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what is Israel doing wrong?(18 posts)

what is Israel doing wrong?weiwentg
Jun 2, 2002 5:05 AM
Palestinian Enslavement Entering a New Phase

The Israeli far-right – always the best indicator of Israel's true intentions – is quite outspoken: its aim is to make Palestinian life unbearable to a point that they would rather get up and go. Asked about his conception of "voluntary transfer" of Palestinians, Minister of Tourism (Rabbi) Benny Eylon compared the "voluntary" element to that of a Jewish husband who refused a rabbinical order to divorce his wife. Since rabbinical court cannot undo the marriage without the husband's consent, it should use force – excommunicate the obstinate husband, slash him, jail him etc. – until he "voluntarily" agrees to divorce. This is how the Palestinians should be "voluntarily" made to leave. And obviously, as long as they do not leave – because they cannot or will not – they should be struggling to survive rather than resist their oppression.

A New Draconian Measure

Analysing the Israeli oppression is a like playing chess with the devil: the evil minds behind the occupation are always two steps ahead of you. What was the real aim of "Operation Defence Shield"?

The official pretext – "dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism" – cannot be taken too seriously. Now that resumed suicide bombings have to be explained, military experts suddenly claim that the simple equipment of the suicide bombers hardly needs any infrastructure at all. The further expansion of the settlements, mentioned in my previous column, is always an aim; "Defence Shield" has undoubtedly given it a great push, with Palestinians too weak and too frightened by the extent of Israeli terror to resist their on-going dispossession.

But Ha'aretz journalist Amira Hass has now reported a new draconian measure imposed on West Bank Palestinians, which may be a real break-through that "Defence Shield" was aiming at:

"The Israeli army has been tightening its grip on movement of Palestinians in cities and towns in the West Bank by insisting that they obtain new freedom-of-movement permits from the regional administration to travel from one city to another. [...] Pedestrians, as well as drivers, have been left with one entrance into the area – which can be crossed only after receiving the proper freedom-of-movement permit. [...] [T]he new measures have divided up the area into eight population regions, effectively isolated from one another, with traffic and movement control exercised by the Israel Defence Forces. The eight regions are Jenin, Nablus, Tul Karm, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron."

East Jerusalem, once the economic heart of the West Bank, annexed by Israel and cut off from the rest of the West Bank, can be added as a ninth sealed-off enclave. And whoever believes Gaza is the tenth enclave, is too optimistic: the Strip itself has also been split in two, with the 200.000 residents of Raffah ordered to get a permit to go north.

From Closure to Siege

Curtailing Palestinian freedom of movement has been a central feature of Israeli occupation during the last decade. "Terrorism" has always served as a good excuse for this premeditated policy (and was served by it in turn). Up to 1991, Palestinians were free to move both within the occupied territories and to Israel; in fact, they formed the basis, in terms of cheap labour force, of Israeli economy. It was during the Gulf War that Israel for the first time closed its territory to Palestinians. The 1990's, especially the Oslo period since 1994, saw a gradual routinisation of this measure, for which the euphemistic term "closure" was introduced. At the same time, massive import of cheap labour force from Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa replaced Palestinian workers. In 1996, the notorious "internal closure" was introduced, later known by the Hebrew euphemism "keter" (original meaning: "crown"!), correctly translated as "siege": cutting Palestinian towns and villages from each other. Since October 2000, Palestinians are
Jun 2, 2002 5:06 AM
Since October 2000, Palestinians are no longer given permits to enter Israel, and the closure policy has turned into a strangling siege.

Thus, step by step, Palestinians have been dispossessed and surrounded by settlements, military camps, by-pass roads and checkpoints, squeezed into sealed-off enclaves. Palestinian towns are besieged by tanks and armed vehicles blocking all access roads. West Bank villages too are surrounded by road blocks, preventing the movement of vehicles in and out: three successive mounds of rubble and earth, approximately 6 feet high, with 100 metre gaps between them. All residents wishing to move in an out of the village – old or young, sick or well, pregnant or not – have to climb over the slippery mounds.

At present, this policy seems to have been perfected to an extent that it can be further institutionalised by long-term bureaucracy: a permit system, considerably worse than the "pass laws" imposed on blacks in Apartheid South Africa.

The severity with which the restrictions on movement are imposed was demonstrated again this week, when, in two different incidents, Israeli soldiers shot dead innocent Palestinians in the vicinity of road blocks. Since both Palestinians were Israeli citizens, the army "regretted" their killing; otherwise the incidents might have been dismissed as "self defence" or whatever. But the army made its point: movement in the occupied territories is an exclusive privilege of Jewish settlers. All other people – the local residents and their visitors – may pay for it with their lives. "Regret" or not, Israeli terror prevails.

Impoverishing the Palestinians

The damage to the Palestinians as a nation is obvious. Nation building often means political unification of territory: think of Italy or Germany. Israel is imposing on the Palestinians the very reversed process, hoping to reduce them into numerous separate groups with no collective interests, consciousness and institutions. The human catastrophy too is not hard to imagine: any movement outside your enclave becomes a tedious project, to say the least: going to school or university in a neighbouring town, moving patients or medical staff, not to mention "luxuries" like visiting friends or family.

But the economic side is just as essential. While travelling thousands of miles in the United States and in united Europe is free, Israel is putting towns and villages individually under siege, dividing the West Bank into nine separate "cantons" (Swiss tranquillity aside). The entire West Bank is about 130 km long, never more than 50 km wide, its eastern third a desert. Jenin is just 25 km away from Nablus; Tul Karm is 15km away from Qalqilya; and Bethlehem is just a few hundred metres away from East-Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip is about 50 km long and just a few km wide, and has been cut in two. The Israeli travel permits are valid from 5:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M., and must be renewed every month.

Amira Hass adds:

"Under the new system, goods can be transported within the territories only using a 'back-to-back system' in which a truck goes to a certain location where goods are unloaded to another awaiting truck, which then carries the merchandise further."

Imagine doing business (or just providing for a village) under such circumstances. There are reports of big price differences between towns: one town is flooded with cheap vegetables, in the other town vegetables are rare and expensive.

Real income pro capita in the occupied territories has been proved inversely proportional to the number of closure days. Compared to 1994, income per capita was dropping 15% up to 1996, while closure periods were rising towards 80 days a year. In the relatively quiet Netanyahu years, 1996-1999, days of closure were declining towards zero in 1999, with income per capita on the rise, almost reaching the 1994-level. With Barak elected in 1999 and provoking the Intifada a year later, the tide turned once aga
Jun 2, 2002 5:09 AM
With Barak elected in 1999 and provoking the Intifada a year later, the tide turned once again. 2001 saw a record of 210 days of closure; Palestinian income level now lost 30% on its 1994-level. 2002 will be worse.

In September 2000, 600.000 of about 3 million Palestinians were defined as poor, living on less than $2 a day. At the end of 2001, the number of poor reached 1.5 million – half the population. After "Operation Defence Shield", it is estimated that 75% of the Palestinians have reached poverty.

So the main measure to subjugate Palestinians is not war, but closure and siege. This is why Israel is so anxious to institutionalise it. World Bank experts estimate the damage caused to Palestinian economy by Israeli military attacks at $305 million in the first 15 months of the present Intifada (up to "Defence Shield"). The damage caused by closure and siege during the same time is estimated at $2,4 billion. (Ha'aretz, 19.5.02.)

To Sum Up

Having pushed the Palestinians out of its labour market, Israel is now institutionalising their long-term seal-off in besieged enclaves by a system of "permits". It counts on the world community – "the donor states" – to finance the intentionally impoverished people through the Palestinian Authority. This dirty game must be exposed. As the "permit system" demonstratees, Israel is clearly the effective force ruling the occupied territories, and thus solely responsible for their welfare. It must stop the systematic destruction of Palestinian economy and society. Freedom of movement is a basic right; due to its disastrous human, political and economic implications, Israel's policy of curtailing this freedom should be fought against at top priority.

I say that anyone who supports Israel over the Palestinians had better wake up. this is one story; there are others. for instance, Sharon orchestrated the invasion of Lebanon. In several cases, Israeli forces surrounded refugee camps, and allowed Lebanese Christians to massacre Palestinian refugees. He should be in that International Criminal Court that BV hates so much ... but of course the US and Israel would protect him. The Israeli government has always encouraged settlers to form colonies inside Palestinian territory. This gives them a claim to Palestinian land, and makes the peace process that much harder. oh, and this is also a form of colonization.
Very insightful reading. thanks!AllisonHayes
Jun 3, 2002 7:02 AM
I had no idea that Israel was employing a gulag strangulation strategy. Even last fall when I attended a Palestinian led discussion that provided both a historical and current perspective on the situation, this was not brought up.

Does the Israeli right truly have a goal of making "Palestinian life unbearable to a point that they would rather get up and go?" Or, is this isolation and restriction strategy a necessary, albeit extreme, measure?

When the Ottoman empire was broken up, artificial boundaries were created. These newly-created Arab states somehow managed to co-exist even though their boundaries were largely an artifice, a pure manifestations of western interests and oil gerrymandering. The formation of Israel was yet another artifice added in 1948.

The Palestinians have no where to go. The other Arab countries do not want them. I doubt that Israel will give up its claim; and the Palestinians will not accept living under the conditions to which they are currently subjected.

The result is oppression, bloodshed and emnity. What will be the future? What is the definition of insanity: "expecting to get different results when you keep doing the same thing."

The Arab and Muslim world is replete with division and disunity. If Palestinian independence should ever be achieved, would Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states to foot the bill for rebuilding the Palestinian economy?

The Middle East is a bitter and complex labyrinth of religion, history, prejudice and culture; the Western world is steeped in short-sighted foreign policy protecting massive oil-interests. The resentment that has built up against America in the Arab and Muslim world is now being played out on a global stage.

It appears that we are in a downward spiral that nothing short of catastrophe will change. The kind of catastrophe that will drag the entire world into the maelstrom.

A clarion bell has sounded: the world needs a wakeup call because we are racing headlong into disaster. It seems that peace will only be discussed after war has become the only option.
Palestinian & Isreali Civil War.Len J
Jun 3, 2002 7:44 AM
I heard an interview with a gentleman (I can't remember his name but he was apulitzer winning author who lives in the Middle east) who said that there would never be peace until both the Palastinians & the Isreali's had a civil war. He contended that both were being held hostage by extremists and that the majority of the populations of both groups wanted peace. The Isreali exteremist were the settlers on the West Bank & Gaza as well as the Hrd Line Consrvatives. The Palastinian extremist were the Hamas & Arafat led groups. Both groups Leadership were deathly afraid of the extremist raction to peace overtures (Sadat's fate was used as an example of what risking peace entailed). He felt like until the Isreali majority confronted the minority of extremist & until the Palastian majority confronted the minority of extremist, there would never be Peace.

His argument passed the Gut test for me. I believe that there is truth in what he said.

Both sides are being held captive (By thier own people) and until one or both decide that enough is enough, nothing will change.

re: what is Israel doing wrong?BikeViking at home
Jun 2, 2002 6:21 AM
Israel is such an easy target. The Arabs, could have given this land to the "Palestinians" anytime between 1948 and 1967, but they did not. Again we ignore that King Hussein had no patience for Palestinians either, as he was instrumental inthe death of thousands of them (Black September). Too bad he's dead, otherwise we could try him alongside Ariel Sharon for the "slaughter" of Palestinians.

Israel has done some things that are dead wrong, like the the refugee camp at Shatilla(sp). But when you look at the climate they live in, it's a real suprise they haven't been MORE brutal. When Israel was given their land in 1948, what did the Arabs do? Delcare war!

THis blaming Israel for the evils of the Middle East gets tiresome. No on EVER metions the Arabs for their complicity is this HUGE problem.
re: what is Israel doing wrong?weiwentg
Jun 2, 2002 9:16 AM
well, you have mentioned the complicity of the Arabs. and you are correct, they are equally to blame. I do not think, however, that the US media mentions what the Israelis have done. and it's not only some things, it's a lot of things.
as I posted below, the situation regarding the Israeli declaration of independence is not as simple as you said.

After the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain administered several Ottoman Arab territories, Palestine included. Great Britain supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland there. Large scale immigration occurred from 1922 to 1947, but Palestinians resisted. They also demanded independence, and both sides were guilty of violence.
In 1947, Great Britain brought the problem before the United Nations. Resolution 181 (II) by the U.N. General Assembly specified independent Arab and Jewish states, which were to form an economic union, and with Jerusalem under international authority. The Jewish state would have approximately 60% of the territory occupied by the present day Israel.
However, the Jews proclaimed independence, forming the nation of modern day Israel. In the war of 1948, Israel conquered 77% of Palestine, and most of Jerusalem. Over half the indigenous Palestinians fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt occupied the remaining Palestinian territory. In the 1967 war, Israel conquered the remainder of this land, and generated another Palestinian exodus. Jewish settlers began moving into the occupied territories. Security Council resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the territories it had seized. On 22 November, 1974, the U.N. recognized the rights of the Palestinians to independence, sovereignty, and also recognized their right of return.

I wrote that synopsis; I gathered most of the data from a UN website. you say that the Arabs could have given the land to the Palestinians between 1948 and 1967; this would seem not to be the case. and anyway, whatever King Hussein did not do for the Palestinians has no bearing on their rights to live in peace and dignity.
what I find tiresome is the US government's defense and support of Israel. but then again, I am not surprised. before the Gulf War, the US defended Iraq, and turned a blind eye to his slaughter of the Kurds. with poison gas, no less. it is quite sad, but not at all surprising.
oh, and don't put inverted commas around the word Palestinians. it seems to indicate a lack of respect for them. if I were to put inverted commas around the word Israelis in the same context, I would likely be branded an anti-Semite. which, of course, I am not.
re: what is Israel doing wrong?BikeViking at home
Jun 2, 2002 2:23 PM
I have no problems with your represtation of the history of the region...WHat irks me is that the Arabs were attacking Israel from its inception, looking to drive them completely out. The Israleis have been attacked by Arabs every time except 1967 (this was a preemptive strike to known Arab attack plans) and 1982 (Northern Irael was getting pounded by artillery/rockets until the invaded). Any of that land they took was annexed by them to provide a buffer between them and the Arabs. When the Arabs attack a nation (Israel), and lose, the expectation is that you will lose terriorty as well unless you enter a MEANINGFUL peace treaty. The Egyptians and the Israelis worked out a deal for the Sinai, but it cost Sadat his life. I would have a little more respect for the Palestinians if they were attacking the IDF, but they are killing women and children which is wrong.
re: what is Israel doing wrong?weiwentg
Jun 2, 2002 3:06 PM
> When the Arabs attack a nation (Israel), and lose, the expectation is that you will lose terriorty

not according to the Geneva conventions. nations are not allowed to gain territory by conquest. you could check - I don't have the exact chapter, but I studied this stuff in the military.

> WHat irks me is that the Arabs were attacking Israel from its inception, looking to drive them completely out

this is true. then again, the Jews did move in against their wishes. violence was not, of course, the solution, and the Jews do deserve a homeland. both sides should have stuck to the original UN mandate, but perhaps it was unrealistic to expect either side to, considering the long-standing hatred between both sides.

> I would have a little more respect for the Palestinians if they were attacking the IDF, but they are killing women and children which is wrong.

I agree. however, Israel is strangling them economically (as we have read). and Israel is engaged in a process of colonization. I can understand why they do it - it is much harder to take on the IDF.
of course, both of us agree that their attacks on civilians are not the solution. most probably all of us here do.
they are both wrongColnagoFE
Jun 3, 2002 8:20 AM
this is what happens when politics and organized religion mix and become inseparable. you spend thousands of years fighting over what is little more than a pathch of desert. very say all around.
Twisting the knifemr_spin
Jun 3, 2002 7:00 AM
What they are doing wrong is trying to settle the lands they have captured in the various wars. Building settlements out on the West Bank as fast as they can guarantees that they will never give that land "back" to the Palestinians (or Jordan).

Furthermore, building settlements close to Palestinian enclaves, as some are in Gaza, has no value other than pissing them off. Because of the threat, the Israeli settlements become walled, armed camps, and all the Palestinians who live nearby are subjected to checkposts, searches, etc. Not fun, and not endearing.

This pretty much guarantees that the problems will continue indefinitely. Especially since the Israelis who do settle out there tend to be more extreme. I'll back Israel on most issues, but it is a joke for them to talk of peace but continue to build settlements. And they won't ever do the politically suicidal thing of pulling out the settlers. Congratulations, you've just won 50 more years of war!
Twisting the knifeBikeViking
Jun 3, 2002 9:29 AM
I think Golda Meir said something that actually applies.

"The Arabs will stop trying to kill us when they love their children more than they hate us".

I may have paraphrased, but you get the point.
Twisting the knifeweiwentg
Jun 3, 2002 3:30 PM
which will happen after Israel finally stops disregarding international opinion, and withdraws its forces and its settlers from Palestinian land. and comes to a reasonable compromise on Jerusalem.
many of the Christians I've met shrug their shoulders and say that the land rightfully belongs to Israel as God gave it to them. the religious Israelis probably say the same thing. I seriously doubt, though, that God is particularly pleased with Israel. perhaps they should give the Palestinans their land and their dignity, and avoid God's wrath in doing so.
Israel is heading towards disaster. the longer they continue to stymie Palestinian freedom, the more hatred will be created. and pretty soon, they will be a numerical minority.
oh, and...weiwentg
Jun 3, 2002 3:33 PM
> "The Arabs will stop trying to kill us when they love their children more than they hate us".

I don't think that's valid. hatred for Israel is great, but not that great. what's with your negative attitude towards the Palestinians, anyway? do you think they're all terrorists? given the images shown on the media, that's excusable, but it's also not correct.
oh, and...Sintesi
Jun 4, 2002 5:41 AM
Isn't the the basic PLO doctirine the complete and utter removal of Israel? Isn't it only in the last 6 months that the Arab states have decided to "recognize" the Israeli state formally on the conditions of recognition of a Palestinian state?

I think there are people on this earth that would still hate the Israelis (Jews) if they moved to the bottom of the ocean.

Do you have any sympathy for these people at all? I mean they were nearly extirminated from the face of the planet. Attacked four times by its Arab neighbors. With this history, if this were your history, how would you react to an openly hostile people bent on extirminating you once again. Maybe you would begin to see red, maybe want to be ruthless and less a victim. Perhaps the Israeli state was a mistake, but it was the UN's mistake, they put it there and now these people have to live together. Weiwentg, I can understand what Israel is doing wrong here, but then again the PLO has failed to take peaceful steps over and over. Israel should w/draw and I believe they will if the PLO and related parties stopped attacking its citizens, the UN became an active police force (I don't think the US can be an honest broker at this point), and the surrounding Arab nations guaranteed Israel's existence.

The real problem now getting these people separated long enough to cool down. The Palestinians have to realize they lost the war, stop the beligerency, and work towards their collective futures. The Sharons and Arafats of the world need to retire.
oh, and...weiwentg
Jun 4, 2002 7:39 AM
> Do you have any sympathy for these people at all?

I ask you the same question: have you any sympathy for the Palestinians? I have sympathy for both sides. my reason for posting this is because Israel tends to get the lion's share of sympathy. no one deserves to be nearly exterminated, but what they are doing to the Palestinians is not far removed from that.

> Israel should w/draw and I believe they will if the PLO and related parties stopped attacking its citizens, the UN became an active police force (I don't think the US can be an honest broker at this point), and the surrounding Arab nations guaranteed Israel's existence.

I agree.

> Isn't the the basic PLO doctirine the complete and utter removal of Israel? Isn't it only in the last 6 months that the Arab states have decided to "recognize" the Israeli state formally on the conditions of recognition of a Palestinian state?

true. but you must remember they've been under occupation for years. do I agree with their doctrine regarding the destruction of Israel? of course not. however, it would seem that, by recognizing Israel's right to existence, they have seen the light, after a fashion. perhaps there is hope, eh?
basically, it existsDougSloan
Jun 4, 2002 5:58 AM
Basically, Isreal's problem is that it exists. It has opponents who hate it. It doesn't help that those opponents are all in and around it. I think as long as it continues to exist the problems will too.

Um.., doesn't this analysis imply one solution?Sintesi
Jun 4, 2002 7:25 AM
Maybe the world didn't have the right to create it in the first place but then considering the climate of those times I'm not sure I would have disagreed with Zionism. Israel is there to stay and this fundamental issue is yet to be acknowledged. There won't be many steps forward until this is resolved permanently.