WASHINGTON - August 16 - Green Party leaders strongly criticized Israel's 'disengagement plan', calling it a disingenuous attempt to bypass peace negotiations based on international law.
"Although Israel plans to dismantle its illegal settlements and military bases in the Gaza Strip, it will maintain control of all Gaza's borders, water, and electricity" said Stan Heller, Connecticut Green and Chairperson of the Middle East Crisis Committee. "Gaza will continue to be an open-air prison. Obviously, Palestinians would welcome the departure of Israeli soldiers and armed settlers. But as in the Oslo redeployments, the current 'disengagement plan' pretends to bring peace while continuing to prevent Palestinians from exercising their basic rights to self-determination, freedom of movement, and ability to develop their economy. Under international law, this is still occupation."
Greens have joined numerous Israeli and Palestinian peace activists in calling for (1) an end to the illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem; and (2) the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land. Research shows this can be implemented with little disruption to current Israeli population patterns. For example, about 78% of Israeli Jews reside on only 15% of the land, and over 90% of village refugees would return to empty sites.
"How can there be peace when since 1948 over 6 million native Palestinians have lived as refugees -- the vast majority within a 60 miles of their former homes in Israel?" asked Justine McCabe, member of the party's International Committee. "In other, more recent ethnic conflicts, the U.S. and the international community have encouraged Bosnian, Kosovar, and Rwandan refugees to go home and live together with former enemies. Why are Palestinian refugees and Israelis any different?"
In keeping with a long-standing body of human rights and humanitarian international law (U.N. Resolution 194; Article 13 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the U.N. has announced a 'New Global Standard' demanding the return of confiscated refugee housing and property to refugees and internally displaced persons.
Greens noted that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, while promoting the disengagement plan, has internally indicated that withdrawal from Gaza is key to consolidating Israel's dominance in the largely Palestinian-Israeli area of the Galilee (Jaleel), Negev (Naqub), and in Greater Jerusalem, the large settlement blocs and 'security zones.'
Israel has requested 2.2 billion dollars in a direct grant from the U.S., to cover not only the costs of dismantling the few illegal settlements in Gaza but also for funds to 'develop,' i.e., 'Judaize' areas in Israel where most Palestinian-Israelis now live, including many of the 500+ destroyed villages to which Palestinian refugees would return.
"In return for removing a tiny percentage of the over 400,000 settlers who are still living on confiscated Palestinian land, Israel expects American taxpayers to foot the bill and create more obstacles to real peace," said Jake Schneider, treasurer of the Green Party of the United States. "This misguided U.S. policy only decreases the security of Americans as well as Israelis and Palestinians."
Greens cited warnings from some Jewish-Israeli peace activists, including Professors Ilan Pappe, Uri Davis, and Tamar Yaron, that the disengagement scenario may result in harm to Palestinian civilians as Israeli officials respond to what they regard as provocations by Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza.
Professor Pappe said, "Confirming our worst fears, General Eival Giladi, head of the Coordination and Strategy Team of [Sharon's] office, went on record in print and on television to the effect that 'Israel will act in a very resolute manner in order to prevent terror attacks and fire while the disengagement is being implemented,' and that 'If pinpoint response proves insufficient, we may have to use weaponry that causes major collateral damage, including helicopters and planes, with mounting danger to surrounding people.' This scenario would be similar to what has already happened in the past -- a tactic that Ariel Sharon has used many times in his military career -- i.e., utilizing provocation in order to launch massive attacks."