Front Lines in the Two State War Process
People who respond to the ruination of lives and places, and the new punishments heaped thick and fast on Palestinians and their supporters, by demanding “a Palestinian State Now” are missing the point. These ARE all moves towards the creation of the nearest thing Israel intends to offer as a separate state.
Two States is not a “peace process” but a war process, involving large scale forced movements and/or enclosure of populations. This is how “native reservations” are created, how Bantustans are planned. It’s been blatant for decades. The latest rules, Military Orders, walls, arrests and deportation procedures are merely an acceleration brought on by a recognition that some sort of final phase is upon us, and by the convergence of a new broom in Washington and a further lurch to the right in Israeli politics.
So a whole raft of seemingly separate struggles blowing up on a daily basis (expulsions from Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Plan, new powers to deport “infiltrators”, Lieberman’s revived “Transfers” plan, new settlement building, and the new locations where the separation wall is being challenged) all have one thing in common: they are held together as different fronts in the Two State War, waged with tear gas and bulldozers, armed squatters, permits and papers, ethnic changes dressed up as Town Planning, re-drawing of maps, and a charade of preconditions and protocols for negotiations.
The different issues are mostly reported as separate news items, and struggled against by different specialised groups and organisations. But they are all pieces in the one jigsaw. Here are some of them.
1. Expulsion of “Infiltrators”
A new military order (No. 1650) to deport “infiltrators”, effective from mid-April 2010, was first estimated to affect maybe 70,000 people in the West Bank who were born in Gaza. Legal rights NGO Hamoked have identified nearly 35,000 individuals who are at “high risk” of deportation. But it’s worse. “The orders substantively change the definition of “infiltrator” and in effect apply it to anyone who is present in the West Bank without an Israeli permit. The orders do not define what Israel considers a valid permit. The vast majority of people now living in the West Bank have never been required to hold any sort of permit to be there.
“The military will be able to prosecute and deport any Palestinian defined as infiltrator, in stark contradiction to the Geneva Convention. … according to the orders, the deportation may be executed within 72 hours. Even an appeal would only provide up to eight days’ delay.”
The orders are virtually a blank cheque, worded so broadly that they theoretically allow the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants.
Based on Israel’s track record and current policies, legal rights organisations expect the orders to be initially used against Palestinian residents of the West Bank that Israel wishes to transfer to the Gaza Strip. Israel is further expected to use the orders to deport foreign passport holding spouses of West Bankers abroad. This category includes tens of thousands of individuals. However, the definition of “infiltrator”, which also exposes a person to a prison term of three to seven years could, in principle, be applied to any person the military commander wishes ill, including Israeli and international citizens who are present in the West Bank.
Whether the intention is to use the Orders for large scale ethnic clearances or simply to have carte blanche to deport anyone who displeases the authorities in any way at all, this is one more indication that Israel is intent not on setting up a Palestinian state but on crushing the life and spirit out of Palestine.
2. Expulsions from Jerusalem
Prior to 1967, during the period of Jordanian rule, East Jerusalem was the Palestinians’ main commercial, political and administrative city, and a major source of employment and income.
Using the wall to slice through Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, 60,000 Palestinian residents on the “wrong side” of the wall have been arbitrarily excluded from their city. Though not displaced from their homes, they can no longer enter the rest of the walled-off city which can now only be accessed with special permits, so they’ve been cut off from family, friends, services and employment.
Israel’s own figures show that a further 13,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have had their residency revoked since 1967, with a record 4,577 in 2008. That means they are expelled and physically have to leave the city.
The policy of mass revocation of Jerusalem residency has since 1995 been led by the Interior Ministry, under successive parties including Labour and Kadima. Having unilaterally declared all of Jerusalem to be part of Israel, it has simply used a 1952 national law governing Entry into Israel. This makes it possible to kick someone out on any flimsy pretext, such as prolonged absence from the city. Hassan Jabareen of the Adalah Legal Centre for the Arab minority in Israel said: “The purpose of this law is to oversee the entry into Israel of foreigners. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem did not enter Israel; Israel entered East Jerusalem by occupying it in 1967.”
The latest scandal is that Jerusalem residency is now being revoked as a political tool, against elected representatives with Hamas connections, two of them members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (such as it is). Israel is trying to deport four men in all, on the grounds that “they had violated their minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, its citizens and its residents”. They had already been arrested, served 4-year sentences and been released. Now they have been defined as illegals and obligated to depart from “Israel’s borders”.
Amira Hass writes: “Even those who … are sworn opponents of the Palestinian Islamic movement know that Israel is setting a precedent. Today, people affiliated with Hamas are being expelled from Jerusalem. Tomorrow, if the PA falls apart or dares to reject Israel’s dictates, it will be known Fatah activists who will be stripped of their residency due to ‘disloyalty to the occupation’.”
Israel has already handed a political gift to Hamas in Jerusalem, and undermined its own puppet Mahmoud Abbas who has had to promise to get the orders rescinded. “With this expulsion order”, Hass writes “Israel has managed to unite the entire Palestinian arena. The protest tent the three men set up in the courtyard of the Red Cross office has become a pilgrimage site. And Abbas has met twice with those slated for banishment.”
3. The Jerusalem Plan
All that is small beer compared with the Jerusalem Plan, due for publication in the coming weeks. It will be an official blueprint for Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem for creating new Jewish neighbourhoods as well as a large area to be designated as a Jewish-themed National Park in the Silwan area, which would require more home demolitions and clearances. Planning approval in June for demolition of 22 homes has opened up a new front line in the struggle, diverting some protesters from Sheikh Jarrah.
Ultra-right mayor Nir Barkat is being blamed for driving this through, especially in the wake of the spat between Netanyahu and Obama over building plans for Ramat Shlomo, another disputed part of Jerusalem. But he is only following the logic of the re-designation of Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided Jewish capital.
PNI leader Mustafa Barghouti, one of the thousands banished from the city, said the Plan was “the latest chapter of discriminatory policies daily carried out through attacks on Palestinian population, evictions from their homes, Jerusalem ID card confiscations. Using insidious bureaucratic tools, Israel is further trying to isolate Jerusalem from Palestinians.
“The unilateral Israeli actions in Jerusalem are carried out in blatant violation of the so-called peace process. With this policy plan, Israel continues to engage in intensive planning in occupied territory, with the aim to maintain a Jewish majority and jeopardize the final status of Jerusalem in the negotiations. Israel’s tools for negotiations with Palestinians are the bulldozers, the expansion of the settlement units, and changing the demographic composition of the city to favour the Jewish-Israeli population. We are facing a systematic expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem which is against a future establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state”.
4. “Transfer”: the ultimate threat
And everything is small beer compared with the hideous talk of transfer. There is a distinct and growing constituency in Israel and within its government that would like to see a new Nakba: the mass expulsion of the Palestinians from within the borders of Greater Israel. They call it transfer. It would involve the uprooting of millions of people to join the existing exiles, in Jordan, in Egypt or to the north. Different parties have their chosen plans, and they periodically form and re-form alliances.
They declare quite openly that their aim is to clear all Arabs out of Israel, and have certainly fulfilled their own early targets for getting the idea into the public discourse. Some boast that their party cadres are preparing “by establishing these facts on the ground, by encouraging the emigration of displaced and hostile people from our land”. These must be the sheikh Jarrah squatters, and the arsonist vigilantes who destroy mosques, schools and olive groves. And they will also be sitting in senior IDF seats and making policy. In addition to terror and bullying, they are joining up settlements to make more big blocks in preparation for a showdown. And if there is an armed showdown between settlers and IDF, they will be there.
Even allowing for the fact that Israel’s coalition politics allow for some fringe parties to get close to power, it’s frightening just how mainstream this thinking has become. And meanwhile, they say, “We are waiting with our alternative plan, ready to execute it at a moment’s notice”.
One such plan has been up Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s sleeve for some years. In June he announced that he was ready to revive it. Was it ever dead?
What none of these plans contain is an answer to the fear that Israel’s second Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, confided in his diary in 1955: “What is our vision on this earth, war to the end of generations and life by the sword?”
If any one single thing has let these transfer schemes enter the main arteries of Israel’s political and intellectual system, it is the Two State Solution. At its heart is the business of swapping and reorganising land and people, of moving people around like objects, by paperwork or by impoverishment or by brutality, whether they be Jerusalem’s Palestinians, Gaza-born West Bank residents, or sacrificial outlying Jewish settlements.
After all, what would seem more natural to those who propose a separate state for Israel and a separate state for Palestine, than to separate their populations? And what would seem more fair, if Settlers are being pulled back into “Israel”, than to reciprocate by expelling Israel’s “Arabs”, already the object of racist hate campaigns.
The difference between a Two State deal and the evil, crazy schemes of these fascists is simply a matter of numbers and degree. And it may in the end be impossible to tell them apart.
5. How the West Bank was Stolen
While it seems that everybody knows all about Settlements on the West Bank, it’s less well known, but quite revealing, how Israel got the land to build them, which amounts to at least 42% of the West Bank. Obviously it conquered it, but how did it get legal rights to build on any of it? Jews for Justice for Palestinians has four links to articles analysing the phoney use of “law” to steal West Bank land, declare it “state land” and then build on it. B’Tselem also has a video.
♦ Hamoked (Centre for the Defence of the Individual) has just launched a new website with a comprehensive and up to date legal database of Israeli violations of human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories: Israeli statutory law; military legislation, international conventions, petitions to the High Court of Justice, torts claims, Israeli case-law; other relevant case laws; official documents, correspondence and more. It carries a new quiz asking “What do you know about the occupation?“ Somebody should recommend it to the US Congressman who, brandishing a large 3D map of Israel with the West Bank cut away as a visual aid, seemed convinced that there was no occupation and that Israel’s troops and personnel had all decamped.
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