'Before our own eyes'
By Ali Abunimah
The Jordan Times
June 21, 2002
FOLLOWING THE June 18 bomb attack in the Israeli West Bank colony of
Gilo which killed 19 people, the Israeli government announced that
it "will respond to acts of terror by capturing [Palestinian
National Authority] territory". The statement continued: "These
areas will be held by Israel as long as terror continues. Additional
acts of terror will lead to the taking of additional areas."
American media were quick to report this "new" policy as if Israel
had not constantly been invading and reinvading areas ostensibly
under PNA control and is if Palestinians had something to lose from
Hirsh Goodman of the Israeli magazine Jerusalem Report was asked by
America's National Public Radio what the purpose of "reoccupying the
West Bank" would be. Goodman explained that the policy was designed
to send a "message to the Palestinians that your country will be
disappearing before your eyes unless you stop the terror". It is
hard to know if Goodman actually believed his own answer or was
being deliberately obtuse. It certainly cannot have escaped many
people's notice that what has caused and perpetuates the conflict is
the fact that for 54 years Palestinians have been watching their
country disappear before their eyes.
Most of Palestine -- 78 per cent of the country between the Jordan
River and the Mediterranean Sea -- disappeared when Israel was
established on the ruins of Palestinian society in 1947-48,
something which entailed the expulsion or flight of most of the
population and the destruction of over four hundred towns and
villages. And since Israel occupied the remaining 22 per cent of
Palestine -- the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem -- in 1967,
it has been busy gobbling up land as fast as it can.
Michael Tarazi put it succinctly in the Washington Post on June 19
when he explained that Israel's settlement enterprise, "which
requires confiscating Palestinian land not only for colonies but
also for related roads and infrastructure, has resulted in Israeli
colonies' controlling nearly 42 per cent of the West Bank. Since the
1993 Oslo accords, the number of settlers living in the occupied
territories has nearly doubled. While the world has been distracted
by violence in the region, the very causes of that violence have
continued unabated. Sharon has constructed 34 new illegal colonies
since taking power".
Amidst all the endless prattle in the US media about Israel's
"reoccupation" of the West Bank, and "incursions" into this or that
city, there is never any mention of one crucial number: 17 per cent.
This percentage is the actual amount of land in the occupied West
Bank that Israel handed over to direct PNA control since the Oslo
accords were signed -- so-called "Area A". If you look at Area A
superimposed on a map of the West Bank, you see a few isolated spots
of black ink on a vast white surface. This starkly and immediately
exposes the fallacy of Palestinian "control". It is perhaps for this
reason that American newspapers almost never print this map,
preferring instead vague depictions which leave the impression that
all or most of the West Bank is or was under the PNA rule.
So, nominally, Israel has never had direct military control over
less than four fifths of the West Bank at any time since the "peace
process" began. In reality, Israel's control is total since the tiny
enclaves under Palestinian rule have for years been under permanent
siege, and in recent months the Israeli army has repeatedly rampaged
through them, killing hundreds of people, injuring and detaining
thousands more, and causing extensive damage and vandalism to entire
After Jenin, precisely what in this fiction of Palestinian "control"
does Israel think that any Palestinian has an interest to preserve?
What does it imagine that ordinary Palestinians find so precious and
valuable in the status quo that more of the same invasions and
destruction would wear down their will to fight the occupation (by
legitimate or illegitimate means)?
The falsehood that Israel ever made significant withdrawals from the
occupied territories or that the three and a half million
Palestinians subject to its military rule ever enjoyed more freedom
than any people corralled into tiny ghettos by an oppressor serves
the same purpose as the thoroughly debunked myth that former Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Barak made "far-reaching compromises" at Camp
David. The goal is to convey the impression that Israel has made
every possible concession and accommodation but has been met only
with Palestinian rejection and violence. Thus, Israel hopes to be
absolved of all responsibility, and whatever brutalities it deals
out in furtherance of its colonisation programme are offered merely
as the desperate and measured last resort of a beleaguered and
Hence, it must be clear that only those who wish to avoid a peaceful
and viable political solution and who yearn for a "greater Israel"
will continue to maintain that Israel ever really withdrew from the
occupied territories or that its repeated "reoccupations" are
anything more than a temporary reallocation of the tens of thousands
of heavily armed occupation troops permanently stationed in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 from one hot spot to another.
The writer, co-founder of www.electronicintifada.net, lives in the
United States. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times
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