Briefing Paper May 2003

Palestine’s War of Independence

. . . any four year old child who examined the pattern of events would conclude that this government, whether consciously or not, is simply not interested in the cessation of terrorist attacks for they constitute its raison d’etre.

Doran Rosenblum, Ha’aretz (2/08/02)

Political talks with Palestinians will not begin before it become deeply ingrained in the Palestinian consciousness that they must give up hope of ever returning to pre-1967 borders

General Moshe Ya’alon (Chief of Staff), International Herald Tribune (7/01/03)

There is no intention to allow a valid Palestinian state.

Jeff Halper, Israeli Committee Against House Demolition

Surely depriving the freedom of 3.5 million Palestinians and subjugating them to a military occupation for nearly two generations is a now fundamental and egregious offence to basic democratic values than the authoritarianism of Arafat, who at least came to office in a free and democratic internationally supervised election?

Henry Seegman, International Herald Tribune (27/02/03)

Israel is not a state with an army, but an army with an affiliated state

Ben Kaspit, Ma’ariv (13/9/02)

The Road Map (“A performance-based Road Map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict”)

What is the Road Map?

Initial impression is of a striving towards peace between one set of people devoted to terror and terrorism and another people entitled to security and peace but which engages in some dubious practices which must cease.

In brief, it is a document projected as the way to achieving peace between Israeli and Palestinian – with the year 2005 as the target date for final implementation and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Drawn up by the Quartet – the U.S., the UN, the EU and Russia – it requires both Israel and occupied Palestine to adopt staged (in three phases) measures, in parallel with each other, as a mechanism for reaching final implementation. It is based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397.

The publication of the Road Map has been repeatedly postponed with a variety of excuses offered – the pre-emptive strike on Iraq, followed by its occupation, the alleged lack (as seen by Israel and the USA) of an acceptable Palestinian negotiator, waiting for the appointment of a prime minister for Palestine (eventually in the person of Abu Mazen or Mahmoud Abbas), the appointment of an “acceptable” Palestinian cabinet & etc.

However, a draft of the Map has appeared on “the web” (view at Initial impression is of a striving towards peace between one set of people devoted to terror and terrorism and another people entitled to security and peace but which engages in some dubious practices which must cease.

No hint of a people, for decades under military occupation, with a legitimate right to resist the occupier – one of the worlds’ most militarised states which uses battlefield armour to attack an impoverished civilian population penned into ghettos.

No hint of over 5 million externally displaced Palestinians (arising from the 1948 conflict) summarily denied their rights to their property and land for 55 years with no compensation – or even recognition, by Israel, that a wrong was committed – being offered.

No hint of over a quarter of a million “internally displaced” Palestinians similarly treated.

No hint of the blatant unjust and discriminatory policies which legalise, in Israeli terms, the use of those confiscated properties and land for the benefit of Israel’s Jewish citizens only.

While Yasser Arafat has embraced the Road Map on behalf of the Palestinian people, Ariel Sharon has, in timehonoured fashion, protested many points in the Map. However, not, it would seem, wanting to be perceived as ungrateful towards its major benefactor and author of the Map, the US, the points of concern were eventually reduced to 14 in number. Concurrent with Israel’s protests, the American Zionist lobby group, AIPAC, went into first gear on behalf of Sharon.

The initial US reaction was that there was to be no re-negotiation over the content and proposals in the Map. For how long this resolve will last in the face of American realpolitik, remains to be seen. One particular point of contention, as far as Sharon was concerned, was the right of return of Palestinians to their homes. Not that the Map made any great issue out of this important and crucial Palestinian demand, referring simply to “an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue.”

However, this Palestinian right, challenging, as it does, the very foundations of Zionism, will be a major hurdle on which any peace prospects could founder.

The initial part of the Map describes the putative Palestinian state as one requiring a constitution (in sharp contrast to Israel which has no constitution) and, towards this end, must put a stop to “violence, terrorism and incitement”. In contrast, Israel is required to “help normalise Palestinian life” – an understatement, surely, in relation to the death and havoc wreaked upon Palestinian society by the occupiers. In doing so, she must withdraw from areas occupied from 28 September 2000 and freeze settlement activity “consistent with the Mitchell Report.”

Further facets of the document give a more balanced approach to the requirements from both parties to the conflict. However, the imbalance in perception of reality is threaded throughout. For example, while the Palestinians are required to “reiterate” Israel’s “right to exist in peace and security” there is no similar requirement made of the Israelis with regard to a Palestinian state.

A road map towards a just and durable peace?

For any peace proposals to produce a just and durable peace, a number of key aspects of the Palestine Question have to be addressed.

By the date of Israeli acquisition of Palestinian land, 15th May 1948, when the UN partition of Palestine resolution was implemented, less than 7% of Palestinian land was Jewish owned.

Since then over 17 000 square kilometres of land inside Israel, owned by Palestinian refugees and over 1 000 square kilometres owned by Palestinians inside Israel have been expropriated. Within the occupied Palestinian territories (which includes East Jerusalem) about 4 500 square kilometres of land have either been expropriated by, or under the control of, the occupation forces. It is on this land that the illegal colonial settlements have been established.

Yet these issues are not explicitly addressed by the Road Map. Palestinian housing, property and landholding claims are ignored. There is a call for a settlement freeze in a later phase of the Road Map, contingent on the Palestinians delivering their part of the bargain.

A total of three quarters of the indigenous Palestinian population have been displaced outside of , or within, (the “internally displaced”) their homeland. This mass dispossession violates principles outlined in at least four bodies of international law – including law of nationality/state succession, human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law. Yet, apart from a comment on the need for “an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue” – which is not based on/ referred to international law – the Road Map makes no reference to the crucial Palestinian right of return and right of restitution.

The Road map makes no reference to the borders of a Palestinian state – despite the imperative of drawing up a constitution for this yet undefined Palestinian state. It fails to stipulate the need for Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories to the lines of 4th June 1967.

This absence of precision leads to ambiguities, the likes of which Israel will exploit. It is excellent fodder for a belligerent, obstreperous and obstructive occupying power.

And, of course, the Road Map as currently constituted is an excellent example of the double standards now being exhibited in the corridors of power in the world. In the case of Iraq, the word of the UN was sacrosanct. Nowhere does the Road Map give any indication of any consequences for Israel should this maverick Middle East state (complete with its own arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction) continue to defy the will of the UN.

With both the United States and the UK emphasising the importance of upholding Security Council resolutions and international law in recent months, the Road Map fails the majority of the Palestinian people, particularly those under the umbrella of UN resolutions affirming the right of Palestinian refugees and Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) to return and repossess their properties.

Life and Death in a Closed Village

Anne Gwynne, CounterPunch 21/01/03

We passed a house where eight people were bulldozed to death (‘a mistake,’ said the Israelis), the house where a 75-year-old woman was shot to death, and another where three young women were killed. Further along, I saw the house where 9 people were massacred, and another where two women were killed and a third lost her legs.

If crossing Kalandia and on to Ramallah brought tears, then travelling to Nablus from Ramallah by UPMRC ambulance is beyond tears, beyond words, beyond description, beyond anything I could have imagined experiencing. All senses are numbed; you ride on a sea of despair.

The roads are empty–for Palestinians are not allowed to travel in their own country. On the Western side of the huge dual carriageway, miles and miles of ‘confiscated land’ lie empty–with every living thing removed by order of the illegal Israeli Occupation Force. The East side is garlanded with miles of high electrified fencing–barriers which enclose the thousands of illegal houses of the illegal Israelioccupiers. We face road block after road block, wait after wait, search after search of the ambulance with the icy wind blowing in through the thrown-open doors. Everything is removed from the ambulance and everyone ordered out–except me with my bullet-proof EU passport.

Desperately ill patients lie on the roadside in the rain–the wet cold chills to the bone. Doctors and drivers are insulted and bullied by insolent Israeli soldiers. At one roadblock, a young soldier spent 10 minutes picking at his spots in our door-mirror, while his mates searched the ambulance. At the Huwarah checkpoint (the last before we reached Nablus) an ambulance from the other direction was stopped and held for 30 minutes with its maximum emergency indicators going. Our ambulance waited 25 minutes there–I thought this was a long time; later in my stay I would consider this a short wait.

At the road block /checkpoint everyone, as usual, gets out at the one end and then walks until some minibus or taxi comes along to pick them up–but only, of course, if they have the money to pay and, with 70% out of work, most do not. So they keep on walking in straggling crowds on an exposed hillside, in torrential rain and with a freezing wind sweeping across the hills. Over-burdened, wet, cold, probably hungry people carrying children on one arm and baggage in the other, endlessly tramping through expanses of muddy water, piles of rubble, huge holes, and road-sides torn up by tank tracks.

The doctor told me that the Director of a local school had a heart attack in a village which is ‘closed.’ A CLOSED VILLAGE is an area of settlement to which all roads have been blocked by massive barriers half a mile or so from the houses: an area into which, and out of which, no one and nothing is allowed to pass. So the ambulance could not go there. A neighbour drove the school director around the mountains to the checkpoint, where the Israelis would not let him through without proof that he was suffering a heart attack. In the long wait, the man died and the driver asked the guard “Is this enough proof for you?” This is a death which is not put down in the statistics as ‘killed by the Israelis,’ but, of course, it is.

This morning, a 5-year old child was taken to hospital suffering from acute appendicitis. The Israelis refused to let her mother accompany her because they said that the ambulance then became a taxi! Imagine a tiny 5 year old in acute pain, forced to stay alone in the hospital for an operation. This would not happen anywhere else.

And then we reach the outskirts of Nablus, formerly the most beautiful city on the West Bank, the powerhouse of Palestine. We drive in along the once-elegant main road with its dual carriageway boulevards and colonnaded promenades of shops. Now they are strafed and covered in bullet holes with hundreds of shot-out windows; everything at street level is boarded-up. Where was the street? ‘This is not a road’, says our driver–‘where is the road?’ We bumped and bottomed and rocked and jolted along a wilderness with huge mounds of rubble and piles of rocks to negotiate–a journey whose jolting pain must have contributed to the death of many an injured person.

The bombing of more than 200 factories has destroyed most of Nablus’ formerly thriving industry. Two schools and a mosque have been demolished, and more than 300 houses completely destroyed–tanked or bulldozed; whole blocks have been gutted by bombs from F16’s or missiles from helicopter gunships. I saw the Municipal Building reduced to ashes together with ALL the civil records of 186,000 people, and the Ministry of Health, which has been denied access by 20-foot high roadblocks to either side. We passed a house where eight people were bulldozed to death (‘a mistake,’ said the Israelis), the house where a 75-year-old woman was shot to death, and another where three young women were killed. Further along, I saw the house where 9 people were massacred, and another where two women were killed and a third lost her legs. During this preview of the sights of Nablus, we passed rows of gutted shops (now re-stocked with the help of bank loans), a school covered with bullet holes, and another with huge shell holes in the walls.

At the UPMRC Centre stood an ambulance with bullet holes in the sides and rear, but also in the handles of its stretchers–bullets in the handles of a stretcher! It seems that soldiers routinely shoot at Medics’ hands as they carry the injured and dying. At the Centre, bullets constantly ping along the roof as soldiers from the notorious checkpoint on the hill take pot shots at the city–or the ‘settlers’ on the hilltops do. Nablus is exquisitely situated in a bowl with a flat base surrounded by the white rocky mountainsides which glow in the sun. On the hills to the West and to the East are Israeli Military Camps numbers 1 and 2, and on the other hilltops the guns of the ‘settlers’ are ready to kill. From these encampments, the tanks and armoured cars roll in every evening to enforce the 6 to 6 curfew. Anyone venturing outside can, and often is, murdered by Israeli guns.

This afternoon, we passed the street where courageous residents have removed a huge iron gate which effectively cut Nablus in two. Sidewalks do not exist, because the tanks which roam the city in search of prey during the night are so big that when they turn any corner they tear up the pavement leaving huge holes, often taking the corners of houses with them too. Gardens and trees have been destroyed by tanks–wide avenues of palms and tree ferns have simply been uprooted and driven over. Walking, driving, working, and learning are all impossible here–impossible that is to anyone but the people of Nablus, whose bravery and strength seems without limit. Their resolve, courage and determination never to leave their city is palpable–everywhere. Their welcome is warm, they are full of affection and friendship, their banter is laughter-filled, and in their eyes is a look so direct that you feel they see right inside you and that they let you see into their souls. Their sense of fun pervades everything and their hospitality and generosity is legendary.

On my first morning, the delightful youngsters of the Medical Volunteers insist I join them for a breakfast they prepared themselves–delicious pitta, hummus, fuul, tea and fun. The notice on the door of the kitchen reads “help yourself, by yourself–no need to ask–what is ours is yours”. They are extremely interested in each other and in me, and they want to know what my country is like. They ask if there is anyone in the world who cares about them. They want to know everything–language, foods, customs. Denied the universal right to education and cooped up in villages for three months at a time, prevented from attending school and university by the closures–it is amazing how much they know. Their intense curiosity is touching.

The Medical Centre here was set up 6 months ago. Nablus has six hospitals, the largest containing 80 beds. Two are Municipal (free) and 4 are private. There are sufficient beds in normal times, but the incursions, murders and injuries place a great strain upon these resources. The clinic here charges 5 shekels to see the doctor and three shekels for medicine, which can be very costly. If anyone cannot pay, he does not have to–the director feels that even this little money can mean the difference between a meal for the family and no meal at all.

So, I come to the end of my first day in Nablus–everyone has a story to tell but I have been typing for a long

time and it is very cold in the evening with no heating–no one has any oil for that because the Israelis do not allow it. All this would be a tough movie to watch–but these are real people, suffering every moment of their lives. This is a great city in the middle of Palestine–how on earth can we let these crimes happen?


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