Briefing Paper February 2004
80% of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are dependent on international agencies for survival.
Middle East International 5/12/03
Earlier in November, former Swiss Socialist MSP Jean Ziegler, special rapporteur of the Human Rights Commission on the “right to food”, reported that 22% of Palestinian children under five were suffering from grave malnutrition, a threefold increase from since September 2000, while 9.3% of children under five were suffering from acute malnutrition.
His damning indictment added that 15.6% of children over five suffered from acute anaemia and related sickness. Food consumption had fallen by over 30% in three years, and 61% of all Palestinian households could eat only one meal a day. He put the blame for this squarely on the methods adopted by Israel, such as closures, curfews and the hindering of circulation of people and merchandise and the expansion of settlements and military zones around agricultural land.
Unusually, the Israeli authorities actually met and discussed his mission with him . . . and in fact the Israeli ambassador in Geneva tried, unsuccessfully, to squash his report.
We must once and for all admit that there is another side, that it has feelings and that it is sufferingand that we are behaving disgracefully,”. “Yes, there is no other word for it: disgracefully … We have turned into a people of petty fighters using the wrong tools.
Avraham Shalom, head of Shin Bet from 1980 until 1986
[Note Avaraham Shalom, former head of Israel’s secret service (Shin Bet) was personally responsible for the deliberate killing of two Palestinian prsioners in 1984. One correspondent described the former leaders of Shin Bet as “arch torturers”. So what is going on? Have Israel’s once avid promoters of fear, terror,death and destruction amongst the Palestinians under occupation really turned into peacemongers?]
Ya’alon’s 70 Virgins
Uri Avnery Gush Shalom online Newsletter 15.11.03
What has happened to the Chief-of-Staff, Lieutenant-General Moshe (“Bogie”) Ya’alon? Until recently, he was the most aggressive hawk in the army, perhaps in the whole country. Suddenly he is almost turning into a dove. Has he had a divine revelation like Rabbi Saul of Tarsus, who went to Damascus to persecute the Christians and arrived there as an apostle of Jesus?
Up to now, Ya’alon’s gospel was far from the teachings of the gentle Jewish preacher from Nazareth. His doctrine was: Hit the Arabs on the head and they will give in. If that isn’t enough, hit them harder. Make the life of every single Palestinian unbearable, prevent him from leaving his village or town, destroy the livelihood of his family, take his land away. This was an almost mathematical formula: when one blow follows the other, the lives of the Palestinians will reach breaking point. They will not be able to resist. They will raise their hands, lower their heads and accept everything the government of Israel is good enough to offer them. They will turn over their fighters (“terrorists” in the parlance of the occupation, “national heroes” in the parlance of the occupied.) They will live in the enclaves Israel allows them, or look for a better life in another country. Now, suddenly, the C-o-S distances himself from this strategy. He tells the public that the government’s policy – whose staunchest supporter he has been – is “destructive”. Instead of liquidating terrorism, he says, it produces terrorism. The lives of the Palestinians must be eased, they must be given hope.
So what has happened?
The first part of the plan has worked beyond expectation. The life of the Palestinians has indeed become hell. Most of them live below the poverty line, many on the threshold of hunger, some in an actual state of hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children suffer from malnutrition. Every village has become a prison camp, completely surrounded by roadblocks. Traffic is well-nigh impossible. Many Palestinians cannot reach their place of work, hospital, university or school or bring their produce to market. Israeli troops prowl in the towns and villages, demolishing homes, arresting or killing activists and, at the same time, women and children, too. The distant sound of an airplane engine is enough for the whole population to hold their breath In this sense, all of Ya’alon’s aims have been achieved. It would be difficult to imagine a more terrible situation, barring actual massacres. According to plan, the Palestinians should have broken a long time ago.
But, wonder of wonders, this has not happened. The Palestinians have not given in. They have managed to exist even in these appalling circumstances. The mutual assistance of all the members of the extended Arab family has helped. Moreover, the great majority of the Palestinians continue to support the violent attacks (“terrorism” in the parlance of the occupation, “armed resistance” in the parlance of the occupied.) The suicide bombers are viewed with pride and admiration. For every “martyr” who blows himself up, a hundred are pressing to follow in his footsteps. The only discussion among the Palestinians is whether they should go on with suicide attacks inside Israel or limit themselves to attacking settlers and soldiers in the occupied territories.
It seems that Ya’alon and his generals have reached the conclusion that their campaign has failed. Any further pressure on the Palestinians will be counter-productive: producing more hatred, more hostility. So there will be more attacks, compelling the army to mobilize more troops and invest more resources, without achieving anything. Ya’alon the Hawk turns into Ya’alon the Pseudo-Dove. But his new remedy, too, is based on false assumptions: Instead of “hit them on the head” it is now “ease their situation”. How? Allow some thousands to work in Israel? Let some hundreds of merchants into Israel to buy Israeli goods? (The Israeli economy could certainly use that.) Remove some roadblocks here and there? Use the stick less and the carrot more? That, too, is a recipe for a predictable failure. Because, like the old recipe and all the false forecasts along the way (Remember Yom Kippur!) it is based on a bottomless contempt for the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular. But, as the extreme right-wing Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky already understood some 80 years ago: you can’t buy the Arabs off. Changing total hell into a less than total hell will not induce them to give up their national goals.
Even if the occupied territories turn into a paradise on earth and the military government provides every male inhabitant with 70 virgins (as promised for the Islamic paradise), the Palestinians would still want an end to the occupation. They want a state of their own in the whole of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. But the “easing” promised by Ya’alon will be far from creating paradise. It will be like a drop of water on a hot stone. And in the meantime, the monstrous “security wall” is daily destroying the livelihood of thousands more people, robbing them of their land and cutting them off from the world.
Ya’alon is not suffering from a sudden attack of humanity. He senses that the Israeli public is gradually turning away from his strategy. Even laymen are starting to realize that he has failed. Ya’alon is changing course because the public is starting to change course.
A man of principle would go to the Prime Minister, put his general’s insignia on the table and declare: “Sir, I have failed. I resign. And, by the way, Sir, I would advise you to do the same.”
Barbed-wire Screen, Smoke Screen B. Michael Yediot Ahronot, 31/10/03
Three thousands km of barbed-wire have been stretched along the “first phase” of the “separation fence”. Three million metres. Equal to the distance between Israel and Switzerland. A lot of “separating” can be achieved with 3,000 km of barbed-wire: separating livestock from its owners, olives from their harvesters, vines from their pickers, a doctor from his patients, a worker from his place of work, a teacher from his students. Especially the farmer from his land.
Only one kind of separation will not be obtained by thousands of barbed kilometres: separating the suicide bomber from his victims. He – as we have learned from the State Comptroller’s report on security procedures – will continue to reach his objective as he does today: through the checkpoints, usually in a motor vehicle, in appropriate disguise, in possession of false identification. And he will continue to storm his way towards his wretched loss, taking with him the lives of innocents. The fence will not stand in his way. Quite the contrary: the criminal will go to his death reassured that thanks to this fence, his dispatchers will easily recruit his potential successors. The fence will supply them with the infrastructure of despair, loss of hope, and fortify hatred, frustration, madness. It will hand them the infrastructure for terrorism.
No need for anger at the separation-wire that does not separate the suicide-bomber from his murder victims. This has only been its alleged aim. In reality, its aim is very different. In reality, its purpose is invisible. In reality, the barbed-wire screen is enveloped in a smokescreen. But if the purpose of the fence is invisible, its deeds are quite visible. And one can no longer turn one’s eyes westward only, and stubbornly continue to ignore the horrors taking place in the east. For clarity’s sake: an honest-to-goodness fence, reasonable and humane, would be received with relief and open arms by people on both sides. Israelis and Palestinians. It would not have robbed anyone of anything. It would not have shut tens-of-thousands in cages. It would not have suffocated the livelihood of tens-of-thousands. And who knows, perhaps it would have helped to create neighbours who are just a wee-bit better, the way high fences are supposed to (although one could continue to doubt its effectiveness in blocking suicide-bombers). Only the route selected for it, the snaking, evil line that has been laid down for it by the cult of zealots holding the country by the throat and their servile footmen in the government, turns it into such a loathsome abomination.
About 200,000 people live in the immediate vicinity of the northern part of the fence. Hardly any of them have not been hurt by it. The entire town of Qalqilya, with a population of over 40,000, is hermetically sealed off. Only one gate connects it to the world. Tulkarm is cut off from the west by a wall, and from the east by closure checkpoints. 18 villages, with all their inhabitants, are completely surrounded with barbed-wire fences. Their residents live in a genuine pen. 3,000 families (at least) have already been separated from their lands. The “farming gates” which they were promised – do not exist. About 25 wells have been destroyed, another 14 face destruction. 36 other wells have been separated from the communities that used their water. These wells would yield 6.7 million cubic meters of water.
The entire system, consisting of double razor-wire coils on both sides, an “intrusion tracking path”, a lurking path, a petting path, an obstacle-ditch and watchtowers, is at least 50 meters wide. It runs through 15,000 dunams of confiscated land, and the route assures another 120,000-150,000 dunams that have suddenly attached themselves to the State of Israel, separate from the West Bank.
Annexation? God forbid. Why annex when you can simply snatch?
The Tulkarm-Jenin-Qalqilya region is the “fertile basin” of the West Bank. About 45% of its farm produce used to be grown there, according to the World Bank. No longer. At least half of this produce, perhaps much more, will not grow there now. Tomatoes have a hard time growing among fences and soldiers, checkpoints and non-existent gates. About 4,000 of Qalqilya’s residents, nearly 10% of its population, have already left. Hunger and unemployment have done their job, as expected. About one-third of the 1,800 teachers living in this besieged city and teaching throughout the region, are not likely to be able to reach their classrooms (this too, follows World Bank data).
About 200 houses, mostly shops, have been demolished by bulldozers. Several hundred more have demolition orders pending. The entire market of the village Nazlat Issa, known far and wide for its lively trade, has been razed to the ground. The pretext, as usual, is illegal construction. This is a highly useful pretext, since the Palestinian villagers have not a chance in a million to ever receive construction permits, and whatever they build is “illegal” and demolishable at any given moment, to begin with.So far, about 110,000 olive and fruit trees have been uprooted along the northern path of the fence. One-hundred and ten thousand! For centuries olive trees have grown there, yielded fruit and livelihood for their harvesters. No longer. The separation fence has separated them from their land. One-hundred and ten thousand trees.
And this is just the tip. And only the beginning. Yet what is the logic of such an evil, mad fence? Allegedly it tries to separate “us” from “them”. But in reality, it connects tens of thousands of Palestinians to Israel. It allegedly tries to stop murderous suicide-bombers, but in fact it creates for them a magnificent hothouse and does not impede them in any way from their current mode of action. And to what purpose are billions of shekels, 3 billion so far (nearly three times the price of a fair and reasonable fence), spent – all dedicated to ruin the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians, to crush their dignity, destroy their property, dispossess them of their land?
Tragically, this is probably the idea. This is the secret of the wall: not security, nothing like it. Not war against terrorism, war against reason. A slow-motion nakba (catastrophe, the 1948 Palestinian expulsion, tr.). Gradual strangulation. An evil illusion that an entire people can be made to surrender and become a nation of slaves, to make Sharon and Mofaz’ wet-dream come true.In this week’s paper (Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 28.10.03), we read that the first villagers living on the eastern part of the “separation fence” have received demolition orders for most of the houses in their village. The mosque and kindergarten are to be demolished as well. Of course they may appeal within three days, but they better have the moving trucks ready. For the first time one can establish with amazement that the nightmare is indeed coming true: an eastern fence that will turn the future State of Israel into the past South Africa. A mono-ethnic community in control, and surrounding townships of another people. Gigantic prisons of cheap labor. Soweto-south, Soweto-north. Privileged masters, transparent slaves.
That’s the target. That’s the objective.
But such an objective is hard to market. Even Israel’s indifferent and exhausted people would start to bubble if it were told outright that billions of its shekels are not invested in its security, but rather in fulfilling the impossible hallucination of a Messianic cult and an aging general. No wonder, then, that a combination of deceit and subterfuge is doing its best to camouflage the real reason and rhyme of the “separation fence”.
It seems that since the days of the war in Lebanon, no one has tried to sell Israel’s citizens such a lie. Seeming “security”, seeming “war on terrorism”, seeming limited tactical objective, seeming general accord between coalition and opposition. In fact – another attempt to reorganize the world according to Arik Sharon. Another attempt to hide behind ambiguity, blurred maps, snaky deals and endless doses of brutality, in order to do away with the Palestinian issue and extend the longevity of the “settlement mission” at any price. Total deja-vu.
The Comic relief of the blurring efforts is supplied by the web site of “The Seamzone Administration”. It instructs us that the entire project has been conducted in a “humanitarian and environment-friendly spirit”. Landscape architects have joined the team and utmost attempts have been made to protect nature and vegetation. Indeed 60,000 olive trees have been uprooted, (in fact, that is about half the real number), but “an inner mechanism has been set up to replant them in appropriate sites”. “Inner mechanism” indeed: an external contractor received money for the uprooting job, then most of the trees were stolen and sold to the rich and nobles of Kfar shemaryahu, Hertzliya-Pituach and other posh Israeli communities. The trees certainly enjoyed their upgraded residence. And when bulldozers crushed tens of thousands of dunams and destroyed entire groves, “The Seamzone Administration” did not fail to delicately pick some thousands of iris bulbs and send them (in an ambulance?) to another meadow, so that the beauty of the land shall not be spoilt.
But the most instructive and explicit of messages is the section in the English version of the site, proudly declaring that this land expropriation is absolutely legal and conducted according to clause 23G of the Hague
Convention that has laid down rules and procedures of war since 1907. The world will surely be delighted to learn that Israel is so meticulous about war procedures. In the Hebrew version there is no lingering on such folly. War procedures and international conventions are worthless to Hebrew speakers. And the clause, according to the site, allows the seizure of “private land” if this seizure be absolutely crucial for “self defense needs”.
I, however, am a suspicious creature. So I turned to the Hague Convention, and to my great un-surprise, discovered that the legal wisemen of “The Seamzone Administration” did to this clause what they do so well with Palestinian property: they fixed it with a bulldozer. To be more exact – they simply falsified it. The clause does not refer to land, certainly not private, and does not even mention “self defense”. It only says that enemy property must not be seized or destroyed unless this is absolutely necessary for the needs of war. This is also the clause that forbids the use of poison, execution of war prisoners, the use of outlawed ammunition, and other such matters that regard conduct in the storm of war. Perhaps it permits the crushing of an old cars in the kasbah, when there is no other way to get to the target, or temporarily take over a balcony and turn it into an observation post. But to conclude from this clause that hundreds of thousands of dunams may be expropriated, probably permanently, for the needs of “self defense”… For this a special capacity for historic counterfeit and legalistic trickery is required.
But they all may finally have to understand. One cannot go on looking away, shutting eyes, ears, mouths, and wallowing hypocritically in acquired and insistent unknowing. Because the State of Israel, on the other side of its eastern border, is conducting a harrowing sequence of evil deeds, callous deeds, robbery, deceit and barbarity. According to the Geneva, Hague and Rome Conventions many of these deserve the label of Crimes of War and Crimes against Humanity. And rightly so.
The Geneva bubble
Ilan Pappe London Review of Books (UK) January 8, 2003 Issue (A look at history and beyond – an essential read )
Even though we live in an age of intensive and intrusive media coverage, TV viewers in Israel were lucky to catch a glimpse of the meetings that produced the Geneva Accord. The clip we watched in November showed a group of well- known Israeli writers and peaceniks shouting at a group of not so well-known and rather cowed Palestinians, most of them officials of the Palestinian Authority. Abba Eban onces aid that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and that, more or less, was what the Israelis were saying now. This was their last chance, the Palestinians were told: the current offer was the best and most generous Israelis have ever made them.
It’s a familiar scene. The various memoirs produced by the major players in the Oslo Accord suggest that much the same sort of thing was said there, while leaks from the Camp David summit in 2000 describe similar exchanges between Clinton, Barak and Arafat. In fact, the Israeli tone and attitude have barely changed since British despair led to the Palestine question being transferred to the UN at the end of the Second World War. The UN was a very young and inexperienced organisation in those days, and the people it appointed to find a solution to the conflict were at a loss where to begin or how to proceed. The Jewish Agency gladly filled the vacuum, exploiting Palestinian disarray and passivity to the full.
In May 1947, the Agency handed a plan, complete with a map, to the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), proposing the creation of a Jewish state over 80 per cent of Palestine – more or less Israel today without the Occupied Territories. In November 1947 the Committee reduced the Jewish state to 55 per cent of Palestine, and turned the plan into UN General Assembly Resolution 181. Its rejection by Palestine surprised no one – the Palestinians had been opposed to partition since 1918. Zionist endorsement of it was a foregone conclusion, and in the eyes of the international policemen, that was a solid enough basis for peace in the Holy Land. Imposing the will of one side on the other was hardly the way to effect a reconciliation, and the resolution triggered violence on a scale unprecedented in the history of modern Palestine.
If the Palestinians weren’t happy with the Zionist idea of partition, it was time for unilateral action. The Jewish leadership turned to its May 1947 map, showing clearly which parts of Palestine were coveted as the future Jewish state. The problem was that within the desired 80 per cent, the Jews were a minority of 40 per cent (660,000 Jews and one million Palestinians). But the leaders of the Yishuv had foreseen this difficulty at the outset of the Zionist project in Palestine. The solution as they saw it was the enforced transfer of the indigenous population, so that a pure Jewish state could be established. On 10 March 1948, the Zionist leadership adopted the infamous Plan Dalet, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the areas regarded as the future Jewish state in Palestine.
Palestine was not divided, it was destroyed, and most of its people expelled. These were the events which triggered the conflict that has lasted ever since. The PLO emerged in the late 1950s as an embodiment of the Palestinian struggle for return, reconstruction and restitution. But the refugees were ignored by the international community and the regional Arab powers. Only Nasser seemed to adopt their cause, forcing the Arab League to express its concern. As the ill-fated Arab manoeuvres of June 1967 showed, this was not enough. In June 1967, the whole of Palestine became Israel; the new geopolitical reality demanded a renewed peace process. At first the UNtook the initiative, but it was soon replaced by American peacemakers.
The early architects of Pax Americana had some ideas of their own, but they were flatly rejected by the Israelis, and got nowhere. American brokering became a proxy for Israeli peace plans, which were based on three assumptions: that the 1948 ethnic cleansings would not be an issue; that negotiations would only concern the future of the areas Israel had occupied in 1967, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and, third, that the fate of the Palestinian minority in Israel was not to be part of a comprehensive settlement. This meant that 80 per cent of Palestine and more than 50 per cent of Palestinians were to be excluded from the peacemaking process. The formula was accepted unconditionally by the US, and sold as the best possible offer to the rest of the world.
For a while – until 1977 – the Israelis insisted on another precondition. They wanted to divide the West Bank with the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. (The ‘Jordanian option’, as it was called, was later adopted by the Reagan Administration as its own peace plan.) When Likud came to power in 1977, the option dropped from view – the new Government was not interested in any kind of agreement or compromise – but it was revived in the days of the national unity government, 1984-87, until the Jordanians realised that the Israeli Government would not relinquish the entire West Bank even to them.
The Israeli occupation continued unhindered in the absence of a proper peace process. From its very first day – long before the suicide bombers – there were house demolitions, killings of innocent citizens, expulsions, closures and general harassment. The 1950s and 1960s saw the rise of the ever- expanding settler movement, which brought with it not only land expropriation but also further brutality. The Palestinians responded with a radical form of political Islam, which by the end of the first twenty years had become a force to reckon with. It was bolder in its resistance to the occupation than anything that had preceded it, but equally harsh in its attitude to internal rivals and the population at large. Neither movement, any more than the Likud Government before them, showed any interest in a diplomatic effort to resolve the conflict. Frustration in the occupied areas intensified until, in December 1987, the local population rose up against the occupiers.
In due course the violence ended and a new period of peacemaking began, very like the previous ones. On the Israeli side the team was extended to include academics as well as politicians. Once again, it was an Israeli endeavour seeking American approval. Once again, the Americans tried to put forward some ideas of their own: the Madrid process of 1991 was part of an American attempt to justify the first Gulf War. There were ideas in it with which the Palestinians could agree. But it was a long and cumbersome business and in the meantime a new Israeli initiative was developed.
This initiative had a novel component. For the first time, the Israelis were looking for Palestinian partners in the search for their kind of peace in Palestine. And they aimed at the top – the PLO leadership in Tunis. They were lured into the process by an Israeli promise, enshrined in Article 5, Clause 3 of the Oslo Accord, that after five years of catering for Israeli security needs, the main Palestinian demands would be put on the negotiating table in preparation for a final agreement. Meanwhile, the Palestinians would be allowed to play with independence. They were offered the opportunity to form a Palestinian Authority, decorated with the insignia of sovereignty, that could remain intact as long as it clamped down on any resistance movement against the Israelis. For that purpose, the PA employed five secret service organisations, which compounded the occupiers’ abuses of human and civil rights with those of the indigenous Administration. Palestine’s quasi-autonomy had little bearing on the occupation. In some areas it was directly enforced, in others indirectly. More Jewish settlers arrived, and harassment continued everywhere. When the Palestinian opposition retaliated with suicide attacks, the Israelis enriched the repertoire of collective punishment in such a way that support for the suicide bombers grew by the week.
Six years after the signing of Oslo, the ‘peace camp’ once more came to power in Israel, with Ehud Barak at its head. A year later he was facing electoral defeat, having been overambitious in almost every field. Peace with the Palestinians seemed to be the only salvation. The Palestinians expected the promise made in Oslo to be the basis for the new negotiations. As they saw it, they had agreed to wait five years: it was time to discuss the problem of Jerusalem, the fate of therefugees and the future of the settlements. The Israelis once more devised the plan, enlisting even more academics and ‘professional’ experts. The fragmented Palestinian leadership was unable to come up with counterproposals without outside help, and sought advice in such unlikely places as the Adam Smith Institute in London. Not surprisingly, the Israeli plan alone was on the negotiating table at Camp David in the summer of 2000. Endorsed by the Americans, it offered withdrawal from most of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, leaving about 15 per cent of original Palestine for the Palestinians, in the form of discrete cantons bisected by highways, settlements, army camps and walls. No capital in Jerusalem, no solution to the refugee problem and total abuse of the concept of statehood and independence. Even the fragile Arafat, who had hitherto seemed to be happy with the Salata (the perks of power), having never exercised Sulta (actual power), could not sign a document that made a mockery of every Palestinian demand. He was immediately depicted as a warmonger.
Unarmed demonstrators showed their dismay in the autumn of 2000 and were shot by the Israeli Army. The Palestinian response was not late in coming: the resistance was militarised. Three years into the second intifada, the peace effort resumed once more. The same formula was at work: an Israeli initiative catering to the Israeli public and Israeli needs disguised as a piece of honest brokering on the part of the Americans.
Three initiatives appeared in 2003. The first has already won American support: the road map. At the end of that road, 10 per cent of Palestine will be divided into two huge prison camps – one in Gaza and the other in the West Bank – with no solution to the refugee problem and full Israeli control of Jerusalem. The initiators are still looking for a prospective Palestinian chief warden. Having lost Mahmoud Abbas, they are pinning their hopes on Ahmad Qurei.
The second is the Ayalon-Nusseibeh proposal, based on a total Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories (apart from greater Jerusalem, which takes up about a third of the West Bank) in return for a Palestinian undertaking to relinquish the refugees’ right of return. I suspect that Sari Nusseibeh, the president of al-Quds University and former PA representative in Jerusalem, is repeating a ploy he attempted in the first intifada, when he suggested the de jure annexation of the Occupied Territories to Israel, so as to show the Israelis that Israel could not include the West Bank and Gaza within its borders and still be at once Jewish and democratic. He now hopes to expose Israel’s unwillingness to evict the settlements. The Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan has so far failed to impress the Israelis, but it did depress the refugee communities and I wonder whether it was worth it.
(Ami Ayalon, the head of Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000, lives in the former village of Ijzim, from which the Palestinian population was expelled in 1948.)
And now we have the Geneva bubble: an impressive production both as a document and as a Hollywood-style ceremony. It will probably never become a reality, but it’s worth taking a look at. Its basic features are described by David Grossman in the introduction to the Hebrew version.
For the first time, there is full Palestinian recognition of the right of the Jewish people to a state in Israel and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The document offers practical and detailed solutions to the refugee problem; a problem that has caused all efforts until now to fail. There is also in the document a promise that the majority of the Jews living beyond the Green Line will remain in their homes and become part of the state of Israel. There is also a Palestinian commitment to demilitarise the Palestinian state and allow no foreign troops to be stationed in it.
What catches the eye, not only in this preface but in the document as a whole, is that while the refugees’ right of return is an obstacle that has to be removed if peace and reconciliation are to be achieved, the Jewishness of Israel – i.e. the Jewishness of the original state with the annexed blocks of settlements in the Occupied Territories and greater Jerusalem – is not an obstacle at all. On the contrary, what is missing according to this logic is Palestinian recognition of the new greater Israel. And what is offered to encourage the Palestinians to recognise the state built on the land from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and that was taken from them in 1967? What is the generous offer the Israeli peaceniks loudly urged their counterparts on the Geneva campaign not to pass up? A mini-state, built on 15 per cent of what used to be Palestine, with a capital near Jerusalem and no army. On close reading, the authority and power vested in the aforementioned state bear little relation to any notion of statehood we might derive from global reality or political science textbooks.
Far more important, the Geneva project would leave the refugees in exile. The small print says that the Palestinian refugees would be able to choose either to return to what’s left of their former country or stay in their camps. As they will probably choose to wait until the international community fulfils its commitment to allow their unconditional return under Resolution 194, they will remain refugees while their compatriots in Israel continue to be second-class citizens in the remaining 85 per cent of Palestine.
There is no acknowledgment of the cause of this conflict, the 1948 ethnic cleansing; there is no process of truth and reconciliation that will make Israel accountable for what it did either in 1948 or afterwards. Under these circumstances, neither the Palestinians nor the Arab world at large will feel able to accept a Jewish state.
In a celebration in Tel Aviv, the architects of the Geneva Accord played over and over again a popular song called ‘And Tel Aviv Will Be Geneva’. But Tel Aviv is not Geneva; it is built on the ruins of six Palestinian villages destroyed in 1948; and it shouldn’t be Geneva: it should aspire to be Alexandria or Beirut, so that the Jews who invaded the Arab world by force could at last show a willingness to be part of the Middle East rather than remain an alien and alienated state within it.
(Ilan Pappe teaches political science at Haifa University and is chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies.)
An Appeal from Nablus under Siege
A humanitarian Crisis 3rd January 2004
Nablus has been under siege for the last 10 days while Balata refugee camp has been under siege for the last 18 consecutive days. We have just heard that every single entrance/exit to Balata has been sealed off completely. No food or medicine is allowed in. Medical relief teams are being obstructed and at times completely prevented from passing through. Activists from ISM (the International Solidarity Movement) were attacked while carrying out their missions to observe and bear witness on what the Israeli occupation authorities are brutalizing the Palestinian population. Beit Foreek has been completely sealed off; its mayor reports that there are signs of starvation.
Two men and a boy were killed by Israeli military fire since this morning. The first, Amjad Bilal Masri is a 15 year old boy who was shot while standing in front of his house. The sniper bullet hit Amjad in the back. He died on his way to the hospital. The second is Amer Kathym Arafat who was also shot in the back by a sniper bullet. The third is Rouhi Hazem Shouman,25, who was also shot in the back by a sniper. Ms. Majida Masri, spokeswomenfor the Coordinating
Committee of Palestinian Political Faction, called a couple of minutes ago on all Nabulis who are able to get to Rafidiya Hospital to defy the curfew and join the families of the martyrs in a collective funeral for the three. “They were all shot in the back by cowardly snipers. Their only crime was to refuse to succumb to Israeli occupation designs to empty Palestine from its people.”
Reports from Balata indicate that a deliberate starvation campaign is being carried by the Israeli military which has sealed off the Camp and refuses to allow food and medicine to get through every single alleyway, formal or informal entrances. A few days ago, the Israeli military shot and injured 4 people who were walking a funeral for an old woman who passed away. No demonstrations or political events were taking place in or around the funeral.
The siege of the old city of Nablus and its neighbourhoods (Yasmeeneh, Qaryoun, Habaleh) has been intensified since December 30, 2003. The Israeli military claims that they were looking for the leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Abu Sharkh. They took his brother and wife as hostages, paraded the wife in a jeep in the old city and forced to call out to her husband over loud speakers to surrender in return for her freedom. She has been released only yesterday. No one can get into the old city, but Dr. Ghassan Hamdan of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committee, who is in the old city has called on the whole world to immediately intervene to support the people of Nablus. He condemned media outlets for neglecting to cover what’s going on, including the largest Palestinian daily, Al-Quds, which has not reported on what’s going in Nablus in its front page. Dr. Hamdan criticized the Palestinian Authority who have not done anything to aid Nablus and demanded that “Abu Alaa, the Palestinian Prime Minister, hold a ministrial meeting in Nablus to highlight the horrible conditions the city is experiencing under this brutal Israeli campaign.”
We have just heard explosions in the old city. It was in Qaryoun neighborhood inside the Abdelhadi Palace that houses 75 people. The Palace, built 400 years ago, is a waqf, endowed by Mahmoud Abdelhadi for the use of Abdelhadi women who have no place to live and no sources of income (widows, single women who do not work or have no income, and women whose main breadwinners are disabled). The Israeli military has ordered the 75 people to vacate the palace at 3:30 in the mooring and left them out in the cold. Mr. Aslan, a neighbor, invited took in all the 75 people and offered them hospitality and warmth. The families are scattered throughout the old city (before the more-strict siege) and unable to go home. Dr. Mahdi Abdelhadi,Director of PASSIA, has gone to the Israeli supreme court. The Court ordered an injunction against the destruction of the Palace but the military appealed the decision and received a permission from the court to destroy this historic building “if security needs call for such action.” This also requires your immediate attention.
Nablus has been split again into two parts near Maha’s Gate, which is names after Mrs. Maha Nimr who lived nearby and whose son has been arrested and is currently being interrogated in Ofer settlement prison (near Ramallah); no family members or lawyers are allowed to see him until the “interrogation is completed.”
“Tora Bora,” as the residents call it, is the mount of dirt Israeli occupation army has compiled near the destroyed Governate of Nablus (as well as the prison that was bombed with prisoners inside in 2002 resulting in the killing of 10 Palestinian policemen who were guarding the prison). Tora Bora literally separates the two parts of the city and no one can come or go without risking being shot at by the Israeli military. Children (including my own nephew Ibrahim and nieces Widad, Noura, and Nada who live in the eastern part beyond Tora Bora) have been risking their lives to get to school to take their final exams. Ibrahim, 10 year old, and other kids almost got killed on December 23, 2003 as he tried to get home. He was finally able to reach his home a few hours later and only after the international media, medical relief workers, my other brother, Amer, and Amal, my sister-in-law and Ibrahim’s mother risked their lives, argued with the soldiers and insisted on getting all the kids home across a checkpoint.
Mustapha Barghouti, President of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, has described the bloody campaign against Nablus as a “real war on this city whose other name, the Mountain of Fire, has basis in the steadfastness of Palestinians and their refusal to allow the Israeli military to break the Palestinian collective will to continue struggling for their rights.” “There is a completely news blockage of what’s going in Nablus,” Barghouti added, explaining that lack of news coverage has to do with “the negligence of the Palestinian Authority, PA, to assume its responsibility for the protection of the population.””Instead,”Barghouti added, “the PA is wasting time and energy in useless meetings with the Israeli occupation government that is intent on destroying our people’s will.” Reporter’s Note: This report is partly drawn from word of mouth of relatives and friends, and partly from Radio Tariq Mahabbeh. Call: Amer Abdelhadi at (+972-59-371-372) Tariq Mahabbeh (Radio station) at (+972 57 830 333). Rabab Abdulhadi (no later than 9:30 p.m.) at (+972 9 237 2891).Expect delays due to poor telecommunications connections.View all →