There needs to be some clarity made regarding what the true intentions are beind Sharon’s plan to evacuate some of the settlements in Gaza. An excerpt from Le Monde Diplomatique on the Gaza withdrawal (the full version only available in subscription, and I’m translating from the Italian site “il manifesto” forwarded by Susanne to the members of Al-Awda Italia) expresses some of the reasons why it is not a move made for humanitarian reasons. There is certainly only gain for Israel behind it, and probably even some ill-will towards the refugees living there.
“The withdrawal plan presented by the Israeli prime minister, General Ariel Sharon, which foresees the dismantling of the Jewish colonies in the Gaza Strip and concernes 7,000 people, has elicited numerous positive reactions. The Labor party opinion, the Peace Now movements and even the Yahad party, “father” of the Geneva Accord which is aimed at the return to the 1967 borders with some rectifications accepted by both parties, all of them congratulate Sharon for his “courage”, and his “farsightedness”. Abroad, one finds the same climate of approvation.The Western leaders are engaged in elegies of the Israeli prime minister, overjoyed in hearing him pronounce words such as “dismantling of the settlements”. Certainly, the evacuation of even one colony built on Palestinian territory, occupied for twenty-seven years would be a great “first time”, but does this perhaps transform the evacuation plan from Gaza into a peace plan?
On the one hand, if Ariel Sharon did have serious intentions, this evacuation of the Jewish colonies would have been undertaken in the space of a few weeks, within one or two months maximum. Rather, since the announcement of this withdrawal, a year ago, not one single settler has left the Gaza Strip. Sharon is drawing it out, talking of “painful sacrifices” that the Israelis must accept with the dismantling of those few settlements and….. doesn’t do a damned thing. It is only directing all of the attention towards Gaza, buying time and delaying the fundamental accords for the creation of a Palestinian State.
On the other hand, it is evident that the creation of the colonies in the Gaza Strip has been a total failure: there are only 7,000 colonists settled there while in the West Bank there are more than 250,000 (without even counting the 200,000 Jews who have settled in the parts of Jerusalem occupied after 1967). Even if they are monopolising 40% of the land and using 50% of the water, those seven thousand colonists carry very little demographic weight when compared to a million and a half Palestinians crowded into the Gaza Strip. In addition to this, the security of the colonists requires enormous funding and the mobilisation of many soldiers, who at times pay with their lives for this ungrateful commission. In such conditions, leaving Gaza is not a true sacrifice for Israel. Rather, it is a relief.”
A very insightful view of the disengagement was written by Avigail Abarbanel:
16 April, 2004
Imagine that one day someone enters your house and declares that he has been homeless and abused and that he desperately needs a place to live. He is now therefore going to live in your house together with you. Apparently one of his ancestors lived there several generations back and this is why he chose your house. You are never asked whether it is OK with you and the person never asks for an invitation. He simply moves in. Then imagine that this person brings in a few more family members. When you try to appeal to the authorities they not only turn a blind eye, but in fact actively support the invaders by offering them money and resources. They feel sorry for the invaders because they had such a hard time, and they refuse to listen to your story and to your complaints.
At first you live in the hope that you will one day be allowed to use the rest of your house again, but as time goes by you and your family begin to realise that there is nothing that you can do. Hardly anyone is prepared to support you and those who try are attacked and silenced by the invaders.
When you realise that you have no choice and try to resist the invaders by force, you are painted as the ‘bad guy’, labelled a criminal and a terrorist, and you and your family members are hunted down like animals. You are also accused of having a pathological and unreasonable hatred towards the invaders.
The invaders no longer allow you to enter or leave freely. You cannot enter other rooms in your house. You have to ask permission to use the kitchen or the bathroom and have to live by the invaders’ rules. Your possessions have been confiscated for the use of the invaders and their families, and they start to make changes to the house without asking your permission. More and more rooms are taken and you and your family are living in an ever diminishing area. Occasionally they come into your area, killing and beating up members of your family to try and intimidate you into leaving the house altogether and into stopping your resistance. When you resist peacefully they also beat you up. The invaders also demand that you recognise their right to be there. Because you have no choice and you just want to live in peace in your house even if you are forced to live in one small room, you agree. But now the invaders are escalating their efforts to drive you out of the house completely by any means possible. Essentially they are trying to make your life so unbearable, that you will have no choice but give up on your house completely and go find another home.
This is in a nutshell the story of the Zionist movement, the state of Israel and the Palestinian people.
If a home invasion like this happened here in Australia, there is no doubt whose side the authorities would take. No individual, no matter how persecuted or traumatised would be able to get away with taking someone else’s home. But when it comes to international relations we seem to live in a jungle with no laws, no morality and no justice.
Now we hear that the US has endorsed Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza and keep the large settlements (colonies) in the West Bank. What the US in fact endorsed is the continuation of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Over *one million* refugees are cooped up in a ghetto of 235 square kilometres surrounded by the Israeli military, living with no nationality in refugee camps under Israeli military and economic domination and in conditions that no Australian or Israeli would accept for their families. The Gaza Strip has always been a problem that neither the Israelis nor the Egyptians wanted. Just before signing the Oslo Accords, the late Israeli Prime Minister Rabin said of Gaza, “If only it would sink into the sea”. When I was growing up in Israel the Hebrew equivalent of the expression “Go to hell” was “Go to Gaza” (Lech le’Aza)…
The Israeli settlers who live in the Strip are religious fanatics who have never been supported by the majority of Israelis. So removing them is not seen by the Israeli public as a sacrifice but rather as a long-overdue and much welcome policy. I welcome the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Gaza because their continued presence there has made the life of Palestinians a hell. But this withdrawal must not be interpreted as some kind of an expression of Israeli good will but rather as an act that effectively abandons the Palestinian refugees and that serves only Israeli interests.
The Likud party has always objected to a Palestinian state and promised its voters to never allow it to be created. The plan to keep the large colonies in the West Bank is consistent with this commitment. It effectively destroys any last possibility of a two-state solution. The West Bank is fragmented by large Israeli colonies. There are military bases there that will no doubt remain under the excuse of needing to protect these colonies, which means that the Palestinians will continue to live indefinitely under the thumb of Israeli soldiers. The high roads that criss-cross the entire West Bank, which are for Israeli use only will remain, and so will the checkpoints that control every movement of every Palestinian in the West Bank. The distribution of vital resources like water in the West Bank will remain unfairly skewed towards the Israeli colonies, and will continue to discriminate against the Palestinian people.
This is what the US endorsed and there are questions that we must ask ourselves such as, who is the US to seal the fate of almost 4 million people and condemn them to an indefinite hopeless existence? Why are we and the rest of the world allowing this, and why are we abandoning the Palestinian people to this fate? The world grew to regret the abandonment of my people the Jews, to their fate during the Nazi era in Europe. Do we also want to live to regret our abandonment of the Palestinian people? Why does the world not care enough to intervene?
Last month I participated in two forums on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in Brisbane organised by the Democrats. The representative from the Israeli embassy made it very clear from the start that the right of Israel to exist as an exclusively Jewish state was not negotiable or debatable. At that point I knew that we had nothing to say to each other. Israel’s existence as an exclusively Jewish state came at a terrible cost to a whole nation of people, and there can be no just or moral solution to the conflict without addressing this point. Does any country have a moral right to exist in the modern world when it is born through ethnic cleansing, and when its continued existence is based upon the occupation and dispossession of millions of people? Is this acceptable to us and if not, why do we and the rest of the world allow it?
It is our human duty to protect the lives, rights and dignity of the Palestinian people if we want to continue to call ourselves compassionate, peace-loving people who believe in freedom, democracy and human rights. The only just and sustainable long-term solution for both Palestinians and Israelis is in the form of one multicultural, democratic and secular state for both people with a full right of return for the Palestinian refugees. Without this the bloodshed and violence on both sides and *elsewhere in the world* will continue forever.
Author’s note: Avigail Abarbanel is a former Israeli, a former Staff Sergeant in the Israeli army and an activist for Palestinian rights. She is a psychotherapist/counsellor in private practice in Canberra. firstname.lastname@example.org, http://avigail.customer.netspace.net.au