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Monday, September 1, 2014

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West Bank settlements

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 West Bank settlements (1)

Is it not enough already that Israel continues to thumb its nose toward
the international community’s perspective on Israel’s illegal settlement
activities? In the perspectives piece “Settlements issue distorts
Geneva and Oslo” (Feb. 3), former Israeli ambassador to Canada, Alan
Baker, attempts to persuade us that Israel’s West Bank settlements do
not contravene international laws. To argue that the sixth paragraph of
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to the
Israeli-Palestinian territorial dispute, since there were no enforced
population transfers of settlers or forced resettlement of land, is an
irrelevant issue of semantics. The true fact of the matter is that
settlers were enticed to develop and build through a misguided Israeli
policy after the 1967 Six Day War.
It’s interesting that it’s preferable and advocated to invoke the 1995
Interim Agreement regarding the responsibilities of controlling areas
within the West Bank, which would then lead to permanent status
negotiations and thus resolving the settlements concerns. However, the
“road map” peace proposal of 2004 stipulates halting all settlement
activities, under the consensus of all the members of the Quartet
(United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations), and it
specified obligations for both parties, Israel and the Palestinian
Authority, in a declaration that supersedes the Interim Agreement of
1995. Both then-U.S. president George W. Bush and then-Israeli prime
minister Ariel Sharon acknowledged and recognized that by creating the
viable two-state solution and ensuring contiguity, there were “new
realities on the ground” – huge settlement blocs such as Ma’ale Adumin,
Giv’at Ze’ev, Har Homa and Ariel, to be reckoned with and probably
retained by Israel.
In short, you can’t have only a consortium of the international
community to stave off those who pose existential threats toward Israel,
then ignore their requests when they ask to halt the bulldozers!
Smadar Meiri
Thornhill, Ont.

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West Bank settlements (2)

Sheldon Kirshner’s Feb. 3 column, “West Bank settlements affect peace
talks,” on the obstacle to peace posed by the festering settlement issue
was a breath of fresh air in a conversation so frequently dominated by
putting all the blame on the “other.” Yes, the other side is often
hateful, obstinate and dangerous, but that does not give us licence to
ignore our own actions that exacerbate the problem. Yes, we can quote
international law and divine revelation to justify the settlements, but
when not a single country supports continued settlement expansion, isn’t
it time to examine the political, human and material cost that is being
expended?
David Benjamin
Montreal

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Israeli human rights organizations

Israel has long been known as a beacon of democracy, in fact as the only
democracy among its neighbours in the Middle East. But it is in the
nature of democracy to tolerate dissent. The strength of a democracy
lies in the capacity of its members to embrace vigorous debate, to
attempt to persuade those with whom they disagree, and to try to bring
about change through the instruments of democracy – among them the
ballot box, the law courts, and public opinion.
Recently, the Knesset approved a proposal to set up a parliamentary
committee to investigate the funding of Israeli human rights
organizations, even though there is already full transparency under
current law that applies to all organizations. At the time of this
writing, the proposal has been sent to committee and has not yet been
voted upon.
The singling out by the present Israeli government of specific
organizations – in this case organizations on the basis of the ideas
they express – suggests that Israel is not living up to its own high
standards of social justice and smacks of a witch hunt whose goal is the
delegitimization of human rights organizations in Israel.
Within Israel, people on both sides of the political spectrum have
recognized the significance of this threat and spoken out. A motza’ei
Shabbat demonstration on Jan. 15 drew more than 10,000 marchers.
But the potential assault on Israeli democracy concerns all friends of
Israel, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora. In the United States,
mainstream organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the
Reform movement and the Anti-Defamation League, usually reluctant to
offer criticism of Israel because of its vulnerability on the world
stage, have spoken out. It is incumbent upon those of us in Canada who
are similarly committed to the survival of a strong Israeli democracy to similarly make our voices heard.
Leanore Lieblein
Canadian Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights (Montreal)

 

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