Two months after Palestinians rose to defend al-Aqsa Mosque and contest the evictions in occupied East Jerusalem, the conflict barely registers on the world stage. Media coverage is sporadic and selective. It’s all quiet on the Western Front.
No one in the EU council reminded Lapid of what Israel is doing actively to tear down Palestinian homes and bury a Palestinian state
Israel’s new foreign minister, Yair Lapid, has once more become the acceptable face of Israeli rejectionism. Delivering the same message as his predecessors, Lapid was given a quiet ride at the Foreign Affairs Council, the EU’s chief foreign policy body, in Brussels this week.
He felt comfortable telling the EU that there was no possibility of a Palestinian state. So at ease was he that he wagged his finger at his European audience. “There is one thing we need to remember. If there will be a Palestinian state, it needs to be a peace-seeking democracy… You cannot ask us to build with our own hands another threat to our lives,” said Lapid.
No one in the council challenged him. No one reminded Lapid of what Israel is doing actively, day and night, to tear down Palestinian homes – with their own hands – and bury a Palestinian state.
The following is a brief (and almost certainly incomplete) list of what happens in Palestine when nothing happens.
When nothing happens
On 11 June, two Palestinian boys were shot in weekly protests in Beita near Nablus at the appearance of an illegal settlement on the hilltop above the village at Evyatar. Under an agreement, the settlers accepted to leave, but their huts and the army base remain.
Mohammed Said Hamayel, aged 15, was shot. When the villagers tried to evacuate the wounded boy, they were shot. By the time they reached his body, he was dead, according to eyewitnesses.
A second boy from the same clan, Mohammed Nayaf Hamayel, was shot and wounded. These were not clean wounds. The internal damage the boy received was immense: his spleen was seriously damaged because of the bullets the Israelis use, which fragment and turn inside the body. A total of four Palestinians from Beita were killed in demonstrations.
On 29 June, a butchery in al-Bustan, Silwan, was demolished, the first of 20 units that received demolition orders on 7 June. Israeli police fired rubber-coated bullets to disperse a crowd aiming to protect their homes.
On 3 July, Mohammed Hasan, aged 21, was finishing work on his house in Qusra when it was attacked by dozens of armed settlers. They were attempting to break into the house. A group of soldiers arrived to surround the house while the settler attack continued. Hasan locked the doors and went to the rooftop, where he threw stones to fend off the attack. He was shot dead by the soldiers. Palestinian medics and ambulances were unable to reach his body.
On 7 July, the Israeli Civil Administration returned to the Palestinian herding community of Humsa in the Jordan Valley, accompanied by the military. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, they demolished 27 residential and animal structures and water tanks. They took all the food and milk for the children, including their nappies and toys. Eleven households, comprising dozens of people, were left in the desert. Temperatures ranged from 37 to 42 degrees Celsius during the eviction period.
While this was happening, the Knesset was debating the Citizenship and Entry Law, which bars almost 45,000 Palestinian families inside Israel and occupied East Jerusalem from uniting with their spouses and children.
Without Israeli documents, these people have no health insurance or Covid-19 jabs, and cannot travel. The law failed to be renewed but according to Israeli press reports, every application submitted by Palestinian families will be faced by the automatic rejection of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
On 8 July, Ghandanfar Abu Atwan, aged 28, was released from 10 months of administrative detention, after 65 days on hunger strike. He was transferred to a hospital in the occupied West Bank, where doctors described him as clinging to life. Abu Atwan was arrested 10 months ago and has been held without charge. The Israeli government has no obligation to present any evidence to justify an arrest or detention. He is one of 520 Palestinians held in military jails without charge or trial.
On the same day, Israeli forces demolished the family home of Montaser Shalabi, a Palestinian American accused of involvement in a shooting that killed an Israeli student and wounded two others last May. The two-storey villa in Turmus Ayya was levelled in a controlled explosion.
Meanwhile, in the city of Akka in Israel, more than 200 Palestinians were arrested or detained, in the wake of the demonstrations in May. The mother of one of the detainees told Middle East Eye: “More than 30 militarised police forces raided our house at the break of dawn. They arrested my 16-year-old son, cuffed him and covered his eyes with black tape, and dragged him to a police car. They did the same to more than 20 youngsters.”
All of the above only elicited one statement of condemnation. It came from the US embassy in Jerusalem over the punitive demolition of a Palestinian American home. It called on all parties to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions, which includes “the punitive demolition of Palestinian homes”.
EU-Israel common values
Now, please tell me how Lapid was allowed to tell the EU this week that Israel and the EU share common values. Lapid listed those common values as “human rights, rights for the LGBT community, a commitment to the basic components of democracy – a free press, independent judiciary, a strong civil society and freedom of religion”, along with “fighting together against climate change, international terrorism, racism and extremism”.
What common values does Israel share with the EU? Settler lynch mobs protected by armed soldiers? Illegal demolitions of houses and villages? Shoot-to-kill policies targeting children?
But what Lapid omitted to mention, and what his hosts did not remind him of, was Israel’s other values: lynch-mob justice, forcible transfer, collective punishment, illegal demolitions of houses and villages, shooting to kill, maiming children and detention without trial.
Nor did Lapid mention that in July, the Supreme Court ruled that Israel’s nation-state law was constitutional and did not negate the state’s democratic character. This basic law states that the right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. It openly discriminates against Israel’s Christian and Muslim citizens.
His was not a low-level visit. Lapid met with Josep Borrell, the high commissioner for foreign affairs, on Sunday, followed by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Holland and the Czech Republic and the Nato secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg.
What common values does Israel share with the EU? Settler lynch mobs protected by armed soldiers? Illegal demolitions of houses and villages? Shoot-to-kill policies targeting children? The use of bullets that fragment inside the body? The prevention of medics attending the wounded? The passing of racist laws? Israeli citizens are not prevented from uniting with their English, French or German spouses – but they are if they happen to be Palestinian.
Is this what the EU or Nato call common values? None of what the various arms of the Israeli state, their settlers, their soldiers, their police, their administrators or their courts have done to Palestinians in the last weeks is new.
However, it’s not business as usual.
Dialogue with bullets
The West Bank is in a ferment with weekly demonstrations, as much against the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian Authority (PA) as against the Israeli occupiers themselves. The PA has only further repression as an answer to the basic democratic demand for elections, which the ageing and out-of-touch president, Mahmoud Abbas, will surely lose.
The activist Nizar Banat drew the ire, arrest, detention , and ultimately a death squad of the Palestinian security forces over his call for the EU to defund the PA because of its rampant corruption. In November last year, the EU Representative issued a statement condemning Banat’s detention . The PA ignored this and killed him.
Today, the boot is on the other foot. The PA are threatening Palestinians to keep quiet or face further repression.
The latest warning was given by Mahmoud Aloul, deputy chairman of Fatah and deputy to Abbas. He said: “Do not provoke Fatah because if you do, Fatah will not be merciful to anyone.”
This authority has not held an election for 14 years. Is the failure to hold elections part of the EU’s values ?
The EU continues to look the other way. Those who look the other way are as responsible for these egregious crimes of occupation as those who carry them out.
I would really like to know how Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch foreign minister or Jakub Kulhanek, the Czech foreign minister, justify shaking hands with Lapid. An EU statement said: “They discussed the importance of enhancing EU-Israel relations and considered how to address existing challenges in order to achieve this common goal.”
They also spoke about “how the dialogue with Palestinians can be moved forward”.
With eviction orders, bulldozers and rubber-tipped bullets?