At the end of August the Israel government plans to withdraw from Gaza, dismantling 21 Israeli-Jewish settlements.
They also plan to dismantle four of the 120 Jewish West Bank settlements. Protests from Gaza settlers have been bitter and nasty; during one clash a Palestinian boy was stoned.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continues to take a firm line in executing the withdrawal operation, but behind his rhetoric Sharon has other intentions — expanding Israeli control into parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem — as Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery describes below.
Socialist campaigners must step up our efforts to solidarise with Palestinians facing intensified daily struggles — against encroachments on land, harassment by police at checkpoints, etc etc. Solidarity will cover more practical campaigning initiatives in the future and we highlight two such issues below.
Redrawing the map
By Uri Avnery
Sharon said that the withdrawal from Gaza is necessary so that we can concentrate on the main effort, to ensure Israeli dominance “in Galilee and the Negev, Greater Jerusalem, the settlement blocs and the security zones.”
One has to put the eight Hebrew words on the map in order to get a clear picture.
“Galilee and the Negev” were included for decoration only. They have been part of Israel since the foundation of the state, and a campaign for their “Judaization” has been going on for decades. About half of Galilee’s citizens are Arab, and the situation in the Negev is similar.
The term “Greater Jerusalem” is used to include not only all the Arab neighborhoods in the east of the city, but also the settlement Ma’aleh-Adumim and the territories lying between it and Jerusalem proper.
The “settlement blocs” include not only the enlarged Gush Etzion, Ariel, Upper Modi’in, Betar and Ma’aleh-Adumim blocs, but also any area that may be so defined in the future.
But the most important words are “security zones”. In Sharon’s lexicon, these include not only the whole of the Jordan Valley and the “Back of the Mountain” (the eastern slopes of the central Palestinian mountain range), but also the east-west and north-south axes on which he himself has been cultivating the settlements throughout the years.
This sentence confirms again what Sharon has said often enough in the past: that he intends to annex 58% of the West Bank, so that the Palestinian state, to which he might or might not agree, will cover about 10% of the area of Palestine as it existed before 1948.
The task of the Israeli peace camp is to abort Sharon’s vision, by using the dynamics of the crisis to open the road to the solution of the conflict. The settlements are the main obstacle to the attainment of a compromise between the two nations.
The Israeli public has begun to turn against the settlers, resulting in the isolation of the whole settler community. We have to make sure that this wave will not dissipate after the completion of the Gaza withdrawal, but on the contrary, will grow in size and strength until it sweeps away the whole infrastructure of occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
At the end of June the Israeli Defence Force decided to close the sole gate through which farmers in Mas'ha (a West Bank village situated about 3 miles from the Green Line) have access to their lands. The gates had opened twice a day for farmers who had permits.
Now the IDF has arbitrarily declared the gate to be a “seasonal” gate, and informed villagers that the gate will be closed for six months. Farmers will be prevented from going to harvest their olives, since the harvest period is mainly during October and November (but in some areas begins as early as September and lasts as late as December).
The closure additionally prevents farmers from tending their vegetable crops, plowing the grounds around their almond trees and olive groves, and shepherds from grazing their flocks. Farmers are told to use the “other” gate, but this is some 11 kilometers away (nearly 7 miles) — and one needs a permit to get there. Most farmers do not have the necessary permit, nor would be allowed to have one.
Mas’ha, prior to being closed off by the fence in September 2003, had 6200 dunams of land; of these only 500 dunams remain within the fence.
Please protest by phone and/or fax
1. DCO Qalqilya: Phone: + 972 50 623 4034; Fax + 972 9 792 2331
2. Civil Administration Spokesperson: Phone: + 972 50 623 4081; Fax: + 972 02 997 7341
3. IDF Spokesperson: Phone + 972 3 6080 220; Fax + 972 3 6080 343
Seven minutes to destroy a home
From the Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions, 4 July
Again today, houses were demolished in East Jerusalem. In the early morning the bulldozers moved into the neighbourhood of Isawiyya, where they demolished a gas station. Then, they moved towards the neighbourhood of Tel al Ful in Beit Hanina, were volunteers and staff from ICAHD where present at the site of the houses of Bassam Ramlawi and Nur al Din Damiri. At 9 am, dozens of police jeeps and ambulances appeared on top of the hill, and started to move down toward the houses.
Police then spread out to secure the area, and female border police tried to remove Amal Ramlawi from the doorway of her home. When she resisted, more border police came to help. Amal was finally removed from the house. Next, two orange Daewoo bulldozers appeared on the hilltop and started descending towards the houses. At 9.30, they began their work, demolishing the house of Bassam Ramlawi.
Meanwhile, at the house of Nur al Din Damiri, the family had been up since 2 am, removing their belongings from their modest two room house. The foreign workers, who were contracted to remove furniture from the houses, found themselves without work. At 9.54, the second bulldozer moved towards the house, and began to demolish it. Nur and his wife Ataf where standing at a safe distance from the house, watching the destruction of their home. It took the bulldozer exactly 7 minutes to demolish the house and dig up the foundation, thereby making 6 people homeless for the second time in two years.
At 10:25, the bulldozers had completed their work, and began climbing up the hill, leaving 4 adults and 13 children homeless. From there, they moved on to the Wadi al Dam area in Beit Hanina, where they demolished another two uninhabited structures.