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Congress is sneakily trying to rewrite American policy on Israeli settlements. It must be stopped – Emily Hauser/TheWeek

by Newsstand

For as long as Israel has been building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the U.S. has expressed unequivocal opposition to them.

The Johnson White House called settlements “contrary to the Geneva Conventions.” Former Secretary of State James Baker said they “violate United States policy.” Former President George W. Bush demanded “settlement activity in occupied territories must stop.” And the Obama Administration has said repeatedly that settlements are “illegitimate.” The fact that American opprobrium hasn’t slowed Israel’s land grab — that, indeed, the U.S. government has tacitly encouraged settlement expansion by failing to exact a diplomatic price for its continuation — doesn’t change the policy.

Now, however, a single clause in a bill that’s passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate could be a tangible step toward the change that Israel seeks. Buried in H.R. 644 (known as the Customs Bill) is the following phrase:

[Congress] supports efforts to prevent investigations or prosecutions by governments or international organizations of United States persons on the sole basis of such persons doing business with Israel, with Israeli entities, or in Israeli-controlled territories. [H.R. 644, emphasis mine]

Before now, America (along with the global community) has drawn a line between internationally recognized Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This is why the U.S. embassy isn’t in Jerusalem: More than half of Israel’s capital sits on annexed West Bank land claimed by Palestinians as their own capital. This is why — just last week — the U.S. Customs office issued a statement reiterating that settlement-produced goods may not be marked as “Made in Israel” — and that furthermore, “Goods that are erroneously marked as products of Israel will be subject to an enforcement action.”

Forty-nine years of policy aside, however, members of Congress have long taken it upon themselves to use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a political tool, currying favor among certain voters and funders. Congress’ Customs Bill is a natural continuation of this pattern of cynical disregard for either the demands of peace or the reality on the ground.

Intended as a sop to those who oppose the international movement which calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to protest the occupation, the words “or in Israeli-controlled territories” manage not only to erase the international border that exists between the sovereign state of Israel and Palestinian lands, but also to build common cause with the very boycotters at whom Congress hopes to thumb its nose.

The BDS movement has no central headquarters, no single leader or spokesman, and is supported by many different people, some of whom seek peace and justice and others of whom seek the eventual erasure of Israel from the map. As an American-Israeli, I don’t support BDS for a variety of reasons, but have personally boycotted the settlements and settlement goods since the late 1980s.

Settlements are what stand — both metaphorically and literally — between Israel and a workable, durable two-state solution. In this, they are filling their intended role. After a lifetime of advocating for the peaceful establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, I cannot in good conscience give my money to the very people whose goal is to prevent that from ever happening.

One of the primary reasons that I don’t support the much broader BDS movement, however, is that it fails to differentiate between that which is legally Israel and that which is not. Israeli academics from Tel Aviv are blacklisted alongside those who made the political decision to live on militarily-occupied land; goods produced in Haifa are rejected alongside those made in any of the roughly 1,000 settlement factories spread across the West Bank.

The U.S. is right to support its allies’ industry and oppose boycotts of its allies’ legal activities (the word “ally” loses much of its meaning, otherwise) — but the “Israeli-controlled territories” so quietly slipped into this piece of legislation refers not to the state of Israel, but to activities carried out in violation of international law across Israel’s border, under military occupation.

The much maligned and long-denied two-state solution is also official American policy — successive administrations have spent millions of dollars and probably millions of hours attempting to facilitate a resolution of the conflict that will allow each side to live in peace and dignity in its own sovereign state. The settlements — more than 200 of them, scattered across a slice of territory that’s smaller than Delaware, connected by roads that only Israelis may use, and secured by the Middle East’s most powerful military — are a literal and quite physical impediment to the possibility of achieving anything remotely like a two-state solution.

So now our senators must decide: Do they support the foreign policy and goals of the nation they serve, or do they seek to give a stamp of approval to illegal activity which will render those policies and goals impossible to achieve, for their own domestic political gain? I call on them to do the former.

But perhaps I’m naïve. After all, if the U.S. had ever been serious about opposing the Israeli occupation or its settlements, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.

Emily L. Hauser is a long-time commentary writer. Her work has appeared in a variety of outlets, including The Daily Beast, Haaretz, The Forward, Chicago Tribune, and The Dallas Morning News, where she has looked at a wide range of topics, from helmet laws to forgetfulness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Congress is sneakily trying to rewrite American policy on Israeli settlements. It must be stopped.

11 Comments to “Congress is sneakily trying to rewrite American policy on Israeli settlements. It must be stopped – Emily Hauser/TheWeek”

  1. tom hall says:

    Frankly, does anyone seriously believe the Israelis conquered, occupied and colonised the Territories at a cost of tens of billions in dollars and permanent international opprobrium simply to create a bargaining chip in final stage negotiations?  They have told us and they have shown us that they will never give up what they've taken.  The Territories have been annexed in a de facto sense and thoroughly integrated into Israel's political life, its economy and society. There is no longer a viable distinction between the settlements and the beaches of Tel Aviv- apart from the continuance of native resistance in the former case.  As far as the great majority of Israelis are concerned, the only remaining question is how to dispose of the Palestinians.

    And one final point- in order for any application of diplomatic/economic pressure to be effective, the responsible state must be targeted- not merely some of its illegal possessions.  I recognise that the author opposes  the BDS movement, but how does she honestly expect to put an end to Israel's illegal actions without targeting Israel?  

  2. traducteur says:

    What this lady calls "that which is legally Israel" is the embodiment of the hideous Zionist ideology of mass theft and genocide. There's nothing legitimate about it. It's not only the 1967 occupation that must be reversed, it's the 1948 occupation as well. 

  3. chasmark says:

    I recently watched a video by Anne Baltzer, hailed as a "courageous" Jewish defender of Palestinian rights.


    I will not join in solidarity with any group led by Jewish people (2 exceptions:  Atzmon & Kaufman from Britain).  At one or another level, their greater loyalty is revealed; Baltzer is basically a gatekeeper and an apologist for Jewish behavior.

    Not buying it.  

    We need a distinctly American-led campaign to free USA from zionists and the zionist/imperialist impulse that is deeply incorporated in many of its major institutions.

    • seanmcbride says:

      There is a notable tendency, even among the most progressive of Jewish anti-Zionists, eventually to turn every conversation into an inflammatory controversy about the eternal battle between "the Jews" and "the nations."

      That is what the JVP/Alison Weir blowup was all about.

      One wonders about what drives this behavioral pattern — cultural factors? psychological factors? Many inevitably conclude that the level of their (often xenophobic) ethnocentrism, for whatever reasons, greatly exceeds that of most of us.

      You begin to realize that even if Zionism were to disappear tomorrow, these peculiar issues would still be front and center on the world stage — and then Zionism would need to be reinvented all over again.

      Round and round it goes — and the longer it goes on, the more boring it becomes.

      The ethnic xenophobia index: the number of times you mentiou your ethnic enemies.


    • b.grand says:

      Chas and Sean,

      Do you ever read Unz Review?  There's a conversation developing at Phil Giraldi's column about extirpating the Israel Lobby from the US. – Freedom from the Lobby.  Giraldi is Alison Weir's colleague at CNI (Council for the National Interest).  They want to confront the Jewish lobby directly.

      • seanmcbride says:


        I read Unz Review occasionally — and catch most of Philip Giraldi's articles. I'll check out the conversation you mention.

        The problem with challenging the Israel lobby: it possesses enormously powerful resources (including covert networks, both for intel and black ops) to crush anyone who criticizes or opposes it, and it is utterly ruthless. That is why it has become so powerful — those who get in its way — including presidents of the United States — are dealt with. So — I'm not sure what Phil and Alison have in mind.


      • b.grand says:

        Difficult and dangerous, yes.  But must we continue with this parasite sapping our country of blood, treasure, and soul? 

        Israel and our 5th column Israel-firsters may not be the source of all our woes, (there's also the Deep State and, unfortunately, human nature itself), but the extent to which they have made us complicit in the murderous execution of the Yinon Plan despicable.  They continually gate-keep and coopt our efforts for justice in the ME.

        So, we need to get smarter about this. and stay alive. 😉

      • chasmark says:

        What's going on with that group that's trying to organize a protest?

        Giraldi is pleading with them to work thru e-mail but he's being ignored by  others who are posting what are (in my opinion) rather childish, amateurish 'lists of demands' and 'declarations' and run-of-the-mill speakers. (One example:  Phil Weiss is a good writer and has created an important venue at Mondoweiss but participants on that blog are few, and based on the videos of Weiss at public appearances, he ends up a Jewish apologist. )


        They should do what Giraldi says — do their organizing and brainstorming behind the scenes.  They are embarrassing themselves as well as exposing themselves.

      • seanmcbride says:


        That is indeed an insightful article by Philip Giraldi:

        "Seeking Bibi's Favor" (Philip Giraldi)

        — with 167 comments at last glance.


        Indeed, Netanyahu does not behave as he does because he is compelled to do so or has some good reason for responding to critics disparagingly. He does so because standing up to the world community enhances his political stature among his extreme right wing supporters in Israel, who rejoice in telling critics that they do not care one bit about the increasing international sentiment condemning their behavior. And Netanyahu knows he can in reality behave with impunity because he de facto owns the U.S. Congress and the mainstream media and has said as much, noting that for him “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.”
        END QUOTE

        I am impressed by the elegant and crisp website design at Unz Review — Mondoweiss could learn much from it.

        Here is betting that JVP considers Unz Review to be a "white supremacist" site — that's the standard term used by many "progressive" anti-Zionists these days to smear those who view Mideast politics through the lens of the American interest. (Why the quotes — many of these "progressives" are intensely ethnocentric and tribal in their approach to politics — they are as confused and incoherent as "liberal Zionists.")


      • b.grand says:

        Good.  The conversation is in the comments.