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Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Should Hold Israel Accountable for its Human Rights Violations

By William Matchin

Two weeks ago, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, gave a lecture at the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at this university. His fundamental point was that we shouldn’t hold Israel to normal standards of international law because Israel has unique security concerns. The take-home message was that when Israel kills Palestinians and maintains an illegal occupation, we shouldn’t complain too much.

Dermer pointed to Israel’s small size as evidence of this position. “Tactical threats” become “strategic threats,” because Israel’s small size means that military operations and rocket fire threaten its existence. Because of this, Israel is justified in bombing Gaza, which included the killing of 500 innocent children, because it “can’t afford to make any mistakes.” Likewise, Israel is justified in maintaining the brutal occupation of the West Bank and its illegal settlements.

One wonders whether Israel’s actions are truly motivated by security concerns. However, it is clear that the policy Israel has pursued, with U.S. complicity, has less to do with security and more to do with the expansion of Israel and the acquisition of resources because this policy exacerbates legitimate Israeli security problems at the expense of its people.

Let’s apply Dermer’s logic to the Palestinian perspective. The Palestinian territories are smaller than Israel. Because Israel has repeatedly terrorized Palestinians, wouldn’t Palestinians be concerned? Would Palestinians feel safe surrounded by those who repeatedly have bulldozed their homes? With this logic, the Palestinians should be asking for an expansion of a Palestinian state into Israeli territory, walls that break up the Israeli population and a military presence inside Israel.

However, Palestinians are not asking for more rights than they are entitled to. The current president
of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who is pursuing a two-state settlement in response to the overwhelming international consensus, declared, “The government would be under my command and my policy. … I recognize Israel, and it would recognize Israel. I reject violence and terrorism.”
The ambassador stated that even if Palestinian leaders were to accept a two-state settlement, the Israeli government couldn’t trust this to percolate to the Palestinians. In other words, Israel will never accept an agreement because you can’t trust the terrorist snakes; you just have to occupy their land

 Israel is asking for lowered standards, but the world is not asking for much. All the world asks is for Israel to obey the law. The occupation is illegal — international law dictates “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” The separation wall of the West Bank is illegal — the International Court of Justice ruled that “the construction of the wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law,” and the international community has repeatedly condemned the illegal settlements.

Moreover, U.S. aid to Israel is illegal under U.S. law. The “Leahy Law” prohibits the funding by the U.S. government to foreign entities that are consistent human rights violators, including Israel, as documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. It is deeply hypocritical for us as U.S. citizens to condemn human rights violations elsewhere and to continue to support them in the Palestinian-occupied territories.

I can’t be too frustrated with Dermer over these issues because his job is to sell his country’s interests to the U.S. population. I can be appalled at us. We listen to Dermer and our own politicians’ morally degenerate arguments, funding Israel’s defiance of international law. Let’s hold Israel and ourselves to the same standards to which we hold other countries and enforce the law to let the Israeli and Palestinian people live in peace.

(also published in the Diamondback on Tuesday, November 18th)

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