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The Occupation Of Palestine

By Max Kantar

26 March, 2007
Countercurrents.org


In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the news media, more times than not, does not reflect the reality or horrors of the situation on the ground. Just last year, according to Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, 660 Palestinians were killed by Israeli Military forces, 21% of which were children. On the Israeli side, Palestinians were responsible for killing 23 Israelis. With a murder ratio exceeding 28 to 1, the Israeli occupation can no longer be disguised as a security measure in the name of peace. (13)

Through American and Global mainstream media outlets, this story of Palestinian despair and hardship is nameless and remains widely untold. The illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories is completely crushing and destroying the Palestinian people in every way imaginable, and amazingly, it is the Palestinians who receive no emergency aid and little sympathy outside the Arab world.

In violation of countless international laws including UN Security Counsel Resolution 242, Israel is applying ruthless military force and rule over an entire people in their own homeland, denying Palestinians their universal rights to self determination and suffocating all means of social and economic survival while annexing vast amounts resource rich Palestinian owned land. The indigenous Palestinians of 1967 and their families have been cut off from virtually all of their water supply, olive gardens/farms, interstate trade and free movement due to an Israeli government political and militarized campaign to control all of historical Palestine despite the
internationally recognized Palestinian ('67) borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This occupation is not only one in violation of international law and continuous promoting of socioeconomic instability, but also one of constant brutal military force consisting of the endless dehumanization of the Palestinian people. This is not a colonization or occupation waged by the Israeli public either, but one waged by its government under the deceiving guises of security, nationalism, and self preservation.

The idea of a fence or wall being built between West Bank Palestine and Israel has long been discussed as an option to prevent terrorism in Israeli proper. Plans for construction began in 2002 and the public was lead to believe that the 8 meter high fence would be built on the 350 kilometer green border lines established in 1967. But this is not the case. The fence has been built around (98% of) the Jewish only settlements, water supplies and agriculturally resourceful land, and even East Jerusalem, all in the occupied Palestinian territories. (1)

Olive trees and farms were an integral part the Palestinians' economy; due to the wall, many of these rich resources have been stripped from the Palestinian farmers.

Israel is legally entitled to 78% of the region, in accordance with the borders established in 1949 that were approved by the United Nations. Upon the 'fence' construction, the Israeli government now has (illegally) taken an additional 12% of the total land, with estimates of Palestinian water seizure at about 85%, leaving large numbers of Palestinians with limited or
no access to any water at all. According to the Hague Convention and more specifically, its 46th Article, these aforementioned practices are internationally "prohibited" and fall under the pretext of "the confiscation of private property in the occupied territory." (2)

Palestinian Civilian Life

Several hundred Israeli Military Checkpoints divide the West Bank villages halting Palestinian trade of goods and food supplies from one community to another. This accounts for the vast inconsistency in price and availability of food all throughout the west bank. Throughout these degrading military checkpoints, Palestinian civilians are forced by law, from the age of 16, to
carry identification passbooks to travel anywhere, making everyday situations and errands very difficult for the Palestinian population.

It is by use of these checkpoints that systems of 'closure' are enforced, where the Israeli military will suppress any movement in or out of certain areas or cities in the occupied territories. For example, the Palestinian city of Hebron, was under closure for 167 out 300 days in 2002-2003. Curfews are also enforced wherein Palestinians cannot even leave their own homes for any reason, making hunger and confinement an even deeper reality.

The checkpoint soldiers often deny farmers access to their own land and create difficult circumstances for Palestinian children on their way to school. This restriction of free movement has caused the inevitable depression of Palestinian economy, where markets and stores go out of business at frightening rates, making the task of finding employment quite hard. Furthermore, even when Palestinian farmers are granted access to their own land, (during very strict 30 minute intervals at dawn and dusk) they are prohibited from bringing additional laborers to help. Everyday life becomes a nightmare for Palestinians where going to pray or to visit family leaves some detained all day, while ambulances with women in labor are halted at the checkpoints at which they and/or their babies have died during childbirth waiting for permission to simply proceed to the hospital. (3)

In reality, these checkpoints and periods of closure do not serve any purpose but to sever the social and economic ligaments that would otherwise unify and converge Palestinian sovereignty and independence.

With this stagnantly bottom barrel consumer and job market, and access to Israel's sect of service and menial labor economy strictly off limits, the Palestinian people, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, have seen the continuous rise in their rate of impoverished people (less than $2 a day) reach 75% of their population, amid struggling with a $655 million 'national' deficit. This is also in part, attributed to the Israeli withholding of $660 million of Palestinian paid taxes; the only source of revenue to build roads, fund education/teachers, guarantee any kind of
health care, or provide any form of public service for the Palestinian people (12). Globally, many post industrialized nations are participating in a boycott of occupied Palestine and withholding any kind of requested relief or aid in an attempt to 'punish' the Palestinians for electing Hamas as their political representatives. These forms of collective punishment are in
violation of international law. (4)

To further make life unliveable for Palestinians under the occupation, they are not even allowed to build homes (in their own land) for themselves unless they receive a building permit from an Israeli agency. This is a catch 22 situation being that to even apply for a permit, a fee of $5,000 is assessed and it is very unlikely for Palestinians to be granted permission to build at all. As one can imagine, many homes are deemed "illegal" under Israeli Occupation policy and as a result, over 12,000 demolition orders have been carried out since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. Although Israel has continued this practice for forty years, it is completely illegal under the 53rd article of the Geneva convention which states that "any destruction by the occupying power of real or personal property [is prohibited]." Despite these international stipulations, home demolitions have increased in the past few years, while there are undoubtedly still hundreds, or even thousands of demolition orders to be established and carried out in the future. (5)

What you have in the occupied territories, is essentially, a large, open air prison, where the 'prisoners', although in their own land, have no authentic citizenship, protection, or any basic needs fulfilled, living as social and political refugees.

Territorial Expansion and Settlements; Apolitical?

Israeli built, Jewish-Only settlements on Palestinian land (Gaza/West Bank) began to officially emerge in the years immediately following the seizure and annexation of the land inside of the green lines following the 1967 war. These settlements have grown immensely in size, rising disproportionately by 300 percent in recent years, to the Israeli population that currently resides the within the legally recognized borders of Israel 'proper'. The suburbanesque settlements have often times been one of the main justifications for the Occupation as far as protection for the Jewish settlers from Palestinian militants. According the Jerusalem Post, in 2006, the number of settlers in the West Bank reached over 267,000, while East Jerusalem is home to another 200,000 Jewish settlers. (6)

After the six day war of 1967, the Israeli government sought to make permanent their territorial expansion by enticing Israeli and International Jews alike to 'settle' in the newly received holy land, seized from the indigenous Palestinians. As one might guess this colonization process is illegal as stated in the 4th Geneva Convention (Article 49) where "the occupying power shall not transfer part of its own civilian population into territories it occupies." The houses in the settlements became hot commodities due to the 50-75% government subsidy that accompanied the mortgages. The settlers also saw a 7-10% reduction of their income taxes/social security, and large government subsides on education, employment, health care, and of course, military protection. (7)

The settlements are mirrors of upper middle class and upper class Israeli (or American) neighborhoods. They have nice schools and facilities, even pools, with water taken from the Palestinian annexed resources, often times separated by the fence. Meanwhile, the Palestinian neighborhoods, sometimes just a couple hundred meters away, like in East Jerusalem, look like third world ruins. These Jewish settlers need not bother with the checkpoints going around their cities and into Israel; they have 350km (still over 100km more to come) of their own unrestricted 'by-pass' roads and, licence plates, separate from the Palestinians. Obviously, the settlers do not need to produce identification passbooks either, to move freely. (8)

Some settlers are motivated to live in these areas because of their religious connections or self perceived, unqualified righteousness to the land. They also, as does sects of Israeli government, see it as a political stance and maneuver to sustain the Palestinian territory in a belief that it is strictly 'Jewish' land. These settlers are in the minority according to a
survey produced by the Hopp Research Co. According to the survey, "80%" of the settlers lived in these territories only for the government subsidies, with "68%" willing to vacate settlements "if ordered to" (9).

These statistics show in part how Israel's governing powers, not its people, are the ones waging many of the fundamental strategies and initiatives of the occupation and desired conquest and colonization of the Palestinian owned West Bank. Furthermore, varying statistics (62%, 70%, etc.) also show that the vast majority of Israeli Jews oppose the occupation and settlements and unlike their government, are more concerned with achieving peace with Israel's neighbors rather than expanding Israel's land and militarization. (9)

The Reality of a 'Peace' Process

Take into consideration: the laws, regulations, and practices of the forty year long brutal and repressive occupation, the denial of return for the (nearly one million) Palestinians who were displaced in Israel's modern creation, and the lack of any sincere peace agreement granting the indigenous Palestinians any right to political autonomy and self determination in their own state. If one looks at what is really taking place before the world's eyes, it is clear: The Israeli government will only welcome peace if it is on their own strict terms of domination and complete control of the entire region. What started off as 55-45% compromise favoring Israel in the UN 1947 resolution, turned into a 78-22% differential, Israel again being the former. This generous division of land has been not only internationally accepted (UN Res. 242), but taken in writing by Yasser Arafat and the PLO during the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords in their recognition of Israel. 78%. That includes all of historic Palestine outside of the tiny Gaza strip and the West Bank. Israel, on the other hand, was the party who, in the Oslo accords, did not genuinely recognize or accept Palestinian sovereignty in the form of their independent state. (5) Saudi Arabia, in 2002, also extended an agreement with Israel promising peace from neighboring Arab nations in exchange for an end to the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel declined.

With the invasion of right wing ideologues into the Israeli Junta, Zionist extremism has taken precedence over democracy by means of demographic and geographical fundamentalism. These religiously and politically motivated afflictions have been echoed most distinctly throughout the newly admitted party Yisrael Beitenu, whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, urged for "Zionism" over "Democracy" while openly calling for the displacement or "transfer" of the indigenous Palestinians of 1967 and Arab-Israeli Palestinians of 1948 (10).

What is currently occurring in the Occupied Territories is the creation of conditions that are unliveable for human beings. There is no justification for it on the basis of security, no justification for it on the basis of legal state land ownership, and absolutely no justification for it on the basis of humanity.

Israel has the right to exist, undoubtedly, and a right to secure their proper borders for the safety of their population. Military occupation and annexation of Palestinian land, and colonization of foreign land, is not a means of security, but a means of conquest and application of force to drive a people from the desired geographic mass.

And this current practice shall never achieve peace.

Initiating Responsibility

In American media outlets, the Israeli/Palestinian 'conflict' is always portrayed to the people as Israel being on the defensive from terror. Terror has been real in Israel's history, but everything must be put into context to be understood. The truth is, that somewhere between the six day war of 1967, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and the current circumstances of the occupation, Israel has clearly made the transition from David to Goliath and from the underdog, to aggressor.

Once again, to understand this metamorphosis, one must recognize the historical significance and relevance to combat false notions. The Jewish people formed a Jewish state for the same reasons (respectively) the Palestinians need to now: to be sovereign and self determinant. Somewhere along the way, when Israel obtained significantly high command on the determining factors of future peace among herself and surrounding nations, peace was no longer enough and humanity was forgotten.

This change took place through unconditional American funding to Israel, primarily militarily. According to 2002 Palestine Monitor reports (11), since 1949, the United States has provided over $134 Billion in aid, making Israel the largest recipient of U.S. funds in the world's history. Israel could never have become the world's fourth most powerful military without help from the United States of America. Therefore, to just say that America, who is ultimately and knowingly funding the occupation, is not absolved of responsibility for bringing justice and peace to Israel and Palestine, is a grave understatement.

Frankly, the vast majority the responsibility for initiating peace and coexistence rests on Israel's shoulders. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians need to find common ground acceptable to each other, but it is in fact, the occupying power that will have to make the most concessions from the current state of existence and affairs. As it is today and has been for decades, Israel controls the destiny and welfare of the Palestinian population and ultimately holds the key to the Palestinians' development and establishment of a self governing state. Terrorism may always remain to be a concern for Israel, but total occupation and oppression of another state is a far cry from establishing positive relations and peace for both peoples.

An End to Destruction

At this time, Israel has two viable choices: end the occupation, as the West Bank and Gaza Strip become a self governing Palestinian state, or exist as an oppressive Apartheid regime, similar to 20th century South Africa. Either way, the occupation cannot continue forever as it will meet constant and violent resistance from inside and out. The Occupation is not only destroying the Palestinians, but it is perpetuating the neglect of Israeli peoples' welfare.

Israel has strived to remain a social democracy inside its borders, similar to those of Scandinavian governments, but now more closely resembles the 'self-help' American economics. With all of Israel's aid and expenses going towards the illegal occupation, welfare and public service entitlements have been reduced and neglected. Israeli poverty has reached 1.2 million
citizens, or 20% of their population. Coincidently, trade unions have also been restricted in their rights to strike by the government, despite the low wages. (11)

Concessions for anything but the following are unacceptable: evacuation of all Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, complete and unconditional withdrawal of IDF troops, dismantling of the current fence, legitimate and diplomatically acceptable resolution of 1948 Palestinian refugees, and a guarantee of real Palestinian Authority concerning the social, economic, and political welfare of the Palestinian state. Lastly, financial grants must be provided to the Palestinian people, from Israel and America, for the withheld taxes and aid, the uprooting of olive trees, home demolitions, and for the overall damage to liberty, property and life received by the Palestinian people and economy at the hands of Israel and the checkbook of America.

These are the responsibilities of the occupying power(s).

Although it's hard to believe, Jewish and Arab coexistence was once a legitimate possibility in the middle east. A day such as that, for many people, may surely seem far into the future, if ever. But it is long past time that the first step be made towards it, by initiating the two state solution, signaling the end of Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Programs uniting, familiarizing, and establishing personal identification between Jews and Arabs such as Playing for Peace and ICAHD, need to become more commonplace, presently and especially in the event of the conflict 'resolution'. Aside from some religious fundamentalism on both sides, this author believes that despite public perception, if nothing else, many Jews and Arabs do share a desire for harmony, tolerance, and coexistence in the future. Only time will tell.

Max Kantar is a undergraduate of Sociology at Ferris State University. He can be contacted at maxifunk_05@hotmail.com


Bibliography

1. www.stopthewall.org, "The Apartheid Wall" (Fact sheet)

2. antiwar.com/hachoen/?articleid=796, "Palestinian Enslavement Entering a
New Phase" Hacohen, Ran, 5/24/02

3. www.jatonyc.org/eric/gates.html, "The Gates of Mah'sa" 7/29/03

4. palestinemonitor.org/factsheet/Fact_Sheet_Poverty.htm, "Poverty"

5. icahd.org, "The Problem with Israel" Halper, Jeff, 11/16/06

6. jpost.com, "Report 12,400 New Settlers 2006" The Jersusalem Post, 2006

7. fmep.org/reports/vol07/no6/03-settlements_
gain_maximum_incentive.html

8. icahd.org/eng/faq.asp?menu=9&submenu=1 (ICAHD, FAQ)

9. palestinemonitor.org/factsheet/Coin%20of%20Empire.htm, "U.S. Aid to
Israel", 7/9/03

10. countercurrents.org/pa-abunimah261006.htm, "World Silent As Fascists Join Israel Government" Abunimah, Ali, 10/26/06

11. palestinemonitor.org/factsheet/US_Aid_to_Israel.htm, "Palestine Fact
Sheets"

12.http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070221/
wl_mideast_afp/ mideastpalestinian_070221190255;_ylt
=AoU2AGIWaL_7Ljp33K71AWZn.3QA

13. http://www.btselem.org (See casualties or 'more statistics') or http://countercurrents.org/pa-abunimah080307.htm

 

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