In Bethlehem, there may soon be few Palestinian Christians left to protect its holy sites, preserve its rituals and liturgy or conduct the nativity celebration itself. And irony of ironies, it will have been fellow Christians who helped to harry this community to extinction.
After decades of flagrant US bias towards Israel, Trump has confirmed to Palestinians only what they already knew. Some even grudgingly welcomed his candour. They hope he has finally silenced US claims to being an “honest broker” in an interminable “peace process” that has simply bought time for Israel to entrench the occupation.
Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning seven decades of US policy in the region and effectively ending hopes of a two-state solution, has provoked dire warnings. But the focus by commentators on Palestinian reactions, rather than the effect on the Israeli public and leadership, might have underestimated the longer-term fallout from Trump’s move, analysts say.
For decades most American Jews have claimed an “Israel exemption”: resolutely progressive on domestic issues, they are hawks about Israel. Racism they would vigorously oppose in the US is welcomed in a Jewish state. But Netanyahu’s government has now created a gaping chasm with American Jews by expanding its assault on civil rights from Palestinians to the remnants of liberal Jewish society in Israel.
The story of Israel’s efforts to ban the lowly black goat, herded by Palestinian farmers for generations, is not simply one of unintended consequences. It serves as a parable for the delusions and self-destructiveness of a Zionism bent on erasing Palestinians and creating a slice of Europe in the Middle East.
Israel is putting in place the final pieces of a Greater Jewish Jerusalem that will require “ethnically cleansing” tens of thousands of Palestinians from a city their families have lived and worked in for generations, human rights groups have warned. The pace of physical and demographic changes in the city has accelerated dramatically, they say, and now Israel is preparing to cement these changes in law.
The long wait appears to be coming to an end on Trump’s “ultimate deal”, one supposedly capable of unlocking the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. The US peace initiative may be unveiled as soon as January, but neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Mahmoud Abbas appear keen to enter another round of fruitless dialogue.
The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, took to Twitter to relay a damning comment from an unnamed “senior” member of Priti Patel’s Conservative party. In a clear reference to Israel, the source observed: “The entire apparatus has turned a blind eye to a corrupt relationship that allows a country to buy access”. A short time later, presumably under pressure, Kuenssberg deleted the tweet.
Israel has instructed its overseas embassies to lobby their respective host countries in support of Saudi Arabia and its apparent efforts to destabilise Lebanon, a recently leaked diplomatic cable shows. The cable appears to be the first formal confirmation of rumours that Israel and Saudi Arabia are colluding to stoke tensions in the region.
A British government minister was apparently so dedicated to her work that she spent a “family holiday” in Israel conducting 12 undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials, including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and ventured into the occupied Golan with the Israeli army. Those covert meetings brought about the downfall of Priti Patel this week for breaching ministerial protocol. But is political naivety all Patel is guilty of?
Under British patronage, the Zionists began building the institutions of a state. That lesson was not lost on subsequent generations. Israel’s success has depended on its close alliances with superpower patrons, persuading them that Israel can usefully advance their interests – or that its opposition could prove too damaging.
There was more than a little irony in Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to attend a “celebration” dinner in London, marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Palestinian objections to the document are well-known. Britain had no right to promise a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, on the land of another people. But Israelis have been taught a different history in which they, not the Palestinians, were betrayed.
Netanyahu’s efforts to fast-track a new Basic law faces stiff resistance from Israel’s centre-left – not because they disagree with its provisions, but because it risks dragging Israel’s ugliest secret into the light: that the Israeli state belongs not to its citizens, as is the case in a liberal democracy, but to all Jews around the world, including those with no connection to Israel.
Did Britain and the US allow apartheid South Africa to advertise job opportunities to white Britons and Americans that were unavailable to those countries’ black citizens? And could it have held “employment recruitment” sessions for whites-only in British and American cities, in an effort to bolster its white population? Well, Israel is doing precisely the same for Jews, and there has been not a peep of protest.
Human rights activists are stepping up efforts to expose Israel’s long and covert history of supplying weapons and military training to regimes while they actively commit massacres, ethnic cleansing and genocide. The issue of Israel’s trade with rogue regimes has been thrust into the spotlight after revelations that it is sending weapons to Myanmar, in defiance of a US and European arms embargo.
At first glance, the decision by the Trump administration to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights? Washington’s claim that the Unesco is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.
The announcement of an Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas raised hopes that a decade of bitter feuding between the rival Palestinian factions may finally come to an end. The early conclusion of the talks in Cairo hinted at how much pressure both sides were under to make progress.
When the Palestinians gain a little visibility in the west, it is chiefly because of grassroots activities like Israel Apartheid Week and the BDS movement. When the Jewish Labour Movement and the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland reject such initiatives as evidence of anti-semitism, they choose to speak in the loud voice of Jewish privilege, not the quieter voice of Jewish victimhood.
At last week’s Labour party conference, when members wanted to celebrate Jeremy Corbyn’s successes, media headlines were once again dominated by a supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in the party. But the real crisis is that Labour’s pro-Israel old guard is now under fierce challenge from a new grassroots movement.
Israel’s support for the Kurdish independence referendum was not surprising. The unravelling of Britain and France’s century-old map of the region would lead to chaos of the kind that a strong, nuclear-armed Israel could richly exploit. Not least, yet more bedlam would push the Palestinian cause even further down the international community’s list of priorities.