ISRAELI officials plan to rubber-stamp the construction of ten new settlements in the Negev desert region at a cabinet meeting next Sunday. The decision comes just days after a Palestinian man was fatally shot over an alleged stabbing attack near a shopping centre in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
Israeli interior minister Ayelet Shaked and housing minister Zeev Elkin said five Jewish towns would be built near the city of Arad, and another five close to the road that connects Beersheba to the city of Dimona.
‘This historic and exciting decision has strategic … importance in strengthening the settlement of the Negev. Creating ten new communities is Zionism in all its glory,’ Shaked said.
Elkin also asserted that the building scheme would strengthen the economy in the Negev, known as the Naqab in Arabic, making it more desirable for Israeli families to move and live there.
Earlier this month, Shaked and Elkin had also announced the building of two towns in the Negev.
A Jewish village named Kasif will be built within a few months in the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Kasifa and the Palestinian-majority town of Tel Arad. It is said to house between 100,000 and 125,000 people.
Palestine is planning to fight for the UN Security Council to take action against the Israeli regime’s settlement expansion activities in the occupied territories.
The second town, called Nitzanei, will be located near the border with Egypt. It will be an agricultural town which will house almost 2,200 families and is reportedly part of an expansion of the small town of Nitzanei Sinai.
There are almost 300,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. They live in dozens of villages in the Negev region.
Some 100,000 of them live in unrecognised villages and are denied any infrastructure or support. There are no means of transportation, no roads, no schools, and the Israeli authorities don’t collaborate with local leadership.
‘This will be at our expense, as if there are no Arabs living in the Negev,’ Juma al-Zabarqa, a former Knesset member and coordinator of the Higher Orientation Committee for Arabs in the Negev, said.
‘We constitute 32 per cent of the population in the Negev, but they plan as if we do not exist,’ he added.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
More than 90 per cent of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories have experienced racist labelling, a survey has found.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem (al-Quds) as its capital. The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion.
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they are built on occupied land. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in several resolutions.
Meanwhile, United Nations Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk, has accused Israel of apartheid in a report submitted last Tuesday to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
‘With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world,’ Lynk (whose full title is ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) wrote in the report.
‘The political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory which endows one racial-national-ethnic group with substantial rights, benefits and privileges while intentionally subjecting another group to live behind walls, checkpoints and under a permanent military rule… satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid,’ Lynk noted.
The Canadian legal academic argued that the Tel Aviv regime is pursuing a strategy of ‘strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian territory into separate areas of population control, with Gaza, the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem) physically divided from one another.’
Israel uses Gaza, Lynk said, for the ‘indefinite warehousing of an unwanted population of two million Palestinians.’
The issuing of thousands of work permits for Palestinian labourers in the West Bank and Gaza to work in Israel amounts to the ‘exploitation of labour of a racial group’, the report said.
Lynk also pointed out that ‘torture continues to be used in practice by Israel against Palestinians in detention.’
The report highlighted that Israel ‘must cooperate in good faith with the Palestinian leadership to completely end the occupation and realise a genuine two-state solution.’
Last month, at least 277 human rights groups and civil society organisations denounced Israel for carrying out the crime of apartheid against Palestinians, and said the regime must be held accountable for such a practice.
The organisations, which came from 16 Arab countries as well as six European and Latin American states, demanded, in a joint statement, the trial of Israeli authorities involved in the perpetration of genocide, war crimes and racial discrimination against Palestinians.
They condemned Israel’s racist practices against Palestinians and its treatment of the latter as an inferior racial group, and called for the launch of a campaign to put an ultimate end to the regime’s apartheid actions.
The human rights organisations also urged punitive measures, including travel bans and asset freezing, against Israeli military officials besides arms embargoes against the Tel Aviv regime.
Meanwhile, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations has condemned the Israeli regime as the only apartheid regime in the world.
- A high-ranking official from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has held the United States primarily responsible for the creation and continuation of crises in the Middle East and around the world.
‘The US is behind the tragedies and instability in the region. Over the past eighty years, Washington has been creating conflicts, waging wars and backing terrorism worldwide,’ Vice President of the Executive Council of Hezbollah, Sheikh Ali Damoush, said at a ceremony in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on Saturday evening.
He also blamed the United States for the Russo-Ukrainian crisis. American officials, Sheikh Damoush added, ignited the geopolitical conflict and worked recklessly to drag the Kiev government into it.
‘Washington is responsible for the Ukraine conflict and all the repercussions it will have on the entire word,’ he said.
The senior Hezbollah official also said the United States is unsuccessfully trying to change the identity of a resilient, strong and patriotic Lebanon.
Sheikh Damoush went on to denounce US sanctions and all other forms of pressure on Lebanon, stating that the measures have pushed the debt-ridden Arab country to the brink of economic collapse.
‘It is Washington’s policy to support corrupt officials and pursue the interests of the occupying Israeli regime,’ he said.
Since late 2019, Lebanon has been mired in a deep financial crisis that has caused the Lebanese pound to lose around 90 per cent of its value against the US dollar and led its banking system to collapse, plunging the bulk of Lebanese into poverty.
The economic and financial crisis is mostly linked to the sanctions that the US and its allies have imposed on Lebanon as well as foreign intervention in the Arab nation’s domestic affairs.
The top Hezbollah official added: ‘The US and its allies have long been meddling in Lebanon’s domestic affairs. Washington will intensify its pressure on Beirut within the next few weeks in a bid to back its proxies in the upcoming parliamentary elections and implement its scenarios.’
Sheikh Damoush underlined that the legislative polls will ‘defend the resistance front and will serve the Lebanese nation’s interests.’
Meanwhile, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has stressed the need for the presence of the resistance movement in the Lebanese government and parliament.
On January 30, Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of Hezbollah, said: ‘All indications are that the parliamentary elections will take place on time.’
Hezbollah opinion polls across Lebanon showed ‘the results of the election will be close to the make-up of the current parliament, with slight changes that do not affect the general make-up,’ he said.
Hezbollah’s adversaries hope to overturn the majority won by the group and allies including President Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement in 2018.
Separately, Sheikh Qassem said Hezbollah will never accept the Israeli occupation and will never submit to US plots.
‘We will never accept Israel’s occupation of our territories at any cost, and we will not give in to American schemes. We will maintain the balance of deterrence and the growing power of Hezbollah in order to protect our nation and liberate our land,’ he said.
Sheikh Qassem also pointed to Hezbollah’s liberation of Lebanese territories, losses inflicted on the Israeli military as well as the purge of Takfiri terrorist groups from Lebanese soil, emphasising that Hezbollah fighters ‘have always been a support and a helping hand to the Lebanese army.
‘The army must fulfil its duty to protect Lebanon and its territory.’