1 July, 14:59

US on the wrong side of history for supporting Israeli atrocities in Palestine - lawyer

Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine: Protesters run as tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli security forces. February 15, 2013.

Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine: Protesters run as tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli security forces. February 15, 2013.

Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine: Protesters run as tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli security forces. February 15, 2013.

The Israeli military has discovered the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped on June 12, in the West Bank. Their abduction shocked the nation and triggered a full-scale violent offensive against the Palestinians that is unlikely to stop even now the bodies have been unearthed. That's the view of Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer. 

The remains of Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were found in a field near Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, not far from where they were allegedly abducted.

It has been established that the boys were returning from a religious school in a Jewish settlement late on June 12. They were hoping to catch a ride back home. One of the teens realized that they were in trouble, called the police and whispered, "We've been kidnapped", the Times of Israel asserted. Law enforcement officers, all of whom are to be fired, thought the call was a prank and decided not to act. The boys were killed soon after the emergency call was made, the paper alleged.

Israel has blamed Hamas, a militant Islamist organization, for abducting and murdering the youths. In a statement released on Monday, June 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that "Hamas is responsible" and vowed that the organization will pay, describing those who committed the hideous crime as "beasts". He voiced the same sentiment days after the boys were abducted.

It is hardly surprising then that the majority of those detained during the search operation are alleged Hamas members. The militant group, classified as terrorist by Israel, the US, and European Union, has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations. It warned, however, that Israel "will open the gates of hell" if the punitive operation continues.

Overall, search operation lasted 18 days and saw more than 400 Palestinians arrested, hundreds of homes destroyed while five Palestinians lost their lives. Meanwhile, Israelis have rallied behind the families of the dead youths in a display of national unity.

The Israeli cabinet held an emergency meeting on Monday and plans to reconvene on Tuesday, a government official said. Whatever its decision, there is every indication that the anti Palestinian military operation is likely to continue. Indeed, early on Tuesday Israeli aircraft bombed dozens of sites on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian medics reported that a Palestinian was killed during an arrest raid in the West Bank. Israeli military razed the homes of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe, prime suspects named for the abduction.

In an exclusive interview with Radio VR Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer who formerly served as legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team, predicts that "the Israelis are going to completely let loose and continue to kill, arrest, injure Palestinians, destroy Palestinian homes and loot Palestinian property in the same exact way that they have been doing for the past 18 days." She asserts that the raids will continue "because Israel has never seen a red light".

"Israelis are going to completely let loose and continue to kill, arrest, injure Palestinians, destroy Palestinian homes and loot Palestinian property"

Taking into account recent tensions, it is safe to say that the already complex and protracted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will not resume in the near future. Moreover, Ms. Buttu argues they shouldn't be emphasizing that negotiations have yielded negative results for the Palestinians. For instance, in the two decades that the peace process has taken place the number of Israeli settlers has tripled. "These negotiations have served simply as a cover for Israel to build and expand more Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, and take more and more Palestinian land."

The international community considers Israeli settlements built on Palestinian territories, occupied during the 1967 Six-Day War, illegitimate and has been increasingly critical of the ongoing expansion. Moreover, the construction of settlements is believed to be one of the major stumbling blocks in the peace process. In early June, Israeli authorities announced plans to build 1,500 new houses on the West Bank and east Jerusalem. At the time they claimed that it was a "fitting response" to the new unity government in Palestine that was formed by Fatah along with Hamas. It should be added that the total population of these communities exceeds 650,000. To put that into perspective, Israel has a population of about 8 million.

The Palestinian lawyer believes that negotiating a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is no longer an option. It's high time for the international community to step in and "start sanctioning Israel for its violations of international law". So far, the lawyer asserts, the country hasn't paid the price for the fact that is continues to deny Palestinians their freedom and rights. She stresses that "Israel has to be held accountable for its 47 year military occupation".

"Israel has to be held accountable for its 47 year military occupation"

That may sound reasonable but there is a major obstacle to international action on Israel, the United States. "The US continues to grant Israel impunity to do whatever it wants to do. Unless there is urgent international involvement Israel can, and will, continue to attack Palestinians", laments the lawyer.

Not only has Israel been allowed to do whatever it wants, but it was encouraged to act that way. "For example, the US gives Israel $10 million a day, that is more than $3 billion a year." The United States could suspend that aid "during the periods that Israel has built and expanded the settlements". Instead the country opted for providing the Jewish state with more money. "The message that Israel has received over these years is that it's OK to build and expand settlements, it's OK to deny Palestinians their freedom and kill them, it's OK to demolish their homes because nobody is watching and nobody cares".

Despite the fact that Israeli authorities implement a policy of 'anything goes' with the considerable support of the US, there is a silver lining. The West is not unified in the assessment of Israeli-Palestinian relations and not every country rallies behind Israel. "The boycott movement is growing within Europe. More and more companies are divesting from Israel and people are openly calling for sanctions to be placed on Israel." That is a significant change from the past that shouldn't be underestimated.

"Peace talks have served simply as a cover for Israel to build and expand more Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, and take more and more Palestinian land"

Several European governments, including that of Germany, France, and the UK, have recently warned their citizens against doing business with Israeli settlers, arguing that financial activity and investment in the communities may be interpreted as breaching international law and violating human rights.

Ms. Buttu firmly believes that the movement will only grow and this will help to resolve one of the most serious and violent conflicts of our time. At least, "placing sanctions on Israel will send a very positive message that Israel is not above the law and the Palestinians are not beneath the law." She stresses that the more "Israel begins to feel that there is a red light being shown or that the more it is held accountable, the more it will ricochet within Israel itself and also in the international arena."

Ms. Buttu concludes by saying that "the US is on the wrong side of history on this one". The lawyer also hopes that if world leaders fail to press Israel into abiding by the norms of international law, the people will. "Eventually, what we are going to see is that it's going to be the people who are going to lead and the leaders who are going to follow".

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