ISRAELIS THINK THEY CAN INTIMIDATE THEIR CRITICS INTO SILENCE. NOT THIS ONE

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Zenia Stampe

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I don’t often begin a Facebook post with an appeal, but this is an extraordinary situation. This post is long but I hope you will read it. And I hope you will share it.

I am a Danish politician and Member of the Danish Parliament. I have just returned from a week in Israel and Palestine. The trip concluded with a very unusual experience. We were meeting with a political director from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also happens to be the next Ambassador to Denmark. We discussed the situation in the Middle East. But towards the end of the meeting, he changed the subject and began attacking Facebook updates I have written in Danish.

It is very unusual for a diplomat to argue with a politician from abroad. It shows how sensitive the Israeli government is to foreign criticism. It also shows that Israelis tend to think they can intimidate critics into silence.

But I will not be silenced. I have seen systematic and deliberate breaches of international law during the last week. I intend to speak out. And now I know the Israeli government is listening.

And that’s why I ask you to read and share my post with your network. For the further it reaches, the more seriously the Israeli government will be forced to address it.

We often hear the Israeli government using “security considerations” to justify their policies But one thing is now only too clear to me: Israel is making systematic efforts to drive the Palestinians out of large areas of the occupied territories. Israel is in the process of colonizing the areas that were intended to become the Palestinian state. And the word security is a thin layer of varnish applied by Israel to cover that policy.

Let me provide just four examples:

1. Confiscation of Palestinian houses
Israeli law allows any Jewish Israelis to claim homes where Jews lived before 1948. Note that this is taking place in the occupied territories, not in Israel. This means that an Israeli Jew can knock on the door of a house where a Palestinian family has lived for generations. They can obtain a court order to force the family to move out; the settlers then move in. Most often they put a huge Israeli flag on the roof. And the Israeli military is now obliged to protect the house. So the neighbours suddenly see their street turned into a militarized area. The children play among heavily armed soldiers and checkpoints.

How can this policy benefit Israel’s security in any way?

2. Settlements
There are currently 600,000 Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian territories, and the number is rising rapidly. According to international law, the settlements are illegal. An occupying power must not transfer its own population into occupied territory. But the most critical aspect is not the growth in the number of settlers but the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land, the demolition of Palestinian property, the depletion of natural resources, and the compulsory relocation of Palestinians. These are all breaches of international law and a de facto colonization of the Palestinians’ country.

This is not just a matter of principle. I have witnessed demolitions. I have spoken to farmers driven off land where they have lived and which they worked for generations. I have seen settlements covering larger and larger areas on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, with security walls, control towers, and huge security zones. If this development continues Palestine will become like a Swiss cheese, where all that is left for the Palestinians is the holes in the cheese. The Palestinians are confined to ghettos in their own country.

How can this in any way be justified by security considerations?

3. Living Conditions
Palestinians in large areas of the West Bank must submit applications in Israel to extend their homes, dig wells, etc. But their applications are systematically rejected. They find water supplies get cut off and electrical installations destroyed by the military. Meanwhile, they see the settlements in the area constantly expanding and being given unrestricted access to electricity and water. I have stood on a road where the Palestinians on one side of the road only had a little water, while the settlers on the other side of the road had all the water they needed. It is not just a problem for individual families and businesses forced to cope with very limited resources. This is also a huge obstacle to the Palestinian economy because it impedes the creation of jobs. We visited a farm and a brewery, both of which were very well run and had considerable potential. But when you only have very limited access to water and do not know when it’s going to be cut off, it’s hard to expand production.

What has any of this to do with security?

4. The security wall
Israel has the right to protect its borders from potential terrorists. This includes the right to build a wall. But Israel’s security wall is not on the Israeli border and it does not separate Israelis from Palestinians. The wall cuts through Palestine and prevents Palestinians from accessing their own farmlands, schools, institutions, hospitals, and jobs. Thousands of Palestinians cross the wall every day but doing so requires permits and hours of waiting in chaotic conditions.

The wall is, therefore, a clear breach of international law, and it cannot be justified by security considerations. If this were about security, the wall would surely be located along the green line: the internationally recognized border between Israel and Palestine. And why does Israel at least not provide a proper number of operational checkpoints so that Palestinians can cross the wall quickly? Chaotic scenes with thousands of desperate people queuing for hours and hours are normal. It’s sheer harassment.

How can this be of any value in terms of security considerations?

I know many Jews and many Israelis. I understand and respect how centuries of persecution have created a need for security, both in terms of protection from persecution in the many countries where Jews live and in the mere fact that Israel exists as a safe haven. I will stand up for this at all times.

But the Israeli government is pursuing goals that are not about security. They are about a land grab; about taking over the little the Palestinians have left. It is a slow and deliberate displacement of the Palestinians from their own country. This must not go unremarked. We have a duty to criticize it.

I look forward to welcoming the new Israeli ambassador to Denmark. He must know that many Danes follow what is going on in Israel and Palestine. Many of us are gravely concerned. And we are not going to remain silent.

Please share. Thanks!

PS: The photo shows me on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Susiya. Susiya has been demolished by the Israeli military six times and is subject to a standing demolition order. On the horizon, the watchtower of the settlement that Israel says is threatened by the village. Which is why the village is to be demolished. But actually, who is threatening who?

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