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Ocasio-Cortez, Palestine and Occupation

Photo by young shanahan | CC BY 2.0

A slight glimmer of hope appeared on the dismal Democratic Party horizon in June when newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated ten-term Congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s fourteenth Congressional district. Outspent but not out-maneuvered, Ocasio-Cortez won the primary in a landslide.

Unlike her AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee)-owned primary opponent, Ocasio-Cortez has been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestine and Palestinians. For generations this has been a complete no-no within Democratic Party circles (as unqualified support for that apartheid nations remains an article of faith for the Republican Party), but the last several months have seen cracks in the Israeli veneer. Yet Ocasio-Cortez has been the strongest in her condemnation.

In an interview following her victory, Ocasio-Cortez was taken to task for referring to the situation in Palestine as an occupation. Her questioner demanded to know just what she meant. Admitting that she wasn’t an expert on the topic, she referred to the illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Well! One would think she committed the worst kind of blasphemy known to man. Zionists everywhere are condemning her use of the vile word ‘occupation’ to describe Israel’s actions in Palestine. She is being pilloried for conceding that she wasn’t an expert on every topic under the sun, unlike so many politicians who are willing to wax eloquently and endlessly on topics about which they know nothing. And this very topic, the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel, is one on which many of them know very little, their knowledge colored by how much AIPAC donates to them, and about which they feel free to speak.

It seems that Israel and its many Zionist (read: racist) followers are now trying to deny reality; this isn’t surprising, since U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are best buds, and Trump barely has a nodding acquaintance with reality, and Netanyahu is happy to take whatever advantage he can of Trump and the U.S. It seems that now Israel is denying that it occupies Palestine.

Let us look at the situation in the context of international law. Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states the following: “a territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.”

Now we will look at the situation in Palestine. Israel’s army controls every aspect of life in the West Bank. Palestinians have their movements restricted; they cannot farm their fields without Israel permission, go to work without Israeli permission, attend school, visit family or friends, or generally move about without Israeli permission. Palestinians are subject to arrest and detention without charge at the whim of Israel soldiers/terrorists.

The Gaza Strip, separated from the West Bank, is completely controlled by the hostile Israeli army. It is blockaded on all sides by land, sea and air. Imports and exports are heavily restricted by Israel. It is extremely rare for a resident of Gaza to be able to leave the strip, even to visit family or friends in the West Bank.

Does this not, even to the untrained eye, look like occupation?

As long as we are looking at ugly concepts, let’s chat for a moment about apartheid. The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid describes these conditions as constituting that particular crime: “… inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” We will look at some of the specifics from the International Convention, and comment on them in relation to Israel and Palestine. While this is only a partial list, a review of the complete list would only enhance one’s belief that Israel is an apartheid regime.

“Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of Person.”

Israeli soldiers and settlers, living illegally on stolen Palestinian land, routinely kill Palestinians. Palestinians have been shot in the back, run over by vehicles, shot while attending the wounded or reporting on Israel’s actions. Palestinians are routinely arrested and held indefinitely, often without charge.

“By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Where does one start? Palestinian children report physical and sexual abuse in Israel’s prisons, where they should never be in the first place. Farmers are often only granted permission to plant or harvest crops, long after the season for planting or harvesting has passed. Palestinian homes in the West Bank are raided in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, with the houses ransacked, valuable goods within them stolen, and any and all males over the age of 12 taken in to custody.

“Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part.”

In the West Bank, Palestinians are driven from their homes to make room for illegal, Israeli-only housing settlements. In the Gaza Strip, food is restricted such that Palestinians live just above starvation. Import and export restrictions cause severe unemployment, and lack of medical supplies. Periodic bombing of the Gaza Strip leaves tens of thousands of people homeless, and Israel forbids the importing of construction materials, so Palestinians are unable to rebuild.

“Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country.”

Israel recently passed a law declaring it a Jewish state; proposals to ensure equal rights for others living within its borders were defeated. Arabs and people of African descent living within Jerusalem are discriminated against in housing, education and employment.

“The deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Most of these have been covered earlier, but we will comment here on “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. Starting in March, Palestinians peacefully protested at Israel’s border, demanding the internationally-granted right of return. Hundreds of demonstrators, including medics and members of the press, have been killed by Israeli snipers.

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez isn’t an expert on the situation in Palestine, but that need not prevent her from speaking out against the injustices that she clearly sees. Neither should it prevent anyone from opposing arbitrary arrests of men, women and children without charge; land theft; killing with impunity and the many other crimes against humanity of which Israel is guilty.

As more and more organizations, including churches, businesses and labor unions, shun dealing with Israel; as more nations take action against its crimes, and as the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement chalks up success after success, Israel and its Zionist supports are desperate to retake the narrative that they controlled for so long. It isn’t working. Truth, justice, international law and human rights have been ignored by Israel and its U.S. sponsor for too long. The ‘alternate facts’ that Trump, Netanyahu and others of their ilk would have us hear are simply no longer acceptable.

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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