A POV - A ride through the settlements that Israel has created recently in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank provides a tranquil experience. These newly created subdivisions could be part of recently constructed areas in Southern California or other parts of the United States. Neatly placed homes on clean, well-lit streets provide a sense of order, comfort, and normalcy. Yet underlying this peaceful and commonplace exterior lies a violent and brutal recent history, one of great human suffering laced with a legacy of cruelty and racism. This history combines intolerance and militarism to expel indigenous people, so that their homes, property, and lives can be sacrificed to make way for settler colonialists.
The Oslo Accord divided the West Bank into three areas: A, B and C. The Palestinians Authority maintains administrative control over areas A and B, while Israel maintains military control. Israel maintains full control over C, which constitutes approximately two-thirds of the West Bank. Israel has focused its ethnic cleansing on area C and has done so through four main methods: denial of permits, demolition of homes, destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure, and attacks on civil society organizations that support indigenous communities.
In addition to these four main weapons of ethnic cleansing, some victims see their homes and property confiscated through the corrupt Israeli judicial system. The plight of Ghaith-Sub Laban family showcases the tainted Israeli legal system. This family had resided in their East Jerusalem home for 70 years. After years of resisting, an Israeli magistrate (herself a Settler) ordered the forced removal of the elderly residents, so that Settlers could replace this indigenous family. While costly and complex legal maneuvers were used to disguise this ethnic cleansing, the UN Human Rights Commission minced no words when it concluded, “The forced eviction and displacement of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family and many other Palestinian families in east Jerusalem may amount to a war crime of forcible transfer and must be immediately reversed.”
At the time of forced removal, the Ghaith-Sub Laban family had dwindled to one elderly couple. This couple had raised their children and their family had lived in their home for over 70 years. But over these 70 years, governance of East Jerusalem had changed, and these longtime residents had become ethnically undesirable and therefore targets for forcible removal. Just after dawn on a Tuesday morning, Israeli paramilitary forces raided their home to violently remove the elderly couple. The Israeli paramilitary forces then delivered possession of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family home to “Settlers.” The image of this helpless, elderly couple being seized by Israeli paramilitary forces and violently removed from their home of 70 years brought international condemnation of Israel. Indeed, this violent expulsion occurred despite dozens of left-wing Israeli activists protesting in front of the family home.
Sadly, the Ghaith-Sub Laban story is far from unique. The ethnic cleansing of indigenous Christians and Muslims is part of the far-right Israeli efforts to cleanse indigenous people from “the river to the sea.” In a matter of months, Israel has cleansed entire Palestinian communities from the area between Ramallah and Jericho. Recently, Settlers have added a new tool to the Israeli arsenal for ethnic cleansing. Settler violence has now been combined with state policies to accomplish this atrocity. Occupants of this 150 square kilometer area have fled for their lives in recent months in response to ever-increasing Settler violence, backed by the Israeli army and state institutions. The magnitude of this problem has grown so blatant and undeniable that the Biden Administration has required a commitment from Israel that US weapons will no longer be provided to Settlers and other militants, for fear that continuing violence will be inflicted upon the indigenous people.
To date, four indigenous communities have been expelled from this region. In the Taybeh junction two groups of indigenous families were evacuated in 2019. In July 2022, an entire indigenous community fled Ras a-Tin to escape Settler and Israeli militant violence. The process continues. In May 2023 the relentless settler violence forced 200 residents of Ein Samia to flee. As recently as this August, the residents of al-Qabun fled state-tolerated violence against indigenous people. Only three indigenous communities have survived this Israeli violence: Ein al-Rashash, Jabit, and Ein al-Auja. But Settlers, assisted by Israeli militants, continue their assault on these remaining indigenous people.
When indigenous people flee Settler violence, their removal does not constitute an official act of “transfer” because the Israeli Civil Administration did not force the removal and destroy residents’ homes. Settler pogroms have made such actions unnecessary to accomplish this ethnic cleansing. The unremitting violence against indigenous Christians and Muslims, together with Settler efforts to destroy their livelihoods, allows Israel to reach the desired result without technical transfer.
Israel’s continued ethnic cleansing clearly violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention sought to protect those under occupation from the cruelty and injustice of forced removal. Although Israel is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, Israel fails to comply with many of its provisions. Such disregard of international law creates a moral cancer within Israel. Even worse, American facilitation of Israeli ethnic cleansing stains our American conscience. Our US tax dollars help to fund this on-going crime. Organizations such as the Central Fund of Israel are among the groups assisting in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Christians and Muslims. This group and other similar groups utilize US tax exempt donations to perpetrate violence on the ground and support apartheid in the West Bank. This American tax subsidy violates the basic principles underlying the US tax code for tax exempt donations. According to a 2015 Haaretz investigation, between 2009 and 2013, US charities funded over $220 million to Israeli settler organizations.
The horror of Israeli’s current attack on Gazans has diverted attention from Settler violence and ethnic cleansing committed against indigenous West Bank Christians and Muslims. Because of the extraordinary support America provides Israel, Americans must consider how we maintain our own moral conscience in light of Israeli misdeeds. Assisting in Israeli ethnic cleansing only fuels the underlying grievances of the indigenous people that Israel continues to attack from all sides. Our support of Israel must be conditioned upon Israel complying with international law and learning respect for the lives of indigenous people. We often see Israeli leaders parade members of our Congress through neatly arranged settlements, discussing how Israel has made the land blossom. But beneath the banality of the ethnically cleansed neighborhoods lies a vast wasteland of criminality and human suffering.
(J. George Mansour was born and raised in Missouri and has long been a student of political science and international relations. Mr. Mansour is now based in Austin Texas, where he remains an active investor in a variety of businesses.)