Tuesday, July 15

The Occupation and the Erosion

The story of the occupation is well known and I have written about it many times in my articles. The euphoria of Israel after the Six Day War of 1967 when it captured the West Bank, Eastern Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights is also well documented. However 41 years of occupation has eroded Israeli society and made many of us aware of many abuses that are occurring because of the “humane” Israeli Army treatment of the Palestinians over the years. Human rights groups (international human rights groups as well as Israeli groups) are providing evidence of human rights abuses regularly.

Israelis have always been proud of the “humaneness” of their army. On closer examination, when the incidents of army abuses and Israeli whitewashing of these incidents become evident, there is not very much of which to be proud.

The time is overripe to come to terms with the fact that the occupation is corrupting Israeli society beyond its limits. Israel claims that it does not wish to colonize another people (the Palestinians) but in practice this is what they are doing. Evidence of this is so widespread that it cannot be denied anymore.

The encouraging of illegal settlements in captured territories is ample proof of Israel’s intentions to colonize the Palestinians and rule over them. The claim of a “humane occupation” is a total paradox. An occupation can never be humane, especially when the intention is to take over Palestinian lands and encourage Israeli settlements. This occurred at the expense of another people. How can one build Israeli settlements ‘humanely” while displacing the Palestinian population and then talk about a “humane occupation”? Naturally this also means expanding existing illegal settlements because of natural population growth, displacing more Palestinians in the process.

It is absurd to believe that Israel has no desire to colonize the Palestinians when in practice the evidence points to the contrary. If this assumption were true, Israel would never have encouraged illegal settlements in territories captured during the Six Day War of June 1967. It should have kept the territories as a bargaining chip that would be returned to the Palestinian people under a peace agreement. It would not have been necessary to uproot a single settler as none would have been there.

Unfortunately, this was not the case, and here both sides must bear the blame for what had happened. The Khartoum Resolutions of 1st September, 1967no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country” was the attitude of the Arab states then. It also resulted in Israel’s attitude towards colonizing the occupied territories by encouraging settlement. The Israeli leadership felt that if this was the Arab attitude, they had the right to annex the territories and encourage Jewish settlement there as there was no partner for peace negotiations after the Six Day War. Time proved that this was a disastrous decision on Israel’s part and resulted in the establishment of illegal settlements and further usurpation of Palestinian lands. The Israeli leadership had made impulsive decisions that had backfired. This also resulted in the subsequent War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War of October 1973, the 1987 Intifada and the more serious 2000 Intifada with its tragic spate of suicide bombings and widespread retaliations resulting in severe bloodshed on both sides.

There is no doubt that the occupation with its illegal settlements has harmed Israel’s stature in the world. Israel holds onto the territories by force. Palestinian human rights in the territories have been curtailed and cases of army abuses against the Palestinian population only aggravate the situation.

The occupation affects everybody, Israelis as well as Palestinians. It affects the Israeli psyche by resulting dehumanizing the Palestinians as a people. Many Israelis view the Palestinians as beasts who are only interested in killing Israelis whenever the opportunity arises. They see the Palestinians as potential terrorists waiting to strike and to destroy Israelis wherever they can.

The Palestinian views the Israeli as a gun toting soldier who is waiting to abuse him and beat him up. Contact between the two peoples on a human level has now reached a minimum and this is a very sad state of affairs. It is almost impossible for Palestinian and Israelis to meet and get to know one another.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a professor at Hebrew University and a leading Israeli intellectual--who was also an observant Jew--stated that Israel must immediately withdraw from the occupied territories. He argued that the occupation was unjust and would inevitably lead to the oppression and subjugation of the Palestinians, and to the corruption if not destruction of Israeli society. Until his death in the mid-1990s, he continued to criticize the occupation, using piercing, prophetic language to condemn the immorality of Israeli policies. For years, Leibowitz also averred that if 500 reservist soldiers would simultaneously refuse to serve in the territories, the occupation would end. He also stated that the Israeli Army run the risk of becoming Judeo-Nazis because of the occupation. In order to maintain the occupation, the army has to use force and introduce tough measures against the Palestinian population. This means check posts, humiliating house searches, abuse of power and the destruction and confiscation of Palestinian agricultural land for Jewish settlement. This is a long way from the “humane occupation”.

While the occupation remains unchanged, the chances of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state will never occur. If anything, it brings the reality of a binational state closer to fruition, despite Israeli denials to the contrary. It also does not benefit Israeli society as the occupation becomes more entrenched. It will only exacerbate the hatred between the two peoples even further and Israel stands the chance of becoming an amoral and corrupt society. Signs of this are already occurring in the government as the cruel occupation remains in place despite the cosmetic handshakes at various summit meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership that consists of two very weak and ineffectual leaders weighed down by their own personal problems.

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