Defiance of law, case for one state, proof of apartheid: responses to Levy

July 11, 2012
Sarah Benton

For news reports, Panel tells Netanyahu West Bank not occupied land so all settlements are legal

Edmond Levy

This posting has 9 items:
1) report from Al Jazeera;
2) Ha’aretz Bombshell for the settlement enterprise;
3)  Peace Now The Settlers Have the Levi Committee;
4) +972 Levy presents an opportunity;
5) One Democracy One Country between the River and the Sea;
6) From judge to shyster Pithy comment from Gush Shalom
7) Steve Lendman lays down the international law
8] Yousef Munayyer, Daily Beast Yes, not occupation, it’s apartheid
9 New York Times settles against Levy, all things cosidered

Israeli panel recommends legalising outposts
An Israeli-commissioned report has recommended illegal outposts to be legalised in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

By Al Jazeera
July 09, 2012

A government-commissioned report has recommended that Israel legalise dozens of unsanctioned West Bank settlement outposts, a move that would defy international opposition to settling land Palestinians want for a future state.

The report, written by a committee with pro-settler sympathies, also reaffirmed Israel’s longstanding position, at odds with most of the world, that the West Bank is not occupied territory and therefore Israel has the legal right to settle it.

The panel’s recommendations, which include annulling past Supreme Court orders and other legal rulings in order to facilitate settlement construction, have not been endorsed by the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the panel’s work, saying he would bring its conclusions to a special forum he established on the matter where a decision would be taken.

If endorsed, the recommendations could give Netanyahu ammunition to support new settlement activity and fend off pressure from a Supreme Court that has ordered the government to take action against the existing outposts.

Jewish settlements are at the heart of a three-year-old impasse in Mideast peace efforts. The Palestinians say they will not resume negotiations until Israel freezes settlement construction.

Illegal outposts are unsanctioned enclaves

The illegal outposts are unsanctioned enclaves that Jewish settlers began erecting in the 1990s to sidestep Israel’s commitment to stop building new settlements.

There are dozens of illegal outposts, in addition to about 120 full-fledged settlements.

More than 500,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.

The Palestinians and the international community consider the settlements illegitimate and obstacles to peace.

Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib immediately denounced the report’s conclusions.

“This is in complete contradiction with international law and with specific resolutions of the United Nations … and in contradiction with the official policy of almost every single country in the world,” Khatib said.

“We also think that such positions contradict the international efforts to establish peace based on two states, one of them in the territories occupied in 1967.”

Netanyahu set up the committee in January to examine land use issues in the West Bank after concluding that a 2005 report on unauthorised settlement outposts was tainted by leftist bias.

The author of the report, which had been commissioned by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a staunch settlement champion, was a former state prosecutor who ran for parliament on the dovish Meretz Party’s ticket after leaving the civil service.

The new committee was headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, who opposed Israel’s 2005 Gaza Strip withdrawal.

It was considered sympathetic to setters and was expected to issue the recommendation to legalise outposts.

Although they skirted official approval procedures, government officials knew the outposts were being built and supplied them with the infrastructure hookups and military protection given to sanctioned settlements.

About 100 illegal outposts, home to several thousand Israelis, dot the West Bank, in addition to more than 120 full-fledged settlements.

The Israeli government had promised the US in 2003 to tear down two dozen outposts built a decade ago but it has never honoured that commitment.

The 2005 report on outposts by Talia Sasson was sharply critical of government complicity in their construction and noted that dozens were built on Palestinian-owned land, in violation of Israeli law.

Israel’s Supreme Court recently rebuffed the Netanyahu government’s efforts to preserve one of the outposts, and it is due to be demolished next month.

A second outpost was evacuated this month in spite of Netanyahu’s efforts to avert the settlers’ eviction.

‘Nothing was inherently illegal’

The report made public on Monday proposed that procedures be streamlined to legalise the outposts and allow for new settlement construction.

Committee member Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry who is now a fellow at a conservative think-tank, said the outposts were not authorised because of international pressure and urged their approval.

“Nothing here was inherently illegal,” he said.

The committee has also proposed that Israelis and Palestinians be given no more than five years to register land they say they own.

After that time, no one will be able to claim ownership, a situation that could disadvantage Palestinians unaware of their legal rights, especially those who live outside the West Bank.

The panel also recommends annulling a Supreme Court decision from 1979 forbidding the expropriation of land for “military needs” when the intent is to build settlements.

Bombshell for the settlement enterprise in Levy report

The far-reaching consequences of the Levy report mean Israeli must either recognize that the legal system in the West Bank resembles apartheid – or extend political rights for all.

By David Kretzmer, Ha’aretz
July 10, 2012

The Edmond Levy report was written by a Committee established to find a way, if possible, to “legalize” settlements established in the Territories without government approval. While the object of the Committee was to help the government out, adoption of the report’s position on the status of the West Bank would have far-reaching consequences that seemed to have escaped the Committee. It is doubtful whether the Report will be of much help even to a government committed to strengthening settlements on the West Bank.
The report adopts the old, tired and universally rejected arguments that the West Bank is not occupied territory. In reaching this conclusion the report totally ignores both the position that the governments of Israel have taken before the Supreme Court for 45 years and the hundreds of judgments of the Court on this very question.

The first military orders promulgated when the IDF entered the territories taken in the 1967 Six Day War expressly mentioned the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the powers and duties of an occupying power. Not long after the war ended some arguments were raised questioning whether the territories were indeed occupied, and especially whether the Fourth Geneva Convention applied. None of these arguments gained much support. They were rejected by all states, including the US; the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the vast majority of international lawyers, Israeli and foreign alike.

Soon after the war ended in 1967, Palestinians petitioned the Supreme Court challenging acts of the military in the newly-occupied territories. In replying to these petitions the government had to decide what legal regime applied in those territories. It was forced to choose between two possibilities. If it were to regard the territories as part of the State of Israel, not only would Israel be censured by the international community for annexation of territory in breach of international law; it would have to extend political rights to the Palestinian residents of the territories. If the territory were not Israeli territory, it would have to accept the only other known regime for territory conquered in war, namely a regime of belligerent occupation. It chose the latter path. Hence for 45 years the military authorities in the territories have exercised the powers of an occupying power under international law and have defended their actions before the Supreme Court of Israel on the basis of the international law of belligerent occupation.

In their 2005 judgment ruling that the disengagement from Gaza was legal, ten justices of Israel’s Supreme Court summed up the attitude of the government and the Court itself in the following words:

“According to the legal outlook of all Israel’s governments as presented to this court – an outlook that has always been accepted by the Supreme Court – these areas are held by Israel by way of belligerent occupation….The legal regime that applies there is determined by the rules of public international law and especially the rules relating to belligerent occupation.”

Possibly since Justice Levy was the sole dissenting judge in that case, the Levy report ignores this statement and many other similar rulings of the Court. Instead of advising the government on the legal situation, it looks as if Levy simply rehashed the opinion that was rejected by all his colleagues.

What would be the legal implications of accepting the Levy report approach? This question cropped up in the famous Elon Moreh case of 1979, in which the area’s military commander had requisitioned land, ostensibly for military needs, in order to establish a settlement. The only basis for his authority to do so was the international law of belligerent occupation. The Gush Emunim settlers raised Edmond Levy’s argument that the international law of belligerent occupation does not apply. In reply, Justice Landau explained that if he were to accept the settlers’ argument the conclusion would be that the military commander had acted without legal authority, and the land would have to be returned to its rightful owners.

So there you have it: Accepting the Levy report will mean that all private land requisitioned for military needs must immediately be returned to its owners. The other direct implication is clear. The Levy report complains about inequality between Palestinians and Israelis. It cites Israel’s Basic Law. But the real inequality on the West Bank is that the Israeli settlers have political rights in the state that controls their lives and the Palestinians do not. That is one of the grounds for the claim that the system there has elements of apartheid. If it accepts the Levy approach, the government will no longer be able to answer this claim by arguing that the territory is subject to a temporary regime of belligerent occupation. Either Israel’s government will have to acknowledge that apartheid is living and kicking, or it will have to extend political rights to all Palestinian residents of the West Bank.

David Kretzmer is a Professor of International Law and author of The Occupation of Justice: The Supreme Court of Israel and the Occupied Territories. He has served as chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and as co-chair of the executive board of B’Tselem, and as vice-chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee, under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

The Settlers Have the Levi Committee

By Peace Now
July 09, 2012

The Meaning of the Recommendations of the Edmond Levi Committee

The Edmond Levy Committee appointed by the government on the subject of outposts, completed its work and its report was published today in the media. The report accepts many arguments brought by settlers regarding the legal situation in the settlements and is expected to be used widely by the settlers at the political debate and maybe also in courts. However, the main significance of the report is political, since it has no binding effect and is considered as recommendations.

A. The Committee’s Authority
The government has appointed Edmond Levy, Supreme Court judge (retired), District Court Judge Techia Shapiro (retired) and former Foreign Affairs Legal Advisor, Mr. Alan Baker (Adv) – to the committee. According to the Israeli law, only the Attorney General is authorized to interpret the law for the government especially concerning issues of enforcement of the law. The government has no authority to establish a committee that will override the legally binding recommendations of the attorney general. Therefore, the Committee’s authority is – as stipulated in the appointment – to prepare advisory recommendations, but these are not binding the government or the Attorney General.

As mentioned, the principal significance of the Committee’s report is political, and it can validate the settlers’ claims, claims that now receive a formal status in a respectable committee that have been appointed by the government. The committee did not have any authority to discuss cases that are under court hearings, and the recommendations are not going to be valid for any of the cases of Migron or the Ulpana. However, it will surely be used in the political debate and maybe in future responses of the government to the court.

B. Key recommendations of the Committee
1. According to the Levi Committee there is no occupation and the settlements are legal – much of the Committee’s report considered the question of the legality of settlements in the territories. The committee chose to argue that the settlements are legal. It claimed that the provisions in the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting an occupying power to transfer its population into invaded territories, do not apply in the occupied territories. According to the committee, in 1967 when the occupation by Israel occurred, the territories were held under Jordanian rule, and were not part of any acknowledged country – therefore the Israeli rule of the territories is not considered as occupation.

In the early ’90s, when “Peace Now” brought the matter of the legality of the settlements to the High Court – the Supreme Court ruled that the issue was not justifiable, and it was not in power of the court to determine the legality of the settlements but it is within the authority of the government. However, practically speaking, Israel continues to maintain a policy of settlement during all these years, even without determining whether it is an occupation in the legal sense of the word.

The committee’s position, however determined, is not accepted by most jurists around the world, and was not accepted by the Israeli Supreme Court. It ignores the many different elements that exist in the occupation. For example, the Committee did not deal with the question of the status of Palestinians in the territories, and how to justify their being denied civil rights if it was not an occupied territory.

2. The Committee recommends legalizing the outposts – The Committee claims that the government should, and sometimes even must legalize the outposts. The fact that the Israeli government supported the outposts financially and never enforced the law against them was as if the government had promised the settlers that it was legal. The Levi Committee determined that the real true will of the Israeli government was to establish the outposts, although it was done illegally, and thus, the government is obliged to fulfill the promise and legalize the outposts.

Legalizing outposts on State Land
1. There is no need for a decision by the government to establish a new settlement
2. There is no need for an approval by the Minister of Defense for new planning

According to the Levi Committee, in cases where outposts were built on State Land within municipal borders of settlements, there is no need for a decision by the government announcing the establishment of the new settlement. Moreover, there is not even a need for an approval by the Minister of Defense for the new plan.

The Meaning: Practically, the situation today is that the government can legalize outposts and does not need any committee for that. Recently the government legalized three outposts (Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana). The Israeli government had also legalized outposts without an official government decision, in Givat Habrecha (the Pool Hill) and Shvut Rachel, where the government claimed that the outposts are approved as neighborhoods of existing settlements (Talmon and Shilo respectively).

However, the recommendation regarding the planning is much more significant: The meaning would be that the Civil Administration and the settlements’ localities will be able to allow unlimited amount of plans in settlements without any political body to approve it. This would grant the keys to the development of the settlements in the hands of the settlers themselves.

3. Construction on Private Lands:

Construction on private Palestinian land is prohibited, but in some cases might stay on the ground – the committee does not approve any construction on private Palestinian land. However, in cases where the construction already took place, the committee claims that there should be other possibilities rather than removal to be considered, such as compensations or alternative land to be granted to the owners.

The meaning of such recommendation is not only a green light for land grab, but also a forced confiscation of land for the benefit of the residents of the occupier. Such confiscation is a serious violation of the international law, however, since the committee does not accept the area as occupied, then such confiscation might be possible.

The State must not intervene in land disputes – Another far reaching recommendation is regarding the obligation of the government to protect Palestinian properties. According to the Levi Committee, in cases where settlers are taking over Palestinian lands, the authorities must not intervene, but the Palestinians need to appeal to the courts to determine their rights to the lands, and only after winning the case in court, would the state help enforce the law. The Committee is recommending annuling the Military Order that was issued following the Sasson Report enabling the authorities to remove invaders to Palestinian lands, which is one of the tools the State has in order to fight against settlers land grab.

In cases of petitions to the Supreme Court to enforce the law and evict settlers from Palestinian lands, the Committee recommends that the Supreme Court will send the sides to the district court (and even offers to establish special courts for land issues in the West Bank) to determine the ownership of the land and only after a clear determination of the ownership, would the court deal with questions of enforcement.

4. Additional Recommendations:
The are many other recommendations that has to do with the settlement activity. For example, a recommendation to allow the declaration of new Nature Reserves in area C, that will help undermine the ability of Palestinians to use their lands. Another recommendation is to allow 4-5 years where owners of lands will be invited to register their lands, following which, whoever did not register his or her lands, will lose any right in the land.

It seams that the committee, that was invited to offer recommendation regarding the ways to legalize outposts on State Land, took the liberty to support many of the settlers’ wishes and to bring them as recommendations of an official respectful committee. This would probably have a significant political effect within the public debate on the issue of settlements.

Report that claims ‘there is no occupation’ presents an opportunity

What is behind the left’s anger at a government commission report that rejects the existence of the occupation? The report presents an opportunity to replace empty political rhetoric and legality with a focus on facts on the ground.

By Itamar Mann, +972blog
July 10 2012

The Israeli left responded with a mixture of laughter and rage to former Justice Edmond Levy’s report on the status of the West Bank and its claim that “there is no occupation.” One commentator particularly baffled was human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, who wrote that the “report was written in Wonderland, governed by the laws of absurdity.” Instead of the laws of absurdity, Sfard wants us to continue embracing the laws of war.

Such responses reflect confusion. Their underlying assumption is that claiming what is going on in the West Bank is not an occupation means morally accepting it. But even though the report fails to describe the domination of Palestinian life in the West Bank, that conclusion does not follow. Why, then, are so many of us, within Israel-Palestine and internationally, so attached to the occupation category?

One of the central arguments the report makes is that the West Bank is not occupied, because occupation is a temporary situation. Israeli control in the West Bank, on the other hand, has no end in sight. This argument sounds quite pernicious. It assumes that just because Israel took violent custody over this area, it gained rights to it. However, while it is true that 20th century international law has forbidden the acquisition of land by force, such movements from fact to norm are not unfamiliar to international lawyers.

A more constructive approach should embrace parts of the conclusions, instead of rejecting it wholesale. The strategic goal should be to point out what does follow logically from sovereignty over the West Bank. West Bank Palestinians must immediately be granted the right to citizenship and political participation. Not granting such rights would augment growing accusations of apartheid against Israel. Alongside possible investigations by the International Criminal Court, this would fuel the transnational movement for democracy in Israel-Palestine – which Israelis and Palestinians are of course part of.

The occupation paradigm has historically served Israeli governments to fend off criticism by pretending to negotiate, and this report sends a clear message to audiences abroad. The golden age of negotiation is long gone. Rather than waiting for a messianic conclusion to “peace talks,” pro-democracy citizens of the world must support likeminded Palestinians and Israelis right now.

Make no mistake – regardless of the conclusions, the legal reasoning in the report is flawed. Many arguments are omitted in what seems to be an intentional mischaracterization of the standard legal position on this issue. This sloppy work seriously reduces the credibility of the report. However, the report does laudably capture what has been happening on the ground for a long time now. It exposes how the settlements were a premeditated project fostered by Israeli governments, and that there was consequently never a serious intention to allow the Palestinians to exercise self-determination. The Israeli left has been making these claims for years. Why should we discard them when they come from a committee appointed by a far-right government?

As Noam Sheizaf pointed out, the argument that the West Bank is “not occupied” because the Jordanians never acquired legitimate authority there is not new. But Levy’s report does reflect a refreshing willingness for international legal creativity. It does not abandon the legal method all together, but unabashedly connects often-abstract legal doctrine with political power and political will. We must learn from that. It is imperative to develop new normative vocabularies instead of the familiar fetishism for the international law, as interpreted in Geneva. The latter may aim to protect humans from arbitrary state violence, but has nothing serious to say about freedom. Its underlying purpose is bodily integrity, not the liberation of the soul.

Abandoning the occupation paradigm will enable us to rethink self-determination for both groups much more ambitiously. It will encourage us – Israelis and Palestinians – to address real-life grievances on our own, not wait for some future remedy from the High Court of Justice, which in any case has failed.

One way to start would be to shift focus. The last bastion of human rights the report addresses – after it has done away with occupation – is the right to property under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An obvious different focus is the right to citizenship. Instead of focusing on buildings and land, a report premised on equal rights will focus on men, women, children, voting, discrimination, and access to public services, such as water.

Such reports may seem to already exist – ignored because weak human rights organizations rather than strong governments write them. That is partly true, but standard human rights reports are all written through the occupation prism. They are therefore limited in what they can wish for, and cannot offer changes to the structure of the regime.

Like Levy’s, such a report will depart from existing doctrine by redefining domestic institutions. Some may say it will describe a wonderland, as it will require cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, which doubtless seems like a dream. But those who fight to preserve the occupation paradigm are the ones currently ignoring the reality.

The strongest argument for the occupation paradigm is that without it we have no law at all, which makes it ostensibly impossible to speak truth to power. But we should admit that, almost invariably, the only body that gains from this paradigm, which pretends that Palestinians and Israelis are divisible, is a government always seeking to divide us further.

Itamar Mann is a doctoral candidate at Yale Law School.

Annexation of West Bank in all but name

Bibi lawyers kill Two State solution, negate international law, and rule that West Bank was no-man’s land and is now part of Israel

Rachel Lever, One Democracy
July 09, 2012

A legal panel, the Levy Committee, set up by Netanyahu has concluded that the West Bank was effectively no-man’s land before 1967 and denies that Israel’s presence there is that of an occupying force.

The Levy Committee’s recommendations are, subject to some formalities, pre-accepted by the Netanyahu government.

It legalises all settlements (and adjacent areas for “natural growth”) on the grounds that because they had “continuous and consistent government activity in their favour, the settlers had reason to believe they were acting with permission”, and characterises this government asistance as “an assurance that cannot be violated”.

So despite having no building permits, these settlements cannot be removed. Further measures will make it easier for settlers to acquire land, and to build, “subject to the opinion of the security authorities”, on huge tracts of land previously designated as being for IDF military use.

These decisions, retrospectively legalising all the land stolen since 1967 and normalising future land acquisition, regulation and building for Israel’s chosen Hebrew ethnic group, were then placed in the context of a newly declared national claim to all the lands between the old Green Line (1948 ceasefire line) and the Jordanian border, i.e. the rest of historic Palestine which Israel long ago re-named Judea and Samaria in advance of unification.

An old, formalistic, argument that Israel has never before seriously promoted is now included in these findings: that as these lands had not been formally part of any other sovereign state, Israel is not an occupying power and has no obligations as such under international law.

And the committee also goes on to overturn the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of an occupying power and against settling its own population into the occupied area, saying, in its wisdom, that these international laws are outdated and obsolete.

And finally, they cite Israel’s own behaviour as a validation for the de facto normalisation and annexation of their military conquest of June 1967: that the law on occupation of conquered lands assumes that this is temporary, whereas “Judea and Samaria have been under Israeli control for decades, and it is impossible to foresee a time when Israel will relinquish these territories, if ever.”

This report, initiating annexation in all but name and rubber-stamped by the government in advance, blows out of the water any last tattered remnants of the Two State solution.

It is time now to challenge the remaining believers in the Two State myth with this question: will you now support the comprehensive demands by Palestinians for equal civil rights in the One Country that exists between the River and the Sea?

From judge to shyster
Gush Shalom
July 10, 2012

Edmond Levy took off the robe of a Supreme Court judge – and under it was revealed a shyster, a Likud Party hack providing his client with a highly dubious, made-to-order legal opinion. After 45 years of oppressive military rule former judge Levy discovered that the West Bank is “not an Occupied Territory” and that the settlement enterprise is a pure, lily-white business.

Outside Israel’s borders Levi’s assertions would be greeted with laughter and derision, if anybody bothers to take notice of them at all. The International Court of Justice, which is the highest interpreter of International Law, ruled unequivocally in 2004 that the West Bank is indeed an Occupied Territory; that Israel may not build settlements or boundary fences inside this territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, specifically states that an Occupying Power is not entitled to settle its own citizens in the Occupied Territory, regardless whether it is on private land or on state land. Also the Supreme Court of Israel of which was a member, decided that in a territory under military rule it is forbidden to confiscate lands for the purpose of building settlements.

The government may be tempted to use Levy’s fabrication in order to undermine the rulings of the Supreme Court – a very transparent fig leaf.

International Law Revisionism
By Stephen Lendman
July 12, 2012

In January 2012, Netanyahu appointed a three-member committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy.

Included were former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker and former Tel Aviv District Court president Tchia Shapira.

They examined three issues:

(1) Legal aspects of Israel’s occupation.

(2) The 2005 Sasson Report’s conclusion that dozens of outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land were illegal.

(3) Whether Israel’s presence in the West Bank is, or is not, an occupation.

Levy’s report rewrote international law. It claimed that occupation “as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades.”

“Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”

It recommended legalizing illegal outposts. It said zoning officials should authorize them without further political approval. It urged no restraints on settlement construction.

Netanyahu praised the report, saying:

In my opinion, this report is important because it deals with the legalization and the legitimization of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria on the basis of facts, a variety of facts and arguments that should be seriously considered.

It’s unsurprising given Likud’s position on settlements, stating:

The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (all Occupied Palestine) are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel…

The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

Likud rejects Green Line separation of Israel and Palestine. It incrementally steals Palestinian land. It declared all Jerusalem sovereign Israeli territory.

Likud’s Charter also rejects Palestinian self-determination, saying:

“The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”

“Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem.”

“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”

Levy’s Likudnik standing remains unblemished. On July 10, Uri Avnery’s Gush Shalom Peace Bloc headlined “From Judge to shyster” saying:

“Edmond Levy took off the robe of a Supreme Court judge – and under it was revealed a shyster.”

He exposed himself as “a Likud Party hack” in good standing. He “provide(d) his client with a highly dubious, made-to-order opinion.”

After decades of lawless occupation, he claimed the West Bank is “not an Occupied Territory” and settlements are entirely legitimate.

Independent jurists say otherwise. International law supports them. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled the West Bank occupied. Settlements and boundary walls are illegal. It said:

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development (and) have been established in breach of international law.

The UN and other international bodies declared Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem occupied. Officially they’re called Palestinian Territories or Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel is called an Occupying Power.

The ICJ, Security Council and General Assembly consider East Jerusalem part of the West Bank. It’s occupied territory. Its residents are protected persons.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, the Palestine Partition Plan.

It granted 56% of historic Palestine to Jews (with one-third of the population) and 42% to Palestinians.

It designated Jerusalem international city (a corpus separatum – separate body) under a UN Trusteeship Council.

The area included all Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Beit Sahour. It encompassed Christian holy sites.

Resolution 181 called for an Independent Arab state by October 1, 1948.

It asked “all Governments and peoples to refrain from taking any action which might hamper or delay the carrying out of these recommendations.”

It called for the Security Council to be empowered with “the necessary measures as provided for in the plan for its implementation.”

Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” intervened. On May 14, 1948, a Jewish state was proclaimed. It’s on stolen land. It’s on 78% of historic Palestine.

On December 2, 1947, the General Assembly (GA) passed Resolution 32/40 A and B.

It expressed deep concern that “no just solution to the problem of Palestine has been achieved and that this problem therefore continues to aggravate the Middle East conflict, of which it is the core, and to endanger international peace and security.”

It reaffirmed “that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East cannot be established without the achievement, inter alia, of a just solution of the problem of Palestine on the basis of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return and the right to national independence and sovereignty in Palestine, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”

Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) called for end of conflict and withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from Occupied Palestine.

SC Resolution 338 (1973) affirmed the same demand.

SC Resolution 298 (1971) said “acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible.” It called Israel’s failure to observe previous resolutions “deplorable.”

It implied, but didn’t state, that conquered territory exceeding the 1947 partition is illegal. It includes 42% of historic Palestine and Jerusalem in its entirety.

Security Council Resolution 465 (March 1980) declared:

all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation….and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

On July 30, 1980, Israel’s Jerusalem Law lawlessly annexed the city as its unified capital.

In August 1980, Security Council Resolution 478 declared the Jerusalem Law null and void. It mandated its immediate rescinding.

Israel spurned the ruling and dozens of other UN resolutions. It breaches virtually all international laws. It institutionalized colonialism, occupation and apartheid. It denies Palestinians justice, equality, peace, and self-detemination.

Fourth Geneva’s Article 49 states:

Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. …

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

International law is explicit, fundamental, inviolable, and sacrosanct.

A Final Comment
On July 10, a Haaretz editorial headlined “Bury the report,” saying:

The committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, in effect, annexed the territories to the State of Israel, when it recommended that all Israeli outposts be sanctioned.

Since 1967, Israel institutionalized military occupation. International laws call it illegal. Nonetheless, Israel continues to “expropriate private, Palestinian-owned land and to classify hundreds of thousands of acres as ‘state land.’ ”

Levy’s report turned international law on its head.

“Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who opposed the creation of Levy’s committee, has a responsibility to explain to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the profound international law implications of adopting the report’s recommendations.”

“Netanyahu must shelve the report and insist that the executive branch of his government enforce, without delay, the judicial orders regarding all of the outposts, starting with those built on private land.”

On July 10, a New York Times editorial headlined “Wrong Time for New Settlements,” saying:

Hopes for Palestinian self-determination look dim. Peace talks go nowhere. “Now comes another, potentially disastrous, blow.”

The Levy report recommended “scores of new settlements.”

“Most of the world views the West Bank….as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law.”

So said the World Court, Fourth Geneva, and Security Council Resolution 242.

Levy’s recommendations also violate past Israeli Supreme Court rulings. In 1979, it prohibited expropriating land for “military needs,” in fact, earmarked for settlement construction.

Rarely does The Times take a principled stand for Palestine. It blew its cover this time.

It expressed concern about possible “international anger at Israel” (and) divert(ing) attention from Iran” (when) sanctions and negotiations (target its) nuclear program.”

Even the editorial headline was disturbing. It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing.

For decades, Times articles, op-eds, and commentaries spurned Palestinian rights in deference to Israel. Reporting nearly always is one-sided. Media scoundrels institutionalized it.

Levy’s outrageous recommendations prompted The Times response. It reflects support for Israel. It’s concerned only about what harms its status and US imperial interests.

Those issues aside, Palestinian rights be damned.

Haaretz also fell short. It expressed concern about legitimizing illegal outposts. Doing so it said effectively annexes the Territories to Israel.

The Times and Haaretz missed the key point. Israel’s entire occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and all of Jerusalem (East and West) is illegal.

Under international law, Palestinians are entitled to all land within pre-1967 borders, but more than that. The 1947 Partition Plan gave them 42% of historic Palestine.

Jerusalem in its entirely remains an international city.

In 1987, Francis Boyle drafted Palestine’s Declaration of Independence. On November 15, 1988, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) adopted his Memorandum “proclaim(ing) the existence of the new independent state of Palestine.”

Most nations recognize its status. It also deserves de jure UN membership. It qualifies in all respects. It’s recognized under UN Charter article 80(1) and League Covenant article 22(4).

As the League’s successor, the General Assembly has exclusive legal authority to designate the PLO as the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate representative.

The Palestinian National Council (PNC) is the PLO’s legislative body. It’s empowered to proclaim an independent Palestinian state. The General Assembly will recognize it.

It has sole authority to do so by a two-thirds majority. The Security Council only recommends admissions. It can’t veto them.

Major media reports exclude explaining all of the above and more. These and other vital issues aren’t addressed. They won’t be fully and accurately in future articles, commentaries or editorials.

Nor will demands be made to enforce international law with teeth.

Rare major media support for Palestinian rights falls short by excluding what’s too important to omit.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

Levy is Right

By Yousef Munayyer, Daily Beast-Open Zion
July 13, 2012

Levy is right, this isn’t Occupation.

Well, not just Occupation.

When an Israeli panel appointed by Benjamin Netanyahu to investigate the question of outposts issued its findings: that there was no occupation and the settlements were legal, most sensible people responded with contempt. This is warranted, of course, since anyone even vaguely familiar with the situation who denies the existence of occupation cannot be taken seriously. Coupled with the sheer inaccuracy, the fact that pro-settlement committee members returned a pro-settlement outcome for the self-declared most pro-settlement Israeli government in history drew cynicism and sneers.

A Palestinian woman holds a National flag in front of Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s controversial separation barrier (Musa Al Shaer / AFP / Getty Images)

But the Levy Committee report should not be so immediately dismissed; it should be taken instead as an opportunity to reevaluate our understanding of the situation in Israel/Palestine and the language we use to describe it.

To be clear, Israel’s belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory continues today. International law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention, applies. The question about the status of the territories is not whether there is or isn’t occupation, as the Levy Committee addressed it, but whether the lexicon of occupation and the legal framework that comes with it sufficiently and accurately describes the totality of the situation. For decades, peace advocates have held fast to this terminology and logic. Since it is occupation, they assert, international law applies and therefore countless Israeli policies are illegal. (Never mind that the mechanisms for enforcing international law has been persistently blocked by Washington)

While this is invariably true, its descriptive ability is lacking.

“Occupation” carries with it at least two problematic connotations within the context of Israel/Palestine:

The Temporal connotation: Military occupation as we have come to understand it in the modern world is supposed to be a short-lived and temporary endeavor. When it comes to the West Bank in particular, nothing could be more permanent. Israel’s presence there began in 1967 and has not ended since. These 45 plus years of occupation make up 70 percent of Israel’s existence as a modern state. Every step the Israeli state has taken in the West Bank since 1967 has been toward entrenching its presence for the long term.

The Detached connotation: Military occupation also conveys a degree of detachment. While there may be a military presence in an occupied territory, as the US had in Iraq for example, it is solely a military presence. This too does not square with the reality of Palestine. Israel has relentlessly colonized the West Bank by transferring hundreds of thousands of its civilians into the territory and monopolized Palestinian natural resources above and below ground. It has built billions of dollars worth of civilian infrastructure into, through and out of the territory and has integrated the territory into the state economy. Like maps which simply portray Israel and the Occupied Territories in different shades, the connotations of ‘occupation’ creates an illusion of geopolitical separation where none exists. The reality, however, is conveyed through some great infographics that show the degree of this penetration into—and integration of—the territory.

Occupation is the effective military control of non-sovereign territory. The boundaries that distinguish occupation from colonization and annexation have already been crossed in Israel/Palestine.

So while Israel militarily occupies the West Bank, the lexicon of occupation alone is both insufficient and dangerous, because it creates a parallel and fanciful distinction that underpins flawed policy.

Israel is routinely flaunting international law and has done so for decades. The truth about the Levy Committee report is that even if it is adopted by the government, it changes very little about Israel’s behavior. The situation will remain the same: Israel will continue to illegally colonize just as it has for decades. But the guise created by the insufficient terminology to which we’ve become so accustomed would give way to a different terminology with the descriptive power to match the reality of Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank.

Perhaps this is why those who have a near dogmatic attachment to the notion of a two-state solution, and others who pay it lip service without ever advocating for serious sanctions to change Israel’s colonial behavior, have been the most disturbed by the possibility that the Levy report could be adopted. They argue that if Israel no longer labels its military presence an occupation, it suddenly becomes a de facto annexation. But if Israel does not adopt the report, the situation remains the same. Such approaches errantly and inexcusably afford Israel a monopoly on defining reality.

The New York Times editorial on this issue said that if the Levy report is adopted it would “ draw attention to a dispiriting anomaly: that a state founded as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people is determined to continue ruling 2.5 million Palestinians under an unequal system of laws and rights.” But drawing attention to this anomaly is not something we should be afraid of, it is something we should be exposing vigorously. Doing otherwise is tantamount to yearning to reside in Plato’s cave after learning what’s causing the shadows.

Whether this report is adopted or not, the guise of occupation remains a significant problem and must be brought down anyway. To achieve this end we need to advance new terminology that adequately describes the situation as it is, not as we might like it to be, or as might be politically acceptable—not as it was 30 or 40 years ago.

The most apt description for this situation is Zionist Apartheid. The ‘Zionist’ modifier is crucial because it differentiates between the situation in Israel/Palestine and Afrikaaner Apartheid. In both cases, systems of human rights abuses and an unequal distribution of rights were used to ensure a particular group remained politically empowered throughout the territory controlled by the state. Yet both cases also have unique characteristics. For example, South Africa’s Apartheid regime did not back an active settlement program to implant white colonists in the black ‘homelands’.

Apartheid corrects the misleading connotations of occupation because it appropriately conveys the entrenched reality of the Israeli presence in Palestinian territory and the effective control the Israeli government consistently exercises over the totality of the territory from the river to the sea. This is ultimately one integrated and interconnected regime and must be seen as such.

Occupation is an integral part of Zionist Apartheid, but the lexicon of occupation alone does not capture the entire picture. The first step to adequately addressing any problem is understanding it, and the current terminology limits our understanding at best and at worst, confuses it.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, The Palestine Center.

Wrong Time for New Settlements
Opinion, NY Times
July 10, 2012

Palestinian hopes for an independent state are growing dimmer all the time. Israel is pushing ahead with new settlements in the West Bank and asserting control over new sections of East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their capital. Meanwhile, peace talks — the best guarantee of a durable solution — are going nowhere.

Now comes another, potentially disastrous, blow. An Israeli government-appointed commission on Monday issued a report asserting that Israel’s 45-year presence in the West Bank is not occupation. The commission endorsed the state’s legal right to settle there and recommended that the state approve scores of new Israeli settlements. It proposed stripping the military of its authority to force settlers off land claimed by Palestinians.

Although nonbinding, the commission’s recommendations are bad law, bad policy and bad politics. Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

The recommendations would annul a number of past Israeli Supreme Court rulings and orders, including a 1979 decision forbidding the expropriation of land for “military needs” when the real goal is settlement construction. It is alarming to see this latest attack on the court, which has tried to temper government excesses, ruling that several outposts and buildings constructed on private Palestinian land should be dismantled. Thirty families were evicted from five such buildings last month.

The commission, led by Edmund Levy, a former Supreme Court justice, was established in January under pressure from settlement leaders. If its conclusions are not firmly rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is likely to be new international anger at Israel. That could divert attention from Iran just when the world is bearing down with sanctions and negotiations to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. It would also draw attention to a dispiriting anomaly: that a state founded as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people is determined to continue ruling 2.5 million Palestinians under an unequal system of laws and rights.

That is unsustainable, and it is damaging to Israel’s security and regional peace. Now that Mr. Netanyahu has expanded his ruling coalition, his excuse is gone for not ending his counterproductive settlement policy and using his new political clout to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The State Department rightly criticized the commission findings. “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts,” it said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will have a chance to drive that message home when she visits Israel next week.

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