Akiva Eldar, too: the new U.S. position offers "an alibi for deepening the occupation"

Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz today — after the U.S. declared last week that it would no longer press Israel to reinstate even its porous settlement “moratorium”, and after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech at the Saban Forum over the weekend that she was encouraging both sides to come up with a model for their favorite solutions to the “core issues” of the conflict — that “the focus on the final-status talks offers an alibi for deepening the occupation. The high and mighty words about two states for two peoples silence the protest voices of a nation that for more than 43 years has lived under the occupation of another nation … Contrary to the impression that government spokesmen are trying to create – that Israel is gradually withdrawing from the territories based on the necessary caution dictated by security needs – the soldiers [who gave their personal testimony to the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence] describe a steadfast effort to tighten Israel’s hold on the West Bank and the Palestinian population. … It says in the [new] book [published by Breaking the Silence] that the continued construction in the settlements is not only about stealing land whose future the two sides are meant to decide through negotiations. The increased presence of a Jewish population brings with it an increase in security measures such as the policy of ‘separation’. The testimonies show that this policy practically serves to control, plunder and annex the territories. It funnels the Palestinians through the Israeli control mechanism and establishes new borders on the ground through a policy of divide and rule. These borders mark the ‘settlement blocs’, which Israeli politicians argue are part of Israel (greater Ariel and the areas around Ma’aleh Adumim ). Soldiers who served in the Civil Administration say the settlers play an active role in imposing military rule over the Palestinians. The settlers hold public positions and are permanent parties to the discussions and the decisions by the army on matters concerning the Palestinians in areas where they live. Settler violence against the Palestinians is also used to control the Palestinian population. Stories about ‘economic prosperity’ in the West Bank create the impression that life under foreign occupation can be tolerable and even not so bad. So it’s not so bad that negotiations continue for a year or two. But the soldiers who have served at the checkpoints or the fence crossings describe how they decide who will pass, which goods may move from one city to the next, who may send his children to school or make it to university, and who will receive medical treatment. The book has testimonies about the confiscation of homes, agricultural land, vehicles and even farm animals, sometimes for security reasons, but often because annexation is the motive. Sometimes the Israel Defense Forces also ‘confiscates’ people too, for ‘training’. They break into a house at night and take someone into custody until the end of the exercise”… This Akiva Eldar analysis is posted here.

Why is the U.S. so oblivious to all of this? Why does it think that it is tolerable for people (Palestinians, in this case) to have to live under these conditions, under this occupation?

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"The State of Ishmael"

Shay Fogelman wrote in the weekend Haaretz that Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi, a right-wing Israeli politician who was assassinated in an East Jerusalem hotel [the Hyatt Regency] nine years ago, at the height of the second Intifada, by Palestinian gunmen, had drawn up plans in 1967 for … well, not a Palestinian state, exactly… more like what Fogelman called the “state of Ishmael”.

Ishmael was the other son of the prophet Abraham, Patriarch of the Jews and founder of the monotheistic tradition is continued in Islam. Ishmael was fathered by Abraham with his wife’s servant, Hagar. Abraham’s wife, Sarah — who had been believed to be barren — then gave birth to Isaac. [It is believed that the Jewish tribes are descended from Isaac, while Arabs are descended from Ishmael…]

Fogelman wrote that “Ze’evi’s plan to create the state of Ishmael, in the form of a secret four-page document, has been gathering dust in the archives of the Israel Defense Forces since it was conceived. But anyone who examines the details closely will not likely describe it as a dovish project, reflecting a recognition of the Palestinians’ national rights. Submitted to then-chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin five days after the end of the Six-Day War, the plan was entitled ‘Political Arrangement for the West Bank − A Proposal’. Ze’evi begins by noting, ‘The following proposal follows conversations held recently and in light of the task assigned to me to put forward a proposal on the subject’. It does not, he notes, ‘refer to possible solutions for the Gaza Strip, which need to be considered separately’. Ze’evi’s proposal called for the establishment of ‘an independent Arab state in part of the West Bank, which would be tied to Israel by a contract that would ensure the rights of both sides. The new state will be called the state of Ishmael ‏(and not Palestine, in order not to increase its ‘appetite’ and representation‏)’ …

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Amira Hass on the violence of The Occupation

“There is no Israeli whose presence in the West Bank is neutral. Civilian or armed, soldier or woman settler, resident of a quality-of-life settlement or a nearby outpost, MahsomWatch activist or guest at a settlement, Bezek worker or client at a Palestinian garage. All of them, all of us, are in this Palestinian territory, in the West Bank, because our state occupied it in 1967. The presence of every Israeli in the West Bank is based on a regime of privilege that developed out of that primary act of occupation. We have the privilege of hiking in Palestinian areas to our heart’s content, of buying subsidized housing for Jews only on the lands of Bethlehem, of raising cherries and grapes in the wadis of Hebron, of quarrying on the mountain slopes, of driving on roads whose land was expropriated from the indigenous inhabitants for public use. The Palestinians, in contrast to us, not only are not allowed to move from Hebron to Tel Aviv, because they like the sea, for example; they are not even allowed to visit the lands and homes their family owned before 1948, nor are they allowed to tour Galilee and visit relatives. The regime of travel permits that has been in place since 1991 deprives all Palestinians of the right to freedom of movement in Israel while the system of roadblocks limits their movement in their own territories. The right to travel the land is a basic human right, and like any right, when it is not universal, it is a mutilated right, that is, it becomes a privilege. That is a fact, even if most Israelis repress or ignore it. Our presence in the Palestinian territories, which is based on military and political superiority, is therefore violent and arrogant by its very nature, even when it is expressed in pleasant ways, like cultivating gardens in settlements or taking a pre-Shabbat hike. How do the Palestinians deal with this violence and arrogance? Some take up arms and hope to kill Israelis. However, most choose other ways, civilian and not military, to deal with our non-neutral presence, with the daily violence that is at the basis of every occupying regime. But let us not fool ourselves: most understand those who take up arms. Therefore when the prime minister of the Ramallah government, Salam Fayyad, expressed his sorrow over the killing of two young armed hikers from Kiryat Arba last Friday, he managed to anger his public. ‘Any death is unnecessary’ he was quoted in Haaretz as saying. These are wise and humane words. If those who are angry at him listened carefully, they would have heard him teaching the Israelis that the death of every Palestinian is also unnecessary. It is not his responsibility that Prime Minster Ehud Olmert did not express sorrow that Israeli soldiers killed Khaldiya Hamdan, a 51-year-old Gaza woman returning from Mecca via the Erez crossing. But Fayyad did not make do with an expression of regret. According to the Palestinian daily Al Quds he said, ‘the military action was carried out on Palestinian land’ and that the authority must ‘meet its security obligations’. Haaretz reported that Fayyad said the authority had already arrested suspects and was cooperating with the Israeli security forces. Now the Shin Bet claims that the two individuals in custody (who gave themselves up) are connected to the Palestinian security services (which the Palestinians deny). Fayyad suited his response to Israeli and American expectations from the Palestinian Authority. Despite the fact that the Israel Defense Forces is the sole sovereign over the West Bank, the PA is expected to protect Israeli citizens; that is, to act as a sub-contractor for the IDF and the Shin Bet. But Fayyad cannot meet these expectations, because they completely contradict the harshness of the basic experience of every Palestinian he is said to represent – which is the violence of our presence”.

This piece by Amira Hass in Haaretz is posted here.