Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yesh Din

Wed. & Thursday - Israel's latest crime


To the ever-lengthening litany of Israeli wickedness - crimes against humanity, war crimes, occupation, genocide - add quarry pillaging. So says Yesh Din, a group of "volunteers who have organized to oppose the continuing violation of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." Yesh Din says that as part of its "brutal economic exploitation" of the Palestinians, Israel has been stealing their rocks.

Much of the gravel Israel quarries for marble kitchen counters and such comes from the West Bank. "This type of activity," Yesh Din asserts, "constitutes a violation of the laws of belligerent occupation [and is] pillage."

Yesh Din wants Israel's Supreme Court to enjoin companies from transporting rocks across the Green Line because, bereft of rocks, Palestinians would find it impossible to build a state. Or, in the words of the front-page headline in Sunday's International Herald Tribune: "West Bank losing land to Israel, rock by rock."

IN FACT, the West Bank is disputed: When the Palestinians rejected the two-state solution in 1948, Jordan annexed the area. In 1967, Israel repelled a Jordanian attack and captured the territory.

The 1949 Geneva Convention - the basis for claims that Israel is violating international law - applies in cases of armed conflict between signatories to the convention. While Jordan and Israel are signatories, virtually no state recognized Jordan's annexation of the West Bank. Hence the area was and remains in legal limbo.

While Israel, de facto, adheres to the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva Convention, it has a right to quarry in the contested territory. No one suggests the quarries have been illegally confiscated or are private property.

It's legitimate to call attention to the environmental impact of quarrying or the depletion of natural resources. The territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, encompassing Israel proper and the West Bank, is one integral unit. What happens in the mountainous interior affects the coastal plain, and vice versa. The New York Times recently reported that Israel is heading toward a "serious shortage of raw building materials," noting that West Bank quarries supply 25 percent of the sand and gravel we use.

Perhaps our regulatory authorities need to do a better job of monitoring the environmental impact and economic consequences of quarrying in Judea and Samaria. But these issues are not Yesh Din's primary concern.

THE GROUP, founded just four years ago, is the recipient of considerable largesse. Funds flow, legitimately, from The New Israel Fund, Oxfam, Hermod Lannungs Fund, Jacobs Charitable Trust, The Marc Rich Foundation and the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation. It is also supported by the powerful Israeli law firm of Yigal Arnon.

But it's the money Yesh Din gets from foreign governments that's troubling. The European Commission, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and the UK all want Israel out of the West Bank. We suspect they give Yesh Din money because its work helps delegitimize Israel's presence there.

Unfortunately, Israel lacks anything like America's "Foreign Agents Registration Act," which requires persons to disclose if they are "acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity."

Yesh Din's volunteers and individual contributors are doubtless sincere about promoting human rights; but this is one of several organizations funded by foreign governments that work against the interests of Israel's mainstream by chipping away at any Jewish claims beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines.

Israel's security concerns - for instance, how to prevent the West Bank from becoming a Kassam launching-pad against the Jewish state's main population centers - do not interest Yesh Din; nor does the threat of terrorist infiltration.

Not even Palestinian political intransigence, reflected in the unwillingness of relative moderates like Mahmoud Abbas to meet half-way willing Israeli partners - Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 - has relevance for Yesh Din: The group and the foreign governments that fund it want Israel out of the West Bank. Period.

Thus, while "promoting human rights," an organization subsidized by foreign powers encourages Palestinian negotiators to hang tough while it lobbies their interests.

Clearly, casting an avalanche of criticism at Israel's "violations of international law" is easier for Yesh Din than plumbing the ethics of its dependency on foreign powers.

No comments:

My Archive