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|55 -- NOT 35 -- YEARS OF OCCUPATION!|
|06/06/02 at 08:07:28|
55 -- NOT 35 -- YEARS OF OCCUPATION
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, using massacres and other forms of
terrorism against civilians, and rumors of more to come, Zionist
militias drove 800,000 Palestinians out of 415 Palestinian villages,
creating a refugee crisis unresolved to this day.
Israel's current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was deeply involved in
the horrors of this period, most famously as commander of the Israeli
unit that carried out the Qibya Massacre in 1953.
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including Jerusalem) in
1967 to further colonize Palestine in defiance of the Geneva
Conventions and multiple UN resolutions.
Israeli courts were increasingly employed to further empower the
colonization process in the face of international distaste by giving
it a veneer of legality. Palestinian homes were now razed due to lack
of building permits rather than any racist reason. The fact that
Palestinians would never be granted a building permit was buried too
many layers beneath the surface for most observers to notice.
Outright ethnic cleansing continued after the military occupation. In
August 1971, Israeli forces under the command of current Israeli PM
Ariel Sharon destroyed around 2,000 homes in Gaza, making 12,000
Palestinian refugees homeless for the second time in their lives.
Massive deportations were taking place, numbering in the hundreds. In
the latter half of 1971 alone, Israeli death squads assassinated over
In the wake of increasing international recognition of the
Palestinian cause following Arafat's UN appearance in 1974, Israeli
targeting of any manifestation of Palestinian national identity
increased. The president of Birzeit University was deported following
student protests. He remained in exile for 19 years.
Of all of the myriad military orders created in the wake of the 1967
occupation, MO101 allowed for a maximum 10 years imprisonment for
participating in a gathering of more than 10 people that Israel
deemed political, for publishing political material against the
Israeli occupation, or even for raising the Palestinian flag.
Israeli colonization of Palestinian land increased exponentially
during this period. Again, current Israeli PM Ariel Sharon was deeply
involved. The 1977-1992 Likud-era of Israeli government was
characterized by more land confiscation and more settlement activity
than had ever been seen before in Israeli history. The number of
settlers in the occupied territories rose to approximately 110,000
people, an increase of over two thousand percent.
Contrary to popular wisdom, some of the gravest human rights abuses
against Palestinians took place prior to the first Palestinian
Intifada in 1987, which is traditionally only considered an
international low point primarily because it brought the Palestine
Question onto the world stage as never before. The Sabra and Shatila
Massacre in September 1982 was the most infamous event and directly
resulted in the firing of current Israeli PM Ariel Sharon from his
then post as defense minister, bearing "personal responsibility" for
The first Palestinian Intifada, from 1987-1992, primarily consisted
of the disengagement of Palestinian civil society from the control
structures of the Israeli occupation. Boycotts, community organizing,
the foundations of tens of Palestinian non-profit organizations, the
mass resignation of Palestinians serving in the Israeli police force
and so-called Civil Administration that implemented the bureaucracy
of the military occupation - all these measures were characteristic
of this first 'shaking off'.
Israel increased its repression and colonization during this period.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians were imprisoned, those that
protested with stones had their bones broken on the orders of then
Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin and curfews on entire towns and
neighborhoods were endemic. Gaza saw the imposition of a dusk to dawn
curfew that was to last for 7 years. Family homes of child stone
throwers were demolished. Universities, schools and kindergartens
were closed by military order. Modems and fax machines were banned.
The list is endless.
From 1990-1992, current Israeli PM Ariel Sharon served as Minister of
Construction and Housing, responsible for the construction of 144,000
more settler apartments. The Madrid Peace Conference in late 1991
made no dent in the continuing colonization.
In May 1993, Jerusalem was closed to Palestinians, barring those who
were granted permits by the Israeli Civil Administration. These
occasionally amounted to 3% of the Palestinian population and were
regularly cancelled, necessitating a tortuous period of reapplication
Following the Declaration of Principles signed in September 1993 --
purportedly intended to herald the resolution of this conflict over
land -- Israel continued to demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes,
confiscate land, and dramatically increased the number of settlers in
the occupied territories.
Ariel Sharon was appointed head of settlement construction during
this period. Israel established 30 new settlements and doubled the
settler population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 109,000
in 1993 to nearly 200,000 in 1999.
The confiscation of yet more Palestinian land to build "Jew-only"
bypass roads for settlers added further burdens to Palestinian daily
life. Closures preventing movement between Palestinian towns were a
new feature of the landscape.
The international media and foreign governments called this period
"the peace process". Those of us living in the occupied territories
during this time stopped watching CNN or got used to chewing on
furniture. The gulf of reality between the television screen and
that, which literally took place outside our windows, was enormous.
1948. 1967. 1982. 2002. The dates do not mark isolated atrocities or
war crimes (which is the legal term for these grave violations of the
Geneva Convention). Rather, they are merely milestones along an
unbroken path, a continuous half-century of pushing a native people
off their ancestral homeland, while spending millions and millions of
dollars on PR agencies to creatively find new language and rationales
to justify the state violence necessary to achieve this goal.
In any case, it is true that 35 years have passed since Israel
militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip after it 'won' the
'Six Day War'. The very terminology itself is indicative of the
mythology that has come to surround this tiny country and its
occupied lands, the land area of which is just one-eleventh the size
of the U.S. state of Minnesota, where I now live.
In reality, according to Palestinians who lived through the period,
the 'Six Day War' was in actuality a "Six Day Promenade", resistance
being absent in almost every geographical area. The Jordanian
soldiers stationed in the West Bank town of Ramallah had been issued
with a single clip of bullets and therefore wisely chose to shed
their uniforms and blend with the local population. Israeli tanks
thus rolled in unchallenged. This would later be claimed as a
biblical "miracle" by Israel's secular government, ever the spin
I was there the next time Israeli tanks came to Ramallah, 29 years
later during the September 1996 Clashes. In just three days, 88
Palestinians were killed. The Israeli forces, deluded by the mostly
passive resistance to three decades of occupation shot dead 5
Palestinian demonstrators on the first day, while cheering and giving
each other high fives according to several friends and journalists
who witnessed the initial events.
I remember speaking to an Israeli peace activist on the telephone
that day, who refused to believe this account. In her mind, Israeli
soldiers only shot at people when they absolutely had to, to protect
their own lives.
This didn't explain then why 5 were killed and 263 injured in just a
few short hours and it doesn't explain today why, 20 months into the
Intifada, more than 1,500 Palestinians have been shot dead, another
20,000 injured, around 3,000 of whom have been permanently crippled.
Once you have seen your first child or teenager shot dead outside of
stone throwing range by an Israeli soldier - which I have - you
realize at a heart level that not everyone shares what you previously
imagined were universal human values. This is different from
accepting this happens. It is utterly disturbing and clears away
years of self-righteous propaganda in an instant.
The defiling power of a militaristic society on the humanity of its
members is a key reason for the perpetuation of the conflict.
Israel's traditional reliance on the clearly unsuccessful strategy of
brute force to address the violence of Palestinian militant groups is
evidence enough of this.
Undermining this false trust in military might by ceasing American
and European arms exports to Israel represents the most important
step there is to forcing Israeli society to reevaluate its state of
perpetual war of colonization against the Palestinian people.
Israel's wanton disregard for civilian life and institutions is all
too apparent from the published research of human rights
organizations from around the world.
This war typically involves broad strokes of unfocused violence
against Palestinians. It involves the weekly bulldozing of homes and
agricultural land around existing Israeli military installations and
settlement, generally justified as a necessary 'security perimeter',
strangely endlessly expanding.
A statistically tiny percentage of Palestinians react to the Israeli
occupation - which has literally wounded every single Palestinian
family - with violence. Watching the media - based far away from the
violence against Palestinians - you would imagine that this was not
the case. Terrorist violence against Israelis is the only story
because it happens down the road from where the media is based, not
because it truly is the only story. I write this as a four year
resident of Ramallah.
There is not some balanced "cycle of violence" bouncing back and
forth as if like a tennis ball between Israel and the Palestinians.
This, the more 'liberal' version of the coverage trend described
above, is equally misleading.
Rather, there has been a 55-year-long pattern of Israeli violence
that accompanies the 55-year-long (and continuing) colonization. This
"spiral of violence" increasingly drags more and more Palestinians
off the tenuous plateau where they are desperately trying to live
like the majority of other people on the planet.
All the demonization myths in the world - about the supposed contents
of Palestinian children's textbooks, about Arafat's supposed links to
terror, about supposed Palestinian intransigence in the face of
Israel's "generosity" - do not change this basic reality.
People who blame the Palestinians for "the violence" are missing the
point on this, their 35th or 55th year of loss, depending on how you
look at it. And sadly, these people include the current president of
the United States - the one person best placed in the power dynamics
that perpetuate the conflict to finally end this bloody mess.
St. Paul, MN
5 June 2002
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