A month before ex-law enforcement officer was caught on video assaulting a teenage girl in McKinney (TX) for swimming while black, Israeli security forces were ordering non-Jews from a swimming pool in a West Bank town so that Jewish-Israeli settlers from nearby illegal settlements would have a Muslim-free swim. The Birkat al-Karmil natural pool and park is in the Hebron Hills, a section of the Occupied West Bank (Area A) where Israel agreed to relinquish military and civil control to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestine’s Yatta Municipality renovated the site, creating a park and restoring an ancient natural pool at its center. Yatta maintains the resort for everyone’s enjoyment, and settlers have come to swim with local Palestinians.
On April 7, hundreds of settlers arrived at the pool at about 2:00 pm accompanied by dozens of soldiers, Border Police, and representatives of the Civil Administration (CA). The security forces used guns for force Palestinians out of the pool and go to the edge of the park. Settlers swam and used the rest of the park for over two hours before the Israelis and their security force left the area.
When the mayor of Yatta protested, he was told that the visit had been coordinated with the Palestinian DCO. Representatives denied any coordination and submitted an official complaint to the Israeli DCO. An IDF spokesperson wrote, “It should be noted that there were no unusual occurrences during their visit. Palestinians were present at this event.”
According to international consensus, including the United Nations, the almost 130 West Bank settlements with 350,150 Israelis in the West Bank officially recognized by the Israeli government in 2012 are illegal under international law. Even a large number of the Israeli public oppose these Israeli settlements in the West Bank and support the 2005 settlement relocation. Settlements, however, continue to expand with new ones established. Last September Israel took almost 1,000 acres of private Palestinian land near Bethlehem, supposedly in retribution for the kidnapping and murder of three Israel teenagers but in reality to calm right-wing Israelis after the country’s ceasefire terms with Hamas. It was later revealed that Hamas had nothing do with the teenagers’ deaths. This latest land grab is only a small part of the 250,000 acres that Israelis have taken from Palestinians in only the West Bank since 1979.
Last summer, Israel used the excuse of tunnels from Gaza into Israel as the reason for attacking the vulnerable Gazans last summer, but Israel wants Gaza’s natural gas reserves. In seven weeks, over 2,100 Gazans, at least 69 percent of them civilians, were killed, and another 11,000 were wounded. An additional 500,000 people became refugees. On the Israel side, 66 soldiers, five civilians, and one Thai civilian were killed; 469 IDF soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were wounded.
Earlier this spring, Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, said about Israeli’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territory:
“Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”
McDonough repeated White House support for a “sovereign and sustainable” Palestinian state based on the 1967 border lines and warned Israel that any further land grabs of Palestinian territory “would be both wrong and illegal” and challenged by the United States.
After Israel hid behind its “Iron Dome,” partially funded by the United States, and decimated Gaza, the United States denounced the bombing of three schools as “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” The United States replenished the grenades and mortar rounds used for this destruction; about $1 billion of U.S. munitions is stored inside Israel and made available to Israel when the country asks for them. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, getting $3.1 billion every year–one-fourth of Israel’s military budget.
Last month, the U.S. State Department approved almost $1.9 billion in new weapons for Israel, including 14,500 kits to upgrade “dumb” bombs into precision-guided munitions, over 12,000 unguided bombs, and 50 Super Penetrator “bunker buster” bombs, designed to hit targets underground. The approval came a few weeks after the Israeli rights group Breaking the Silence collected reports of possible violations of international law during Israel’s 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza. U.S. law prohibits providing military assistance to countries that engage in human rights violations, including Israeli attacks on hospitals and health workers. Testimonies also alleged that tanks fired randomly with no regard for civilians and Israeli soldiers looting homes and wantonly destroying their property such as running tanks over cars.
Also being sold to Israel are over 3,000 hellfire missiles, which the U.S. briefly withheld from Israel following last summer’s attack on Gaza. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency stated that “the United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability.” The U.S. also plans to provide Israel with 50 F-35 stealth fighters, missile defense systems, and other unknown military materials to Israel to quell Israel’s opposition to the U.S. agreement with Iran. The deal came a month after the House Armed Services Committee approved $474 million for Israel’s anti-missile systems, like Iron Dome. These sales require congressional approval.
This summer represents the 11th anniversary of Israel’s illegal Separation Wall. Instead of following the 1967 Green Line as ordered by the International Court of Justice, the wall protects illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and turns Palestine property into non-contiguous bits and pieces while adding at least half the West Bank with crucial resources such as the Jordan River and Western Aquifer to Israel. Israel has built the world’s largest open air prison.
The military routinely closes Palestinian roads, orders Palestinians to evacuate their homes so they can conduct military exercises, demolishes whole towns and villages to claim land for new settlements, fails to prosecute Israelis for routinely murdering Palestinians, and brutalizes the Palestinian population who live in terror of nightly raids in which men, women and even children are hauled away for interminable jail sentences and torture without any criminal charges against them.
Israel’s new deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, told the international community this spring that the bible proves that all the land allocated to the Palestinians belongs to the Jewish people. She is currently the country’s top full-time diplomat. In her inaugural speech to Israeli diplomats, Hotovely said Israel has tried too hard to appease the world and must stand up for itself.
This past Monday, U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the U.S. Constitution gives the president total power to identify foreign governments after a U.S. couple sued for the right to list “Jerusalem, Israel” as their son’s birthplace on his U.S. passport. Although Israel claims that all of Jerusalem belongs to that country, the international community believes that West Jerusalem, including the Old City, belongs to the Palestinians.
In 2002, Congress passed an act allowing U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem the option of listing their birthplaces as “Jerusalem, Israel” on passports and birth certificates. George W. Bush signed the law, but the State Department never enforced it. U.S. officials maintain that any sovereignty in that city is determined through diplomatic negotiations. In rejecting the petition for Menachem Zivotofsky’s parents, the Court affirmed that, according to the U.S. Constitution, the president “has sole authority to determine what countries to conduct relations with, which competing government is legitimate, and which territorial claims to accede to.”
The Zivotofskys used a death certificate from 2002 for Myron Friedman stating his place of death was “Jerusalem, Israel.” Three months after they submitted the document, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sent Friedman’s daughter, Wendy Serlin, a letter correcting an administrative error regarding Friedman’s place of death and new original copies of Friedman’s death certificate leaving the space for “country” blank.
After the Supreme Court argued the case, Zivotofsky v Kerry, last fall, Nina Totenburg wrote:
“Ever since the founding of Israel, the U.S. has taken the position that no country has sovereignty over Jerusalem until its status is negotiated in a Middle East peace deal. Israel’s supporters in Congress, however, have tried to force a different policy, seeking to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and mandating that the U.S. Department of State allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, however, have refused to comply with the passport mandate, contending it infringes on the president’s foreign policy powers.”
In a 6-3 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that Congress has no constitutional role in recognizing other countries or parts of countries. The constitution gives the president that prerogative. Therefore the 2002 law ordering documents include “Israel” with “Jerusalem” is nullified as unconstitutional.
Writing his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts showed that he has no respect for the constitution when he wrote:
“The Court takes the perilous step—for the first time in our history—of allowing the President to defy an Act of Congress in the field of foreign affairs.”
On Monday, the RAND Corporation released a study asserting that if Israelis and Palestinians were to forge a two-state solution and end their decades-old conflict, their economies would enjoy a combined windfall of $173 billion over 10 years. What a waste.