- Since 1967, Israel has systematically and relentlessly
sought control of the entire "Holy Land" by seizing Gaza, the
West Bank and all of Jerusalem. The entire area remains occupied and,
according to Israeli professor and activist Jeff Halper, the aggressive
"Nishul" agenda continues. It entraps and commits genocide against
1.5 million Gazans under siege in the world's largest open-air prison.
It also displaces Israeli Arabs inside Israel and West Bank Palestinians
for expanding Jewish settlements.
- It depoliticizes the process to normalize it. Casts it
as part of the "war on terrorism" and "class of civilizations."
What Edward Said called the colonized and the colonizers. "The familiar
(Europe, West, us, and of course Israel) and the strange (the Orient,
East, them)." Halper refers to "adherents to 'evil' religions,
ideologies or cultures." Needing to be dealt with. Not people with
real grievances, needs and rights. Israel's solution: "warehousing
a surplus (unwanted) population" in prisons, open-air ones, and by
isolating and oppressing it relentlessly until all fight is beaten out
of it. Others give up and leave.
- Banishing Palestinians to around 15% of historic Palestine.
Its least valuable parts. Denying them free movement. Keeping them out
of Israel and Israeli-controlled West Bank areas. Preventing them from
having real state autonomy or developing a viable economy. Relegating
them to "surplus humanity" serfdom. Pioneering a "Matrix
of Control" model to be used globally. Against billions of "surplus"
people everywhere. Making every country look like Israel. Even the US
where parts of this writer's Chicago already look like it. One area close
enough to walk to, and controlled by what one observer calls the "police
repression capital of America," referring to the city's "finest."
- Halper worries why most countries, including Arab ones,
grant Israel miles of latitude. Refuse to demand an end to its outrageous
practices. It's to let it provide a "valued service." Develop
a population control model to be exported everywhere. Assuring unwanted
people have no political engagement, peace, chance for redress, or any
rights. Making them "disappear" into black hole isolation.
- Having one overwhelming obstacle in the way. Six decades
of Palestinian resistance. Gaining millions of grassroots supporters
worldwide. Hoping to prove determination and persistence will overcome
repression, and sometimes it does.
- Nonetheless, Israeli policies continue. All the while
monitored by The Israeli Human Rights organization, B'Tselem. It just
documented more evidence in its report titled "Access Denied: Israeli
measures to deny Palestinians access to land around (West Bank) settlements."
Its findings are discussed below. It details how authorities block Palestinians'
access to areas adjacent to settlements through closure policies and de
facto seizure. Land theft and displacement for greater settlement expansions.
- Grave human rights violations, according to B'Tselem.
Violations of international humanitarian law as well that apply during
war and occupation. The prohibition of an occupying power from transferring
people from their own territory to another. The Fourth Geneva Convention's
Article 49 states:
- "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well
as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory
of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not,
are prohibited, regardless of the motive."
- In addition, the Hague Regulations prohibit occupying
powers from permanently changing occupied areas, except for narrowly defined
military purposes or to benefit the local population. Settlements by
their nature are illegal. Expanding them compounds the crime. Israel does
it through complex legal and bureaucratic measures. First by declaring
"state land" based on an obscure 1858 Ottoman Lands Law. Also
by creating "closed military zones" and "special security
areas (SSAs)" for stated Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) needs.
- Declaring areas "abandoned assets" as well.
Seizing them for public needs, and helping Jewish citizens buy land on
the open market. Stolen land they have no right to have. By displacing
indigenous Palestinians for expanding Jewish-only settlements. Sanctioned
and approved by Israel's High Court of Justice. Complicit in the land
- Mocking the rule of law. Establishing an official apartheid
policy. Legalized separation and discrimination. Repugnant in all respects.
Enforcing it through military occupation. Denying Palestinians all rights,
including to their land. Having two sets of laws. One for Jews. The other
for Arabs. Calling itself a democracy. Violating that standard by any
- Operating 23 local Jewish authorities in the West Bank:
three munipalities; 14 local councils and six regional ones for 121 Jewish-only
settlements and 106 outposts on stolen Palestinian land. For around 500,000
Jews in total, including in 12 East Jerusalem settlements. Providing incentives
for Israeli Jews to move to the West Bank. Low-cost housing. Financial
grants, and other inducements. Special ones for teachers, other needed
professions and companies.
- Defining most West Bank settlements as "national
priority areas." Either A or B class. Having a planning system that
favors Jews and severely restricts Palestinians. Refusing them construction
permits on lands earmarked for Jews only. On their own land as well.
Employing a home demolition policy. Roads for Jews only, oppressive harassment,
and much more. To make life so intolerable, most Palestinians will leave.
- Learning nothing from six decades that its scheme won't
work. As Edward Said explained before his death. "There is no way
for Israel to get rid of Palestinians." They "shar(e) the land
that has thrust (them) together (and must do it) in a truly democratic
way, with equal rights for each citizen," Jew and Arab.
- Israel nonetheless, pursues a ruthless repressive policy.
Advantaging its settlers and encouraging or forcing Palestinians to leave.
Systematically seizing more land so they will. Leaving them only the least
desirable areas. Isolated, occupied and surrounded by hostile Israelis.
Denying them the right to their own land, housing, their livelihood, human
rights and almost daily for some their lives. Getting away with it because
no outside authority stops them or even complains. Seeing things worsen.
Making it look legal through radical interpretations of law.
- Israel wants the entire region to resemble Occupied Palestine.
Israeli journalist and Foreign Ministry-connected Oded Yinon's 1980s
vision to make the Jewish state an imperial power. Essential he believed
to survive. Doing it by dividing the Middle East into small states. Dissolving
existing ones. Making the Arab world one of Arab fragments. Occupied Palestine
as well. Making it and regional mini-states Israeli satellites. Seizing
more land for greater dominance. Displacing indigenous Arabs to achieve
it. Calling Jordan a Palestinian state and forcing Palestinians to resettle
there. Ariel Sharon favored the idea. Very likely other Israeli extremists
today so anything is possible going forward.
- Which brings things to the present and B'Tselem's latest
- Denying Palestinians Access to Their Own Land
- B'Tselem documents how Israel does it. Blocking Palestinians'
access to areas adjacent to settlements in two ways:
- -- with security forces and settler violence and harassment;
expelling Palestinians close to settlements and preventing others from
- -- building a secondary security fence around settlements
far removed from settler homes; in addition to a close-in barrier already
in place as another land grab method; much like the Separation Barrier
that the World Court ruled illegal and must come down; Israel disdains
international law and refuses.
- Further, West Bank Palestinians are prohibited or restricted
from entering settlements. Military "special security areas (SSAs)."
Roads for Jews only. Military areas of any kind. Annexed land in and
around East Jerusalem, and other large areas like the Jordan Valley. B'Tselem
reports on one part among many other prohibitions, restrictions, and other
harassing measures to seize Palestinian land, including valuable farmland
that many families rely on for their livelihood. The practice has been
ongoing for decades. Tens of thousands of dunams of land (four dunams
to the acre) are affected. New areas continuously added. Once belonging
to Palestinians. Now seized under an illegal occupation.
- Done in the name of security by lawlessly manipulating
a threat to justify a land grab policy. Creating an "absurd situation,"
according to B'Tselem. Forcing Palestinians to deal with a bureaucratic
authority to reach their own property. Enduring great hardships and often
being refused. Allowing settlers, in contrast, easy access to Palestinian-owned
land to do as they wish. Their presence violates the logic of a "warning
area," besides encroaching on property not their own.
- Palestinians are obstructed in various ways:
- -- closing a ring of land around settlements by military
- -- allowing settlers to harass and expel them from land
outside the ring;
- -- some of it farmland Palestinians have a permit to
be on; but, why should they need one at all; it's their land;
- -- denying them anyway by classifying their property
- -- requiring Palestinians to obtain bureaucratic permission
to enter non-SSA areas; and
- -- erecting physical barriers around some of them to
keep them out.
- In all, a convoluted bureaucratic nightmare to deny Palestinians
access to their land and seize it for settlement expansions. For years,
B'Tselem documented how Israel's "actions relating to land in the
Occupied Territories have been carried out in bad faith."
- As in America, justifying policy on national security
grounds. To protect settlers from those "bad" Palestinians with
their small arms and rocks against the world's fourth most powerful (nuclear-
armed) military and never reluctant to unleash it.
- All Occupied Palestine belongs to its people. Israel
has no right to expropriate or occupy it. Its West Bank "settlement
enterprise breaches international humanitarian law and is the basis for
most human rights violations there. Israel is obligated to evacuate the
settlers and resettle them in Israel." Instead displacement and
land seizures continue, and B'Tselem's report documents it through dozens
of testimonies, interviews, and investigations. Information from state
authorities. Background discussions with defense officials, and from a
computerized analysis of the closed land borders - as land appears on
maps attached to military orders and from aerial photos.
- B'Tselem provides a history of Israel's land closure
policy. Its harmful aspects and components. The use of physical obstructions
to block access. Settlers along with security forces for enforcement.
Making land closure around settlements official state policy. Giving
Jews unrestricted access and free movement, and creating a bureaucratic
and security nightmare for Palestinians. Breaking international law and
getting away with it.
- Israel now controls over 40% of the West Bank for settlements,
its Separation Wall, nature reserves, where its military is based or
trains, and the percentage is growing. Its settlements are connected to
Israel and each other by a network of for-Jews only roads. Ones for Palestinians
are obstructed by hundreds of physical barriers and checkpoints. Palestinian
communities are isolated, surrounded and shrinking.
- B'Tselem calls "the cumulative effect of the prohibitions
and restrictions....grave." Restrictions on free movement. State-
sanctioned land seizures. A policy of isolation and separation. The daily
threat of settler or security force violence. The impossibility of expanding
Palestinian communities. Building homes on their own land. Having industrial
development and a normal agriculture. Living in peace and co-existing
with their Jewish neighbors. Being free in their own unoccupied land.
Getting world support for their rights. Instead losing more of them and
their land that's already inadequate for their growing population.
- Compelling On-the-Ground Testimonies
- In July 2008, Israel expelled Fahmeyeh Fakheideh from
her farmland for settlement construction. After her husband died, she
had 12 dunams (around three acres) of land and some olive trees. About
six years ago, Israelis built a new settlement nearby. A new bypass road
as well. Six dunams of her land were enclosed by a new fence and the rest
remained outside. The land is her primary income source, and she "didn't
know what to do (because she) was afraid of the settlers (and) didn't
try to go to (her) land inside the settlement."
- Nonetheless, she was harassed on the outside land. Chased
away. Had her ladders burned and olives destroyed. Another time confronted
with rifles and forced to flee. "Every time we see a settler, we
hide." Also "security people....every time they approach us
(and treat us) as if we are robbers on our land. We live in fear....Our
greater fear is that the settlers will harm the children."
- In the past three years, she's had to take great care
entering her land. To plow in planting season. Harvest in the fall. Arrive
in early morning. Unable to enter until after police and the army show
up and settlers open the gate to their settlement. At times, it's not
until 9:00 or 10:00AM. Then soldiers escort them from in front and behind
and stay with them until 4:00PM when they're removed. They're frightening
and force them to work and take meal and bathroom breaks hurriedly. They
live constantly under the threat of settler and even military attack.
- As a result, they're denied free access to their land.
Restricted from half of it. Production has fallen to less than half of
its pre- settlement volume. And in poor harvest years even less.
- The family "used to love the harvest season. (They)
would stay until evening and not want to go home. (They) would drink tea
and coffee and eat and listen to music in (their) orchard and be happy....even
cook there and prepare maklubeh, which really tasted good because (they)
cooked it on the open fire. Now (they) don't dare talk while (they're)
in the orchard, because (they) are afraid the settlers will hear (them)."
Even the children must be quiet.
- When Fahmeyeh goes on the roof of her house and looks
at her land and olive trees, she feels "as if (she) were going to
die from the sadness. The olive trees are dear to (her), but there is
nothing (she) can do to improve the situation." She struggles to
cover her household expenses. Can only gets by because her children are
grown, have jobs, and help her. It never used to be this way before the
- Saleh Daraghmeh's story is also very disturbing. He's
a shepherd in the Jordan Valley. When grazing his flock in the Ein al-Beida
area, Shademot Mehola settlers chased him away. Assaulted his 11-year
old son. Put a knife to his throat and terrified him.
- On September 24, 2007, he was grazing his flock with
his sister's sons and their cows. He saw a car heading toward the nearby
settlement. It stopped and two men approached. They ran toward the cows
and stoned them. His nephew went over and asked why. The settlers chased
him and fired shots at his legs. Saleh came over to calm the situation.
Spoke to the intruders in Hebrew and asked why they opened fire. Instead
of answering, a settler shot his nephew. Hurt him badly. Saleh tried to
give him first aid. Had his other nephew run for help. Get an ambulance.
In a Hummer jeep and then an ambulance managed to get him to Rambam Hospital
in Haifa. No simple task but he did it.
- Police and soldiers came to the scene to investigate.
Saleh was summoned to the Efraim police station to give testimony. He
saw who shot his nephew. Didn't remember well enough what he looked like
but knew the other settler's name who was with him. He was only about
14 or 15 years old. Most likely the shooter was also about the same age.
Like in most other instances, nothing was expected to result from a very
inadequate investigate. Little more than whitewash nearly always. Even
when an innocent Palestinian is shot.
- B'Tselem collected similar stories to the two above.
Palestinians accosted and assaulted in their fields. Their groves. Near
or in their homes because they're close to settlements. Communities as
well that are far removed. They're intimidated. Attacked. Shot at. Their
property is destroyed, and authorities do little to stop it. B'Tselem
states firmly that they can do plenty and should:
- -- order the army, police and Civil Administration to
rigidly enforce the law; ensure settlers obey it; prosecute those who
don't; provide equal justice to Jews and Arabs equally;
- -- have security forces dismantle fences and other physical
barriers that have no business being there;
- -- fulfill their obligations as an occupying power by
providing security for the occupied people to keep them safe from settler
- -- have IDF commanders order their subordinates to assure
Palestinians rights are observed and enforced;
- -- prosecute soldiers who violate the orders;
- -- "cancel the engineering components of the SSA
plan and remove secondary fences;" and
- -- ensure Palestinians have free access to their land;
no need for advance coordination, and no concerns about facing settler
or security force violence.
- B'Tselem goes further as well and calls on "the
government of Israel (to) evacuate all the settlements and return the
settlers to Israeli territory" in accordance with international humanitarian
law. Instead, Israel continues its expansion projects. Oppresses and
displaces indigenous Palestinians. Seizes all parts of Occupied Palestine
it wants for itself, and mocks the rule of law by disobeying it. B'Tselem
and all people of conscience are outraged. An Israeli government spokesperson
wasn't available for comment.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached