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CurrentMiddle East

Israel Does Not Need the Coronavirus Context to Violate Palestinian Rights

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CurrentMiddle East

Israel Does Not Need the Coronavirus Context to Violate Palestinian Rights

With or without the virus, Israel has both the resources and the political backing to continue normalising its violence against Palestinians and move closer to implement annexation, as announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the elections. 

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With or without the virus, Israel has both the resources and the political backing to continue normalising its violence against Palestinians and move closer to implement annexation, as announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the elections. 

Amidst the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the Palestine Liberation Organisation has pointed out Israel’s exploitation of the coronavirus panic. Meanwhile, Israeli media and the UN are more concerned with pointing out the cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in curbing the virus spread. Eventually, however, the virus will run its course, and attention will once again focus on the two-state paradigm and the US deal of the century. 

Is Israel exploiting the pandemic? The answer is not so clear-cut. Israel exploits any situation or occurrence to accelerate its colonisation plans. A large part of the PA’s rhetoric is based upon Israel exploiting situations to continue with its settlement expansion. The danger here is not in pointing out the exploitation in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, which is happening and is likely to entrench security cooperation with the PA further, but rather to define Israel in terms of waiting for opportunities to exploit.

Israel does not need pandemics to accelerate its annexation plans – to state so would be to negate the impunity which the international community has bestowed upon the settler-colonial entity in Palestine.

It is true that Israel has continued with its human rights violations during the pandemic, including the confiscation of material to build an emergency clinic. However, these violations would have occurred even if the virus had not reached the occupied Palestinian territories. With or without the virus, Israel has both the resources and the political backing to continue normalising its violence against Palestinians and move closer to implement annexation, as announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the elections. 

The PLO is correct to point out the exploitation, yet it must not fall into the trap of tying Israeli colonisation to media focus, in this case the coronavirus. It will not attract political attention, let alone change. If mainstream media coverage could influence anti-colonial struggle, the Israeli aggressions against Gaza, notably Operation Protective Edge in 2014, would have been enough to force the UN to revisit its purpoted decolonisation aims.

Instead, Gaza was temporarily exploited for the sake of streaming carnage and forgotten as soon as the flawed mechanisms for “rebuilding Gaza” were activated by the international community in accordance with Israeli demands to control the process.

In recent news, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat stated that Israel will stop demolishing homes during the pandemic. If this is true, the PLO has weakened its exploitation argument and strengthened Israel in the process. Whether the homes are demolished immediately or within a longer time frame matters little to Israel, since there is no opposition to its plans to colonise Palestine. The PLO, however, has once again been detrimental to the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle in its choice of accusations.

The coronavirus pandemic and annexation are completely unrelated and the attempt to forge any correlation is being challenged yet without any benefits to the Palestinian people. If it serves Israel’s strategic interests to demolish Palestinian homes at a later date, it will do so. And it will not incur any international outrage whether the crime is committed now or when the pandemic is over. 

Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether the PA, which is attempting to curb the virus spread among Palestinians with limited resources, will exploit the pandemic to consolidate security ties with Israel, after threatening to halt all cooperation over the deal of the century. If this happens, Israel and the international community will have scored another victory and one that is already tentatively being hinted at – cooperation between Israel and the PA at this crucial moment is being referred to as proof that the diplomatic negotiations can happen.

The pandemic is opening an avenue for the rhetoric of “both sides” and equivalence to gain a footing again, when the focus should be on the coloniser and the colonised in terms of power imbalance and its consequences for the Palestinian people. 

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