Category Archives: Zionism

Israel’s Palestinian Minority has Good Reason to Fear Trump’s Plan

The Trump administration’s decision to green-light Israel’s annexation of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank grabbed headlines last week. But US support for a related proposal – one equally cherished by Israel’s extreme right – was far less noticed.

Under the terms of the “Peace to Prosperity” document, the US could allow Israel to strip potentially hundreds of thousands of its own inhabitants of their citizenship in a so-called “populated land swap” with the settlements.

Those in danger of having their citizenship revoked are drawn from Israel’s large Palestinian minority – one in five of the country’s population.

These Palestinians are descended from families that managed to avoid the large-scale expulsions by the Israeli army in 1948 that led to the creation of a Jewish state on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland.

The plan would require minor modifications to borders recognised since Israel agreed to a ceasefire with its Arab neighbours in 1949.

The result would be to transfer a long, thin strip of land in Israel known as the “Triangle” into the West Bank – along with a dozen towns and villages densely populated with Israel’s Palestinian citizens.

Unwelcome guests

Samer Atamni, director of the Jewish-Arab centre for peace at Givat Haviva, an institute promoting greater social integration in Israel, lives in Kafr Karia, one the towns likely to be moved under the plan.

“There’s been talk about this idea for a while but mostly from the extreme right. Now Trump has brought it out of the margins and into the mainstream,” he told Middle East Eye.

“The worry is that it will become the basis of any future political solution. It has been normalised.”

Yousef Jabareen, a member of the Israeli parliament from Umm al-Fahm, home to 50,000 Palestinians and the largest community targeted by the “land swap”, said the proposal was a dramatic step-up in a growing campaign to delegitimise the Palestinian minority.

“Even if the plan cannot be implemented yet, it presents us – the native people of the land – as unwelcome guests, as a fifth column, as the enemy,” he told MEE.

“And it will inflame the right-wing’s incitement, including from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, that Palestinian members of the parliament are representatives for a terrorist population.”

‘Pieces on a chessboard’

Defenders of the plan have argued that it does not violate the rights of those affected because they would not be physically forced from their homes. Instead, their communities would be reassigned to a Palestinian state.

But forcible transfer of the kind suggested in the Trump plan – sometimes referred to as “static transfer” – is likely to constitute a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Atamni noted that families would be torn apart. Those inside the Triangle would be separated behind checkpoints and walls from family members living elsewhere in Israel. It would also cut many off from their places of work, schools and colleges, as well as their historic lands.

“We study and work in Israel. It is the only reality our community has known for decades,” he said.

“It confirms our worst fears that Israel does not take our rights as citizens seriously, that it thinks it can simply issue diktats, and play with our futures as if we are pieces on a chessboard.”

Worse on other side

Jabareen pointed out that residents of the Triangle had no reason to be reassured about their prospects from the Trump document.

“What state is it that we would be transferred to? From the Trump plan it is clear that there will be no Palestinian state, only a series of ghettoes, South African-style Bantustans. Under this plan, we would be placed under Israeli military rule, under occupation and apartheid.”

Baraa Mahamid, a 20-year-old activist with the Umm al-Fahm Youth Movement, agreed. He pointed out that many residents of the Triangle travelled into West Bank cities like Jenin, which is close by.

“We see the greater poverty there, the checkpoints, the walls, Israeli soldiers everywhere. There are many problems for us living here in Israel, but people are afraid their life would become much worse on the other side of the wall.”

Demographic timebomb

According to Israeli government sources quoted this week by the Haaretz daily, Netanyahu was the one who persuaded the Americans to include the transfer option.

He is reported to have been lobbying US officials to adopt the provision since work first began on Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” back in 2017.

It is the first time that an official US peace plan has included such a proposal or produced a map showing how such a territorial exchange would work on the ground.

For Netanyahu and many Israeli Jews, who see the country’s Palestinian citizens as a “demographic timebomb”, with high birth rates that might slowly erode the state’s decisive Jewish majority, the transfer plan is both a demographic and territorial win.

According to polls, about half of Israeli Jews support the expulsion of Palestinian citizens.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, which brings together the main Palestinian political factions, warned this week that the transfer of the Triangle was likely to be only the first stage in wider measures.

The Israeli right, he said, was “conveying a clear message to all of Israel’s Arab citizens: ‘You are not welcome here and your turn will come when the next plan is released’.”

Territorial gains

The transfer of the Triangle offers a twofold gain for the right.

First, it subtracts large numbers of Palestinians from Israel’s population without losing much territory, thereby strengthening Israel’s Jewish majority.

Second, it rationalises Israel’s “reciprocal” annexation of swaths of West Bank territory on which the Jewish settlements are built, thereby defeating any chance of creating a viable Palestinian state.

But critically for those who support annexation, it substantially increases Israel’s territorial area without risking a rise in Palestinian numbers.

According to figures published by Peace Now this week, some 380,000 Palestinians – 260,000 in the Triangle and a further 120,000 in East Jerusalem – would be “swapped out” to a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, some 330,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would need to be “swapped in” – that is, brought under Israeli rule as part of the annexations.

The overall gain would be official US recognition for the first time of territory housing 650,000 Jewish settlers as part of Israel.

“The demographic rationale behind this isn’t being hidden,” said Jabareen. “Israel loses lots of Palestinian citizens and gains lots of territory seized by Jewish settlers.”

Citizenship and loyalty

Schemes to transfer the Triangle have been floating around on the right for nearly two decades. It first came to prominence when a formal plan was published by Avigdor Lieberman, a settler who has served as defence and foreign minister under Netanyahu.

He has been keen to tie citizenship rights to “loyalty” to Israel as a Jewish state. In previous election campaigns, he has run under the slogan: “No loyalty, no citizenship.”

Transferring the Triangle has been seen by the right as a prelude to much wider revocations of citizenship for Palestinians, according to Jabareen.

In recent years more politicians on the right, including Netanyahu, have been explicit that Palestinian citizens are necessarily disloyal to a Jewish state because they hold on to their Palestinian identity.

‘Sword over our heads’

Such imputations of disloyalty were a mainstay of Netanyahu’s two election campaigns last year. He accused Israel’s Palestinian voters of wanting “to annihilate us all – women, children and men”.

He also sent his Likud party’s monitors into polling stations in Palestinian communities in Israel wearing body cameras, implying that Palestinian voters were defrauding the Jewish majority.

Jabareen noted: “In the parliament, members of the ruling coalition openly incite against us. Bezalel Smotrich [a settler leader, and currently the transport minister] says it proudly: ‘Accept your inferior status, or you will go to jail or be expelled.’ For them, the Triangle plan is a sword hanging over our heads.”

Palestinian identity

The assumption of disloyalty is implied in the wording of the Trump plan, which states that residents of the Triangle’s communities “largely self-identify as Palestinian”.

In fact, noted Atamni, the situation is far more complex. Surveys suggest that there is a complicated interplay between the minority’s Palestinian, Arab, Israeli and various religious identities.

“Yes, our national identity is Palestinian, but that doesn’t detract in any way from the fact that our civil identity is Israeli,” he said. “When we struggle in Israel it is for our civil rights, to end the discrimination we face from the state and receive equality as citizens.”

Nonetheless, the transfer proposal contained in Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” is in line with recent legislative moves by Israel that sanction the downgrading of the status of Palestinian citizens.

The most significant is the Nation-State Law, passed in 2018. It confers constitution-like status on Israel’s Jewishness, revokes Arabic as an official language, and makes a top priority of Judaisation – a policy of settling Jews into Palestinian areas inside Israel and the occupied territories.

“Over the last 10 years Israeli society has moved further right very quickly,” said Atamni. “The left in Israel has been a huge disappointment. Most have kept silent about the recent threats to our status.”

Political calculations

Jabareen observed that the ultra-nationalist bloc supporting Netanyahu had a pressing political need to delegitimise the standing of Palestinians as citizens, and especially as voters.

Netanyahu has been unable to form a government for the past year – and thereby avoid an impending corruption trial – because he has twice narrowly lost to an opposition bloc led by a former army general, Benny Gantz, of the Blue and White party.

The bloc under Gantz can only end the stalemate and win power itself if it allies with the Joint List, which represents Israel’s Palestinian minority. But Gantz has embraced the Trump plan, breaking any possible alliance with the Joint List.

If both Jewish blocs again fail to win a majority in the election on 2 March, the pressure will mount on Gantz to enter a rightwing unity government with Netanyahu, probably on Netanyahu’s terms.

Disillusionment from Palestinian voters and a drop in their turnout might also mean Netanyahu’s coalition can scrape over the electoral threshold and win back power.

Additionally, Netanyahu is trying to grow the right-wing bloc by urging his far-right coalition partners to form an electoral alliance with the Jewish Power party, heirs of the outlawed Kach movement. They demand the expulsion of Palestinians from a Greater Israel.

The US decision to support a platform that promotes the transfer of large numbers of Palestinian citizens against their will could help rehabilitate the image of the racists of Jewish Power, making them look more politically respectable.

Internment camps

Before Netanyahu began lobbying for a transfer of the Triangle in 2017, he had sought to persuade former President Obama’s officials of its benefits as early as 2014. According to the Maariv newspaper, Netanyahu argued that the move would reduce the Palestinian minority from a fifth of Israel’s population to 12 per cent.

At the same time, the Israeli foreign ministry produced a document analysing how a “population exchange” might be presented as in accordance with international law. It concluded that the measure would require that either the affected citizens supported the move or the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas backed it.

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Palestinian citizens are opposed.

Aware of the minority’s hostility, the Netanyahu government staged a drill in 2010 in which Israeli security services trained for an uprising in response to transferring the Triangle. As part of the exercise, internment camps were established for protesters.

Mahamid, the youth activist from Umm al-Fahm, said the plan had at least made the reality of life for Palestinian citizens clearer.

“We were told our citizenship would protect us, that it would get us our rights if we were loyal. But it never did. And now that is being made explicit in the threat to expel us.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

Crisis and Opportunity: The ‘Deal of the Century’ Challenge for Palestinians

After several postponements, US President, Donald Trump, has finally revealed the details of his Middle East plan, dubbed ‘Deal of the Century’, in a press conference in Washington on January 28.

Standing triumphantly beside Trump, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, must have surely understood that the timing of the announcement, only a few weeks before Israel’s third general elections in one year, was tailored especially to fit the embattled Israeli leader’s domestic agenda.

Consisting of 80 pages, 50 of which are entirely dedicated to the plan’s economic component, the document was a rehash of previous Israeli proposals that have been rejected by Palestinians and Arab governments for failing to meet the minimum standards of justice, equality and human rights.

Former Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, contended in an interview that the plan is not even American, but an Israeli one.

“What you heard last night from Trump is what I heard from Netanyahu and his negotiating team in 2011-2012,” Erekat said. “I can assure you that the US team did not make a single word or comma in this program. I have the protocols and I am willing to reveal to you what we have been offered. This is the plan of Netanyahu and the settler council.”

It was no surprise, then, to read the reaction of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who assigned Trump’s plan to the “dustbin of history”.

As expected, Trump has granted Netanyahu everything that he and Israel ever wanted. The American vision for Middle East ‘peace’ does not demand the uprooting of a single illegal Jewish settlement and recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided’ capital. It speaks of a conditioned and disfigured Palestinian state that can only be achieved based on vague expectations; it wholly rejects the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and fails to mention the word ‘occupation’ even once.

Obviously, only Israel benefits from the US plan; the Zionist discourse, predicated on maximum territorial gains with minimal Palestinian presence, has finally prevailed. Every Israeli request has been met, to the last one. Meanwhile, Palestinians received nothing, aside from the promise of chasing another mirage of a Palestinian state that has no territorial continuity and no true sovereignty.

Palestinian concerns continue to be ignored, as Palestinian rights have been ignored for many years, even during the heyday of the ‘peace process’, in the early and mid-1990s. At the time, all fundamental issues had been relegated to the ‘final status negotiations’, which have never taken place.

The ‘Deal of the Century’ merely validated the status quo ante as envisioned and unilaterally carried out by Israel.

That said, Trump’s plan will fail to resolve the conflict. Worse, it will exacerbate it even further, for Israel now has a blank check to speed up its colonial venture, to entrench its military occupation and to further oppress Palestinians, who will certainly continue to resist.

As for the economic component of the plan, history has proven that there can be no economic prosperity under military occupation. Netanyahu, and others before him, tried such dubious methods, of ‘economic peace’ and such, and all have miserably failed.

Time and again, the UN has made it clear that it follows a different political trajectory than that followed by Washington, and that all US decisions regarding the status of Jerusalem, the illegal settlements and the Golan Heights, are null and void. Only international law matters, as none of Trump’s actions in recent years have succeeded in significantly altering Arab and international consensus on the rights of the Palestinians.

As for the status of – and Palestinian rights in their occupied city – East Jerusalem, rebranding a few neighborhoods – Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis – as al-Quds, or East Jerusalem, is an old Israeli plan that has already failed in the past. The late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, had enough political sagacity to reject it, and neither Abbas nor any other Palestinian official would dare compromise on the historic and legal Palestinian rights in the city.

The Palestinian leadership cannot be absolved from its responsibility towards the Palestinian people, and its unmitigated failure to develop a comprehensive national strategy.

Immediately after Trump announced his plan, Abbas called on all Palestinian factions, including his rivals in the Hamas movement, to unite and to develop a common strategy to counter the ‘Deal of the Century’.

Knowing that the US-Israeli plot was imminent, why did Abbas wait this long to call for a common strategy?

National unity among Palestinians should never be used as a bargaining chip as a scare tactic, or as a last resort option aimed at validating ineffectual Abbas in the eyes of his people.

The PA is now facing an existential crisis. Its very formation in 1994 was meant to marginalize the more democratically-encompassing Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

According to the new American diktats, the PA has already outlasted its usefulness.

As for Israel, the PA is only needed to maintain ‘security coordination’ with the Israeli army, which essentially means ensuring the safety of the illegal and armed Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine.

While unity among Palestinian parties is an overriding demand, Abbas’ PA cannot expect to maintain this ridiculous balancing act: expecting true and lasting national unity while still diligently serving the role expected of him by Israel and its allies.

While Trump’s sham ‘plan’ does not fundamentally alter US foreign policy in Israel and Palestine – as US bias towards Israel preceded Trump by decades – it has definitely ended the so-called ‘peace process’ charade, which divided the Palestinians into ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ camps.

Now, all Palestinians have become ‘extremists’ from Washington’s viewpoint, all equally shunned and marginalized.

Abbas would be terribly mistaken if he thinks that the old political discourse can be saved,  which was, oddly enough, written in Washington.

The problem with the Palestinian leadership is that, despite its frequent protestations and angry condemnations, it is yet to take independent initiatives or operate outside the American-Israeli paradigm.

And this is the Palestinian leadership’s greatest challenge at this stage. Will it move forward with a Palestinian-centric strategy or persist in the same place, regurgitating old language and reminiscing of the good old days?

The Trump Plan is Just a Cover for Israel’s Final Land Grab

The Trump “Vision for Peace” will never be implemented – and not because the Palestinians reject it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s enthusiastic public embrace of the plan belies the fact that the Israeli right detest it too.

The headlines are that, with US blessing, Israel’s dream is about to be realised: it will be able to annex its dozens of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. In return, the Palestinians can have a state on 15 per cent of their homeland.

But that is not the real aim of this obviously one-sided “peace” plan. Rather, it is intended as the prelude to something far worse for the Palestinians: the final eradication of the last traces of their political project for national liberation.

US President Donald Trump’s plan is neither a blueprint for peace nor a decree from the heart of the US empire. Rather it is a decoy, an enormous red herring created in Tel Aviv and then marketed by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump may think his vision could lead to a “realistic” two-state solution. Even many critics assume it envisions the establishment of a highly circumscribed, enfeebled Palestinian state. But for Israeli leaders it serves another purpose entirely: it provides diplomatic cover while they put the finishing touches to their version of a one-state solution inside Greater Israel.

Netanyhau has crafted a “deal of the century” designed to fail from the outset – and managed it through deeply partisan White House intermediaries like David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, and Kushner. For all of them, its purpose is to provide a fresh alibi for Israel and Washington to continue disappearing the Palestinians more than two decades after the illusions of the earlier Oslo Accords “peace” process can no longer be sustained.

Israeli bad faith

That this is intended as a grand deception should not surprise us. The current plan follows a tried and tested tradition of US-dominated “peacemaking” that has utterly failed to bring peace but has succeeded triumphantly in smothering and erasing historic Palestine, gradually transforming it into Greater Israel.

Trump’s deal is, in fact, the third major framework – after the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan and the Oslo accords initiated in 1993 – supposedly offering territorial partition between Israelis and Palestinians. The lesson of each has been that Israel and the US have returned after each inevitable and intended failure to offer the Palestinians even less of their homeland.

On each occasion, Israel (and before its creation, the Zionist leadership) has signed up to these peacemaking initiatives in bad faith, forcing Palestinians, as the weaker party, to reject them. And each time, that rejection has been weaponised by Israel – used as a pretext to steal more territory.

This plan is no different from the others. It is simply the latest iteration of a pattern of settler-colonial expansion sponsored by Western powers. But this time, if Israel succeeds, there will be nothing left of Palestine even to pretend to negotiate over.

UN partition rejected

The idea of division first took substantive form with the United Nations Partition Plan of late 1947. It proposed creating two states: a Jewish one on 55 percent of Palestine would supposedly serve as compensation for Europe’s recent genocide; and an Arab one, on the remaining 45 percent, would be for the native Palestinian population.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, knew that the Palestinians were bound to reject a plan premised on their dispossession. That was the very reason he signed on. He hated the limitations imposed by the UN on his emerging Jewish state – he wanted all of Palestine – but was only too aware that Palestinians hated the partition proposal even more than he did. He knew his good faith would never be put to the test.

Under cover of the ensuing, year-long war, Ben-Gurion sent his troops way beyond the partition lines, seizing 78 percent of historic Palestine and transforming the area into a Jewish state. In 1967, his successors would grab the rest, as part of a surprise strike against Egypt and other Arab states. And so, the 53-year-long occupation was born.

Oslo’s separation logic

Just as now with the Trump plan, the Oslo process of the 1990s was not rooted in the idea of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state – only of pretending to offer one. In fact, statehood wasn’t mentioned in the Oslo accords, only implied by a series of intended Israeli withdrawals from the occupied territories over a five-year period that Israel reneged on.

Instead, Oslo was seen by the Israeli side, led then by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, chiefly in terms of an “economic peace”. The new rallying cry of “separation” was intended to transform fragments of the occupied territories into free-trade zones to exploit a captive Palestinian labour force, and then to normalise relations with the Arab world.

Oslo’s only meaningful legacy – the Palestinian Authority, today led by Mahmoud Abbas – still clings to its primary role: as prison guard overseeing Palestinians’ confinement in ever-shrinking fragments of the occupied territories.

The Trump plan recognises that Oslo is now more an obstacle than a vehicle for further Palestinian dispossession. Israel has absolute control of East Jerusalem, the planned capital of a Palestinian state. The army and settlers have cemented Israeli rule over 62 percent of the West Bank – territory Oslo declared as Area C – that includes its best agricultural land, water sources and mineral wealth. Gaza, isolated from the rest of the occupied territories, is besieged.

The only thing left for Israel to do now is formalise that control and ensure it is irreversible. That requires making permanent the current apartheid system in the West Bank, which enforces one set of laws for Jewish settlers and another for Palestinians.

Palestinian obligations

Trump’s “Vision for Peace” is needed only because Oslo has outlived its usefulness. The Trump plan radically overhauls the Oslo process formula: instead of a supposed sharing of obligations – “land in return for peace” – those obligations are now imposed exclusively on the Palestinian side.

Under Oslo, Israel was supposed to withdraw from the occupied territories as a precondition for achieving Palestinian statehood and an end to hostilities. In reality, Israel did the exact opposite.

Under the Trump plan, Israel gets the land it wants immediately – by annexing its illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley – and it gets more land later, unless Palestinians agree to a long list of impossible preconditions.

Even then, Palestinians would only be entitled to a demilitarised, non-sovereign state on less than 15 percent of historic Palestine, amounting to a patchwork of enclaves connected by a warren of tunnels and bridges, surrounded by armed, fortress-like Israeli communities.

But even this vision of pseudo-Palestinian statehood will never come to fruition – something Netanyahu has made sure of. The Trump plan is a catalogue of the most unacceptable, humiliating concessions that could ever be demanded of the Palestinian people.

Impossible preconditions

It offers them a state that would be unlike any state ever envisaged. Not only would it have no army, but it would have to permanently accommodate a foreign army, the Israeli one. Palestine would have no control over its borders, and therefore its foreign relations and trade. It would be deprived of key resources, such as its offshore waters, which include large deposits of natural gas; its airspace; and its electromagnetic spectrum.

It would be deprived of its most fertile land, its quarries, its water sources, and access to the Dead Sea and its related mineral and cosmetics industries. As a result, the Palestinian economy would continue to be entirely aid dependent. Proposed industrial zones in the Negev, accessible only through Israeli territory, could be closed off by Israel at a whim.

East Jerusalem, including its holy sites and tourism industry, would be sealed off from the Palestinian state, which would have its capital instead outside the city, in Abu Dis. That village would be renamed Al-Quds, the Holy, although the deception would satisfy outsiders only, not Palestinians.

Intentionally lacking specifics for the time being, the Trump vision suggests Israel and Jordan would eventually share sovereignty over Jerusalem’s most important holy site, Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The US appears ready to let Israel forcibly divide the site so that Jewish extremists, who want to blow up the mosque and replace it with a temple, can pray there – in a repetition of what happened earlier to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

No legal redress

There would be no Palestinian right of return. Abbas would need to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, retrospectively sanctioning Palestinians’ dispossession and colonisation.

The Trump plan demands that the PA strip the families of political prisoners and martyrs killed by the Israeli army – the Palestinian equivalents of Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko – of their welfare payments.

In an interview with CNN this week, Kushner made clear quite how intentionally contradictory his demands of Palestinians are. Before it can be recognised as a state, the Palestinian Authority is expected to enforce the disarmament of the Palestinian factions, including its militant rival Hamas.

But it will have to do so while behaving like some kind of idealised Switzerland, according to Kushner, who insists that it uphold the most stringent democratic standards and absolute respect for human rights.

He indicated that the PA would fail such tests. It was, he said, a “police state” and “not exactly a thriving democracy”.

The Trump plan’s proposed democratic Palestine, it should be noted, would not be eligible to partake of international justice. Should Israel commit atrocities against Palestinians, the PA would have to forgo any appeals to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which adjudicates on war crimes.

And in a final proof of its determination to ensure Palestinians reject the deal, the Trump administration has dusted off a forcible transfer plan long promoted by the former far-right defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Israel could then redraw the borders to strip potentially hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Israel of their citizenship. Such a move would constitute a war crime.

Nightmare scenario

The Trump plan’s secret weapon is hidden in the “four-year clause”, as Kushner’s CNN interview makes explicit. He said: “If they [the PA] don’t think that they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognise them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.”

Israel and the US know that not only will Abbas or his successor never consent to the White House’s nightmare scenario, but that they could never meet these preconditions even if they wished to. But if the Palestinians don’t concede everything demanded of them within four years, Israel will be free to start grabbing and annexing yet more Palestinian land.

And worse still, Israel, the US and Europe will seek to blame Palestinians for choosing apartheid over statehood. Apologists will say once again that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.

In other words, if Palestinians refuse to disappear themselves in line with the Trump vision, it will be assumed that they consent to Israel’s permanent apartheid rule. Palestinians will have forfeited their right to any kind of state on their historic homeland, ever.

That is the real Trump vision, designed in Israel and soon to be rolled out in Palestine.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Duh, Jared! Who built the PA as a Police State?

Maybe something good will come out of the Trump plan, after all. By pushing the Middle East peace process to its logical conclusion, Donald Trump has made crystal clear something that was supposed to have been obscured: that no US administration has ever really seen peace as the objective of its “peacemaking”.

The current White House is no exception – it has just been far more incompetent at concealing its joint strategy with the Israelis. But that is what happens when a glorified used-car salesman, Donald Trump, and his sidekick son-in-law, the schoolboy-cum-businessman Jared Kushner, try selling us the “deal of the century”. Neither, it seems, has the political or diplomatic guile normally associated with those who rise to high office in Washington.

During an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this week, Kushner dismally failed to cloak the fact that his “peace” plan was designed with one goal only: to screw the Palestinians over.

The real aim is so transparent that even Zakaria couldn’t stop himself from pointing it out. In CNN’s words, he noted that “no Arab country currently satisfies the requirements Palestinians are being expected to meet in the next four years – including ensuring freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens, and an independent judiciary.”

Trump’s senior adviser suddenly found himself confronted with the kind of deadly, unassailable logic usually overlooked in CNN coverage. Zakaria observed:

Isn’t this just a way of telling the Palestinians you’re never actually going to get a state because … if no Arab countries today [are] in a position that you are demanding of the Palestinians before they can be made a state, effectively, it’s a killer amendment?

Indeed it is.

In fact, the “Peace to Prosperity” document unveiled last week by the White House is no more than a list of impossible preconditions the Palestinians must meet to be allowed to sit down with the Israelis at the negotiating table. If they don’t do so within four years, and quickly reach a deal, the very last slivers of their historic homeland – the parts not already seized by Israel – can be grabbed too, with US blessing.

Preposterous conditions

Admittedly, all Middle East peace plans in living memory have foisted these kinds of prejudicial conditions on the Palestinians. But this time many of the preconditions are so patently preposterous – contradictory even – that the usually pliable corporate press corps are embarrassed to be seen ignoring the glaring inconsistencies.

The CNN exchange was so revealing in part because Kushner was triggered by Zakaria’s observation that the Palestinians had to become a model democracy – a kind of idealised Switzerland, while still under belligerent Israeli occupation – before they could be considered responsible enough for statehood.

How was that plausible, Zakaria hinted, when Saudi Arabia, despite its appalling  human rights abuses, nonetheless remains a close strategic US ally, and Saudi leaders continue to be intimates of the Trump business empire? No one in Washington is seriously contemplating removing US recognition of Saudi Arabia because it is a head-chopping, women-hating, journalist-killing religious fundamentalist state.

But Zakaria could have made an even more telling point – was he not answerable to CNN executives. There are also hardly any western states that would pass the democratic, human rights-respecting threshold set by the Trump plan for the Palestinians.

Think of Britain’s flouting last year of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the Chagos Islanders must be allowed to return home decades after the UK expelled them so the US could build a military base on their land. Or the Windrush scandal, when it was revealed that a UK government “hostile environment” policy was used to illegally deport British citizens to the Caribbean because of the colour of their skin.

Or what about the US evading due process by holding prisoners offshore at Guantanamo? Or its use of torture against Iraqi prisoners, or its reliance on extraordinary rendition, or its extrajudicial assassinations using drones overseas, including against its own citizens?

Or for that matter, its jailing and extortionate fining of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, despite the Obama administration granting her clemency. US officials want to force her to testify against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for his role in publishing leaks of US war crimes committed in Iraq, including the shocking Collateral Murder video.

And while we’re talking about Assange and about Iraq…

Would the records of either the US or UK stand up to scrutiny if they were subjected to the same standards now required of the Palestinian leadership.

Impertinent questions

But let’s fast forward to the heart of the matter. Angered by Zakaria’s impertinence at mildly questioning the logic of the Trump plan, Kushner let rip.

He called the Palestinian Authority a “police state” and one that is “not exactly a thriving democracy”. It would be impossible, he added, for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians until the Palestinians, not Israel’s occupying army, changed its ways. It was time for the Palestinians to prioritise human rights and democracy, while at the same time submitting completely to Israel’s belligerent, half-century occupation that violates their rights and undermines any claims Israel might have to being a democracy.

Kushner said:

If they [the Palestinians] don’t think that they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that short statement to examine its many conceptual confusions.

First, there’s the very obvious point that “police states” and dictatorships are not “failed states”. Not by a long shot. In fact, police states and dictatorships are usually the very opposite of failed states. Iraq was an extremely able state under Saddam Hussein, in terms both of its ability to provide welfare and educational services and of its ruthless, brutal efficiency in crushing dissent.

Iraq only became a failed state when the US illegally invaded and executed Saddam, leaving a local leadership vacuum that sucked in an array of competing actors who quickly made Iraq ungovernable.

Oppressive by design

Second, as should hardly need pointing out, the PA can’t be a police state when it isn’t even a state. After all, that’s where the Palestinians are trying to get to, and Israel and the US are blocking the way. It is obviously something else. What that “something else” is brings us to the third point.

Kushner is right that the PA is increasingly authoritarian and uses its security forces in oppressive ways – because that’s exactly what it was set up to do by Israel and the US.

Palestinians had assumed that the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s would lead to the creation of a sovereign state at the completion of that five-year peace process. But that never happened. Denied statehood ever since, the PA now amounts to nothing more than a security contractor for the Israelis. Its unspoken job is to make the Palestinian people submit to their permanent occupation by Israel.

The self-defeating deal contained in Oslo’s “land for peace” formula was this: the PA would build Israeli trust by crushing all resistance to the occupation, and in return Israel would agree to hand over more territory and security powers to the PA.

Bound by its legal obligations, the PA had two possible paths ahead of it: either it would become a state under Israeli licence, or it would serve as a Vichy-like regime suppressing Palestinian aspirations for national liberation. Once the US and Israel made clear they would deny the Palestinians statehood at every turn, the PA’s fate was sealed.

Put another way, the point of Oslo from the point of view of the US and Israel was to make the PA an efficient, permanent police state-in-waiting, and one that lacked the tools to threaten Israel.

And that’s exactly what was engineered. Israel refused to let the Palestinians have a proper army in case, bidding to gain statehood, that army turned its firepower on Israel. Instead a US army general, Keith Dayton, was appointed to oversee the training of the Palestinian police forces – to help the PA better repress those Palestinians who tried to exercise their right in international law to resist Israel’s belligerent occupation.

Presumably, it is a sign of that US programme’s success that Kushner can now describe the PA as a police state.

Freudian slip

In his CNN interview, Kushner inadvertently highlighted the Catch-22 created for the Palestinians. The Trump “peace” process penalises the Palestinian leadership for their very success in achieving the targets laid out for them in the Oslo “peace” process.

Resist Israel’s efforts to deprive the Palestinians of statehood and the PA is classified as a terrorist entity and denied statehood. Submit to Israel’s dictates and oppress the Palestinian people to prevent them demanding statehood and the PA is classified as a police state and denied statehood. Either way, statehood is unattainable. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Kushner’s use of the term “failed state” is revealing too, in a Freudian slip kind of way. Israel doesn’t just want to steal some Palestinian land before it creates a small, impotent Palestinian state. Ultimately, what Israel envisions for the Palestinians is no statehood at all, not even of the compromised, collaborationist kind currently embodied by the PA.

An unabashed partisan

Kushner, however, has done us a favour inadvertently. He has given away the nature of the US bait-and-switch game towards the Palestinians. Unlike Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Aaron David Miller – previous American Jewish diplomats overseeing US “peace efforts” – Kushner is not pretending to be an “honest broker”. He is transparently, unabashedly partisan.

In an earlier CNN interview, one last week with Christiane Amanpour, Kushner showed just how personal is his antipathy towards the Palestinians and their efforts to achieve even the most minimal kind of statehood in a tiny fraction of their historic homeland.

He sounded more like a jilted lover, or an irate spouse forced into couples therapy, than a diplomat in charge of a complex and incendiary peace process. He struggled to contain his bitterness as he extemporised a well-worn but demonstrably false Israeli talking-point that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.

He told Amanpour: “They’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”

The reality is that Kushner, like the real author of the Trump plan, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would prefer that the Palestinians had never existed. He would rather this endless peace charade could be discarded, freeing him to get on with enriching himself with his Saudi pals.

And if the Trump plan can be made to work, he and Netanyahu might finally get their way.

Israel-Palestine: Time for Russia to Step up to the Plate

Is Israel US property? In many ways, yes. Despite its willful ways, Israel is always pushing the envelope with the US. It has been getting away with murder since it was founded, abetted and funded by the US. But the US has failed, and Jared Kushner is the perfect envoy for this latest ultimatum, crafted by Netanyahu for his buddy Donald and his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law.

The Arab puppet regimes are either silent (UAE, Bahrain, Oman) or more ‘urging to negotiate’ (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar). The Palestinians are being told: take this or lose the farm. West Bank settlements will proceed apace, the latest pending, with or without a ‘deal’.

Only Turkey, Tunisia and Jordan dismissed it out of hand. Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi of Jordan warned against the “dangerous consequences of unilateral Israeli measures that aim to impose new realities on the ground.”

The deal builds on the Oslo time bomb, which essentially accepted the occupation by creating Area A (under full Palestinian control), and Areas B and C (under Israeli military control), as already part of the State of Israel. The plan also

  1. immediately annexes territories in the West Bank, newly built and under construction, the first stage in the annexation of the Jordan Valley and all the settlements.
  2. redraws Israel’s borders.
  3. proposes a tunnel from Gaza to the West Bank.
  4. cuts off ‘Palestine’ from Jordan.

Israel as Soviet-Russian invention

But Israel is actually beholden to the Soviet Union for its survival in 1948, before its founders turned right and joined the US-led Cold War. Putin is very friendly with Israeli leaders. 20% of Israelis are Russian-speaking immigrants. The founders of Israel, Ben Gurion and Begin, were communists. Ben Gurion wrote an ode to Lenin, and Begin was an NKVD agent. Russian is almost a lingua franca in Israel.

Russia’s intervention in Syria, though problematic and far from peaceful, is considered a success in defeating ISIS, in alliance with Iran. This is actually a revival of Soviet foreign policy, as Syria was an ally of the Soviet Union and modeled itself on the ‘real existing socialism’ of the 1960s-70s. Israel abandoned its socialist roots long ago, and Russia is both feared and respected by Israelis. Putin is no one’s puppet.

The battle for Syria is not over and is not in Israel’s imperial, hegemonic interests. Russia is an ally of Iran there, in opposition to Israel. Both Russia and Israel have lost planes due to Israel’s meddling. Israel acts with relative impunity against Iranian troops. Russian-Israeli relations are complicated.

Reviving Soviet peace policy

Russia is playing a mediating, balancing role, as opposed to the US, Israel and Turkey, all pursuing their own warlike agendas. It looks now as if the Assad regime will survive and Syria will be able to rebuild (China is ready and willing), despite Turkey, Israel and the US. The next step is bringing some semblance of peace to Palestine. Why not a Putin-Netanyahu-Abbas ‘deal of the century’, though it won’t be written by Netanyahu or Gantz, and it will lack Trump’s preening ego.

A Russian solution would be based on UN Security Council resolutions and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and should/ would include

  1. an end of settlements and negotiations over what to do with existing settlements.
  2. some form of federation allowing for
  3. Jerusalem as a shared city of peace
  4. open borders.

This will require disarming settlers and removing them if necessary, or at least a trade in lands. It will probably be a one-state solution, feasible when Israel has been confronted with its sins, and is finally accepted as part of the geopolitical region on terms of equality, not terror and war.

Whether or not it is called Jewish is a moot point, as long as all citizens are treated equally. Birobaidjan is a Jewish Autonomous Region in the Russian Federation, though only 4% of citizens there are Jewish. Whether Israel-Palestine is 40% or 60% Jewish is not a problem. Muslim states have always been tolerant, believing there is ‘no force in religion’.

Putin is in a unique historical moment. A strong, respected leader, very sympathetic to the plight of Jews in WWII, and respectful of Israel as a powerful, disciplined state (just as Stalin respected Hitler’s powerful German state in the 1930s). But more important, he also has the Soviet legacy of support for third world revolution against imperialism, the same spirit that inspires Palestinians and their supporters today.

Roots of Russian-Palestinian friendship

Reading Ramzy Baroud’s These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian stories of struggle and defiance in Israeli prisons (2019) is like reading a rousing account of Russian communist partisans in WWII or revolutionaries in Tsarist Russian before 1917.

The passion in Dareen Tatour’s Resist, my people, resist them, that Israel considered so dangerous that she was imprisoned for 3 months then placed under house arrest in Tel Aviv, away from her family for 2 years 8 months. Then hounded by the Nazareth district court for another 5 months behind bars. She was told if she wrote any more political poetry, she would be immediately given even more prison time.

In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows
And carried the soul in my palm
Of an Arab Palestine.
I will not succumb to the ‘peaceful solution’
Never lower my flags
Until I evict them from my land. …

Russians are unapologetic romantics, proud of their leading role in defeating fascism. Alexey Maresyev, a military pilot who became a Soviet fighter ace during World War II despite becoming a double amputee, was portrayed in Boris Polevoy’s bestselling novel, The Story of a Real Man, and inspired Sergei Prokofiev’s last opera. Such heroes remind Russians today of their heroic, tragic past, their responsibility before history. His valour and devotion to the liberation of then-occupied Russia is like a page out of Baroud’s touching testimonials.

The Palestinians see Russia as an ally of sorts, supportive of Hamas, criticizing Israel for its settlements and persecution. Meanwhile, Israel eagerly courts Russia, as was seen at the Auschwitz commemoration in Jerusalem in January, where Russian foreign minister Lavrov wept, and Putin’s address was given the highest respect.

Liberating Berlin photo by (Jewish) Soviet Yevgeny Khaldei


Russia was acknowledged there as the real liberator of Jews in WWII, unlike commemorations in the West that play up the US and Britain as the liberators of Europe, scandalously rewriting history to their liking. Netanyahu is smart, pressing the right buttons, not fearing to slight Poland, which has never owned up to the murder of Jews by Poles under the approving eye of the German occupiers. Ask many Poles who liberated them, and you will see steam coming out their ears.

A firm hand in wrestling a deal with Israel is possible. Putin has respect from both sides, does not have the baggage of condoning and financing settlements, and is not so beholden to an Israel lobby, such as it exists in Russia (though Russian media is uniformly pro-Israel).

Of course, with Trump in office, no Russian proposal will fly. The Middle East Quartet (UN, US, EU, Russia, founded 2002), intended to mediate the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, could be resuscitated under anyone-but-Trump. Just as serious Russian involvement in Syria brought about the defeat of ISIS and stabilization of the state of Syria, Russia spearheading a realistic plan, willing to face down the handful of settler fanatics, could reset the stage for progress.

Ex-prisoner Khalida Jarrar’s words emphasize that the Palestinian struggle is universal.

Someday, the walls of every prison may come tumbling down, ushering in the age of Palestinian freedom.

A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind. The last racist, apartheid state kaput. The was the dream from Soviet days and stands today as the goal of all humanity, with Russia the key player.

Trump’s “Deal of the Century” Will Not Bring Peace: That was the Plan for the US and Israel

Much of Donald Trump’s long-trailed “deal of the century” came as no surprise. Over the past 18 months, Israeli officials had leaked many of its details.

The so-called Vision for Peace unveiled on Tuesday simply confirmed that the US government has publicly adopted the long-running consensus in Israel: that it is entitled to keep permanently the swaths of territory it seized illegally over the past half-century that deny the Palestinians any hope of a state.

The White House has discarded the traditional US pose as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinian leaders were not invited to the ceremony, and would not have come had they been. This was a deal designed in Tel Aviv more than in Washington – and its point was to ensure there would be no Palestinian partner.

Importantly for Israel, it will get Washington’s permission to annex all of its illegal settlements, now littered across the West Bank, as well as the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. Israel will continue to have military control over the entire West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his intention to bring just such an annexation plan before his cabinet as soon as possible. It will doubtless provide the central plank in his efforts to win a hotly contested general election due on March 2.

The Trump deal also approves Israel’s existing annexation of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians will be expected to pretend that a West Bank village outside the city is their capital of “Al Quds”. There are incendiary indications that Israel will be allowed to forcibly divide the Al Aqsa mosque compound to create a prayer space for extremist Jews, as has occurred in Hebron.

Further, the Trump administration appears to be considering giving a green light to the Israeli Right’s long-held hopes of redrawing the current borders in such a way as to transfer potentially hundreds of thousands of Palestinians currently living in Israel as citizens into the West Bank. That would almost certainly amount to a war crime.

The plan envisages no right of return, and it seems the Arab world will be expected to foot the bill for compensating millions of Palestinian refugees.

A US map handed out on Tuesday showed Palestinian enclaves connected by a warren of bridges and tunnels, including one between the West Bank and Gaza. The only leavening accorded to the Palestinians are US pledges to strengthen their economy. Given the Palestinians’ parlous finances after decades of resource theft by Israel, that is not much of a promise.

All of this has been dressed up as a “realistic two-state solution”, offering the Palestinians nearly 70 per cent of the occupied territories – which in turn comprise 22 per cent of their original homeland. Put another way, the Palestinians are being required to accept a state on 15 per cent of historic Palestine after Israel has seized all the best agricultural land and the water sources.

Like all one-time deals, this patchwork “state” – lacking an army, and where Israel controls its security, borders, coastal waters and airspace – has an expiry date. It needs to be accepted within four years. Otherwise, Israel will have a free hand to start plundering yet more Palestinian territory. But the truth is that neither Israel nor the US expects or wants the Palestinians to play ball.

That is why the plan includes – as well as annexation of the settlements – a host of unrealisable preconditions before what remains of Palestine can be recognised: the Palestinian factions must disarm, with Hamas dismantled; the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas must strip the families of political prisoners of their stipends; and the Palestinian territories must be reinvented as the Middle East’s Switzerland, a flourishing democracy and open society, all while under Israel’s boot.

Instead, the Trump plan kills the charade that the 26-year-old Oslo process aimed for anything other than Palestinian capitulation. It fully aligns the US with Israeli efforts – pursued by all its main political parties over many decades – to lay the groundwork for permanent apartheid in the occupied territories.

Trump invited both Netanyahu, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, and his chief political rival, former general Benny Gantz, for the launch. Both were keen to express their unbridled support.

Between them, they represent four-fifths of Israel’s parliament. The chief battleground in the March election will be which one can claim to be better placed to implement the plan and thereby deal a death blow to Palestinian dreams of statehood.

On the Israeli right, there were voices of dissent. Settler groups described the plan as “far from perfect” – a view almost certainly shared privately by Netanyahu. Israel’s extreme Right objects to any talk of Palestinian statehood, however illusory.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition will happily seize the goodies offered by the Trump administration. Meanwhile the plan’s inevitable rejection by the Palestinian leadership will serve down the road as justification for Israel to grab yet more land.

There are other, more immediate bonuses from the “deal of the century”.

By allowing Israel to keep its ill-gotten gains from its 1967 conquest of Palestinian territories, Washington has officially endorsed one of the modern era’s great colonial aggressions. The US administration has thereby declared open war on the already feeble constraints imposed by international law.

Trump benefits personally, too. This will provide a distraction from his impeachment hearings as well as offering a potent bribe to his Israel-obsessed evangelical base and major funders such as US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson in the run-up to a presidential election.

And the US president is coming to the aid of a useful political ally. Netanyahu hopes this boost from the White House will propel his ultra-nationalist coalition into power in March, and cow the Israeli courts as they weigh criminal charges against him.

How he plans to extract personal gains from the Trump plan were evident on Tuesday. He scolded Israel’s attorney-general over the filing of the corruption indictments, claiming a “historic moment” for the state of Israel was being endangered.

Meanwhile, Abbas greeted the plan with “a thousand nos”. Trump has left him completely exposed. Either the PA abandons its security contractor role on behalf of Israel and dissolves itself, or it carries on as before but now explicitly deprived of the illusion that statehood is being pursued.

Abbas will try to cling on, hoping that Trump is ousted in this year’s election and a new US administration reverts to the pretense of advancing the long-expired Oslo peace process. But if Trump wins, the PA’s difficulties will rapidly mount.

No one, least of all the Trump administration, believes that this plan will lead to peace. A more realistic concern is how quickly it will pave the way to greater bloodshed.

• First published in The National

The Israeli Right has Reason to Believe the Stars are Finally Aligned for Annexation

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs all the help he can muster before voters head to the ballot box on March 2 – for the third time in a year. Once again, it seems as though US President Donald Trump intends to ride to his rescue.

Despite Trump’s best efforts, Israel’s two elections last year ended in stalemate. Each time, Netanyahu’s Likud party and its religious, pro-settler coalition partners tied with the secular, yet hawkish right led by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

The pressure on Netanyahu to win this time has intensified. His opponents in the Israeli parliament advanced plans last week to set up a committee to weigh whether or not he should be immune from prosecution in three corruption cases.

If he is denied immunity, as seems likely, the path will be clear for a trial that might make it impossible for him to head the next government whatever the election outcome.

This was the background to intimations from the Trump administration last week that it may finally publish its long-anticipated peace plan.

The White House reportedly delayed the plan’s release over the course of last year as it waited for Netanyahu to secure a majority government to put it into effect.

Leaks suggest the document will bolster Israel’s maximalist demands, scuppering any hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state. The Palestinian leadership severed ties with Washington a while back in protest.

More than any of his recent predecessors, Trump has shown a repeated willingness to meddle in Israeli elections to the benefit of Netanyahu.

Shortly before last April’s vote, Trump declared that the US would formally recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria. The seizure of the 1,800 sq km territory in 1967 remains illegal under international law. And days before the most recent ballot in September, Trump publicly alluded to the possibility of a US-Israeli defence pact.

Now US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have hinted that the US peace plan could be published in the run-up to the March election.

Israeli officials have been saying much the same to local media since an unexpected visit this month by Avi Berkowitz, Trump’s new aide overseeing the peace plan.

This prompted Gantz, the prime minister’s main challenger, to condemn any such move as “blatant interference” in the election.

In fact, until recently, Netanyahu had been reluctant for the so-called “deal of the century” to be published because it would be unlikely to satisfy the settlers’ most extreme demands. He had feared that disappointment might drive some Likud voters further to the right, towards smaller, even more hardline parties.

But Netanyahu is now in such precarious political and legal straits that he appears ready to gamble. Publication of the peace plan could attract some more uncompromising Blue and White voters to his side. They may prefer a seasoned player like Netanyahu to manage White House expectations, rather than a politically inexperienced former army general like Gantz.

Further, the settler parties that could steal votes from Likud as a result of a Trump “peace” initiative are the lynchpin of the coalition Netanyahu needs to maintain his grip on power. His own party may not gain more seats but overall his far-right bloc could prosper, ultimately securing Netanyahu the election and immunity from prosecution.

The key issue on which Netanyahu and Trump appear to agree is on annexing the bulk of the West Bank – territories categorised in the Oslo accords as Area C, the backbone of any future Palestinian state.

Before the September election, Netanyahu announced plans to annex the Jordan Valley, the West Bank’s vast agricultural basin – presumably with Trump’s blessing.

Pompeo offered his apparent backing in November by claiming that Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not necessarily “inconsistent with international law”.

With that as a cue, Netanyahu’s government convened a panel this month to draft an official proposal to annex the Jordan Valley.

Naftali Bennett, the defence minister and a settler leader, revealed last week that Israel was creating seven new “nature reserves” on Palestinian land. Another 12 existing Israeli-seized sites are to be expanded.

Israel would annex Area C “within a short time”, Bennett added.

On Saturday, he also ordered the army to bar from the West Bank prominent Israeli left-wing activists who demonstrate alongside Palestinians against land thefts by the settlers and the army. He equated these non-violent protesters with extremist settler groups that have assaulted Palestinians and torched their olive groves and homes.

Referring to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Palestinian foreign ministry warned that establishment of the nature reserves would “speed up [Bennett’s] appearance before the ICC as a war criminal.”

Nonetheless, the settler right is growing ever bolder on the annexation issue – as evidenced by Israel’s increasingly fraught ties with neighbouring Jordan.

King Abullah II recently declared relations with Israel at an “all-time low”. Meanwhile, Ephraim Halevy, a former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, blamed Israel for showing “contempt towards Jordan” and creating a crisis that jeopardised the two countries’ 1994 peace treaty, a legacy of the Oslo peace process.

If Israel annexes large swaths of the West Bank, stymying Palestinian statehood, that could unleash waves of unrest among the kingdom’s majority population – Palestinians made refugees by Israel during the 1948 and 1967 wars.

It could also provoke a mass exodus of West Bank Palestinians into Jordan. Senior Jordanian officials recently told a former Israeli journalist, Ori Nir, that they viewed annexation as an “existential threat” to their country.

In November the Jordanian military conducted a drill against an invasion on its western flank – from Israel’s direction – that included the mock blowing up of bridges over the River Jordan.

The Israeli right would be only too delighted to see Abdullah in trouble. It has long harboured a dream of engineering the destruction of Hashemite rule as a way to transform Jordan, instead of the occupied territories, into the locus of a Palestinian state.

According to Israeli analysts, the right perceives itself as at a historic crossroads.

It can annex most of the West Bank and impose an unmistakeable apartheid rule over a restless, rebellious Palestinian population. Or it can realise its Greater Israel ambitions by helping to topple the Hashemite kingdom and encourage the West Bank’s Palestinians to disperse into Jordan.

All Israeli right-wingers need is a nod of approval from the White House. With Netanyahu desperate to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and with an obliging patron installed in Washington, there is reason enough for them to believe that the stars may finally be aligned.

Antisemitism has been used to smear the Left, while the Right targets Jews

The year ended with two terrible setbacks for those seeking justice for the Palestinian people.

One was the defeat in the British election of Jeremy Corbyn – a European leader with a unique record of solidarity with Palestinians. He had suffered four years of constant media abuse, recasting his activism as evidence of antisemitism.

The Labour Party’s electoral collapse was not directly attributable to the antisemitism smears. Rather, it was related chiefly to the party’s inability to formulate a convincing response to Brexit.

But the antisemitism allegations succeeded in stoking deep divisions within Corbyn’s party, making him look weak and, for the first time, evasive. Unfairly, it planted a seed of doubt, even among some supporters: if he was incapable of sorting out this particular mess in his party, how could he possibly run the country?

Any future political leader, in Britain or elsewhere, contemplating a pro-Palestinian position – or a radical economic programme opposed by the mainstream media – will have taken note. Antisemitism is a fearsomely difficult smear to overcome.

Defining antisemitism

The second setback was a new executive order issued by US President Donald Trump that embraces a controversial new definition of antisemitism. It seeks to conflate criticism of Israel, Palestinian activism and the upholding of international law with hatred of Jews.

The lesson of where this is intended to lead was underscored by Corbyn’s experience. Earlier, his party was forced to swallow this very same definition, formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), in an attempt to placate his critics. Instead, he found that it gave them yet more ammunition with which to attack him.

Trump’s executive order is designed to chill speech on campuses, one of the few public spaces left in the US where Palestinian voices are still heard. It blatantly violates the First Amendment, which privileges free speech. The federal government is now aligned with 27 states where Israel lobbyists have managed to push through legislation penalising those who support Palestinian rights.

These moves have been replicated elsewhere. This month, the French parliament declared anti-Zionism – or opposition to Israel as a Jewish state that denies Palestinians equal rights – as equivalent to antisemitism.

And before it, the German parliament passed a resolution that deemed support for the growing international movement urging a boycott of Israel – modelled on moves to end apartheid in South Africa – as antisemitism. German MPs even compared the boycott movement’s slogans to Nazi propaganda.

Looming on the horizon are more such curbs on basic freedoms, all to assist Israel.

Shutting down criticism

Britain’s Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson, has promised to ban local authorities from supporting a boycott of Israel, while John Mann, his so-called antisemitism czar, is threatening to shut down online media outlets critical of Israel, again on the pretext of antisemitism. Those are the very same media that were supportive of Corbyn, Johnson’s political opponent.

The irony is that all these laws, orders and resolutions – made supposedly in the name of human rights – are stifling the real work of human rights organisations. In the absence of a peace process, they have been grappling with Israel’s ideological character in ways not seen before.

While Trump, Johnson and others were busy redefining antisemitism to aid Israel, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report this month revealing that Israel – a state claiming to represent all Jews – has used military orders for more than half a century to flout the most fundamental rights of Palestinians. In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians are denied “such basic freedoms as waving flags, peacefully protesting the occupation, joining all major political movements, and publishing political material”.

At the same time, the UN’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination broke new ground by berating Israel for its abuses towards all Palestinians under its rule without distinction, whether those under occupation or those with degraded citizenship inside Israel.

The panel of legal rights experts effectively acknowledged that Israel’s abuses of Palestinians were embedded in the Zionist ideology of the state, and were not specific to the occupation. It was a not-so-veiled way of declaring that a state structurally privileging Jews and systematically abusing Palestinians is a “racist endeavour” – wording now ludicrously decreed by the IHRA as evidence of antisemitism.

Egregious failures

Commenting on HRW’s latest report, Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson observed: “Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore.”

But that is precisely what the new wave of laws and executive orders is designed to ensure. By silencing criticism of Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights, under the pretext that such criticism is veiled antisemitism, Western governments can pretend those abuses are not occurring.

In fact, there are two very different political constituencies backing the current crackdown on Palestinian solidarity – and for very different reasons. Neither is concerned with protecting Jews.

One faction includes Western centrist parties that were supposed to have been overseeing a quarter-century of peacemaking in the Middle East. They wish to obstruct any criticism that dares to hold them to account for their egregious failures – failures only too visible now that Israel is no longer prepared to pretend it is interested in peace, and seeks instead to annex Palestinian territory.

Not only did the centrists’ highly circumscribed, Israel-centric version of peace fail, as it was bound to, but it achieved the precise opposite of its proclaimed goal. Israel exploited Western passivity and indulgence to entrench and expand the occupation, as well as to intensify racist laws inside Israel.

That was epitomised in the 2018 passage by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of the nation-state law, which declares not just the state of Israel, but an undefined, expansive “Land of Israel” as the historical home of the entire Jewish people.

Exposing hypocrisy

Now, centrists are determined to crush those who wish to expose their hypocrisy and continuing alliance with an overtly racist state implacably opposed to self-determination for the Palestinian people.

So successfully have they weaponised antisemitism that human rights scholars this month accused the International Criminal Court in the Hague – the supposed upholder of international law – of endlessly dragging its feet to avoid conducting a proper war crimes investigation of Israel. ICC prosecutors appear to be fearful of coming under fire themselves.

The other faction behind the clampdown on criticism of Israel is the resurgent, racist right and far-right, who have been increasingly successful in vanquishing the discredited centrists of US and European politics.

They love Israel because it offers an alibi for their own white nationalism. In defending Israel from criticism – by characterising it as antisemitism – they seek a moral gloss for their own white supremacism.

If Jews are justified in laying claim to being the chosen people in Israel, why can’t whites make a similar claim for themselves in the US and Europe? If Israel treats Palestinians not as natives but as immigrants trespassing on Jewish land, why can’t Trump or Johnson similarly characterise non-whites as infiltrators or usurpers of white land?

The more the right whips up white nationalist, anti-immigrant fervour, the more it is able to undermine political solutions offered by its opponents on the centre and left.

Reckless miscalculation

Perhaps most astounding of all, much of the Jewish leadership in the US and Europe has been actively assisting the right in this political project, so blinded they are by their commitment to Israel as a Jewish state.

So where does this take Western politics? The centrists have let the antisemitism genie out of the bottle in order to damage the left, but it is the populist right that will now work to refine the weaponisation to further their own ends. They will stoke fear and hatred of minorities, including Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, all to Israel’s ideological benefit.

Jews in the West will pay a price too, however. Trump’s speeches have repeatedly imputed nefarious motives, greed and dual loyalties to American Jews. Nonetheless, faced with Israel’s staunch backing of Trump, conservative Jewish leaders in the US have preferred to stay largely silent about the president stoking nativist sentiment.

That is a reckless miscalculation. The mock battle of fighting a supposed left-wing antisemitism has already diverted attention and energy away from the struggle against an all-too-real revival of right-wing antisemitism.

Israel may emerge stronger by playing politics with antisemitism, but Western Jews may as a result find themselves more exposed to hatred than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

• First published in Middle East Eye

From a Blessing to a Curse: How UN Resolution 2334 Accelerated Israel’s Colonization in the West Bank   

Three years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334. With fourteen members voting in favor and one abstention, the Resolution was the equivalent of a political earthquake. Indeed, it was the first time in many years that Israel was roundly condemned by the international body for its illegal settlement policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Unlike previous attempts at holding Israel accountable, this time the Americans did nothing to protect its closest ally.

What has happened since then, however, has been a testimony to the failure of the UN to furnish meaningful mechanisms that would force violators of international law, like Israel, to respect international consensus. In some way, 2334, although externally supportive of Palestinian rights, turned out to be one of the most costly decisions ever made by the international institution.

Immediately after the adoption of 2334 on December 23, 2016, Israel thumbed its nose at the whole world by announcing, twice in the following January, plans to construct thousands of new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

At the time, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his then-Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, rationalized the provocative moves as a “response to the housing needs” within the settlements. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as the subsequent three years demonstrated.

Now, it has become clear that the settlement expansion was part of a much larger strategy aimed at killing any chance of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and parting ways with the so-called “land for peace formula”, itself molded through years of American mediation and “peace process”.

The Israeli strategy was a complete success. Thanks to the blank cheque issued by the Trump administration to Israel’s right-wing government coalition, Israeli politicians are now openly plotting what was once nearly unthinkable: the unilateral annexation of major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank along with large swathes of the Jordan Valley.

Throughout the last three years, Washington has turned a blind eye to Israel’s sinister designs. Worse, it has fully embraced and validated the Israeli political discourse, while taking every necessary measure to provide a cover for Israeli actions. The declaration by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on November 18 that Jewish settlements “are not inconsistent with international law” is but one of many such positions adopted by Washington to pave the road for Israel’s insolence and violation of international law.

Retrospectively, President Obama had the chance to do more than merely abstaining from voting against a UN Resolution – which lacked any enforcement mechanism, anyway – by using the generous US financial aid to Israel as a bargaining chip. That way, he could have potentially forced Netanyahu to freeze settlement expansion altogether. Alas, Obama did the exact opposite – as he bankrolled the Israeli military and financed every Israeli war on Gaza. Instead, his belated move opened the stage for the Trump administration to unleash a cruel war on Palestinians and on international law, as well.

In fact, it seems that the two-year term of US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hailey, was dedicated largely to rectify the supposed “betrayal” of the Obama administration of Israel. In the name of defending Israel against imaginary global “anti-Semitism”, the US severed its ties with several UN organizations, eventually isolating Washington itself from the rest of the world.

With the UN being designated as the common enemy by both Washington and Tel Aviv, international law was rendered irrelevant. Gradually, the US government fortified its protective shield around Israel, thus rendering 2334 and many other UN resolutions meaningless. In other words, the US managed to turn international consensus regarding the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine into an opportunity for Tel Aviv to disown any commitment, not only to the UN, but to the so-called two-state solution, and the “peace process”, as well.

While Israel accelerated its settlement projects unhindered, the US ensured that the Palestinian leadership is denied the opportunity to fight back, even if symbolically, through the various international institutions and any available political and legal platform. This was engineered through a systematic economic warfare, which saw the cutting of all aid to the Palestinian Authority in August 2018, followed, a week later, by stopping all funds to the UN organization responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

US-Israeli war on Palestinians was staged on two fronts. One front focused on the seizure of more Palestinian land, the building of new and the expansion of existing settlements, as a precursor to the imminent steps of annexing most of the West Bank. The other front witnessed the relentless US administration’s pressure on Palestinians through political and financial means.

Three years after 2334, a new status quo is upon us. Gone are the days of traditional American “peace-making” and its adjoining elaborate discourse centered on a two-state and other make-believe solutions. Now, Israel is single-handedly formulating its own “vision” for a future that is designed to meet the expectations of the country’s unhinged and ever-growing right-wing constituency. As for the US, its role has been relegated to the cheerleader, unfazed by such seemingly trivial matters as that of international law, human rights, justice, peace or even regional stability.

Shortly after being appointed as Israel’s new Defense Minister on November 9, Naftali Bennett has taken the dangerous and consequential decision of building a new Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron). Naturally, Jewish settlers rejoiced as they will finally see the destruction of the old Hebron market, which is older than Israel itself, and the potential for further settlement expansion and more annexation in the city.

At the same time, Palestinians are cringing, for a move against Hebron is the final proof that Israel is now operating in Palestine without the slightest fear of political or legal repercussions. Not only did UN Resolution 2334 fail to hold Israel accountable, it, in some way, facilitated further Israeli expansion in the West Bank, paving the road for the annexation that will surely follow.

How Britain dresses up Crimes in Israel as “Charitable Acts”

When is a war crime not a war crime? When, according to British officials, that war crime has been given a makeover as a “charitable act”.

The British state is being asked to account for its financial and moral support for a UK organisation accused of complicity in the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland. So far, it appears determined to evade answering those questions.

The target of the campaign is the Jewish National Fund UK (JNF UK), which describes itself as “Britain’s oldest Israel charity”. Noting its role in “building Israel for over a century”, the organisation boasts: “Every penny raised by JNF UK is sent to a project in Israel.”

In fact, donations to JNF UK were used to buy some of the 250 million trees planted across Israel since 1948, the year when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out at gunpoint from their homes by the new Israeli army. Those expulsions were an event Palestinians call their Nakba, or “catastrophe”.

Afterwards, the Israeli army laid waste to many hundreds of Palestinian villages, turning them into rubble. Forests planted over the villages were then promoted as efforts to “make the desert bloom”.

Subsidised by taxpayers

In fact, the trees were intended primarily to block Palestinian refugees from ever being able to return to their villages and rebuild their homes. As a result, millions of Palestinians today languish in refugee camps across the Middle East, evicted from their homeland with the help of the forests.

JNF UK raised the funds for a parent organisation in Israel, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which enforced the expulsions by using the donations to plant the forests. The Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian population was effectively disguised as a form of environmentalism.

Britain and other Western states appear to have accepted that barely concealed deception. They have long treated their local JNF fundraising arms as charities. JNF UK received charitable status in 1939, nearly a decade before Israel was created as a Jewish state on the ruins of Palestinians’ homeland.

The forests are still managed with money raised through tax-deductible donations in Britain and elsewhere. Since 1990, donations to JNF UK have been eligible for Gift Aid, meaning that the British government tops up donations by adding its own 25 percent contribution.

In effect, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages has been subsidised by the British public.

Backing from MPs

Britain’s continuing sanction of these crimes – and others – is being belatedly given scrutiny by human rights activists in Britain.

A campaign launched in 2010 called Stop the JNF – backed by various Palestinian solidarity organisations – has aimed to shame British officials into ending JNF UK’s charitable status.

The campaign gained parliamentary support a year later, when 68 MPs signed an early-day motion condemning the JNF’s activities and calling for its charitable status to be revoked. The motion was sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbencher but now leader of the Labour Party, and attracted cross-party support, though no Conservative MPs backed it.

Nonetheless, the campaign has faced institutional resistance every step of the way. Over the past six years, appeals to the Charity Commission, a department of the British government, to intervene and remove JNF UK from its list of registered charities have been repeatedly rebuffed.

Rather than seeking explanations from JNF UK, British officials have largely ignored the evidence they have been presented with.

Trees ‘a weapon of war’

The campaign has highlighted one specific and egregious example of the JNF UK’s work. The organisation raised donations to create a large recreation area west of Jerusalem called British Park, which includes forests, over three Palestinian villages that were destroyed by the Israeli army after 1948. A sign at the entrance reads: “Gift of the Jewish National Fund in Great Britain.”

Many of those who donated to the project, often British Jews encouraged to drop pennies into the JNF’s iconic fundraising “blue boxes”, had no idea how their money was being used.

The Stop the JNF campaign included testimony from Kholoud al-Ajarma, whose family was expelled from the village of Ajjur during the Nakba. Today, the family lives in the overcrowded Aida refugee camp, next to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

KKL-JNF planted trees at British Park on land to which Ajarma’s family, and many others, still have the title deeds. In doing so, the group violated the protected status of such lands in international law.

In her submission, Ajarma wrote: “It was British pounds that helped destroy my village. The Jewish National Fund is not merely planting trees. These trees have been used as a weapon of war, a weapon of colonisation.”

Israeli scholar Uri Davis has observed that the establishment of British Park “ought to be classified as an act, and as a policy, of complicity with war crimes”.

4,000 protest letters

The Charity Commission’s barrister, Iain Steele, conceded in a submission that it was possible the JNF had violated the Ajarma family’s rights by creating British Park on their land.

Nonetheless, the Charity Commission has on two occasions refused to consider revoking JNF UK’s charitable status. Rather than addressing the merits of Stop the JNF’s arguments, the Charity Commission has evasively claimed that the campaigners, even the Ajarma family, are not affected by whether the JNF is registered as a charity.

In June, a commission official even wrote to the campaign with an astounding defence that appears to strip the term “charitable” of all meaning. He wrote: “In simple terms the test for charitable status is a test of what an organisation was set up to do, not what it does in practice.”

The commission’s apparent reasoning is that, so long as the JNF includes fine-sounding words in its mission statement, what it does in practice as a “charity” does not matter.

In April, Stop the JNF appealed the commission’s decision not to revoke JNF UK’s charitable status to the First-tier Tribunal. The judge, however, told them that neither Ajarma nor the campaign itself had a legal right to be heard. He concluded instead that only the attorney-general could overrule the Charity Commission’s decision. In October, the attorney-general rejected the campaigners’ claims without investigating them.

In an attempt to revive the case, Stop the JNF has submitted more than 4,000 letters of protest to the attorney-general, calling on him to reassess the organisation’s continuing charitable status.

A parallel call was made to the advocate-general of Scotland, which has a separate legal system.

‘Intense political controversy’

The JNF did not respond to questions sent by Middle East Eye about its role in planting the forests, its charitable status and other criticisms of its involvement with Israel.

The establishment’s apparent unwillingness to confront JNF UK’s historical record is perhaps not surprising. The JNF was one of the key organisations that helped to realise a British government promise made in the 1917 Balfour Declaration to help create a “Jewish home” in what was then Palestine.

Two years later, Lord Balfour declared that the colonisation of Palestine by Zionist Jews from Europe was “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 [Palestinian] Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”. Little, it seems, has changed in official British attitudes since.

Steele, the Charity Commission’s barrister, successfully urged the First-tier Tribunal not to get involved, arguing that it would be “drawn into matters of intense political controversy, for no obvious benefit to anyone”.

Surely, Ajarma and many millions more Palestinians would strenuously dispute that assessment. They would have much to gain should Britain finally demonstrate a willingness to confront its continuing role in aiding and comforting groups such as the JNF, accused of complicity in crimes against international law in historic Palestine.

As Stop the JNF organisers wrote in their own letter to the attorney-general: “These people [Palestinian refugees such as the Ajarma family] are not defined by the JNF as recipients of their charity, but they have human and legal rights which the actions of this charity unacceptably violate.”

Reminiscent of dark regimes

The campaign has not only focused on JNF UK’s historic role in dispossessing Palestinians. It points out that the JNF is still actively contributing to Israel’s own grossly discriminatory and racist policies – another reason it should be barred from being considered a charity.

JNF UK’s accounts from 2016 show that it has funded the OR Movement, an Israeli organisation that assists in the development of Jewish-only communities in Israel and the occupied territories.

One such Jewish community, Hiran, is being established on the ruins of homes that belonged to Bedouin families. They were recently forced out of their village of Umm al-Hiran – a move the legal rights group Adalah has described as “reminiscent of the darkest of regimes such as apartheid-era South Africa”.

On its website, JNF-KKL congratulates “Friends of JNF UK” for supporting the establishment of nearby Hiran Forest. The JNF claims the forest will “help mitigate climate change” – once again disguising ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as a form of environmentalism.

Funding the Israeli army

JNF UK’s annual accounts in 2015 also revealed that it contributed money to the Israeli army under the title “Tzuk Eitan 9 Gaza war effort” – a reference to Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2014, whose death toll included some 550 Palestinian children.

A United Nations commission of inquiry found evidence that Israel had committed war crimes by indiscriminately targeting civilians – a conclusion confirmed by the testimonies of Israeli soldiers to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli whistle-blowing group.

Equally troubling, an investigation last month by Haaretz reported that, under Israeli government pressure, the KKL-JNF has been secretly directing vast sums of money into buying and developing land in the occupied West Bank to aid Jewish settlers, again in violation of international law.

The funds were allegedly channeled to Himnuta Jerusalem, effectively the JNF’s subsidiary in the occupied territories, disguised as funds for projects in Jerusalem.

Veteran Israeli journalist Raviv Drucker observed that KKL-JNF was rapidly converting itself into a banking fund for the settlers. He added that its “coffers are bursting with billions of shekels [and] the settlers’ appetite for land is at a peak”.

Given the lack of transparency in KKL-JNF’s accounts, it is difficult to know precisely where the funds have come from. But as more than $70m has been spent by KKL-JNF over the past two years in the occupied West Bank, according to Haaretz, the funds likely include money raised by JNF UK.

In any case, research by Stop the JNF suggests JNF UK has no objections to making “charitable” donations to settlements in the West Bank. Its accounts record contributions to Sansana, a community of religious settlers close to Hebron.

Settlements are considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

No ‘duty’ towards equality

As the JNF UK states on its website, every penny raised in Britain is “sent to a project in Israel” – much of it via the JNF in Israel.

KKL-JNF is a major landowner in Israel. Under a special arrangement with the Israeli government, it owns 13 percent of Israel’s territory – often lands seized from Palestinian refugees. The arrangement includes a provision from 1961 that the primary aim of the JNF in Israel is to acquire property “for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties”.

In 2004, KKL-JNF explained its role. It was “not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.”

In marketing and allocating lands only to Jews, the legal group Adalah has noted, the JNF in Israel intentionally rides roughshod over the rights of a fifth of the country’s population who are Palestinian by heritage.

In other words, the JNF is integral to an Israeli system that enforces an apartheid-style regime that prevents Israel’s Palestinian minority from accessing and benefiting from a substantial part of Israel’s territory.

Violating British law

This institutionalised discrimination has been made even more explicit since Israel last year passed the Nation-State Law, which declares: “The State views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and shall act to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening.”

As the Stop the JNF campaign notes, British charities should abide by legal responsibilities enshrined in UK legislation, such as the 2010 Equality Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on “colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin”.

The JNF UK is clearly failing to abide by this core legal principle. It is operating in a foreign state where it has helped, over many decades, to fund activities that grossly violate both British law and international law. The evidence compiled by Stop the JNF indicates that JNF UK has itself been complicit in aiding the commission of war crimes, both in Israel and the occupied territories.

It has also given financial and moral succour to its parent organisation, which has crafted a system of apartheid that confers superior land rights on Jews over Israel’s Palestinian minority.

British taxpayers should not be subsidising institutionalised discrimination and crimes abroad – even more so when they are being dressed up as “charitable acts”.

• A version of this article first appeared in Middle East Eye