Palestinian Autonomy: A Palestinian state in the making
…in a new political era, when the international community is bent on prosecuting war criminals – – – Ariel Sharon’s continued presence in power is an affront to the civilised world.
Editorial, Middle East International 11/12/98
On 4 October 1992 El Al Flight 1862 from JFK Airport to Tel Aviv via Schipol Airport, Amsterdam ploughed into apartment buildings on the outskirts of Amsterdam. With the buildings housing undocumented immigrants, the death toll of 43 was reckoned to be an understatement. Equally clouded in fog and obfuscation was the nature of the flight’s cargo.
On the eve of the October Washington summit, Netanyahu chose to demonstrate his contempt of public opinion whether it be domestic or international. His new foreign minister Ariel Sharon, previously not considered worthy of cabinet status, was raised to the stature of foreign minister.
With Sharon reviled by many people – he was the architect of the massacres in Beirut in 1982 and, from an Israeli right-wing perspective, responsible for the removal of settlers from the Sinai following peace with Egypt – the pundits were given a field day in trying to predict Netanyahu’s motives. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, he is still regarded as a racist Israeli with a pathological hatred of all things Palestinian, particularly the people.
The day that Netanyahu consented to attend Washington, he met Arafat, accepting an invitation to lunch. This was followed by a visit to Ariel settlement where he took part in the celebrations to mark its elevation to municipal status, pledging that it would remain part of Israel “forever.” The icing of the cake took place in Hebron where he met with the settlers of Tel Rumeida. Their caravans have now to be replaced with permanent buildings, effectively doubling the number of families, to 14, in this Palestinian neighbourhood. The families include that of Baruch Marzel, a notorious member of the outlawed Kach movement, responsible for much of the violence directed against the Palestinian population of Hebron. Netanyahu commented that his plan would strengthen the Jewish presence in Hebron and make it a perpetual reality.
With this backdrop, Netanyahu arrived in Washington for the talks which commenced on October 15. Talks which had to produce something, no matter how flawed, if only as an attempt to save the remainder of President Clinton’s much flayed and over-exposed skin.
Is that sliver of land [referring to the 13% hand over] worth the renunciation of all dimensions of Palestinian nationalism, political, cultural, social, economic and military? Is this what the Palestinian people have struggled for all these decades?
Could we ever imagine a situation whereby Netanyahu would agree to summon his cabinet, Knesset and those notables in the international Zionist movement to revoke the Law of Return, the Land of Settlement Act, and other tenets of Zionism?
Middle East International 13/11/98
“I’m afraid our entire security apparatus will become an extra-territorial department of the CIA”
The Wye Plantation talks produced a new scenario. Gone was “land for peace” or even a “piece of land for peace.” It was to be “security for peace”, Israel’s security of course. If anything happens to endanger Israel’s perception of her own security then the deal is off.
The deal at Wye brought Israel’s plans for the West Bank – 60% to be annexed for “national security” reasons – a step closer. Israel will enter the final status talks with 60% of the West Bank under its complete control. A further 22% will be under its military control. Any “third redeployment” has no Israeli agreement with regard to timetable or implementation. The redeployment will be in three phases with Israel empowered to halt the proceedings at any point if Netanyahu, for example, should fall out of bed on the wrong side and take a dislike to the PNA security measures.
Reciprocity is an unknown concept. No disarming of settlers, no halting of land confiscation or settlement building. In fact, Israel asked the US Congress for a further $500 million to “offset” the costs of redeployment – to be used to integrate settlements with an apartheid road network and to segregate and isolate Palestinian communities. In return there is an agreement to “renew negotiations” on a safe passage for Palestinians between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The CIA inspired security plan requires, essentially, that the PNA quells any domestic opposition to the Oslo Agreement, that the “personal security” of some 350 000 colonial settlers living on occupied territory is somehow assured. In thanks, President Clinton will grace the next meeting of the Palestine National Council with his presence. He will witness the amendment of the founding document of the Palestinian national movement in accordance with the whims and dictat of the military occupier.
If the above comment is regarded as a bit on the cynical side, the reader has to look no farther than Netanyahu’s actions on returning home. Keep in mind that during the talks he indulged in a bit of theatrics by having his bags, and those of his entourage, packed ready to go home because he took umbrage at some point in the proceedings. He eventually debased the whole nature of the talks by trying to have the outcome tied to the release of the Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard – much detested by the US intelligence community for his betrayal of US intelligence to the Israelis.
On returning home, apart from adopting the usual delaying tactics when it came to ratifying the Wye Agreement, he authorised the start of settlement construction in the heart of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Ras al Amoud. The building of the road to Har Homa, on the confiscated land of Jabal Abu Ghneim, was put into full gear.
On November 15, Arafat, on the occasion of a speech to the Fatah congress in Ramallah, announced that “we will brandish our guns in order to extract our right to pray in Jerusalem”. Two days later, under pressure from Israel, he publicly retracted his words.
On 20 November, following many a prevarication by Netanyahu and the forming of strange alliances in the Knesset, the Israeli army redeployed out of some 33 small towns, villages and hamlets in the far north of the West Bank. Even at the last minute, Netanyahu was taking unilateral actions, with no concern over the effect on the Wye agreement. This happened when he decided to retain Israeli control over some key roads regarded as essential to ensure settlement security. The objections voiced by the Palestinian police chief for the West Bank were quickly overridden by Arafat.
The land in question involved around 500 square kilometres, giving the PNA full control over about 10% of the West Bank (although it should be noted that the land grabbing activities of the occupation forces over the previous days was reckoned to have passed more land into Israeli control than what was being returned to the Palestinians) and was followed, two days later, by the opening of Yaser Arafat International Airport. The airport was ready to be opened in March 1996, but constant Israeli attempts to obtain “concessions” from the Palestinians had turned the airport into a pawn.
The excitement over the opening, was tempered by the knowledge that for the first 3 months the Israelis would have full responsibility for security at the airport. Thereafter Israel will have the final say on who uses it, with Israeli checkpoints on all routes leading to the airport having the right to turn back those “suspects” on the blacklist of the occupation authorities – including journalists.
On 24 November 250 Palestinian prisoners were released. Not the agreed political prisoners. 150 were common criminals, including car thieves – the very people of whom Israel is always complaining and insisting that the PNA bring to book. Many of those released were, in accordance with the usual Israeli practice, close to their release date.
With the impending visit of President Clinton, Israel allowed 18 PLO political figures to enter Gaza. Included was the long time critic of the Oslo Accords, head of the PLO political department, Farouq Qadoumi. Excluded were Abu Ali Mustafa, deputy leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Khaled Shabaan of the Popular Struggle Front. At the same time Netanyahu’s supporters started to question the wisdom behind Clinton’s visit, to the extent that Israel’s premier changed his view of the occasion from being an “achievement” to it being merely Clinton’s own idea for which he had volunteered.
While it would take volumes to document the machinations undertaken by Netanyahu in order to stay in power, his efforts are always illuminating if not entertaining. With a vote due in the Knesset on 7 December, Netanyahu approached the only right-wing group outwith his coalition – the racist Moledet – promising that the Wye Agreement was “dead.” When this was rejected he then turned to the Arab Democratic Party, promising that after Clinton’s visit the promised West Bank withdrawals would be effected immediately. It was perhaps this rejection that prompted some late night scurrying by Ariel Sharon, in an effort to appease Netanyahu’s traditional constituency, before the vital vote on the evening of the 7th. It was reported that Sharon communicated to US Sec of State, Madelaine Albright, that the implementation of Wye was to be suspended in view of “flagrant Palestinian violations of the accords, particularly incitement to renewal of the intifada.”
The Palestinian National Authority
The returnees bring new money, but they also bring new ideas, new attitudes . . and popular resentment at the new elite is growing. Those who suffered most under the Israelis are still suffering; those who spent the struggle outside Palestine are living the good life. It’s a rich vein for an opposition movement to tap into.
Some still talk of an explosion of popular anger. Not in Ramallah. Too many people own shiny new cars: they won’t risk them being destroyed by Israeli helicopter-gunships. The latest news from Hebron or Gaza barely causes a ripple here. Cut off by checkpoints and surrounded by Israeli settlements, they may as well be in separate states. Each island is becoming culturally, politically isolated from its neighbours, a fragmented country, a Palestinian archipelago.
Letter from Ramallah” Middle East International 30/10/98
In the weeks leading up to the Washington summit, scores of alleged Hamas activists were rounded up by PNA police. Sources indicated that the arrests were “recommended” by the CIA (acting for the Israelis) whose intermediary, George Tenant, returned to the US having failed to get the PNA and Israel to agree to a new security memorandum. The failure was attributed to Israel who, every time an agreement was in the offing, put forward fresh demands. The same Palestinian source accused the Israelis of “wanting us to launch a determined war against Hamas while leaving the trigger-happy settlers at large murdering Palestinians and attacking their property.”
It was reported in the Israeli weekly,Yerushalayim, that the PNA had bought an eight roomed property adjacent to al Aqsa mosque from an Israeli businessman. The paper also reported that an exchange of land had taken place, with the PNA exchanging about 18 acres of land near the settlement of Giv’at Zeev, which it owned, for an equal amount of land owned by an Israeli in the middle of the Arab village of Kataneh, also in northern Jerusalem. This was regarded as a “straightening out” of boundaries between Arab and Jewish Jerusalem.
On October 24th, following the signing of the Wye Memorandum and the ensuing debate over foreign media coverage of the opposition to the deal, restrictions were placed on foreign journalists. In future they must obtain a permit from the PNA to cover stories in the Gaza Strip. This followed the arrest, and seizure of cameras, of 11 journalists by the Palestinian police. The journalists had been at the home of Sheikh Yasin, Hamas’ spiritual leader, to report on his reaction to the Wye Agreement. This was followed by the arrest of a prominent cleric, employed by the PNA, who had called the agreement “an act of treason” in a radio interview.
The nephew of the minister for Civic Affairs, Jamil Tarifi, was shot dead on 25 October while demonstrating against a raid by Palestinian military intelligence on a Fatah office, carried out to seize unlicensed weapons as stipulated in the Wye Agreement. Sixteen year old Wasim Tarifi was shot twice in the head while, with hundreds of other Fatah activists, he marched through Ramallah in protest. The victim’s family said that those responsible should be punished to avoid infighting. “..and only God knows the consequences” said a family statement.
On November 19, the Palestinian police announced that, in the PNA controlled areas, all unauthorised weapons and ammunition had to be turned in. After this grace-period, the police would mount a drive to collect the weapons. This had been preceded by a “presidential decree for the protection of national unity and prevention of incitement” – as demanded by the Israelis. Outlawed are the following “incitement, racial discrimination, acts of violence, civil disobedience, insulting various religions, harming relations with . . . .friendly countries and the forming of societies . . . that incite people to violence or to expedite change through violence or [acts] that contravene agreements and treaties concluded by the PLO with brotherly or friendly countries.”
In tandem was a decree against “driving or owning a vehicle without a proper Palestinian license plate” – aimed at the problem of those stolen Israeli cars which end up in self-rule areas. For some observers this decree was regarded as white-wash, since the bulk of the thefts apparently is trade between Israeli and Palestinian intelligence operatives.
With the protests over the failure of the anticipated release of political prisoners, following Wye, Arafat was put on the defensive. Accusations and counter-accusations passed between Arafat and Netanyahu.. The truth probably lay with the “constructive ambiguity” of the relevant clauses (a feature of most Israel-PLO agreements) so that both sides can interpret the final outcome as they wish, with the Israelis, of course, always having the upper hand and the final say.
However the prisoner issue resulted, on 7 December, in clashes between Fatah supporters and Palestinian police in Nablus. The Fatah supporters torched a bus and two other vehicles belonging to the police. A police station was overrun and the main prison was a target of petrol bombs. With firearms being used, a dozen casualties were reported, one serious.
Violent clashes took place between Palestinians residents of the town of Um al-Fahem (and surrounding villages) and Israeli border police on September 27th and 28th. The cause was quite simple – land.
Since 1948, the town has lost most of its 32 500 acres of land. Its population is squeezed into about
6 000 acres. In July the Israeli army annexed 1 250 acres (but only acknowledge 125 acres),from surrounding villages in the Triangle, to be used as a training site. Farmers now have require permits to cultivate their land. The fear is that plans are in hand to confiscate land, bringing this military site close to schools and houses. It is linked to plans for a Jewish only city for 300 000 people in the midst of the Triangle.
The protest tent established on the land was demolished by police and the military. The police broke into Um al-Fahem’s school, firng tear gas grenades into crowded classrooms. With observers reporting blood on the floor, it seemed clear that injuries were sustained. During the demonstrations and protests by hundreds of Palestinian youths, over 100 were injured.
On the 29th September the million or so Arab community within Israel called a general strike to protest the confiscation of land. On the say day President Weizman visited the town expressing regret at the events of the previous two days. Arab leaders demanded that the confiscation order be rescinded, pointing out that 90% of their land was confiscated in 1948.
With Netanyahu’s office issuing a report, in August, that Arab Israelis should be dealt with as a strategic threat, some Israeli analysts see such actions as creating major internal problems for Israel. On the Palestinian side, it is seen as an awakening.
Meanwhile a petition was drawn up by prominent Arab-Israelis stating that Israel continues to deal with its Arab citizens as if they were enemies, not people entitled to equal rights with Jewish Israelis.
On 15 September over 1 000 Israelis – extremist rabbis, students, politicians, soldiers and representatives from the terrorist Kahane Kach – attended a conference in support of a call for the destruction of al Aqsa mosque and the construction of the so-called “third temple” of Solomon in its place.
On 25 September the Israeli High Court, in an unprecedented judgement, The Franciscan Custody in the Holy Land won the right to retrieve property from Hebrew University (Terra Sancta building) which has used it for fifty years. The area, situated in West Jerusalem, must be vacated between January 1 and May 3, 1999. This was shortly followed by the restoration of the property rights of a building on Jaffa Road, once the offices of The Jerusalem Post, also to the Franciscan Custody. This followed a seven year court battle.
On October 15 a group of settlers, with the support of extreme right-wing MK Benny Elon, took over an empty building in the Sheikh Jarrah area, claiming that it had been a synagogue before 1948. Referring to Arab owned property in West Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini of the PNA commented that this move was a direct invitation to Palestinians to reclaim their property in West Jerusalem, particularly mosques and shrines.
On 27 October settlers attempted to bulldoze a plot of land in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amoud, all in preparation for the building of 132 housing units in the midst of the village. Later four right-wing Knesset members set up a fence around a village building occupied by settlers.
During November, following the Wye Agreement, the Ministry of Housing submitted plans for a new settlement to the north of the city. Included were 1 300 housing units to lie between Pisgat Zeev and Neve Ya’coub. Ma’ale Adumin was to expand by another 350 units.
On 2 December, in a rare wave of rioting in the city, Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets in protest at the Israeli refusal to implement the Wye stipulations. Thirty five people, including 5 journalists, were injured.
At the end of September, 11 border police were injured when a lone assailant hurled 3 grenades at their jeep. In the return fire, 10 Palestinian on-lookers were wounded.
Hebron was immediately declared a closed military zone, with a strict curfew imposed on the 20 000 Palestinians living within the Israeli controlled sector (H2) of the city which houses some 400 extreme and violent right-wing settlers. In response to Israeli accusations of not doing enough to “stop terrorism”, Jibril Rajoub of Palestinian Preventative Security commented “We are not an insurance company working with the Israelis. We know what our interests are.”
On the 29th, settlers went on the rampage in the centre of the Old City, damaging Arab homes, following the shooting and wounding of a female settler. The army then closed the main road connecting H2 to H1 (PNA controlled sector) resulting in all vehicles, including ambulances, being refused access.
After nine days of curfew and demonstrations, with Palestinians refused permission to leave or enter the H2 sector, a strike was called by the Fatah faction of the PLO on October 8. On the same day, 21 year old Amjad Jamal Natshe, on a visit from Jordan, was hit on the head by a rubber bullet and died in immediately. A Palestinian camera man, filming demonstrations, was shot in the head by a live bullet.
Two days later Netanyahu announced the decision to build a permanent settlement, for about 14 families, in Tel Rumeida in the heart of Hebron. When asked to comment, US Sec of State Albright merely commented that it was imperative for the sides to refrain from unilateral declarations or measures.
On 13 October the curfew on the Old City of Hebron was lifted. Mayor Mustafa Natshe accused the occupation authorities of making successive curfews longer and harsher with the goal of making the Old City exclusively Jewish.
A further closure was imposed on 27 October following the the killing of a settler guard from Kiryat Arba settlement. This was followed by the shooting and wounding of three Palestinians from Hebron and Halhoul when they tried to enter the city , bypassing a check point.
On 14 November the occupation forces imposed a curfew on the on the Old City following a failed grenade attack on a checkpoint. This was followed by attacks on Arab homes, near the Vegetable Market, by settlers – with the army overseeing their rampage.
Business as Usual
As long as there is Israeli occupation and terrorism, resistance will continue.
Gaza students attending an-Najah University in Nablus announced that they intended to appeal to the Israeli High Court to rule in favour of them being allowed to continue their studies in the West Bank. Recently they were labelled a “security risk” and refused permission to travel outwith Gaza.
On the the 28th, the settler accused of murdering a Ramallah school boy was released into the custody of friends – a form of house arrest.
On the 29th, another alleged Hamas activist was killed. This time in a car bomb in Ramallah. Zahran Ibrahim Zahran was killed immediately. Two others tried to escape from the Israeli registered car but were apprehended by Palestinian police. The PNA and Hamas both blamed each other for the incident. Weapons were found in the car and, as usual, no serious investigation was carried out by either the Palestinian or the occupation authorities.
On the 3rd, 23 year old prisoner, Ahmed Asfur, died in Soroka Hospital. Israeli prison officials alleged that he committed suicide.
Israel’s Anti Terrorism Centre, located within the prime minister’s office, published a report which stated that Christian pilgrims to Bethlehem in the year 2 000 will threaten Israel’s security just as Muslims are alleged to do at present.
On 11 October occupation troops shot dead Jihad Abu Rabie who had left school and was making his way home near Jalazoun refugee camp.
The closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which was reimposed on 28 September, was extended to October 13, after the Jewish holidays. On the 12th, Israel announced that 21,000 Palestinian workers would be allowed to their employment in Israel. Palestinian farmers from the village of Bardala in the Jordan Valley complained that the Israeli water company, Mekorot, had decreased the amount of water pumped and available to them by 50% or more.
The village of Deir Al Hatab in the Nablus area was subject to the depredations of settlers from nearby Elon Moreh who, for a number of years, have been trying to acquire the land of 70 year old Nader Abdel Rahman. A grove of hundreds of olive trees was destroyed. The Israeli miltary erected checkpoints at the village and a couple of others where settlers had been throwing stones at olive pickers.
Following a grenade attack by Hebronite, Salem Rajeb, at the main bus station in Beersheba on October 19 which injured 63 Israelis, the PNA arrested 15 alleged Hamas activists in Hebron. Apparently Rajeb confessed to other crimes targeted at Israelis, with this particular one the result of a bungled Israeli attempt to recruit him as a collaborator.
26 October, three days after the Wye Agreement was signed. An Israeli settler from Kiryat Arba was killed, with the PNA arresting two Palestinian suspects within 24 hour of the murder. On the same day 72 year old Muhammad Zalmout from Beit Fureik was found dead on his land with his head crushed. With theft being ruled out as a motive, revenge for the earlier death of settler was mooted. This reason gained credibility when an Israeli settler from Itamar settlement, close to where this second murder took place, was reported to have told the Israeli police that he had killed a Palestinian.
A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb alongside a school bus for settler students at the Gush Qatif Junction in the Gaza Strip. The brunt of the blast was borne by an Israeli military jeep. One Israeli was killed and three others wounded.
This event, five days after the signing of the Wye Agreement, predictably brought about a halt in Netanyahu’s “enthusiasm” for Wye. With Israeli demands for an “all-out war” on the “terrorist infrastructure” ringing in their ears, the PNA rounded up 300 alleged Hamas activists. The groups spiritual leader Sheikh Yasin was placed under house arrest and, when he argued that those arrested were from the political wing, his phone was cut, visitors disallowed, and was barred from performing Friday prayers at his local mosque.
PLC member, Hanan Ashrawi, criticised the backlash.
We cannot allow a situation where our entire civil system is
held hostage to Israeli security.
while Gaza police chief, Ghazi Jabali argued on Palestinian TV that
Israel is no longer the despised enemy and the US has become our friend.
6th – the 3rd anniversary of the killing of the Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shiqaqi by Mossad in Malta. An attempted suicide bomb in West Jerusalem went off prematurely killing the two Islamic Jihad bombers and wounding 20 Israelis. The PNA immediately arrested 15 alleged Jihad supporters. An Islamic kindergarden in Bethlehem was closed because it was run by an Islamic Jihad ex-prisoner.
On the 10th, dozens of farmers from Khader and Sinjel, in the Bethlehem area, demonstrated in front of Israeli bulldozers at work levelling their land. All part of the construction of a new 4km road. On the same day Palestinian prisoners at Megiddo Prison protested their conditions – where pain killers are used to treat the many ailments suffered by the prisoners, where – in freezing conditions – some prisoners have to sleep in tents because of the overcrowding.
On the 15th, the occupation authorities closed Al Hakawati Theatre in East Jerusalem in order to prevent a 3 day Fatah conference – which was also witnesse to Fatah’s first party elections since 1967. The following day, at Orient House, 17 activists were elected, with most of them representing Palestinian neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.
On 2 December, 41 year old father of six, Mousa Natsheh, was stabbed to death by a lone Jewish settler in the village of Abu Tor. This was followed by clashes with the occupation forces in al Bireh where 15 Palestinians were injured. The Jewish terrorist group, Vengeance, claimed responsibility with Natsheh being the eighth victim.
One of the many consequences of Israeli carving up of the West Bank manifested itself when Nablus city council announced that it was unable to build a much needed solid-waste dump since all the surrounding land is designated Area C and comes under the occupiers’ total control.
Ariel Sharon announced unilateral changes to the agreed protocol of checking Palestinian goods. Israeli sources announced the setting up of a military training establishment, modelled on Palestinian village, to assist in the training of troops in “real operational conditions” for fighting within Palestinian populated areas.
Palestinian political prisoners, 2 000 in number, announced an open-ended hunger strike, on the 5th, to protest the Israeli release of non-political prisoners, believed to be stipulated in the Wye Agreement. The children of the prisoners had marched in protest at the beginning of the month. This was followed by further demonstrations and, with the liberal use of rubber bullets and tear gas by the occupation troops, 80 Palestinians were injured, some seriously.
A few days before Clinton’s visit, the nephew of Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Ereqat, was fatally shot in the head by a settler, after the latter’s car had been stoned.
9th – 11th anniversary of the Intifada
“The history of yesterday will not be repeated today. . . . . Things have changed. We have no endurance for struggle. We have petty personal interests in a new job, a new raise and the power to oppress our colleagues. We have become hypocrites.”
So commented Hafez Barghouthi, editor of Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda in an editorial comment on the prospects of a new Intifada.
However the day was marked by demonstrations and clashes throughout the occupied territories. The day was also marked by the death of 17 year old Jihad Ayyad from Silwad together with over 100 reported injuries.
Jerusalem witnessed a number of clashes resulting in 16 arrests. Live ammunition was used by the occupation troops to disperse demonstrators in Jabal Al-Mukabber, with eight arrests. Prisoners’ families continued their demonstrations in the city. Hebron and Qalqilya experienced violent clashes with many wounded as a result of the use of live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets. Members of Israel’s Peasce Now were dispersed. At the checkpoint between Al Bireh and Tulkarem, similar incidents resulted in 28 Palestinian injuries. Injuries to four Israeli soldiers were reported.
On 17 September, 600 new housing units were announced in the settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, expanding its size tenfold. On 4 October the settlement of Ma’ate Hever, near Hebron, moved its fences to enclose a further seven acres of confiscated land. Three days later the cornerstone of the newly announced settlement in Tel Rumeida was laid.
On 8 October an additoinal 150 housing units for Ma’aleh Mikhmas near Ramallah was announced. The following day settlers began work on a 7 km bypass road on confiscated land west of Ramallah. Two days later bulldozers began work on 100 acres of confiscated land (from the village of Anata) to create a dam in order to provide water to local sttlers. The dam will divide village land into two.
Construction of the Tel Manache Settlements, on 25 acres of land belonging to the village of Um Al-Rayhan, continued – an act which is intended to move the “Green Line” eastwards into Palestinian territory. The village of Yabad on the West Bank will be particularly affected. Construction activity could deny them access to their fields.
On 24 October a structural plan was declared which could result in the confiscation of land from Azoun, Kafr Thulth and Bidya for the benefit of Ma’ale Shamron settlement. On October 28, on the same day that the villagers of Al Khader and Artas received notification that Road 60 leading to Efrat settlement, which will pass through their property, work began. Four days were given for an appeal.
Article V on Unilateral Actions in the Wye Memorandum urged the two sides to create “a positive environment for the negotiations, neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in accordance with the Interim Agreement.”
Despite this, or indeed, because of this, land confiscation for the construction of apartheid-style bypass roads connecting settlements, settlement activities in general – all continue at an increased pace with the approval, if not the connivance, of the Israeli Government.
The 14 month stand-off in the construction of 132 settler housing units in the heart of Ras Al Amoud, had come to an end on November 5 when bulldozers moved into the site. Whereas, the previous week, Israeli border guards had prevented settlers from fencing in the 4 acre site, they were allowed to commence their activities. This coincided with the addition of 200 housing units to Kiryat Arba in Hebron, the bulldozing of 40 acres of confiscated land for commercial purposes, the placing of caravans next to Khader village – the start of a new settlement. Access roads will be built on land belonging to the villages of Khader, Wadi Rahal and Artas
On 15 November, foreign minister Ariel Sharon called on supporters of the far-right Tsomet party to
…go and get the hilltops . . . whoever gets there first will have the hills, and those you don’t grab will end up in their hands.
On the same day the Israeli government decided to invite tenders for the construction of more than 1 000 Jewish-only homes on Jabal abu Ghneim (Har Homa); dozens of settlers from Qadomin settlement siezed land from the residents of Kufr Qadomin near Nablus where caravans were installed on the top of Kharfiesh and Sindyan hills. Five acres were confiscated from the village for the benefit of the Qadomin settlement.
This was just the start of occupying hill-tops.
The hills of Huwara and Ein Yabous were expropriated; four mobile homes were installed to the east of Bracha settlement; 17 mobile homes were installed to the north of Avne Hefetz settlement near Tulkarem; mobile homes and two greenhouses appeared on the top of hill 7 to the west of Ele settlement; hill 759 to the east of Shilo and Shabot Rachel settlements were seized; the hill to the east of Alon Shabot settlement became home to 17 mobile homes; to the east of Ma’ale Mukhmas several mobile homes were established; three mobile homes were established to the east of Yatta near Hebron and, in the same area, a mobile home was established to the east of Susiya settlement; Masoudieh hill, occupying 125 acres and owned by the residents of Sebastia and Burqa was seized; a hill close to Alon Moreh settlement was expropriated and one mobile home put in place; near Bir Zeit, on the perimeter of Halmesh settlement, mobile homes were installed; The occupation forces confiscated 75 acres of land at Al-Dahirya, south of Hebron; in mid-November a hill near the village of Hajeh was occupied by settlers; Israeli TV showed pictures of concrete walls being constructed around a settlement west of Bethlehem.
Then came the roads.
Work on three out of twelve bypass roads commenced, an activity which throughout the West Bank has become synonymous with uprooting thousands of Palestinian olive groves.
On 15 November the surfacing of Road 70 (joining the settlements of Almon and Kfar Adomin) began. This road will pass through land confiscated from the residents of Anata and Hizma. Twenty houses on its route have already received demolition orders. On November 17 the occupation authorities demarcated the route of Kufr Adeek road (linking the settlements of Ma’ale Labona, Ele and Shiloand) which will pass through the land of the villages of Broqin, Kufur Adeek and Deir Ballut. An estimated 300 acres of land of which more than half is planted with olive groves was expected to be confiscated. Six days later an appeal was expected by landowners against the confiscation of land for the construction of Road 61 which will require the confiscation of 125 acres of Palestinian agricultural land in the Jenin area.
On 18 November work commenced on Kfar Tafouh bypass which is expected to pass through land from the villages of Yutma, Asawya and Aluban Asharqi – all south of Nablus.
The funding for these and the forthcoming activities appeared to be coming from the $1.2 billion military aid that Israel expects from the US, ostensibly to offset redeployment costs. Reports indicate that the US has no objections if the money is used for roads.
With the distant prospects of final-status talks over the horizon, it was reported that Israel was taking steps to change the status of of nearly 10% of the West Bank land – earmarked for settlements. Government officials and the settler group, Amana, were working together to ensure that the status of the land in question is “legally” changed from “survey land” to “state owned land.”
On 1 December Israel announced plans for an additional 480 housing units at Kokhav Yakov near Ramallah.
Amnesty International Report
Five years after the Oslo Agreement:Human rights sacrificed for security concluded that “essentially nothing has changed in the laws and practice governing the arrest and detention of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories.” Around 16 000 Palestinians are arrested every year with about a half being “systematically tortured” during interrogation. Long periods of detention incommunicado without trial is common. Torture and the use of death squads have worsened since Oslo. In May 1988, Israel’s Supreme Court failed to prohibit techniques such as sleep deprivation, hooding and violent shaking. A government commissioned enquiry in to the attempted assassination of Khalid Mash’al, by Mossad, in Jordan ruled that in pursuing Israel’s perceived security needs “all international rules of conduct could be broken.”
The Palestinians have long been used to Israel acting above and outwith the law. They had hoped that the Palestinian National Authority would give them a degree of protection. Since 1994, 19 Palestinians have died in PNA custody, hundreds tortured, thousands illegally detained with around 300 incarcerated as security or political prisoners, held in prison for 4 years without trial.
Most damning in the report was the conclusion, by Amnesty, that all this is encouraged by Israel and America. The US State Dept endorsed Arafat’s State Security Courts, established in April 1995, as a measure of his “commitment to the security concerns of Israel.” This sacrificing Palestinian rights on the altar of Israel’s so-called security concerns has not worked and raises the question of whether it should be working.
Israel’s chemical weapons and El Al Flight 1862
On 4 October 1992 El Al Flight 1862 from JFK Airport to Tel Aviv via Schipol Airport, Amsterdam ploughed into apartment buildings on the outskirts of Amsterdam. With the buildings housing undocumented immigrants, the death toll of 43 was reckoned to be an understatement. Equally clouded in fog and obfuscation was the nature of the flight’s cargo. As time has passed, investigation has thrown light on this.
The condition of the aircraft, the recklessness of the pilot, the regular use of passenger and cargo flights to transport “strategic military goods” and routine fraud over freight documents by the Israeli state airline have all been revealed. In September it was revealed that the plane was carrying three of the four components necessary for the manufacture of the internationally outlawed Sarin nerve gas. The components were supplied by the same company that provides the Israelis with their lethal CS and CN gases used with such deadly affect against Palestinians young and old.The shipment was on its way to the Israel Institute for Biological Research [See previous Briefing Paper] at Nes Ziona, Tel Aviv.
The nature of the cargo explains why the pilot of the doomed plane rejected the request from the air traffic controller to head for an airport close to a lake. Apparently the chemicals react “furiously” with water, with catastrophic results.
The typical recent Israeli denial was exposed as lies when, within 12 hours, a previously reticent El Al spokesman conceded the nature of the cargo. A huge variety of questions are raised, not least Israeli-Dutch collusion and American contribution to chemical weapon proliferation in the Middle East at a time when the US was directing its economic siege of Iraq, a country accused of the same offence.
[See Middle East International 16 October 1998 for a fuller account]