November 29 marks an anniversary illustrative of the international community's ambivalent relationship with the Palestinian people. Fifty-five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly voted for a proposal to partition Palestine into a "Jewish" and an "Arab State" (UNGA Resolution 181/1947) in violation of international law and against the express wish of the majority of Palestine's inhabitants - thereby violating the right of self-determination of the Palestinian/Arab people. Thirty years later, while still grappling with the protracted "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" it had helped to create, the same United Nations declared 29 November the UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination (UNGA Resolution 32-40B/1977). Today, 55 years after the UN partition resolution and subsequent UN efforts at peace-making, the Palestinian people continue to live in an environment characterized by exile and forced displacement, increasing racism and an emerging Israeli apartheid regime. What future is there for the Palestinian people? What future is there for international solidarity with the Palestinian people's struggle for freedom, justice and a durable peace?
Since the collapse of the July 2000 Camp David peace summit between Israel and the PLO, Israeli governments have renewed a campaign of de-legitimization of the Palestinian people's struggle for fundamental rights and the implementation of international law and UN resolutions. In February 2001, Israel's Sharon government, encouraged by a passive and strongly biased international community, set out to launch an all-out military attack against Palestinian infrastructure and the political leadership in the 1967 occupied territories. By November 2002, with only two more months in office, this government has accomplished its immediate objectives.
As of 29 November 2002, the 25th anniversary of the International Day in Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Israel's occupation army has effectively re-taken direct military control over all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of a series of brutal military operations (code-named 'Journey of Colors', 'Defensive Wall', 'Chain Reaction', a.o.). Freedom of movement between cities, towns and refugee camps is virtually non-existent; around-the-clock curfews have effectively placed under house-arrest one million Palestinians in the West Bank for most of the time since April 2002; some 250,000 Palestinian children have been unable to reach schools since September 2002 (UNICEF); between 60 and 80 percent of the population live on less than US $2 a day; Palestinian institutions, including many ministries, hospitals and media are defunct or inaccessible for the population; and, even the symbols of Palestinian self-rule have vanished from the ground.
In the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories the Israeli government continues to advance policies and underwrite practices - including the expansion of colonies (i.e. settlements), confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of agricultural crops and demolition of Palestinian homes - that aim to permanently alter the area's demographic, ethno-national composition. Palestinian civilians, moreover, have born the brunt - in lives, injuries, damage to homes and properties etc. - of Israel's military campaign to suppress the Palestinian uprising and struggle for freedom. There is no apparent distinction between civilian and combatant in Israel's self-declared 'war on terrorism,' which has left approximately 1,800 Palestinians and 400 Israeli civilians dead, more than 20,000 Palestinians injured, and some 8,000 in Israeli detention centers. Israel's profiling of an entire population based on their ethno-national character is not limited to the 1967 occupied territories. Over the past year the Israeli government has adopted policies that have led to further isolation and marginalization of Palestinian citizens of the state. These policies include suspension of family reunification; consideration of new laws that further restrict Palestinian access to land; the reactivation of a Council for Demography to study mechanisms to increase the Jewish population relative to the Palestinian population; establishment of new Jewish settlements to alter the demography in the Galilee and Naqab; a.o. These policies are accompanied by a campaign to target outspoken Palestinian political leaders and an unprecedented wave of incitement for the expulsion of the Palestinian people: "Israel is a country in which the streets are plastered with posters calling for a population transfer, and nobody bothers to remove them or to indict those who put them up." (Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, 9 September 2002).
The outcome and continuing impact of Israel's system of racial discrimination since 1947/8 has been the creation of millions of refugees and displaced persons. Today, it is estimated that more than two-thirds (6 million) of the Palestinian people are displaced. While Palestinians owned over 90% of the land in mandatory Palestine on the eve of the 1948 war, today Palestinians have access to just ten percent of their land in Israel and the 1967 occupied territories. The Palestinian people constitute one of the largest and longest standing unresolved cases of displacement in the world today. Current Israeli "transfer" schemes - whether implemented in the shadow of a US-led war against Iraq or without such a war - must be considered in this context.
Israel's system of racial discrimination has not only engendered mass displacement and dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people, it has also engendered a system of physical separation characterized by segregation and 'bantustanization.' First applied by a military government (1948 - 1966) against the Palestinian population that had remained in Israel, this system was replicated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following Israel's military occupation in 1967. Today, the West Bank is divided into some 64 non-contiguous zones surrounded by 46 permanent checkpoints and 126 roadblocks. Israel has introduced a segregated road system transforming all major roads into roads for Jews only. Since May 2002 Palestinian residents need special permits, issued by Israel's military government, for travel between Palestinian cities and between the various 'zones' or 'bantustans.' The culmination of the idea of segregation is unfolding in the form of the separation zone ('wall') that is to eventually close entry and exit to Palestinian populated areas of the West Bank from the north to the south. The Gaza Strip is already surrounded by a similar fence.
What Future for the Palestinian People?
In the context of continued racial discrimination and forced displacement the Palestinians people is facing a future of life and struggle under apartheid. While the establishment of a full-fledged apartheid regime might not constitute the preferred option for many Israelis concerned about the 'democratic character of the Jewish state', it is the most likely scenario by default. Apartheid is the future scenario, because neither will a future Likud-led government (most likely) be able to rid Israel of the presence of the Palestinian people by military force, nor will a Labor-led government (less likely) under former General Amram Mitzna have the courage to radically alter Israel's strategy and create the conditions required for a two-state solution, i.e. a full withdrawal from the 1967 occupied territories, the dismantling of all Jewish colonies containing some 400,000 settlers and the re-admission, restitution and compensation of all those Palestinian refugees choosing to exercise their right of return (UN Resolution 194). Reviews on licensed online casinos ,bonuses from the online casinos.
Apartheid is the future scenario of the Palestinian people also because official international efforts for ending the current crisis and re-launching political negotiations between Israel and the PLO continue to fail to address the root causes (military occupation, displacement, denial of the right to self-determination) of the conflict between the Palestinian people and Zionist Israel. Rich in stages, time tables and demands for reform of the Palestinian leadership, and promising recognition of a 'temporary Palestinian state without borders' by late 2003, the latest 'road map' drafted by 'Quartet' (United States, European Union, Russia, United Nations) is no more likely to succeed than the earlier US-led 'Mitchell-Tenet-Zinni process.' This because also the Quartet's initiative avoids one of the most important lessons to be drawn from comparative research of international peace-making, i.e. the fact that peace plans must include clear reference to, and enforcement mechanisms for, international law and human rights conventions in order to have a chance of success.
What Future for International Solidarity?
Based on the above, only a broad and globally coordinated campaign against Israel's brand of apartheid, including effective Israel-boycott campaigns and campaigns for the indictment of Israelis responsible for war crimes, can convey a clear message to Israel and official international actors and change the unfavorable balance of forces in favor of universal respect for international law as the foundation for building a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian refugees. It is contingent upon all those interested in a comprehensive, just and durable solution of this conflict to return to its roots - i.e. the mass displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 and after. "The refugee issue needs to be placed at the center of the process from where it has mysteriously disappeared," state Israeli political scientist Ilan Pape and his Palestinian colleague Karma Nabulsi. "All those involved in resolving the conflict must have the public courage to confront the Israeli denial of the expulsion and ethnic cleansing at the heart of the Palestinian refugee question. This remains the single largest stumbling block towards a lasting peace between both peoples." (The Guardian, 19 September 2002).
BADIL Resource Center
29 November 2002
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