On April 27, Human Rights Watch released the report “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” In over 200 pages of rigorous research, the authors establish why, under the 1973 Convention against Apartheid and 1998 Rome Statute, the race-based order through which Israel governs the Jewish and Palestinian population between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River amounts to the crimes of apartheid and persecution. The report follows an identical conclusion by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem that Israel’s regime of Jewish supremacy amounts to apartheid. That the findings of the report are meticulous in their analysis and overdue in their conclusions is an understatement.
Last month, for the first time in its long history, the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) openly declared that it will fund land confiscation in the West Bank, in defiance of international law. Its board of governors voted through the allocation of NIS 38 million to purchase land to expand Jewish-only settlements. All Israeli settlements, based on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank, constitute a war crime under international law. Yet the British arm of KKL-JNF, JNF UK, continues to be a registered charity, enjoying tax exemption to raise funds for its parent organisation. This decision is not an aberration, or a reversal of existing JNF policy, but a clear indication that the settlement expansion driven by Israel’s far right government and emboldened by the support it received from the Trump administration, is set to continue, more blatantly than previously.
On August 29, 1911, a Yahi man known as Ishi came out of hiding near Oroville, California. He had spent decades evading settlers after the massacre of his community in the 1860s and had recently lost the last of his family. Whisked off to the University of California’s anthropology museum, he was described by the press as the “last wild Indian.” Ishi spent his final years living at the museum. When he wasn’t explaining his language to researchers or making arrow points for visitors, he swept the floors with a straw broom as a janitor’s assistant.
This is not the first time settlers have tried to take over this area. In December 2018, hundreds of settlers arrived overnight with bulldozers and tractors, dug an access road through the mountain, and tried to establish an outpost. They failed: it rained, the vehicles got stuck, and in the morning the Civil Administration — the arm of Israel’s military government that governs the 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank — evacuated them. “The effort in 2018 was well-funded,” Etkes adds. “Everything was done very professionally, with heavy vehicles. That’s an investment of hundreds of thousands of shekels.” “But things changed. The last two times, a different soldier came. He sat with Lior on the side and spoke to him. Afterward, he told me that I couldn’t be here. I said, ‘What do you mean? This is my land, here are the documents.’ But he didn’t listen to me. He said Lior can be here and if there is a problem, I need to go to the Civil Administration in Gush Etzion [the nearby settlement bloc] and prove that it is my land.” When Tal and his gang arrived once again on July 25, the residents of Battir decided not to call the army. “We realized they wouldn’t do anything. There is no point.” Yearly confiscations