Last week in this page, Adam Sapers wrote a letter to the editor: “US, Israel relations should not be forgotten, diminished” where he emphasized the mutual relationship the two countries had. Having gone into depth about the benefits America gets from Israeli’s military technology, it was surprising that he never mentioned Israel’s human rights violations of the Palestinians.
Since it began occupying the West Bank in 1967, Israel has built its own settlements on the conquered land. This is in direct violation of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, and as Human Rights Watch has pointed out, “while Israeli troops protect the settlers from armed Palestinian groups, there is little protection for Palestinians from the settlers’ marauding militias and gangs, which have terrorized the local population, destroying their crops, uprooting their trees and throwing stones at their houses and schools.”
In fact, according to B’Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organization, the road system Israel operates for the settler population in the West Bank “bears striking similarities to the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa.”
In calling Israel an apartheid state, B’Tselem joins Desmond Tutu and Neslon Mandela, the two most famous activists against South African apartheid, as well as John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur in Palestine (who also grew up in South Africa). When we support Israel, we are also guilty of apartheid.
For the past five years, Israel has effectively maintained a siege of the Gaza Strip, blocking a laundry list of basic necessities the people there need to have a dignified existence. For example, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported: “Because of the ongoing restrictions on the import of building materials, only a small minority of the 40,000 housing units, needed to meet natural population growth and the loss of homes during the ‘Cast Lead’ offensive, could be actually constructed” and Save the Children said “many basic food items and medical supplies have been prevented from entering Gaza.” When we aid Israel, we are complicit in letting this happen, leaving 1.7 million people isolated from the rest of the world and with no chance to rebuild their homes or lives.
Every single year, the UN General Assembly passes a resolution called “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, and every single year since 2006, it has passed with no less than 157 countries voting in favor, and the same 7 countries voting against: the US, Israel, Australia, Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands.
Every single year, the rest of the world affirms “the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem” and recalls the “obligation upon Israel to freeze settlement activity, including so-called ‘natural growth’, and to dismantle all settlement outposts erected since March 2001.”
Every single year, the US and Israel are deaf to the 157 or more countries who express “grave concern, in particular, over the crisis in the Gaza Strip as a result of the continuing prolonged Israeli closures and severe economic and movement restrictions that in effect amount to a blockade.”
Only Security Council resolutions are legally binding, and since the US routinely vetoes them, last year it effectively blocked the wishes of 167 countries that stressed the need for “The withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
Every single year, we give $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel, so it can continue its 45-year occupation, subsidize its settlements, and launch more airstrikes on Gaza.
And every single second, we can stand up and change that.
-Morgan Sinclair is a freshman Biology Major