Congress’ ‘Israel Normalization Act’ normalizes ethnic cleansing and impunity

Congress’ ‘Israel Normalization Act’ normalizes ethnic cleansing and impunity

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz meets with a bipartisan congressional delegation to discuss “unwavering bond” between US and Israel, November 2021. Steny Hoyer, and Senators Robert Casey and Ben Cardin flank the minister. Rep. Steve Cohen wears a baseball cap.

H.R. 2748, the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021, expands the Abraham Accords, Trump-era weapons and business deals between apartheid Israel and other authoritarian regimes. These deals bribe Arab countries in the region to ignore both Israel’s settler colonialism and constant human rights violations. Last week, the bill passed in both the House and the Senate.

by Nadya Tannous and Cat Knarr, reposted from Mondoweiss, March 13, 2022

While the Israeli regime continues to inflict massive and routine violence in order to steal Palestinian land and remove the native Palestinian people from it, the U.S. Congress is actively enabling Israel’s settler-colonialism.

H.R. 2748 is the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021—or as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights names it, the Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act—and just passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening and the Senate late on Thursday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer shamefully sneaked it into the House omnibus government funding bill at the last second, along with a record $4.8 billion in deadly military funding that will fund horrific Israeli state violence.

The Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act is a harmful, anti-Palestinian bill, and was set to be the only vote on Palestine- related legislation this year. Its greenwashing propaganda feels all the more vicious at a time when Israeli forces, paired with insidious organizations such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF), are ethnically cleansing Palestinian Bedouins from Al-Naqab, in the name of planting trees, establishing National Parks, and deeming Palestinians trespassers in their own homeland.

Here’s a breakdown of why the bill is so harmful—and how it enables Israel’s green colonialism.

What Is H.R. 2748, the Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act?

H.R. 2748, the Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act, expands the Abraham Accords, Trump-era weapons and business deals between apartheid Israel and other authoritarian regimes. These deals bribe Arab countries in the region to both ignore Israel’s settler colonialism and constant human rights violations and, indeed, to regionally align with the US and Israeli policy and aspirations for the region in exchange for large weapons packages.

The Abraham Accords also allow Arab regimes to establish their own military aspirations in the region, all through U.S.-backed and funded violence, militarism, and coordination. For example, the Abraham Accords green-lighted the United Arab Emirates, a country with extensive human rights abuses that has played a key role in the devastating war in Yemen and attacks against civilians in Libya, to negotiate for advanced F-35 fighter jet weaponry from the U.S and purchase stockpile munitions.

Meanwhile, the Abraham Accords gathered political cover for Israel to continue its theft of Palestinian land unabated, through policies like annexation and ongoing ethnic cleansing, and to remained unchallenged by the signatory countries of these Accords.

When we hear the phrases Normalizing and Israel, we should always read Normalizing Israel’s impunity and violence. On top of enabling this violence, H.R. 2748 also includes language that limits free speech in support of Palestinian rights and threatens to censor or defund international organizations that may not support “normalization” (read: Israeli impunity and violence) as defined by this bill and through the intent of the Abraham Accords.

It’s ridiculous that such a bill touts so-called regional cooperation on climate change, technology, water scarcity, and healthcare, while erasing Israel’s brutal oppression on each front. But none of this rhetoric can hide Israeli settler colonialism. Israel’s violence continues to expose itself.

How This Bill Enables Israel’s Green Colonialism

Ethnic cleansing and displacement in Palestine happens under many façades. In Al-Naqab (and across Historic Palestine) it is done under the guise of environmentalism, also known as green washing, which provides cover for Israeli settler-colonialism. Israel pushes this forestation campaign as a progressive green initiative to mask their settler-colonial project.

Early examples of this include the depopulation and forestation of the largest village in the Galilee, Saffuriyeh, in 1948, now called Tzipori National Park. Israel’s green washing comes complete with land grabs, active displacement, and ethnic cleansing. The foreign trees that they plant choke the landscape, interrupt cultivation of food, and contribute to global warming as the fuel of massive forest fires.

The famous and destructive Carmel Forest Fire around the Palestinian village of Ein Hod and the Israeli Artist Colony that currently settles in their original houses, were notably from the oily European pine trees that Israel planted in droves to create the Carmel Forest.

One of the bodies behind such forestation projects is the Jewish National Fund. The JNF is an outsourced arm of the Israeli state that is complicit in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians happening on the ground—from the foundation of Israel until the present day. The JNF fundraises from people across the world to fund “forestation” in Palestine as part of the age old trope of Israeli civilization “making the desert bloom” in a previously arid and uninhabited homeland.

Green washing is inextricably tied with Israeli settler-colonialism. The tactic has been used since the inception of the state of Israel. After villages were ethnically cleansed and demolished in 1948, trees were planted so that Palestinians could not return to their homes. In this way, Israel’s war crimes also remain concealed. The JNF has also armed colonization efforts since 1948, where they provided political, financial, and intelligence support to the Zionist forces who carried out the Nakba.

The JNF’s tactics of fueling displacement in conjunction with the State of Israel are not age old: they are still being used today across Palestine. JNF is using fast-growing invasive trees to actively displace Palestinians in al-Naqab. Out of 68 JNF parks and forests, 46 are directly on top of Palestinian villages and the rest are, of course, on top of stolen land.

The newly named forest of Yatir, fully funded by the JNF, is planted on top of Al-Attir village in Al-Naqab. The forest collaborates as a piece of inaccessible infrastructure, which helps Israel’s active campaign to displace the people of Al-Attir deeper into the Naqab desert, uses up scarce water resources and displaces them from historically fertile and terraced land.

Palestinians protesting their displacement in Al-Naqab have been met with brutal aggression by Zionist forces, who have deployed military vehicles, dog and horse units, drones, and bulldozers. H.R. 2748 is explicit diplomatic support for Israel’s policies that catalyze the use of violent State and military force. In the case of the H.R. 2748, the bill expressly outlines Israeli environmentalism and technological developments as two ways to stabilize the region.

The term stability in this case is well-selected, to imply peace, meaning silencing of Palestinian voices, protest, and dissent to Israeli campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Israel’s policy tells on itself; the intent of Israel’s tech-washing, like green-washing, is not hard to scope out. The intent is to create cities, economies and landscapes that displace and dispossess Palestinians for good. It aims to normalize Israel’s presence on the landscape with impunity, at any cost.

Expose Israel’s Greenwashing Propaganda

In the age of a new cycle of Israel’s Normalization, we must expose Israel’s propaganda that aims to provide cover for the large scale violence and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

Palestinian community organizer Rawan Nabil writes, “In Palestine, settler-colonialism often appears overt and explicit, as with the demolition and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns and neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. At the same time, Israel deploys more subtle, sinister forms of erasure, attempting to replace the culture and geography of Palestine with a reimagined Zionist ‘homeland’ so that even the land itself becomes physically unrecognizable to its Indigenous inhabitants.”

At this moment, while witnessing constant ethnic cleansing, Congress did not demand accountability for Israel’s crimes nor did they call for a stop to Israel’s expulsion and murder of Palestinian people. Instead, Democratic leadership dug in their heels this week to guarantee further funding of the Israeli regime’s brutal violence.

We must also take note of the new bipartisan caucus on the Abraham Accords as a signal that, as this round of legislation has passed, the danger of normalization-based policy continues and confronting such policy head on must be a movement priority.

We have made massive strides in the Palestinian solidarity movement over the past 15 years. This marks another time in this continuum where we are called to escalate our tactics, escalate our demands of accountability from those in power, and develop our support and awareness raising of Palestinian efforts for self-determination, freedom, and justice in the shadow of violent Israeli settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing.

Nadya Tannous is the LANDBACK organizer for the NDN Collective and was a visiting U.S. policy fellow for Al-Shabaka. She is a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement-North America.

Cat Knarr is the Communications Director for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.




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