Palestine is occupied and I am beginning to wonder whether Washington is as well. Not only has President Donald Trump gifted [occupied] Jerusalem to the Jewish state and defunded UNRWA, he has axed $25 million (Dh91.82 million) for Palestinian hospitals, closed the PLO’s mission and revoked visas for the Palestinian envoy and his family. His latest blow was to cut $10 million for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programmes.
Moreover, the US has refused visas for Palestinian officials to present their case before a high-level UN meeting in New York. These moves are nothing short of hostile acts aimed at bringing the Palestinian National Authority to its knees.
Simultaneously, the US House of Representatives has approved a whopping Israeli military aid package amounting to $38 billion over the coming decade and that comes with a caveat preventing future administrations from suspending aid to Israel in response to any infractions of US policy.
Benjamin Netanyahu must be rubbing his hands in glee. He can do no wrong in the eyes of the world’s superpower. He has been given a free hand to do his worst. And that’s what he’s doing. Last month, Israel’s government announced plans to construct 1,000 new Jewish homes on the occupied West Bank and is building two new Jewish colonies in occupied east Jerusalem.
These constructions flout UN Security Council Resolution 2334 calling on Israel to cease all colony building but why should Netanyahu care when the US has continually belittled the UN and threatened member countries to the effect support Israel or else.
In the meantime, new US legislation is coming into effect that would criminalise criticism of Israel on college campuses as being anti-Semitic. The Trump administration includes in its definition of anti-Semitism anything that denies “the Jewish people the right to self-determination” or uses double standards against Israel not expected of other democratic nations.
Additionally, the House has agreed by 393 to two to appoint a special envoy at an ambassadorial level to monitor and combat anti-Semitism abroad, particularly within Europe and Iran.
Congress is also debating ‘Anti-Semitism Awareness’ and ‘Israel anti-boycott’ acts. What is happening to America’s sacred First Amendment rights barring Congress from passing laws that abridge freedom of speech and why aren’t the American people alarmed?
Free-thinking Americans should be concerned about an amendment rendering null and void the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 that disallows state media propaganda outlets from targeting domestic public opinion. Coming generations will be suitably brainwashed.
No surprise that America’s ally the United Kingdom is going in the same direction. Prime Minister Theresa May celebrated the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the Jewish state with exceptional vigour and some days ago she attended a dinner marking Israel’s foundation, assuring her co-diners that Britain will always support Israel’s right to defend itself. She stressed that she does not underestimate the threat of anti-Semitism, adding that she intends to root it out.
It seems she has begun that endeavour by accusing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of making his party institutionally racist. He has been the victim of a vicious campaign that some believe was orchestrated by the Israeli government. It paints him as an anti-Semite, falsely so according to those who know him well including one of my old school friends, a British Jew who counts him as a friend.
An Orwellian blueprint is being utilised from one side of the pond to the other to set Israel’s exceptionalism in stone by shutting down debate and instituting laws which criminalise the BDS Movement and anyone that calls for boycotts of Israel. Ireland has had no such compunction. Its lawmakers approved a bill boycotting products from West Bank colonies, which the Israeli embassy described as “populist, dangerous and extremist”.
The question is why should any country buy produce or goods grown/manufactured by people illegally ensconced on Palestinian land, who routinely destroy Palestinian olive groves and orchards? Bravo to Ireland for standing up for international law, morality and justice.
Ironically, Americans are free to erect adverts on buses condemning Islam and can legally burn Qurans, as well as organise cartoon competitions defaming the Prophet (PBUH) while citing First Amendment rights.
In college campuses, Americans can no longer refer to Israel as a racist state yet Arabs in Israel have been rendered as second-class citizens and there is a photograph doing the rounds of social media showing a sign inside an Israeli bus written in Hebrew. Translated it says “The front seats are exclusively reserved for Jews”. Does that remind you of anything?
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.