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Israel's New Moves to Airbrush the Occupation
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The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories issued a damning verdict last week on what he termed “the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world”.

Michael Lynk, a Canadian law professor, told the UN’s human rights council that only urgent international action could prevent Israel’s 52-year occupation of the West Bank transforming into de facto annexation.

He warned of a recent surge in violence against Palestinians from settlers, assisted by the Israeli army, and a record number of demolitions this year of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem – evidence of the ways Israel is further pressuring Palestinians to leave their lands.

He urged an international boycott of all settlement products as a necessary step to put pressure on Israel to change course. He also called on the UN itself to finally publish – as long promised – a database that it has been compiling since 2016 of Israeli and international companies doing business in the illegal settlements and normalising the occupation.

Israel and its supporters have stymied the release, fearing that such a database would bolster the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to end Israel’s impunity.

Lynk sounded the alarm days after Israel’s most venerated judge, Meir Shamgar, died aged 94.

Shamgar was a reminder that the settlers have always been able to rely on the support of public figures from across Israel’s political spectrum. The settlements have always been viewed as a weapon to foil the emergence of a Palestinian state.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most obituaries overlooked the chicanery of Shamgar in building the legal architecture needed to establish the settlements after Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967.

But in a tweeted tribute, Benjamin Netanyahu, the interim prime minister, noted Shamgar’s contribution to “legislation policy in Judea and Samaria”, using the Israeli government’s term for the West Bank.

It was Shamgar who swept aside the prohibition in international law on Israel as an occupying state, transferring its population into the territories. He thereby created a system of apartheid: illegal Jewish settlers enjoyed privileges under Israeli law while the local Palestinian population had to endure oppressive military orders.

Then, by a legal sleight of hand, Shamgar obscured the ugly reality he had inaugurated. He offered all those residing in the West Bank – Jews and Palestinians alike – access to arbitration from Israel’s supreme court.

It was, of course, an occupier’s form of justice – and a policy that treated the occupied territories as ultimately part of Israel, erasing any border. Ever since, the court has been deeply implicated in every war crime associated with the settlement enterprise.

As Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard noted, Shamgar “legalised almost every draconian measure taken by the defence establishment to crush Palestinian political and military organisations”, including detention without trial, house demolitions, land thefts, curfews and much more. All were needed to preserve the settlements.

Shamgar’s legal innovations – endorsing the systematic abuse of Palestinians and the entrenchment of the occupation – are now being expanded by a new generation of jurists.

Their latest proposal has been described as engineering a “revolution” in the occupation regime. It would let the settlers buy as private property the plots of occupied land their illegal homes currently stand on.

Disingenuously, Israeli officials argue that the policy would end “discrimination” against the settlers. An army legal adviser, Tzvi Mintz, noted recently: “A ban on making real-estate deals based on national origin raises a certain discomfort.”

Approving the privatisation of the settlements is a far more significant move than it might sound.

International law states that an occupier can take action in territories under occupation on only two possible grounds: out of military necessity or to benefit the local population. With the settlements obviously harming local Palestinians by depriving them of land and free movement, Israel disguised its first colonies as military installations.

It went on to seize huge swathes of the West Bank as “state lands” – meaning for Jews only – on the pretext of military needs. Civilians were transferred there with the claim that they bolstered Israel’s national security.

That is why no one has contemplated allowing the settlers to own the land they live on – until now. Instead it is awarded by military authorities, who administer the land on behalf of the Israeli state.

That is bad enough. But now defence ministry officials want to upend the definition in international law of the settlements as a war crime. Israel’s thinking is that, once the settlers become the formal owners of the land they were given illegally, they can be treated as the “local population”.

Israel will argue that the settlers are protected under international law just like the Palestinians. That would provide Israel with a legal pretext to annex the West Bank, saying it benefits the “local” settler population.

And by turning more than 600,000 illegal settlers into landowners, Israel can reinvent the occupation as an insoluble puzzle. Palestinians seeking redress from Israel for the settlements will instead have to fight an endless array of separate claims against individual settlers.

This proposal follows recent moves by Israel to legalise many dozens of so-called outposts, built by existing settlements to steal yet more Palestinian land. As well as violating international law, the outposts fall foul of Israeli law and undertakings made under the Oslo accords not to expand the settlements.

All of this is being done in the context of a highly sympathetic administration in Washington that, it is widely assumed, is preparing to approve annexation of the West Bank as part of a long-postponed peace plan.

The current delay has been caused by Netanyahu’s failure narrowly in two general elections this year to win enough seats to form a settler-led government. Israel might now be heading to a third election.


Officials and the settlers are itching to press ahead with formal annexation of nearly two-thirds of the West Bank. Netanyahu promised annexation in the run-up to both elections. Settler leaders, meanwhile, have praised the new army chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, as sympathetic to their cause.

Expectations have soared among the settlers as a result. Their impatience has fuelled a spike in violence, including a spate of recent attacks on Israeli soldiers sent to protect them as the settlers confront and assault Palestinians beginning the annual olive harvest.

Lynk, the UN’s expert, has warned that the international community needs to act swiftly to stop the occupied territories becoming a permanent Israeli settler state. Sadly, there are few signs that foreign governments are listening.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel/Palestine 
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  1. anon[274] • Disclaimer says:

    Benjamin Netanyahu

  2. the world will be a better place without Israel. The solution will follow naturally – once that principle is accepted by all.

    • Replies: @Anon
  3. We’re all Palestinians now.

  4. Lot says:

    “ “the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world””

    The UN approves however of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, which is based on love, not belligerence.

    • Replies: @Wally
    , @AnonStarter
  5. A123 says:

    The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories

    Why do these UN-experts always cover-up human rights abuses by the PA and Fatah? For example: (1)

    A Palestinian from the West Bank who converted to Judaism in Israel was inexplicably arrested by Palestinian Authority forces security forces over two weeks ago and has been held in custody ever since. He claims to have been tortured during that time on multiple occasions, which left his limbs badly burned.

    When will someone hold Arab Muslims accountable for their war crimes?

    Perhaps the U.N. would be less of a joke if it was objective…. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. As long as the U.N. is submissive before IslamoGlobalism, it will be ignored by more or less everyone.

    PEACE 😇


    • Agree: Lot
    • Replies: @UncommonGround
  6. Paul says:

    Benjamin Netanyahu hopes more Zionist land grabs will save him.

  7. Zionism as a movement for a national homeland for Jews had some validity, even though it came at the expense of Palestinians.
    But Jewish Power is no longer in nationalist mode. It is imperialist mode, and Zionism has turned into Yinon-ism. Currently, American policy in the MENA(Middle East and North Africa) has been Yinonism on steroids. US has been killing bushels of Arabs and Muslims directly or indirectly by fomenting ethnic and tribal wars among the peoples there. US and Israel backed the reconstituted Alqaeda elements in Syria and sold them as ‘moderate rebels’. We must say NO to Yinon-ism, but the best way to save the Middle East from further US craziness is by saving the US from globalist supremacism.

    And we cannot say “We don’t care about what goes on there.” We must care because it was apathy and willful ignorance on our part that allowed globo-supremacists to grab power and do as they please. Because US is a democracy, we are all responsible for what our politicians do. We must be engaged more in politics and what the Deep State does with US power. Because US is the lone superpower, it affects every part of the globe. If the US is doing evil in some part of the world, we must say NO. Indeed, it was because so many Americans were disengaged and ignorant of politics that the globalists were able to seize power and manipulate the sheeple via control of media. Because US power can destroy innocent people all around the world, Americans must wake up and say NO to the evildoers who’ve taken over Washington. Say NO to Yinon-ism.
    We must care what happens in other nations IF the US created havoc over there. We may choose not to care only about parts of the world where the US is not engaged. But the fact is US has had a huge and diabolical role in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War. And it was because the modus operandi of US foreign policy is globalist imperialism and Yinon-ism.

  8. Lot says:

    That’s about them asking the UN to take action, which doesn’t happen. “UN urged to…” “UN asked to”

  9. HEREDOT says:

    Usa people lost their shame, a handful of parasites took their countries to destruction. Israel continues to rape. Usa people deserve all kinds of pain

  10. Anon[206] • Disclaimer says:
    @Alf Tupper

    Why? I wish more Jews would more to their caliphate, as long as the number of local parasites goes down.

  11. BDS is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough. We need to boycott all Israeli goods and services, period, whether from the Conquered Territories or not, until the Zionists give back every inch they’ve taken since 1967, including the Golan and East Jersualem. There will be no Third Temple, ever!

  12. /The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories issued a damning verdict last week on what he termed “the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world”./

    Apparently, you didn’t get the memo from our resident zionists: Palestinians do bad things too, so stealing their land is A-okay.

    Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s just move along. Nothing to see here, folks.

  13. @Lot

    Get back to us when Americans are lied into insanely prodigal and destructive “nation-building” endeavors on behalf of China. Hopefully, by that time, you can also keep us abreast of the generous foreign and military aid package we offer to China annually. You know … the one with the highest cost for the American taxpayer?

    A little friendly counsel: When you offer a tu quoque, make sure the comparison functions to make an actual point.

  14. Crank propagandists of unz and their desperado commentariat might notice some recent defeats to patriarchal ethnonationalism in the (real) news:

    1. Canadians give upstart anti-immigrant party no traction, despite massive online campaign
    2. Lesbian elected mayor of Bogota, in a region famous for its super-macho culture
    3. Jewish woman becomes prime minister of Belgium, first woman and first Jew
    4. Al-Baghdadi (& other ISIS higher-ups) eliminated (with pride) by USA: exposes the “Israel/Mossad created/controls ISIS!” lies put forward by all the familiar liars:
    – neonazis & white nationalists
    – “anti-war” anti-Zionist “Justice for Palestine” hard leftists
    – Russia & Iran & Hezb & Assad apologists
    – Arab Muslims in the West trying to deflect from the bloodthirstiness of their co-religionists

    The nice thing about the gulags is that you’ll be with people who respect your thinking style.

  15. @A123

    Why do these UN-experts always cover-up human rights abuses by the PA and Fatah? For example: (1) A Palestinian from the West Bank who converted to Judaism in Israel was inexplicably arrested by Palestinian Authority forces security forces

    This has been noticed by newspapers only a week ago. That may be a reason why the UN didn’t say anything about it. But it’s almost a unique case. How would Palestinians from the WB be able to convert to Judaism if they are not allowed to go freely to Israel or even to a big part of the WB? I don’t think that Palestinians generally want to have the right to convert to Judaism:

    TA APRIL 1, 2016 20:37

    Israel’s authority handling conversions to Judaism rejects Palestinian applicants without review because of their ethnic origin, its head said.

    Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, director of the Israeli government’s Conversion Authority, spoke about his organization’s handling of requests by Palestinians to convert on Tuesday during a discussion on conversions at the State Control Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, the news site NRG reported.

    To initiate an officially recognized conversion to Judaism in Israel, foreigners need to apply to the special cases panel of the Conversion Authority.

    “The threshold requirements” to be considered by the special cases panel, he said, “are that applicants be sincere and that they are not foreign workers; infiltrators; Palestinian or illegally in the country.”

    • Replies: @A123
  16. A123 says:

    This has been noticed by newspapers only a week ago. That may be a reason why the UN didn’t say anything about it. But it’s almost a unique case.

    You are missing the point. Abuses like this happen every day in Judea and Samaria and they are always ignored by the U.N. The unelected elites of the U.N. back their own. The Elitist President of the PA, Abu Abbas is now in the 15th year of his 4 year term.

    The people are protesting against Iranian al’Hezbollah corruption in Lebanon. Why does the U.N. say nothing about that? Again, the U.N. in the pocket of the elites, thus they will willfully ignore the situation in Lebanon.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @UncommonGround
  17. @A123

    The victims are the Palestinians. You only have to ask them who is responsible for daily abuses of all kinds against them. You certainly don’t care about the Palestinians and abuses commited against them.

    As you mention Lebanon:

    How the Israeli military censor killed a story about ‘terrorist’ bombing campaign in Lebanon in 1980s:

    • Replies: @A123
    , @Lot
  18. TGD says:

    Surprised that Mr. Cook hasn’t mentioned the Jews’ outright theft of the fossil water under the occupied west bank. This water is pumped out of deep wells throughout the territory and piped to the Zionist Entity. Suha Arafat, the wife of the late Yassir Arafat, accused Israel of poisoning the water available to west bank Arabs in a joint appearance with Hillary Clinton in 1999. Note: when you pump water out of a well to the point where it becomes salty, you have “poisoned” a well.

    Hillary tried to spin her appearance with Suha, but by not commenting at the time, she acknowledged the theft.

    • Replies: @A123
  19. A123 says:

    Nice try at changing the subject, but you failed. Let me re-ask:

    When will the U.N. Condemn Muslim Arab violence in Judea and Samaria?

    The U.N. Has zero credibility because it only looks at anti-Elitist, Palestinian Jews. The U.N. refuses to look at crimes by privileged Muslim Arabs like Abu Abbas.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @SaneClownPosse
  20. A123 says:

    when you pump water out of a well to the point where it becomes salty, you have “poisoned” a well.

    Hamas diverted pipe and concrete designated to maintain the water system in Gaza to attack tunnels and Katyusha rockets. Leakage and other wastage soared after they stopped routine maintenance. So, we know exactly which Muslims need to be held accountable for poisoning their own wells.

    PEACE 😇

  21. What Israel wants, Israel gets.

  22. @A123

    Palestinians are Semitic people. They have dwelt in that area for over a thousand years.
    The Eurasian converts to Judaism came as colonists in the early 20th century.
    Pushed the Palestinians (ironically much like a pogrom) out of desirable areas. Bulldozed their homes. How dare those indigenous people strike back at the foreign invaders.

  23. Lot says:

    “ You only have to ask them who is responsible for daily abuses of all kinds against them. ”

    And if they answer Hamas, they will soon be no mas.

    “ The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in Gaza routinely arrest and torture peaceful critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. ”

    This from an anti-Israel Euroweenie source by the way.

    • Replies: @A123
  24. A123 says:

    Iranian al’Hezbollah is just as bad as Iranian al’Hamas.

    The people challenged Iranian Globalism in Lebanon and look what happened.

    So an article providing fair coverage would be titled:

    United Nations Continues to Airbrush the Muslim Human Rights Abuses.

    Of course, the author — like the U.N. — is not interested in fairness. That would interfere with his one sided, anti-Semitic smear campaign against Palestinian Jews.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @Kiel
    , @Fran Taubman
  25. Kiel says:

    “That would interfere with his one sided, anti-Semitic smear campaign against Palestinian Jews.”

    And, ironically, it would be just those Palestinian Jews (few though they be) who have actual Semitic blood in their veins, and that have an actual mythological claim to the territory given to them by a mythological covenant between a mythological deadbeat dad of a patriarch and an emotionally needy personality disordered mythological god.

  26. @A123

    Get real, make Jordan the Palestinian state. The Hashmites stole that land from Palestine.
    Nothing like a straight line to solve the problem.
    Oh wait the problem was never Palestine, it was destroy the Jews who happen to be in Israel.
    Like Nesrallah said: All Jews should move to Israel and save us the time to track them across the globe.
    Israel figured out a long time ago it was never about land and or occupation. It is about Jealous Jew hatred.

  27. Say you’ve got a really shitty neighborhood. Full of meth labs, chop shops, kidnapping, violence, etc. Then a rather nice bunch of people, Mormons say, buy up a block in the neighborhood. Gradually they buy houses nearby, gradually expanding.

    Of course the meth heads etc don’t like it!

    If I were in the area I’d not care that the Mormons wear holy underwear and have a bunch of weird beliefs, they’re a huge improvement. I’d hope they buy up the whole neighborhood.

  28. Israel’s a bad guy for occupying …. Israel.

    Cry me a fuckin’ river.

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