For the past 49 years there has been an Israeli legal and policy distinction between the State of Israel and territory that Israel conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War. The “Green Line” (i.e. the armistice line after fighting ended between the new Jewish state and the combined Arab armies in the 1948 War of Independence) has constituted the unofficial border between Israel and the West Bank.
Since 1967 Israeli democracy governs Israel itself inside the “Green Line.” Israel’s military administration governs the West Bank beyond the “Green Line.”
The only people who do not recognize this distinction in territory are those on the Israeli and American far right who believe that the State of Israel includes all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and those on the far left who believe that the state of Israel is illegitimate and should not exist.
Those on the far right have been conducting for many years a secret and not-so-secret campaign to erase the “Green Line” so as to include in Israel all West Bank territory.
These far right groups are operating in a number of ways, most especially in building settlements everywhere in the West Bank, in the large settlement blocks that likely will remain as part of Israel should a two-state end-of-conflict resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be achieved, and also throughout the West Bank.
The young MK Stav Shaffrir of the Zionist Union, in her role as a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, is conducting an investigation and audit of funding by the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division which covertly is believed to have passed great sums of money over many years to settlement construction and expansion.
Support of settlements, however, continues in a number of different ways as well. One is through private American Jewish tax exempt contributions totaling $220 million between 2009 and 2013.
An Haaretz investigation has analyzed thousands of documents from tax filings and official papers of dozens of American and Israeli nonprofit organizations and has uncovered at least 50 American organizations involved in raising tax exempt funds for settlements and settlement activities across the Green Line. Some of these funds have provided legal aid to Jews accused or convicted of terrorism. (see http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/haaretz-investigation-us-donors-gave-settlements-more-220-million-tax-exempt-funds-over)
It is also believed that money sent to Israel proper by American Jewish Federations makes its way across the Green Line to support West Bank settlements. The American pro-Israel lobby J Street’s University division, J Street U, has been investigating what happens to American Federation dollars given to Israel and will be reporting on its findings soon.
Support of settlements is also perpetuated when products that are produced by West Bank settlements are designated as “Made in Israel,” which for purposes of export to the United States is illegal according to American law.
During the Oslo peace negotiations, the US Department of the Treasury issued the following statement that took effect after June 19, 1995: “…for country of origin marking purposes, goods which are produced in the West Bank and Gaza Strip shall be properly marked as ‘West Bank,’ ‘Gaza’, or ‘Gaza Strip’ and shall not contain the words ‘Israel,’ ‘Made in Israel,’ ‘Occupied Territories-Israel’, or words of similar meaning.”
Why is proper labeling of West Bank settlement products so important? Because labeling products from the West Bank territories as “Made in Israel” blurs the distinction between what is Israel and what is not, and gives fodder to BDS forces in its world-wide effort to delegitimize Israel. Contrary to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s charge that the EU vote on labeling in November was anti-Semitic at its core (most EU countries are pro-Israel and have denied the anti-Semitism charge), one can argue that proper labeling is in truth a pro-Zionist position because those who purchase Israeli products can do so with a clear conscience that they are supporting the Israel they love when they buy Israeli made goods and not the military occupation of another people in the West Bank.
Support of settlements is also being pursued by groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as it strives to legislate changes in U.S. policy that since 1967 has been opposed to settlements by both Republican and Democratic presidents. Lara Friedman, the director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now (APN), has written that “They [i.e. AIPAC] pass off their efforts as an entirely non-controversial matter of countering boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) against Israel in general, [and] countering BDS policies adopted by the EU and some European countries, in particular.” (See details – “The Stealth Campaign in Congress to Support Israeli Settlements” – https://lobelog.com/the-stealth-campaign-in-congress-to-support-israeli-settlements/).
These efforts in support of settlements in time will effectively erase the Green Line and define Israel as including all settlements.
For those who believe that a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to remain both democratic and Jewish, then every effort to legitimate and promote settlement building must be challenged in Israel, in the US Congress, in American Jewish Federations, and in covert Jewish philanthropic support of settlement building.
Stopping the settlement enterprise is, of course, only one of the key challenges in achieving a two-state solution. The greater goal must come with Palestinian recognition of the legitimate rights of the Jewish people to a nation state of its own and Israeli recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to a nation state of its own. There needs to be as well a pledge by the PA to end incitement and terror and a pledge by Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank. Anything that stands in the way of achieving a two-state resolution of this conflict must be challenged at every opportunity.
Rabbi Martin Weiner said:
A very powerful and persuasive article….
Stan Davids said:
John, Are you aware that Michael Milken is one of the key funders for the community of Ariel, one of the most contentious Jewish settlements far inside the West Bank?? His name is to be found on many of the buildings associated with the new Ariel university. Good to have an LA boy so interestingly involved.
Geraldine Mund said:
John, I am confused. How is this different from the European boycott of Israeli products being produced in the West Bank?