Watch: Ali Abunimah, Guardian’s Ian Black and Israeli settler debate EU settlement rule

What will new EU guidelines that ban funding of Israeli institutions operating inside the occupied Palestinian territories really mean?

Ali Abunimah appeared on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story on 17 July to discuss the question along with the Guardian’s Ian Black and Yishai Fleisher, an Israeli settler living in an illegal colony in eastern occupied Jerusalem.

“The settlements are war crimes, people who aid and abet the settlements are and should be treated as war criminals. In that context, this European move is very small, very little and very late,” Abunimah said.

“When I listen to the settler speak about biblical claims, biblical justifications to steal other people’s land and property,” Abunimah said of Fleisher, “I’m reminded … that at one point in humanity’s dark history, white slave owners used the bible to justify owning other human beings.”

Black argued that the EU’s “clear intention is to say that there is a difference between the State of Israel and the territories it has occupied since June 1967.”

He added that the EU move was designed to “raise awareness … that internationally the situation is untenable” and that the cost of the status quo for Israel is rising.

Black emphasized that the EU move came partly as a response to “the call from below, from ordinary citizens” in Europe for settlement goods to be labeled and for “boycott, divestment and sanctions” on Israel. “I think we’re seeing the European Union respond to that.”

Fleisher, who admitted to living in an area of eastern occupied Jerusalem being actively ethnically cleansed by settlers, claimed that the decision “delegitimizes” the European Union.

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FAO Ali Abunimah,
Firstly congratulations on your well presented argument regarding occupied land and in particular the way you dealt with Yishai Fleisher. I was however wondering about the claim by Mr Fleisher that he had purchased the land he lived on, I am not presuming he has but hypothetically should he not now be considering applying for Palestinian citizenship? The land thieves who live in the West Bank do they pay tax etc. to Israel, the university is that funded by Israel or by the land grabbers? I am just wondering apart from the obvious how much help they get from the Israeli government in terms of funding and if they are funded does this mean that the EU can not be involved with the Israeli government when it comes everything other than trade because that 'everything' is rather a lot. If they show any support to the occupiers financial or otherwise are they not excluded themselves from dealing with the EU? Elizabeth


So the American illegal squatter believes "foreigners" have no right to interfere in what is happening in Palestine. Does that make him an oxymoron ?


Yishai claimed he bought the land from Arabs and that his relationship with them is a good one, as against the idea most people that they are all "mortal enemies". I think it was worth the highlight.


Yishai Fleisher said, sorry, Arabs...tell him they would move to someplace like Haifa if they were forced to live under Palestinian authority - but I thought Palestinians are not allowed to go to Haifa! He speaks as if they have freedom of movement. Anyway, why would Israel want Palestinians to leave the West Bank and move back into Israel when they want them to move to Jordan or anywhere. Not making sense.
Besides that, it is enough to make one choke to hear biblical justifications from someone who would like to GIVE the people who've lived there for hundreds of years, if not centuries, the chance to lead a decent life again.
It is really hard to figure someone like Yishai Fleisher. Does he really believe all this stuff and why? Did he have it drummed into him since he was little or is he just someone speculating on getting some property subsidized by the Israeli government and people like Sheldon Adelson and getting cheap Arab labour?
I cannot think of anything worse than living in a settler neighbourhood and cannot imagine it will really remain attractive for any but the most extreme.
Note that the discussion host mentioned the settlers as being security for Israel - well, many do see them as "cannon fodder", and I imagine the Israeli government might view them as being expendable....perhaps the American government sees Israel in the same way. In fact the original Zionists did sell themselves as something similar: the bulwark against the barbarians from the East, representing British interests.
It is always good to hear someone like Ali Abunimah who is so versed in the subject correcting the line being drawn in mythic history by Zionists.


I visited Vienna recently, from where my Jewish mother fled from the Nazis in 1938. I stood outside my grandparents' apartment where she was brought up, and felt anger that it is now occupied by ... whoever. My grandparents, who also ran away, were never paid for their property. Zionists to whom I mention this are always sympathetic to the wrong that I feel. Why can they not see that the Palestinian refugees of the wars of 1947-1967 and their families are in the same position? Yet Rabbi Hillel stated that the essence of Judaism is "Whatever is distasteful to you, don't do it to someone else". Therefore, explain to me what claim Zionism has to be Jewish? One final point: buying a house does not usually mean that you also acquire domination over the governance of the territory that it's in.


It is surprising that Austria never offered restitution for property stolen or bought on the cheap. In Germany most Jewish land and property was reclaimed under the laws of German restitution. There are a multitude of stories about these difficult and painful cases.
You might want to read MIGHT OVER RIGHT by Adel Safty. It is a fascinating book. Amongst many other aspects it describes how (the many) Jews critical of Zionism were pushed aside over the years, bitterly attacked as traitors, and gradually silenced.


"One final point: buying a house does not usually mean that you also acquire domination over the governance of the territory that it's in."

This is a very important point. The converse is also true, having state control should not abrogate private property rights. There are so many aspects to "owning" or "belonging" to land - sentimental attachment, private property, religious endowment, mystical attachment, residence, state sovereignty, state property (different than state sovereignty), grazing rights, squatters rights, tenants rights, and so on. Hasbarists are skilled at mixing them all up in their specious arguments and mutilating truth beyond recognition. One of the strongest and yet understated arguments against the two state solution for me is that if the West Bank ever were to become an independent state there would be a drive to expel the Palestinian citizens of Israel on the grounds that "they have their own state to go to now."


They won't expel Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent. What will happen is that those Palestinian refugees will lose any right of demand for land in 1967 Israel, as they will have their own state to go back to.


It says something about Al Jazeera that the host of a leading current affairs show cannot pronounce the name of his Palestinian-American guest.