Not Gonna Happen!
By Tanya Reinhart
16 November, 2004
A talk at the
Euro/Palestine concert, Paris, November 6, 2004
gather here at difficult times, when it seems that the Palestinian cause
has been almost eliminated from the international agenda. The Western
world is hailing the new "peace vision" of Sharon's disengagement
plan. The day this plan passed in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) last
week was hailed by Le Monde as a historical day. Who would pay attention
to the two line news piece that on that same day, the Israeli army killed
16 Palestinians in Khan-Yunes?
It is pretty much
known even in the West that Sharon's plan is not about ending the occupation.
With regard to the Gaza strip, the disengagement plan published in the
Israeli papers on Friday, April 16, specifies that "Israel will
supervise and guard the external envelope on land, will maintain exclusive
control in the air space of Gaza, and will continue to conduct military
activities in the sea space of the Gaza Strip". In other words,
the Palestinians will be imprisoned from all sides, with no connection
to the world, except through Israel. Israel also reserves for itself
the right to act militarily inside the Gaza strip. In return for this
"concession", Israel would be permitted to complete the wall
and to maintain the situation in the West Bank as is. The innovation
in the Bush-Sharon agreement that approved this plan is that this is
not a proposal awaiting the approval of the Palestinian people. Now
the Palestinians are not even asked. It is Israel and the U.S. who are
determining the facts on the ground. Israel marks the land that it desires,
and builds a wall on that route.
For those who oppose
Israeli occupation, it is clear, then, that Sharon's disengagement is
just a plan for maintaining the occupation with more international legitimacy.
However, there is one presupposition shared in all discussions of this
plan - that in the process, Sharon also intends to dismantle the settlements
of the Gaza strip, and return the land they are built on to the Palestinians.
I should say that had I believed this might happen, I would have supported
the plan. The Gaza settlements, together with their land reserves, security
zones, Israeli-only roads, and the military array protecting them, occupy
almost a third of the strip's land, which is one of the most densely
populated areas of the world. Had this land been returned to its owners,
it would be a step forward. We should never forget that the Palestinian
struggle is not only for their liberation, but for regaining their lands
in the occupied territories - lands that Israel has been appropriating
since 67. As long as the Palestinians manage to hold on to their land,
under even the worst occupation, they will eventually also gain their
liberation. Without land, what is at stake is not just their liberation,
but their survival.
But what basis is
there to believe that Sharon indeed plans to dismantle settlements at
some point? Certainly not the content of the resolution passed by the
Israeli Knesset on October 26 - the day that has been depicted by Israeli
and virtually all Western media as a "historical" day with
"dramatic" resolution. In fact, the Israeli parliament voted
to approve "the revised disengagement plan", which was previously
approved in another "historical meeting" of the Israeli Cabinet,
on June 6, 2004. So it is appropriate to check what was actually approved
at that Cabinet meeting.
headlines on June 7 declared "Disengagement on its way". But
here are the smaller letters in the body of the report:
"At the end of a dramatic cabinet meeting yesterday, the government
passed Ariel Sharon's revised disengagement plan, by a vote of 14-7,
but the decision does not allow for the dismantling of settlements and
the prime minister will have to go back to the cabinet when he actually
wants to begin the evacuation process. ...The decision on the evacuation
of settlements will be brought to the government at the end of a preparation
period... [that] would end next March 1" ( Aluf Benn, Gideon Alon,
and Nathan Guttmanm, Ha'aretz, June 7, 2004).
Elsewhere in that
paper it is explained that " there was no approval of actual evacuations...
A second government discussion would be held in this regard, 'taking
into account the circumstances at the time' " (Aluf Benn, Ha'aretz,
June 7, 2004). The only thing the Israeli government, followed now by
the Israeli Knesset, have approved, then, is to have a discussion of
the idea of dismantling Gaza settlements sometime next year. It was
also decided that in the meanwhile, building and development in the
Gaza settlements may continue: "The approved plan ensures 'support
for the needs of daily life' in settlements slated for evacuation. Bans
on construction permits and leasing of lands were also removed from
the prime minister's proposal" (ibid). And indeed, on the ground,
slots of land are still being leased (for ridiculously cheap prices)
to Israelis who wish to settle in Gaza, and building permits are granted
by a special committee appointed by the government in the same "dramatic"
meting on June 6.(1)
Still, none of these
facts were registered in public consciousness. The actual content of
the cabinet decision was reported only once - on that same day - and
then disappeared from the papers that keep recycling the stories about
its heroic significance. Precisely the same happened in the present
round. The fact that the Knesset has only voted to approve "the
amended disengagement plan" that contains no decision to dismantle
settlements was reported in the Israeli media:
Knesset members voting tonight on the disengagement plan have received
a copy of the "amended disengagement law" the cabinet passed
on June 6, plus appendices containing the principles of the plan and
its implementation... According to the compromise negotiated at the
time... the cabinet decision "contains nothing to evacuate settlements."
To remove any doubt in this regard, the cabinet decision also states
that "after the conclusion of preparatory work, the cabinet will
reconvene to separately debate and decide whether or not to evacuate
settlements, which settlements, and at what speed, in consideration
of circumstances at that time. (Yuval Yoaz, Ha'aretz, Oct 26, 2004)
But again, this information appeared only once or twice, buried underneath
bold headlines that even compared Sharon to Churchill. This is how a
myth is built.
for how serious the evacuation intentions are is the issue of compensations
for the evacuated settlers. Since the cabinet's decision in June, many
of the Gaza settlers began inquiring, directly or through hired lawyers,
how and when they can be compensated. Behind the noisy protest of the
settlers' leadership, many are relieved to be able to finally leave,
and are just waiting for the compensations. Anybody intending seriously
to evacuate them, would start by compensating first those who are ready
to leave immediately, leaving only the ideological minority to be evacuated
forcefully. Indeed, for five months, since the cabinet's decision in
June, both the settlers and the Israeli public believe that this is
about to happen any moment now. Again, a faith with no basis. Special
committees have worked with much publicity on every detail of the compensation
plan. Many believe this was finally approved by the Knesset on November
4. Only in the small letters of what actually happened one can learn
that the compensation law has passed only its preliminary first hearing
(reading). In principle, the second and third hearing could take place
within few weeks, but it was clarified in advance that the second reading
will take place only after the government decides on actual evacuation,
in March 2005, or later (Yosi Verter, Ha'aretz, Oct 8, 2004.) Till then,
no one will be compensated. As Aluf Ben summarized this, "the Knesset
will vote in the first reading of the Implementation of the Disengagement
Plan Law, which authorizes the government to evacuate settlements and
compensate those evacuated. Then there will be debates in the committees,
and a second and third reading... and the law could be blocked at any
stage" (Ha'aretz, Oct 27, 2004).
the details of what was actually decided didn't even make it into the
news once, and all that is repeated over and over again in the Western
media is the propaganda produced by the Israeli political system - headlines
from which one could infer that the dismantling of settlements is around
the corner. Thus, the political debate around Sharon's plan concentrates
only around whether it is good enough. The possibility that this is
just another Israeli deceit does not even arise. And if you try to bring
it up, you are perceived as having landed from the moon, as has happened
to me in several European media interviews.
Deception and lies
have been a corner stone in Israeli policy, brought to a new level of
perfection since Oslo. While the world believed that Rabin promised
to eventually end the occupation and dismantle the settlements, the
number of Israeli settlers actually doubled during his rule. At the
same time that Barak declared he intends to dismantle the Golan Heights
settlements, in 1999, he actually poured money into their expansion.
As Sharon promised to dismantle at least the illegal settlement posts
in the West Bank, their number kept increasing. Still, none of this
is ever remembered. Each new lie is received with welcome cheers by
the Israeli peace camp, and by European governments. Since Oslo, every
Israeli government knows that all it takes, to ease diplomatic pressure,
is to come up with a new "peace plan".
The ritual repeats
itself with each new "plan" of this sort. The crucial factor
in convincing the world that this time "it is for real" is
right wing protest. Of course when the government comes up with a new
scheme of deception, the right wing and settlers believe it as well.
Rabin's deceit has cost him his life. The same threats are now being
directed at Sharon. This is sufficient to convince the Israeli peace
camp that Sharon is determined to dismantle settlements. Even serious
anti-occupation thinkers write articles warning of the danger of "civil
war" with the settlers (forgetting that for this to be even remotely
possible, someone should try indeed to evacuate them first). The implication
is almost unavoidable: In view of this coming civil war, Sharon is our
leader. We should all unite behind him, against the dark forces in Israel.
Indeed, this massive
Israeli propaganda works. Throughout the Western world, Sharon is now
depicted as a messenger of peace, because he has declared that he is
willing to evacuate some of the territories. All of a sudden, Sharon
is viewed as the sane center of Israel, withstanding right wing pressure.
The prevailing perception is that Israel is finally led by a man of
peace, with a respectable determination to carry out painful concessions.
And as long as this is the perspective, Sharon can do whatever he wants.
The Israeli army terrorizes the Gaza strip. dozens of Palestinians are
being killed, including children on their way to school, houses are
demolished and agricultural land destroyed. At the time of operation
Defensive Shield" in the West Bank and Jenin refugee camp
two years ago, there was substantial world protest. The last operation
Days of Penitence" in the Jabalia camp in the Gaza strip
has hardly received any coverage. Backed by the U.S., Sharon is realizing
with frightening efficiency his long-standing vision of evicting the
maximum number of Palestinians from their land. In the spirit of Orwell,
it was even explained that one of the aims of "Days of Pertinence"
is to "expand the security zones" around the Gaza settlements
(namely to enlarge their lands, pushing more Palestinians out of these
lands), in order to guarantee that when they are evacuated, it would
not be "under fire". (Aluf Ben, Ha'aretz, Oct 4, 2004). But
Europe looks the other way, reassured of Sharon's new vision of peace.
These are difficult
days, when Orwell seems to pale, compared to the power of present day
propaganda, when it seems that the European governments are immovable
in their support of Israel, no matter what crimes it commits; and the
Palestinians are dying slowly, with their suffering not even being reported.
But in such times, when governments are unwilling to impose international
law, the people of the world can still take matters in their hands.
Largely unreported, there is a growing on-going joint struggle of Palestinians,
Israelis and internationals from the International Solidarity Movement,
who stand daily in front of the army and the settlers in the Palestinian
territories, in non-violent, peaceful protest, documenting the crime,
protecting as much of the land as they can, and slowing down Sharon's
massive work of destruction. For the first time in the history of the
occupation, we are seeing joint Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Along
with Israel of the army and the settlers, a new Israel-Palestine is
scenery of the West Bank has been sliced up by the new roads that the
rulers have built for their own exclusive use. Beneath them lie the
old roads of the vanquished. There, on the lower level, is where the
other Israel-Palestine treads. For almost two years, Israeli youths
arrive in settlement buses and then make their way on foot and in Palestinian
taxis among the checkpoints. They trek between the villages in groups
or alone. Some sleep in the villages. Others will travel the same route
the next day to reach the demonstration. Everywhere they go they are
greeted with blessings and beaming faces. "Tfaddalu," the
children in the doorways say, as if they had never heard of stone-throwing.
All along the "seam line" in the West bank, along the root
of the wall, the Palestinians have opened their hearts and their homes
to the Israelis and internationals who come to support their non-violent
resistance to the wall and the occupation robbing them of their land.
These days, hundreds of Israelis are going almost daily to the West
Bank to protect the Palestinian olive harvest from the settlers, who,
protected by the Israeli army, try to prevent the harvest.
What has brought
young Israelis to stand with the Palestinians in front of the army is
the conviction that there is a basic line of justice that must not be
crossed, that there is a law that is higher than the army's laws of
closed military zones: there is international law, which forbids ethnic
cleansing, and there is the law of conscience. But what makes them return,
day after day, is the new covenant that has been struck between the
peoples of this land, a pact of fraternity and friendship between Israelis
and Palestinians who love life, the land, the evening breeze. They know
that it is possible to live differently on this land.
This daily struggle
is our hope. It has become possible with the help of individuals from
all over the world who come there to join the new form of resistance.
They are facing harassment. Many are being stopped and deported, but
they still keep coming. As long as more people come, even for a short
time, as long as they are backed and supported by many others at home
who could not join in yet, the struggle will go on, offering hope where
(1). E.g.: " Yesterday, press photographers were invited in to
take a picture of the first session of the committee to deal with the
construction in the [Gaza] settlements, headed by PMO Director General
Ilan Cohen. The committee is meant to examine the issue of construction
and other development projects in settlements that are designated for
evacuation. Cohen says Sharon told him 'not to compromise over security
needs'. Gaza Regional Council Chairman Avner Shimoni won approval for
26 bullet-proofed buildings in Gush Katif. The new buildings are meant
for residences, and school rooms are meant for Kfar Darom, Netzarim
and Neveh Dekalim. So far, some 350 development projects have been submitted
to the committee" (Aluf Benn and Nir Hason, Ha'aretz, July 27,