On December 16, Haaretz writer Barak Ravid headlined, "Secret EU paper aims to tackle Israel's treatment of Arab minority," saying:
Haaretz obtained parts of "a classified working paper produced by European embassies in Israel...."
The "unprecedented document" addresses internal Israeli issues. It was written without Israel's knowledge. It also covers Israeli peace process intransigency, its self-characterization as a Jewish, democratic state, and how it treats its Arab population.
Removed from its final version were suggestions for EU action measures, including:
• filing official protests each time discriminatory Arab bills pass second Knesset readings; and
• ensuring all Arab towns have completed urban plans, "with each member state potentially 'adopting' a municipality to this end."
Developed over the past year, it was written for EU foreign ministers to debate, advise, consent, or object.
After failed efforts to achieve consensus, it was softened and designated a "food for thought" document, not a report.
Among other concerns, repressive occupation and failure to advance peace talks equitably leave Israeli Arabs especially marginalized and at risk. According to the document:
"The stalemate in the peace process, and the continuing occupation, inevitably has an impact on the identification of Israeli Arabs with Israel. It will be more difficult for (them) to be wholly at ease with their identity while the conflict with the Palestinians continues."
The document also urges EU member states discuss Jewish-Arab relations with Israel, stressing its obligation to resolve inequality issues.
"We do not believe that recognition of Israel as a Jewish State should detract in any way from the vision of equality for all its citizens enshrined in its founding documents."
"It is in the interests of all Israelis to demonstrate that Israel is not only Jewish and democratic (sic), but tolerant and inclusive, and that these are patriotic values. We believe in common with most Israelis that Israeli nationality is an inclusive concept which can accommodate equally those of other faiths and ethnic origins."
In other words, democratic credentials demand equality for all citizens, regardless of their faith, ethnicity, political views, or economic status. EU states know Israel fails on all counts.
More Evidence From Addameer
A December 15 Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association report provides more evidence. Headlined, "Addameer Concerned About Wave of Arrests since First Phase of Prisoner Exchange," it states:
Since releasing 477 Palestinian political prisoners on October 18 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a near identical number have been imprisoned.
It "reveals that the exchange deal has not deterred Israel's policy of" detaining Palestinians. Moreover, even released prisoners aren't safe. They're being harassed and threatened with rearrest for the slightest provocation or none at all.
Regularly, their homes are raided. They're summoned for interrogations, and their movements and activities are closely monitored. In many respects, they remain imprisoned without being behind bars or in forced isolation.
In addition, Israeli security forces pursue brutal arrest methods, including through musta'arabeen (undercover operatives) in Palestinian dress to ambush and arrest Palestinians from homes and workplaces.
In addition, joint middle-of-the-night army/intelligence raids occur, at which time Israeli forces deliberately destroy contents of homes raided.
Notably, human rights activists, PLC members, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and other occupation resistance figures are targeted.
"The arrests of human rights defenders, use of violence against peaceful protesters, and threats to family members of activists are in clear violation of Palestinians' right to freedom of expression and assembly."
As a result, Addameer expressed grave concerns for what's coming after the second prisoner release. Israel's Prison Service (IPS) said about 550 prisoners will be released on December 18, completing the agreed swap.
Addammer urged world leaders "to intervene rapidly to prevent Israel from its continued practice of brutal and arbitrary detention" very likely to follow in subsequent weeks.
Settler Violence Persists with Impunity
So is regular settler violence committed with impunity. On December 16, Haaretz writer Gili Cohen headlined, "IDF soldiers: Problem in West Bank isn't Palestinians, it's Jews," saying:
Regular and reserve soldiers, including junior officers, are speaking publicly about "having to protect the settlers while at the same time being attacked by them."
According to discharged soldier Nadav Bigelman:
"Our purpose there is to protect the Jews, but they generate many of the problems. It's very confusing. You understand pretty quickly what is going on, but it's not so clear what you are supposed to do about it."
"We never received an order telling us what to do when a Jewish boy throws stones at a Palestinian. Are we allowed to detain him or not? There's a gap between the battalion commander's instructions and what happens on the ground."
"It's the same people who bring you cake when you're going on guard at 2AM. What, are you going to arrest their kid when he throws stones the next day," or commits other forms of violence against Palestinians?
So-called "new instructions" dealing with settler rioters exist on paper but aren't enforced. What matters are personal relations between commanders and settler leaders.
A reserve platoon leader discussed possible settler/Palestinian friction with his commanders months back. However, he wasn't prepared for the Mitzpeh Eshtamoa outpost confrontation where settlers and Palestinians faced-off over grazing issues.
"We stood as a buffer between (them), and they (settlers) started arguing with us. They said awful things to me: '(Ariel) Sharon evacuated Gaza. He got what was coming to him. Don't worry. God will see to you, too. Why do you come for reserve duty? You're a disgrace as soldiers.' "
They kept ranting and raving. Soldiers weren't sure what to do. They were trained to think Palestinians are the problems. They learned it's Jews.
"There were 15 settlers swearing at us....This is an entire community whose agenda is to treat soldiers like that. Even the chief security officers told us, 'listen, that's the way it is. In a few days, they'll puncture my car tires.' "
Settlers "are out of control. I guard them. I'm responsible for protecting them, and I know one day they'll sabotage my car. That's what's going on here."
A West Bank junior officer said clashes occur mainly at checkpoints. Settlers come there often. They won't wait like Palestinians, "so they break through and drive on. Not many harass us, but when the moment comes to inspect them, they humiliate us."
Clashes with Jews are "much worse" than with Palestinians. "We used to have a code for Palestinians throwing stones. Today it's been reversed to indicate Jews are throwing stones at Palestinians."
Settlers even attack commanders with impunity. "You hate it. You hate being there. You know whom you're protecting but you don't understand why you have to pay such a price for it."
If Israeli soldiers face settler violence and other abuse, imagine what Palestinians endure daily with no one providing protection or support.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.