The State of Israel: A Disgrace to the Human Race
The World People’s Resistance Movement (Britain) has published a two part article on Palestine. I have represented them below as one continues piece. It analyses the origins of the State of Israel and a brief history of its oppression of the Palestinian People. It focuses on the resistance of the Palestinian people and their role as the motive force in this movement for liberation.
The Imperialist-Zionist Plan and the Palestinian Intifadas
“I fall into a restless sleep at night and dream that an Israeli army unit is chasing after my friends and me. We are somewhere in Gaza and we try to run for our lives, but we are suddenly cornered and the soldiers start shooting at a very close range. The screams and the immense amount of blood force me to wake up. I am sweating and gasping for air. The dreams just don’t stop. I’ve been out of the Palestinian territories for three months and the dreams still haunt me. I know it is going to take a long time – a long time before I’m not jumpy when I hear a helicopter flying ahead. I hear the helicopters in Austin, but they are up there to file weather reports for local TV stations. I am still not convinced that they will not bring death and destruction. It is going to take a long time before I don’t panic at the sound of an ambulance siren. And a very long time before I stop dreaming that the bodies of my friends are being riddled with gunfire” (Muna Hamzeh, Notes from Dheisheh*, September 2000).
* Dheisheh is the largest of three Palestinian refugee camps in Bethlehem, home to nearly 10,000 refugees who were forced to flee their homes in the 1948 war.
From this ‘nightmare’ of the daily situation in Gaza, and decades of military occupation in general, to the recent Israeli attack on the international aid flotilla on its way to deliver vital goods to the people of Gaza suffering under years of blockade, the Palestinian people’s relentless resistance against the Israeli state and its international backers, mainly the US and Britain, remains a key issue for those interested in liberation and democracy around the world. The need for international support for the Palestinian people’s resistance is indeed greater than ever.
The heart of the matter is the right of the Palestinian nation to self-determination. Many people continually lapse into generalities about self-determination, without clearly asking themselves whether the essence lies in legal definitions or in the experience of the Palestinian national movement. Indeed, if we want to grasp the meaning of self-determination of the Palestinian nation, we need to examine the historic as well as political and economic conditions of the national movement.
In this light, we would inevitably reach the conclusion that the self-determination of Palestinians means the political separation of this nation from all alien national and international bodies and the formation of an independent national Palestinian state. However, the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine, the continuous planned migration of Jewish settlers to Palestine, the breaking up of the occupied territories into two separate parts, the developing settlements in the West Bank, the building of the apartheid wall and the collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza not only shows that the idea off establishing a “two state solution” is now like flogging a dead horse, but more importantly, the right to existence as an independent state can only be achieved by overthrowing the state of Israel through revolution.
The Imperialist and Zionist Plan for the Middle East
In 1922, Britain, through the League of Nations, which became the United Nations, declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Consequently, the execution of a plan to establish the state of Israel as British imperialism’s direct foothold in the Middle East was initiated. After the Second World War, the major powers, particularly the US and Britain, accelerated the implementation of this plan.
The Middle East is a strategically unique region, especially due to having the biggest production as well as reserves of oil (75%) and after Russia natural gas (35%) in the world. The plan was based on subduing the indigenous people by using sheer military power to deprive the Palestinian people from any basic form of rights, principally the right to govern themselves. The model was based on the successful plan of the European colonialists, particularly British and French, which had established colonial rule through genocide of the indigenous people in many countries across the globe.
The ideology of Zionism was a perfect fit for the execution of this imperialist plan. The Jewish religion, Zion as a symbol, the nostalgia for the lost homeland and other mystical factors played a role in the development of Zionism. But political Zionism as distinct from mystical longings would not have come into existence but for the particularities of class struggle and the precarious situation of central and eastern European Jewry in the second half of the nineteenth century.
With its developments, Zionism did not become a movement for many Jews just to live in Palestine, but on the contrary, as a heretical attempt to establish a state, a Jewish kingdom, which according to tradition was the privilege of the Messiah. The ideologists of the ultra-orthodox wing, such as Isaac Breuer, regarded the Jews as a “religious nation”, i.e., a nation inasmuch as religion was only its content, and a state within which politics and religion were fused – a theocratic state.
Zionist leaders generally avoided stating their goals openly, but just two years after the Balfour Declaration was signed by the British government in November 1917, Chaim Weizmann, who later on became the first President of Israel, slipped and told a London conference:
“I trust to God that a Jewish state will come about, but it will come about not through political declarations, but by the sweat and blood of the Jewish people. [The Balfour Declaration] is the golden key which unlocks the door of Palestine and gives you the possibility to put all your efforts into the country…We…desire to create in Palestine such conditions, political, economic and administration, that as the country is developed, we can pour in considerable number of immigrants and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English or America is American.”
During the next 30 years, as Britain and the US facilitated the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers, they backed many Zionist recruits, such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhaq Shamir (two later Prime Ministers of Israel), and their armed terrorist activities to establish Zionist settlements as base areas in Palestine. On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, dominated by the US and British states, passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state giving Israel 56% of Palestine. However, decades of planned and executed aggression and occupation continued to increase Israel’s land mass to 78% of Palestine by the end of the war of 1948-49, and eventually to nearly 110% including parts of southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights in Syria by the end of the 1967 and 1973 wars.
The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was, for some, legitimised by the centuries-long suffering of the Jewish population in Europe culminating in the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews, along with Gypsies, homosexuals and communists among others, by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. However, it is an irony of history that the State of Israel was established in Palestine, far from the scene of the oppression of the Jewish people. And it is a cruel twist that the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli state is not far removed from the suffering of Jewish people under the Nazis.
Furthermore, since the Nakba (catastrophe), the formal establishment of Israel in 1948, the state of Israel has declared a total war on the Palestinian people. A war on all fronts; ideological, political, economic, military, cultural, psychological, demographic, environmental, and last but not least, through the media. Israel has principally relied on its military, though because of the powerful Palestinian people’s resistance, the total war has become a protracted war, which has continued and developed in many different shapes and forms for more than 6 decades.
Today, nearly 10 million Palestinians have been forced to live outside of their country and do not have the right to return. More than 40% of the population of Jordan are Palestinian refugees, many of whom after 43 years still live in massive refugee camps without even basic facilities. The vast majority of millions, who are scattered around the world, particularly in Arab countries, are categorised as second class citizens and in spite of their extreme hard work in the lowest paid jobs, and therefore immense contribution to the economy of these countries, are not only intimidated wherever they go, or whatever they do, but also treated as a burden on society.
The Palestinian people’s resistance has also developed in different forms against the occupation of their country. During the last 3 decades, despite the lack of revolutionary organisation and leadership, such an incredible resistance has not only grown, but has also become the main obstacle for the full execution of the imperialists’ plan. Powerful popular rebellions, which developed in an unprecedented way in 1987, and again in 2000, have compelled the Israeli state, as well as the US and British ruling classes, to upgrade their plan. Today, one can observe that driving the Palestinian people out of their homeland has increasingly become the principal aspect of the plan.
In December 1987, the Intifada (shaking) started from the Jabaliya refugee camp and immediately reached Khan Younis, another large refugee camp, both in Gaza, and then like a prairie fire in a high wind, spread to West Bank camps near Jerusalem and Nablus and many other areas. A full-scale spontaneous rebellion had begun. Palestinian anger and resentment against decades of occupation of their homeland were boiling over and no one, including the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leadership in exile, could be sure where it would lead.
Already fundamental questions remained unanswered by the Palestinian leaders. Some of these questions referred back to the previous Intifada against British rule and Zionist planned immigration in 1936. Why had the leadership outside not been directly involved to the extent of leading the uprising? Hadn’t the national leadership in exile under Haj Amin Al-Husseini failed in this regard in the late 1930s? Why had the local underground groups not been able to unite and build a national network to release the full potential energies of the rebellion? Why had the British tactics of “divide and rule” been able to create divisions among the Palestinian people? Hadn’t the failures of the 1930s contributed to the catastrophe of 1948?
In 1987, as the days of popular uprisings turned into weeks, Israeli reaction ranged from a full-scale bloody crackdown, curfews, mass arrests and deportations to violent threats to apply the ‘iron fist’. The US and British think tanks sifted through possible reasons for the eruption, and the Palestinian leaders abroad debated how to hitch themselves to the spontaneous uprising. However, all made little impact. The Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank had taken matters into their own hands.
In spite of their efforts to resolve many complicated problems, the exiled Palestinian leaders were confused about the dynamics of the class struggle that had produced the mass revolt. What force was driving the rebellion? How had it spread so quickly? And most importantly, what was to be done? In fact, these leaders had already lost the thread in their efforts to advance the Palestinian resistance movement, and even before the rebellion began, they were at something of a dead end.
Such valiant popular uprisings against one of the most well-equipped and brutal armies in the world lasted for over five years, 1987-1993, rapidly escalating to rebellions for the first 28 months. The Intifada was initiated and developed mostly by the Palestinian youth, many of whom lived in the wretched conditions of permanent refugee camps, continuously violated by the Israeli army. Their activities included graffiti and the flying of the Palestinian flag, attacking army outposts and patrols with rocks and Molotov cocktails, helping the wounded and families of the martyrs, identifying and punishing the Israeli collaborators, and serving the people, particularly the elderly and children, during general strikes.
Eventually, the Intifada forced Israel to negotiate with the PLO, who up to this stage was classed as a terrorist organisation. There were growing concerns that the young political activists, in both Gaza and the West Bank, were establishing a rival leadership. This was one of Israel’s recurring nightmares, and also, it was not something that the exiled Palestinian leaders could accept. Thus, with the direct intervention of the US, a ‘two state solution’ was put on the table and signed by both sides.
According to the 1993 agreement, the Palestinians would be allowed their own state in small parts of their broken and occupied land. However, the facts have clearly shown that the state of Israel has no real intention to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Intifada of 2000 however was oriented not only around the general demand of ending the occupation, but also around the specific opposition to the annexation of East Jerusalem and the right of return for the Palestinian refugees.
The right of return is perfectly legal in accordance with international law. The well-known UN resolution 194 has been affirmed 135 times in the period 1948-2000. In fact, there is nothing else like it in UN history. Fatah (victory), a united front led by the PLO, agreed with Israel on the basis of “land for peace”, which did not include the right of return for the Palestinian refugees. One of the notable features of the Oslo ‘peace’ process was the relevance of the international law considerations from negotiations. Every attempt to challenge feverish Israeli settlement expansion was ruled out of order by the US and Israel as interfering with the peace process.
Why does the Israeli state invest so heavily in the settlements and an elaborate network of bypass roads if they are willing to accept the Palestinian’s right to have a viable state? Their intention was quite obvious. In fact, Israel continued to build settlements and roads in the West Bank and Jerusalem eating up the Palestinian land bit by bit. Also, by building hundreds of kilometres of an 8 meter concrete wall around the West Bank, it has annexed even more land. Moreover, Israel has imposed 620 military checkpoints within the whole region with frequent lockdowns to further develop its settlements as well as subjugating and humiliating Palestinians living there.
After 45 years of occupation, dispossession, repression and forced expatriation, there were serious objective and subjective challenges facing the Palestinian people as the first Intifada approached its end. How could this climax of continuous struggle further develop political awareness and mobilisation and active resistance in popular committees, mass organisations, labour unions, etc., as well as abroad, particularly among Palestinians? How could the Palestinian working class and farmers afford to expend most of their energies on political activities such as demonstrations and civil disobedience instead of providing food and essential goods for the people?
Furthermore, how could the courageous and determined but unarmed Palestinian people defeat the well-equipped Nazi-style Israeli army and brutal secret services including Mossad? How could such a protracted mass resistance against the occupation be consciously fused with this sustained powerful rebellion to develop a formidable national liberation movement? All these major questions boiled down into one: How could a clear line be drawn between reformism and revolution within these grass-roots organisations? All these questions lead to the necessity of having a revolutionary movement and leadership.
The Oslo ‘Peace’ Process
The eruption of the first Intifada led to the emergence of many political activists including the Unified National Leadership (UNL), a body compromised of local PLO factions relatively independent of the PLO leaders abroad. To defeat the Intifada, which had a mass character and embodied a unifying strategy mobilising Palestinians against occupation of their homeland and around concrete and achievable goals, the Israeli tactics moved away from the high profile, openly confrontational policy of ‘force, might and beatings’.
Instead, Israel targeted more covert operations against Intifada activists, relied on greater use of undercover units and the recuperation of intelligence networks based on Palestinian collaborators and manipulated the leaders of the rival groups to turn against each other over making the Intifada their private property. By 1991 the Intifada had deteriorated into a domestic affair with an increase in outbreaks of factional clashes.
From January 1993, for 8 months, while terror raged in Palestine, Israel and the PLO were negotiating ‘peace’ secretly in hotels and country houses in Norway, preparing for the Oslo peace agreement. In December 1992, Ahmad Qrei (Abu Ala), the PLO’s treasurer, supervised by Arafat’s main political adviser, Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was sent to London to negotiate with the Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin’s representative, Yair Hirschfield, on Israel recognising the PLO. On 19 January 1993, the Israeli parliament, Knesset, lifted the ban on Israeli contacts with the PLO.
Even during the 9 years of the Oslo peace process, 1991-2000, Israel continuously tightened its encirclement of 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza through settlements and military means. During this period, many of the leaders who formed the Palestinian Authority (PA), collaborated with the Labour and Likud governments to fight Palestinian ‘terrorism’, and any form of resistance to occupation.
The PA launched a campaign of suppression against political activists and Islamic figures, allowed the humiliation and arrest of political opponents of the Oslo agreement, including Legislative Council members, and permitted the torture of opposition leaders and journalists. It defended its appalling actions as the means to a justified end. However, as the 9 years passed, the promised happy ending never came. How could it have come? Turning one’s back to the people would never have a happy ending.
Instead of providing a solution, the Oslo process became part of the problem. Class compromise under the declared objective of a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement”, in fact transformed into unjust and temporary agreements leading to increased suppression even from within, and therefore the rise of resistance and intensification of class struggle. On 11 July 2000, Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the PA, met in Camp David for what was supposed to be the final round of negotiations towards a permanent agreement between the two sides. However, the summit completely failed.
The Second Intifada
During the negotiations the situation in the West Bank and Gaza was simmering. The Israeli army began training according to a new plan, ‘Magic Tune’, and prepared a full-scale military attack in case of mass rioting. The PA, whose policies had put itself between a rock and a hard place, was compelled to helplessly witness the ensuing Palestinian people’s rebellion against the state of Israel. The last straw was Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to deliberately humiliate the Palestinians on 28 September 2000. The very next day the second Intifada erupted.
In this case, Israel fought the Palestinians on two major fronts, with the military and in the media. With the first sign of confrontation, ‘Operation Ebb and Flow’ was executed. This included the deployment of special units of snipers to target field leaders and agitators, including children, using the air force and tanks to bombard Palestinian towns to murder and terrorise the population, the selective imposition of closures, and even the complete closure of the West Bank, though avoiding large-scale starvation and without cutting off water or electricity, which could ignite the entire population and have international repercussions, the assassination of political leaders, particularly those who were charged with organising the Intifada and finally paving the way for the annexation to Israel of certain strategic locations and some other areas of the West Bank and Gaza.
Also, the Israeli state set up an emergency media campaign fulfilling the role of a Rapid Deployment Media Force. Immediately they went on the offensive blaming the Palestinian civilians – the victims of their military terror and aggression – on two fronts: the family and the Tanzim. On the family front, the campaign strived to convince its audience, nationally and internationally, that when a tank confronts a child, the tank operates ‘within its right’ and the child is the ‘aggressor’! They fabricated stories that the cruel, unloving, and cowardly Palestinian parents send their children to die for their cause.
One only needs to visit the extremely deprived and cramped refugee camps of Gaza and the West Bank to see these children’s living conditions and how little, if anything, a parent can do to control the youth who confront the Israeli aggressors. It is humanly incomprehensible that while the Israeli military was killing and wounding the Palestinian children, the Israeli government was blaming their mourning parents for their death.
On the Tanzim front, the facts reveal more of the oppressor’s preposterous logic. Initially, Israel with the help of the big powers was succeeding in its media campaign. However, when the image of Israeli soldiers killing 12 year old Muhammad Dura in his father’s lap surfaced in October 2000, they began to lose, and hastily fabricated the whole notion of Tanzim. Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister of Israel, suddenly in a press conference spat out names of some Palestinian activists, demanding Fatah to curb their armed activities against Israel. Since then, the Israeli and the international media talk of a ‘military arm’ of Fatah, calling it the ‘Tanzim’. In fact, ‘Tanzim’ is simply how Palestinians refer to Fatah, as ‘the organisation’, in Arabic, ‘Al-Tanzim’. This clearly shows that the rulers of Israel can even tactically be very stupid.
Although 3 months into the Intifada Israel had won all the battles against the Palestinian people, it began to lose the war. In fact, this was predicted even before the second Intifada broke out, where in Nekuda, the official publication of the Yesha Council of West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers, former Shin Bet (the Israeli Secret Police) head Ami Ayalon confessed, “We lost the first Intifada and we will also lose the next one”.
The US and British efforts to facilitate Israeli absolute domination in Palestine by wiping out Palestinian identity, was principally destroyed by the Intifada. The second Intifada put an end to the illusion of Oslo. In attacking the settlements, the Intifada showed that regardless of all the Israeli security precautions, the settlements were not safe, nor was safe passage to them secure. Also this system of Apartheid, which was institutionalised by Oslo, was further exposed to the outside world.
During the second Intifada, like the first one, the Palestinian people paid a very heavy price in human suffering. Hundreds died, thousands were injured, many of whom have been crippled for life, and the majority of families suffered from some sort of humiliation, imprisonment and injuries, some due to torture. However, the Intifada made all of Oslo’s security arrangements fail. Israel expected the PA to act as a client, as a buffer between its occupation and the people’s resistance. In fact, because of the power of people’s rebellion the PA was compelled to refuse to quell demonstrations against the occupation.
The second Intifada was also spontaneous, however, it could go beyond the Oslo accords, clearly demanding an end to the occupation and repression. By boasting their confidence and consolidating the Palestinian national identity, the oppressed people of Palestine moved forward in their long march to freedom. The Intifada has powerfully shown that not only is there an urgent need to develop a revolutionary theory and leadership, but also that the Palestinian people alone are the motive force in the making of their history. It also indicated that there is a pressing need to develop a broad revolutionary movement in Palestine as well as among Palestinians living abroad, but particularly in the massive refugee camps.
Settlements & the ‘Apartheid’ Wall
The process of the establishment of Israel as a settler-colonial state has continued by the development of settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Each Israeli settlement uses Palestinian land and resources to grow. The development of settlements is a system of apartheid, in which the indigenous population is allowed to survive in a tiny fraction of its own country, in self-administered ‘Bantustans’, but with Zionist instead of white settlers in total control and dictating everything.
Housing development in the settlements has been pursued as Israeli bulldozers have continued the destruction of Palestinian homes, farmlands and services, building an ever expanding network of security roads linking settlements as well as creating barriers to confine the growing Palestinian population in their shrinking areas. Also, the settlers are fully armed and trained by the state of Israel, and in fact are responsible for a large, but unspecified, number of murders of Palestinians, including many who were lynched and murdered during the second Intifada.
For decades, one of the main reasons in consolidating the occupation has been developing settlements, which serve both the strategic and economic interests of the state of Israel. Strategically, settlements where the population are organised as armed militia as well as being militarily protected, act as the base areas. In these base areas, the political power of the state of Israel is established on strategic locations of the Palestinian’s land.
By expansion of the existing settlements and building new ones a network structure of Israeli power make further inroads into other areas. Thus, the state of Israel is striving to establish its power over the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. With this plan, once the matrix of Israeli power is completed, there will be no need for an overt military occupation and Palestine will be completely wiped off the map.
Economically, the Israeli state’s plan is to cut the Palestinian nation from the outside world, making it almost entirely dependent on Israel, breaking up the land mass penetrated by settlements on all sides, with Palestinian towns and villages surrounded by Israeli roads and security forces crippling what is left of the Palestinian economy. The ever growing network of settlements has created a new economy, infrastructure and institutions, all of which enjoy special political, economic, legal and territorial status, which are indistinguishable from Israel proper.
Generally, the Palestinian workers are the main source of cheap labour. Indeed, closures particularly during the Intifada have diminished the numbers of Palestinian workers in Israel. However, Israel facilitates the transformation of military occupation into economic domination contributing to the settlers’ economy and providing the basis for its territorial expansion.
Closures provided cheap Palestinian labour for the Israeli settlements and the industrial parks on the edge of populated Palestinian towns and villages. In fact, Palestinian labour has increased many times in these sweatshops, where the Palestinian workers earn less than a quarter of what is paid to a Palestinian worker doing a similar job in Israel. Today, there are 100s of Israeli sweatshops in the settlements.
Also, local water resources play a vital role for Israel’s strategic plan. According to Haim Gvirtzman, a professor at Hebrew University and a consultant for the US department of Defence, Israel’s settlement policy after 1967 followed a plan that would ensure its total control over water resources in the West Bank. In fact, the map of the settlements resembles a hydraulic map of this area.
Furthermore, many areas of what is left of the Palestinian land have become the dumping ground for waste and pollutants from Israel and the settlements. Israel has moved many of its polluting industries such as plastic, fibreglass, aluminium, fertiliser and pesticides to the West Bank, from which their waste pollutes water used by Palestinian villages. The town of Abu Dis has been used as a contaminated dumping site for waste from West Jerusalem, where Israeli companies dump their waste, particularly medical and paint products. In March 2000, Jad Issac reported in the Information Brief No 14, CPAP, Washington DC, that the Israeli government has illegally constructed at least 7 industrial zones that produce waste, polluting adjacent Palestinian lands.
The plan to develop Israeli settlements has transformed the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem into many huge but increasingly tightening prison cells. Military occupation, extreme suppression and daily humiliation, intense exploitation and oppression, mounting deprivation and a slow ethnic cleansing has not only fuelled the fires of class struggle in Palestine for independence, freedom and democracy, but also has created a broad international peoples’ support for the Palestinian’s just struggle abroad.
Israel has continued to expand its settlements and such a colonial expansion has created a state of permanent conflict and plunged the area into many wars. There were no settlers in 1967. During 1967-1977, 35,000 were settled in the West Bank, however, the Israeli settlers did not exceed 1% of the population. When the Madrid Conference started in October 1991, there were about 75,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, and prior to the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993, this figure went up to 95,000, and during 1993-1996 to 147,000. In 2002, there were 404,000 Israeli settlers; 190,000 in the West Bank, 190,000 in East Jerusalem, 7,000 in Gaza and 17,000 in the Golan Heights in Syria. Today, there are well over 300,000 settlers in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
Israel has never allowed the exact number of its settlers to be known. However, from these estimated figures, one can see that the population of settlers has deliberately and alarmingly increased, particularly during the last 20 years. Regarding the Palestinian nation’s right to self-determination, the existence and rapid growth of Israeli settlements provides a vivid example of failure of the International Law and Geneva Human Rights declarations, revealing that these are political tools in the hands of global powers, particularly the US and Britain, only to be enforced selectively.
Also, the oppressive process of development of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian land shows that the state of Israel is in a demographic war with the Palestinian people. The imperialist-Zionist plan is to facilitate such a demographic growth of these settlements to eventually reach its critical mass. If until then, the ever deepening antagonistic contradiction between millions of Palestinian people and the state of Israel has not been resolved by revolution, Israel will inevitably execute a colossal ethnic cleansing to reinforce its grip on Palestine.
Apartheid Wall: Mortal Danger!
In June 2002 Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel’s Defence Minister, cut the ribbon on the first phase of the West Bank wall near the Israeli village of Salem. The wall has been built apparently as a response to the second or Al Aqsa intifada, the second national rebellion in less than a decade and the third since Jewish immigrants under the leadership of Zionists began colonising Palestine in the late 19thcentury. The wall is a separation barrier comprised of a massive 8 metre concrete wall, complete with watch towers.
The Apartheid Wall surrounds the Palestinian city of Qalqilya imprisoning its 45,000 population with the single remaining access road controlled by an Israeli military base and checkpoint. Qalqilya’s rich land and water resources and its proximity to the Tel Aviv metropolitan area made the district an obvious target for Israeli settlements. By 2000, there were 19 settlements with an estimated population of 50,000 throughout the Qalqilya district.
In many areas, there are layers of razor wire, military patrol roads, sand paths to trace footprints, ditches, surveillance cameras with night vision capacity and even a 3 metres high electric fence. There is a “buffer zone” 30-100 metres on each side of the wall, or even 1,000 metres in Gaza. Palestinians are prohibited from entering this zone which consists of electric fences, trenches, cameras, sensors and is patrolled by the Israeli military. Signs are placed on the razor wire on the Palestinian side with warnings in Arabic, Hebrew and English which read: ‘Mortal danger: military zone. Any person who passes or damages the fence endangers his life.’
On the other side Israeli’s can approach the wall just as normal. One Palestinian town which was ringed by the Wall even faced the new problem of Israeli’s stopping their cars on the highway outside the wall to throw their rubbish over into the Palestinian village. To combat this problem the villagers erected nets near the length of the wall to save themselves from being hit by Israeli rubbish!
As construction of the wall proceeded of what was alleged by the state of Israel to be a temporary, preventative obstacle, the Palestinian and international outcry grew. Despite Israeli officials’ claims that the wall ‘does not annex any land to Israel nor does it establish any borders’, large areas of prime Palestinian land were separated from their owners, whose access became dependent on an iron gate and a very awkward permit regime. All Palestinians above the age of 12 who want to visit family members or friends in the closed areas require permits, with special permission needed to stay overnight.
As for the disclaimer concerning borders, the course of the wall not only separated the Palestinian population, but also left millions of Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers on the ‘wrong side.’ If it was to indicate a border, why not build a normal fence along the ‘armistice demarcation line’ of 1949? Though this so-called Green Line has been imposed on the Palestinian people by force of arms and its recognition by the UN, it has ceased to exist after Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Also, why did a route which was supposed to prevent Palestinians from infiltrating Israel leave nearly 1.5 million Palestinians, called by the state potential assailants, on the ‘Israeli side’ of the wall, with no physical obstacle to prevent them from entering Israel?
The 670 kilometre concrete wall route, as opposed to the 315 kilometres of the Green Line, meant a massive rise in cost and in the time spent in construction. In fact, building the wall has been the largest infrastructure project in Israel’s history. On 26 May 2003, Israeli commentator Meron Rappaport, in his article ‘A Wall in the Heart’ published by Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote that “even the national water carrier or the draining of the Hula swamps look like an exercise in sandcastles compared to this colossal project.”
In the same article Rappaport states, “you have to be almost insane to think that somebody uprooted mountains, levelled hills and poured billions here in order to build some security barrier ‘until the permanent borders are decided’.” The cost of such a gigantic project nearly doubled from an initial estimate of $1.75 million per kilometre when the project started in 2002 to $3.3 million per kilometre by February 2004 (Ha’aretz 23 February 2004). This staggering figure eventually increased to over $5 million per kilometre. In fact, only the cost reveals the permanent nature of the wall.
Due to the high level of corruption within the state of Israel, the estimate of the overall cost of building the wall continuously rose. Mouth watering profits from construction of the wall intensified factional fighting within the state to the extent that eventually it had to be resolved in court. In July 2005, under the pretext of a dispute over the route, the High Court ruled not to alter the route. On 4 July 2005, Yuval Yaoz in an article entitled, ‘State to High Court: fence route determined not only by security considerations’, which appeared in Ha’aretz, ironically wrote, “It would be very expensive to move.”
On 4 July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its advisory opinion on ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’. Paragraph 67 observed that the termed wall “cannot be understood in a limited physical sense” (www.icj-cij.org). The ICJ ruled that the wall – where it deviated into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which was for the majority of its route – was contrary to international law. Israel must cease construction, dismantle the sections already built, compensate those affected and ‘repeal or render ineffective’ the gate and permit system. On 9 July, Dan Gillerman, Israel’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations, stated in a press conference that this was “a dark day for the International Court of Justice and the international legal system.”
The ICJ judges had heard testimony about the devastating impact that the completed sections of the wall were having on Palestinian people. Rural communities where cut off from land and water resources on which they depended for their livelihood. The Palestinians isolated in close areas between the wall and the Green Line required special permits to reside in their own homes and to access health and educational services on the Palestinian side of the wall. The city of Qalqilya, which had been a major agricultural producer as well as a commercial and service centre, was totally cut off, thereby facing economic and social stagnation.
Therefore, due to the construction of the wall and destruction of their livelihood and imposition of numerous restrictions, Palestinians were beginning to leave the wall-affected areas. The ICJ warned that, ‘as more of the wall is built’, such a process ‘will continue’ (Ibid, para. 133). However, in the abovementioned press conference, Dan Gillerman deceitfully stated the wall has created ‘a dramatic increase in the quality of life and humanitarian situation of Palestinians in the areas through which it ran’.
In 2003, the main report of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations on the West Bank and Gaza Strip stated, ‘A glance at the map of the West Bank food insecurity … suggests that food insecurity levels roughly match the path of the separation barrier.’ And nearly 40% of the population was ‘food insecure’, however, this insecurity was high in regions previously known for their agricultural abundance, including the Jenin, Qalqilya and Tulkarm districts, where the wall was already constructed.
In October 2004, in an assessment entitled, ‘Four years – Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis’, the World Bank reported that almost half of the Palestinian population was living below the official poverty line of just over $2 a day. Also, 16% of Palestinians were living in absolute poverty, barely surviving despite significant provisions of humanitarian assistance. In November 2004, UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, reported ‘an increase in chronic malnutrition and degradation of the nutritional status of small children’.
The Impact of the Wall
“When the fruits are ripe and are not picked, they fall like tears.”
The wall restricts the Palestinian farmers access to their land, resources and services causing shortage of food and even starvation, leading to the draining away of the population. In short, this constitutes forced displacement of the Palestinian people. The wall has not only entirely cut off the communities on the Palestinian side, causing most of them to wither away, but also a large number of Palestinian villages whose agricultural land had been cut off in closed areas on the Israeli side have disappeared.
The destructive impact of the wall on the Palestinian communities has been used in conjunction with the other strategic plans of the state of Israel to drive the Palestinians out of their homeland. For example, the village of Jayous with 3200 inhabitants lost much of its ancestral land in the war of 1948, however, villagers have courageously waged a constant battle against Israel’s attempt to divest them of what remains.
In 1988, despite the Palestinian farmer’s resistance, the state of Israel confiscated 303 acres of Palestinian land to build the Zufin settlement. Shareef Omar (Abu Azzem), who was the largest landowner in Jayous with the help of many other farmers whose land had been confiscated, planted olive trees in 13.5 acres of his land and diligently tended the land. However, hundreds of the olive trees were burnt down with the help of collaborators and they had many confrontations with the Israeli soldiers.
Before the second Intifada, Palestinian farmers who were allowed to use the agricultural wells for intensive farming on the fertile soil cultivated tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, mangos, almonds, figs, guava, peaches, olives and many other vegetables and fruits. Jayous prospered and by sharing 120 greenhouses with the neighbouring Palestinian village of Falamya produced 7,000 metric tons of vegetables and fruits annually. Wholesale merchants would come from different parts of the West Bank and even from inside Israel to buy these products directly from the farmers.
But from the beginning of the second Intifada, the Israeli state imposed a policy of complete closure, cutting off all of the Israeli and much of the Palestinian market. Because Palestinian workers were also severely restricted to access the labour market in Israel, most Palestinian families became totally dependent on agriculture. Many of those could rely only on family land to supplement their income. However, many workers from landless families had to seek work on other people’s land.
In 1990 a privately owned Israeli quarry shaved off another 90 acres. Throughout the 1990s, all rubbish from local Israeli settlements was dumped near the southern entrance of Jayous and smouldering rubbish blanketed the village for years causing chronic respiratory illnesses, particularly for the Palestinian elderly and children. Despite numerous complaints by the Palestinians, dumping and smouldering rubbish in this unregulated open landfill continued until the Jewish settlers in Zuffin complained that it was spoiling their environment.
In September 2002, when the wall was built, a shepherd found a notice attached to an olive tree. In the notice, the Israeli military had instructed the Palestinian farmers to assemble for a tour of the wall route. Farmers were horrified when they realised that the wall would intrude right up to their village houses. By the end of November 2002 land levelling had begun and 4,000 trees were uprooted. Most of the village’s land ended up on the Israeli side of the wall. For want of space and to demonstrate their resolve to hold onto their land, farmers replanted olive trees outside their homes and some citrus trees as an insurance against confiscation under the Ottoman law.
Farmers of Jayous then became active against the Israeli bulldozers. In December 2002, Palestinian farmers and sympathisers from the International Solidarity Movement were involved in peaceful demonstrations. However, the Israeli military and Border police attacked and injured a number of protestors. Despite protests throughout 2003, the foundations for the wall were laid and 5 of 6 roads linking the village to the land were destroyed.
Soon, the area behind the levelled track was declared a closed military zone and private security guards prevented Palestinian farmers from crossing to their fields. By summer 2003, razor wire and ditches had totally cut off Jayous farmers from their lands. At night, under the nose of the Israeli soldiers, Border Police and armed private security guards, brave local Palestinian youths snipped the fence. In retaliation, the Israeli Border Police would enter the village, terrorising residents and shooting up water tanks on the rooftops of farmers’ houses.
By August 2003 the wall around Jayous was complete. Palestinian farmers were so fearful for their livelihood that they set up tents and temporary shelters beyond the wall. However, from late September the Israeli military closed the gate for three weeks preventing access. As a result, 80% of the crop of 2,000 guava trees were ruined and in neighbouring Falamya 6,000 fruit and citrus trees perished. By August 2004, 15,000 fruit trees had died.
In December 2004, the villagers realised that bulldozers were uprooting olive trees and clearing away topsoil in the closed area behind the wall in preparation for ‘Nofei Zufin’. According to B’Tselem, Under the Guise of Security: Case Study, The Zufin Settlement, this is an extension to Zufin settlement, that would include over 1,100 housing units, 4 nursery schools, an elementary school and a high school, several synagogues, a cemetery, recreation and sport facilities, and public and open spaces.
The land in question is in dispute. Jayous farmers contend that the land was sold by deception through a collaborator, whereas the Israeli corrupt authorities claim it was sold to an Israeli company in the 1990s. The original documents in the possession of landowners in Jayous reveal different numbers and plans from the new maps produced by the Israeli Civil Administration. In April 2005, additional confiscation orders were made for the purpose of building a road to link Jayous to the Falamya gate. These orders not only affected the little land left on the village side of the wall, but also after the completion of the road, the state of Israel opens the only agricultural gate in Jayous for a few hours each day, if at all.
In addition to confiscation of the land, the village’s water resources were under threat. In this area, the route of the wall was planned to put all of the 6 agricultural wells of Jayous on the Israeli side, with access for the Palestinians restricted to a single gate. The state of Israel also restricted domestic consumption of water for Jayous from a well which has to be shared with a neighbouring village. In July 2001, B’Tselem in his article, ‘Not Even a Drop: The Water Crisis in Palestinian Villages Without a Water Network’ states that every Palestinian is restricted to 23 litres per day, where as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 100 litres, and the domestic water consumption per capita in Israel and in the Israeli settlements is 350 litres.
In Palestine, even sustaining the extraction of less than a quarter of the WHO’s recommended level of domestic water consumption is totally controlled. The decision to maintain, repair and replace the parts or the whole pump as well as providing the electricity to run the pump, i.e., the people’s access to even drinking water, is in the hands of the state of Israel. Such an immense suffering from critical water shortages becomes more unbearable during the long summer months. While this goes on, Israeli water companies make huge profits from selling expensive tankered water to the Palestinian householders.
In November 2003, Save the Children carried out research with Palestinian children in three schools in Azun Atmeh, Ras Atiya and A-Ras in Qalqilya district, all affected by the wall. Children were asked to write down words that describe the wall. The most common word they used to describe the wall was ‘a prison’. One child described it as ‘a snake that spreads its poison’, and some others wrote, ‘It destroyed our lives’, it is a ‘deadly barrier’ and ‘it breaks my heart’. Like Mayor Zahran in Qalqilya, Abu Azzam also believes that economic strangulation and ‘voluntary’ emigration is the real purpose of the wall: ‘they want the land without the people’.
Why the Wall?
The construction of the wall best conveys some of the most important aspects, purpose and significance of the project, which is to obliterate the internationally recognised Green Line and to create a new border within the West Bank territory, in the process annexing major settlements, territory and water resources to Israel. However, the state of Israel, its imperialist backers, particularly the US and Britain, and the international media have persistently strived, and to a large extent have been successful to conceal the main aspect and purpose of building the wall from the people.
Whilst all these purposes are true and play a strategic role, however, contrary to the International Court of Justice’s observation, they do not convey the main purpose of the wall. It is true that the construction of the wall and more settlements repeat experiences of 1948 and 1967 by occupying Palestine and under occupation annexing those parts deemed vital to Israel’s military, demographic and territorial ambitions. But the reality is much more than deliberately creating extremely harsh living conditions for the Palestinians under the occupation.
The main purpose of this, particularly the construction of the Apartheid Wall, is to completely cleanse Palestinian people from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. By constructing walls around the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Israel has created three massive prisons for the Palestinian people. In fact, the state of Israel has built the biggest open prisons in the world, containing more than 4 million Palestinians as political prisoners. This phenomenon is unprecedented in human history.
Today, under the rule of the state of Israel, nearly half of the population are in prison and more than the whole present population live in forced exile abroad. Yet the majority of states, mainly the imperialist powers, and the international media call the state of Israel democratic. This is just because every 4 years there is an election, within which different factions of the ruling class compete mainly on how to further suppress and exploit millions of Palestinians treated as political prisoners.
The living conditions of political prisoners in many other countries, whose states exercise an overt dictatorship, is very similar or even better than the Palestinian people. Both are subjected to extremely harsh and humiliating treatments, aimed at erasing their identity. The vast majority of millions of political activists around the world, who are arrested, tortured or even executed, are not even recognised by the state as political prisoners. And the Palestinian people whose country has been militarily occupied and then parts of it has turned into massive prisons are not even recognised as a nation.
In many countries, political prisoners even have better living conditions compared to the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, who are continuously suffering from lack of food, drinking water, medication, electricity, proper sanitation and education. Nowhere in the world do political prisoners face aerial bombardments, cluster bombs and white phosphorous, air to ground missile attack, artillery fire and assassinations by drones. Except in Palestine, particularly in Gaza.
In other countries, political activists who seriously expose the atrocities of the state are usually pursued, arrested and put in prison. However, Palestine is the only place in the world, where the whole nation is put in prison and the threat of getting killed, like the sword of Damocles, is hanging over the head of everyone by a single hair, including the elderly and young children. Also, the Palestinian people are the only political prisoners who do not have any respite from their confined spaces, and their families (living outside the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) are not allowed to visit them.
Similar to the conditions of other political prisoners, any resistance from the Palestinian people against the prison’s gatekeepers is faced with severe punishment, including further physical as well as psychological torture, and even death. There is numerous evidence, such as the wall and Israeli settlements, which show that the Palestinian nation’s jailer does not care in the slightest about even International Law, Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. The state of Israel violently terrorises millions of Palestinian people 24/7, however, it always justifies its barbaric actions as a response to terrorism.
They Want the Land Without the Palestinian People
The wall has physically completed the process of transforming the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem into a prison with the whole Palestinian population as political prisoners. Today, hand in hand with the military occupation, the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the military blockade of Gaza and total refusal of the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, the Apartheid Wall completes the whole jigsaw puzzle of the Imperialist-Zionist plan to drive the Palestinian people out of Palestine.
In addition to all other factors, the construction of the wall has strived to give a very clear message, particularly to every one of the millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem: This is not Palestine, your homeland. As long as you live here, this is going to be your prison. Do you want to live as a prisoners for the rest of your life? Do you want your family and friends and your future generations to live in prison? Then leave. This is Israel.
However, the Palestinian people’s courageous struggle has clearly shown that they will never surrender to their enemies. During both Intifadas, the Palestinian people relied on themselves and not on a bunch of capitulators and traitors who are only interested to use people to serve the enemy, have some shameful authority and fill their own pockets. The Palestinian people have lost many battles and paid a heavy price, but they have won the war against complete subjugation by the Israeli state and being driven out of their homeland.
Their Intifada not only shook their society, but shook the world. They won millions of people from all over the world to their side and some even prepared to join the battles directly, sacrificing their life for the Palestinian people’s freedom. The Palestinian people’s continuous resistance further expose the true beastly and corrupt nature of the state of Israel and its imperialist backers. The Intifada shook society, wining many Jewish people living in Israel and abroad to their side and creating many cracks within the Israeli ruling class and even the army.
The Imperialist-Zionist plan’s objective is to drive Palestinian people out of their homeland by force. But the Palestinian people will inevitably continue their struggle and in due course create their revolutionary movement and leadership. They will unite with progressive Jewish people and with the support of oppressed people around the world, they will eventually overthrow the reactionary state of Israel and tear down the wall. Indeed, the road is tortuous, but the future is bright!