Illegal Occupation of Palestine

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the Providence Journal (Rhode Island)

Illegal Occupation of Palestine

There has been a media circus fed by a huge Israeli-government public-relations effort to drum up sympathy for the "painful" relocation of Jewish settlers from Gaza. 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 inside? Will Gaza become a large open-air prison, with its population held hostage as Israel controls its air space, natural resources, and access?

Few journalists dare ask these questions. The answers can be troubling. This tactical maneuver may not weaken but actually strengthen the Zionist project.

The Zionist project is not about 8,500 settlers who have been 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. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 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 scheme similar 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 percent of historic Palestine not occupied by Israelis in 1948-49. This 22 percent is all illegally occupied territory under international law. All 450,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and the settlers in Gaza have been illegal, put there in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

These colonial settlers took our U.S. tax money through Israeli-government incentives to live on Palestinian lands, steal Palestinian resources, and engage in violent, brutal oppression of the native Palestinians.

One of those colonial settlers just murdered four Palestinian civilians (total Palestinian civilians killed by these settlers is now over 400 in just the past four 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 displace more Palestinians (Bedouin citizens of Israel) or live on the land of the Palestinians now living in refugee camps in Gaza.

U.S. taxpayers, again, are expected to foot part of the bill.

While the Gaza smokescreen is used to 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 from Israeli maps. U.S. media outlets do not dare show the pictures of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians. (See 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 United States and the rest of the world due to 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 fluent English and looks like us? Are the media worried about showing a native Palestinian Christian or Muslim who cannot even visit her land behind walls and fences? Would such an exposure call into question the nature of Israel as a Jewish state?

Israel defines itself as a country not 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 superseding state authority and native people's rights. The result is that land is taken from native Christians and Muslims and turned over to settlers under such anti-human-rights laws as 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 were predictable (as was the subservience of Arab dictators to U.S.-Israeli hegemony).

Israel is requesting billions more of our tax dollars to support the charade of "disengagement" (from reality?), while using billions of our tax dollars for its colonial project in the West Bank (including Jerusalem). If the American public were 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 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 in the rest of the world -- as one of the most important steps for advancing harmony and peace around our troubled world.

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Mazin Qumsiyeh is international coordinator for the Palestine Justice Network (PalestineJN.org), a professor at Bethlehem University and the author of Popular Resistance in Palestine

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