Occupation Of Palestine
By Max Kantar
26 March, 2007
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
The Reality of a
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.
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'
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
"The Apartheid Wall" (Fact sheet)
"Palestinian Enslavement Entering a
New Phase" Hacohen, Ran, 5/24/02
"The Gates of Mah'sa" 7/29/03
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
"U.S. Aid to
"World Silent As Fascists Join Israel Government" Abunimah,
(See casualties or 'more statistics') or http://countercurrents.org/pa-abunimah080307.htm
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