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Israel embassy to UK erases West Bank, Gaza in election video

March 15, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Screenshot of a video released by the Israeli embassy to the UK has erased the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), showing the whole of historic Palestine as Israel [Twitter]

A video released by the Israeli embassy to the UK has erased the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) and the occupied Golan Heights, showing the whole of historic Palestine and the Syrian territory as Israel.

The video – created by the Israeli embassy in London and shared on its official Twitter account on Wednesday – sets out to explain the upcoming Israeli general election on 9 April. The video addresses “frequently asked questions” about the Israeli electoral system, such as “what is the Knesset” and “who do people vote for”.

Answering the question “do they [Israelis] vote for representatives of their city or district,” the video explains: “Israel is very small, so the whole country is a single constituency,” while a graphic draws the outline of historic Palestine and shades in the whole space, erasing the occupied West Bank,  besieged Gaza Strip and Syria’s occupied Golan Heights.

Though the outline of the West Bank can be seen beneath the shading, the video still shows the territory as part of the “single constituency” of Israel. The Gaza Strip, on the other hand, and the Golan Heights are not demarcated at all.

Though MEMO contacted the Israeli embassy for comment, at the time of publication no answer had been received.

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The video will be seen as further evidence of Israel’s attempt to normalise its narrative of “sovereignty”, which ignores Palestinians living under occupation and increasingly seeks to annex the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights.

This narrative has taken centre stage in election campaigning in recent weeks, with a number of parties promising to annex all or parts of the West Bank and increase Israel’s illegal settlement there. The New Right (Hayemin Hehadash) party – which was formed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked after they broke away from the Jewish Home party – has vowed to annex “Area C”, which makes up 61 per cent of the occupied West Bank.

The New Right explained that, under this plan, it would give Israeli citizenship to the “80,000 Arabs” it estimates live there. However, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHAoPt), some 297,000 Palestinians are known to live in Area C, raising questions as to their fate should the New Right join the ruling coalition after 9 April.

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Even centrist political parties have made partial annexation of the West Bank a key campaign promise. The Blue and White alliance – comprised of Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience (Hosen L’Yisrael) party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and now polling as the main challenger to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party –  has vowed that the Jordan Valley, which lies deep in the West Bank, will be Israel’s border.

Blue and White has also promised to maintain Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, with the alliance’s number three Moshe Ya’alon criticising the “land for peace” model. This model would see Israel dismantle its occupation in return for peace agreements, following the precedent set by the 1979 Camp David Accords under which Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in return for a peace treaty with Egypt.

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The Israeli embassy’s video also came on the same day the US State Department dropped its usual description of the Golan Heights as “Israeli-occupied”, changing the designation to “Israeli-controlled”. The State Department’s annual global human rights report also failed to mention the words “occupied” or “occupation” in a separate section about the West Bank and Gaza.

Though a State Department official said “[US] policy on the status of the territories has not changed,” the move has been interpreted as indication of US support for Israel’s efforts to gain international recognition of the territories it controls. Palestinian officials slammed the move, with the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, saying: “These American titles will not change the fact that the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and the occupied Arab Golan are territories under Israeli occupation in accordance with UN resolutions and international law.”

During the Six Day War of 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. With the exception of the Sinai, it has thus far refused to hand back these territories and has transferred its civilian population into the areas, in contravention of international law.

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