But Unequal In Palestine:
The Road To Apartheid
the eve of the meeting intended to restart negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinians at Annapolis, Maryland, Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert announced that Israel will build no new West Bank settlements,
but will not "strangle" existing Israel settlements. This
means that construction in the 149 existing Israeli settlements throughout
the West Bank that are strangling Palestinians, including the settlements
on our village's land, will continue unchecked. Olmert's cynical announcement
underlines our fear that Israel, with US support, will insist on retaining
most West Bank settlements in the upcoming negotiations, locking Palestinians
into a "separate but unequal" position.
States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visited the Middle
East a few weeks ago, people from our small village of Bil'in
joined neighboring villages to send her a message. We protested peacefully
against a West Bank highway near us that is reserved for Jewish Israeli
settlers, and off-limits to Palestinians, though it was built on Palestinian
land. Our banner read: "Condi, What would Rosa Parks do?"
We know that
Dr. Rice experienced the bitter taste of discrimination growing up in
the South during the US civil rights struggle. In Bil'in, we've drawn
inspiration from the US civil rights movement as we've carried out a
three year nonviolent
resistance campaign against the discriminatory policies
of Israel's military occupation.
Dr. Rice's admiration for the courage of Rosa Parks who was arrested
in Alabama, Rice's home state, for refusing to give her bus seat to
a white man. As Palestinians we aren't even allowed in buses on many
roads in our own country, because 200 miles of the best West Bank roads
are reserved for Israeli Jewish settlers.1 The color of Palestinian
license plates is different from the licenses of Israelis. Palestinian
plates are not allowed on most of the highways crisscrossing the West
Bank, many of which were built with US government funding. Palestinians
have been banned for five years now from Highway 443 where we protested.
to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA), there are 561 physical obstacles and checkpoints inside the
West Bank restricting Palestinian movement within the West Bank2, in
comparison with only eight checkpoints which separate the West Bank
from Israel proper. Nearly all the obstacles and checkpoints are located
along the West Bank roads reserved for Israelis. This makes getting
to the hospital, school and work or visiting relatives painstakingly
difficult or impossible for us. This fragmentation of the West Bank
has devastated our economy.
accepting a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on just 22% of our
historic homeland was already a dramatic compromise. But President Bush
promised Israel in 2004 that in any negotiated agreement with the Palestinians
Israel would retain its "already existing major population centers"
in the West Bank.
all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. By annexing
to Israel strategically located clusters of settlements, or "settlement
blocs", and their highways which carve Palestinian areas into isolated
enclaves, Israel will gain permanent control of our movement, borders,
water, and cut us off from Jerusalem.
organization Peace Now reported a few weeks ago that the population
growth rate in the settlements is three times the growth rate within
Israel.3 We're experiencing such rapid settlement construction around
Bil'in and throughout the West Bank that I can't even find an accurate
map of the West Bank for my son.
Israeli developers began building settlement homes on land seized from
Bil'in, calling them a neighborhood of the Modi'in Illit settlement
bloc. Four years later, Israel's segregation wall separated Bil'in from
50% of our agricultural land under the pretext of protecting this new
settlement. In response, we held over 200 nonviolent protests together
with Israeli and international supporters. Hundreds of us were injured
and arrested. After our protests, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that
the wall's route in Bil'in must be changed to return around half of
our seized land. Though we celebrated this success, Israel continues
to build on our land that wasn't returned and plans to annex it as part
of the Modi'in Illit settlement bloc.4
already de facto annexed the 10.2% of the West Bank that lies between
the Green Line and the segregation wall, including the major settlement
blocs and 80% of Israel's 450,000 settlers. The segregation wall, settlements
and settlement roads carve Palestinian areas into isolated
We pray that
our children will not spend their lives under Israeli military occupation.
We hope that the Annapolis meeting will bring our dreams of freedom
closer to fulfillment. But we are concerned that if Israel is allowed
to keep most of its settlements and the roads that connect them, then
the existing system of "separate but unequal" will be cemented
in place in a Palestinian state.
Khatib is a leading member of Bilin's Popular Committee Against the
Wall and the secretary of its village council.
roads: The discriminatory West Bank road regime, B'Tselem.
Closure Update: October 2007, The UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs.
Bank settlements 'expanding' BBC, 7 November 2007.
 One Palestinian
Village Struggles Against Israel's Ever-Expanding "Settlements",
Alternet, 26 September 2007.
Share Your Insights
it! And spread the word!
Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands
of people more. You just Digg it, and it will appear in the home page
of Digg.com and thousands more will read it. Digg is nothing but an
vote, the article with most votes will go to the top of the page. So,
as you read just give a digg and help thousands more to read this article.