Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Look to the West Bank

Commentator Ben White writes: "For a real sense of where the conflict is heading, look to the West Bank, not just Gaza." While media attention is focused on the Israeli elections and the continuing humanitarian crimes in Gaza, White argues that events in the West Bank are perhaps of greater political significance. These events include Israeli raids and abductions that seem to be targeting Palestinian civil resistance (second item below – which includes a video link and action alert); further restrictions on Palestinian movement and rights in East Jerusalem; and a massive increase in settlement activity (third item below). Taken together, these represent a firm and confident consolidation of the (Israeli military) gains of the occupation: and, as White puts it, "a further reminder that the two-state solution has completed its progression from worthy (and often disingenuous) aim to meaningless slogan."

Judith Norman

The real Israel-Palestine story is in the West Bank
Ben White
Friday 20 February 2009

It is quite likely that you have not heard of the most important developments this week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the West Bank, while it has been "occupation as normal", there have been some events that together should be overshadowing Gaza, Gilad Shalit and Avigdor Lieberman.

First, there have been a large number of Israeli raids on Palestinian villages, with dozens of Palestinians abducted. These kinds of raids are, of course, commonplace for the occupied West Bank, but in recent days it appears the Israeli military has targeted sites of particularly strong Palestinian civil resistance to the separation wall.

For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalised property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.
Jayyous is one of the Palestinian villages in the West Bank that has been non-violently resisting the separation wall for several years now. It was clear to the villagers that this latest assault was an attempt to intimidate the protest movement.

Also earlier this week, Israel tightened still further the restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency rights in East Jerusalem, closing the remaining passage in the wall in the Ar-Ram neighbourhood of the city. This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians are now cut off from the city and those with the right permit will now have to enter the city by first heading north and using the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Finally – and this time, there was some modest media coverage – it was revealed that the Efrat settlement near Bethlehem would be expanded by the appropriation of around 420 acres land as "state land". According to Efrat's mayor, the plan is to triple the number of residents in the colony.

Looked at together, these events in the West Bank are of far more significance than issues being afforded a lot of attention currently, such as the truce talks with Hamas, or the discussions about a possible prisoner-exchange deal. Hamas itself has become such a focus, whether by those who urge talks and cooption or those who advocate the group's total destruction, that the wider context is forgotten.

Hamas is not the beginning or the end of this conflict, a movement that has been around for just the last third of Israel's 60 years. The Hamas Charter is not a Palestinian national manifesto, and nor is it even particularly central to today's organisation. Before Hamas existed, Israel was colonising the occupied territories, and maintaining an ethnic exclusivist regime; if Hamas disappeared tomorrow, Israeli colonisation certainly would not.

Recognising what is happening in the West Bank also contextualises the discussion about Israel's domestic politics, and the ongoing question about the makeup of a ruling coalition. For the Palestinians, it does not make much difference who is eventually sitting around the Israeli cabinet table, since there is a consensus among the parties on one thing: a firm rejectionist stance with regards to Palestinian self-determination and sovereignty.

During the coverage of the Israeli elections, while it was clear that Palestinians mostly did not care which of the candidates for PM won, the reason for this apathy was not explained. Labor, Likud and Kadima alike, Israeli governments without fail have continued or intensified the colonisation of the occupied territories, entrenching Israel's separate-and-unequal rule, a reality belied by the false "dove"/"hawk" dichotomy.
Which brings us to the third reason why news from the West Bank is more significant than the Gaza truce talks or the Netanyahu-Livni rivalry – it is a further reminder that the two-state solution has completed its progression from worthy (and often disingenuous) aim to meaningless slogan, concealing Israel's absorption of all Palestine/Israel and confinement of the Palestinians into enclaves.

The fact that the West Bank reality means the end of the two-state paradigm has started to be picked up by mainstream, liberal commentators in the US, in the wake of the Israeli elections. Juan Cole, the history professor and blogger, recently pointed out that there are now only three options left for Palestine/Israel: "apartheid", "expulsion", or "one state". (http://www.juancole.com/2009/02/right-wing-sweeps-israel-racialist.html)

The path of the wall, and the number of Palestinians it directly and indirectly affects, continues to make a mockery of any plan for Palestinian statehood. Jayyous is just one example of the way in which the Israeli-planned, fenced-in Palestinian "state-lets" are at odds with the stated intention of the quartet and so many others, of two viable states, "side by side". As the World Bank pointed out, land colonisation is not conducive to economic prosperity or basic independence.

In occupied East Jerusalem meanwhile, Israel has continued its process of Judaisation, enforced through bureaucracy and bulldozers. The latest tightening of the noose in Ar-Ram is one example of where Palestinian Jerusalemites are at risk of losing their residency status, victims of what is politely known as the "demographic battle".

It is impossible to imagine Palestinians accepting a "state" shaped by the contours of Israel's wall, disconnected not only from East Jerusalem but even from parts of itself. Yet this is the essence of the "solution" being advanced by Israeli leaders across party lines. For a real sense of where the conflict is heading, look to the West Bank, not just Gaza.

(2) The following item provides detailed information on the current military onslaught against West Bank Palestinian villagers peacefully resisting the theft of their lands and livelihoods by Israel's "separation wall". It was compiled and circulated by activist Haggai Matar of Anarchists Against the Wall and New Profile, on February 22, 2009.

Rela Mazali

Nightly invasions to Palestinian villages in the West Bank

Imagine being awakened to the sound of a stun grenade. Imagine such a grenade landing in your front yard every night. This is the reality that residents of Palestinian villages who are struggling against the apartheid wall are forced to deal with since the attack on Gaza.
These nightly invasions by the army, which terrorize villagers, are becoming ever more frequent. Invasions take place three to four time a week in the villages of Beit Likia and Bil'in. In the last week, the villages of Ma'asara, Ni'ilin and Jayus too have joined the list, as troops have been harassing those who participate and organize the village protests.
During the invasions soldiers shoot tear gas and stun grenades into civilian's houses. They also use rubber coated bullets and live rounds. On 13.2.09, two children were injured in their homes in Beit Likia, and a 60 year old woman was hit in the stomach. On that same night, soldiers reached the homes of Ma'asara popular leaders Muhammad Barjia and Mahmoud Zoahara, kept them for hours outside their homes in the cold with very little cloths, and caused damage to their property, threatening to arrest the two if demonstrations in the area were to continue. A report by Zoahara is attached hereunder.
The media does not report these incidents, which have become a tiring routine of the reality of occupation. It seems that under this media blockade, army commanders feel free to carry out these crimes.

Raise a voice and stop them!

A link to a video from Wednesday 18.2.09. The army invaded during the day to set a checkpoint and later at night, just to shoot some teargas and bullets.


Urge your politicians to demand from Israel to stop those night raids, which are done just to set terror on the people.

Write and call to Public Requests and Complaints in Ministry of Defense of Israel to protest against the nightly invasions.

Email: pniot@mod.gov.il
FAX +972(0)3-6976711

Sample letter:

To Ministry of Defense

I write to you in order to protest against the nightly invasions of the villages of Bil'in, Beit Likia, Ni'ilin, Jayus and Ma'asara, committed by the Israeli army on an almost every-night basis. Such actions are in violation of international law, which hold the occupying army responsible to the welfare and safety of civilians living under its rule. You must stop these invasions at once, and prosecute whoever is responsible for them.
Sincerely, _______

Background on the villages:

The village of Bil'in has become renowned for its on going struggle against the wall, and Beit Likia too has been known to participate in the struggle. Three Beit Likia children were killed by soldiers and private security guards. The village of Ma'asara has for two years now been leading the popular struggle of the Beit Lehem district villages, in quite demonstrations against the land grabs committed by both settlements and the wall. Jaaus was the first village that conducted a struggle against the wall, back in 2003 and Ni'ilin is protesting for the last year. Four people were killed by the army in Ni'ilin, two of them were children.

The night after the demo in AL-Ma'sara village
At the mid of the night 7 Israeli army cars entered the village, they have two target places to attack on is the house of Mohammed BRYJYA The spoken man of the popular community against the wall in the village and the second is the house of Mahmoud Zwahre the coordinator of the popular community against the wall.

Around 12:30 at night the solders nock the door of my house asking me to open the door in a non pilot way then I opened the door more than 10 solders entered my house without my permission, then they asked for my ID and my wife also, and then the check the house putting everything on the other destroying the furniture of the house , at that time they push me out side in the cold weather wit very light clothes, asking the same questions for the demonstration many questions, they told me that they are going to arrest me and they blind me and they tied then they remove the things on my eyes and they start taking pictures for my, while im on the ground on my knees at that time I thought that im in Gwantanamo , then they tied off me and then he told me this week we came and we will not arrest you, the massage this week take care we are going to arrest you next week we are going to come in more difficult way

So don't come to demonstrate, don't organize demos

At that time I preferred to be quite no answers and I refuse to talk to them because I know the mode that they are in at that time

While they was checking in my house they found emails for many friends from solidarity associations from Europe I dint know if they are going to use them or not ?

After three hours they left me then I phone Mohammed and I found that they did the same to him

All of what they are doing we expect it since long time

All of that is a sign of victory

Today or tomorrow we are going to win because we have the faith



Israel plans to double West Bank settlers - study
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Tuesday, March 03, 2009

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's Housing Ministry has plans for West Bank construction that would nearly double the number of settlers there, the group Peace Now said Monday.

The presence of the so-called Israeli "settlers" in the Occupied Territories is illegal under international law.

The group gave the estimate in research issued on the day that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit to Israel on her first trip to the region since taking office.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to vigorously pursue peace efforts in the region, and Israeli settlements on occupied land have long been one of the main obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

"The Ministry of Construction and Housing is planning to construct at least 73,000 housing units in the West Bank," said the Peace Now study, based on analysis of data on Israeli government websites.

"At least 15,000 housing units have already been approved and plans for an additional 58,000 housing units are yet to be approved," it said.

Out of the units already approved, nearly 9,000 have been built, Peace Now said.

"If all the plans are realized, the number of settler in the territories will be doubled," the research document said, adding that the estimate is based upon an average of four people in each housing unit.

"The completion of these projects will make the plan of creating a Palestinian state next to Israel totally unrealistic," Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer told Army Radio.

Included among the government's plans are some 17,000 housing units outside existing settlements in the Bethlehem area, the Peace Now study said.

"There are plans for huge construction to double the size of some settlements" including Beitar Illit, Ariel, Maale Adumim and Efrat, it said.

Some 19,000 units are planned to be built to the east of Israel's illegal separation barrier in the Occupied West Bank, and the ministry plans include at least six wildcat outposts - settlements not authorized by the Israeli government, it said.

"The plans published are only a small part of the overall housing plans for the Occupied Territories," the group said. "There are other thousands of housing units in plans of the local authorities, private initiators and other public authorities, all of which we are in the process of collating." Under the internationally drafted "road map for peace," Israel is committed to dismantle all settlements built since March 2001.

But construction in Israeli settlements jumped 60 percent in 2008 in the wake of the re-launching of the Middle East peace process at a US conference at which the parties pledged to implement the road map. At least 1,257 new structures were built in settlements over the course of 2008, compared to 800 erected the previous year, according to figures compiled by Peace Now. - AFP with The Daily Star

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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