Friday, February 28, 2014

Kerry proposes Beit Hanina as future capital of Palestine

US Secretary of State John Kerry is proposing for the Palestinians to establish the capital of a future Palestinian state in Beit Hanina instead of all of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Beit Hanina is located to the north of the old city, on the road to Ramallah.

According to the newspaper, Kerry's proposal for the Palestinian capital to be located in only a small part of East Jerusalem, along with his other suggestions, enraged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who left his meeting with Kerry last week furious, threatening to torpedo the framework agreement. Kerry is said to have adopted the Israeli positions completely, including demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state and retain the ten Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank as part of a land swap. Kerry also hinted that the Jordan Valley will not be part of a future Palestinian state and refused having any international presence in the Palestinian territories when Israel pulls out.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that US President Barack Obama has decided to intervene in the talks and "pressure both sides" to reach a framework agreement within the set deadline. Obama is meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday and has invited Abbas to visit Washington next month.

Regarding the possibility of extending the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel after the April deadline, Kerry told reporters that the parties took seven months to reach an understanding on their positions and he did not believe that anyone would feel concerned if it took another nine months to reach a final agreement. "I very much hope we should be able to make both parties take what is necessary to enter the most important stage, that is the final stage. To negotiate the final status based on a clear and specific framework." More

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Syria: What to Do Now

There is a new mood of moral desperation associated with the ongoing strife in Syria that has resulted in at least 135,000 deaths, 9.3 millions Syrians displaced, countless atrocities, Palestinian refugee communities attacked, blockaded, and dispersed, and urban sieges designed to starve civilians perceived to be hostile.

Richard Falk

As the second round of negotiations in Geneva-2 ended as fruitlessly as the earlier round, there is a sense that diplomacy is a performance ritual without any serious intent to engage in conflict-resolving negotiations. Expectations couldn’t be lower for the as yet unscheduled, but still planned, third round of this Geneva-2 process.

The Damascus regime wants an end to armed opposition, while the insurgency insists upon setting up a transition process that is independently administered and committed to the election of a new political leadership.The gap between the parties is too big, and getting bigger, especially as the Damascus government correctly perceives the combat tide as turning in its favor, leading the main opposition forces seemingly to seek to achieve politically and diplomatically what they appear unable to do militarily. Also, it is unclear whether the opposition presence in Geneva has the authority to speak on behalf of several opposition groups in the field in Syria.

In light of these frustrations it is not surprising to observe an acrimonious debate unfolding between American interventionists who believe that only force, or at least its threat, can thread the needle of hope. The interventionists, invoking the responsibility to protect norm that was used effectively to mobilize support in the Security Council to mandate a no fly zone in Libya back in 2011, suggest that such an approach should be used again in 2014 either to establish a no fly zone opening a corridor that will allow humanitarian aid to flow to besieged cities or to achieve regime change in Syria as the only way to end the ordeal by ridding the country of a governing process guilty of repeated mass atrocities against its own people.

The anti-interventionists point out that the Libyan precedent of 2011 is tainted by the deliberate expansion of the humanitarian scope of what was authorized by the UN Security Council to undertake a much wider campaign with the clear intent of regime change, which in fact ended with the capture and execution of Qaddafi, then the head of state in Libya. It is also somewhat tarnished by the post-Qaddafi realities of widespread militia violence and the failure to develop a coherent and legitimate governance structure. The anti-interventionist argue that introducing external military force almost always makes matters worse, more killing, more devastation, and no politically sustainable outcome, and there is no good reason to think this will not happen in Syria. Furthermore, without a Security Council mandate such a use of military force would once again be undertaken in violation of the UN Charter and international law as it could not be justified as self-defense.

Providing humanitarian relief in a situation mainly free of internal political struggle should be sharply distinguished from the realities amid serious civil strife. The response to the Somali breakdown of governability during the presidency of George H. W. Bush in 1992, is illustrative of a seemingly pure humanitarian response to famine and disease characterized by a posture of political non-interference and by the shipment of food and medical supplies to a people in desperate need. This contrasted with the supposedly more muscular response to a troubled Somalia during the early stages of the Clinton presidency in 1993 when the humanitarian mission was fused with anti-‘warlord’ and political reconstruction goals. Difficulties soon emerged as robust national armed resistance was encountered culminating in the Blackhawk Down incident that resulted in 18 deaths of American soldiers, prompting an almost immediate American pullout from Somalia under a cloud of intense criticism of the diplomacy of ‘humanitarian intervention’ within the United States. This had the disastrous spillover effect of leading the supposedly liberal Clinton White House to discourage even a minimal humanitarian response to the onset of genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which might have saved hundreds of thousand of lives. In the Rwanda context the United States Government even discouraged a modest upgraded response by the United Nations that already had a peacekeeping presence in the country, and whose commander urged reinforcements and authority to protect the targets of genocidal massacres. This failure to act in Rwanda remains a terrible stain on America’s reputation as a humane and respected world leader, and is frequently interpreted as a racist disregard of threats confronting an African population when no major strategic interest of Western countries were present on the side of the victims.

The Syrian reality since its inception was dominated by a political uprising, later an insurgency, demanding regime change in Damascus. It was also beset with a leadership deficit and by factionalism that only became worse with the passage of time. It was further complicated and confused by its proxy dimensions, both in relation to the supply of arms and with respect to diplomatic alignment.

The humanitarian relief argument to be credible, much less persuasive, needs to deal with the complexities of Somalia 2, and not act as if the humanitarian response can be addressed in detachment from the political struggle as was the case in Somalia 1. When political objectives become intertwined with a humanitarian rationale, forces of national resistance are activated on the reasonable assumption that the real goal of the mission is the political one, and the humanitarian relief is being used as a cover. As we can foresee, this complexity makes for a stiffer climb facing an advocate of humanitarian intervention in the current Syrian tragedy. There exists a more difficult burden of persuasion, although not an impossible one. Indeed, against the background of recent failed interventions, every proposed intervention confronts such a burden at some level. The Syrian case makes this burden more formidable, given the record of past interventions in the region and considering the mixture of forces that make up ‘the opposition,’ which is so far from unified even in carrying on the struggle against the Assad regime, on occasion diverting attention to take action against a rival faction. More


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arab League convenes to discuss Israeli aggressions against Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Arab League is to hold an urgent meeting on Wednesday to discuss the escalating Israeli aggressions against Al-Aqsa Mosque, including proposed legislation to impose Israeli guardianship over the third holiest site for Muslims.

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Ambassador of the Palestinian Authority in Cairo Barakat Al-Farrah explained that: "The permanent membership of the State of Palestine filed a call to the Arab League to hold the meeting."

In a statement, Al-Farrah noted that the call invited all permanent members to attend the meeting in order to discuss the escalating Israeli aggressions against Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Al-Farrah reiterated that if the Israeli settlers, under the protection of Israeli occupation forces, are freely allowed to continuously storm the Mosque then this could trigger a wave of violence in the region. "This might be a religious conflict with unneeded consequences," he warned.

The Israeli Knesset held a discussion on Tuesday about replacing Jordanian guardianship over Al-Aqsa Mosque with Israeli control.

During the Knesset debate, extremist Knesset member Miri Regev from the Likud Party challenged the right of Muslims to their holy site. "Why can a Muslim cry out loud in his own language that 'there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet and messenger,' yet a Jew cannot enter the Temple Mount and recite out loud 'Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One?'" Regev asked, concluding that, "he who gives up on the [Temple] Mount will be left without a home." More


Sunday, February 23, 2014

U.S. now bugging German ministers in place of Merkel - report

BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has stepped up its surveillance of senior German government officials since being ordered by Barack Obama to halt its spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday.

Revelations last year about mass U.S. surveillance in Germany, in particular of Merkel's mobile phone, shocked Germans and sparked the most serious dispute between the transatlantic allies in a decade.

Bild am Sonntag said its information stemmed from a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany and that those being spied on included Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close confidant of Merkel.

"We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor's communication directly," it quoted the NSA employee as saying.

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said it would not comment on the "allegations of unnamed individuals".

To calm the uproar over U.S. surveillance abroad, President Obama in January banned U.S. eavesdropping on the leaders of close friends and allies of Washington.

Germans are especially sensitive about snooping due to their experiences in the Nazi era and in Communist East Germany, when the Stasi secret police built up a massive surveillance network. More


Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Details of Attack on Yemeni Wedding Prompt More Demands Obama Explain Drone Policy

A new report on the U.S. drone missile strike that killed 12 members of a Yemeni wedding convoy has renewed calls for the Obama administration to make public its own investigations into the incident — and explain how such strikes are consistent with international laws of war.

The detailed, 28-page report from Human Rights Watch describes conflicting accounts of the December 12 attack, but nevertheless concludes that some, if not all, of the victims may have been civilians.

The laws of war prohibit attacks on civilians that are not discriminate or attacks that cause civilian loss disproportionate to the expected military advantage.

The report also calls on the U.S. government to explain how the attack could possibly have complied with the new policies President Obama announced in May 2013, and repeated less than three months before the wedding strike, that he had “limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.”

Obama administration officials have insisted since the strike that only members of al Qaeda were killed. Defense Department spokesman Bill Speaks reiterated toThe Intercept on Wednesday “that the Yemeni Government has stated that the targets of this operation were dangerous senior al Qaeda militants,” but he declined to provide any details or evidence to support that conclusion. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden also declined.

The Associated Press reported Thursday morning that, according to three anonymous U.S. officials, two government investigations concluded that only members of al Qaeda were hit in the strike:

Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, ordered an independent investigation by an Air Force general and the White House requested another by the National Counterterrorism Center. Both concluded no civilians were killed. Votel’s staff also showed lawmakers video of the operation. Two U.S. officials who watched the video and were briefed on the investigations said it showed three trucks in the convoy were hit, all carrying armed men.

But the officials provided no details, no evidence — and were not quoted by name. The AP explained:

The officials said the Pentagon can’t release details because both the U.S. military and the CIA fly drones over Yemen. By statute, the military strikes can be acknowledged, but the CIA operations cannot. The officials said that if they explain one strike but not another, they are revealing by default which ones are being carried out by the CIA.

But at its core, the Human Rights Watch report makes the case that a swirling mix of competing accounts surrounding the strike demands a transparent investigation and publicly available findings. In an interview with The Intercept Wednesday, Letta Tayler, the author of the report, said the contradictory claims her team uncovered investigating the strike were “mind boggling.”

“It would be comical if we were not talking about human beings who were killed and yet, that is what we’re talking about,” Tayler said. “And that’s why the silence is unconscionable.”

“The contradictory accounts that we documented cry out for an official explanation,” she added. “The families of those killed deserve to know what happened and why the U.S. turned this wedding procession into a funeral.”

Tayler said her organization has “serious questions about how intelligence is gathered in Yemen and how it is being used.” But, she noted: ”We do not know if faulty intelligence led to this strike or not, because we do not know enough about the strike itself.”

A Feb. 10 article in The Intercept described the National Security Agency’s role in locating targets for lethal drone strikes, raising concerns that the U.S. has been overly relying on the activity of mobile phones that targets are believed to be using, rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground. A former Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) drone operator and NSA analyst told The Intercept that during his time in Yemen, the U.S. gathered “almost zero” human intelligence gathered before strikes. “Every one of their strikes relies on signals and imagery for confirmation,” he said.

The level of detail in the Human Rights Watch report impressed close observers of the U.S. drone program. Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations and a leading expert on the U.S. targeted killings, told The Intercept, “It’s just a very careful and cautious study.” He said the report “raises incredibly troubling evidence” that “the United States might have blown it…might have killed civilians unintentionally.”

“The report is well documented and it is carefully measured in saying what the researchers know and don’t know,” Ryan Goodman, law professor at New York University and co-editor-in-chief of the national security blog,, said in an email to The Intercept. “Of course mistakes happen in wartime, but a key question for the laws of war is whether the mistake resulted from a failure to take the proper precautions,” Goodman added. “The report includes evidence that clearly suggests violations of the laws of war may have occurred.”

The attack took place late in the afternoon on December 12, 2013. According to the report, four Hellfire missiles slammed into a convoy of 11 cars stopped by a flat tire. The cars, Human Rights Watch confirmed, were carrying 50 to 60 wedding goers. They had been traveling from the bride’s home to the groom’s village.

Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi, a local sheikh, was driving one of the vehicles. “Everyone was happy; everyone was celebrating the wedding,” he told Human Rights Watch. “Then the strike turned happiness to grief.”

Al-Tisi said he watched as four men piled out of 2005 Toyota Hilux pickup truck ahead of him and ran. Moments later a missile tore into the vehicle. Soon after, three more missiles rained down, throwing shards of hot metal through the air.

“Blood was everywhere, the bodies of the people who were killed and injured were scattered everywhere,” al-Tisi, a father of three, recalled. “I saw the missile hit the car that was just behind the car driven by my son. I went there to check on my son. I found him tossed to the side. I turned him over and he was dead. He was struck in his face, neck, and chest.”

In addition to the 12 men who died, 15 others were wounded. Shrapnel cut the bride’s face and tore her clothing. Roughly half the wedding party was killed or wounded. The youngest man to die was 20, the oldest 65.

Anonymous U.S. officials told reporters the military’s elite JSOC operatives carried out the strike — not the CIA.

The day after the attack, Yemen’s official news news agency cited an unnamed “official source” who claimed that a car belonging to an al Qaeda “leader” that was carrying “many terrorist members and leaders who were involved in plotting attacks against armed forces, police, and vital public facilities” had been targeted. There was no mention of civilian casualties until the following day, when a Yemeni general apologized for the attack at a local community meeting. The general said the attack was a “mistake,” and provincial officials paid the families a total of $159,000 in reparations and gave them 101 Kalashnikov assault rifles, a tribal gesture of apology.

Human Rights Watch found three government sources who disputed the official news agency account the strike. Those sources said five civilians were killed in the attack. None of the Yemeni sources said who among the dead was al Qaeda and who was a civilian wedding celebrant. One of the sources did say, however, that the dead included, “smugglers and arms dealers. They were guys for hire — shady.”

Unnamed U.S. officials later told the AP that the target was Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who they said was one of Yemen’s most wanted terrorists and a key figure in the plot that resulted in the closure of 22 U.S. diplomatic posts the preceding summer. The Americans claimed he was wounded in the strike but escaped.

Human Rights Watch found two Yemeni government sources who claimed the first vehicle struck by the American missile was al-Badani’s and that he did indeed escape. Two other Yemeni sources, however, said he was residing in a city more than 100 miles from the scene of the strike.

Witnesses and relatives told Human Rights Watch they did not know al-Badani and that he was most certainly not at the wedding. Other sources who spoke to the human rights organization claimed an entirely different AQAP member – Nasr al-Hotami – was in the truck that was fired upon. Again, relatives denied the claim. Some Yemeni officials suggested AQAP “had joined the procession, possibly as ‘camouflage.’” More


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Undeniable discrimination in the amount of water allocated to Israelis and Palestinians

Following the Knesset debate today, B'Tselem publishes a short FAQ about inequality in the distribution of water between Palestinians and Israelis.

1. Is there discrimination in terms of the quantity of water available to Israelis and Palestinians?

Yes, there is discrimination in water allocation and Israeli citizens receive much more water than Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Government of Israel is largely responsible for this discrimination due its water policy: First, minimal amounts of water are supplied to Palestinians and water from shared resources is unequally divided; Second, existing infrastructure with high levels of water loss is not upgraded, no infrastructure is developed for communities that are not connected to the water grid and water infrastructure projects in areas located inside the Palestinian Authority are not approved. It is important to note that the water allocation for Palestinians was determined in the Oslo Accord, but the agreement included a plan to increase the supply. This plan never materialized. In addition, demand for water has increased due to population growth over the twenty years since the Oslo Accord was signed.

2. Are there gaps in water consumption between Israelis and Palestinians? Absolutely.

According to the Israeli national water company, Mekorot, the average household water consumption in Israel is between 100 and 230 liters per person per day. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 100 liters per person per day. This figure relates to urban consumption which includes drinking, food preparation and hygiene, and takes into consideration urban services such as hospitals and public institutions. Israelis living in the settlements, as well as inside Israel, generally have access to as much running water as they please.

This is not the case for Palestinians.

Palestinians living in the OPT can be divided into three groups according to the amount of water available to them, which is less than the Israeli average in all three cases:

  • Palestinians in the West Bank who are connected to the water infrastructure: The average daily consumption among Palestinians connected to a running-water network is about 73 liters. There are significant gaps between the various cities (169 liters per person per day in Jericho compared to 38 in Jenin). However, even those who are connected do not necessarily have access to running water throughout the day or the year, and water is supplied intermittently, following a rotation program. In many places in the West Bank, including city centers, residents must fill tanks with water, when it is available through the network and use it when running water is not available. Communities located at the edges of the water supply network and in high areas experience the water shortage more acutely and residents must buy water from private dealers at a much higher cost than the water supplied through the grid.
  • Palestinians in the West Bank who are not connected to the water supply network: About 113,000 people living in 70 communities, 50,000 of them in Area C. These residents are not included in the calculations of the public water authority. They rely on rainwater which they store in cisterns and on water sold in tanker trucks by private dealers. In the southern West Bank, about 42 communities consume less than sixty litres per person per day and shepherding communities in the northern Jordan Valley consume only twenty. Private dealers charge between 25 and 40 NIS per cubic meter, depending on the distance between the village and the water source. The price is up to three times that of the highest tariff Israelis pay for water for household consumption. In the summer months, the monthly household expenditure on water in communities that buy water from tankers is between 1,250 and 2,000 NIS, about half of the entire monthly household expenditure.
  • Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: Average consumption in the Gaza Strip is 70-90 liters per person per day, but the quality of the water is extremely poor. Ninety percent of the water pumped in Gaza is considered un-potable according to the standards set by the World Health Organization. For full and updated information on this issue.

3. Causes for gaps in water supply to Palestinians in the West Bank compared to Israelis:

  • The amount of water supplied to the entire West Bank: According to 2011 figures, the West Bank water supply was comprised of 87 million cubic meters pumped from official Palestinian water sources and 53 million cubic meters sold to the Palestinian Authority by Mekorot. About 51 million cubic meters of the water in the public water network was used for agriculture. According to the Israeli water authority (2009), an additional 10 million cubic meters of water are pumped from unauthorized wells, but this water is used for agriculture as well as drinking. According to Palestinian water authority figures, more than 2.3 Palestinians live in the West Bank. This means that under optimal conditions, the water supply (excluding the unauthorized wells) could have allowed domestic and urban consumption of 100 liters per person per day, but this is where the second factor affecting water consumption comes into play.
  • Water loss: There is extensive water loss on the public water grid in the West Bank - about 30%, and more in some locations. Water theft is also a widespread problem. The water infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority needs upgrading, but this is not possible without significant work in Area C, where every action requires Israeli approval at the joint water committee. Such approvals are rare. Even committee-approved projects may be delayed or stopped, due to restrictions imposed by the Civil Administration.
  • The Palestinian water network is managed by dozens of local water authorities without a coordinating mechanism. The inability to develop a nationally controlled water network, with reservoirs that could supply the needs of all residents is inextricably tied to the fact that every action in Area C requires Israeli approval. More


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sentenced to life at birth: What do Palestinian refugees want?

There’s something almost cruel about asking a Palestinian refugee whether he would accept living peacefully with Israel were he ever allowed to return. It feels like a sadistic exercise: treat a man like a lesser human, deny him a country, a house, a profession, keep him confined for years and once he is released expect him to stand up, dust the humiliation off his clothes and shake hands with his captor.

IDF soldiers expel the residents of Imwas from their village during the 1967 Six Day War

The Palestinian refugees I spoke to are not willing to shake hands with their captors – at least not if another Palestinian is watching. Pride is the last thing they still own, the tenacity typical of those who have nothing to lose on one hand, and no hope of gaining anything on the other. But what I learned once the conversations became private is that many of those refugees would just like to live in peace with dignity, and for that they are willing to give a pardon that has never been asked of them. In fact, pressured with a thousand hypotheses of restitution, acknowledgement of guilt and requests for forgiveness, almost every Palestinian I spoke to is ready to shake that proverbial hand and finally start a life that has been kept suspended ever since they were born.

Poster-children of their tragedy

“If there’s peace, I’m the first person ready to go back,” says 75-year-old Adnan Abu-Dhubah, his determination looking unsteady on the wooden stick he uses for a cane. There is no handle on the stick, and with the weight of his body his palm is branded with a square wound. Mr. Abu-Dhubah has known little else than life in a camp. He is one of 30,000 refugees in the Gaza camp in Jerash, Jordan, living in squalid conditions, walking through mud and sewage every day. Like most poor people, Mr. Abu-Dhubah looks older than his age. But time inflicts a heavier load on Palestinian refugees, because unlike other poor people they are denied the most precious and immaterial of all commodities: the hope to overcome one’s condition. Palestinian refugees are sentenced to life at birth, and for many of them even a winning lottery ticket wouldn’t be enough to buy the right to own property, or enough education to become a lawyer or a doctor. Most of the 5 million refugees registered with UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) in five different host countries live in similar or worse conditions, permanently deprived of most rights ascribed to the citizens of any country. There are more than 70 professions denied to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, for example, and over 80 of them in Jordan. In neither country can they work even as a taxi driver, for that would require a driver’s license and most of them cannot legally possess one. In Lebanon, even the materials necessary for building a refugee shack are regulated by law – bricks and a proper roof are too permanent, and thus illegal.

“The one who put us in this position is Israel – not Jordan, not Lebanon or any other Arab country. The Arab countries have not stood by us, it’s true, they have not fulfilled their duties towards the Palestinian, but I don’t want to mix the blame here,” says another resident of the Gaza camp, 40-year-old Faraj Chalhoub, father of eight children.

That is yet another catastrophe almost exclusive to the Palestinians. Because their expulsion is illegal under a number of international laws, and because such injustice has never been rectified, some countries fear that by accepting the refugees as citizens they would be helping Israel ‘erase the evidence.’ In their exceptionally miserable condition, Palestinian refugees are the poster-children of their tragedy, the living proof of Israeli crimes and the indelible evidence that will stay exposed for everyone to see until they are allowed to return.

“I wish I could go to smell the air of my country and die,” says 70-year-old Massioun, the wife of Mr. Abu-Dhubah, herself also using a wood stick as a cane, this time with a makeshift handle. All her brothers and sisters live in Palestine and they’ve been separated since 1967. Like all refugees in Jerash, Massioun is a victim of what they refer to as Nakbatein, or two catastrophes: her family was expelled twice, first from the village of Barbara in 1948, and then again from Gaza in 1967. Of the more than 2 million refugees registered in Jordan with UNRWA there are about 120,000 who suffered the same two Nakbas, and none got Jordanian citizenship, unlike the refugees who came in 1948. More


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Losing the Propaganda, Moral and Legal War

JERUSALEM — ON Feb. 4, 1965, as a teenager, I left South Africa, the country of my birth, for a new home in a place I’d never been — Israel.

Palestinian Land Loss 1946 - 2010

I loved South Africa, but I loathed the apartheid system. In Israel, I saw a fresh start for a people rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, a place of light and justice, as opposed to the darkness and oppression of apartheid South Africa.

Now, almost 50 years later, after decades of arguing that Israel is not an apartheid state and that it’s a calumny and a lie to say so, I sense that we may be well down the road to being seen as one. That’s because, in this day and age, brands are more powerful than truth and, inexplicably, blindly, Israel is letting itself be branded an apartheid state — and even encouraging it.

In apartheid South Africa, people disappeared in the night without the protection of any legal process and were never heard from again. There was no freedom of speech or expression and more “judicial” hangings were reportedly carried out there than in any other place on earth. There was no free press and, until January 1976, no public television.

Masses of black people were forcibly moved from tribal lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. A “pass system” stipulated where blacks could live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the mines and white-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of domestic servants for the white minority. Those found in violation were arrested, usually lashed, and sentenced to stints of hard labor for a few shillings per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.

None of this even remotely exists in Israel or the occupied territories. But, increasingly, in the mind of the world it does. This is because of Israel’s own actions and a vigorous campaign by those who oppose its occupation of Palestinians’ land and, in some cases, Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They understand that delegitimization is Israel’s soft belly and apartheid the buzzword to make it happen.

International isolation is potentially more dangerous for Israel than the Iranian nuclear program. The Palestinians and their supporters, particularly the young generation, some of whom have graduated from the best universities in the world, have come to realize that the stones of the first intifada and the suicide bombers of the second are yesterday’s weapons in yesterday’s war.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions are now the way they seek to end the Israeli occupation or Jewish Israel itself. Their message has started to resonate with trade unions, churches, universities and international companies in Europe and the United States, who see Israel as oppressing Palestinians and violating their human rights.

A Dutch pension giant’s decision last month to divest from Israel’s five largest banks because of their ties to occupation rang warning bells in Israel’s business community and the Treasury. According to the finance minister, even a partial European boycott would cost Israel 20 billion shekels (about $5.7 billion) in exports annually and almost 10,000 jobs. But the greatest damage is self-inflicted.

The “apartheid wall,” “apartheid roads,” colonization, administrative arrests, travel restrictions, land confiscations and house demolitions are the clay apartheid comparisons are made of, and cannot be hidden or denied, for as long as Israel continues with the status quo.

Military occupation comes with checkpoints, antiterrorist barriers, military courts, armed soldiers and tanks. That’s the reality, no matter what your politics, and just the ammunition the Palestinians and their supporters need in their new war.

In the coming weeks, the United States is expected to put forward a framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry. The Palestinians have said that if the talks fail to produce an agreement, they will take the battle against Israel and for their independence to the International Criminal Court and the United Nations and its various organizations, and fight for sanctions and boycotts, which they hope will force Israel, like apartheid South Africa before it, to its knees. As South Africa learned in the 1980s, possessing nuclear weapons may deter foes on the battlefield, but it doesn’t help you win a propaganda war. More