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37 Years Of Occupation

By Nick Pretzlik

18 March 2004

Thirty-seven years after Israel's military might
rolled into the West Bank and Gaza the occupation of
these Palestinian territories continues. Thirty-seven
years of death and destruction, thirty-seven years of
illegal settlement building, thirty-seven years of
brutality and Palestinian dispossession and still the
world averts its eyes. It is the longest occupation of
one country by another in modern times; an occupation,
which has involved Israel in dozens of violations of
UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.
And still many casual observers assume the conflict is
asymmetrical. They adopt pious neutrality rather than
mount a serious attempt to understand what is

Neutrality and lack of engagement on the
Palestinian/Israeli issue are luxuries we cannot
afford. It is not acceptable for Western societies to
remain aloof while Palestinians are ethnically
cleansed from their land and social genocide is
implemented. With all the information in the public
domain, it is surprising such attitudes persist -
particularly with the conflict central to the Global
War on Terror. No other issue so enrages the Islamic
world. Today that anger affects us all.

When people in the UK talk blandly of 'reconciliation'
between Palestinians and Israelis, it is either an
indication of indifference or a tacit admission of
ignorance about Israel's territorial and demographic
intentions - intentions conceived in the closing
stages of the nineteenth century and given life in
1947 when the state of Israel was born. The
implementation of those intentions is a process, which
for half a century has made the lives of Palestinians
living in the West Bank and Gaza intolerable - the
apartheid years in South Africa were a picnic by
comparison. However, Zionists have never kept their
aims secret. From Ben Gurion onwards they have made
clear that the principle objective is to 'redeem' the
Holy Land. 'Redemption' is the name of their game. It
is a policy, with which Palestinians can never be
expected to reconcile themselves.

According to Zionist doctrine, land that is possessed
collectively or individually by Jews is "redeemed".
The war of 1948 left 22% of Palestine in non-Jewish
hands and it remained the duty of Zionists to complete
the unfinished business. The war of 1967 provided an
opportunity for further Judaization and, currently,
American omnipotence provides yet another window.

The redemption agenda in the West Bank and Gaza is
underwritten with almost limitless US political,
economic and military support. But even so - according
to Israeli peace activist Uri Avneri (in Ur Shlonsky
2002) - three conditions must be satisfied in order to
guarantee a successful conclusion.

· Palestinian resistance must be broken
· Public support must be ensured and the active
participation by at least a section of Israeli society
needs to be counted on operationally
· International criticism must be silenced

In respect of the first condition Uri Avneri outlines
four necessary tactics:

1) Continuous military operations: Palestinian society
as a whole should be targeted including all political
parties and movements. The civilian population must be
terrorised and property and cultural treasures
2) Expulsions: The daily lives of Palestinians must be
made unbearable. This will encourage immigration and
weaken resistance to future expulsions.
3) The elimination of the Palestinian political class
by assassination, detention or expulsion.
4) The continued expansion of settlement activity and
redemption of the land.

These tactics are implicit in everything Israel is
doing in the Occupied Territories. What is surprising,
however, is that all of these actions are highly
visible and yet the international community does
nothing to stop them. Over two hundred illegal Israeli
settlements and four hundred thousand settlers are now
in situ. Along with settler only roads and military
areas they account for over 75% of occupied West Bank
and Gaza and are responsible for the consumption of
more than 80% of the renewable water resources. The
fact that under the Fourth Geneva Convention it is
illegal for an occupying power to transfer civilians
into occupied territory or introduce permanent changes
that do not benefit the occupied population is
ignored. If any other country behaved in the way
Israel treats the Palestinian population, there would
be an international outcry. Sanctions, a trade
boycott, even military intervention would be called
for. Instead the plea goes out for "reconciliation" or
worse still the world looks the other way.

What Israel failed to foresee in its redemption
planning was the resilience of Palestinian resolve,
the strong sense of nationhood and the robustness of
Palestinian society. In recent years Palestinians have
not packed their bags and left in large numbers and,
although further forced mass transfer - a euphemism
for ethnic cleansing - remains an option for Israel,
it is an option the authorities prefer to avoid, given
the galvanising effect it would have on world opinion.

Meanwhile the extended nature of the occupation
undermines and corrodes Israeli society. Israel is
highly militarised and everyone - men and women -
serve as conscripts in the armed forces. The brutality
of their actions and the effect those actions have on
conscripts has leeched into the wider community and
corrupted society as a whole. The lofty ideals of the
original immigrants have been supplanted by racism,
anger and fear and unsustainable material ambitions.

Palestinians cannot be expected to reconcile
themselves to the redemption agenda and, until Israel
demonstrates unequivocally that the Zionist goal of a
Jewish state from the Jordan River to the sea has been
abandoned, 'reconciliation'- for Palestinians - is off
the menu. Not only will Palestinian resistance
continue interminably, but Islamic anger around the
globe will be enflamed.

The Palestinian/ Israeli conflict is not asymmetrical
- Israel possesses one of the most powerful military
machines in the world, Palestinians light arms, stones
and homemade bombs. And it is certainly not a conflict
that can be ignored. The despair and horror of suicide
bombers has made that abundantly clear. We are all