settlements.

Back in the early years after the 1967 war, the United States made it clear that the settlements were illegal according to international law. As recently as 1978, the State Department legal adviser confirmed that all Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal, and through the Carter administration, this was explicit US policy. That policy has never been explicitly revoked, but beginning with the Reagan administration, de facto policy has been ambiguous. Reagan began the trend when he stated that while the settlements were ill-advised, provocative and that further settlement was not necessary for Israel’s security “I disagreed when, the previous Administration refereed to them as illegal, they’re not illegal.  Not under the U.N. resolution that leaves the West Bank open to all people—Arab and Israeli alike, Christian alike.”

The problematic nature of Reagan’s statement — implying that “Arab” equals “Muslim” and “Israeli” equals “Jew”, and more importantly, citing the “U.N. Resolution”, which is not the basis for the illegality of the settlements (the Fourth Geneva Convention is) — notwithstanding, this was the beginning of the US’ refusal to label settlements illegal, terming them instead, at most, “illegitimate.” (more…)

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My report for Inter Press on restarting peace talks while Israel says “Build, baby, build.”

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The idea of Israel building in E-1 has got world leaders in quite a lather. But is it really because it is the death knell for the two-state solution or is it because even raising the issue betrays the reality that there never was a serious effort to reach a two-state resolution to this conflict to begin with, despite the rhetoric? I argue it is both.

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In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I use a recent piece by Jeffrey Goldberg to examine how it is that some ostensible two-state, anti-settlement, so-called “pro-Israel” types seriously distort the daily realities life under Israeli occupation for Palestinians, particularly on the West Bank.

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When I read about the horrifying slaughter of five members of the Fogel family, who lived in the settlement of Itamar, I had to ask myself why I reacted the way I did.

Was the rage I felt, the intense moral revulsion, due in any way because these were fellow Jews? After all, I receive daily, often even more frequently, reports from NGOs, human rights groups, the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli and Palestinian governments and a wide variety of international sources, many of which describe horrible acts of violence and killing.

The IDF has increased its presence throughout the West Bank in the wake of the murders in Itamar

The answer is no, but let me explain why I wondered. My reaction to this event was strong, and not in the least tempered by the fact that these people were settlers living in one of the most ideologically-driven settlements, a frequent boiling pot for violence against Palestinians, as well as being one of the more frequent targets of Palestinian violence when it has occurred against settlers. Thankfully, Israeli civilian casualties have become much rarer in the last few years. But Palestinian civilians are killed much more frequently.

During Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian babies were also killed, as is not unusual in war. Given the general disregard the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) showed for civilian life during that onslaught, it cannot be known how accidental those deaths were, but the sheer number of them certainly leads to a reasonable assessment that there was, at the very least, reckless and criminal disregard.

The difference, for me, and the reason for my visceral reaction to these murders (and, like an incident I discussed last year, that’s just what this was—cold-blooded murder of the foulest kind. Such an act must not be confused in any way with resistance to the occupation) might be more of a personal difference than a moral one.

The inescapable image from this incident is of a cold-blooded killer stabbing to death a 3-year old toddler and an infant of only three months of life. One can’t help but wonder what kind of a monster, no matter how much injustice he may have suffered, could bring himself to do such a thing. (more…)

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