A year of impunity

Friday 01/01/2016
An Israeli settler (R), attacks a Palestinian journalist near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, last October.

As 2015 closed, we Palestinians looked back and saw the world had failed us.
Palestinians marked 2014 with two significant events: Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip, in which it killed more than 2,100 Pales­tinians, demolished or damaged more than 100,000 homes and businesses and bombed hospitals, schools, water infrastructure and clinics; and the accession to Inter­national Criminal Court.
Palestinians expected 2015 would be the year of account­ability; that, after granting Israel impunity for nearly 70 years, the world would wake up and stop Is­rael flouting international law and humanity. We expected that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would do the same.
Yet 2015 was a year of impunity. After Israel’s bombing cam­paign, and with the help of the international community, of the thousands of homes and build­ings damaged or destroyed during Israel’s onslaught, the United Na­tions has assisted in the construc­tion of only one home. Yes, one home.
The reasons? A combination of lack of funds (though the inter­national community pledged more than $5 billion, less than one-third was actually paid) and Israel’s insistence (as accepted by the United Nations) that Israel be allowed to control the flow of construction materials to Gaza. The result is that thousands of Palestinians remain homeless de­spite assurances to the contrary.
And the impunity does not stop there: Not a single country, in­cluding the PA, has held Israel to account for its 2014 onslaught or for its continued theft of Palestin­ian land. Not a single Israeli has faced criminal charges and Israeli officials continue to be received in foreign capitals as though Israel’s 2014 assault did not occur.
This impunity bolstered Israel’s actions in 2015. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s landslide victory came as no sur­prise to anyone paying attention to Israeli politics given the shift to the extreme right. Today, of the 120 members of Israel’s Knesset, only the anti-Zionist party (hold­ing a mere 13 seats) support equal rights for Palestinians while the vast majority of members of the Knesset do not support Palestin­ian freedom.
And it shows: In 2015, the Israeli government actively pushed for increased settlement construction and expansion, supported right-wing extremists who seek to destroy the Haram al-Sharif, instituted shoot-to-kill policies against Palestinians protesting Israeli rule, turned a blind eye to the murders of the Dawabshe family whose home was set ablaze by Israeli settlers, and continued its home demoli­tion policies.
With Israel receiving unbridled diplomatic support in the face of this and increased US finan­cial assistance, it is little wonder that Israel continues to do as it pleases.
The European Union’s re­sponse to Israel’s crimes has been similarly meek. After 20 years of pressing for labelling of Israeli settler goods, the European Union has finally decided to institute its own policies. And before it pats itself on the back for confronting Israel, this labelling is nothing more than that — labelling — and does not involve holding Israel to account or even banning settle­ment goods.
For Palestinians, however, the Palestinian Authority and its au­thoritarian, unelected “leaders” continue to abet Israel’s crimes. The promised swift PA response to Israel’s crimes was instead now typical PA fear of alienating the United States, Europe and every other donor to the flailing Pales­tinian Authority.
While protests are erupting throughout all parts of occupied Palestine, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to busy himself with consolidating his power, destroying the rem­nants of democratic Palestinian institutions and ingratiating him­self to an American leader who has made it clear that he will not do anything to secure Palestinian freedom before his term expires in a year.
And so the year of Israeli impu­nity will give rise to the year of Palestinians claiming their rights; a year in which the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement will continue to grow despite Israeli attempts (and sanctioned by the Israeli Supreme Court) attempts to quash it. The Palestinian Authority will make itself even more irrelevant in the eyes of Palestinians and a year in which Palestinians — fed up with living under repressive Israeli rule — will continue to rise up to demand freedom, equality and above all else, dignity.