In a major step towards promoting justice and human rights, Britain's Trades Union Congress (TUC) voted this week in favour of a campaign to boycott companies that profit from Israel's illegal settlements. This is a very welcome and commendable decision which acknowledges the illegal nature of the settlements and the goods produced therein, as well as the harmful consequences of buying them in terms of the devastation that it wreaks on the Palestinian people. In an act of solidarity with the oppressed, reminiscent of the boycotting of South African goods during the apartheid era, the TUC is placing ethics over money.
However, despite receiving praise from many quarters, the Zionist Federation (ZF), unsurprisingly, condemned the TUC for its bold step. In a statement released on Wednesday, the ZF condemned the TUC membership for their unanimous decision and called upon its own supporters to "fight back".
The reaction of the ZF reveals that, more than ever, it is an extremely out of touch organisation. It refuses to acknowledge the reality of the current situation in which Israel's settlement programme is acknowledged universally to be in contravention of international law. A vigorous Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is the very least that Israel should be facing for its illegal and immoral economic, political and military activities.
The TUC and an increasing number of prominent organisations and individuals have chosen to boycott Israeli settlement goods for a host of reasons among which are two fundamental points:
1. The settlements are constructed on stolen and occupied land.
2. All the settlements in question are illegal.
Consequently, the money consumers spend on buying settlement-produced goods essentially pays for the on-going criminal occupation and illegal usurpation of Palestinian land.
Despite these two points being established in law and universally acknowledged, the ZF seems unable or unwilling to take them on board. So let's break it down for the ZF and its membership by highlighting just a few examples of statements supporting these claims:
"Occupied" Palestinian Territories (OPT) and "Illegal" Israeli Settlements
Settlements in the OPTs are illegal according to several bodies of international law and expert opinion. This is because they are constructed on land which is legally considered to be "occupied" by a military force. The settlements in question are deemed illegal by:
The International Court of Justice:
- "Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian 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." (ICJ ruling July 9th 2004; emphasis added)
The United Nations:
- UN Security Council Resolution 446 determined "that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
- UN Security Council Resolution 465 also makes it abundantly clear that "Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in the Occupied Territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention." The Security Council called upon Israel "to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem…"
The Hague Convention:
- Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention is explicit that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies". (Also see Article 46 and 55 of the Hague Convention which prohibits confiscation of private property in occupied territory.)
Human Rights Organisations:
- Human rights bodies such as Amnesty International have also made it very clear that "as well as violating international humanitarian law per se, the implementation of Israel's settlement policy in the Occupied Territories violates fundamental human rights provisions, including the prohibition of discrimination." This relates to the fact that settlements are "Jewish only" areas, connected by "Jewish only" bypass roads, all built upon occupied Palestinian land.
United States of America
- Even America, Israel's greatest ally, has had to concede the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements. Barack Obama himself, in his speech in Cairo in June 2009, stated, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."
- Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said that "Britain considers that Israeli settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal under international law. This includes settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank."
The Zionist Federation thinks that if it keeps saying that Palestine is not occupied long and loud enough, and repeating the mantra that the settlements are legal, their status will change like magic. So let's say it clearly; it will not. The Palestinian land is occupied as a matter of fact and any Israeli settlements built on occupied land are subsequently illegal, and that is a fact, no matter how uncomfortable that might be for ZF propagandists.
The Zionist Federation desperately tries to divert attention from Israeli crimes
In the Zionist tradition of attacking anyone who criticises the Israeli state, the ZF lashed out at the TUC, telling it to mind its own business and calling the Palestine Solidarity Campaign a "divisive and disruptive organisation" in the process (a back-handed acknowledgement of the effectiveness of the PSC's campaigns!). The ZF, as usual, tried desperately to divert attention away from the Israel's wrongdoings by asking why the TUC focused on the Zionist state and made no mention of Jordan or Syria and their treatment of Palestinian refugees. The ZF is, of course, missing the obvious point that Palestinian refugees exist precisely because of the state of Israel and its actions. As such, if any blame has to be apportioned for the existence and situation of the refugees, Israel has to be at the top of the list of offenders.
The ZF then went on to rant about Iran and Yemen, again without addressing the issue at hand; Israel's illegal activities. Allegations of criminal acts by others do not make Israel's criminality lawful!
However, we should not be too surprised that the ZF is so out of touch with reality. Zionism is a pernicious ideology and the more that Zionist Israel exposes itself as a rogue state (consider the Flotilla massacre in May for example; or the growing number of cases of settler violence, and so on) the more those who try to defend the indefensible will expose their own extreme views. Look at the Zionists' latest affiliations with right-wing extremist groups such as the English Defence League (EDL); extremism in all its vile forms is becoming ever more entrenched as a standard characteristic of the Zionist movement.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.