Middle East Monitor / April 27, 2021
An another example of collaboration between the government of Israel and its illegal settlers, the Israeli Settlements’ Council has started to issue eviction orders to Palestinians setting up vegetable stalls in the occupied Jordan Valley, an action that was previously only associated with the Israeli occupation security forces. Seven Palestinians have been handed such orders, with Wafa news agency reporting a Palestinian claiming that he had been threatened at gunpoint.
In January this year, the Times of Israel reported that the Council was to be granted $6 million “to monitor illegal Palestinian construction in Area C”. According to Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, “With Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s approval, we are going in with full momentum to the campaign against the hostile takeover [sic] of Area C.” That was the kind of routine Israeli over-exaggeration used to justify crackdowns on the Palestinians.
Back then, it was reported that the council would not be authorised to take action, but to report upon the so-called “illegal” construction. Palestinian applications for building permits are routinely rejected, leaving little option but to defy a system entrenched in racism and land grabs simply in order to make a living.
Palestinians already face exclusion on so many levels, particularly when it comes to accessing their agricultural lands. Settler violence, with the protection of the Israeli occupation forces, has become normalised. The next step, it seems, is to allow settlers a more active role in the de-facto annexation of Palestinian territory. While the Israeli government continues to suspend formal annexation in return for duping Arab states and expanding the Abraham Accords, its population of illegal settlers can operate in plain sight fully authorised by the government.
Once again, it is only Palestinians who can experience the implications of such a decision, yet the space for them to articulate their rights is not given. For decades, state and settler violence have been documented by human rights organisations and international institutions, to the point that such reports have been reduced to periodic summaries. The result has been a complete normalisation of actions which now serve as the foundation for the more political implications of such violence.
It is not just human rights that have been trampled upon. That’s a mistake that the UN has promoted over the years to avoid facing up to the erosion of political rights which its 1947 Partition Plan and subsequent Zionist colonisation forced upon the Palestinian people.
Just because the international community has decreed that the human rights spectacle pertains to Palestine, it doesn’t mean that the narrative it has imposed upon the Palestinian people is correct. What is at stake with the decision is the Settlements’ Council playing a greater role in Israel’s annexation plans. Such political decisions will have an impact on human rights, of course, but the main violation here is the assumption that Palestinians are fodder for the humanitarian project that sustains the two-state paradigm and, as a result, the international community’s involvement in the final stages of Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.
Right on cue, then, we have Human Rights Watch (HRW) releasing its report A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, which documents settler encroachment on Palestinian territory and warns of apartheid. “Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said HRW director Kenneth Roth.
But would apartheid have become an issue had it not already been highlighted by Israeli rights group B’Tselem? Now that human rights organisations have taken their cue, apartheid risks becoming normalised in the Palestinian context, because no international organisation will take issue with the politics of apartheid and no one questions the vagueness of such a human rights label, as long as there is an opportunity to pay lip-service to criticism of such abuse of the indigenous population.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America