While all eyes are on Gaza – where the death toll, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, has passed eight thousand – the ethnic cleansing in the West Bank could intensify further, with Israeli forces pushing Palestinians out of their homes and possibly across international borders.
At a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, last month – the city where Breonna Taylor was murdered by police on 13 March – Chanelle Helm, a leading organiser in the local Black Lives Matter group, turned to the white protesters with a loudhailer. ‘If you are going to be here,’ she said, ‘you should defend this space.’
The white protesters – most of them women – linked arms and formed a line between the black protestors and the police. Tim Druck, a local photographer, took a picture. It went viral after the Kentucky National Organisation for Women and other groups shared it on social media.
Another tweet that went viral at the end of May was by Virgil Cent:
I think the craziest thing I witnessed today on the frontlines was Black People yelling ‘White Shield’ when the police were blocking and pushing us back
The white people moved to the front and protected us + the cops became less violent like wow wtf
On 19 November, Airbnb announced that it had removed from its website around 200 properties in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The global travel agency explained that it had decided to 'act responsibly' after considering the settlements’ 'disputed' character and their contribution to 'human suffering'.
The residents of the unrecognised Bedouin village Umm Al-Hiram, in the Israeli Negev, have finally accepted defeat. Within a couple of months, they will give up their land and move to a nearby Bedouin town. After their houses are demolished, West Bank settlers will establish a new Jewish-only village in their place. Several houses in Umm Al-Hiran have already been destroyed and a villager was killed by Israeli police during one demolition last year. So the inhabitants understood that the government meant business when it notified them in March that all of their houses would be razed to the ground if they did not relocate by the end of April. After a fifteen-year struggle, the residents grudgingly gave in and signed a relocation agreement similar to the one they had rejected for over a decade.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise and needs to be challenged. But the working definition of anti-Semitism that was formally adopted this week by the British government is dangerous. It says that anyone who subjects Israel to 'double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation' is an anti-Semite.
In February, the Israeli prime minister praised the British government for introducing new guidelines prohibiting publicly funded bodies from boycotting Israeli products. ‘I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East,’ Netanyahu said.
On the first day of school last week, children in their first year at primary school in the small city of Ashkelon in southern Israel were excited to learn that Binyamin Netanyahu would be visiting their class. This is what the prime minister had to say to the six-year-olds: The first lesson in first grade is 'Shalom first grade' with the emphasis on shalom [peace]. We educate our children for peace. A few kilometres from here, Hamas teaches its children the opposite of peace and, from time to time, it tries to fire at us, at you. Our policy is clear – zero restraint, zero let-up, zero tolerance for terrorism. We respond to every hostile attack on our territory either by overt or covert action, and we are determined to foil terrorism at every turn, just as we did yesterday in Jenin. I wish a quick recovery to the soldier who was wounded.
A few years ago, an Israeli F16 fighter pilot I know went on a training exercise for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear reactors. When he got back I asked him if such an operation could actually succeed. He said he thought Israel had the capacity to carry it out, but the military leadership was against it. When I asked him why, he explained that even if an airstrike were completely successful, the Iranians would be able to rebuild their reactors within two years. The operation, he said, would only work if sanctions were intensified immediately after the attack, and most sanctioning countries would be unlikely to agree to that.
Unlawful and Deadly, Amnesty International's recent report on 'rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict', accuses Hamas and others of carrying out 'indiscriminate attacks' on Israel: 'When indiscriminate attacks kill or injure civilians, they constitute war crimes.' The report reiterates a formal symmetry between Israelis and Palestinians (previous reports have accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Protective Edge), asking both parties to take all precautions to respect civilian lives, and reminding them to 'choose appropriate means and methods of attack'.
The decision by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, to open 'a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine' could have a concrete political impact in Israel/Palestine, but not because the ICC will end up charging officials for carrying out war crimes. The ICC has yet to address any violations carried out by Western liberal states. Simply put, the geography of the ICC's investigations – from Côte d'Ivoire to Uganda – both reflects and reproduces an old colonial frame of justice. Even within this blinkered framework, the court's success rate has not been particularly impressive: in its 12 years of existence, the ICC has carried out 21 investigations; only two people have been convicted. Given that record, why has Bensouda’s announcement provoked such outrage in the Israeli government?