Friday, April 23, 2010

Israel's Land Grab

We drove through stretches and stretches of Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967 yesterday.

Nothing special about that, you might think, seeing as how I'm in the West Bank, all of which was occupied in 1967.

But we weren't in the West Bank yesterday. We were in Israel. Driving back from an opening ceremony for a library at one of the Israeli peace organizations we work with (did I tell you that I changed my job? I work for a Palestinian organization that have different projects aimed towards peace and democracy, some of which are together with Israeli organizations that are working towards the same goals we are).

So anyway, we drove through stretches and stretches of land not even considered a part of the West Bank anymore. It's completely annexed by Israel and has been integrated into their state.

And this made me think that people normally don't realize the extent of Israel's land grab. Take a look at the four maps below.

The first map is Palestine in 1946, under British rule. What's green on the map is Palestinian land, the small white parts represent the land owned by Jews.

The second map is the so-called Partition Plan recommended by the UN General Assembly in 1947. Without asking the majority of the inhabitants of Palestine (namely, the Palestinians), the world powers thought it would be a good idea to divide the land under British occupation into one Palestinian state and one Jewish state (in economic union, with Jerusalem as corpus separatum under international administration).

This didn't go well with neither the Palestinians, the surrounding Arab states, nor the Zionist Jews in Palestine. The Palestinians stood to lose their major sea ports, almost all of their arable land and their major water sources to European immigrants; the Arab states were worried that this was a second wave of European colonization in the Middle East, and frankly, some of them wanted fertile Palestine for themselves; and finally, the Jewish immigrants were set on occupying much more land than the UN Partition Plan recommended they'd get.

So, the Jewish immigrants decided to take the matter into their own hands, and went on and occupied most of historic Palestine in 1948. The result is what you see in the third map. The white is what is generally accepted as the State of Israel today, even though it doesn't exactly correspond to the UN Partition Plan (but instead to the armistice agreement between Israel and its neighboring Arab States, excluding Palestine, after the war in 1948).

Obviously, Israel wasn't satisfied, and went on to occupy all of Palestine, some of Lebanon, Syria and Egypt in 1967 (some, but far from all of this land, has been returned to the respective countries since). Then, little by little, Israel is annexing the land left for Palestinians to maybe some day establish their own state, by transferring Jews into the occupied West Bank into illegal settlements, erecting a concrete wall well beyond the 1967 occupation line, building Israelis-and-Jews-only roads that Palestinians can't even cross... and the result is map four. (Except Israel very kindly gave back the little white piece of land that you see in Gaza to Palestine in 2004-2005... only to put the whole Gaza Strip under complete siege and blockade, and to bomb the hell out of their neighborhoods a little later).

These little green areas you see in map number four. The unconnected little blots of green. That's all that's left of Palestine for the Palestinians (of course, it's all under occupation, but at least it's still considered Palestinian land). Like little reservations or Bantustans, to make an analogy to two similar cases in a not-so-distant past (yes, I'm talking about the Native Americans in the U.S.A. and the native black peoples in South Africa during the Apartheid years).

And do you know what annoys me the most? (Except the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes, their land, their livelihood, their family and friends, of course). That Israel is proud of it.

On every lamppost, from every car, in every house window, there hangs a white-and-blue Israeli flag now. To celebrate 62 years of occupation, thievery (yes, because they didn't just steal land, they stole all of the assets belonging to the Palestinians who fled in 1948 too--including bank accounts), and war.

This is Israel. This is what they glorify and celebrate.

Thank God that there are a number of brave Jewish Israeli scholars, journalists and activists who dare to speak up against all of this. And that there are Jews who made a conscious choice to move to, for instance, the United States instead of the newly formed Israel after the Second World War, because they understood what was going on in Palestine and did not want to put another people through what they had just been through in Europe.

Thank God for this. Because it reminds me that not all Jews nor all Israelis support what Israel is doing to Palestinians.

But unfortunately, enough do support it for it to continue.

Bookmark and Share

No comments: