I’ll go visit Uncle Bassam in Tulkarem after I obtain a Tasreeh (an Israeli pass permit) and when The Bridge is open, OK Dad?” My elder son, Noor said.
Noor is almost seven years old. The other day, I was talking to my uncle in Tulkarem over phone, Noor also talked and after he chatted with my cousins and my uncle, he decided that he must go and visit Palestine. I had to explain to him that it is not possible because Israel refused to give us “Tasreeh.” Noor now knows what the word Tasreeh means, but he can’t understand why Israel is involved in this matter (Tasreeh). “They are leaving Gaza, dad,” he said.
Unfortunately I could not convince him that that is not possible. “We can’t go to West Bank nor Gaza because Israel occupy the land, my son.” “We can’t get Tasreeh.” But he would not believe me. He keeps referring to Israeli disengagement from Gaza and says:
See Dad! They are leaving Palestine. they can’t stop us now! We can go Dad! And then he start crying thinking that I don’t believe what he saw on TV, and that I don’t want him to visit his country, Palestine!
As I raise my three kids, I teach them that Israelis are people like us, but they occupy our country. But all my words evaporate when he hears that they deny access to him to visit his country.
“Ok dad, can I see it from distance?” Noor said. Well, to make his wish come true (partly), driving around some Jordanian cities, I took him around to see Palestine from distance. This is the closest I could get him to SEE Palestine:
My dear son. One day when you grow up, you will read this and understand why you can’t go….
And now, since Gaza disengagement plan is here, I fear that Gaza will become even more of a prison than it is already. While some may think of disengagement as setting Gaza free, in reality there is to be no sovereignty for Gazans.
This is not a “withdrawal” from Palestinian land, but actually a redeployment of forces. Israel will still control the sea, air and borders while reserving the right to invade. The government is only relinquishing direct control over the people.
This is not the end of the occupation. Of course we are happy to see Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers leave Gaza, but no Palestinian believes this will lead to final peace.
Thus “disengagement”, for the sake of Israel’s security, boils down to demographic supremacy, not Palestinian rights.
The Israeli narrative was always clear, albeit iniquitous. “Israel was leaving Gaza in order to retain large chunks of the West Bank,” the Jerusalem Post summarized the declared positions of Israel’s top officials.
This concept was originally initiated by the ever-blunt Chief of Staff Dov Weisglass last year, then Israel’s top military strategist, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, and, according to the Post, Sharon himself.
Those familiar with Israel’s military and political manoeuvres however, must have understood; Sharon is once again toying with land, politics and demographics, yet the same sorry ending is awaiting Palestinians: the lock, the key, the prison guard and the ever familiar scene of Palestinians being held captive at checkpoints.
True, the settlements were and remain more or less the core issue. Removing 21 settlements from Gaza, 4 from the West Bank and evacuating over 8,000 Jewish settlers is a good thing, it was assumed.
The odd part is, Will Israel become less of an occupier after a few thousand settlers are relocated to a less vulnerable spot with their pockets full of cash (nearly a million dollars per family, a cost that will eventually be paid by American tax payers)?
The history of the relentless Israeli colonization of Palestine has not been told in American mainstream media. For decades, the reality has been shrouded behind circumlocutions, excuses, and outright lies.
Over the years, ancestral land has been regularly stolen from Palestinian families and distributed to Israeli Jews, who receive government funds to build European-style homes; and the result is called “settlements,” as though nothing existed on the land before. The colonies are connected by Israeli-only roads and supplied with first-world-quality water and electricity, while the displaced Palestinians are herded into unlivable, economically isolated Bantustans and forced to pass through hours-long military checkpoints to go from one part of Palestine to another.
The Gaza withdrawal currently underway is simply a tactical retreat of a few Israeli colonists from one small part of Palestine (though the borders, air rights, and infrastructure of Gaza continue under Israeli control as I said before). It is not a change in Sharon’s strategy of a continuing gradual loss by Palestinians of land and autonomous power. In fact, enlargement of the colonies in the West Bank continues unabated, and withdrawal from Gaza merely draws attention away from that fact, at least for a time.
The long media drought ended yesterday, however-at least for one day. An unsigned Associated Press article appeared in USA Today with a much more accurate history of Israel and Palestine, giving special attention to the costs and methods of establishing the settler colonies. Here are some excerpts:
Israel’s effort since the 1967 Mideast war to fill the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jews has grown from the scattered actions of zealous squatters into a network of 142 towns and villages that house nearly 240,000 people.
Now that Israel plans to spend some $2 billion to dismantle just 25 of the settlements for which U.S. aid has been requested it raises the question of how much money has been poured into populating these biblical lands with Jews, and exactly where it came from.
The official answer: No one knows.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres estimates Israel has spent about $50 billion since 1977, when the hard-line Likud government took over from his Labor party. Other former finance ministers and government officials don’t discount a price tag commonly floated but never documented of $60 billion.
Calculating an exact figure is impossible because much of the building was financed through winks and nods, an opaque state budget and secret military spending that in some cases violated Israel’s laws and undercut international peacemaking efforts, according to official Israeli inquiries as well as Associated Press interviews with past and present officials, settlers and their opponents.
Among the methods used, the interviews show, were government subsidies, shadowy land deals, loopholes in military spending, and an auditing bait-and-switch in which U.S. aid was used to free up billions of dollars for spending on the settlements formally opposed by the United States.
Even today, with preparations under way for demolishing 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, housing and roads continue to be built in West Bank settlement blocs Israel wants to keep in a final peace deal with the Palestinians. This contradicts the internationally backed “road map” peace plan to halt settlement expansion.
And a government-commissioned inquiry in March revealed similar methods were used to build and expand dozens of unauthorized West Bank “outposts” set up as flag-showing exercises and usually consisting of a handful of people in mobile homes.
It found widespread government complicity in establishing more than 100 such outposts, and the inquiry’s chief, former prosecutor Talia Sasson, called the government’s actions “a blatant violation of the law.”
“Let me be very, very clear: It’s not a question of dark-of-night grabs, or hide-and-seek or deceit on anyone’s part,” said lawmaker Yitzhak Levy of the pro-settler National Religious Party, who headed ministries in Likud and Labor governments.
“It is government policy,” he said.
The article contains much more detail on funding and authorization of the colonies, and it’s worth reading in full. However, even though USA Today carried the article, I was unable to find any other American media outlet that did. My Google search located it only in USA Today, LewisNews, algeriapost and Persian Journal (an English-language Iranian publication).
But the contrast with another recent AP article on Gaza is instructive. I conducted a comparable Google search for a piece by Steven Gutkin headlined “Gaza Pullout Heats Israeli Emotions” and found it in more than 209 media outlets over the last three days.
Apparently the other article, since it placed Israeli colonization in accurate historical context, was deemed too incendiary by everyone in the US media except for one brave editor at USA Today. But then truth is often incendiary.
Meanwhile, the Separation Wall carries on consuming West Bank land, snaking in to include the illegal settlements, disfiguring the topography, the demographics, everything. As for the occupied East Jerusalem, well, it’s effectively not a part of any Palestinian territorial continuity anymore.
It’s unfortunate that Palestinians are dignifying the Israeli move by willingly “cooperating” regarding the post-disengagement fate of Gaza, rather than drawing international attention to the foreseeable reality of the Occupied Territories.
So, while the disengagement has successfully engaged international media and has created quite a stir within internal Israeli and Palestinian politics, it is poised to change little on the ground.