Cesar Chelala
A physician and writer

Israel Confronts Its Future

One important unintended consequence of the Israeli government’s recent decision to control the judicial system in the country has been increased criticism of its policies towards the Palestinians and the occupation of Palestinian land. The Palestinian people are violently displaced from their own homes, and replaced by a group of extremist Jewish settlers who appropriate their land. Those settlements, and the failure of the often-corrupt Palestinian leadership, have made a two-state solution impossible. How can one call something a state when the population has no control over their own land and resources?

Decades of punitive policies by the many iterations of the Israeli government have destroyed the Palestinian’s capacity to protect their land without resorting to violence. Palestinian attacks on Israelis cannot be condoned. But Palestinians are defending their land from invading settlers, a policy for which they have paid a high price.

According to B’TSELEM, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, since occupying the West Bank in 1967, Israel has misappropriated more than 2 million dunams (1 dunam equals 0.247 acre) of land, including building and expanding settlements and paving roads for settlers.

Data by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, show that there have been at least 570 attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank through the end of June 2023, a substantial increase over 2022. These numbers don’t include incidents of intimidation and settlers’ trespassing Palestinian homes.

According to the United Nations, “Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorizing entire communities with complete impunity.”

On Saturday, June 24, 2023, residents of Um Safa, Ramallah District, reported that Israeli settlers, aided by soldiers, attacked local residents and set fire to homes with occupants still inside. Last March, Israel’s Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, called for a Palestinian village to be “wiped out” in retaliation for the murder of two Israelis. In her poem “When they say pledge allegiance, I say” Palestinian-American poet Hala Alyan writes, “…my country is no country but ghost//is no man but ghost//my country is dead//my country is name the dead…”

Amiram Levin who headed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Northern Command and was a deputy director of the Mossad intelligence agency, recently told Kan radio from Tel Aviv that the Israeli military has been weakened because of reservists’ refusal to serve amid the government’s judicial overhaul and that it has also become “rotten to its core” due to Israel’s ongoing presence in the West Bank.

“It [the Israeli military] stands on the side, looks at the rioting settlers, and begins to be a partner in war crimes,” Levin said on the radio. “It’s 10 times worse than the issue of [military] readiness…and I say honestly, I am not angry at the Palestinians, I am angry at us. We are killing ourselves from the inside.”

When Levin was asked if he agreed with a May 2016 speech by former Meretz MK Yair Golan, who was IDF deputy chief of staff at the time, in which he said that policies in Israel were similar to some in Europe in the years leading up to the Holocaust he responded: “We find it difficult to say it, but that’s the truth. Look at Hebron, look at the streets, streets that Arabs can’t use, only Jews, that’s exactly what happened in countries like that.”

The British historian Simon Schama recently told The Observer that Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence “promised equal rights to all religious and ethnic groups.” He also stated that Israel faces “disintegration of the political and social compact” over the current government’s decision to alter the judicial system and expand Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories.

In addition to leaders of the IDF, international human rights organizations, historians and, increasingly, many Jewish individuals have also condemned the settlements. I met Stéphane Hessel, a Jewish survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, a hero of the French Resistance, and an observer of the editing of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights in New York many years ago. He was there as a member of the Bertrand Russel Tribunal, which was highly critical of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. I asked him how he, as a Jew, could be a member of that tribunal. With sadness in his eyes, he told me, “Because I love Israel.”

César Chelala is the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia) and a winner of several journalism awards.

About the Author
César Chelala is a physician and writer born in Argentina and living in the U.S. He wrote for leading newspapers all over the world and for the main medical journals, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times, The China Daily, The Moscow Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard International Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The British Medical Journal. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.