Few Peacemakers in Israel’s Knesset

Israelis have had their say at the polls, and now it is up to the world, and particularly the Obama administration, to respond.

Thirty-three parties ran for the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), ranging from the well-known Kadima, Likud and Labor to a variety of lesser known parties that ran on an array of platforms from the rights of the disabled to legalizing cannabis. However, only twelve parties managed to garner enough votes to secure seats in the Knesset.

The incoming Knesset will have a solid right-wing bloc, made up of Likud with twenty-seven seats, Yisrael Beiteinu with fifteen seats, two ultra-Orthodox parties with sixteen seats and two smaller nationalist parties with seven seats. This bloc has four more than the sixty-one-seat threshold needed to form a coalition.

The center bloc was able to muster forty-one seats. This bloc consists of Kadima with twenty-eight seats and Labor with thirteen seats. The remaining fourteen seats were won by liberal, leftist and Arab national parties.

The results clearly testify to the fact that a large majority of the elected politicians are against an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on the two-state solution. Moreover, some parties have blatant neo-fascist tendencies. Yisrael Beiteinu, for example, ran under the banner of “no citizenship without loyalty,” and would like to strip any person who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of their citizenship. People like me.

While the devastating effects of these elections on internal Israeli politics may not concern the international community, their repercussions for Israel’s relations with its neighbors — not least the Palestinians — should certainly concern world leaders and specifically President Barack Obama, who has already declared that Middle East stability and peace are vital to US interests.

Obama’s political vision has engendered hope not only in the United States, but around the world. My expectation is that he will make good on his promise for change and introduce a courageous initiative that will finally bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians. He has both an opportunity and a responsibility to do so.

The opportunity has arisen as a result of over eighteen years of political negotiations on the two-state solution (from the Madrid Conference in 1991, through Oslo, Camp David, Taba, and Annapolis) as well as the publication of promising initiatives (from the Geneva Initiative and the Arab Peace Initiative to the Nusseibeh and Ayalon Plan), which have clarified exactly what needs to be done in order to reach a peace settlement between the warring sides.

The two-state solution entails three central components:

1. Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 border with possible one per one land swaps so that ultimately the total amount of land that was occupied will be returned.

2. Jerusalem’s division according to the 1967 borders with certain land swaps to guarantee that each side has control over its own religious sites and large neighborhoods. These two components entail the dismantling of Israeli settlements and the return of the Jewish settlers to Israel.

3. The acknowledgment of the right of return of all Palestinians but with the following stipulation: While all Palestinians who so desire will be able to return to the fledgling Palestinian state, only a limited number agreed upon by the two sides will be allowed to return to Israel; those who cannot exercise this right or, alternatively, choose not to, will receive full compensation.

Obama’s responsibility arises from the fact that the only way to advance US regional interests and to provide real security for the two peoples is by having Israelis and Palestinians sign a comprehensive agreement of this kind. Taking into account the results of the current Israeli elections, Obama will have to neutralize the rejectionists in order to resolve this bloody conflict once and for all.

With determination and political boldness he can do just that. His administration will need to adopt the following strategy: First, the White House needs to draft a proposal using the above-mentioned guidelines. Second, the draft proposal should be submitted to the two sides so that each one can suggest minor alterations. Third, the Obama administration will have to hammer out a final proposal. Finally, this proposal should be publicized, with the US and international community applying pressure by declaring that the two parties will be rewarded if they support the initiative and penalized (economically and politically) if they do not.

The task might seem greater than it actually is, since ironically the majority of Jews (despite the elections) and Palestinians in the region support the two-state solution. The deadlock has occurred because the Israeli political configuration has allowed a sizable minority of settlers and their sympathizers to block all past governments from making the necessary compromises. This deadlock, however, can be overcome if the international community, and particularly the US, assumes a more interventionist role. And while intervention may be conceived by some as anti-Israeli, particularly if such intervention includes sanctions, it is the only way to secure Israel’s existence in the long run. Obama should not therefore hesitate to compel the incoming government to adopt the two-state solution. This would be the genuine pro-Israeli stance.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel's Occupation and can be reached through his website. Read other articles by Neve.

24 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on February 11th, 2009 at 1:40pm #

    obama had made it clear that jerusalem will be israeli. so, to hope that he will bring peace that every other prez cld have achieved, offers clearly no hope.
    former agreements are invalid. for an agreement to be valid to any degree, the two adversaries must be equally or near equally diplo-econo-militarily strong.
    present, or future agreements btw the two belligerents wld also be useless.
    as stronger side has the opportunity (it does not matter if it does not use it) to violate or demand emendments/amendments in its favor under an endless number of casuistic utterances.
    again, to repeat, whether the hanging sword drops or not, peace is not possible; hanging sword [what’s been done to the victims thus far] remains. thnx

  2. Michael Kenny said on February 11th, 2009 at 1:45pm #

    Hamas must be delighted with this result. They’ve pulled off a double hat trick! The only thing that prevents “Bibi” being described as the most obnoxious and repellant figure in Israeli public life is Avigdor Lieberman and Hamas seems to have precipitated both of them into power. Either one on his own is more than capable of treading on every set of toes on the planet, to Israel’s detriment, but the two of them together …

    That though might expalin the somewhat frantic tone of Ms Gordon’s last paragraph, which seems to be saying that the US should force Israel to give the Palestinians two miserable little slices of the cake before the latter cop to the fact that by sitting tight, they can have the entire cake. And, of course, while the US still has the power to bully the Plaestinians into accepting such a deal, or indeed, honouring it later. This is going to be fun!

  3. mary said on February 11th, 2009 at 1:55pm #

    A headline you won’t see in the corporate MSM

    Israel Elects 3 Terrorist Leaders

  4. Gideon said on February 12th, 2009 at 11:25pm #

    Road map to a two-state solution has NONE of the components mentioned in this article!

    This is what everybody is talking about!

    http://www.un.org/media/main/roadmap122002.html

    Elements of a performance-based ROAD MAP to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 2002.

    Phase I: Ending terror and violence, normalizing Palestinian life, and building Palestinian institutions.
    Security
    Palestinian institution-building
    Humanitarian response
    Civil society
    Settlements

    Phase II: Transition
    – International conference

    Phase III: Permanent status agreement and end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    -Second international conference

    Arab states acceptance of full, normal relations with Israel and security for all the states of the region in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace

    Dear Neve
    Where did you dig this up?
    The least you can do is say that it is ONLY your opinion or a stated Palestinian position !

    Could you please explain to us under what proposed conditions your Israeli citizenship may be be revoked?

  5. Moz said on February 13th, 2009 at 5:07am #

    Of course!

    A politics lecturer, in Israel, obviously does not have a clue Gideon.

    Of course, as moral arbiter you feel she has no place teaching because, as we are all learning, Gideon really has all the answers. As she states, her suggestions are the key points from numerous initiatives through the years, but no matter, she isn’t singing your tune and she should be removed!

    “Could you please explain to us under what proposed conditions your Israeli citizenship may be be revoked?”

    Are YOU an Israeli Gideon? Is dispostion of citizenship and human rights how you solve all your problems?

    What do you come here for? Simply to talk trash about the author?

  6. Barry said on February 13th, 2009 at 7:05am #

    Just to be clear – Neve is of the male persuasion.

    On the land swaps – the Palestinians have to be clear that the swaps are under duress because it is very clear in international law that Israel is entitled to nothing beyond the pre-67 borders accepted by the world. There has been some talk of Israel taking the prime land it has been putting its colonists on in exchange for swampy Israeli-polluted wasteland behind Gaza. That won’t do. Palestinians should insist on the Galilee.

    Regarding right of return it is paramount that Israel recognize that the Yishuv/Israel created that situation. A semi-fair solution might be that any of the remaining original 700,000 refugees or a descendent be restored to their land and property in Israel. The remaining refugees will receive generous compensation (and don’t think that Israeli accountants have not already been employed to figure it out – and downsize it) and the right to immigrate to the new State of Palestine.

    All in all, Neve Gordon’s analysis is in keeping with what reasonable people think is the correct tact to take – for the sake of Palestinians and for all of us, even Israelis. Big wrench in the works – I don’t think we can count on Obama/Clinton to do the necessary chore of sitting on Israel.

  7. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 10:45am #

    Opinions and wish lists are exactly that and should not be presented as “realities” or “facts”.

    Author’s “three components to two-state solution” is just his opinion or a view of a group he is identified with and should be made clear as such in the article. Otherwise he could stop writing and start posting like all of us.

    Bary
    Thanks for clarifying that Neve’s “three components to two-state solution” in this article is his opinion and/or opinion of people who agree with his reasoning , as you put it “what (you believe) reasonable people think is the correct act to take”.

    bozh
    You should ask Neve directly: are you stating an agreement between parties or is it a position of one side or an idea of some group or what?
    I do not challenge his domain of knowledge, I challenge his presentation of opinion as a fact.

    If you read the article, you may have notices this passage:
    “Yisrael Beiteinu, for example, ran under the banner of “no citizenship without loyalty,” and would like to strip any person who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians of their citizenship. People like me.”
    My question was and still is:
    Under what proposed conditions Neve’s Israeli citizenship may be revoked?

    You are welcome to help the author to illustrate this scenario to all of us! I would really like to hear it …. A distinguished professor should have the domain expertise necessary to demonstrate it to us.

    We are on Dissident Voice? Are we? Maybe you should start participating in “Yes Man Voice” site? I notice you applaud every article published here. If the author can’t stand a critique of his writing he should not publish.

  8. Phil said on February 13th, 2009 at 11:18am #

    My first thought exactly, Gideon. Any road map will be worthless unless it also entails ending Israeli aggression against its neighbors; all of them.

  9. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 11:39am #

    Do you support the performance-based ROAD MAP to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 2002?

    Phil
    I am sure I understood your position.
    Do you support or object to the Road Map?

  10. Moz said on February 13th, 2009 at 12:57pm #

    I thought the policy was aimed only at Arabs, that is why I thought it was a silly comment a percieved it as you “talking trash”. As Liebermans oath of loyalty applies to Jewish Israeli’s too, then I apologise. My bad.

    “All in all, Neve Gordon’s analysis is in keeping with what reasonable people think is the correct tact to take – for the sake of Palestinians and for all of us, even Israelis.” I would concur.

    To address the 2002 roadmap, if it were truly performanced based for BOTH sides then I would support it. Like if there was a sanction for the expansion of settlements, house demolitions etc.

  11. Barry said on February 13th, 2009 at 1:19pm #

    Lieberman’s oath applies only to Palestinans. They are the only one who would be evicted. Saying it also applies to Jews is a coverup to assuage the dishonest.

    Neve’s analysis is not a mere opinion. It is a considered judgment of someone who is tired of the lies, tired of the murder, tired of having no future.

  12. Barry said on February 13th, 2009 at 1:43pm #

    Killings. Since 12/00 Israelis have killed approximately 6258 Palestinians. In return, Palestinians have killed approximately 1075 Israelis. That’s a 5.82 kill ratio in favor of the Israelis – all so Israel can be bigger. All but 71 Palestinians were killed in Palestine – their UN-Certified Occupied home. Of the Palestinian dead, 1355 were children, including toddlers and infants. Thus more kids have been killed by Israelis – in the West Bank and Gaza, no less – than the entire number of Israelis killed (1355 vs 1075). And we have not even counted the permanantly maimed, of which the Israelis are relatively few, and the Palestinians are many, very many. Like I said, just so Israel can be bigger.

  13. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 3:07pm #

    Alternatives to the Performance-based Road Map to a permanent two-state solution?
    Is there any other document that was ACCEPTED by parties?

    Moz
    If you do not support Performance-based Road Map, would you come up with another proposal and then obtain the support of all the parties to use it as a basis for negotiations?
    Would that be a step backward and require more time then to start with a document that has been accepted?
    Remember this is a “Road Map” to serve as a basis to negotiations.

    Your agreement Neve’s and Barry’s opinion about the “central components” is absolutely legitimate. I argue that reasonable people can disagree with this opinion.

  14. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 3:26pm #

    Citizenship status implies some responsibilities and duties under social contract theory.

    “Active citizenship” is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public service, volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.

    The legally enforceable duties of citizenship : paying taxes, serving on a jury, serving in the country’s armed forces when called upon, obeying the criminal laws.

    Yisrael Beiteinu – Israeli party
    http://www.beytenu.org/107/2193/article.html
    A part of their platform that I found on their website is:
    “The desire to see the introduction of a new citizenship law that would require citizens to affirm their loyalty to the State and readiness to serve in the army or in the National Service in order to be eligible for any state benefits”

    Moz, as I understand it, it’s universal for every Israeli citizenship.
    Now in US any legal immigrant, at naturalization ceremony has to swear allegiance:
    “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

    Some estimate that over 10% of USA population are non citizens ( some legal residents who never applied for citizenship for their own reasons).They can’t vote (even in local municipal elections), can’t work for the government, can’t apply for benefits and still have to pay taxes.

    What if :
    So let’s say, for the illustration purposes, that USA to pass a legislation that every American has to pledge an oath of allegiance, those who refuse will loose their citizenship. They will continue being residents. Now will it be constitutional in US? I do not know.

    If similar legislation to pass in Israel, Mr. Neve may loose his citizenship if he refuses to pledge allegiance to the state of Israel.

  15. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 4:23pm #

    Since 2000: 10,750 Israeli civilian casualties would have been if all terrorist attacks succeeded, based on Barry’s numbers.

    It looks like all these Israeli security measures really paying off!

    Barry
    So the tally would be (based on your number):

    Israeli CIVILIAN (women, children, elderly) casualties, DELIBERATELY targeted by Palestinian terror attacks:
    10,750

    Palestinian total casualties:
    6,258

    THAT’S a RATIO of
    1.7 – “kill ratio in favor of Palestinians” as you call it.

    Now, Barry you know the numbers. Please help me to make the necessary adjustments and answer a coupe of simple preliminary questions about the composition of Palestinian casualties:

    1. How many homicide bombers who blew themselves up?
    2. How many killed themselves and any members of their families in explosives accidents, both preparing and storing ammunitions?
    3. How many were executed by Palestinians security forces (“colaborators”)?
    4. How many killed in scurmishes between Hamas, PLO and other “fighters”?
    5. How many women have been used as combatants, homicide bombers?
    6. How many children ( under age of 17) have been used as combatants, homicide bombers?

    This is not a full list, but it may help as a start to bring some clarity to the numbers.

  16. Barry said on February 13th, 2009 at 8:11pm #

    Gideon – Would-have-been casualties? How desperate could you be to suggest would-have-beens as actual stats? That’s totally crapola. You’ve just finished giving everyone an earful of nonsense about how no one should hypothesize what MLK’s views might be just now – and then you deliver fabricated stats on Israeli casualties.
    The real numbers are 6258 Palestinians killed by Israeli terror squads and 1075 Israelis killed by Palestinian freedom fighters. And Israelis hate non-Jews so much that they killed 1355 of their children. And where are Palestinians killed? In Palestine. And where are Israelis killed? Quite often…in Palestine.

    So what do you make of the January ’09 UN pronouncement regarding the illegal occupation of Gaza?

    So you think that Israel should drive out dissident voice Neve Gordon from Israel? A little bit of your 3rd Reich side showing, maybe? It is what Israel did to Ilan Pappe. And it should be needless to say, about a million Palestinians, the native natural inhabitants of Palestine.

  17. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 10:33pm #

    9,675 innocent Israeli civilians have been saved by stopping Palestinian terrorists by Israeli security forces since

    2000.

    Barry, I am using the numbers you provided.
    The only assumption I make, that you can verify on your own, is that 10% of terrorist acts targeting innocent Israeli

    civilians succeed. What do you think the percentage is?

    It is all about intent!
    If all, 100% of attempts to murder innocent Israeli civilians were succesful, the number would have been 10, 750.
    So who should get credit for saving 9,675 lives ?
    Definitely not Palestinians! Their declared objective still is to maximize the number of Israeli civilian casualties.

    It’s all about intent!
    Innocent Palestinian civilians were killed unintentionaly in Israeli military operations.

    Whatever that number is, after making all the adjustments to be based on your responses, it demonstrates the real “Kill Ratio” which looks like more that 2 Israelis to every Palestinian.

  18. Gideon said on February 13th, 2009 at 10:53pm #

    As long as Neve lives in Israel, he will continue freely expressing his opinions.

    Israel is still the only democracy in the region.

    Now, if he will decide to take a teaching position in Palestinian University, he should better watch what he is saying or keep singing the same tune.

    In Israel, he is just a guy with an opinion. Sorry Neve …

    Reminds me a story: Democracy and Freedom of Speech
    Israeli and Palestinian meet for a coffee.
    Israeli: We have a democracy, I can stand in the middle of Jerusalem and criticize Israeli government as much as I want.
    Palestinian: We also have a democracy, I can stand in the middle of Gaza and criticize Israeli government as much as I want.

  19. dino said on February 14th, 2009 at 1:52am #

    Mr.Carter was asked why Israel attacked Gaza:”I don’t know”,he answered.
    I think that are a few cases in history of unnecessary wars as Gaza and Lebanon.But Israeli’s propaganda makes Israeli people think that the wars are an existential necessity .Could as such propaganda exist in a real democracy?Mr.Carter is interviewed by Akiva Eldar in Haaretz:”Do you think that if Israel had accepted the document you brought from Damascus [in April 2008], from Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, we could have avoided this last round of violence in Gaza?

    “Absolutely … And Meshal and his entire politburo, top members, were committed to that. To stop the rockets completely and to observe the cease-fire would open up the gates and let the people there have food, water, medicine and fuel.

    “Hamas had offered to extend the cease-fire in December, but the Israelis were not willing to do it. I have met twice with Hamas leaders during this past year and both times that seems to be the only thing that they demanded – that there be no more attacks by either side, and that the crossings be opened, so that at least a moderate amount of food and water and medicine and fuel be permitted to come in to the people in Gaza.

    “I don’t have any doubt that Gaza could be peaceful if the one and a half million people there could get adequate food and supplies and have access to the outside world. But when you imprison that many Palestinians, of all political persuasions, and deprive them of the basic necessities of life, and also of freedom to move back and forth between there and the West Bank – or there and Egypt, or there and Jordan, or there and the ocean – then you breed dissension and that dissension is going to be expressed in violence.”

    In your opinion, why is Israel doing this?

    “I don’t understand why. Unless it’s an attempt to punish the people in Gaza so badly that [they] will turn politically against Hamas. But I think that has proven to be a fallacy.”

  20. Barry said on February 14th, 2009 at 11:56am #

    Gideon – you now fully understand that all of the WB&G are Israeli-occupied (as I recently showed you). So surely you understand that an occupied people are entitled to resist. Yet Israel continues to kill Palestinians in a nearly six to one ratio. Israel continues to kill their children. All this while Israel continues to put Jews on the WB. All this while Israel has a virtually continuous history of attacking its neighbors – and occupying their lands. So Israel is in no moral position to fabricate hypothetical Israeli deaths by Palestinians. In fact, given this sorry history, it should be said that ALL killings by Palestinians of Jews is an Israeli fabrication. It is the state of Israel that is responsible for Israeli deaths.

  21. bozh said on February 14th, 2009 at 2:01pm #

    gideon,
    it seems you haven’t read my post or if you did, you have not understood or acknowledged the historical fact that no negotiations takes place btwn conquerors-conquerees; almost always losers accept a diktat.

    to get a balanced agreement btwn two belligerents or wld-be belligerents, a balance of power must exist.
    even mighty germany had to accept a harsh diktat which was one of the causes for WW2.
    the balance of power in arab-isr/US conflict is vastly in favor of the judeo-christian alliance; thus, no peace but continuing warfare.
    why wld (unless it be moral) an alliance want peace and defend it with all its might when one can get more by avoiding it?

    if it is a weakling who forces the issue, why arm self that much? why not be vastly weaker and spend the money on education, health, etc?
    had the diktat to germany not been that harsh or had US not invaded europe in apr ’17, there wld not have been a ww2 or holocaust.

    the patrician war wld have mots likely ended stalemated, having been so for 3 yrs and ended in an entirely different pact. but US, as it had done to japan, had to strongly defeat germany so that it wld not ever rise again as a superpower.
    so, as we can see, at least US has learned a lesson form history; tho it cost a lot.
    but the lesson maybe visited on US also. thnx

  22. Gideon said on February 14th, 2009 at 2:13pm #

    Government is ABSOLUTELY responsible for the security of its people. Same goes for Gaza and Israel.

    That’s why in Israel power changes hands when the people are not happy with the results. Politicians are held accountable.
    That’s the only call a citizen can make in a Democracy.

    I hope the same can occur in Gaza.

    Gaza is NOT occupied. We disagree on that.
    The problem about this disagreement is not semantics or legal definitions, or what UN will eventually resolve.

    The problem is that it was an earthquake event in the Israeli – Palestinian relations that took 24 years to mature and you for some reason fail to understand its gravity and its implications.

    Implications are that now Gaza is free from occupation, Israelis watching carefully to see what will come out of it. Will it develop into a good neighbor or will it become a terrorist launch pad?

    Gaza First is what Israelis are looking at.
    A popular expression from Jerry McGuire movie:
    “Show me the money!”

    Economic development is the Key. It’s much more difficult to govern than launching kasams.

    Gaza is has been experiencing the highest fertility in the World since 1967, under Israeli occupation, and achieved lower infant mortality rates than most of Arab countries in the region.

    I guess Israel was doing something right

    GAZA POPULATION:
    1948 — 200,000
    1967 – 280,000 – Growth rate 1.7%
    2006 – 1,480,200 – Growth rate 8.7%
    2005 -present – Growth rate 5%

    Most analysts believe its unsustainable.

    SocioEconomic view of Gaza Strip (before recent fighting) does not look good.
    Yes Gaza residents lost most of well paying jobs in Israel and former Israeli settlements in Gaza.
    Israeli have no incentive to employe people who are coming to murder them at their work places.

    Gaza wanted independence, here you are independent.

    Hamas is ABSOLUTELY accountable to Gazans for their well being: economic and security and carries full responsibility before it’s people.

    A Difficult Future for the Gaza Strip
    UN Chronicle
    “Gaza is in a state of collapse. It cannot support the socio-economic needs of its population on its own territory”
    “Since job creation is unlikely to keep pace with population growth in the Gaza Strip, he suggested that migration of workers–
    and the remittances to their home country–were the best way to create stability in the territory”
    “unless immediate and large‐scale improvements are made to the economy in Gaza, unemployment levels are expected to rise
    sharply over the next five years (from 30% to nearly 60%).”

  23. Gideon said on February 14th, 2009 at 2:45pm #

    Leadership – politics of the possible.
    Peace is a process.
    As long as you move in the right direction, you are making progress.

    bozh
    Yes, there is usually an imbalance of power which creates asymmetrical agreements. It takes “balls” to take a deal like that and work with what you got. Ben Gurion did it in 1947, taking huge risks on behalf of the Jewish people. It’s time to Palestinian people to do the same and close a deal of possible.

    Israelis have a dream of peaceful Middle with free trade, open borders, tourism, …etc

    Nothing like that existed in the Middle East since WWII or ever.

    To accomplish this we need to drop all this rhetoric about European colonizers in the midst of Arab lands, accept Israel and start cooperating.

    Unfortunately it may take four – five generations to accomplish this, after we start, and meanwhile a lot of pain, suffering, blood and tears.

    Israel is not going anywhere!

    If Arabs drop their weapons, there would be no war.
    If Israel drops its weapons, there will be no Israel.

    Best example of Peace: Egypt and Jordan.
    Best example of deterrence: Syria.

  24. Barry said on February 18th, 2009 at 5:03pm #

    Gideon manages to conveniently forget that Gaza is Israeli Occupied Palestine – even when shown the relevant United Nation’s document from January 2009.