Fifty years after the June 5-10, 1967, Six Day War, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people offers a business opportunity for some, and massive oppression for others.
We will begin with the business opportunity, as it is seen from the perspective of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We will get to the oppression part a bit later from B’Tselem.
Alex Kane, writing in the alternative publication, Indypendent, sets the stage: “On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York. But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.”
Smart man, that Cuomo; he does business that helps his city, while he makes nice, very nice, with his voters and donors.
After Cuomo arrived in Israel, he was driven on a secure, well-maintained Israeli highway, to Jerusalem’s King David Hotel where he held a press conference to announce “the creation of the New York-Israel Commission, an initiative to strengthen the already-robust ties between Israel and the state with the largest number of Jews in the United States.”
Among its assignments, the commission “will focus on connecting New York law enforcement with Israeli security forces.”
An hour later, “the New York governor stood outside Jerusalem’s Old City police headquarters alongside Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, marveling at Israel’s ability to keep Jerusalem safe”.
Cuomo praised Israeli security forces for its use of technology as “something that we can learn from,” and also said that he wanted New York law enforcement to learn from Israel about combating “lone wolf” terror threats.
The New York Times offered its political rational for the trip:
“The Jewish community, that is still very important in New York electoral politics,” said Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at the State University at New Paltz, “and in the financing of them and national campaigns.” Professor Benjamin was referring to speculation surrounding Mr. Cuomo (left), whose name has come up as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020.
Stand at a window in the King David Hotel, where Cuomo held his press conference, and look eastward. Out there is the Hinnom Valley, the Gehenna of the New Testament, which the ancients associated with fire, judgment, the Lake of Fire, eternal fire and Hell. The valley was also the place where earlier pagan groups practiced child sacrifice.
Also out there is East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territory Israel captured fifty years ago this week, now occupied land on which’s Israel’s vaunted security forces are testing technology which it uses to keep “its people safe”.
Cuomo’s New York police department is just one of many American departments whose police officers have flown to Israel, usually, as Alex Kane writes “on the dime of pro-Israel groups to tour the country and speak with Israeli security forces about how they keep their country safe”.
Israel has a world-wide reputation as a leader in utilizing Israeli-build weapons, and developing successful surveillance companies. Security is “a core part of the Israeli economy”, exporting “billions of dollars worth of armaments and spy tools to virtually every region in the world”.
Why is Israel so esteemed for its security equipment and techniques?
Shir Hever, an Israeli researcher and author of the book The Political Economy of the Occupation, knows why. He says: “All of the Israeli companies would immediately answer the question: We have actual experience, and we have tested these weapons on human beings.”
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, the conflict in which Israel defeated Arab armies from surrounding states, and completed its original capture of Palestinian land by overrunning the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, now all known as the occupied Palestinian territories.
That 1967 war also added the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights to Israeli control. Israel has since withdrawn from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Israel has pretended for the past 50 years that its occupation was temporary, part of its false narrative. During those five decades Israel has built an occupation force of its army (the Israeli Defense Force), border guards and police.
What matters to New York Governor Cuomo are Israel’s security skills. He gives no sign that he is aware that Israel’s security needs are self-inflicted. Palestinians living under occupation know Israel’s security proficiency was developed to imprison the Palestinian people.
For this to change, Israel itself will have to change. Politicians like Governor Cuomo answer largely to what voters want, or what he thinks they want. If Israelis themselves woke up to what the occupation is doing to the Palestinians and to Israel, they would have no problem persuading the American politicians that 50 years of occupation has led to disaster for the Jewish people.
One of the Jewish organizations in Israel that knows this and works to do something about it, is B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
B’Tselem issued a statement on June 6, which describes how what happened 50 years ago on June 5, 1967, began the creation of a “reality” from Israel’s perspective. Its statement sums up the real-life occupation which Governor Cuomo managed to ignore in his eagerness to curry favor with his Jewish consistency.
This statement of current Palestinian reality, from B’Tselem, is addressed to the Israeli public:
It is a reality in which a third and fourth generation of Palestinians don’t know what it’s like to live free; and a third and fourth generation of Israelis don’t know what it’s like not to be occupiers.
It is a reality in which Israel controls 13 million people in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, but only eight million of them actually count or can take part in determining the future here. It is a reality that no matter how you tilt your head at it means that Israel cannot be called democratic.
How has the occupation managed to reach the 50-year mark?
Perhaps because we manage to convince ourselves that it’s all temporary: it’s just another “bout of fighting”, just another election campaign, just “until there’s a Palestinian partner”, and besides, the signing of a final status agreement is just around the corner.
But Israel’s governments have never considered the occupation temporary. For years and years, Israel has been acting as though the land – without the Palestinians living there – is ours forever, and is there for us to use as we please.
Perhaps it’s because the occupation doesn’t really affect us in our day-to-day lives as Israeli citizens: we created a law enforcement system that ensures that none of those responsible for the continued occupation or its attendant human rights violations will be held accountable.
We’ve also managed to amend the law so that we almost never have to pay out damages to any Palestinian harmed by our actions. Then, so that we can also feel that we’re completely in the right, we get a legal stamp of approval, mostly from the Supreme Court, greenlighting everything that happens under occupation: the land grab, roadblocks, home demolitions, a ten-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, to name but a few.
Or perhaps it’s because none of this stands in the way of continued widespread international support for Israel. This international context also plays a role in us not having to bear any costs for the occupation: the fact that there is no price to pay is the basis underlying the past fifty years.
B’Tselem was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members.
Its mission statement describes the work of B’Tselem this way: “It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel.”
“The phenomenon of denial” applies as well, to Israel’s enablers in the U.S. This onerous occupation now enters its 51st year. Political leaders like the governor of New York deny the suffering of an imprisoned people. Instead, they laud the occupiers for their efficient, profitable, policing.
The picture at top of a manned-watch tower, and a Palestinian man and boy is from the Occupied Territories. It is by Oren Ziv from Activestills.org. The picture of Governor Cuomo is by Kathy Willens, for the Associated Press.