planned demolition

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Israel: The long and careful transformation of Palestine into a ghetto.

Robert Fisk died last October. What would he say today about this new massacre against the Palestinian people? I didn't know him. I would. His journalism would be envied by any professional with experience in conflict scenarios. He spoke from the ground.

Two years before he died, Robert Fisk told us a story. In fact, an old story: “Reunion with a Palestinian family, 25 years after they were uprooted from their land”. He published it on October 8, 2018. A quarter of a century ago, he said: “I witnessed how Israel uprooted the Palestinian Khatib family from their land. Together with a British filmmaker, we filmed the bulldozers tearing down the garden wall and the house of Mohamed and Saida Khatib and their son Suleiman, destroying their field of olive trees, fig trees, apricot trees and almond trees, next to Saida's old chicken coop”.

"- It's mine; it belonged to my father and my father's father, the old and disabled Mohamed told me then. – What do you think I should do?, he asked me. He couldn't do anything. Perhaps that is why, as the years passed and the Jewish colony of Pisgat Ze'ev expanded into the Arab Hizme Valley, I chose not to return to the settlement that surrounded the Palestinian family's home and land.” Fisk said. “We did what we could. Journalism is a transient profession. I had other wars ahead to cover.”

“– My father used to bring water from the village of Hizme on the donkey – you've seen all the trees we had… but we can't fight a state like Israel. It is supposed to have laws and courts, but they are for its own benefit, not for the interests of others,” Mohamed's son told Fisk 25 years later. “It pains me to see him like this now, in this state,” Suleiman told him. Israeli settlers live there “in all luxury on other people's ruins. They don't know our history, they don't know what was here before. It's a sad story. When they demolished our house, they should have taken into account our feelings, our humanity. They flattened the earth, as if it had no trees, walls, nothing.”

Fisk concludes: “Palestinians will continue to fight for their land, even if the world does not pay attention to them. This is probably true. Israel could not steal Palestinian land without US support and Europe's apathy. I'm afraid it's true. As long as the occupation continues, there will be no peace.”

Surrounded by all parts

Was he right. The wall that surrounds (and expropriates) the Palestinian lands was almost ready. Little (or nothing) is said about this wall, which makes life impossible and which has served Banksy to illustrate some beautiful scenes about freedom, creating the illusion that beyond the wall life could flourish.

“The so-called separation or security barrier erected by Israel since 2005 extends for 700 km, largely along the Green Line that served as a border with the West Bank until 50 years ago,” says Juan Carlos Sáenz in an article published in Spanish newspaper El País on June 5, 2017. “Its serpentine route penetrates more than 10% of the soil of the West Bank for the territorial benefit of Israel, which is why the International Court of Justice in The Hague declared it illegal in 2004”.

Three days earlier, Sáenz had published another article: “The Way of the Cross of cancer in Gaza”. A dramatic story of those who suffer from cancer without being able to receive medical care due to the isolation conditions imposed by Israel on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In the current Israeli government, “considered the most right-wing in the history of the Hebrew state, the influence of the 600 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, who represent 7% of the population, is over-represented,” he added.

Systematic contempt of international law at no cost is only possible with the support of Washington, which not only assured Israel of impunity, but also financed its military development. Still in the Obama administration, whose relations with Israel were at times strained, it granted $38 billion in military aid over the next decade. Something similar happens with Europe. Trump, for his part, has completely aligned himself with the occupation of Palestinian territory. But there are no guarantees that this impunity will not have consequences.

In recent days, Senator Bernie Sanders has called on the US government to review the nearly four billion dollars a year it grants in military aid to Israel. “It is illegal for US aid to support the violation of human rights,” he tweeted.

It is impossible to forget the story of when US troops took over the death camp that the Nazis had installed in Ohrdruf, a small town in central Germany, about 300 km southwest of Berlin.

Faced with the horror found there, General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander on the Western European Front, took his troops to visit the camp and forced local citizens to bury the dead and clean the place. The stories say that General Bradley also forced the burgermeister of the city and his wife to visit him. When they returned home, both committed suicide. Perhaps one day the world will be forced to look to Palestine.

planned demolition

Annelies Keuleers, a Belgian journalist who lives in the West Bank city of Ramallah, reported on the portal electronic intifada the tensions experienced in the Jordan Valley in November 2018. With attention focused on the planned demolition of the village of Khan al-Ahmar (about 30 km southeast of Ramallah), other areas of the Jordan Valley were off the radar of the media. communication, says Keuleers.

However, "Israel's consolidation over the Jordan Valley continues at an accelerated pace." Keuleers was referring to the demolition of Palestinian structures by the Israeli army just a month ago in the communities of al-Hadidiya (a community of 112 livestock-herding villagers) and in the area of ​​al-Musafa east of the village of Jiftlik, about 70 km north of Ramallah. “In al-Hadidiya, in the north of the Jordan Valley, the bulldozers arrived on the morning of 11 October, leaving Omar Arif Bisharat and eight family members, including five children, homeless,” he says. They lived in shacks and tents made of sheet metal due to the lack of building permits and without permission to connect to the electricity or water grid. “Even entering the village became a big challenge”, assures Keuleers.

In any case, the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar remains on the Israeli agenda, despite international backlash. Located close to the strategic Route 1, which connects East Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, Khan al-Ahmar is also located close to the illegal settlement of Kfar Adumim. If the project goes ahead, it will divide the West Bank, forcing Palestinians to take an even longer detour to move from one community to another as illegal Jewish settlements expand.

the moment of truth

“More than two decades have passed since the Middle East Peace Conference was held in Madrid and Washington, in October 1991, and direct negotiations were launched between the PLO and the government of Israel, in what became known as the Process of Oslo”, recalled Isaías Barreñada, professor of international relations at the Complutense University of Madrid, in an article published in the 2014-2015 yearbook of the Center for Education and Research for Peace (CEIPAZ).

Barreñada carefully reviews this process, starting with the failure of the Camp David II Summit in July 2000. It was the end of the Bill Clinton administration. There, Israel presented its offer, unacceptable to the Palestinians: annexation of part of the West Bank, division of Jerusalem based on ethnic criteria, guardianship of the future Palestinian entity, non-return of Palestinian refugees.

During the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009), the United States gave Israel “carte blanche to carry out its fait accompli policies, to take unilateral measures (construction of the wall, withdrawal from Gaza, expropriations) that reconfigured the occupied territories and weakened the Palestinian Authority,” says Barreñada.

In the Obama administration, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to revive direct negotiations for a final deal. Unsuccessfully, as we know. “Israel failed to fulfill its commitments to release a significant number of prisoners and cease colonizing activity, and it was introducing new conditions that made any agreement impossible”.

On the contrary, “the negotiations were accompanied by an acceleration of colonization. During the nine months of talks, the government approved the construction of 14 new housing units in the West Bank”. Much more than during previous governments. The number of settlers increased by 55, the Israeli military killed 61 Palestinians and wounded 1.100. Another 660 were victims of attacks by Jewish settlers.

Military occupation brutalized the occupier

Barreñada remembers the story. The founding myths with which the State of Israel was created, in his opinion, “no longer have anything to do with reality”. “In political terms, the country has radically swung towards conservative and nationalist positions”, although “the State of Israel has had a Palestinian minority in its bosom, which has citizenship and currently represents almost twenty percent of the population”.

By then – and this only got worse afterwards – more than half of the deputies were part of the colonialist bloc, in favor of prolonging the occupation. The Zionist left – silent or non-existent – ​​and the democratic opposition had been reduced “to the margins of the system”. “This political scenario, characterized by the protagonism of the ultra-right, which has managed to hijack the dominant discourse, reflects the social decomposition and moral drift that dominates the environment”, says the Spanish academic. “A situation of moral decomposition, characteristic of the last moments of colonial societies, is repeated, as happened in Algeria or South Africa”. “More than four decades of military occupation have brutalized the occupier,” he says.

The bulk of society, regardless of its ideology, “only wants to preserve its material well-being and its privileges, “even if violence is necessary for that”. The current military operation against the Palestinians is nothing more than history repeated, which only reveals its failure.

In late 2008 and in 2012, Israel had launched two major operations in Gaza "which resulted in numerous casualties and material destruction". One more was released in the summer of 2014, which "proved to be devastating".

In July 2014 – recalls Barreñada – “Israel carried out a new major military operation in Gaza. "Its declared objective was to eliminate those responsible for the rocket attacks and deliver a definitive blow to Hamas to stop the passage through the tunnels that linked Gaza and Egypt." “Israeli aviation and missile strikes, along with incursions by foot soldier units over 50 days, severely damaged several locations (Rafah, Khan Yunes, Beit Hanoun) and literally leveled others (Al-Shejaiya, Khuza'a )”. “Unseen levels of destruction of vital civil infrastructure and health and educational facilities have been reached, including those of UNRWA”, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (from which, during the Trump administration, the United States withdrew all its contribution ).

According to Palestinian sources, around 2.200 people were killed during this raid, of which 516 were minors. More than 11.000 people were injured. On the Israeli side, there were five civilian casualties and 66 soldiers. “The military operation didn't solve anything, it only made the situation worse,” said Barreñada. “Since then Israel has not stopped colonization, the government has continued its radical drift, with fiery ministers and continuous provocations”.

Gaza has become a prison

Since 2007, Gaza has been subjected to “severe isolation imposed by Israel and Egypt, with the complicity of the international community”. This blockade, adds Barreñada, “has had a terrible impact on the population in terms of health, access to clean water and nutrition, causing an indefinite number of victims each month”. “Gaza has become a prison,” he says. “In 2012, the UN warned that under such conditions, in 2020 and with more than two million inhabitants – half of whom are under 17 years of age – Gaza would be an uninhabitable place”. “Without lifting the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, the situation will not change substantially,” he says. "The Israeli government demonstrates daily that its strategic objective is not peace, but the continuation of its fait accompli policies." The expansion of the wall that surrounds the Palestinian territory in the West Bank, the constant expansion of illegal settlements in Palestinian territory and the road infrastructures of the colonization are part of this dynamic that leads to a de facto annexation of large parts of the West Bank.

Barreñada already insisted on that occasion that the international community should assume its obligation "not to provide aid or assistance, nor to cover up or tolerate the violation of international law by Israel". "As the 2004 International Court of Justice Opinion stressed, States Parties must use available means to force Israel to stop its illegal practices and prevent the use of force against civilians."

Until today – concluded Barreñada –, “Israel has benefited from privileged treatment, being recognized as a supposed exceptionality that has translated into veto power and impunity”, including not only the resolutions of the International Court of Justice, but also the regulations that seek to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, whose treaties Israel has not signed, which allowed it to become the only nuclear power in the Middle East, without the issue having been included in the international debate.

This has been – in Barreñada's opinion – “the main cause of the unresolved conflict”. “If this continues”, he said more than five years ago, “not only will the conflict persist, but Israel will definitely fall into a racist regime”.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk)

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.


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