Criticism Of Israeli Settlements Means War?

In a bold move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seemingly declared that criticism of Israel is an act of war. Haaretz reports that Netanyahu had notified New Zealand’s ambassador to Israel, Jonathan Curr, that if a planned motion sponsored by New Zealand, along with Senegal, Malaysia, and Venezuela, came to a vote, Israel would close its embassy in Wellington. Three hours later he called New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, and notified him that going through with the resolution “will be a declaration of war. It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences.” (emphasis added)

Murray McCully at a press conference in New Zealand in Auckland on February 13, 2015
Murray McCully, warned by Benjamin Netanyahu that the vote would mean war. [Image by Hannah Peters/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Getty Images

Later that day, December 23, the United Nations Security Council voted on and passed that resolution demanding that Israel stop all settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories. Occupied territories include Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. As reported by the New York Times, the United States also broke a tradition reaching back decades where the United States vetoes any Security Council resolution put forth against Israel. The resolution also specifies that the 1967 boundaries are still in effect unless they are changed through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

What is often forgotten by Americans is that Israel has been at war with Palestine in a conflict which will turn 50 next year. The conflict has never been resolved and it is the reason why there is a periodic drive for peace talks between the Israeli government and Palestine, through the Palestinian Authority, presumed to be the legitimate government of Palestinians.

It is also why these settlements, as well as other actions such as displacing preexisting populations, are considered war crimes under international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross explains that the Fourth Geneva Convention made such actions illegal under international law. Israel’s actions have gone far beyond simply settling in the territories it occupies under a state of war.

Amnesty International released a report in 2009 which detailed several troubling issues related to the Israeli settlements and water use. While the majority of the population in the occupied territories remain Palestinian, 80 percent of the water is redirected to Israeli settlers and the Palestinian population is prevented from creating a working water infrastructure to handle the remaining 20 percent of the water, enough to only provide 70 of the recommended 100 liters per person for daily use.

The Los Angeles Times had reported in September that Netanyahu had taken the radical step of stating that opposition to Israel’s illegal settlements constituted advocating for ethnic cleansing of Jews. Quite to the contrary, Israel’s policies in the territories it is still at war with constitutes ethnic cleansing and its settlements which strip the occupied population of sufficient water is part of that cleansing. Now, three months later, Israel is apparently, in Netanyahu’s mind, in a defensive war against New Zealand which has simply pushed for international condemnation of Israel’s war crimes.

Such rhetoric from Israel is not surprising given the nature of its leadership since its founding in 1948. In that year, several prominent American Jews, including Albert Einstein, had written a letter to the New York Times warning of Menachem Begin and his Freedom Party. The letter details how the Freedom Party had engaged in terrorism against the Palestinian population, committed war crimes, and was a fascist party.

Menachem Begin announcing agreement to a meeting with President Sadat of Egypt, 1978
Menachem Begin, accused of fascism by Einstein et al. [Image by Max Nash/AP Images]Featured image credit: Max NashAP Images

“Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.”

The party joined with several other right-wing parties in 1973 in Israel to form the Likud Party, the party of Benjamin Netanyahu. Begin himself organized the merger and was prime minister of Israel under the Likud Party from 1977 to 1983. According to the Jerusalem Post, Begin was promoted by Likud in rallies as recently as 2005. Netanyahu is but another voice in Israeli fascism.

The coming weeks will show what war with Israel means for nations in regions far away from Israel. Is Israel capable of actual strikes against a nation so far away or will the war take on a more diplomatic flavor? Time will tell, but it is clear that the irrational belligerence of Benjamin Netanyahu makes the denial of Israeli exceptionalism a ground whichever form this war comes in.

[Featured Image by Emil Salman/AP Images]