Palestinians Should Drag Architects of Settlements to the ICC

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Aerial view of the Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion settlement block, with the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the background, in 2020

Their fingerprints are on every square centimeter, their expertise and professionalism in every bend in the road. They are the planners, architects and contractors who are turning the West Bank into an Israeli-Jewish district: a mix of upscale towns and neighborhoods in the style of Ramat Hasharon and Savyon combined with the Tower and Stockade Zionist communities of the 1930s, Wild West-style ranches, New Jersey-style suburbs and roofs like Swiss chalets. Prestigious living at reasonable prices for Jews only. And on Palestinian land, at the expense of the Palestinian freedom of choice, development and future.

The Israeli planners and developers are the first to benefit from the theft of land and water carried out by various Israeli authorities and whitewashed by jurists and judges. My advice to the Palestinians would be to focus on them. Publicly submit their names to the International Criminal Court in The Hague along with their (alleged, alleged) crimes.

Far-sighted Israeli planning has turned Palestinian villages and shepherds’ encampments into distant, Orientalist décor within an Israeli space. The Palestinian cities have been hidden behind walls, checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and warning signs. Here and there, the Jewish motorist on a bypass road catches a glimpse of the Third World – gray concrete, industrial buildings in the middle of residential neighborhoods, homes in the middle of industrial zones, a congested architectural jumble that is devoid of greenery; water tanks on every roof and high-rise apartments built without planning permits, abutting one another.

Upper Israel in an increasingly Jewish space, Lower Palestine made of a patchwork of enclaves, scattered and cut off from one another. There is a convenient and ever-expanding network of highways – on land stolen from the Palestinians, and off limits to them – providing natural, unimpeded access to Israel’s cities. Closed iron gates ensure that the distance between one Palestinian enclave and another is increasing and that traveling between them is becoming more and more complicated and discouraging.

This is not accidental. Thousands of Jewish Israelis, graduates of architecture and engineering departments in Israeli universities, are partners in this wonder of apartheid. When the ICC prepares the lists of suspects and those to be investigated, their unique contribution (allegedly, allegedly) to the commission of the crimes described in sections 1(d) and 1(j) of Article 7 (Crimes against Humanity) and Article 8 section 2(b)(viii) (War Crimes) of the Rome Statute creating the court must not be forgotten.

These provisions relate to apartheid, the expulsion of an occupied population from their place of residence and the transfer of the population of the occupying country to the occupied territory, directly or indirectly. The three crimes – expulsion, settlement and apartheid – feed, enable and strengthen one another.

There is an understandable Palestinian political, emotional and national need to see Israeli politicians, army brass, officers and soldiers brought to trail for their attacks in 2014 and subsequently against civilian population in the Gaza Strip, and for having killed and maimed thousands of children, unarmed young men, women and the elderly. But there is no doubt that the seasoned lawyers whom Israel will hire to defend them will come up with dozens of tricks to avoid disclosing the identities of those who committed them, dragging the matter out for years and turning the process into a vengeful saga against the Hamas authorities in Gaza.

The crimes and the suspects must be selected from places where Israel cannot make the Palestinians the guilty party. How would the planners and contractors respond when asked why they built a neighborhood exclusively for Jews on the land of a Palestinian village? That they were just following orders? Their bank accounts will prove that they committed crimes of apartheid in return for cash.

A Palestinian focus on the planners and builders of the settlement enterprise would put a decades-old system based on the principle of unequal development on trial and expose the collaboration of Israel’s civilians in its creation. That would also make it possible to deter new planners and builders, who will heed the following warning: You and the jurists who gave a stamp of approval to the system and the crimes will find yourselves on the list of defendants, charged and convicted in The Hague.

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