lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Sep 2 08:31:00 MDT 2001
NY Times Op-Ed
September 2, 2001
Separate and Unequal on the West Bank
By AMIRA HASS
RAMALLAH, West Bank From my living room window in Ramallah, a
Palestinian city, I see the lights of the Israeli settlement Pesagot
on the opposite mountain. Across the eastern road of my neighborhood,
there is an Israeli military base, protecting another settlement,
Beit El. Had I wanted, as an Israeli Jew, born in West Jerusalem, I
could have moved at any moment to any of these settlements. My
Palestinian next-door neighbors in Ramallah, whose grandparents were
born in what is now Israel, could not even think of moving to, say,
There is no way to understand the current Palestinian uprising
without examining the moral, economic and social reality that Israeli
settlement policy has created in the last 34 years.
Since the 1967 war, Israeli governments both Labor and Likud have
built settlements all over the occupied West Bank and the small Gaza
Strip, in the midst of Arab-Palestinian communities that are
centuries old. About 390,000 settlers now live in the West Bank
(including East Jerusalem) and in Gaza. The construction and
development of these outposts have essentially allowed Israel to
create the infrastructure of one state, stretching from the
Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Israel's governments have
determined the overall character of these lands and the fate of their
people while the three million Palestinians who live there and have
paid taxes to Israel's Treasury could not vote for these governments.
Yet Israeli Jews in the settlements have the right to vote.
A network of large, well-maintained roads now connects Israeli
outposts even the smallest and most remote ones to Israel proper.
While Israelis can at any time move to the West Bank or Gaza,
Palestinians are not allowed to live legally in an Israeli city or
settlement, even if this settlement is built upon their family land.
>From the river to the sea, within the contours of what is now de
facto one state governed by Israel, live some 4 million Palestinians.
These people are classified in three different categories: One
million of them are Israeli citizens, who live within Israel's 1967
borders and who have the right to vote. Some 200,000 Palestinians are
residents of East Jerusalem, which was annexed to Israel's West
Jerusalem in 1967. They could become Israeli citizens, but most have
refused, claiming that they live in an occupied territory and they
are a population discriminated against by foreign rule.
Finally, there are the 2.8 million Palestinians who live in the
territories that Israel took over in 1967 and to which Israel has
allocated very low sums, if any, for public infrastructure
The result: Alongside the flourishing, green and ever-expanding
Israeli- Jewish outposts well maintained by Israeli policies and
laws is a Palestinian society subject to the rule of military
orders and restrictions, its dense communities (including those in
East Jerusalem) squeezed into small areas, served by miserably
maintained roads and an insufficient water supply system.
With the Oslo accords and the establishment of self-rule under the
Palestinian Authority, one hoped these immense inequalities might be
repaired or, at the very least, that the conditions of the West Bank
and Gaza would no longer be determined exclusively by an occupying
government. Yet during the last seven years, Israel continued to
determine major aspects of Palestinian life, like access to land and
water and freedom of movement. The Palestinian self-rule enclaves are
encircled by vast Israeli-controlled areas and cannot develop without
Israeli permits for activities like building water pipelines and new
schools, upgrading a road or building a gas station. To this day, the
same military organ the civil administration, an agent of Israeli
government policies in the West Bank prohibits Palestinian
construction and planting and at the same time continues to develop
Israeli outposts in the very same territory.
Access to water is a glaring example of inequality. Since 1967 Israel
has controlled water resources and distribution in the West Bank and
Gaza. This has resulted in a striking difference in per capita
domestic consumption of water by Israelis and Palestinians an
average of 280 liters per day versus 60 to 90 liters per day. No
Israeli settler needs to worry about running out of water, while
thousands living in Palestinian towns and villages have no running
water for days at a stretch during summer. When there is no running
water in our building, I drive to Jerusalem to fill my water bottles
and to do my laundry. My neighbors would need a permit to enter
Any Israeli may travel freely at any time abroad and in the entire
country. Any Palestinian needs an Israeli- issued travel permit to
move from Gaza to the West Bank, or from these territories to Israel.
Only a minority get such permits. And Israel also determines who will
pass through the external borders, which it controls. My friends in
Gaza missed a whole semester of studies at Bir Zeit University near
Ramallah because they did not receive travel permits on time. No
Israeli settler in Gaza would face this problem.
Israelis and Palestinians are in a single geographic state controlled
by one government, but they live under two separate and unequal
systems of rights and laws.
Palestinians wanted to believe that this unequal state of affairs
would end or diminish with the Oslo accords. Instead, the number of
settlers in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem) has doubled
in the past decade the years of the peace talks and the slow pace
of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (and the total halt during
the years of the Barak government) has left Palestinians trapped in
small, scattered enclaves, making urban and rural development in
Palestinian areas nearly impossible.
The offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David kept intact the largest
Israeli settlements and their connecting roads. That offer would have
split Palestinian territory into four cantons. My acquaintances in a
nearby refugee camp, just opposite the Beit El settlement, sensed
that there would be no real end to Israeli domination over their
lives and future.
Anger has accumulated in every Palestinian heart over the scarce
water, over each demolished Palestinian house, over the daily
humiliation of waiting for a travel permit from an Israeli officer. A
small match can cause this anger to explode, and in this past year,
Amira Hass, the correspondent for Haaretz in the Palestinian
territories, is author of ``Drinking the Sea at Gaza.''
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 09/02/2001
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