President Biden is visiting Israel this week, before continuing to Saudi Arabia on Friday. Biden will likely praise Israel’s technological might and military prowess. He’ll probably make a public statement about the inviolable bond between the United States and Israel, and celebrate Israel as a thriving liberal democracy.
But Biden has probably never heard of Ahmed Jundeya from the small village of Tuba in Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Nor will he meet him.
When Ahmed was just a young child, he was forcibly expelled from his home to make room for an Israeli army firing zone, along with the rest of his village’s residents. After they appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, they were allowed to temporarily return to their homes until the court rendered its final decision. On May 4, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the army may evacuate the residents from their home and displace over a thousand Palestinians.
For Biden, like for Israeli Prime Minister Lapid, Palestinians like Ahmed Jundeya are invisible.
Like most Israeli politicians, from messianic right-wingers to those erroneously called the “change bloc,” the American president prefers to promote fantasies of “economic peace” over true justice for the two peoples sharing this land. In his op-ed this week in the Washington Post, President Biden boasted of rebuilding the US-Palestinian relationship and restoring some $500 million in aid for Palestinians. He had nothing to say about Israel’s occupation or Palestinians’ rights.
Like his Israeli counterparts, President Biden seems convinced that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories can be “managed,” as if today exists some livable status quo that could — and should — be maintained. This fantasy is premised on the erroneous assumption that the Palestinian question can somehow be sidestepped en route to fostering a regional alliance between Israel and Arab countries like the UAE and Bahrain, while trampling over the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people — who live under an apartheid regime. But Ahmed Jundeya, like the rest of the Palestinian people, isn’t going anywhere.
The current administration continues to greenlight the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements, the heinous 15 years-long siege over the Gaza Strip, home demolitions en masse, and wanton violence in the Occupied Territories. President Biden kept silent when Israel defined itself as an exclusive Jewish state, on both sides of the green line; when it continued to displace its Arab citizens in the Negev; and when it passed the racist Citizenship and Nation-State Laws, which legally enshrine and codify Jewish supremacy.
The sad truth is that today most Jewish-Israeli politicians won’t even utter the word “occupation,” let alone dare speak about ending it. Without the international community’s deafening silence and the US’s active support, Israel wouldn’t dare to so blatantly violate international law and couldn’t sustain its racist segregation regime, where there’s one law for Jews and another for Palestinians.
Mr President, when discussing Israel’s booming high-tech economy with PM Lapid or speaking to Saudi Arabia’s dictator MBS about building a regional security pact to counter Iran and secure American hegemony in the Middle East, you should remember Masafar Yata’s residents, like Ahmed Jundeya. These residents are facing expulsion to make room for an Israeli military fire zone — which we know historically is often a precursor to settlement development. Also keep in mind the brave Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu-Akleh, who was killed by an Israeli sniper in Jenin — and whose death has not been investigated by the US or by Israeli officials. Remember Hajar and Mustafa Ka’abaneh from Ras a-Tin, who were reportedly beaten and knocked unconscious by 15 Jewish settlers while inside their family encampment.
The occupation cannot and should not be “managed.” Regional security pacts that deliberately ignore the Palestinians’ legitimate demands — self-determination, independence and human rights — will not bring about peace, democracy or justice, for either Israelis or Palestinians. Establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living peacefully side-by-side with Israel, is not just a Palestinian interest. There will never be peace, nor will there be a true democracy, without dismantling apartheid. No regional military alliance or normalization agreement with the Gulf states will ever change that simple fact.
Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman represents Hadash/Joint List in the Israeli parliament, where she is the Chair of the Standing Committee on Women and Gender Equality