Despite its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, being accused of war crimes and widely recognised as an Apartheid regime. Jersey continues to build its “strategic partnership” with Israel.
OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
The Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip have been under an illegal Israeli military rule since they were occupied in the 1967 war. Today they are referred to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and the Palestinian people have now been denied the right to self-determination and statehood for over sixty years.
Six million Palestinians make up the oldest and largest refugee population in the world, hundreds of thousands of whom still live in overcrowded camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Here they lack the most basic of provisions while living with the everyday reality of enforced poverty through dispossession. On top of this, Israel has established over 200 illegal Israeli settlements, housing nearly 500,000 settlers, within the Occupied Territories. The ‘separation barrier’ in the West Bank, cuts deep into Palestinian land and, along with the “settler only” roads, cuts off many communities from water supplies, hospitals and their own agricultural land making the Occupied Territories effectively a collection of ‘open air prisons’.
John Dugard, The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories stated in his 2007 Report that Israel’s laws and practices resemble aspects of apartheid and probably fall within the scope of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. In his conclusion the South African law professor states: “There are other regimes, particularly in the developing world, that suppress human rights, but there is no other case of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long”. The Palestinian people live in a world where they are continually under attack from Israeli occupying forces and are increasingly harassed by settlers, who attack the farmers and steal their land. Last year the situation escalated when Israel had another round of what their military strategists term mowing the lawn during “Operation Protective Edge”. In retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by two Hamas members, Israel launched a seven week siege on the Palestinian people. It was later established that Hamas may not have been behind the kidnapping in question, which resulted in so much death and destruction killing over 2,000 Palestinians including 500 children along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven Israeli civilians. Amnesty International confirmed that several of the attacks directly and deliberately targeted civilians and landmark buildings. In many of the cases they investigated, no prior warning was given to residents to allow them to escape before their homes were destroyed and still to this day the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees confirms that out of the 9,161 homes that were totally destroyed, “not a single home has been rebuilt”.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Since 2011 the States of Jersey has sought to promote Jersey business to Israel forming a strategic partnership with the organisation “UK ISRAEL BUSINESS” in order to encourage trade, industry and investment between the UK, States of Jersey and Israel and to offer Jersey as an “alternative option for basing their operation”. Senator Alan Maclean said of the pending 2011 visit to Israel that: “Our aim is to make it clear that Jersey is very much ‘open for business’”. For the price of membership, “UK ISRAEL BUSINESS” will provide “access” to information and people “necessary to take advantage of emerging business opportunities in the UK and Israel”.
In March 2013 Senator Maclean again visited Israel to meet with senior Israeli Government officials and leading finance and business representatives. This included, amongst discussions with the Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Israel’s Parliament, a meeting with Naomi Tsur the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. Under international law, Israel’s purported annexation of Jerusalem following the 1967 conquest is null and void and is not recognized by any country in the world. Each year the Israelis celebrate “Jerusalem Day”, a national holiday that celebrates the occupation of the eastern part of the city in 1967 with young Israelis, many of them children, moving through the Old City chanting “Death to the Arabs” and other racist and anti-Muslim slogans. After the visit in an interview with International Business Review, Senator Mclean said: “Based on a closely aligned vision, I am delighted that Jersey intends to strengthen its relationship with Israel further this year” and “Jersey, in particular have led the way in partnering with Israeli companies”.
As part of the paid membership to UK ISRAEL BUSINESS, Senator Maclean was invited to a breakfast event with Israel’s Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett in February 2014. This was considered to be an opportunity to help grow Jersey’s digital sector by working with Israel’s well established technology sector. Bennett is also the leader of the right-wing, religious party “The Jewish Home” and has never been shy on his views regarding a two state solution having said: “there will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians. I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state.” A position which conflicts with our own Government as previous comments made by our Chief Minister Ian Gorst confirmed that he believes in a two state solution, in which Israel should co-exist with a future Palestinian state. According to the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot Bennett boasted about killing Arabs saying “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there is no problem with that.” and “If you catch terrorists, you simply have to kill them.” Of course, Bennett means that anyone caught resisting occupation should be labelled a terrorist and therefore should be put to death. Is Bennett advocating extra-judicial execution based on race or ethnicity? This is by definition a war crime under international law as pointed out by the Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror at the time.
After the breakfast meeting with Bennett Senator Maclean said: “Being invited to meet Minister Bennett demonstrates the good progress we are making. The event gave us a rare opportunity to strengthen the ties between Jersey and Israel. We can learn much from Israel’s approach to entrepreneurship, innovation and supporting ambitious young people.”
In June 2011 UK ISRAEL BUSINESS played host to Tony Blair in what amounted to a PR stunt with Daniel Seal, Chief Executive of the organisation praising the occasion: “There is now a significant commitment to economic development and commerce between the UK, Israel and Palestine” and the “important role that the sovereignty of Palestine will play” in helping to “materialise business and economic stability in the region”. Mr Seal was also “thrilled” that Mr Blair wanted to be a part of the event and how the Office of the Quartet works “incredibly hard to use its unique position to promote peace, stability and prosperity.”
This picture somewhat conflicts with the latest report from the World Bank confirming that Blockades, war and poor governance have strangled Gaza’s economy and the unemployment rate is now the highest in the world. Gaza’s GDP would have been about four times higher than it currently is if it weren’t for the conflicts and multiple restrictions.
Steen Lau Jorgensen, appointed Country Director for West Bank and Gaza, said in the report: “Even more shocking is the reality that most of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are confined to an area of 160 km2 and are not able to travel beyond this area without permits. According to the Washington-based Center for Mind-Body-Medicine, as many as one third of Gaza’s children showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder even before the 2014 armed conflict, now even more”.
In 2012 Representatives from Jersey’s e-commerce and telecoms sector visited the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) and other companies in order to encourage them to come to Jersey. A JT spokesperson said Israel was: “a hotbed for high tech innovators and developers of cutting-edge technology and services.” Indeed some of this cutting-edge technology includes a partnership with Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturers that creates the drones used in war crimes against innocent civilians in the Gaza strip. This allows Elbit to use the term “combat proven” in the lucrative arms trade when selling it’s latest armed drone, the Hermes 900, to foreign countries, ultimately capturing 60% of the global drone market.
The Technion Institute has also been involved in the development of a remote-control function on the Caterpillar’s ‘D9’ bulldozer used by the Israeli army to demolish over 4,000 Palestinian houses and farms. The same bulldozer that killed peace activist Rachel Corrie in March 2003, ultimately ruled by the Israeli court as an accident. It rewards students who perform their compulsory military service and grants Israeli army reservists, the same one’s who participated in the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009, academic benefits in addition to the usual benefits for reservists. Technion’s record of complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights is a long and well documented one.
On the 8th of December 2013, a week after the death of the great fighter of apartheid Nelson Mandela, Jersey’s Chief Minister Ian Gorst shook hands with then President Shimon Peres, at the “Globes” Israel Business Conference, Israel’s premier and most prestigious economic event. Shimon Peres is the same man who offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime in South Africa. The event was attended by decision-makers, businesspeople, government officials, academics, researchers, spokespersons, and delegations from Israel and around the world, again to strengthen ties with the region. Despite being hailed as a man of peace Peres ordered the bombing of Lebanon in 1996 and is therefore held responsible for the intentional massacre of 102 civilians in the south Lebanon village of Qana.
On the 15th of May every year the Palestinians remember the Nakba or the “catastrophe” commemorating the events in 1948, when Palestinians were attacked, massacred and driven from their homes into refugee camps by Zionist groups, never allowed to return, defined by revisionist Israeli historian Ilan Pappe as ethnic cleansing. On Nakba Day this year, just six days after celebrating our very own Liberation Day, Jersey’s Economic Development Department Ministers met with Nathan Tsror, the Head of Economic and Trade Mission for Israel. After last year’s “Operation Protective Edge” Nathan Tsror, stated positively that it was “business as usual” and the “Israeli economy continues to operate as normal with very little impact from the conflict.” Despite Tsror’s upbeat view of his countries situation it appears that this is not really the case and the aggressive stance taken by Israel is beginning to take its toll.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
As awareness of the plight of the Palestinians increases, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement continues to grow. In 2014 alone, Dutch pension fund PGGM announced it was divesting tens of millions of euros from five of Israel’s biggest banks. French multinational Veolia lost out on a $4.5bn contract due to the company’s provision of infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements. Luxembourg’s state pension fund FDC excluded nine major Israeli banks and firms and one US company because of their involvement in Israeli settlements. Denmark’s largest bank Dankse Bank blacklisted Israel’s Bank Hapoalim over settlement construction. Buenos Aires municipality suspended a $170m water deal with Mekorot following a campaign over its role in Israel’s system of ‘water apartheid’. The Bill Gates Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the world, divested from G4S because of its role in providing equipment and services to prisons where Israel holds and tortures Palestinian political prisoners. The EU banned poultry exports from illegal Israeli settlements, Dutch pension giant ABP divested from two Israeli arms companies and more than 300 political parties, trade unions and campaign groups called for the suspension of a the EU-Israel Association agreement that facilitates largely unrestricted trade between the EU and Israel.
This year’s World Investment Report, prepared annually by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, confirms that Israel attracted $6.4bn in foreign investment over the course of 2014, compared with $11.8bn the previous year – a drop of around 46 percent showing that it appears the continued settlement building, wars and BDS movement are having a real impact on Israel’s economy. The ongoing occupation and continued attacks on the Palestinian people is clearly having a lasting and damaging impact on Israel’s population, both psychologically and economically, and yet there is no deviation from the Government’s continued policy of expansion and settlement building further rendering a future two state solution an impossible prospect.
Despite this growing movement, not only are the States of Jersey continuing to do business with Israel but they are directly dealing with and supporting the very people and institutions complicit in the subjugation, oppression and destruction of the Palestinian people and their way of life. The most the Jersey Government can seem to muster is a weak nod to a two state solution. Rather than taking a stance of solidarity with the Palestinian people the Jersey Government has all but ignored them while seeking to profit from its relations with their occupier, something that would be unfathomable to those who suffered under the occupation in Jersey. While our community annually commemorates the occupation that has made such an impact on our history, our collective memory and even our identity, our government continues to strengthen its ties with the nation responsible for the longest running occupation in modern history. Next year on the 9th of May when the bunting is brought out and the celebrations and remembrances made, our Government leaders will talk of the sacrifices given that allow us to celebrate this national day of freedom. But a freedom that exists to ignore the imprisonment and suffering of another people is no freedom at all and until we stand up to this injustice and look past our own borders we will never be free of occupation.