Israel in Palestine

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By GILBERTO LOPES*

A war between those who defend their land and those who want to take it away

“I can already hear how they adjust their instruments of death. Please. Do what you can. This cannot continue”
(Dr. Mads Gilbert).

“Last night was extreme. I can already hear the instruments of death. The rivers of blood will continue to flow next night,” said Dr. Mads Gilbert of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza on July 24, 2014. Does this hospital still exist? Something better would have happened for him than for Al-Ahli Hospital, destroyed by bombing last week. I went to check. Yes, it still exists. It is the largest hospital in Gaza. With the capacity to serve 700 people per day, it currently receives 5.000. It was on the verge of collapse. “When the bombing arrives, all hell breaks loose on Al-Shifa,” said Alejandra Pataro, a journalist at Clarín.

Dr. Gilbert's voice continues to resonate, but the reasons for this tragedy remain unclear. We have to try to understand…

The war in the Gaza Strip diverted attention from the West Bank, the other territory with which a Palestinian state should be formed. “This lack of attention”, says Israeli journalist Amira Haas, in the newspaper Haaretz, “allowed Jewish settlers, supported by the army, police and paramilitary forces, to once again attack Palestinian farmers and herders in the West Bank, with a clear objective: to expel the communities from their lands and their homes.

O Haaretz illuminates aspects of a reality that has taken a backseat in Israel and that the rest of the world practically ignores. The military front of this war is being fought again in Gaza, with its dramatic consequences, but even so, it is difficult to decide which of the two scenarios – Gaza or the West Bank – is the cruelest.

Just over ten years ago, in May 2013, the columnist for Haaretz Bradley Burston wrote about Israel’s “true secret.” “It’s not the atomic bomb,” he stated, but the budget that the State allocated to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. No one knows how much money is distributed to the settlements. Nobody! Never! Bradley Burston was referring to a report on Israeli army radio about the resources intended to legalize these settlements and create incentives to attract thousands of new residents beyond the borders of the West Bank, established by the “Green Line”. “Poverty in Israel is good for settlements and great for occupation,” he added. When settlement construction began in the 1980s, says Bradley Burston, the governments of Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative Likud party “had already begun to dismantle the social security and welfare networks that have been the basis of Israel's economy and society since its founding in 1948. As privatization progressed, many people in Israel's outlying villages and neighborhoods were left behind. The government then financed the creation of suburbs with affordable housing, which attracted thousands of buyers. It financed schools and transportation, so that the occupation of Palestinian territory became a reality, row after row. Then, military bases appeared in all directions “to protect the settlers”.

Ten years after Bradley Burston's article, Ofer Aderet published, also in Haaretz, other details of the plan, revealed in documents from the state archives, thanks to a project by the Taub Center for Israeli studies, from New York University, which shows how the occupation of Palestinian territories in Judea and Samaria was carefully planned. “The establishment of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories was the largest national undertaking of the last half century, but it attracted very little academic research,” reads the website of the Taub Center.

The documents made public revealed that, first, they tried to expropriate the Palestinians' agricultural land, under the pretext that they would transform it into a military training zone. If the inhabitants refused to leave, the soldiers sabotaged their tools or used their vehicles to destroy the crops. As a last resort, they poisoned the land, spraying it with toxic chemicals, lethal to animals and dangerous to humans. These measures, applied in the city of Aqraba in 1972, during the government of Prime Minister Golda Meir, are an example of how, on this issue, the same policy was promoted in a similar way by the different Israeli parties.

On September 21, a UN report denounced an unprecedented exodus of Palestinian settlers in the West Bank. More than 1.100 have been forced to abandon their properties since 2022 due to violence by Jewish settlers, who forced Palestinians to completely displace five communities. Another six saw half of their inhabitants leave, and in some others, smaller parts of their population. “I feel like I am a refugee here and the settlers own our land,” said Ali Abu Kbash, a shepherd who left his property in the West Bank village of Al-Qabun with his four children and 60 sheep to fend for themselves. install on the rocky slopes of a neighboring village.

The wave of abandonment of the so-called “Area C” of the West Bank (with 60% of the territory under control of the Israeli army, in accordance with the Oslo peace accords of the 90s) intensified. “The expulsion of Palestinians amid growing settler violence has reached a magnitude never before documented,” according to Andrea de Domenico, coordinator of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The settlers set up outposts on Palestinian lands, release their sheep on the lands of Palestinian shepherds and burn their homes, with the support of the authorities and the military.

In September 2020, Israeli courts ordered the expulsion of a dozen Palestinians from their land in two separate cases: in one of them, to hand over the land to a settler association; in the other, to a company owned by far-right activists.

Netanyahu, fighting for his political survival in the September 2019 elections, announced his willingness to seize up to a third of the West Bank. Arab foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, called it a “dangerous plan” that violates international law. The Turkish foreign minister considered him “racist and incendiary”. The illegality of these actions was reiterated by the most diverse instances. The policy of building and expanding settlements, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. The European Union has stated that it will not recognize any unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley by Israel, according to European diplomatic service spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic, in response to the plan announced by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Endemic poverty

It is impossible, in a newspaper article, to tell the story of seven decades. But there are numerous notes, from various sources, that summarize the situation we have tried to describe. In December 2004, the with the BBC interviewed Peter Hansen, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East, also known by the acronym UNRWA. The interview can be seen here. “The statistics of death, destruction and poverty fail to convey the true suffering of people in the occupied territories. Entire neighborhoods (…) were leveled. In our schools, an entire generation is growing up in an environment of terrifying violence. The curse of endemic poverty now affects two-thirds of the population,” Peter Hansen told with the BBC.

In November (2004), UNRWA asked for funds to feed 1,6 million Palestinians in the occupied territories. “These are people who, if it weren’t for UNRWA, would have nothing to eat?” asks the journalist. “That’s right,” Hansen said. “Since the beginning of the Intifada (September 2000), almost all job opportunities for Palestinians in Israel have disappeared. Before the Intifada, there were 130.000 Palestinians working in Israel. We are talking about 130.000 families, almost a million people, because the families are large,” he explains.

“A World Bank report from November 2004 states that 50% of Palestinians live in poverty, on less than two dollars a day. UNRWA reported that one in five children in the occupied territories suffers from malnutrition”, says the journalist. “We have been in this emergency program for four years. Due to lack of resources, we have had to lower the level of food aid from 80% of a family's needs to 60% and currently to 40% because we simply don't have enough money to do better.” “Do you mean”, they asked him again, “that families only receive 40% of the food they need to survive?” "That's right. They will have to find the rest elsewhere.”

Washington's relations with the Palestinians had become difficult. On December 6, 2017, Donald Trump announced that the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (currently a presidential candidate for the Republican Party) defended the measure, arguing that the program was responsible for poverty in Palestine.

The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the decision. “This deplorable and unacceptable measure deliberately compromises all peace efforts,” said Mahmoud Abbas. For Hamas, the decision “opened the gates of hell for United States interests in the region.” In August 2018, Donald Trump canceled the resources allocated by the United States to the aid program for the Palestinians. A move that Joe Biden reversed in April 2021, announcing $150 million for UNRWA and another $75 million for economic and humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The wall

UNRWA also denounced the wall being built by Israel in the West Bank. Despite its importance, the mainstream press says little (or nothing) about this wall. Even though it is not completely completed (and, for political reasons, it may never be), its consequences are devastating for the Palestinians, as Hansen indicated. “The wall passes through some places that separate the population from the facilities we have for education and health.” “There are problems getting them to hospitals, because most of the hospitals are in Jerusalem, which is being completely closed.”

A complex structure that stretches over more than 500 km, with around 30 km of concrete walls up to seven meters high and four meters deep, complemented by barriers, fences and surveillance towers that surround the West Bank and Gaza. Barriers that Palestinians have to cross through checkpoints, of which, until last year, eleven were open daily, while others were open on certain days of the week or only at certain harvest times. And where passage was always an arbitrary, and often humiliating, decision by security agents.

A person who lives near Jerusalem and has to go to the hospital, instead of the fifteen minutes it took before, it now takes three hours. You have to take a very long journey to the south of Jerusalem and return to the north. For elderly and sick people, this is far from ideal. “An obstacle that goes far beyond the obvious physical impact: it is the pain of the separated family, the helplessness faced with the confiscated or demolished house, the anguish of the farmer who does not irrigate his land and loses his livelihood, the fury of prolonged trips to travel the detour, the humiliation of the military checkpoints to cross, the expectation of the faithful who yearn to pray in Jerusalem, the melancholy of a stolen sunset”, said journalist Carmen Rangel in an article published in Huffington Post on June 26 last year.

Israel began building a wall in June 2002 and planned to extend it later by about 700 km, at a cost of more than 3,5 billion dollars. The Palestinians denounced the expropriation of new territories with the construction of the wall, which does not follow the Green Line border. The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in 2004 that the structure is illegal because a large part of its route crosses the autonomous Palestinian territories.

On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2.334, reaffirming that “the establishment of settlements by Israel in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law ”. He reiterated his demand that Israel “immediately and completely” cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and called for the adoption of measures to prevent any acts of violence against civilians. As we know, none of this happened.

The Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian body that administers part of the occupied territory and that emerged in the Oslo Accords in 1993, saw its authority diminished by the division of the West Bank territory into three areas: A, B and C. The Oslo Accords left it in the hands Israel has full control of the Palestinian economy, as well as civil and security affairs in more than 60% of the West Bank, designated Area C.

Dissatisfied with this situation, since 2005, the Palestinians have elected Hamas and its policy of armed resistance to the occupation as their representative in Gaza, whose attack on the population in southern Israel, in early October, began the most serious military escalation of the conflict. Israeli-Palestinian.

Do what you can. This cannot continue…

The most serious? Maybe, but just look at history and discover that, every now and then, it repeats itself. In July 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council met in Geneva to discuss a new Israeli incursion into Gaza, the so-called “Protective Edge” operation. According to various estimates, between 2.125 and 2.310 Gazans were killed (1.492 civilians, including 551 children and 299 women) in this operation. Nearly eleven thousand were injured, and 66 soldiers and five Israeli civilians (including a child) also lost their lives.

The UN denounced that the Israeli army's attacks on Gaza could constitute “war crimes” and approved an investigation, while Palestine requested international help to force Israel to cease an aggression that it denounced as “a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The resolution was approved by the Human Rights Council with 29 votes in favor and 17 abstentions. The only vote against was that of the United States. The United States considered the resolution “destructive” and would not contribute to the cessation of hostilities. Israel called the decision a “farce”. Its ambassador to the Council, Eviatar Manor, accused Hamas of committing “war crimes” and claimed that Israel would “destroy its military infrastructure.” On July 24, Dr. Mads Gilbert of Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital, a Norwegian national, published an open letter in the British newspaper The Independent, to which we have already referred.

“The rivers of blood will continue to flow next night. I can already hear how they adjust their instruments of death. Please. Do what you can. This cannot continue,” she pleaded. He said that “last night was extreme. The ground invasion of Gaza produced dozens of vehicles filled with mutilated, broken, bleeding, shaking and agonizing bodies… Wounded Palestinians of all conditions and ages, all civilians, all innocent.” “Then, the orchestra of the Israeli war machine resumes its macabre symphony. Right now: the artillery salvos from the navy ships anchored off the coast, the roar of the F-16s, the sickening drones (in Arabic, 'zennanis', 'hummingbirds') and the Apaches. All built and paid for by the United States.”

A smart investment

All built and paid for by the United States!, said Dr. Gilbert. On Thursday, October 19, Joe Biden addressed Americans (and the world) from his White House Oval Office about the conflicts in Palestine and Ukraine. Hamas terrorists have unleashed evil on the world. It is they – and Putin – who intend to end democracy and their neighbors, he said. If they do not pay a price, the cost and threats against the United States will continue to increase. If we put everything at risk, if we abandon Ukraine and Israel, our leadership and our values ​​will be at risk. That's why tomorrow I will ask for urgent resources to fund our national security needs, said Joe Biden.

And he asked Congress for 106 billion dollars: 60 billion for Ukraine and 14 billion for Israel. The remainder for other expenses. “It’s a smart investment that will pay dividends for generations to come for America’s security,” he said. In these days of war, the urgent needs of Gaza, whose just over two million inhabitants had no water, food or electricity, cut off by Israel, nor resources for its hospitals, were estimated at around 270 million dollars.

The package that Joe Biden would send to Congress pointed in another direction. It is an unprecedented commitment to Israel's security that will ensure its military advantage, he said, adding that Israel needed to operate according to the laws of war, to protect civilians "to the best of our ability." Biden believes that it is American leadership, its values, that hold the world together. That the United States is the indispensable nation, essential to building the arsenal of democracy and defending the cause of freedom. “We will not let terrorists like Hamas, or tyrants like Putin, win. I will not allow it.” “We are the United States of America!” he stated. Commenting on the speech, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Before, they said it was a fight for freedom and democracy. Now it turns out that it is just a calculation.”

And the rules?

There are those who seek to justify their positions on the conflict between Palestinians and Israel from the point of view of “ethics”. As if the problem of ethics had not always been resolved, in the economic and political choices that, as history shows, were taken more than 70 years ago. Others speak of “terrorism”. But, transformed into a political weapon to disqualify enemies, “terrorism” lost its analytical value. Used as a qualifier, it makes any attempt to understand the problems impossible.

And the rules? The Israeli-Palestinian relationship shows that, for a long time, there have been no rules. None of the UN resolutions are fulfilled. No agreements are respected, neither those in Oslo nor those in Minsk, in the case of Ukraine. There is also no mention of Israel's atomic bomb, a debate that is impossible to dissociate from other, more current ones, about the North Korean or Iranian bomb. Are there other rules that apply to these cases? We cannot help but think that there is no shortage of people who want to transform the world into another Al-Ahil Hospital. Shouldn't some effort be made to avoid this?

This story was falsified

“There are still many Francoists in Spain,” maestro Daniel Barenboim told the Spanish newspaper El País in September 2020. At the age of nine, Barenboim left Argentina for Israel with his parents. “My maternal grandparents, especially my grandmother, were great Zionists. She more than my grandfather. The woman was the one in charge at home. My father wasn't convinced either. Let's say my mother and mother-in-law infected him. The State of Israel was created in 1948 and my grandparents left in 1951. Then we arrived.” “Did you miss Argentina?” they asked him. “I don’t remember,” he says. "And now?". “Now, yes, for several reasons. Because, as the years go by, we go back to our childhood and because what is happening in Israel hurts me a lot.”

“What was that nascent country like?” “Another thing radically different from what it became. The military escalation, understandably, affected his kindness. The fervor subsided. We cannot militarily occupy other peoples with our history, with centuries of persecution. Zionism began with the idea of ​​a people for a country without people, a poetic and beautiful idea, but false: at the beginning of the 9th century, historical memory was falsified there. It could not be said that it was a territory without people. It already had people before: at the beginning of the 91th century, it was only XNUMX% Jewish. It's not that there was no one. There were XNUMX% that were not. But this was hidden, this story was falsified”, said Daniel Barenboim.

As we know, the rivers of blood continue to flow. The truth is that this cannot continue!

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

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.


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