DevMode
The reasons for the explosion which caused the Intifada of September 28, 2000, were there for all to see, written for years in bold letters on the wall. Nevertheless, the outbreak of violence led most of the Israeli public, and especially the peace camp, to feel a deep sense of humiliation, so deep that for the first month of the Palestinian uprising it looked as if there was nobody to talk to in Israel. The problem was that the Israelis, including the peace camp, had become accustomed to the illusion that peace is possible with settlements. This illusion was shattered with the bloody events of October 2000.
In dealing in the following excerpts1 with the apartheid condition that developed in the occupied Palestinian territories over the last seven years before the situation exploded, I am not saying that "I told you so," but rather making a plea: can there arise in Israel a peace camp that will at once take up the challenge and go back to speaking of peace in terms not only of "security" but also of justice, equality and universal values? Or is it too late?

The Election of Ehud Barak as Prime Minister2

The rejoicing in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square by tens of thousands of young people served as visual proof to the Palestinian Authority that it was correct in its former assumption that the majority of the Israeli public supports peace. However, ever since the Palestinian Authority took over in 1994, these people have been living under the misapprehension that we have got rid of the occupation and left behind a world in which the Palestinians as an occupied people are naturally rebelling. Rather than seeing the unfolding Palestinian reality as it really was, for them it looked as if only Bibi Netanyahu's policies had delayed the liberating process. In effect, Ehud Barak and his coalition would merely be improving the de luxe occupation that has developed in the territories since May 1994, even if it is wrapped in the euphemism of "separation." In Afrikaans, separation is called "apartheid."
The regime of "separation" in Israel has two mainstays: control over the land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and control over the freedom of movement of the Palestinian population. Palestinian land is dissected by settlements, be they small, medium or large, and by massive bypass roads and circular security roads leading to nowhere. The settlement policy, which began immediately after the conquest of the territories in 1967, created the geography on which the Oslo agreements were founded.
This is what defined the "capacity" for Palestinian development: in the Gaza Strip, the north and south are divided by the settlements of the Katif Bloc; the southern part of the West Bank is divided from the north by Jerusalem, both because the Palestinians' entry into Jerusalem has been forbidden since 1993 and because of the constantly expanding settlements of Ma'aleh Adumim, Efrat and the Etzion Bloc; and the northern part of the West Bank is broken up into enclaves by settlements like Ariel, Alfei Menashe, Kedumim and Karnei Shomron, as well as by the systematic expulsion of Bedouins from the lands in the Jordan Valley.
In addition to the geographical fragmentation of the territories, all Israeli governments since 1991, and particularly since 1993, divided up Palestinian society into sub-strata, characterized by their different degrees of mobility. While denying the basic right of freedom of movement to the whole population, the Israeli authorities were generous enough to allocate different amounts of "movement privileges" to various sections of the population, with top priority in the permit system going to the heads of the Palestinian Authority. The separation regime is an invention of neither Bibi Netanyahu, nor of the Likud. Actually, it was perfected during the preceding Labor-Meretz government (1992-96), which turned the official Palestinian representatives into a privileged group, divorced from the people and exploiting to the maximum the enjoyment of economic, cultural and personal benefits inherent in their generous travel permits.
The policies of closure and of demographic fragmentation were harsher in the days of the Labor government (with or without terrorist attacks) and served as a fine means of pressure during the Oslo negotiations. They wore down the Palestinian Authority economically, deepened the alienation between the public and its representatives, and brought to the negotiating table a leadership aware of its weakness in the eyes of its own people and its helplessness in the face of Israeli dictates. Only Netanyahu's personality blurred the fact that the Likud and the Labor governments (and now apparently the Barak government) have different views only as regards the size of the Palestinian enclaves and the territorial continuity between them. However, while the Western governments were in a hurry to criticize Netanyahu, experience shows that they are less prone to criticize a "leftist" Israeli government for the forceful administrative and economic measures which it, too, takes in order to squeeze concessions out of the Palestinian Authority. In the long run, it would become clear that these would become intolerable for the Palestinian people.

Are the Settlers to Blame?3

In a glossy pamphlet presented in the Knesset as "food for thought" by the rightist-religious "Front for Eretz Yisrael," the settler institutions try to persuade Israeli (Jewish) citizens why "another retreat" or withdrawal in the occupied territories is out of the question. The first argument is directed to those opposed to ruling over another people. The pamphlet claims that "there is no demographic problem in Judea and Samaria, the hilly region in the center of the state where about 170,000 Jewish residents are living in 144 settlements. Some 1.2 million Arabs populate only about 28 percent of the area. The areas which it is under proposal to return [to the Palestinians] are empty and only a small part is used for agriculture. In the Oslo agreements, towns and villages that were returned contained 97 percent of the Palestinian population, living in 27.8 percent of the area. Today there is already no demographic problem and Israel is not ruling over another people."
The logic is clear: the Palestinians have to be satisfied with the area where they are living today. Unlike we Jews, they are not in need of space in which to plan their community's future. Elsewhere in the world such discriminatory and shameful allocation of living space according to national origin would be contemptuously rejected as racism.
For the Palestinians, every one of the settlements in whose shadow they live is a symbol of degradation and an act of racism. For their part, however, the settlers, be they in Hebron or in Efrat, in Yitzhar or in Givat Ze'ev, are right in demanding that they should not be abandoned on the battlefield. It was the Israeli government, all the Israeli governments, that encouraged them and sent them to put into practice this discriminatory logic; at the same time, the Palestinian physical and economic infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank was not developed, encouraging their emigration from there.
Discriminatory logic according to national origin isn't only a matter of "crazy" settlers. It is found, for example, in the division of water determined by the government of Israel in the territories: from the yearly output of three aquifers in the West Bank, only about 20 percent is allocated to 1.2 million Palestinians, the rest going to residents of Israel and the settlers. The water crisis in the West Bank is the result of this inequitable allocation from which the settlers, like all Israelis, benefit, but it was not the settlers who decided on it.
Discriminatory logic is to be found, too, in the various development plans that were drawn up not by "lunatic extremists." In December 1994, in the promising light of the Oslo agreements and forecasts of the Labor government, a research team presented a plan called "The Jerusalem metropolis, a master plan and development plan." Though never officially adopted, up to this day parts of it serve the authorities. Development plans were proposed for five areas in the metropolitan expanse of Jerusalem, including Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev and the Etzion Bloc, all of which are undoubtedly in the West Bank. They note that 17,000 Jews and 35,000 Arabs live in the Ma'aleh Adumim area, but are not ashamed to determine that what they call its growth capacity is 65,000 Jews and 41,000 Arabs.
Similarly, in Givat Ze'ev, there are almost three times more Arabs than Jews, but the proposed growth capacity is about identical. The plan is not referring to natural growth, but to encouraging the Jews to live there through allocating a wide expanse for their needs, with water and roads, the development of industry and tourism, and convenient mortgages for purchasing houses. The Palestinians, on the other hand, will have to put up with whatever can fit into enclaves that are from the start limited, in order to keep down their numbers. This, too, is the significance of dividing the West Bank into areas A, B and C, in the framework of which Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres also intended to hand over only 50 percent of the area to the Palestinians, haggling over the rest with the help of the settlements as part of a final-status agreement. They promised to allocate as little land as possible to the Palestinians, with as much as possible encircled by settlements.
However one looks at it, though they didn't create the policy, the settlers are certainly the most faithful envoys of the practice of Jewish superiority in the occupied territories.

The Land of Israel and the State of Israel4

In a press conference with Madeleine Albright in December 1999, Ehud Barak spoke of "the struggle of the State of Israel to rule over the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael)." These are his actual words, which were broadcast live on Israel Radio, seemingly without drawing any particular attention. Keeping secret the news that the talks with Syria would be renewed, Barak said that he saw no reason to delay tenders for new construction in the settlements in the occupied territories and any different policy would weaken "the State of Israel in its struggle to rule over the Land of Israel."
This succinct statement by the former IDF chief of staff is an additional ideological link in a chain of similar declarations: for instance that Ma'aleh Adumim and Beit El are part of the State of Israel; that he feels closer to the settler-oriented National Religious Party than to the dovish Meretz Party; and that UN resolutions 242 and 338 don't apply to the Palestinian territories and to other territories taken by Israel in 1967.
The declaration made in Albright's presence defines most precisely the undeclared annexation policy of Israeli governments since 1967. It is odd to hear it announced so proudly in the middle of political negotiations with the Palestinians. Barak felt confident about automatic support from the Western countries for any arrangement with Israel that Arafat would sign, while at the same time he outlines a future of "struggle" against the Palestinian people living in those parts of "Eretz Yisrael" which have not yet been transformed into "the State of Israel." Here, Barak is declaring the victory of a certain historiography.
The establishment of the State of Israel has different dichotomous and historiographic explanations. For instance, Divine Promise to the Jews as against the Promise (which will be fulfilled in the future) of Allah to the Muslims; Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as the just realization of a historical right inspired by the Zionist movement, as against a Jewish-Western colonial plot; and a colonial connection that succeeded because of a sophisticated Jewish strategy and Western financing, as against the thesis that Zionism was indeed part of the colonialist period, but the state itself was the result of historical circumstances compelling a Diaspora people, most of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, to choose to emigrate to the Land of Israel, and, subsequently, to the State of Israel. This was seen as the only solution, after Christian Europe acted on the program of the Third Reich to get rid of the Jewish people that had lived there for 2,000 years: to eliminate them not only from their countries, but from the whole world.
The significance of international (and Palestinian) recognition of the State of Israel in the 1967 borders, and of resolutions denying Israel's right to hold on to the territories conquered in 1967, was the acceptance - even unconscious - of the last of these historiographic explanations. With the Oslo process, there were Israelis and Palestinians who deluded themselves that the intention was also to Israeli recognition of the right of the Palestinians to exist as a people on its own land, and that now the time had come for strong Israel to recognize the Palestinian tragedy of 1948. Israel should now prove that the way to (partially) compensate the Palestinians and to assure a secure future for the two peoples is in the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
But along comes Barak and strengthens the colonialist explanation, which sees in the State of Israel an entity aspiring in its essence to territorial expansion under the auspices and with the support of the American and European Western world. His jargon is identical to that of Gush Emunim. Israel was confident that it could talk peace and simultaneously "struggle" to assure its "rule" over those parts of "the Land of Israel" that it didn't manage to acquire in 1948. The debate is only over the amount of the Land of Israel that can now be incorporated into the State of Israel.

The Natural Order of Things5

On the eve of Tish'a Be'Av, August 2000, a fast in remembrance of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, some well-known rightist activists carried out provocations against Palestinians from Silwan. It was the Israeli police that reported on the identity of the provocateurs. The Palestinians, from the Kara'in family, defined them as "settlers" or "Jewish worshipers." According to the police version, its people intervened and separated the two rival camps "with the use of great force against both of them." The Palestinian residents deny this: "The residents only exchanged insults and it was the police who started hitting out."
In any case, the scenario is familiar: Israeli rightists go out of their way to provoke Palestinians, the police intervenes and six wounded arrive at hospital, all Palestinians. When, for example, settlers in Hebron rioted and started to stone Palestinians, the police arrested three settlers and seven Palestinians, even though the Israeli authorities themselves admitted that the Jews initiated the trouble.
In fact, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is defending not Israel but the Israeli settlers, whose numbers have doubled over the last decade from 92,000 in 1991 to 200,000 today. For some thirty years they have enjoyed privileges denied to others, founded on a basic ideological privilege: that the Jews have a right to arise and settle everywhere in the Land, a right denied to the Palestinians. Thus the Jews can return by right to Hebron, city of the Patriarchs, and demand possession of every building that was in Jewish possession before 1948. [The Jewish community which had been living there left in 1936, after many Jews were killed by Arabs in the troubles of 1929 - ed.] Palestinian refugees, on the other hand, have no right to their family homes in Israel, and their brothers living as Israeli citizens in Galilee have to accept the loss of their lands in order to establish new Jewish neighborhoods.
In this tale of injustice in all areas of life, the privileges beneficiaries receive accustom them to see the discrimination as part of natural law: it follows that only a criminal would try to deny this natural order.

Israel Has Failed the Test6

In the Oslo agreement, Israel and the West put the Palestinian leadership to the test: in exchange for an Israeli promise to gradually dismantle the mechanisms of the occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian leadership promised to put an immediate end to all acts of violence and terror. For that purpose all the apparatus of security coordination was created, more Palestinian jails were built, and demonstrators were barred from approaching the settlements.
The two sides agreed on a period of five years for the completion of the new deployment and the negotiations on a final agreement. The Palestinian leadership agreed time and again to extend its trial period, in the shadow of Hamas terrorist attacks and Israeli elections. The "peace strategy" and the tactic of gradualism adopted by the leadership were at first supported by most of the Palestinian public, which craves normalcy. Fatah (the main faction of the PLO) was the backbone of support for the concept of gradual release from the yoke of military occupation. Its members were the ones who kept track of the Palestinian opposition, arrested suspects whose names were given to them by Israel, imprisoned those who signed anti-Israeli manifestos. The personal advantage gained by some of these Fatah members is not enough to explain their support for the process; they really believed for a long time that this was the way to independence.
But as Palestinians, from their perspective, Israel was also put to the test: were the Israelis really giving up that attitude of superiority and domination that they had built up in order to keep the Palestinian people under their control? More than seven years have gone by and Israel has security and administrative control over 61.2 percent of the West Bank, and about 20 percent of the Gaza Strip, all of the above in Area C. It has security control over another 26.8 percent of the West Bank (Area B).
It is this control that has enabled Israel to double the number of settlers in ten years, to enlarge the settlements, to continue discriminatory water quotas for three million Palestinians, to prevent Palestinian development in most areas of the West Bank, and to seal a whole nation into restricted areas, imprisoned in a network of bypass roads meant for Jews only. During the closure in the days of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, one could see how the bypass roads were planned to ensure freedom of movement for 200,000 Jews, while locking some three million Palestinians into their Bantustans.
Israel has failed the test. The Palestinians control 12 percent of the West Bank, but Israel has proved that it does not envisage a peace based on the principles of equality between nations and between people. Through massive settlement, it has set out to extend its borders and ensure maximum control over most of the Land of Israel, relying during all this activity on the Palestinian security apparatus and Fateh to keep things quiet. Just as the first Intifada of 1987 was the direct result of Israeli occupation, the popular uprising which broke out on September 28, 2000, must be seen as a popular protest against seven years in which the Palestinians have experienced not the peace they were promised, but a more sophisticated type of occupation.


1. This piece is based on several articles that were published in the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz.
2. Ha'aretz, 19.5.99.
3. Ha'aretz, 30.5.99.
4. Ha'aretz, 21.12.99.
5. Ha'aretz, 22.8.00.
6. Ha'aretz, 19.10.00.

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