10/20/2016, 17.40
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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For B'Tselem spokesman, Israeli occupation and international inertia are obstacles to peace

The Israeli government and pacifist and anti-occupation NGOs are currently at loggerheads because of a controversial intervention by B’tselem at the UN. Gilutz calls for action by the international community to stop the expansion of Israeli settlements. Israel’s current government does not view the occupation as temporary and shows no inkling to stop it.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The ongoing “policy of occupation that has lasted 50 years is Israel’s responsibility", but “if the international community remains inactive and allows the status quo to continue a solution can never be found,” said Amit Gilutz, a spokesman for B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group fighting to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the noted that this "is the sense of our intervention" at the UN, where we called on world leaders "to act" because the current Israeli government "does not consider the occupation as a temporary situation and does not show any interest in stopping it".

This comes after B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad sparked fury in Israel and embroiled the group in a harsh row with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he urged the Security Council on 14 October to take immediate action against Israeli settlements at a special session on the occupation.

El-Ad spoke of “invisible, bureaucratic daily violence” that dominates Palestinian life “from cradle to grave,” including Israeli control over entrance and exit from the territories, and farming rights.

In a Facebook post, Netanyahu described El-Ad's appeal to the council as an "act against Israel”.

"This is not appropriate," he added, calling B'Tselem "marginal" and "delusional", words that he has also used towards other groups, like Peace Now and Breaking the Silence.

For Israel’s prime minister, B'Tselem of trying to gain through "international coercion" what they "failed to achieve in democratic elections in Israel."

In another Facebook posting, Netanyahu said he instructed chairman of the coalition David Bitan to change the law in a way that would prevent youths from volunteering for B'Tselem as their civilian service, which they may perform in lieu of military service. Other groups like Israeli Arabs are also exempted from serving in the military.

For B'Tselem, founded in 1989 by Israeli academics, politicians, and members of civil rights groups, "Israel pursues a policy of occupation" in a "context of asymmetric forces,” Amit Gilutz said.

Of course, "the responsibility for the situation is not 100 per cent Israel’s,” but "Israel is in a position of strength and has to do something first, and resist the temptation of prolonging a situation in which there is an occupied people."

"Violations and occupation are a fact,” he said. “Millions of people are under military control, subject to forcible expropriation, deportation of entire communities, extrajudicial killings, arrests and imprisonments without trial, which also affect children. "

The Palestinians are denied "access to basic resources, such as water,” he said. They “are constantly under attack, and there is an escalation in the process of acquiring land . . . We are facing a situation in constant evolution."

The occupation, for B'Tselem spokesman, is the background for large-scale violation of human rights and prevents not only a two-state solution, but any attempt at peace.

"Our job is not to provide solutions,” he noted, “but to show how Israel is unilaterally changing the situation on the ground. And this, in practice, prevents territorial continuity "of Palestinian borders.

Despite the Israeli government's pressures, Amit Gilutz reiterated his group’s “continued commitment" because "it is our duty to do so, even if our hope, one day, is to become unemployed, when human rights violations have ended. However, I do not think this will happen soon."

"We will continue to perform our duty and right to criticise even if the prime minister and his government use us as a scapegoat to distract the public from the real issues, which are the government policies and the issue of security."

"We hope for a solution to the conflict and for peace, but at present hope is a privileged position that the Palestinians do not have because they are not allowed to choose."

According to the latest statistics provided by Peace Now, Israel gave the green light to 2,623 housing units in the West Bank, including 756 illegally-built homes that have been retrospectively "legalised”.

About 570,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements built by Israel after it seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Under international law these settlements are illegal, a view disputed by the Israeli government, which has boosted its expansionist policy in recent years.

Peace talks between the two sides broke down in 2014, triggering an escalation of violence in the region. (DS)

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