Friday, April 11, 2008

Remembering Palestine ( our brother in exile) part 2

A Systematic Campaign for Dominance of the Land
Betar Illit Settlement, to the south of Jerusalem
Negotiations Affairs Department
Mainstream history books, media, and international political think-tanks rarely present the fate of the area that was once Mandate Palestine as a comprehensive whole. The issue of land is usually examined under geographical categorization: each area, be it Gaza, Jerusalem, or the Galilee, is studied separately. The implication of such methodology is that there are unique issues in different areas with different solutions. But to consider Zionist policy towards a specific district in isolation from others is a grave error, hiding the true nature and structure and root of the problems.

Click here to view a photo gallery on the period 1967 - present.

While it is important to understand the unique circumstances and status of land in each geographical area, this folder looks at long-term Israeli land policy as a systematic whole, the same policy manifesting itself in various ways in different areas. When looking at Israeli government land policy towards the whole area that was British Mandate Palestine, (and before that the Palestinian districts of the Ottoman Empire), it is possible to identify an overarching scheme. Analysis reveals patterns, trends, and similar strategies employed to achieve the same goal: domination of the land for one ethnic group only. Israeli land policy in each area fits into an all encompassing strategy to divide Palestinians from their land.

Labor and the Allon Plan 1967 � 1977
Although Israel celebrated what was perceived as a massive victory in 1967, seizing an extensive area of new land ranging from the ancient city of Gaza to the heights of the Golan, from the capital of Jerusalem to the whole West Bank of the river Jordan, it did not succeed in transferring the majority of Palestinians from their land. Not only did Israel occupy a land peopled by the original inhabitants, but it could no longer avoid taking some level of responsibility for large numbers of refugees who had fled in 1948, now living in squalor in camps across the newly occupied territory.

In the first decade following the 1967 occupation, the state remained in Labor Party control, guided by the unofficial Allon Plan (named after Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon). The goal was to achieve �maximum land with minimum Arabs,� an objective which had not been successfully accomplished in the 1967 attack. The Allon Plan aimed to annex around 40 percent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Israel, meaning that it would be considered in Israeli eyes as fully part of Israel, rather than land taken in war with as yet undetermined status. An integral part of this plan was to devise numerous ways in which Palestinians would be transferred off the land to be annexed, in order to render it suitable for Israeli annexation.

There is often confusion over the terms occupation, annexation and confiscation. In this text, the word occupation is used to mean the taking of land by means of force, but many of the original inhabitants may still live on the land. Annexation is the word that applies to the Israeli laws passed in relation to East Jerusalem in 1980 and the Syrian Golan in 1981 (although the land was �occupied� in 1967). The Israelis applied civil rather than military law to these areas, and attempted to enforce Israeli citizenship on residents. Although Israeli citizenship would entitle Palestinians and Syrians in these areas to greater rights under Israeli law, the large majority refused to accept Israeli passports and citizenship. Accepting citizenship was seen as an acceptance of Israel�s right to claim their land and would give them even less chance in the future of reclaiming the land for themselves.

Thus those from annexed areas, East Jerusalemites and residents of the Golan, do not usually have citizenship like Palestinians from areas occupied in 1948 such as the Galilee and the Negev; but they also have different ID from West Bank and Gazan Palestinians. This means that currently an East Jerusalemite is free to travel within Israeli borders, whereas a West Banker would be arrested instantly if discovered visiting or working in Tel Aviv or Haifa.

Land Confiscation
Some Palestinians living in occupied or annexed land are still able to farm their land, but this number is decreasing every year, and farmers live in the knowledge that their land is under constant threat, irrespective of which side of the Green Line that they are living on. �Confiscated� land is land that the Israeli government physically prevents Palestinians from reaching. This could happen to Palestinians wherever they live, and whatever their �status� in the eyes of Israeli law. A Palestinian citizen of Israel in the Triangle area could have farmland confiscated, just as a Bedouin citizen in the Negev or Palestinian refugee in a Gazan refugee camp could have crops destroyed.

In 1973 the government enacted legislation to try to persuade �internal refugees� to accept offers of compensation. Internal refugees are those who lost their homes and lands in 1948, but fled to other occupied areas and were given citizenship in the new

Israeli state. Few accepted this compensation offered, which was not equal to the value of the land and the loss of earnings incurred in the previous 25 years. Perhaps more significantly, signing for compensation meant a signing away of any claim to their own land in the future. This was an offer few were prepared to accept (Abu Hussein and McKay, 2003, p. 73). Such a strategy has been employed throughout the history of dealings over land confiscation. Similar offers have been made, a contemporary example being offers to some West Bank farmers who have lost land for the building of the new series of boundaries and walls in the West Bank. Accepting compensation automatically signs away any claims to land in future negotiations.

Another case study inside the 1948 Green Line concerns those farmers in the Triangle area who lost land to build the Trans-Israel Highway. This new road, seizing a large amount of the very little farmland left to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, follows roughly the line of the 1967 West Bank border, just to the west side (as the Wall does to the east). Farmers complained that the land offered to them in compensation was not equal in size or did not have access to essential water resources. Many received several smaller pieces of land in lieu of a larger piece; yet, of course, this rendered much farming impractical. Others found that the land allocated was divided by electricity pylons or even slated for road development in the not-too-distant future.

Land Day
In 1975 Palestinians inside Israel�s 1948 borders established the Land Defence Committee to campaign against ongoing land confiscation. On March 30, 1976, the political activity of the Palestinians in the 1948 areas, which had previously been muted by a harsh policy of Israeli control, finally received the attention of the rest of the Arab world owing to Israel�s bloody response to organized demonstrations. As Palestinians across the Galilee gathered in the area of Sakhnin village to protest increasing land expropriation, the Israeli government chose to make a swift crackdown. Six Palestinians were killed and the day has since been memorialized as Land Day on the national Palestinian calendar. This event contributed to an increase in awareness of Palestinians living within the Israeli state by the wider Palestinian community.

Jewish Settlement: Strategy for Control of the Land
Religious Jewish groups initially opposed the idea of establishing the promised land of Israel through military force. The kingdom of Israel was to be established by God alone. The early Israeli settlers in the Ottoman and Mandate periods, and then in the early decades of the state, were largely driven by secular ideology. However, in the wake of the capture of Jerusalem in its entirety, and the West Bank of the Jordan, which is considered to be the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Judea and Samaria, the majority of religious Jews began to embrace the Zionist project with a drive and fervor unseen till then.

Support from the religious establishment was essential for the Israeli government expansion project and brought with it vital support from abroad, particularly from the United States. Religious communities were prepared to lead the way in pioneering settlement in the newly captured areas, to maintain often dangerous positions in places such as Hebron and Gaza. The residence of settlers was essential to the maintenance of military positions and the expropriation of Palestinian water and resources, policies that it was hoped would make life so difficult for Palestinians that they would eventually choose to leave. In the West Bank, just as in the Galilee, settlements were usually built on high positions, giving the army a perfect vantage point to maintain control of the Palestinian population.

The settlement project launched in earnest in the 1970s in the West Bank and Gaza was in form the same as the methods that were employed to seize control of the land following the 1948 Nakba (see 1948 � 1967). Land was confiscated in order to build

  • Housing, much of which remains empty despite continued building. Tax deductions and government sponsorship created low housing costs, adding a significant enticement for Israelis considering the move to the West Bank or Gaza, or people abroad considering emigrating. Beautiful scenery and low cost housing made settlement in the 1967 territories an attractive prospect for everyone, not just religious groups.
  • Service infrastructure such as new roads and tunnels, which are justified as essential settler needs, yet in the process confiscate further land and cut access between villages, dividing farmers from farmland and families from one another.
  • Military bases and security zones: Right from the beginning, the settlement project allowed the Israelis to expand a military presence closer to neighboring Arab states Jordan and Egypt (and Syria in the Golan). Supposedly �residential� settlements could also be used as military outposts, enabling greater Israeli control over the large Palestinian population occupied in the 1967 war.
Family sitting in ruins of their home in Rafah refugee camp, destroyed by Israeli bulldozers
Rafah Today

The necessity for the building of the above has been used, and continues to be used, as justification to increase the stranglehold on the land and to devastate Palestinian lives and economy. The methods by which this end is achieved are applied on both sides of the Green Line:

  • Housing demolition is not limited to the West Bank and Gaza. In 2003 the Israeli government destroyed over 500 homes in East Jerusalem and in areas where Palestinians are living inside Israel. This is a deliberate policy against all Palestinian Arabs, not merely a collective punishment for families of suicide bombers in the West Bank and Gaza. (Collective punishment is recognized internationally as a violation of basic human rights, but Israel is not sanctioned for this.)
  • Housing or property confiscation to use for military emplacements is often initially defined as temporary, yet never returned.
  • Theft of water resources: Settlements such as Alfei Menashe in the west of the West Bank close to Qalqilya, have been built in the best positions to extract the water resources of the most important Palestinian water aquifer (natural underground water reservoir). Inside the 1948 areas, roads and kibbutzim have been strategically placed to cut access to water resources for the tiny minority of farmers who have still managed to hold on to their land.
  • Confiscation of farmland
  • Destruction of crops and natural environment
  • Curfews, �temporary� military closures, and denial of permits so that, although the land is officially open to the farmer, it is physically impossible for people to reach. Laws applying to government ownership of �uncultivated land� can then come into play.

The Oslo Years: Activity on the Ground Increases
Many accounts of the Oslo period would describe in detail the different ways in which land was classified and used, and accords implemented. Technically, for example, the West Bank and Gaza were divided into areas A, B, and C. Area A was to be land fully under control of Palestinian Authority (Gaza Strip and major West Bank cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah). In Area B Palestinians were responsible for civil affairs but Israelis responsible for security. Area C was under full Israeli control. Yet in practice, with no control over borders or the economy, and no contiguous territory, it is hard to describe even Area A as ever having been �independent� Palestinian territory.

In the Oslo years, settlement building and land confiscation were supposedly to end, and an �interim period� was established to build up confidence between the two �sides� before �final status� negotiations were completed. More is written about this in the section entitled �The Struggle,� but suffice to say at this point, that the majority of those that did have confidence in the Oslo process at the beginning (and many did not) had pretty much lost this hope before the second Intifada started.

A common media myth perpetuated is that if Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had not been assassinated, a just solution to the conflict over land would have been reach. Close look at policy under Rabin in the Oslo years suggests otherwise. In spring 1995 under the Rabin government, nostalgically considered by Israeli �doves� as the golden years, it was decided that 8,000 new housing units would be built in Ma�ale Adumim. This Israeli settlement is located at the center of the West Bank, halfway between Jerusalem and Jericho, and thus can be quite clearly seen as part of the plan to divide the West Bank and annex the area of �Greater Jerusalem� to what is internationally recognized as Israel.

During Oslo, not only did settlements expand, but land confiscation continued apace. In the decade following Oslo, settlements doubled and numbers of settlers soared. Facts on the ground continued to be established. Ehud Barak, considered as Rabin�s heir, built more settlements in East Jerusalem than his Likud predecessor Netanyahu. The practice on the ground, not the rhetoric on the international stage, led Palestinians to conclude that any words of reassurance from Israel were empty rhetoric.

Land Policy into the 21st Century: Creating Facts on the Ground
The brutal land policy employed during the Intifada�the destruction and confiscation of land on which people live and work�must be seen in a very different context than simply �a response to the Palestinian escalation in violence,� the light in which Israel is so keen to portray it. This can be seen in any number of issues; just a few are highlighted below:
  • West Bank: Blurring of the West Bank Western Border
    Building the West Bank Wall
    The new Wall is not the first system of infrastructure built to confiscate land in the West Bank border zones. Since the 1970s, the Israeli government has been developing a series of strategies to break up the contiguous land and populated areas of Palestinian citizens of Israel on the west of the 1967 line (in the Little Triangle), and the Palestinians of the Tulkarm, Qalqilya western West Bank region on the other. Building a massive road (the Trans-Israel Highway) from north to south in the past few years has confiscated a large proportion of the small lands still remaining to Palestinian farmers inside Israel, just as the building of the Wall has on the other side. The building of settlements in this zone has also been strategic, labeled �Sharon�s Star Point� plan. Settlements in the past two decades have been built on both sides of the border, in effect blurring the border line with the West Bank, further encroaching on what is supposedly PA territory, and crucially placing Israeli civilians with strong military support to divide the Palestinian populated area from within.

  • Jerusalem: Unilateral Creation of Greater Jerusalem
    Abu Dis, Occupied Palestinian Jerusalem. Businesses, shops and families divided by the wall
    Negotiations Affairs Department
    Israel is undertaking a massive development of the infrastructure of Jerusalem, which encompasses a much broader area than that of West Jerusalem. A system that incorporates dividing walls, tunnels, and fences to build trams, rail- and roadways and new Jewish residential neighborhoods involves massive housing demolition and land confiscation from Palestinians. Crucially, this plan for Jerusalem covers areas classified by the international community variously as West Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. It is clear from the municipal plans for Greater Jerusalem (which are in the public domain and not a closed Israeli secret), that Israel is investing in a future in which a shared Jerusalem and a return of the West Bank have no place. This was in evidence to the Palestinians long before the start of any militant action during the Intifada (see maps on www.nad-plo. org and

  • Galilee: Judaization of the Galilee
    The process of the �Judaization of the Galilee� sprang from the disgust of Ben-Gurion on a 1950s visit to the Galilee. Horrified by the density of the Arab population, particularly in an area bordering the �enemy territory� of Lebanon, Ben-Gurion and future policy makers see the Galilee demographics as a threat to the Jewish nation. From that day to this, the program has continued, with hundreds of mitzpim (look out) settlements established, as well as new settlement towns such as Karmiel, all through the process of confiscating land of the Arab villages. Alongside numerous other laws �legalizing� confiscation, Israel is still making use of the Absentees� Property Law today across the country.

  • Negev: Plan for the Bedouin
    Demolished mosque in Bedouin village in the Negev, deemed �illegal� by Israel
    Prime Minister Sharon has announced a plan for the Negev region in the southern part of the country, a target for the year 2020. Palestinian Bedouin, who are citizens of Israel, are to be �encouraged�� to live in the new townships that have been built for them over the past years. The aim is to clear the land of the Bedouin, land on which they have roamed and grazed goats for generations. New Jewish settlements and heavy industrial plants will be built in order to �judaize� this southern part of the country that currently only has a small Jewish Israeli population living there.
  • The Negev has been a pet project of Sharon since his days as agriculture minister in the 1970s. At that time a Green Patrol was established, an Israeli authority given the power to force Bedouin to leave their lands and prevent �illegal� grazing. Many Bedouin villages in the Negev have existed since before the establishment of the state of Israel. Their residents are legal Israeli citizens (a significant number serving in the Israeli army) and thus entitled to the medical, educational, and social provisions of the state. Yet these people are not even included in official planning, no housing permission is given, and often Bedouin are living in areas with such high levels of pollution that even army patrols have been evacuated from the area. It is one of the starkest examples of apartheid between Arabs and Jews in the Israeli state.

The system of dominance and control is not a conspiracy theory; documents and information related to specific areas are discussed publicly by Israelis themselves. Look to the bibliographic and Internet references provided on this site, and go beyond to find out for yourself. At times Palestinians and international advocates have succeeded in preventing certain specific steps by the Israelis�for example, changes in the direction of walls and compensation deals�but as a whole system, no tangible mechanism is in force internationally which will stop the ongoing process of domination of the land. Until the whole system is addressed, land will continue to be pulled further from the reach of the Palestinian people.

Zachary A. Othman

Source: Palestine in Focus


Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

No comments: