is Sharon spinning away? Not Israeli war crimes in the territories.
These like the bombardment by F-16 aeroplanes of the old
prison of Nablus last week (attacking prisons is a war crime)
are easily washed away by US-controlled international media. The
"cease fire" spin is meant to divert attention from the
clearest recommendation of the Mitchell Report: "The Government
of Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural
growth" of existing settlements."
the Government of Israel will not freeze all settlement activity.
Even though the Palestinians have already endorsed the Mitchell
Report. Even though Europe endorsed it. Even though the Bush administration
hesitantly endorsed it. Even though 62% of the Israelis, according
to a recent poll by Israelís largest daily Yedioth Achronoth
(4.5), support freezing all settlement activity in return for a
cease fire. The Government of Israel will not freeze settlement
activity, because settlement activity is Occupation, and the Government
of Israel is not willing to end the Occupation in spite of
the whole world, including its own electorate.
SETTLEMENTS ARE THE OCCUPATION
must realise that the settlements are not just an appendix to the
Israeli Occupation: they are the Occupation itself. They rob the
Palestinians of every vital resource and freedom necessary for their
life, both as individuals and as a nation. Many people even
those who have been to the occupied territories and seen the settlements
fail to comprehend it. A settlement is never just a fortified
group of red-roofed villaís on the top of an occupied hill. Only
in the first instance do settlements mean confiscated land
sometimes free, sometimes agricultural, sometimes inhabited land
whose Palestinian population was deported. A settlements also means
Israeli soldiers who join forces with murderous settlers in harassing
the Palestinians. It also means checkpoints, and a road preferably
several roads connecting it with other settlements and with
Israel itself. A road, again, is not just land: it is an ever growing
"security belt" on both sides of it, belts of Palestinian
fields and buildings swept by Israeli bulldozers "to prevent
terrorist attacks" on the road. The function of those ever-expanding
"by-pass roads" is not so much to serve the settlers (Israeli
governments are not interested in drivers: roads in Israel are on
a Third World level), but to cut off Palestinian towns and villages
from one another, to cantonise the territories and split the Palestinians
into minimal separate units that can be manipulated one by one,
or even against one another the good old "divide and
land and contiguity, settlements are meant to steal Palestinian
water: from the very beginning, the settlements were located in
strategic sites above aquifers. At present, Israel uses about 80%
of the water of the Territories, leaving just 20% to their Palestinian
inhabitants. Pictures of thirsty Palestinians and drained olive
trees next to Jewish settlers indulging in swimming pools are well-known;
but only this week did Israelís comptroller expose the fact that
the national water company had never
imposed excess-use charges on the settlers, estimated at $18
then, last but not least, there is the political significance: by
moving Israeli citizens into the territories, Israeli governments
increase the number of citizens who have a vested interest (real
estate etc.) in keeping, expanding and strengthening the settlements.
printable version of this article
was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel.
He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature
and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv,
teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv
University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English
and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth
Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His
column appears monthly at Antiwar.com.
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace
Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian
population into the territory it occupies", says Article
49 of the Geneva
Convention. Obviously, the settlements are illegal. Even though,
the settlements have not stopped for a single day during the last
30 years or so. Contrary to common belief, Labour governments have
consistently been more effective than right-wing ones in building
settlements: Peresí and his Labour party have always been much more
ingenious and convincing than Likud in selling the settlements to
the world. And, again contrary to common belief and to the hopes
of supporters of peace, the most intensive expansion has been taking
place since 1993, during the Oslo process: the number of settlers
has doubled these years. In other words, the number of new settlers
during these 7 years equals the number of settlers in all 25 previous
Occupation years. If this was not Israelís very reason for signing
these agreements (I personally believe it was), it is certainly
their most cynical abuse.
is fascinating to follow the ingenuity of Israelís propaganda machine
in inventing ever more fallacies to justify the existence and restless
expansion of the settlements. Let us skip fundamentalist claims
about the Occupied Territories being "the Land of Israel"
or outdated arguments such like "security reasons" (sounds
more like a macabre joke nowadays), and concentrate on more recent
and sophisticated casuistic.
The Political Fallacy: "Sharon will have no coalition
if he freezes settlements." This is simply not true: with his
broad coalition comprising more than 90 of the 120 Knesset members,
Sharon could easily do without the two settlersí parties. At any
rate, if 62% of the electorate supports freezing the settlements,
but a parliament majority for it cannot be found, something is very
rotten in the State of Israel. Note how political difficulties at
home are always met with understanding when they are on the Israeli
side; if Arafat raises the very same argument, he is urged to suppress
his opposition by force.
The "Final Status" Fallacy. "The settlements
are an issue to be solved in the final status negotiations."
Indeed, this is what the Oslo agreements say. But the agreements
also say the present "transitional period" (preceding
the final status) will not exceed five years starting 13th
September 1993. Israel does not wish to reach a final status agreement
at all (unlike Barak, who just acted this way, Sharon says it openly)
so it can expand the settlements forever. Settlersí leaders
were told by Yizchak Rabin from the very beginning that "there
will never be a final status agreement." This is why
Palestinians reject yet another interim agreement: they have been
cheated long enough.
The "Reward for Violence" Fallacy. "Stopping
the settlements would be a reward for terror", Shimon Peres
claims. An interesting argument: I rob your wallet. And then your
watch. And then your coat. At last, you give me a slap in the face.
Now I cannot stop robbing your shirt, and your trousers, and your
underwear or else your slap would be rewarded. This very
gangstersí logic has recently gained a special seasoning by Sharon,
who actually believes that "expanding the settlements is a
good way to put pressure on the Palestinians to stop the violence."
A homeopathic principle curing an illness by its very cause
implemented in totally non-homeopathic overdose.
The "Natural Growth" Fallacy has been convincingly
refuted by data exposed recently in Yedioth Achronoth (11.5).
There are 9,844 empty new housing units in the settlements (minimal
estimation; American sources mention 20,000). Every year, 2,000
young settlers marry. Even in the most unlikely case, if every settler
attracts a partner from outside the territories (in fact, settlers
often marry among themselves), they will need no more than 2,000
units a year. "Natural growth" has therefore already been
satisfied for the next 5 years at least. These data do not take
into account the exodus from the settlements due to the present
Intifada. Journalist Daniel Ben Simon of Haaretz (15.5) reports
of "a gradual trickle of settlers who are sick of this kind
of life. [...] Nearly half of the 15 houses in Dugit [in Gaza Strip,
rh] stand empty. A new neighbourhood in Nisanit looks like a ghost
town. It's the same in Elei Sinai. The government has built more
than 100 cottages with red tiled roofs in Pe'at Sadeh only
15 families live there and some of them are already planning on
leaving. [...] In the settlements of the Jordan Valley, the situation
is just as bad. Last summer, before the riots, the kindergarten
in Naama shut its doors because there were not enough children of
kindergarten age left in the community. Many of the residents of
Fatzael, Netiv Hagedud and Yafit are making plans to cross the Green
Line into Israel. One inhabitant of Fatzael reports that, in the
wake of the disturbances and in view of the uncertainty about the
settlement's future, Fatzael's population has been reduced by half"
and so on. The title of Ben Simonís column says it all: "The
fraud of natural settlement increase."
The "No New Settlements" Fallacy is especially
ridiculous. Every settlement has numerous detached "outposts",
"quarters" and "neighbourhoods." If you are
not allowed to build a new city near New York, found Philadelphia
but claim it is an outpost of New York city.
The "No Territorial Expansion" Fallacy is the latest
fraud invented by Peres. A fraud because every settlement
has been allotted endless "land reserves", of which only
very little is actually in use. Out of more than 1 million dunum
allotted to the settlements according to the Settlersí Council (official
data has never been released), only 78,786 dunums (7.8%) were in
use according to Peace Nowís survey (Updated March 1999. Source:
Ha'aretz 16.2.2000. One dunum is circa 900 square metres).
The largest settlement of Maale Adumim, located strategically east
of Jerusalem in order to cut off the northern part of West Bank
from its southern part, uses less than 7% of its 50,000 dunums.
Settlement Itamar uses 483 dunum but has been allotted more than
6,000 (8%). Thus, without any "territorial expansion",
Shimon Peres can make the settlements 15 times bigger and theoretically
increase settlers number if he just finds candidates
from 200,000 today up to 3 million, half of Israelís population.
This is Peresí "Road to Peace."
this false casuistic obscures a very simple truth. Israelís leadership
Likud and Labour, Sharon and Peres (and Barak; see his latest
version of the "natural
growth" fallacy in the New York Times) simply
do not want to stop the settlements. Not for a year and not for
a day. They use public money to build thousands of empty housing
units, because they want to occupy as much land as they can and
push the Palestinians away. While all this distracting discussion
is going on, and though it committed itself not to build any "new
settlements", the young Sharon government has already built
new settlements an ambitious match to the 40 or more
new settlements founded by Barak.
is true: there is no partner for peace. On the Israeli side. Sharon
is certainly no partner for peace, Peres is just as bad, Barak was
even worse. When the Israeli
Army claims (Haaretz 25.5) that "the conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians will continue for many months,
maybe even years, in its current form, although the number of casualties
is expected to rise and the methods used by both sides are likely
to intensify", it is not a strategic evaluation, but rather
Israelís operative war plans. Once the "cease fire" spin
is exhausted, Israel (with US backing) will again sell us the fiction
about Palestinian rejectionism and escalate the bloodshed.
And the settlement activity.
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