On the Gaza disengagement
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
Published wth title "Illegal occupation of Palestine," Providence Journal, 8/21/05
There has been a media circus fed by a huge Israeli government PR effort to drum up sympathy for the “painful” relocation of settlers from Gaza (<2% of total settler population). But who are these settlers and why were they brought there in the first place? Is Israel really leaving Gaza or merely switching to occupying it from outside rather than from inside? Will Gaza become a large open air prison with its population held hostage as Israel control its airspace, natural resources, and access? Few journalists dare to ask.
The answers can be troubling. This tactical maneuver may not weaken but actually strengthen the Zionist project. The Zionist project is not about 8000 settlers in living among 1.3 million Palestinians (mostly refugees) in a tiny desert strip called Gaza. It is about millions of Jews being gathered from around the world and about the removal of the native Palestinians from most of the land of Palestine. Sharon and Dov Weisglass and others articulated this clearly: maximum lands for Jewish immigrants, minimum for native Palestinians. The results are obvious, there are over 4 million Jewish colonial immigrants and there are now 6 million Palestinian refugees or displaced people. Remaining Palestinians are relegated to "homelands" in a similar scheme to what was attempted by South Africa under Apartheid. The Gaza strip is merely one such homeland. The few thousand illegal settlers in Gaza are a footnote to this story which is unfolding much more dramatically in the West Bank.
The West Bank and Gaza were occupied in 1967 and represent the 22% of historic Palestine not occupied in 1948-49. These 22% are all illegally occupied territories per International law. All 450,000 settlers in the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and the 8,000 settlers in Gaza are illegal and put there in violation of the Geneva conventions. These colonial settlers took our US tax money through Israeli government incentives to live on Palestinian lands, steal Palestinian resources, and engage in brutal violent oppression of the native Palestinians. One of those colonial settlers just murdered 4 Palestinian civilians (total Palestinian civilians killed by these settlers is now over 400 just in the past 4 years). Israel is relocating a tiny minority of these colonial settlers from Gaza (many with blood on their hands) to the Negev where they will end up displacing more Palestinians (Bedouin citizens of Israel) or living on the land of the Palestinians who now live in refugee camps in Gaza. They will each get $300,000-$800,000. US Taxpayers again are expected to foot the bill. While the Gaza smokescreen is used to maximum media advantage, Israel is consolidating its grip on Jerusalem and other occupied areas in the West Bank.
The media circus historically stayed away from any mention of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. No busloads of journalists came to watch as 530 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed and removed off of Israeli maps. US Media outlets do not dare show the pictures of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians (for a taste of this, visit http://Palestineremembered.com). Successive Israeli governments rejected demands of International law for repatriation and compensation for refugees. We saw little on the media here even as Israeli forces made 50,000 more Palestinians homeless in the past five years. As cameras focus on extremists arguing with Israeli occupation soldiers, Israel continues building the illegal apartheid wall that is creating large concentration camps for the increasingly-squeezed Palestinians. Is disparity in media coverage between the US and the rest of the world due to influencial editors sympathetic to Zionism or is it due to Palestinians having brown skin and Jewish settlers being European and American Ashkenazi (white)? Is it easier to sympathize with a New Yorker who will have to leave Gaza because he speaks with fluent English and looks like us? Is the media worried about showing a native Palestinian Christian or Muslim who cannot even visit her land now behind walls and fences? Would such an exposure call into question the nature of Israel as a Jewish state?
Israel defines itself not a country of its citizens but of “Jewish people everywhere”. No other country defines itself as a country for members of a particular religion (including converts) regardless of where they live. No other country has supranational entities that have authority superceding state authority and native people rights. The net result is that land is taken from native Christians and Muslims and turned over to settlers under such anti-human rights laws like the “absentee property law” and the “Jewish law of return.” New Zionist immigrants who settle on Palestinian lands are indoctrinated in messianic concepts of redeeming the land from “squatters”. This logic justified the atrocities committed daily against native Palestinians for the past 57 years. Palestinian resistance was as predictable here as Algerian resistance to French colonization. Arab and Muslim public sympathy and sympathy from oppressed people everywhere was predictable (as was the subservience of Arab dictators to US/Israeli hegemony).
Israel is requesting billions more in our tax money to support the charade of “disengagement” (from reality?) while using billions more of our tax money for its colonial project in the West Bank (including Jerusalem). If the American public is informed that we give Israel more than what we give sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Central America combined, the public would be up in arms. If informed about this conflict fairly, we would insist that all aid to Israel be tied to implementation of International law including dismantling the apartheid wall (recently judged illegal by the International Court of Justice) and allowing the return of refugees to their homes and lands. Rejecting apartheid and advancing such universal human rights would put us firmly on the road to a durable peace. Justice for Palestinians would be recognized in America (as it is now recognized in the rest of the world) to be one of the most important steps for advancing harmony and peace around our troubled world.
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