Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

settlements

It is easy to forget, with eulogies casting him as the unexpected “peace-maker”, that for most of his long military and political career Ariel Sharon was known simply as The Bulldozer. That is certainly how he will be remembered by Palestinians.

Whether in military uniform or in politics, Ariel Sharon’s time in power was characterised by construction and destruction frenzies that decisively shaped the physical realities in which both Israelis and Palestinians still struggle to live. His legacy is not only that of a military man and a politician, but also that of an architect. Sharon, more than anyone else, has shaped the spatial realities of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Since it all began just after 1967, when Israel seized the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza following the Arab-Israeli war, this country has been committed to settlement expansion – knowing that such a policy would eviscerate the prospects of an independent Palestinian state, but doing it anyway. Indeed, Israel’s settlements grew most during the Oslo peace process that began in 1993.

Despite the 2011 tent protests, house construction has actually decreased over the last year in Israel. At the same time, the West Bank registered a national high in new construction projects for Jewish settlers.

Is Israel preparing to annex Area C, as a growing number of analysts have recently been speculating? This week, on a visit to the Israel’s tourism bureau in Nazareth, Jonathan Cook came across an official brochure, “Your Next Vacation: Israel”, that suggests the answer.

It’s a shame the police don’t show the same determination treating the settlers who invade private Palestinian land as they do evicting the temporary settlers on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard. It’s a shame the social justice activists ignore the creeping eviction by the Israeli government in the occupied territories.

Palestinians in areas of the West Bank under Israeli control live with settler neighbours who beat and shoot them, set alight fields, poison wells, kill livestock and steal crops. These acts of terror have begun to spread elsewhere: homes, cars, cemeteries, mosques and churches are now targets in East Jerusalem and Israel too. Earlier this month a school and several cars were vandalised in Neve Shalom, the only genuinely mixed Jewish-Arab community in Israel.

The state has argued before the Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the route of the separation barrier was based on Israel’s security needs. But Civil Administration’s maps and figures, disclosed here for the first time, suggest the barrier route was planned in accordance with the available land in the West Bank, intended to increase the area and population of the settlements.

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) criticized the move, saying that it amounted to a “boycott of the UN,” and asked what “Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu have in common with human rights.” MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) also condemned the decision, saying that Israel “prefers settlements over human rights and contact with the international community.” Khenin called the move “dangerous,” saying that “through disconnecting from the world, the government is only isolating itself.”

The Transportation Ministry confirmed that it was pursuing the plan for the new rail lines “so as to permit it to be carried out in the future,” and in accordance with “a legal commitment the ministry made to the High Court of Justice.”

IOA Editor: This appears to be a scheme to navigate a plan to provide rail service to Ariel, an illegal Jewish settlement at the heart of the West Bank, through the various legal hurdles that it is certain to face. A similar gimmick was used in 2005 because, “by law, private Palestinian land cannot be expropriated for purposes of constructing a transportation route unless it was proven this route will serve the Palestinians as well.” [YNet, 2005] Thus, an imaginary rail network, “under consideration,” provides a legitimizing context for the actual planning of a transport service providing quick access to the center of Israel for thousands of West Bank settlers.

Settlers from West Bank outposts have taken control of land in Area B and are thus in breach of the 1995 Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, says Dror Etkes, an anti-settlement activist. Area B was defined in the Oslo Accords as land under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control.

Construction of the new cultural auditorium in Ariel, taking students on tours of the West Bank, and now the plan to turn the ‘university center’ in Ariel into a full-fledged university, are erasing the pre-1967 borders from the collective consciousness of both Palestinians and Israelis.

We managed to delete Mount Hermon’s original, Syrian name as if it had never existed. Precious few Israelis have ever heard the name, or are aware of the 200 towns and villages that were obliterated in the Golan Heights. Most Israelis, we might assume, aren’t aware that they were ever there, since Israeli collective consciousness also erased the existence of their 120,000 residents – refugees that no one knows or cares about.

Benny Katzover: “The main role of Israeli democracy now is to disappear. Israeli democracy has finished its role, and it must disassemble and give way to Judaism… In Jewish faith, the Land of Israel is central…”

Likud MK and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin contacted right-wing activists over Israeli army movements in the West Bank, investigation documents reveal. Five right-wing extremists were charged by Jerusalem’s District Prosecutor’s Office with tracking Israel Defense Forces operations in the West Bank in an attempt to disrupt attempts to evacuate illegal outposts.

IOA Editor: This unremarkable occupation story is important because it shows how the most extreme elements of Israeli settlers are closely connected to, and directly supported by, the very core of the Israeli political system and government.

Since February, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to demolish all outposts built on private Palestinian land, right-wing activists have been applying heavy pressure on him to reverse that decision. Publication of the report on Derekh Ha’avot would cause more headaches for the authorities and bring the petitioners back to the High Court.

A study commissioned by Israel’s Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat to address housing shortages in the city, obtained by Hebrew daily Maariv, shows designs for 60,718 housing units in the city, with the majority — 52,363 homes — planned for East Jerusalem.

Sarah Benninga: When the wives of the male attackers saw their husbands hitting male and female protestors alike, they [the settler women] applauded and spat at me: ‘Traitor,’ ‘You deserve it.’ And when they heard their husbands threaten us: ‘We’ll fuck you in the ass,’ they suddenly turned into men themselves, applauding their husbands’ sexual conquests as if they were one of the boys.

Peace Now research has revealed that while in Israel the pace of construction since the so-called “settlement freeze” (Oct 2010) was one housing unit for every 235 residents, in the settlements the pace of construction was a housing unit for every 123 residents — nearly twice.

While certainly factors besides the mounting pressure on Agrexco from the BDS movement were at work here, the movement has made an impact on the Israeli economy.