Israel: unending aggression and expansionism

Palestinians protest at the Great March of Return

Emboldened by the support of the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia, Israel has been stepping up its aggression in the Middle East. On 10 February 2018, an Israeli F-16 conducting an air raid in Syria was shot down by the Syrian Air Defence Force. Israel claimed the raid came in response to the penetration of its air space by an Iranian drone, and launched further air strikes in Syria. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on 18 February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is being investigated by police for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, threatened to attack Iran directly, saying ‘We will act if necessary, not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself.’ Lebanon is also in Israel’s crosshairs: one western official has said that Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon are ‘being discussed at the highest level’.

Netanyahu has an ally in the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who shares Trump’s commitment to opposing Iran and ending the Iranian nuclear deal. The deal, agreed in 2015 by the US, UK, Russia, France, China, Germany, and Iran, saw US sanctions against Iran lifted in exchange for monitored limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment. While the other signatory countries insist Iran is abiding by the terms of the agreement and that it cannot be renegotiated, Trump is committed to either changing or scrapping it. Pompeo’s predecessor Rex Tillerson had defended the deal, a reason Trump cited for replacing him.

Alongside this anti-Iranian aggression, Israel has accelerated the pace of its plans to annex the Palestinian West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967. Israel’s ruling Likud Party voted in December 2017 to support the annexation, and recent Israeli legislation has helped set the groundwork for enacting it. In February, Israel passed a law bringing three academic institutions in the West Bank under the control of the Israeli Higher Education Council; they had previously been overseen by an occupation military body. Afterwards, Netanyahu told his party that Israel would ‘act intelligently’ to covertly extend its civilian sovereignty in the West Bank, describing it as ‘a process with historic consequences’.

Further bills bringing more institutions in the West Bank under Israeli civilian control are reportedly in the pipeline. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has described the separation between the Palestinian territories and Israel as ‘an injustice that lasted 50 years’, has instructed those drafting new domestic legislation to indicate how it can be applied in the West Bank. In March, a new bill made it possible for Israel to expel Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which Israel also illegally occupies, for ‘disloyalty’ to the Israeli state. No doubt ‘disloyalty’ will be interpreted as political opposition to the racist Israeli state and its anti-Palestinian policies; a wide net with severe consequences for any Palestinian caught in its meshes.

Meanwhile, in January and February 2018 Israel arrested 1,319 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, including 274 children, according to Palestinian human rights organisation Addameer. On 21 March Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian protester who became an icon of the Palestinian liberation movement after being charged in a military court for slapping an Israeli soldier, accepted a plea deal for an eight-month prison sentence and a $1,500 fine. The military court had conducted the trial in secret. In contrast, Elor Azarya, an Israeli army medic serving a 14-month sentence for executing an incapacitated Palestinian on the streets of Hebron, had his release ordered by a military parole board on 19 March after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Wesam Khaled

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 263 April/May 2018


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